The Tech News Blog

April 23, 2014

Apple Recruits Beta Testers for Next OS X Mavericks Update

Apple OS X Mavericks Desktop/Credit: Apple

Apple on Tuesday launched beta testing for OS X 10.9.3, giving interested parties a chance to test drive the next update to the company's Mac operating system.

The OS X Beta Seed Program requires an Apple ID and is free to Mac users signing up to participate and prepared to adhere to a confidentiality agreement associated with the beta testing process. Apple did not reveal when OS X 10.9.3 will be released as a general update to Macs running OS X, currently updated at version 10.9.2, or Build 13C64.

Apple's OS X 10.9 "Mavericks" operating system was released last October and the 10.9.3 update now in beta testing is also known as Build 13D45a.

Customers who download the beta seed of the OS X 10.9.3 update will be required to "provide feedback to Apple directly" via automated dialog boxes and other correspondence methods, Apple said. The OS X Beta Seed Program is distinct from Apple's Mac Developer Program, which furnishes additional tools for developers of software for OS X, the company said.

April 22, 2014

Netflix Mulls Price Hike for New Customers

Nefflix Logo

Netflix used its quarterly letter to shareholders to announce an impending price hike, and voice its opposition to the merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast.

The company said that its streaming service will likely see "a one or two dollar increase, depending on the country, later this quarter for new members only."

Existing members will be grandfathered into the existing monthly fee ($7.99 in the U.S.) for "a generous time period," according to Netflix, which stressed that its service has not seen a price hike since 2010 despite a sizeable boost to available content. "These changes will enable us to acquire more content and deliver an even better streaming experience," Netflix said today.

Rival Amazon announced a similar price increase recently, upping the cost of Amazon Prime (and the accompanying Amazon Prime Instant video) from $79 per year to $99.

Overall, Amazon's streaming service in the U.S. gained 2.25 million customers during the quarter, landing at 35.7 million. International markets saw a 1.75 million jump to 12.7 million.

April 22, 2014

AOL Mail Hacked, Accounts Sending Spam

AOL Email

If you get a suspicious email from an AOL user, it's probably best to delete it. The service has apparently been compromised and some accounts are sending out spammy messages.

But rather than compromising actual accounts, it appears the scammers are just spoofing them. As AOL explained in a help page, "spoofing is when a spammer sends out emails using your email address in the From: field. The idea is to make it seem like the message is from you – in order to trick people into opening it."

"These emails do not originate from AOL and do not have any contact with the AOL Mail system – their addresses are just edited to make them appear that way," the company said. "The message actually originates from the spammer's email account and is sent from the spammer's email server."

The easiest way to tell if you've been affected is if your inbox is littered with message bounce backs from emails you never sent. Or perhaps a friend or two has been kind enough to alert you to the spam messages your account appears to be sending. To determine if you've been hacked versus spoofed, check you sent messages: if there are sent emails you didn't send, it's a hack. If there's nothing there, it's a spoof.

AOL is urging users to change their passwords and be on the lookout for sketchy emails so they don't fall prey to phishing scams.

April 22, 2014

iOS 7.1.1 Boosts Touch ID, Keyboard

iOS 7

Heads up, iPhone users. It's time for an update. Apple on Tuesday rolled out iOS 7.1.1, bringing some improvements, bug fixes, and security updates.

The update most notably brings further improvements for Touch ID fingerprint recognition on the iPhone 5s. The download also fixes a bug that could impact keyboard responsiveness, and a glitch that can occur when using Bluetooth keyboards with VoiceOver enabled.

On the security front, Tuesday's update also includes a number of fixes for issues that could allow an attacker to obtain your website credentials, capture other data, change operations performed in SSL-protected sessions, or install malware on a vulnerable device. For more, check out Apple's security notes for iOS 7.1.1.

The update requires at least 1.2GB of storage.

April 19, 2014

Report: Nike Abandoning FuelBand Hardware Development for Software

Nike+ Fuelband SE

If you're one of the proud owners of a Nike FuelBand, we suggest you hold onto it for a little bit. You might soon be able to eBay one of your fitness-tracking devices for a princely sum, given that it might very well be an antique sooner than expected.

Cnet published a report yesterday indicating that Nike is officially abandoning development on all FuelBand hardware. That's compounded by the fact that Nike has allegedly fired most of those who were responsible for working on its hardware team — approximately 70 to 80 percent of the FuelBand's 70-employee-strong working group.

Nike has declined to issue (much) comment about the matter.

"As a fast-paced, global business we continually align resources with business priorities. As our Digital Sport priorities evolve, we expect to make changes within the team, and there will be a small number of layoffs. We do not comment on individual employment matters," said Nike spokesman Brian Strong, in an email to Cnet.

The company went on to indicate that the Nike+ FuelBand SE is an "important part" of Nike's business. Nike plans to continue to work on the associated app, launch the fitness band with new colors and ultimately sell and support the FuelBand "for the foreseeable future."

That said, the statement is just as powerful for that which it's not saying as that which it is.

April 19, 2014

Websites Fixing Heartbleed Bug, VPNs Still Vulnerable


After the initial panic over the Heartbleed bug, which some researchers earlier this month guessed had infected two-thirds of all Web servers, researchers at Sucuri reported Friday that just 2 percent of the top 1 million websites on the Internet remain infected and all of the top 1,000 sites have been patched against the OpenSSL vulnerability.

But also on Friday, Mandiant researchers reported an attack they tracked beginning on April 8 in which an attacker "leveraged the Heartbleed vulnerability in a SSL VPN concentrator to remotely access our client's environment," culminating in the hijacking of "multiple active user sessions."

So in short, the good news is that the vast majority of websites, and all of the most heavily trafficked sites on the Web, have fixed this vulnerability, which is an exploit of a bug in Open SSL code responsible for sending "Heartbeat" notifications between servers and clients, including PCs and mobile devices.

April 18, 2014

Smartphone Thefts Nearly Double in 2013

Wipe Your iPhone

As the debate over kill-switch technology heats up in the U.S., a new survey has revealed just how prevalent smartphone thefts have become.

Some 3.1 million Americans had their phones stolen in 2013, a huge increase from the year before, according to the survey from Consumer Reports. In comparison, around 1.6 million people in the U.S. were the victim of smartphone theft in 2012, meaning the number of victims nearly doubled in a year.

On top of that, people are also losing more phones. Last year, U.S. consumers lost and never reccovered 1.4 million smartphones, up from 1.2 million in 2012.

There are a number of basic steps you can take to guard your phone against thieves, but many users are not sufficiently protecting themselves, the survey found. Just 36 percent of respondents said they set a screen lock with a 4-digit pin, though that was a 50 percent increase from 2012, indicating that consumers are becoming more vigilant.

Even so, just 29 percent backed up their smartphone data to a computer or the cloud, while a mere 22 percent installed software that could locate a lost or stolen phone. Even fewer installed an anti-virus or remote wipe app, used a PIN longer than 4 digits, or enabled encryption. Worse yet, 34 percent said they took no precautions whatsoever.

April 18, 2014

Xbox One Shipments Top 5 Million

Microsoft confirms the Xbox One is not designed to stand vertically

Microsoft on Thursday announced that more than 5 million Xbox One consoles have been shipped to retailers since its November launch.

While that's nothing to sneeze at, rival Sony has sold more than 7 million PlayStation 4 machines to customers around the world in about the same time period.

Being stuck in second place hasn't put a damper on Microsoft's mood, though. In a blog post, chief marketing and strategy officer Yusuf Mehdi celebrated the next-generation console's progress—311,000 units sold in the U.S. in March—already outpacing the Xbox 360 during the same time period.

"Even more important to us is how much fun you are having on Xbox One," Mehdi said, adding that users are spending an average of five hours a day on the machine, collectively capturing more than one billion hours spent in games and apps on the console.

April 17, 2014

Rumor: Apple Integrating Shazam Into iOS 8

Shazam Logo

Apple's iOS 8 will reportedly help you name that tune thanks to integration with Shazam.

As reported by Bloomberg, Shazam will be integrated into the next version of Apple's mobile operating system, allowing owners to use their iPad or iPhone to figure out what song is playing.

Shazam is already available to download on the App Store, but if the deal with Apple goes through, iOS users will be able to tap into the service's technology without downloading a separate app. Bloomberg mentioned that an iOS user might ask Siri, "what song is playing?"

Reports surfaced last month that Apple was mulling a subscription music service like those offered by Spotify, Rdio, or Beats, but rumors about such a service have been circulating for years without any announcements. The closest we've come is iTunes Radio, which arrived with iOS 7 last year. But as Bloomberg pointed out, Apple is reportedly concerned that a subscription service will hurt download sales, which have already been sluggish. Instead, users could use Shazam to identify songs - and presumably purchase them on iTunes right away from their device.

April 17, 2014

AT&T Threatens to Ditch Spectrum Auction Over Rules

Fastest Mobile Networks 2012

AT&T might withdraw from next year's incentive spectrum auction if the FCC imposes rules on the proceedings that make it difficult for AT&T to secure the spectrum it wants, the company said this week.

Specifically, AT&T is concerned that the FCC wants to restrict just how much spectrum a larger company can purchase in any one market. The idea is to prevent huge carriers like AT&T or Verizon from buying everything, allowing smaller players - including T-Mobile and Sprint - to have a chance. But the larger carriers argue that restrictions might not allow them to purchase enough spectrum to make the investment worthwhile.

"As we understand it, after a certain aggregate threshold is reached in the auction (which threshold currently remains undefined), staff is proposing that certain significant bidding restrictions be imposed on any bidder that has more than one-third of the available low band spectrum in a market," Joan Marsh, vice president of federal regulatory issues at AT&T, said in a Wednesday letter submitted to the FCC. "AT&T estimates that if such restrictions are adopted, it will be restricted in markets covering over 70 percent of U.S. [points of presence] POPs."