Volume 16, Issue 10
Atari Online News, Etc. March 7, 2014
Published and Copyright (c) 1999 - 2014
All Rights Reserved
Atari Online News, Etc.
A-ONE Online Magazine
Dana P. Jacobson, Publisher/Managing Editor
Joseph Mirando, Managing Editor
Rob Mahlert, Associate Editor
Atari Online News, Etc. Staff
Dana P. Jacobson -- Editor
Joe Mirando -- "People Are Talking"
Michael Burkley -- "Unabashed Atariophile"
Albert Dayes -- CC: Classic Chips
Rob Mahlert -- Web site
Thomas J. Andrews -- "Keeper of the Flame"
With Contributions by:
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A-ONE #1610 03/07/14
~ Google Is Pretty
Sure? ~ People Are Talking! ~ DDoS Attacks Worsen!
~ SF Bar Bans Glassholes ~ New WiFi Worm Spreads! ~ Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
~ Day of Digital Detox! ~ IBM Layoff Spares NY! ~ No to WhatsApp Deal?
~ HP 8, A Budget Tablet? ~ Win 8.1 Update Spewed! ~ Yahoo Buys Vizify!
-* Big March Update for Xbox One *-
-* Did Atari Invent Interactive Design? *-
-* Another Bitcoin Bank Shuts Down After Hack *-
->From the Editor's Keyboard
"Saying it like it is!"
Again, this week, I find myself running out of time. So, as I
last week, I'll just move right ahead and let you get right to this
Until next time...
->In This Week's Gaming Section
- Major March Update for Xbox One Begins Rolling Out
Did Atari Invent Interaction Design?
->A-ONE's Game Console Industry
News - The Latest Gaming News!
March Update for Xbox One Begins Rolling Out
Gamers, start your engines. Just weeks after the console’s first major
update was pushed out, Microsoft has announced that the Xbox One’s March
update began rolling out to consoles on Tuesday night. The big new
software update comes one week ahead of Titanfall’s release on March
11th, and it includes plenty of new functionality as well as some big
Here are details on the key additions, from Microsoft’s blog post:
Get to your friends list faster. The friends list
is now front and
center on the homepage of the Friends app. Click the Social tile on Home,
or say “Xbox, go to Friends” to see who’s online and what they’re up to.
From there you can quickly send messages and get into a party.
Party chat on by default. When you party up, chat audio is turned on
Chat with friends playing different games. Party chat is now separated
from people playing your game, so you can chat with your friends who are
online or you can chat with everyone playing the game.
“Invite friends to game” option available in your multiplayer titles.
Similar to Xbox 360 titles, when you’re inside a game’s menu you have a
simpler and quicker way to set up your multiplayer battles. Selecting
“Invite friends” lets you invite friends to your game and party.
See a list of “Recent Players.” This is a simple list that shows you
Xbox Live members you’ve recently played with, making it easier to stay
in touch with people, add new friends after your multiplayer sessions, or
report a player for bad behavior.
Twitch live streaming support. The best broadcasting and spectating
experience on any game console is on its way to Xbox One with the new
Twitch app launching on March 11, just say “Xbox broadcast” to start
sharing. Xbox One is the only next-gen console that allows you to archive
your Twitch broadcasts and view live Twitch streams regardless of their
Dolby Digital sound. Optical out now supports 5.1 Dolby Digital,
enabling devices such as sound bars and headsets with only optical in to
be able to receive 5.1 Dolby Digital from Xbox One over optical. We’re
also adding support for Dolby Digital surround sound over HDMI. Now
you’ll be able to have the best sound quality no matter what speaker
setup you are using.
We will now support 50Hz output to Xbox One. You can set the live TV
app to display at 50Hz for full or fill modes, fixing the frame rate
issues some users in Europe have been experiencing while watching live
TV on Xbox One.
Volume up/down adjustments. We’re making it easier to adjust the
volume on your Xbox One. Now, you can tailor the number of volume
increments when using “Xbox volume up” or “Xbox volume down” voice
New ways to stay connected with SmartGlass. We’re introducing new
ways for you to stay connected with your friends through Xbox One
SmartGlass. Receive notifications of Xbox Live messages, check out what
your friends are doing, and see their latest highlight clips. You can
even unsnap apps with the tap of a finger – all from your personal
Support for new Xbox One accessories. Xbox One now supports the
recently announced Xbox One Stereo Headset and Adapter, the Xbox One
Media Remote with a dedicated OneGuide button, as well as third party
Browser improvements. When you’re searching for content, there’s now
a direct link to IE to see related results on the web. New gesture and
controller features let you directly zoom and pan Bing and Google maps.
And search is even faster in IE – just highlight a phrase on a web page
and press the menu button to search Bing and learn more.
IR blasting of power and volume to TVs/AVRs is now available in all
Easy sound bar setup. Your audio sound bar set up just got a lot
easier. You no longer need to type in the model number for most sound bars
or AVRs when setting up TV on Xbox One.
General improvements. Last, but not least, a few miscellaneous updates
like the ability to view Game Clips while in Snap mode and a new passkey
feature to protect user settings.
The update has already begun hitting Xbox One consoles and it will
continue to roll out throughout the week.
->A-ONE Gaming Online
- Online Users Growl & Purr!
Did Atari Invent Interaction Design?
“Avoid missing ball for high score.” With those six words, Atari launched
an industry in the early 1970s. The words were the complete instructions
for Pong. Their brevity perfectly embodied Pong’s simplicity, and
simplicity was the basis of Pong’s colossal success.
It was by design. Prior to launching Atari with the 1972 debut of Pong,
Nolan Bushnell labored over another video game called Computer Space,
which was (by the standards of the era) phenomenally complex: The player
controlled a rocket with a set of push buttons, steering, accelerating,
and shooting at hovering flying saucers. People were baffled, unable to
master the interface, let alone grasp the simulated physics of a
spaceship in zero gravity. So when Bushnell started Atari, he instructed
his engineer Allan Alcorn to “make a game that any drunk in any bar can
You won’t find Computer Space in the Museum of Modern Art’s design
collection. But you will see Pong, which is currently included in a new
exhibit called A Collection of Ideas. Together with such classics as
Asteroids, Space Invaders and Tetris, Pong exemplifies “interaction
design” according to the curators. Though they don’t elaborate on the
reasons, they’re absolutely right.
Pong was not only attuned to the technology of the ’70s, but also
tailored to the prospective audience for an essentially unprecedented
medium. Deriving the game from table tennis, Bushnell and Alcorn made the
concept so basic that anyone could instantly understand, yet they added
enough nuance – such as the way paddle position effects deflection angle
of the ball – that people would keep playing and playing. And though
players couldn’t have expected it, experience with Pong prepared them for
the less familiar territory of Asteroids and Space Invaders. (Even
Computer Space might have succeeded if it had come out several years
Interaction design is now an industry and also a university degree
no recent product has surpassed what Pong achieved in terms of reaching
people and extending them beyond their prior limits. The iconic
black-and-white screen may now inspire nostalgia. Instead it should serve
as an open challenge.
A-ONE's Headline News
The Latest in Computer Technology News
Compiled by: Dana P. Jacobson
Another Bitcoin Bank Shuts Down After
Flexcoin, a Canada-based Bitcoin bank, said it was closing down after
losing bitcoins worth about $600,000 to a hacker attack enabled by flaws
in its software code.
Flexcoin said in a message on its website that all 896 bitcoins stored
online were stolen Sunday. Its collapse came after Mt. Gox, once the
world’s dominant bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy protection in
Japan and said it may have lost some 850,000 bitcoins due to hacking.
“As Flexcoin does not have the resources, assets or otherwise to come
back from this loss, we are closing our doors immediately,” Flexcoin
It later posted an update on its site saying that the attack exploited
flaw in its code on transfers between users and involved inundating the
system with simultaneous requests to move coins between accounts.
“Flexcoin has made every attempt to keep our servers as secure as
possible, including regular testing,” it said, adding that it had
repelled thousands of attacks over the past few years. “But in the end,
this was simply not enough.”
The Alberta, Canada-based firm, which said it’s working with law
enforcement agencies to trace the source of the hack, said it would
return bitcoins stored offline, or in “cold storage,” to users.
Cold storage coins are held in computers not connected to the Internet
and therefore cannot be hacked.
Flexcoin said on Feb. 25 it was not affected by Mt. Gox’s closure. “While
the Mt. Gox closure is unfortunate, we at Flexcoin have not lost
anything,” it tweeted then.
Bitcoin is a digital currency that, unlike conventional money, is bought
and sold on a peer-to-peer network independent of central control. Its
value soared last year, and the total worth of bitcoins minted is now
about $7 billion.
According to Bitstamp, one of the largest exchanges for trading bitcoins,
one bitcoin was valued at about $658 on Wednesday.
DDoS Cyber Attacks Get Bigger, Smarter, More Damaging
Crashing websites and overwhelming data centers, a new generation of
cyber attacks is costing millions and straining the structure of the
While some attackers are diehard activists, criminal gangs or nation
states looking for a covert way to hit enemies, others are just teenage
hackers looking for kicks.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks have always been among
most common on the Internet, using hijacked and virus-infected computers
to target websites until they can no longer cope with the scale of data
requested, but recent weeks have seen a string of particularly serious
On February 10, internet security firm Cloudflare says it protected
its customers from what might be the largest DDoS documented so far.
At its height, the near 400 gigabyte per second (gbps) assault was about
30 percent larger than the largest attack documented in 2013, an attempt
to knock down antispam website Spamhaus, which is also protected by
The following day, a DDoS attack on virtual currency Bitcoin briefly
took down its ability to process payments.
On February 20, Internet registration firm Namecheap said it was
temporarily overwhelmed by a simultaneous attack on 300 of the websites
it registers, and bit.ly, which creates shortened addresses for websites
like Twitter, says it was also knocked out briefly in February.
In a dramatic case of extortion, social networking site Meetup.com said
on Monday it was fighting a sustained battle against hackers who brought
down the site for several days and were demanding $300 to stop. It would
not pay, Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman told Reuters.
DDoS attacks were at the heart of attacks blamed on Russian hackers
against Estonia in 2007 and Georgia during its brief war with Russia in
2008. It is unclear if they played a role in the current stand-off
between Moscow and Ukraine in which communications were disrupted and at
least one major government website knocked out for up to 72 hours.
A report this month by security firm Prolexic said attacks were up 32
percent in 2013, and a December study by the cyber-security-focused
Ponemon Institute showed them now responsible for 18 percent of outages
at U.S.-based data centers from just 2 percent in 2010.
The average cost of a single outage was $630,000, it said.
"It's really a game of cat and mouse," said Jag Bains, chief technology
officer of Seattle-based DOSarrest, a firm that helps government and
private-sector clients protect their sites.
"I'd like to say we are ahead, but I just don't think it's true."
As well as growing in volume, he said attacks were becoming much more
sophisticated in targeting the most vulnerable parts of websites, making
even a small attack much more effective.
The aims of attackers include extortion, political activism, providing
distraction from data theft and, for "hobbyist" hackers, just testing and
showcasing their skills, security experts say.
Other victims in recent months have included the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Royal Bank of Scotland and several major U.S. banks, which
analysts believe were targeted by Iran in response to sanctions. Iran
denies the charge.
Many attacks, however, appear to be homegrown. The most popular point
origin for DDoS attacks in the last three months of 2013, Prolexic said,
appeared to be the United States, followed by China, Thailand, Britain
and South Korea.
As well as hijacking computers, Prolexic said attackers are increasingly
targeting smartphones, particularly those using Google's Android
operating system, which by the third quarter of 2013 accounted for more
than 80 percent of new phones.
Even wireless printers, experts say, have sometimes been co-opted into
attacks, packed together in botnet groups. That, they warn, can put
previously unprecedented cyber firepower in the hands of relatively
unskilled hackers, who increasingly include teenagers.
Last year, British police arrested a 16-year-old as part of their
investigations into the attack on Spamhaus, while German police arrested
an 18-year-old after a DDoS attack paralyzed the Saxony government
DDoSarrest says some of the most recent attacks it has dealt with were
U.S. universities and largely blamed on students showing off or
protesting against high tuition fees.
The sheer volume of attacks means many perpetrators are never traced,
some computer security experts complain law-enforcement authorities
remain reluctant to prosecute the youngest offenders.
Until recently, DDoS attacks were seen less of a threat than attempts
steal customer data or intellectual property. That, however, is changing
Last year's Spamhaus attack was described by some as slowing the entire
global Internet, and most experts agree the largest attacks can slow
access across entire regions. Cloudflare says there were anecdotal
reports of slowness in Europe during the latest attack.
Crashing data centers can wreak havoc with other services based there,
including phone systems and vital industrial facilities.
The Ponemon report showed DDoS attacks are now the third largest cause
outages after power system failure and human error, outstripping
traditional causes such as weather events.
Even if attacks do not succeed, the cost of mitigating them is rising
fast, providing many millions of dollars of business for firms such as
Cloudflare and Prolexic, taken over last month by Akamai Technologies for
about $370 million.
Namecheap, which aims to offer cut-price hosting for websites, said
had already spread its data centers across five countries and three
continents to better handle constant attacks but was still overwhelmed by
the roughly 100 Gbps incident.
Attacks on that scale, Prolexic says, now occur several times a month
are now frequently so complex and fast moving that automated systems can
no longer tackle them.
Prolexic itself runs a permanently manned operation centre at its
headquarters in Florida, allowing it to keep one step ahead and
instantly move material between data centers.
"It's very hard to know what to do," said Alexander Klimburg, a cyber
security expert at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs
currently on exchange at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. "The tools
to do this can be purchased online incredibly cheaply, while the damage
they can do and the cost of mitigating it is exponentially higher."
New WiFi Worm Can Spread
Like an Airborne Disease
This malware is sick: The experimental “Chameleon” malware spreads
rapidly among WiFi networks in densely populated areas, much as a disease
spreads through crowded urban areas.
Developed in a laboratory at the University of Liverpool in England,
Chameleon is the first malware known to propagate by hopping from one
WiFi network to another.
“It was assumed … that it wasn’t possible to develop a virus that could
attack WiFi networks; but we demonstrated that this is possible and that
it can spread quickly,” Alan Marshall, one of the paper’s co-authors,
said in a statement.
Chameleon is technically a worm, not a virus, because it replicates
without human assistance by trying to crack the password of each new WiFi
router it encounters. Chameleon nevertheless behaves like a biological
infectious organism, jumping among overlapping WiFi networks much as an
airborne disease spreads among humans.
The researchers simulated Chameleon infections in London and Belfast
found that just a few infections can spread the worm to “thousands of
infected devices within 24 hours.”
Furthermore, because Chameleon doesn’t migrate beyond WiFi routers,
undetectable to current antivirus software, which scans for threats on
computers and the Internet.
In its current state, Chameleon doesn’t do much more than replicate
itself and identify poorly protected WiFi networks, but the researchers
say in their paper that such malware could be used to eavesdrop on
Internet traffic, alter or destroy data packets, or destroy an infected
Chameleon doesn’t exist in the wild, so there’s no real risk of
infection. The good news is that a strong WiFi password will keep your
router safe from this kind of malware; if it can’t break into your
router, it will simply move on to the next available one.
The bad news is that many commercial and private WiFi networks have
passwords or simply aren’t password-protected at all.
In that sense, a WiFi password is like a vaccine; having it will protect
not only you, but the people — or WiFi routers — around you as well.
Privacy Advocates Want To Halt Facebook Acquisition of WhatsApp
The appeal of WhatsApp, the cross-platform mobile messaging app recently
acquired by Facebook for a stunning $19 billion price tag, was that it
kept to its promise of not collecting user information that would be
converted to ad revenue.
The acquisition by Facebook, however, likely changes that dynamic, and
that worries consumer privacy advocates. Two such groups filed a
complaint this week with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission requesting an
investigation and possibly an injunction temporarily blocking the
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for
Digital Democracy (CDD) filed the complaint recently, stepping up on
behalf of WhatsApp’s hundreds of millions of active users. The complaint
said Facebook has made it clear it will incorporate WhatsApp user data
into its business model, and that’s something users didn’t sign up for.
“The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users’
understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an
unfair and deceptive trade practice,” the complaint said.
Reportedly, 50 billion messages are shared daily between WhatsApp users
worldwide. WhatsApp said it collects only mobile phone numbers from its
users and any other association of personal information with that number
states. The service doesn’t store or copy message content either, it
The concern is that Facebook will be able to construct complete profiles
on WhatsApp users, most of whom are likely already among Facebook’s 1.2
billion subscribers. WhatsApp users who regard the privacy promises made
by the app could not be subject to intrusive targeted advertising which
is the heart of Facebook’s revenue model. Facebook, meanwhile, has
established precedent with past acquisitions, including Instagram in
2012, where it changes existing privacy policies and terms of service to
indeed collect user data.
In backing up its claims of deceptive trade practices, EPIC and the
point out that WhatsApp users expect a “privacy-protective messaging
service” and could not have anticipated their data would be subject to
Facebook’s data collection and mining practices, the complaint said.
EPIC formally asked the FTC to investigate the acquisition on these
grounds, in particular concerning Facebook’s ability and intent to access
WhatsApp users’ mobile phone numbers and metadata. It also asked that
until the investigation is completed that the acquisition be halted.
“In the event that the acquisition proceeds, order Facebook to insulate
WhatsApp users’ information from access by Facebook’s data collection
practices,” the complaint said.
According to Reuters, Facebook said in a statement that WhatsApp will
operate as a separate company and will honor its privacy and security
Oops! Twitter Accidentally Resets
Many User Passwords
Late Monday night, Twitter mistakenly reset a whole lot of its members’
passwords, sending notification emails to each member’s email address and
triggering a lot of panic about a service-wide hacking.
“Just got notified by Twitter that my password has been reset,” the
technology journalist Paul Kedrosky tweeted last night. “Has there been a
hack? No way the issue is at my end.”
Not to worry, Paul! According to the technology news site Re/code, it
a simple snafu on Twitter’s part, affecting “less than one percent of
Twitter users.” Twitter was not hacked; the issue is not at your end.
Twitter just had a little hiccup, if you will. If you, too, received
worrisome email from Twitter around midnight Eastern time last night,
just reset your password and you’ll be A-OK.
In its brief time on the Internet, Twitter has suffered its privacy
scares. There’s already a rich history of noteworthy Twitter accounts —
including The Associated Press and The Guardian — being hacked and then
used to send out malicious, explicit or profane tweets on behalf of the
hackers. Cybercriminals also like to target your Direct Message inbox,
tricking you into clicking salacious links and then using your account
information to spam your friends.
In this case, however, no bad guys can take responsibility. This was
a Twitter engineering problem. Choose a new password and tweet away.
Google Is ‘Pretty Sure’ Your Data Is Secure
Speaking at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Friday, Google’s
Eric Schmidt said he is “pretty sure” your data is safe.
The Google executive chairman said the web giant has upgraded its
encryption process in a project that was accelerated after former NSA
contractor Edward Snowden revealed troves of classified information.
“We are pretty sure the information that is inside of Google right now
safe from prying eyes, especially the government,” Schmidt said. “We
think your data is very safe.”
IBM Layoff Spares New York State
“New York is the only state that did not experience any layoffs,” said
Alain Kaloyeros. He is the senior vice president and chief executive
officer of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at
Albany’s College. It actually witnesses an addition of more than 500 in
Buffalo in the wake of the partnership with IBM. So, it is seen that the
company is sparing the New York City from any significant Layoffs.
Workers are being laid-off in Iowa, Massachusetts, Arizona, Vermont,
Carolina, Missouri, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. According to Alliance@IBM, an
employee advocacy group, the true nature of the job slashes is difficult
to gauge; IBM has ceased counting the ages, numbers and titles of fired
workforce in the packets dispersed to staffs.
Some state officials say they’ve not been kept in the dark about details
of the plan. Neither the multinational company in question, nor the
state, would divulge precise news about the number of jobs lost this
week. The organization also has rejected the chances of disclosing the
number of employees they have in the state in total.
A Republican who embodies part of Dutchess County, Assemblyman Kieran
Lalor, criticized the deficiency of clarity. Schools and counties often
authorize the company to pay lesser property taxes in exchange for
generating or holding local jobs, he said, but administrations then have
no method of understanding whether the organization has kept its promises
and whether the cuts in taxes actually work. It seems to be one of the
reasons though, that New York State is being spared by IBM against any
IBM has an extensive history in the city of New York. The organization
was established in Endicott, and its commercial headquarters are in
Armonk. But the organization’s impression in lesser known cities across
the country has gradually reduced as the company has gone international,
regardless of a lot of money in local tax concessions.
Although the newest round of dismissals was anticipated, the week began
with a statement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York that the multinational
organization had decided to produce fresh jobs, as well as sustain least
employment levels in the state. He said that the commitment of the
company is to persist the “3099+ good jobs in the Hudson Valley and
nearby regions,” which is in accordance with the commitment of providing
at least 750+ jobs.
The company went to infinite lengths to keep facts about the layoffs
the wrap, the company’s workers group said, and misplaced a key file from
the bundle given to workers who were being sacked that would give an
extent of the job cuts.
This step has been disparaged by many persons and Lee Conrad pointed
the scenario as “just another attempt by the company to hide the number
of job cuts.” He was very categorical to mention that the organization
wanted to reduce the number of employees to a great extent to damage
certain aspects of the expectation.
This measure of the company, it seems, relates to the goals of achieving
the earning of $20 per share. On top of job cuts, the company has
dispensed money into buy-backs to make its stock more alluring to the
stakeholders. Even as IBM cuts its overall jobs, the New York State is by
far the most secured State since it was spared from the layoffs in
comparison to other states.
Apple At Work On Full 4K Display Support
Apple may be making Mavericks a bit more 4K friendly.
In Apple's OS X Mavericks beta 10.9.3, users are given the option to
the operating system in native 4K resolution on 4K/Ultra HD monitors
attached to their Macs, 9to5Mac discovered on Friday. Apple is calling
the 4K support "Retina" in Mavericks, the site claimed.
Although Macs currently support 4K monitors, they simply use the extra
lines of resolution to display larger windows and interface elements.
According to 9to5Mac, the new Retina feature correctly scales the
operating system to the Ultra HD display, making everything sharper and
more readable. The resolution appears to look the same as Retina displays
running on a late-2013 MacBook Pro, said 9to5Mac.
That Apple is playing nicer with 4K displays is perhaps no surprise.
technology is quickly gaining ground in the monitor and television space,
and more and more devices will need to support the technology.
HP 8 Launched As Budget Tablet, Pricing is Only $170 for New
HP 8 Launched as Budget Tablet, Pricing is Only $170 for New SlateBack
the day, the term “budget tablet” applied to devices like the Amazon
Kindle Fire and the Google Nexus 7 (2012). In those days, there were
only two main kinds of tablet – the full-size iPad, and everything else,
with everything else costing substantially less than the iPad line.
With the Nexus 7 (2013), Kindle Fire HDX and other smaller Android
tablets now having the specs to keep up with the iPad, these tablets are
now considered “midrange” devices by many, even if they still cost
substantially less. The real budget tablets of today are lower-end
Android slates that typically aren’t made by reputable manufacturers, but
in HP’s case, its HP 8 defines the term “budget tablet” in the best way
possible – decent, if not overwhelming specs, rock-bottom pricing, and a
well-known manufacturer behind the device.
The new HP 8 would appear to be an American version of the Compaq 8
was launched in 2013 for customers from emerging markets. The device,
which was launched yesterday, comes with a 7.85-inch, 1024 x 768
display, an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor, 1 GB RAM, and 16 GB
expandable storage – in all, that’s pretty competent, and in the same
level as the Nexus 7 (2012), but far from what the Nexus 7 (2013) and
Fire HDX have to offer. Other basic specifications include Android
4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box, a 2-megapixel rear camera, and a
0.3-megapixel front camera.
As for the HP 8's pricing, it’s dirt-cheap at $170, making it about
less costly than the Nexus 7 (2013) and the Kindle Fire HDX. The tablet
is now available for sale on the HP website, and ships free of charge
within the U.S.
Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 Deep-dive Review: Almost A Laptop Replacement
Samsung's big Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 tablet offers a desktop or laptop
computer experience - almost.
The new Note Pro has a crystal-clear 12.2-in. diagonal LCD display at
2560 x 1600 pixels, which provides 30% more screen real estate than on a
10-in. tablet. The viewing experience is complemented by a stunning sound
system that makes playing videos truly immersive.
With a 9,500mAh battery, a Samsung Exynos 5 Octa Processor and 3GB of
memory, I was able to get more than 13 hours of battery life with
intensive use (including streaming much of the original 1990 BBC trilogy
of House of Cards), impressive by any standard.
There are many other hardware plusses, including Samsung's customary
micro SD slot that lets you add up to 64GB of internal storage. An
8-megapixel rear camera comes with a super quick shutter speed (rated at
zero by Samsung) and full HD video at 60fps; there's also a 2-megapixel
My Wi-Fi-only review unit came in black with a faux leather back and
glass screen that, unfortunately, did little to reduce outdoor glare. A
white version is also available, and Verizon Wireless now offers a 4G LTE
Samsung is pitching this tablet mainly as a productivity machine for
writers, artists, executives and students who are mobile and need a way
to create content as much as they consume it. So I decided to give it a
try for 10 days - first, at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona and
afterward in my home office.
At 1.7 lb., the tablet felt heavy. It weighs more than the Microsoft
Surface 2 (1.5 lb.) and the iPad Air (1 lb.) - and at 11.6 x 8 x 0.32
in., it's noticeably larger as well. Still, it is much lighter than the
4.5 lb. MacBook Pro that I regularly use for work.
The limits of a virtual keyboard
To make the Note Pro truly an effective mobile productivity device at
MWC, I needed to carry along review units of the Samsung Bluetooth
keyboard ($60), the S-Mouse ($40) and the Book Cover case ($70).
Unfortunately, even with these add-ons, there were problems.
Price: $750 (32GB); $850 (64GB) for Wi-Fi-only. 32GB 4G LTE model
available at Verizon Wireless for $750 w/ two-year wireless agreement or
$850 w/o contract.
Pros: Brilliant, large display; full virtual keyboard; superior voice and
digital pen input; outstanding battery life; useful and innovative
Magazine UX feature.
Cons: Inconsistent touch reactions; flimsy Book Cover makes it hard to
prop up the tablet; priced too high for a market filled with
I tried - in a cramped newsroom cubby - to prop up the Note Pro with
snap-on Book Cover; the cover wrapped around the back to work as a stand.
Then I placed the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse in front. Unfortunately,
the Book Cover was too flimsy to offer much stability, especially if I
needed to touch the screen, so I quickly reverted to my laptop instead.
Typing on the separate physical Bluetooth keyboard with the Note Pro
worked okay. However, when I didn't have the time or space to set up the
keyboard - for example, at news conferences and during meetings where a
table wasn't nearby - typing on the virtual keypad was practically
impossible. The "keys" wouldn't always respond quickly to my touches, and
when I tried to hit the keys a bit more forcefully, they seemed to
"stick," so that a string of letters would be produced even after I
lifted my fingers away.
I found out later that recent surveys have shown that up to 40% of IT
shops are considering replacing their employees' laptops with tablets.
(Perhaps that's because many workers are willing to trade a heavier
laptop for a lighter tablet; hopefully, they don't really need the
ability to type quickly or often.) The touch on the virtual keyboard
obviously takes some adjustment - I saw other fast typists at MWC making
use of virtual keyboards on their tablets - but I never found the proper
pressure and gave up because I had a quick alternative with my MacBook.
One ergonomic note on using a tablet regularly: To type on a tablet
sits flat, most people have to bend their head, neck and back over the
screen. It's bad posture by any measure. Most of us know that using a
laptop for long periods for years can worsen posture problems, but using
a tablet all the time can be potentially worse - as my test of the Note
Pro reminded me.
Fortunately, the Galaxy Note Pro has input options other than typing,
such as Google Voice and Samsung's digital S Pen.
I tried using Google Voice for voice input. I must say, I have never
a more efficient tool to dictate emails and documents quickly; there
wasn't even a training period involved. When did voice recognition get so
good? Unfortunately, it's hard to dictate in a crowded newsroom.
The S Pen (available with recent Samsung smartphones and tablets) allows
you to do a wide variety of tasks. For example, by pushing a button on the
S Pen, you can quickly capture a screenshot or draw a line around an
object to select it. Pressing the button while holding the pen near the
screen brings up a little Air Command radial pop-up window to give you
several choices for quick tasks like writing an action memo or finding
contents anywhere quickly on the device, including all the video clips or
emails written in the past day or the past month.
These two excellent input options made the virtual keyboard's shortcomings
easier to bear and increased the appeal of the unit as an all-the-time
The Galaxy Note Pro also features the new ability to run four separate
app windows at once on the screen. I was able to view a YouTube video in
one of the four, while keeping Gmail open for new emails in another, with
Google Maps and the Computerworld website open in the other two. When I
pressed the home button to revert back to the home screen, small icons of
each of the four previous apps still remained in their appropriate
locations; touching one of the icons took me back to that app.
While some Android purists aren't fond of the Magazine UX customizable
user interface to the Note Pro, Matt Hamblen found it beautiful and
While some Android purists might be concerned that Samsung has added
Magazine UX customizable user interface to the Note Pro, I found the
interface beautiful and functional.
For example, I created a screen that had several rectangular widgets
showing general news, sports news, tech news, and so on. Each widget (like
the tiles in Windows Phone) remained active and easily accessible. It's
truly an example of Samsung improving on the Android experience.
Samsung also has beefed up productivity on the Note Pro with a number
perks, including a new word processing, spreadsheet and presentation
suite called Hancom Office Suite. I fiddled with many of the functions in
Hancom Office and found them similar to what's possible with Microsoft
Office, although many IT shops and workers will probably wish to stick
with the more familiar Microsoft suite if a workaround can be arranged.
Other perks include a $25 Google Play store credit, a year of Gogo
inflight Wi-Fi (which has a potential value of up to $700 and could
justify the Note Pro's purchase price for frequent fliers), a one-year
free subscription to Business Week and 12 weeks free of the New York
Times. There's also six months free of Cisco WebEx, three months free of
Sirius XM Internet radio and 50GB of Dropbox cloud storage free for two
All this doesn't come cheap: If you want the Wi-Fi-only versions, you
to be willing to shell out $750 for the 32GB model or $850 for the 64GB
model. If you also purchase the keyboard, mouse and cover that I used at
MWC, it can add up to $170 more. At that point, you might be asking
yourself: Why didn't I get a Chromebook for $320?
(If you need connections outside of Wi-Fi, Verizon offers the 32GB model
with 4G LTE for $750 plus a two-year wireless agreement or with no prepaid
contract for $850 with its More Everything wireless plans.)
Samsung is known for offering many different models of the various devices
it makes and already has a range of tablet screen sizes - it has now added
a 12.2-in form factor. The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is powerful and capable,
and could be valuable for many students and mobile workers if they can
adjust to typing on a virtual screen or with a Bluetooth keyboard. If only
it didn't come with such a high sales price.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 Spewed Online A Month Early – by Microsoft
Early leaks of upcoming builds of Windows are common enough, but the
latest leak of code purporting to be Windows 8.1 Update 1 comes from an
unusual source – Microsoft itself.
On Thursday, wily snoops discovered that the set of six updates that
up the forthcoming overhaul of Windows 8.1 can already be downloaded from
Redmond's own servers, and some intrepid hackers even managed to get them
via Windows Update.
This, despite the fact that the update has reportedly only just been
released to manufacturing, and it wasn't expected to ship to customers
before April, at the earliest.
The Windows Update method is tricky, as it involves tweaking a setting
the Registry. And while some online forum members report success using
it, others say that Microsoft appears to have already blocked it, such
that not all of the required updates appear in Windows Update any longer.
Fear not, though – there are apparently direct download links for all
the updates, and while you can't find them by searching Microsoft's site,
helpful hackers have posted them all for you online.
Separate packages are available for 32-bit x86, x86-64, and ARM versions
of Windows – yes, even the unloved Windows RT gets to share the Update 1
wealth – so make sure you only download the ones for the architecture you
need, and don't try to mix and match.
Also, forum posters warn that it's essential to install all of the updates
in the correct order, or the process will likely fail.
It is at this juncture that we at Vulture Annex in San Francisco would
like to caution readers that performing this kind of unsanctioned brain
surgery on Windows PCs can very easily have all kinds of undesirable
results. If you don't feel 100 per cent confident that you know what
you're doing, you're best advised to not try at all.
And if you do run into problems – or even if you don't – don't say The
told you to do it. In fact, here you go: Don't do this. It's a bad idea.
That said, if you absolutely can't restrain yourself, you can find
complete instructions and direct links to the update packages in the order
in which they should be installed here. (And if for some reason those
links no longer work, presumably there's always BitTorrent – once the cat
is out of the bag on something like this, we find it seldom crawls back
When asked to comment on the matter, a Microsoft spokesman said only,
look forward to sharing details about the update soon."
Yahoo Scuttles Google and Facebook
Log-ins, Buys Vizify
In CEO Marissa Mayer's quest to challenge Google and Facebook, Yahoo
confirmed Wednesday that it will no longer accept accounts from its
younger rivals for popular offerings such as Flickr, while the Sunnyvale
company acquired yet another startup to bolster its workforce.
Many websites let users verify their identity with Google or Facebook
log-ins, allowing Web surfers to avoid multiple sign-ins to access
material across different sites. While the practice allows ease of
access, it also provides those companies valuable information about the
users' activities and preferences, which they use to target
advertisements among other revenue-generating practices.
Yahoo, which has been passed by Google and Facebook in display
advertisements and is struggling to find growth in an area it used to
dominate, is seeking to ensure that it captures that information instead
of its rivals when users access popular products such as its fantasy
sports offering and photo-storage site Flickr.
"This new process, which now asks users to sign in with a Yahoo username,
will allow us to offer the best personalized experience to everyone," a
spokeswoman told Mercury News reporter Brandon Bailey on Wednesday.
Yahoo also said that it is seeking to establish "a single account and
password for all Yahoo products, across devices," which seemed to indicate
that Tumblr, the popular blogging site Yahoo purchased for nearly $1
billion in 2013, could eventually require users to establish a Yahoo
account. A spokeswoman shot down that idea, however, saying Wednesday that
Tumblr will remain independent.
While Tumblr was Yahoo's most discussed acquisition of 2013, it was
just 26 purchases the company made last year, according to Yahoo's annual
report, a rate of one acquisition every two weeks as Mayer looked to
startups for fresh talent. The company followed that path yet again
Wednesday, with the purchase of Vizify, a Portland, Ore., startup that
sought to unite their social data in a visually inviting platform.
No acquisition price was provided for the deal, and Vizify will shut
as the workers migrate to Yahoo.
Down: It’s The Annual Day of Digital Detox
It must be a week for giving up stuff.
Lent began Wednesday, with Christians promising to refrain from such
indulgences as chocolate and alcohol for 40 days.
And beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, organizers with the fifth annual National
Day of Unplugging are asking you — yes, because you’re reading this on an
electronic device — to go off the grid for 24 hours.
Cellphones, tablets, laptops — give ’em all up until 6 p.m. Saturday.
Twitter. No Facebook. No texting. Can’t go cold turkey for 24 hours?
That’s OK. Every little bit of time offline helps, organizers say.
“It’s become an international movement and a chance for individuals
families to pause and make a conscious choice to connect with the world
around them,” said Robin Kramer, executive director of Reboot, the
non-profit behind the event. “The NDU offers a welcome respite from the
never-ending stream of digital information we are exposed to throughout
Just exactly how many people will turn off is unknown, but “we expect
tens of thousands of people at a minimum to participate in their own
way,” said Tanya Schevitz, spokeswoman for the National Day of
Unplugging. “We are hearing from people all over the world that this is
something that is resonating with them.”
That would include folks in Fort Worth.
While workers didn’t get started early enough to participate in this
weekend’s event, the city is looking to do its part in the future, said
Monique Hill, interim superintendent of community services for the city
of Fort Worth.
“We’re very interested in doing it in the future,” Hill said, explaining
that they want to encourage families to go offline and come to city parks
and enjoy the outdoors “in a no cellphone area.”
Hill said they are still looking at dates for the event.
Nationally, one of the most interesting events is in San Francisco,
a party is being held for more than 2,000 young people who will have to
check in their cellphones at the door. Once inside, they can do such old
school activities as writing on typewriters and playing board games,
She said they have also reached out to those attending SXSW, the annual
festival in Austin that started Thursday and features music, film and all
“We know that the people at SXSW Interactive are among the most plugged
and likely tech-addicted people in the world and we encourage them to take
time to put down their cell phones, stop their status updates to talk face
to face to each other — at least for a little while,” Schevitz said in an
Those interested in signing a pledge can do so at
nationaldayofunplugging.com. And yes, you can like it on Facebook.
San Francisco Bar Bans 'Glassholes'
The tech/town turmoil continues to grow here as at least one bar asks
patrons to remove their Google Glass before entering.
Google Glass are wearable computers mounted on eyeglass frames.
Launched in 2013, they are both cool and creepy.
The glasses have became one of several focal points in the escalating
tension between young, well-paid tech workers and those who feel their
influx threatens to make San Francisco unaffordable to those not earning
On Feb. 21, a tech writer named Sarah Slocum had a pair of the high-tech
specs stolen at a punk bar in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.
Patronsreported they were upset at being recorded during last call.
Others noted that flaunting a $1,500 tech toy might make one a robbery
That incident has sparked a firestorm of controversy over the Google
goggles, which gives users hands-free access to the Internet via voice
The function that concerns people is the glasses' ability to record
photos, video and sound.
The Willows bar in San Francisco's tech/hip SOMA district has posted
sign asking they not be worn inside.
"Our patrons have expressed concern with being recorded while enjoying
themselves at the Willows," the sign reads, above an image of a pair of
Google Glass glasses with a big red no symbol over them. "Kindly Remove
Google itself used the term "glasshole," in a do's and don'ts memo to
users posted on its site. One of the don'ts:
"Be creepy or rude (aka, a "Glasshole"). Respect others and if they
questions about Glass don't get snappy. Be polite and explain what Glass
does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell
phone cameras aren't allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass. If
you're asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well."
San Francisco bar owner Kevin Harrington says it's simply a question
good behavior. His bar, The Last Call in the Castro, doesn't ban Google
"I would base my policy on the reaction of my customers. And I honestly
think the majority of them would feel uncomfortable" if someone were
filming them without their permission, he said.
People come to bars to relax and socialize. While they certainly don't
have a total expectation of privacy -bars are after all public spaces -
they might not want to be filmed.
"Some people may not be out (as gay), some people may be having an
affair," Harrington said.
He expects "a lot of bars in San Francisco are probably going to start
putting signs up about Google Glass," but thinks the whole thing will
eventually sort itself out.
To Harrington, the broader issue is San Francisco's changing demographics
and how people are reacting to it.
"When gay people moved into the Castro in the 1970s people were
complaining. Now it's the tech crowd. The city's changing, but it always
changes," he said
Google Glass can take photos and record video, but the wearer must be
looking straight at whatever they're recording.
Author and blogger Robert Scoble has had a pair since April.
"People walk in the bathroom with their cellphone in their hand all
time, and that's far more intrusive," he said. "With my Google Glass, I
have to stand next to you and look at you. And then I have to either
touch my glasses or say 'Google Glass, take a picture.'"
He thinks the expectation of privacy in bars went away years ago. "My
brother owns a bar in Virginia and he says 'Man everybody takes pictures
in the bar with smartphones!'" he said.
The real issue is that the glasses are new, they're expensive (about
$1,500 a pair) and still hard to get, Scoble said.
"When the price drops and people actually get to play with them, it
be such a big deal," he said. "Until then, we're going to have this
friction between haves and have-nots."
The topic's definitely coming up around town. Computational linguist
Raymond Flournoy was at a coffee bar in San Francisco on Tuesday where
baristas were talking about Google Glass.
"One said that he'd actually told a customer that he wasn't comfortable
with him wearing the glasses while he served him."
New York author Gary Shteyngart imagined something similar in his book
Super Sad Super True Story in 2011. In it, everyone wears a computer on a
pendant that tells them everything about everyone they meet.
He tried out Google Glass last year, but it didn't measure up to his
"You can't look at someone and have it use facial recognition software
know who they are, how much they're worth and everything about them, just
by blinking," he said. "So far, Google Glass isn't as scary as I hoped it
would be, for my own dystopian, purposes."
Google Docks: Odd Barge at New Home
Google's mystery barge floated Thursday to its new home in the
California delta after the Internet company was ordered to move it from
The odd-looking, four-story vessel — made of recycled shipping
containers — departed from Treasure Island to comply with a Jan. 31
regulatory order concluding that Google Inc. didn't have the proper
permits to build it there.
Construction stopped on the project late last year.
Google says the barge will serve as an interactive technology center
when it's done. However, various theories have been floated about its
purpose. Among the most popular have been that Google is building a
party boat, roaming data center or aquatic store.
The vessel's new home will be Stockton, a city about 80 miles east of
San Francisco on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta. The Port of
Stockton falls outside the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Bay
Conservation and Development Commission, the agency that forced the
barge to leave Treasure Island.
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