Archive | November 2012

NASA confirms ice and organic material lurk in the darkness on Mercury

Mercury (NASA)

There’s ice and organic material on Mercury, says NASA. Data from the MESSENGER spacecraft orbiting the planet confirms that impact craters in its polar regions (pictured above) are home to not just vast amounts of frozen water, but black patches of dark organic material. Initial evidence for water ice on the planet dates back twenty years, and was reinforced with initial findings from MESSENGER last year. But skepticism was laid to rest this week thanks to data from the probe’s laser altimeter and neutron spectrometer, which measure the reflectance and hydrogen-richness of targets on the planet’s surface. The findings were published online in three papers for Science Express.

Compared to rock, ice is shiny and high in hydrogen,…

90 Seconds on The Verge: iTunes 11, Surface Pro, and Mars Rover

Russell 90 Seconds

Brandom. Russell Brandom. (B)random. Noun. “The state of being okay with the following nonsensical description associated with a first-time 90 Seconds on The Verge appearance: 4 8 15 16 23 24… 4 8 15 16 23 24… 4 8 15 16 23 24… and so on.”

US-CERT warns: Samsung printers contain hardcoded backdoor account

“Printers manufactured by Samsung have a backdoor administrator account hard coded in their firmware that could enable attackers to change their configuration, read their network information or stored credentials and access sensitive information passed to them by users,” Lucian Constantin reports for IDG News Service.

“The hardcoded account does not require authentication and can be accessed over the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) interface of the affected printers, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) said in a security advisory,” Constantin reports. “The SNMP account found in Samsung printers has full read and write permissions and remains accessible even if SNMP is disabled using the printer’s management utility, US-CERT said.”

Constantin reports, “‘Secondary impacts include: the ability to make changes to the device configuration, access to sensitive information (e.g., device and network information, credentials, and information passed to the printer), and the ability to leverage further attacks through arbitrary code execution,’ the organization said. It’s not just Samsung-branded printers that contain the administrative account, but also some Dell-branded printers manufactured by Samsung.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Paul” for the heads up.]

Release of iTunes 11 imminent, will include more iCloud integration

According to an article about Apple’s Eddy Cue in the Wall Street Journal, iTunes 11 is imminent, and may even be released today. The report says that the new version of this desktop software will have greater integration with iCloud, the principal benefit being that you don’t have to download all of your music and movies to whatever device you’re using. Your media will be ready and waiting in iCloud whenever you want to access it. The new version more closely resembles the mobile version in that regard.

According to the WSJ, iTunes 11 will allow you to stream music, movies and TV shows that you’ve purchased on any of your devices – no need to sync and download again. Purchase on one device once, and your media is then available to all your devices. You’ll still need to purchase and download the file to one of your devices the first time, but then it will be available to all.

The Journal says that Apple is feeling pressure from competing services such as Pandora and Spotify, which let you subscribe to their service and then stream music without first purchasing individual songs.

This seems like a good move. The cloud is the future. There have also been rumors that Apple itself will offer a streaming music service similar to Spotify.

X-Doria Mini iPad SmartJacket

One problem with protective cases can be that they are big and bulky; they add mass to an otherwise sleek device. However, that doesn’t have to be the “case”.  Let me introduce you to the X-Doria Smart Jacket for the iPad Mini.

It is slim, trim, and attractive. At the same time it offers perfectly adequate protection with a sturdy polycarbonate cover that securely snaps onto the iPad like a lobster shell. It will guard against impact and scratches.

The raised surface on the back adds further insulation and provides a surface for gripping and stability. In other words, it won’t slip out of your hands.

The flexible cover, while adding protection, also serves as a two-position stand when folded. It has built-in magnets that serve to wake up or put your device to sleep when opened and closed.

This multi-functional case offers great versatility for viewing movies, playing games, reading books, and surfing the Web. It makes it a perfect work station as well for some serious typing. Write your next novel on it.

You can get a whole wardrobe of SmartJacets as it comes in a choice of white, black, blue, and pink as a reasonable price of only $34.99. You can get one from the manufacturer here:

My only disappointment is that the case will not act as a stand in the portrait position. I hope this problem will be remedied in the next iteration.

Video player AnyPlayer(HD) updated: drops AC-3 support

In my previous review, I in no way recommended AnyPlayer(HD) (iTunes links: iPad / iPhone).

The new, just-approved version (1.5.8) has a single item in the update list: the drop of AC-3 support. (The previous, public version (1.5.5), released earlier this month, still supported them with software playback – that is, with files like MKV but not with the iOS-native ones like M4V.), The update list click for the original!):

BTW, this shot also shows the excellent, free MoliPlayer (topmost item; review) and the absolutely rubbish (see section “1.1 WMV Player” – the title that doesn’t really deliver high-quality video in the WMV Playback bible) WMV Player also dropped AC-3 support. Note that there is a brand new, commercial, Pro version of MoliPlayer with hardware MKV playback. As soon as the MKV remuxer’s initial, audio-related bugs are ironed out, I review it.

I’ve thoroughly tested the new version and found it equally bad than the previous ones:

– slow H.264 decoder – not even the 720p, low-bitrate Harry Potter test video is played back properly on an iPad 3, unlike with, say, MoliPlayer, yaPlayer, nPlayer, AVPlayerHD etc.
– no DTS / MTS support
– no improvemenets in the subtitle department (better SSA support, for example)
– etc.

Finally, of course, it no more supports AC-3.

All in all,

– you shouldn’t purchase this app – it is in no way worth the price tag ($2.99 separately for the small- and large-screen devices), you can get much better titles (for example, GoodPlayer) for similar (or even less) money, let alone the slightly more expensive but orders of magnitude better It’s Playing.
– if you have and you, for some reason, insist on using it, you shouldn’t upgrade from the previous,  1.5.5 version so that you don’t lose AC-3 support – or want, at least, to back up the old IPA.

SMS spammers fined $700,000 in the UK

SMS spam

A European watchdog group has hit two individuals said to be responsible for millions of SMS spam messages with a 440,000 (just over $700,000 USD) fine. Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish reportedly told clients they could send out over 800,000 texts a day on their behalf. They catered to businesses questionable in their own right: BBC News reveals Niebel and McNeish were often employed by claims management companies on the hunt for injury claims that could be forwarded to lawyers.

Windows Blue is Microsoft’s future low-cost OS with yearly updates

Windows 8 logo stock

Microsoft is busy preparing its next-generation Windows client, shortly after shipping Windows 8 in October. The Verge has learned from several sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans that the company is planning to standardize on an approach, codenamed Blue, across Windows and Windows Phone in an effort to provide more regular updates to consumers.

Originally unveiled by ZDNet, the update on the Windows side, due in mid-2013, will include UI changes and alterations to the entire platform and pricing. We’re told that Microsoft is aiming to make Windows Blue the next OS that everyone installs. The approach is simple, Microsoft will price its next Windows release at a low cost or even free to ensure users upgrade. Once Windows Blue is…

GM announces Siri coming on three new autos

GM announced today that three of its new models will come with a button on the steering wheel that will activate Siri in the same manner as holding down the home button on an iPhone. The cars’ MyLink infotainment system will connect to the iPhone via Bluetooth. Drivers will be able to do things such as make voice-activated hands-free calls, play songs from their iTiunes library, send a text message, use their calendar, and ask simple questions, such as the latest sports scores. And for safety’s sake, they’ll be able to activate an eyes-free mode that keeps their iPhone screen off so they won’t be tempted to look at it while driving. In addition, even if drivers don’t activate eyes-free, Siri will be limited to answering simple questions or doing simple things that don’t require the driver to look at the screen – thereby helping them to avoid the temptation to do so.

GM’s Siri Eyes Free will be available on the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact, the Spark minicar, and the Spark EV electric car. Last summer when Scott Forestall announced iOS 6 at the Worldwide Developers Conference, he said that Siri would also be coming to BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, and Honda. The Sonic and the Spark minicar are expected to be available early next year. The Spark EV electric car with Siri will be a 2014 model.

One interesting point is that GM’s MyLink infotainment system no longer has a CD player. Instead it relies on integrating with the driver’s smartphone. This shows clearly how music stored on, or streamed from, mobile devices is eclipsing the old media.

Olloclip updated for iPhone 5, works with Panorama mode #olloclip

I’ve been a fan of the Olloclip since it came out, so I was glad to see the iPhone 5 version was coming. In fact, I’ve been able to play with a prerelease version for a few weeks, and you can get one now that it was

The Olloclip addresses three shortcomings that otherwise might prevent you from using your iPhone as your everyday camera. The Olloclip is a slip on lens kit that includes a fisheye lens, a macro lens, and a wide angle lens. Combined with the iPhone’s native lens, it’s hard to imagine any scenario that you wouldn’t have the right lens for, and because it slips on so easily, you can probably get the