Didn't get that iPod, Zune, or other portable music player you had written down on your holiday wish list? Perhaps you need to work on your pitch. When making your plea to your parents, significant other, or whoever it is you're hoping will buy you an MP3 player next year, be sure to let them know it could be a matter of life and death. Let us explain.
Things were looking pretty grim for a skier and a snowboarder, both from France, who managed to get lost late Friday near the resort of Savognin in southeast Switzerland. Being lost in the cold and and snowy Swiss mountains is reason enough for panic, and though the two were able to call for help on a cell phone, the battery died soon after, leaving the two tourists in a chilly predicament. Lucky for them, their MP3 player gave their location away.
"The two winter sports enthusiasts were found by the crew of the Rega helicopter shortly after midnight -- thanks to the faint light of their MP3 player," said Gery Baumann, spokesman for mountain rescue service Rega.
Reuters reports the two men escaped with only mild hypothermia.
If you've purchased a digital photo frame from Amazon recently, it's in your best interest to pay attention to any emails originating from Amazon Customer Service. That's because the online e-tailer has been warning its customers that one of Samsung's digital frames, specifically its SPF-85H 8-inch unit, ships with a little something extra.
"We have recently learned that Samsung has issued an alert affecting its SPF-85H 8-Inch Digital Photo Frame," Amazon writes. "The alert concerns discovery of the W32.Sality.AE worm on the installation disc SAMSUNG FRAME MANAGER XP VERSION 1.08, which is needed for using the SPF-85H as a USB monitor."
Vista owners and those running a different Frame Manager version aren't affected by the worm, Samsung says. For those that are affected, Samsung advises removing the worm using Norton Internet Security 2009, uninstalling Frame Manager 1.08, and then updating to Frame Manager XP 1.082.
Thsi isn't the first time malware has made its way onto digital picture frames. Earlier in the year, some Insignia units sold at Best Buy were found to contain a Trojan Horse payload, with reports claiming several other vendors, such as Sam's Club, Target, and Costco, were also selling infected digital frames.
Windows Vista never did manage to win over an enthusiast following, leaving many eagerly awaiting the release of Windows 7. But while Microsoft's next OS is still a year (or less) from release, you can already get your paws on the beta 1 version (build 7000). Windows 7 beta 1 isn't supposed to make its way into the public sector for another couple of weeks, but leaked copies have already started appearing on BitTorrent, and initial reactions is that it's pretty good.
"This beta is of excellent quality," ZDNet wrote. "This is the kind of code that you could roll out and live with. Even the pre-betas were solid, but finally this beta feels like it’s “done.” This beta exceeds the quality of any other Microsoft OS beta that I’ve handled"
ZDNet noted "exceptional" performance while playing with the beta code, saying it feels faster and more responsive than is typical of beta builds. But what the site didn't find were any new features compared to earlier builds.
BlogsDNA lists several torrent links for the DVD ISO image, which should make installation a breeze for anyone wanting to chance pre-release software.
Outside of mobile Safari, and perhaps to a lesser extent Opera Mini, the mobile browser experience can be somewhat unsatisfying. Poor page rendering, or completely unusable interfaces seem to plague the mobile experience. That’s where Mozilla has seen an opportunity to expand its browser platform, and a market that is still relatively untapped. With the launch of Fennec Alpha 2, Mozilla is one step closer to its goal of a mobile Firefox. Alpha 2 seems to address many of the performance issues that hindered the previous version, and these complaints were clearly acknowledged in a blog posting by Mozilla’s Mark Finkle.
“While we focused much of the previous alpha on getting the user experience how we wanted, we’ve spent much of the time since focused on improving performance. We’ve made major strides improving startup performance, panning and zooming performance, and responsiveness while pages are loading.”
My somewhat unscientific testing seems to backup these claims and performance has defiantly improved. Currently support is limited to Nokia's Maemo based N800 and N810, but compatibility with Windows Mobile and Symbian is apparently well underway. These platforms could defiantly use a bit more choice when it comes to browsers, and many are hoping it will finally give the power enjoyed by mobile Safari users to those who prefer non Apple hardware.
WiMax is a concept that has been around since mid 2001, but North American consumers only really got their first taste of the technology in September with the roll out of Sprint’s XOHM WiMax network in Baltimore. With verified download rates of up to 3Mbs, the technology seemed sure to pick up steam and flourish against its bandwidth impaired, and overly expensive 3G alternatives. Unfortunately, nothing is immune to the economic downturn and a new report from Infonetics research shows that sales of WiMax equipment has fallen close to 21 per cent in Q3 2008 to US$245 million.
These numbers are expected to get worse going into 2009 and likely won’t recover until sometime in 2010. "With less cash available for network rollout - and possibly less spectrum being auctioned until the current financial crisis passes - WiMax deployment will be inhibited for the next 12 months," said Richard Webb, wireless analyst at Infonetics. Despite the storm clouds on the horizon, Infonetics predicts that by 2011 nearly 76 million people will subscribe to WiMax. Currently its greatest concentration is in the Asia-Pacific region, but it is also a cost effective option for developing countries. In North America, it’s currently being considered mostly for urban broadband, but it would also go a long way towards providing last mile high speed connections to rural regions which are currently stuck with either satellite or dial up.
This might not surprise anyone, but it turns out even the steep price cuts retailers used to entice consumers wasn’t enough to offset the sputtering North American economy. This holiday season – which typically accounts for around 30 to 50 per cent of a retailers total sales, was a bust that rippled across every retail sector. According to preliminary data released by SpendingPulse – a division of MasterCard, total retail sales slipped 2 to 4 per cent. While the electronics sector’s slip of 26.7% sounds substantial, it can’t even hold a torch to luxury item’s such as jewelry which sank almost 35%.
On a more positive note, online retailer Amazon.com said its 2008 holiday sales were its “best ever”. The retailer reportedly received orders for over 6.4 million items. This is good news for Amazon, and helps to back up claims from SpendingPulse’s which showed that more and more, consumers are making the switch to shopping online. Overall online sales declined a meager 2.3 percent from the previous year, however this is in stark contrast to 2007 when e-commerce grew almost 22.4 per cent. With big name brick and mortar retailers such as Circuit City already facing bankruptcy, weak holiday sales might see even more blood shed in the retail sector come January.
The clock is ticking, and the boxing week picture is not yet clear, but it remains to be seen what if anything will put retailers back in the black.
Before you drop in on the American Express website to see how much damage you did to your credit line with holiday shopping, you should know it's vulnerable to an XSS (cross-site scripting) exploit. As The Registerreports, this news comes after a bungled attempt to fix the problem. As El Reg puts it,
The cross-site scripting (XSS) error that makes it trivial for attackers to steal americanexpress.com user's authentication cookies is alive and kicking. The confusion stems from a mistake made by many application developers who incorrectly assume that the root cause of a vulnerability is closed as soon as a particular exploit no longer works.
So far, only proof-of-concept exploits have been written to show how easy it would be to pilfer login credentials, but until AmEx really eradicates this problem, keep a careful eye on your website transactions. For a list of precautions you can take to stop XSS exploits, see our 2007 article.
Have you been victimized by an XSS error? Join us after the jump and sound off.
Doubts have been cast on the success of the Blu-ray format ever since it debuted. Initially, the format appeared to be doomed due to a poor adoption rate, thanks mainly to a host of factors, including the PS3’s initial tribulations, popularity of the DVD format, and the steady rise in the popularity of digital downloads.
However, it soon appeared that the tide had turned as PS3’s sales picked up and the rival HD DVD format ran out of steam and met its sorry fate. The latest good news has come in the form of sales data released by research firm Futuresource, which indicates that Blu-ray sales during the ongoing holiday season have been promising.
Another sinister portent for the Blu-ray format happens to be the grim sales picture of the PS3; strong sales of the console surely could have gone a long way in popularizing the format. I expect Blu-ray to share the same mediocre fortunes as the PS3 during the remainder of its lifetime.
According to DigiTimes, AMD will launch half a dozen 45nm Athlon processors by June of 2009. The quad-core Athlon X4 615 and 605 and triple-core Athlon X3 420 and 410 are expected to ship in April 2009, with the company's dual-core Athlon X2 240 and 235 coming a bit later in June 2009.
AMD has also been busy planning last order notices for its upcoming 45nm AM2+ Phenom II X4 920 and 940 Black Edition processors, which the company plans to issue in May 2009. Meanwhile, the Santa Clara chip maker will no longer take orders for its quad-core Phenom X4 9650. More Phenom last order notices aren't far behind, with AMD's Phenom X4 9950 (140W) and 9850 (125W) getting theirs in March of next year, and the Phenom X4 9750, 9850 (95W), and 9950 (125W) in June 2009.
But wait, there's more! DigiTimes says AMD's triple-core Phenom X3 8450 and 8550 are nearing their end of life in the market place, while the Phenom X3 8650 will have its last order notice issued in March 2009. The Phenom X3 8850 and 8750 CPUs will follow the same fate in June. And finally, AMD's Athlon X2 4450e chip, a low-power CPU, will be phased out in March 2009.
Phew! That's a lot of chips getting ready to head to the chopping block. Plan accordingly, AMD fans.
Protip: If you're doing something highly illegal involving millions of dollars in embezzled funds, don't leave all the incriminating details laying around on your desk unattended. Such might be the downfall of Ausaf Umar Siddiqui, VP of Fry's Electronics, who now stands accused of embezzling over $65 million after another Fry's executive discovered a suspicious spreadsheet laying on Siddiqui's desk.
After turning over the spreadsheet to the authorities, the IRS called shenanigans on Siddiqui's business practices, accusing him of cutting deals with some of Fry's largest suppliers to buy larger orders of goods in return for kickbacks and inflated commissions. According to the allegations, Siddiqui made a practice of buying goods at higher prices in exchange for kickbacks of up to 31 percent of the total sales prices. These kickbacks where then funneled into a company Siddiqui set up called PC International, the IRS claims.
According to the report, five unnamed vendors deposited more than $65 million into accounts owned by PC International, a hefty portion of which was used to fun Siddiqui's gambling habits. The IRS found $17.9 million paid out to Las Vegas Sands Corp, the operator of the Venetian Casino Resort. The report notes that the casino would often fly Siddiqui out to Vegas via private jets.
Siddiqui, who was arrested at Fry's headquarters, is currently being held on $300,000 bond. No court date has yet been set, though a judge in the case has given the government 20 days to file formal chargers of wire-fraud, which prosecutors plan to do.