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July 24, 2014

How to Get the Mac OS X Yosemite Beta

OS X Yosemite

A beta version of Apple's newest operating system - Yosemite - is now available for testing. Access opens today, but Cupertino will only grant passes to the first 1 million people who request them, so act fast to be assured a place in line.

Note that not all the features that Apple showed off during WWDC will be available in the beta "since the beta software is unfinished." For a more polished product, you should wait until the fall, when Yosemite will be released as a free upgrade.

But if you love finding bugs in pre-release software, here's how you can get your hands on the Yosemite beta.



July 23, 2014

WSJ Computer Systems Offline After Hack

What to Expect When You've Been Hacked

The Wall Street Journal's new computers were taken offline this week following an attack by outside parties, according to publisher Dow Jones & Co.

There are no reports of damage or tampering with news graphics database housed on the hacked computers.

"We are investigating an incident related to wsj.com's graphics systems," a Journal spokeswoman said in a Tuesday announcement. "At this point we see no evidence of any impact to Dow Jones customers or customer data."

The hacker, who goes by the name w0rm, boasted about the attack via Twitter, writing "wsj.com #hacked" with a screenshot of his work.

According to the Journal, w0rm claims to be selling user information, as well as the credentials necessary to control the server. That, according to IntelCrawler CEO Andrew Komarov, would allow buyers to "modify articles, add new content, insert malicious content in any page, add new users, delete users and so on."

The LA-based cybersecurity firm was the first to bring the hack to the Journal's attention, confirming the ability to access any database on the wsj.com server. Komarov's team has been monitoring the alleged attacker, whose former alias was Rev0lver.

The Journal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

W0rm also claimed to have hacked other media organizations, including Vice Media, which assured PCMag that the issue—a security exploit used to access a list of vice.com content management systems— was "minor." The exploit has since been patched and passwords reset.



July 23, 2014

Comcast: Customer Service Rep Did What ‘We Trained Him’ to Do

Comcast Logo Comcast this week acknowledged that the extreme tactics used by one of its customer service reps recently was "what we trained him and paid him ... to do."

Still, "the experience that this customer had is not representative of the good work that our employees are doing," Comcast Chief Operating Officer Dave Watson said in a Monday memo to employees published by The Consumerist. "It was painful to listen to this call."

A Comcast spokeswoman confirmed the memo's authenticity to PCMag. It comes a week after former Engadget editor and gdgt co-founder Ryan Block posted a recording of conversation he had with a Comcast rep who basically refused to cancel Block's service and berated him for trying to leave the cable provider.

When Block's 8-minute clip went viral, the cable provider was forced to publicly (and privately) apologize, expressing its embarrassment over "the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block."

Comcast initially said the rep's behavior was "unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives." In this week's memo, however, Watson shared some of the blame. "The agent on this call did a lot of what we trained him and paid him— and thousands of other Retention agents—to do," he wrote.



July 23, 2014

Mac OS X Yosemite Beta Lands July 24

OS X Yosemite

A beta version of Apple's next-gen operating system will be released tomorrow, July 24, Cupertino announced today.

The OS X Beta Program for OS X Yosemite invites customers to participate in the beta testing process and submit feedback to Apple directly.

OS X Beta Program members will be able to download the beta seed of OS X Yosemite tomorrow, but space is limited to the first 1 million people who sign up with their Apple ID.

You can sign up on Apple's website now, and the company will send out a redemption code when the software is ready, which you can use to download and install OS X Yosemite Beta from the Mac App Store.



July 23, 2014

Apple Patent Tips ‘iTime’ Watch

Apple iWatch patent

Apple iWatch rumors began anew this week with news that Cupertino has been granted a smartwatch-related patent for a technology it has dubbed iTime.

Drawings of the device look similar to smartwatches currently on the market, but the iTime comes with a twist: its rectangular face can be removed to operate independently of the band, which provides its own set of separate sensors.

The central iTime unit could serve as a sort of mini iPod, and in fact does resemble the 7th-gen iPod nano, storing and playing media controlled via the touch-screen display, as well as displaying information about incoming phone calls and text messages.

Apple also described the watch's "personal wireless environment," which allows for the exchange of information between nearby cellular- or Internet-connected iDevices or Mac computers. That way, wearers can receive push notifications directly on their wrist.



July 22, 2014

Apple Going Big With New iPhone Orders

iPhone 5S and 5C Apple is feeling super confident about its new phablet-sized iPhones.

The Cupertino tech giant has asked its suppliers to manufacture between 70 and 80 million of the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch handsets by Dec. 30, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. That's Apple's biggest initial iPhone production run, surpassing the 50 million to 60 million iPhone 5s and 5c models it ordered last year, the report notes.

Apple's two main iPhone makers — Foxconn and Pegatron Corp — plan to start mass producing the 4.7-inch model in August while Foxconn parent Hon Hai will exclusively begin making the 5.5-inch handset in September. To get ready, Foxconn and Pegatron have been on a "hiring binge" in China, with Foxconn hiring workers by the hundreds every day.

The Journal report also backs up previous rumors that the new iPhones will feature all-metal cases, like the iPhone 5s, and come in several different colors. At 4.7 and 5.5 inches, the new devices dwarf the current 4-inch Retina display iPhone 5s.

The new iPhones are expected to make their debut this fall, but there were recently reports about production issues surrounding the phablet-sized device could delay its launch until November. Of course, there were similar rumors about the iPad mini with Retina display, but those were largely inaccurate.

Another iPhone rumor, meanwhile, says that the handsets will sport super-durable sapphire crystal displays, which are practically indestructible. In addition, word has it that the Apple logo on the back of the phones will light up for notifications, meaning you'll be able to put the handset face down and still be alerted to an incoming message.



July 21, 2014

Rumor: Notifications to Light Up Apple Logo on iPhone 6

iPhone 6 Glowing Apple Logo Rumor If the latest rumors are true, iPhone 6 users will have no excuse for missing a text message.

Word has it that the Apple logo on the back of the phone will light up for notifications on the next version of Apple's smartphone. This means you'll be able to put the handset face down and still be alerted to an incoming message.

The rumor has been circulating for some time, but new photos obtained by uSwitch with the help of notorious Apple leaker Sonny Dickson offer even more evidence that Apple may be going for the glow with its next iPhone. The site compared the rear housing of the alleged iPhone 6 with earlier-generation iPhone shells to reach its conclusion.

"Rear housings for previous iPhones were aperture-free solid blocks that featured the Apple logo embossed on the exterior of the handset," the site notes. "However … this time the logo is part of a plastic panel that's inserted in a recessed part of the interior of the rear housing and peeks through the hole. Tellingly, the plastic part looks to have been made thin enough that light can easily shine through to alert you to updates and other important messages."

Savvy iPhone users may know that you can already use the flash on the back of your phone as a notification light for text messages and other alerts. To enable this feature head over to Settings > General > Accessibility, and switch on the option "LED Flash for Alerts."

Meanwhile on the iPhone front, Apple is widely expected to unveil two new smartphones this fall: a 4.7-inch handset, and a 5.5-inch model, though the larger handset may be delayed due to production issues. The handsets will likely sport super-durable sapphire crystal displays, which are practically indestructible.



July 21, 2014

XP Users Can Still Get Effective Antivirus Protection

XP Users Can Still Get Effective Antivirus ProtectionAs of April this year, Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP. Those still using XP won't get any more security patches. Well, there was one in May for an egregious Internet Explorer bug, but that's not likely to happen again. An XP system without antivirus protection is a sitting duck, ripe for attack. On the plus side, the latest test results from AV-Test Institute show that many popular security products remain quite effective under XP.

Three-Part Test
AV-Test regularly releases lab test results organized into three categories: protection, performance, and usability. Products can earn up to six points in each category, in half-point increments, with a maximum possible score of 18 points. In order to receive certification, a product must achieve a total of ten points, with no category score below one point.

To measure protection, AV-Test researchers install each antivirus on a clean system and then expose that system to malware in a variety of ways. For testing, they use both very new zero-day malware and a collection of very widespread malware. Quite a few products managed 100 percent protection in both parts of this test. A few clunkers dragged down the overall average to 97 percent for zero-day samples and 98 percent for widespread samples. Microsoft Security Essentials (included as a baseline) and AhnLab both turned in scores below 80 percent protection.

Nobody wants antivirus protection at the expense of system performance. AV-Test's team measures how long it takes for a standard clean system to perform 13 actions reflective of real-world computer use, such as downloading files, running popular applications, and installing programs. They run these same tests after installing the antivirus and note any slowdown. About a third of the tested programs scored slightly worse on this test than on the previous test, which used Windows 7.

For a perfect usability score, an antivirus product must completely avoid identifying any valid website or file as malicious. At best, false positive warnings can confuse users and diminish their faith in an antivirus product's effectiveness. At worst, the antivirus might prevent installation of a legitimate application. All of the tested products scored 5.5 or 6.0 points in this test, with the exception of Comodo. Comodo's over-enthusiastic behavior-based blocking system knocked its score down to 4.0 points.

Three Champions
In all the time I've been tracking AV-Test, I've rarely seen a perfect score, and I don't think I've ever seen three at once. Yet that's exactly what happened in this test. Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Panda all earned six points in each of the three categories. If you're stuck using XP, consider one of these three champions to protect your system.



July 18, 2014

Read All You Want With Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited Amazon today launched a new e-book and audiobook subscription service, dubbed Kindle Unlimited.

For $9.99 a month, you can read to your heart's content—as long as Amazon stocks your stories.

Initial content includes best sellers like the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, as well as titles from Michael Lewis, Sara Gruen, Stephen Covey, Robert Penn Warren, Michael Chabon, William Goldman, Anthony Bourdain, and Lois Lowry, among others.

You can also find thousands of classics, including Animal Farm, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Cat's Cradle, plus books featuring beloved childrens' characters, reference titles from the For Dummies series, and Lonely Planet travel guides.

"With Kindle Unlimited, you won't have to think twice before you try a new author or genre—you can just start reading and listening," Russ Grandinetti, senior vice president of Kindle, said in a statement.

For those long car rides or bedtime lullabies, choose from more than 2,000 Audible audiobooks, and listen to favorites like the Hunger Games trilogy, Life of Pi, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies.

"You can easily switch between reading and listening to a book, allowing the story to continue even when your eyes are busy," Grandinetti said.

Amazon will also open the service to its Kindle exclusive books, as well as thousands of stories that are 100 pages or less, including Kindle Singles. Unlimited users can also take advantage of other Kindle features, like Whispersync, Popular Highlights, X-Ray, customer reviews, and Goodreads integration.

Amazon is offering a 30-day free Kindle Unlimited trial, and the subscription comes with a three-month Audible membership and access to more than 150,000 professionally narrated titles.

The new Unlimited service is available anywhere you can download the Kindle app: Kindle devices, iPhone, iPad, Android tablets and phones, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, PC, Mac, and Windows 8.

News of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited service first emerged earlier this week when someone noticed a leaked page for the service online. Amazon quickly pulled it down in advance of today's announcement.

Amazon's new offering will compete with other e-book subscription services, like Oyster and Scribd. The latter launched on Kindle Fire in January, promising more than 400,000 books from 900-plus publishers for $8.99 per month.



July 17, 2014

Xbox Entertainment Studios to Shut Down

Xbox Entertainment Studios

As part of the massive Microsoft layoffs announced today, Redmond will also shutter Xbox Entertainment Studios.

As first reported by Re/Code, the shutdown will occur in the next few months, Xbox chief Phil Spencer wrote in a memo to staff.

Xbox Entertainment Studios was founded last year in order to produce original content for the Xbox platform. The L.A.-based, 125-person studio was led by former CBS television president Nancy Tellem, who remains "committed to new, original programming already in production," Spencer said today.

That includes the Signal to Noise documentary series announced in December, the first installment of which will tackle the rise and fall of Atari, and that recent Atari cartridge scavenger hunt in the New Mexico desert.

Also still on track is Halo: Nightfall, a live action series being produced by Ridley Scott, and the Halo TV series that is being developed in coordination with Steven Spielberg and is set to debut next year. Both "will continue as planned with 343 Industries," Spencer said today.

Interactive sports content like NFL on Xbox will also continue, but otherwise, Xbox users shouldn't expect too much more original content out of Redmond. Look to "our app partnerships with world-class content providers" for that, Spencer said.

Some of the original content Microsoft teased back in April included "an unscripted series about international street soccer, [and] an original drama about robotic servants in a dystopian world."

"Change is never easy, but I believe the changes announced today help us better align with our long-term goals," Spencer said today. "We have an incredible opportunity ahead of us to define what the next generation of gaming looks like for the growing Xbox community. I have a great deal of confidence in this team and know that with clarity of focus on our mission and our customers we can accomplish great things together. We already have."

Microsoft's layoffs, meanwhile, will affect 18,000 workers, about 12,500 of which will be from Nokia.