Monday, March 29, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Since I was unable to post last week I stuffed in a few articles from the week before last. So if a couple of the things seem old, that's because they are. You can scroll through them if you're past them, but I marked them because I still wanted to talk about them. Even though CTIA was last week, I'd like to kick things off with a bit of a nice digression...

Hot Tub Time Machine Review

I haven't reviewed a movie in a while because I haven't seen a movie on/before opening weekend in quite a while. Today I did spend my afternoon cooking and subsequently watching Hot Tub Time Machine. I walked into this movie knowing nothing other than what was in the trailers and commercials, which never really enticed me. The movie looked like it would just be bad rather than hilariously bad, but my friends wanted to go and I wasn't actually opposed to see it and make fun of it if nothing else. To my great surprise, this film actually worked.

I don't think I have to say anything about the plot that the title doesn't tell you already. It's three guy friends and the nephew of one of them who go to a run down ski resort for a weekend and end their first night in a hot tub that turns out to also be a time machine. Up to this point in the movie, I was a bit worried because there were only a couple of decent jokes and and a few lame ones, but I'm glad it wasn't long into the movie until they got in that hot tub. To put it concisely, the casting for this movie was absolutely perfect. I don't know if any other cast could've possible pulled this off. It's almost like these parts were written for these guys. I'll admit that at times I was little thrown off by John Cusack's character because it didn't seem like John Cusack, but other than that the dialogue worked. Rob Corddry definitely stole the show. I hope this movie ends up really igniting a good career in comedy movies for him because it shows that he can really nail the delivery.

The movie ends in a rather predictable way and you can see a lot of the lessons to be learned and such coming a mile away. It's a pretty formulaic comedy. Still, the movie never takes itself too seriously and I think that's what's important. It doesn't try to tug at your heart strings because it's not that kind of comedy - it accepts that it's a down and dirty comedy and holds its chin high in the face of some jokes that you have to just shake your head at. The delivery of the dialogue in this film overall makes it hilarious and makes up for shortcomings in plot and other areas. Though it's probably a C movie, I easily give it a B+ purely for how much I enjoyed the ride. If you can get past a couple of gross jokes and a couple of really raunchy jokes, I highly recommend that you go check this movie out. Go see it in a theater for the experience of laughing it out with a lot of strangers. It's worth it.

HTC Supersonic

If you don't think that's extremely sexy, then you're not as dorky as me. Don't worry, you'll get there. It takes practice. Anyway, that is the HTC Supersonic, which is being marketed in America as the HTC EVO 4G. It got a lot of buzz last week as being the Android phone to have, like the Droid has been up til now (you can argue for the Nexus One but let's face it, few people who aren't tech savvy are buying their cell phone from Google sight unseen). This phone may have the best specs I've ever seen on a smartphone - the internals of this thing are truly a work of art. Keep in mind that for all the speed of the iPhone 3GS, it's actually not super beefed up on hardware like the EVO 4G is. I'm almost positive this phone is more powerful than the computer we had in my household about 11 years ago, and we only bought computers that were pretty advanced since my brother and I are such huge nerds. Aside from a 1GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM, it has an 8 MP camera (that's probably going a little far on the MPs there) capable of 720p video, HDMI out, and may be the first CDMA phone to support simultaneous voice and data.

The videos of this thing are really impressive. It looks to have pretty advanced camera controls and it looks like it's very capable of processing HD video, which is quite a feat in and of itself. Supporting 4G not only means having the hardware to process 4G signal, but having the processing bandwidth to handle the added network bandwidth, and it looks like they're hoping this phone can do that.

Of course, not everyone is as impressed with 4G as I am. In the context of the HTC EVO 4G and my own personal experiences with 4G, I'm referring only to the Sprint 4G network, by the way. There are several other protocols vying to be the de facto 4G protocol and that article rightfully is frustrated with this. Additionally, power consumption may be an issue for 4G. My knowledge of the underlying technology is limited but it could definitely kill its usefulness in cell phones if it ends up being much worse than for 3G signal. Still, I don't think 4G is dead in the water. 3G clearly has its limits and we're not too far off from a point where we need a wireless data network that scales better for our increased data consumption rates.

If you want to see more phones from CTIA, PC Mag has a great round up of the most prominent devices that were shown off. I don't have time to talk about all of them, but I found the Docomo phone with the removable keyboard to be the most curious. Didn't we learn from the days of the stylus pen that easily removable parts are also easily losable?

Palm Survival Guide

In the wake of the news of yet another exciting Android handset, Palm is clearly getting left in the dust. It really is sad because I love my Pre. It has some shortcomings, but I'm so used to it now that I'd honestly prefer to stay on it than switch gears to Android because it's still an enjoyable user experience overall. At this point though, it's hard to see Palm coming out of this without another webOS device. With another iPhone speculated to be coming out this summer (the timeline just fits, not sure if anything was leaked to suggest what a new iPhone would have), Palm almost has to come out with another phone this summer to survive another year, and Palm is a fighter so I wouldn't be surprised if they pulled it off. Hopefully, they're learning from the Pre and announcing their next device closer to its release date instead of 6 months in advance.

There are other lessons to be learned though and Engadget put together a handy survival guide for Palm. Ultimately, Palm had a great platform and a hotly anticipated device and just executed things all wrong. It was almost amateurish when you look back on it - surprising for a company that invented what a smartphone should truly be back in 2004 with the Treo 650. The biggest mistake they made was with their marketing campaign. I'm not sure if it's too late to fix this or not, but none of their ads gives you any indication of how simple and intuitive the UI is, or all the great apps available on it now. I saw an ad at the gym the other day that cut more to that, but they essentially need to reboot their marketing. Of course, they also had several timing problems including the release date, when the SDK was available, and the gap between launching on Sprint and launching on Verizon, which should've happened way before the Droid instead of in the wake of Droid's strong marketing campaign. The only gripe I disagree with is cutting the Pixi. I actually know a few people with a Pixi who really love it. The Centro was not a silly device and neither is the Pixi: it's a nice lightweight smartphone for people who only need a couple of of core smartphone features and like the candy bar form factor.

I'm really impressed by what some developers have been able to do with webOS, including the traditional port of Duke Nukem. So while a lot of people have already counted Palm out, my heart is still rooting for them. As Pre Central has shown on numerous occasions, there's a pretty strong community of users and developers who really like webOS and don't want to see it die.

Windows Phone 7 Will Be Locked Down

This is kind of old news now, but it's important enough that it bears repeating in case you already did hear about it: Microsoft is following in the footsteps of Apple and fostering an app store for Windows Phone 7 that is controlled and moderated by Microsoft. What's interesting about their business model here is that they're 2 years late to the party. They basically want to right the wrongs of Apple, and I just don't know if it's going to work. They're going to charge $100 a year for developers to be in their "Marketplace" and they will have set guidelines for what is allowed in and what isn't. I can see the argument that they want to maintain a nice clean platform like Apple has, but it's too late to launch a mobile platform that isn't open, in my opinion. Any developers paying an annual fee to use a platform is going to give their money to Apple. Of course, the big guys (like EA) will pay, but not the little guys, in my opinion.

There is some good news though: Netflix was prototyped for Windows Phone 7. All you need is a device with HDMI out and some popcorn and you have a mobile party.

8 Layers of Security

I have two quick pieces of hacking news for you. The first thing is that a Russian hacker has been accused of manipulating the price of several Nasdaq stocks using several hacked Scottrade accounts. I'm not quite clear on the details, but definitely one of the more interesting evils of this age of electronic stock trading.

The other piece of news is that a Frenchman was arrested by French police for breaking into several Twitter and Google accounts, include tat of the official Obama twitter feed. He got into the accounts with a technique that is more popular nowadays: using the "forgot password" prompt and correctly guessing the answer to the security question. Though he didn't profit from it, the act of hacking a database is a two-year jail sentence in France.

Aside from picking a good security question though for your online accounts, you should also build up these 8 layers of security for your computer and data. I agree with all the tips and would even suggest adding an additional, more human-based, layer of Firefox extensions like WOT and NoScript that kill the entry point for a lot of attacks triggered from clicking a wrong link.


Ok, this post has gone on long enough and I'm now pretty exhausted. Time for the lightning round.

Google has integrated Flickr and Picasa photos in Google Maps Street View.

As a response to the recession, Verizon is pausing its FiOS expansion. Their delivery of fiber to the home has really put a damper on a lot of cable companies and this may actually improve the balance sheets of folks like Comcast that no longer have to compete with Verizon in more and more markets.

I was impressed by this list of YouTube tips and hacks, like how to download videos and linking to the middle of videos. It's a really comprehensive list that probably covers everything you've ever wanted with YouTube.

If I'm not mistaken, Samsung is the first company to officially launch a series of 3-D television sets with release dates and pricing (which start at $2,599 for a 46-inch panel). Of course, the jury is still out on the viability of 3-D taking off in the home.

These are some great Firefox add-ons for saving money, and here's one more add-on for good measure to kill those pesky memory leaks.

Have a great Holy Week, everyone!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apple Patent Lawyers vs. the World

Apple Sues HTC

It's unfortunate that all these big negatives stories keep coming out about Apple because I'd much rather talk about other stuff. The news is what it is though.

In a way, this was bound to happen, but I guess it's been so long since Apple threatened to enforce its patents that everyone had forgotten. Apple has filed a lawsuit against HTC for 20 patent infringements. The list of patents include things like swiping on a touch screen to unlock, turning off the phone screen when held near your face, and the idea that a foreground app can send off a background process to do work while the foreground remains responsive to user input. These patents would kill a lot of modern touchscreen phones, if upheld, but some of them are OS-level ideas that I'm pretty sure had prior art before being filed. Even though the lawsuit is against HTC, Google is verbally supporting HTC and some are speculating that legal advice is being provided behind closed doors. Apparently, lawsuits aren't so uncommon in the mobile phone space where it ends up in patent trading so that people can build on each other's ideas, but I think it's kind of sleazy either way.

Apple is not hard up for money and is not by any means getting killed competitively by HTC. HTC has surely cut into Apple's market share, but probably not by enough to warrant a lawsuit. Apple makes plenty of money, so they're not hard up for money. I see 3 possible motivations here (and they're not necessarily mutually exclusive): Apple wants to bankrupt HTC to eliminate them from the market, HTC has patents that Apple wants to take advantage of, or Apple wants to scare off other competitors from building on concepts that Apple has pioneered. Except for blatant ripoffs, most other big companies in tech, like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, don't file lawsuits like this. Most patents filed are for purely defensive purposes. It's a little crazy to say that you can't act on an idea you have just because Apple had the same idea before you did. Not all of these patents are like that, but I think several are. If you have a touchscreen phone, it only makes sense that you need to gesture to unlock it because you have no physical buttons to do it with - why should everyone pay royalties to Apple for that? I'm all for Apple protecting themselves against people making exact iPhone copies, but I don't think HTC has done that at all. I think they've been doing their best to innovate, and lawsuits like this only hurt innovation and competition.

TiVo Premiere Announced

It's been well over two years since the TiVo HD came out and TiVo hasn't financially been doing all that hot. As I've said before, I have a TiVo HD and think that the user experience is unparalleled. My brother has AT&T Uverse and his DVR setup is the closest I've seen in quality compared to the TiVo, but it doesn't have the connectivity with external services (like Amazon VOD and Netflix) that TiVo does.

TiVo has finally revealed to the world the TiVo Premiere, which is a 320 GB HD TiVo with an all new, improved interface. What's really cool, and I was hoping would be included but will actually be extra, is the qwerty peanut remote:

I've always wanted a keyboard on my TV remote for searching, so that's a pretty killer feature. Still, there's not a lot of reason to upgrade for existing TiVo users. It's only $300 so it makes sense for new buyers to pounce on it, but it doesn't sound like the guts have changed much. I wish it would support Tru2way, but at least it supports Verizon FiOS. The new Flash interface (which will finally include a storage capacity meter) is getting rave reviews from reporters who saw it at the announcement, and it's probably the TiVo search beta currently available. Hopefully it's snappier than on the current hardware though.

Of course, I say it's not worth upgrading and I really want one. It hits a sweet spot, in my opinion, with storage capacity (at least for a single person) and I really want that new remote. It'll be interesting to see how the market responds to it.

Windows Phone 7 Game Demo

Microsoft showed off something at TechEd that has created a lot of positive buzz since about Windows Phone 7. They demoed Indiana Jones being played on the PC, then on a Windows Phone 7 device, and finally on the Xbox 360. What's unique here is that the game state is being shared between all 3 to provide a seamless gaming experience. Well, seamless except for that the graphics are drastically worse on your phone than on your Xbox 360, of course. Still, I'd be impressed with your phone having a mini-game that ties into your game progress instead of tying into exactly where you are in the main game. It's exciting that for the first time in God only knows how long, Microsoft is trying to innovate with their mobile platform instead of just replicating stuff that's already out on the market. The question now is whether or not December can come soon enough in a market as hot as the mobile OS market even with as unique a feature as this gaming experience.

Lifelock on Lockdown

You have probably by now seen an ad for Lifelock at some point. They claim that they proactively guarantee the safety of your identity for a monthly fee and even challenged that you'd get a million bucks if you could steal the identity of their CEO, given his social security number. Of course, someone did eventually withdraw money in his name but not sure if he ended up getting that reward money. Well, the FTC is investigating them for deceptive business practices and being too forceful in trying to gain new customers. Lifelock was unable to deliver on its promises because it didn't protect customers from the most common forms of identity theft, and they had almost no security for customer's private information on Lifelock's corporate network. It's ironic that their slogan is that no one else guarantees your good name because no one else can. It looks like Lifelock couldn't either.

Less interesting but more importantly, the US government has declassified part of its
cybersecurity plan
, which excludes monitoring private traffic but does include deploying intrusion detection systems on federal networks, which I'm pretty happy about because that was my short-lived research interest in college. The basis of an IDS is that it tries to detect behavior that's uncharacteristic for a system and raise an alert for such behavior - it's preemptive rather than reactionary like most mainstream security software is. The plan also calls for improving the security of private critical infrastructures. With China threatening the likes of Google, we can use all the precautionary network security measures we can get.

AT&T Claims Tiered Pricing Inevitable

In the world of cell phones, we've always had tiered pricing on voice but almost always have had unlimited plans for data usage (not including text messaging, of course). Well, AT&T has already started rhetoric preparing people for tiered pricing, and it's a bunch of bologna. It shouldn't be possible for a mobile phone to use enough data to really put a heavy dent in AT&T's network, so I'm really skeptical that 3% of smartphone users could be using 40% of AT&T's network capacity. Maybe they should work on a better network - they have plenty of cash from all their iPhone users. The claim that they're in no rush to push out a 4G network, which means they want to charge people more to stay on a slower network than competitors like Sprint. It just doesn't make sense. To their credit, they claim no short-term plans of tiered pricing, but it's clear that they're not dealing well with the burden of so many iPhone users. It's just astounding that they don't believe the bigger bandwidth and reduced latency offered by 4G isn't going to help them out as much as sticking with their current infrastructure.

Hulu Loses Heavy Hitters

In the world of media conglomerates, Viacom is a pretty thirsty beast. Unfortunately, Hulu's revenues couldn't quench Viacom's thirst and so Hulu has lost their two biggest shows: The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. It's odd that Viacom thinks that they can do better with these two properties than Hulu, which is a fairly established brand nowadays. It's well known in the mainstream, especially because of the recession as people cut out their cable providers. Contrary to the Christian Science Monitor, I don't think Hulu is in quite as deep of a hole as it may seem. Hulu still needs more time to grow revenues, and as other offerings gain success, I think Hulu will show that not only is having your shows available online is approaching a point of becoming vital, but no one does it more efficiently or effectively than Hulu. Of course, YouTube is probably Hulu's biggest competitor, but YouTube is definitely not as browsable for this kind of content compared to Hulu.

More Competitors to the iPad

I don't have much to say about either of these devices, but I definitely think they're worth knowing about. The HP Slate is starting to materialize by way of official video footage, and it's clearly proud of running Windows 7 and supporting Flash, which Steve Jobs is still trying to woefully will out of existence. While I can see the argument for HTML 5 being better in the long run and Flash maybe not being so vital on a small device, I think it's absolutely important on a tablet in the short term and it's definitely one of the things HP should capitalize on. More importantly though, the Slate will give you more freedom to run the applications you're used to if you're already on Windows 7 on your desktop/laptop. Whether or not people want that experience is yet to be seen though.

Meanwhile, a fresh leak has been dropped regarding the Microsoft Courier, which is a tablet that looks like a foldable booklet. The video footage revealed is similar to what we saw months ago, but still very exciting. Who knows if it'll ever become a reality - it seems more like a concept bred from a set of requirements than anything else.

Closing Stories

Ok, as much as I love my new laptop and how much easier blogging is on it, I have other things to do so I'm going to wrap this up with some quick stories I still think are worth taking notice of.

I have too much App1e negativity in this post already, so I'm not going to really talk to the heinous secret agreement Apple has its iPhone developers sign. It's so detrimental to the developer that I'm almost surprised that it's legal.

Real Networks gave up their fight for Real DVD, which aimed to legitimize DVD copying by replacing the DRM already on DVDs with their own DRM. I don't know if it kills the future of copy protection, but it could've created a major precedent so it's definitely a disappointing ending.

Gizmodo has an excellent article detailing the sordid history of Sony. I have a love-hate relationship with Sony - I love some of their products, but their vision is often misguided.

Props to YouTube for launching auto-captioning. That's an insanely awesome technology.

The Core i7 6-core Gulftown processor is finally out and I actually enjoyed reading this review. It's a fairly technical review, but it sounds like a great architecture.

The FCC has released a very capable tool for measuring your Internet speed with the added bonus that they can use your data point to help understand the status of broadband Internet speeds across the country. In addition to just down and up speeds, it even gives you latency! The URL is easy to memorize:

Torrents are now legally available of free music from SXSW 2010. Check them out!

Popular Science has opened up the entirety of its 137-year archive for free!

I'm a big fan of these free, troubleshooting tools for Windows. If you only download one, definitely get the Blue Screen View one. My next vote is for WinDirStat, which is an application I've needed for years.

Last, but certainly not least, College Humor has a great video on the true use case of Google Wave: cyber sex.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

How to Survive a Trip to India


I'm afraid that I don't have time to put together a full post this week. I was out of town all weekend on a mini-vacation and, aside from catching up on chores since getting back I've also been setting up a new computer. I finally upgraded to Windows 7 with great 16" Asus laptop and I'm loving it! The keyboard is much easier to type on, it has HDMI out, and it can actually handle multi-tasking. You'd think a Core 2 Duo would be enough for that but somehow my HP Pavillion laptop never understood that concept and would only reliably handle one thing at a time. Even though I've used Windows 7 before this I have to admit that this was an even smoother user experience migration than I expected. I don't get the opportunity that often to give props to Microsoft so I have to give it up now: great job on the robustness. I love compatibility mode so that my old applications can run even if they're not quite compatible with Windows 7 by default. I feel like the instability of one application now is not going to crash my system anymore, either. The combination of this new hardware and Windows 7 is really going to make it a lot easier for me to blog without spending long amounts of time waiting or having to restart my computer.

Anyway, to replace my normal post I thought I'd post a speech I prepared last week for Toastmasters regarding my recent trip to India. I'll be back next week with a normal post. Until then, I hope you enjoy my speech!

Surviving a Trip to India

My heritage is Indian, and yet my recent trip to India made it quite clear that I’m culturally very much an American. I’ve been spoiled by Western luxuries like clean, running water and toilet paper that doesn’t feel like sandpaper. I went to India, for the second time of my life, on vacation in January with my brother, his wife, her sister, and a friend of ours. What we discovered that India is an incredible country where a rich culture meets modern society, which means that you’ll look out of one side of your cab to see a guy on his smartphone and out the other side to see a cow stuck in traffic. But I still haven’t said a single word about the abundance of affordable, exquisite food. I stand before you today to encourage all of you to consider making a trip to India yourselves, and there are a number of things I learned during the course of my trip that I wish I had known before I left SeaTac. Since my time with you today is limited, I’m going to cover what I consider to be the big ones to help you survive your trip and understand some of the local customs.

As your high school shop teacher probably once said: safety first. You should check the Center for Disease Control, or the CDC, website for what immunizations they recommend and get them taken care of at least a month before your trip. They actually have a list of travel clinics on their site, and the easiest thing to do is to give your closest one a call and set up an appointment. They’ll usually charge you a nominal fee for the consultation and set you up with everything you need, some of which may be covered by insurance. I actually ended up getting a stomach parasite on my trip and was so glad I had visited a travel clinic and gotten the medication I needed in advance. The pharmacists, or chemists, you find in India often aren’t very well-educated and have no qualms about giving you prescription medication over-the-counter. So if you visit one and come back to America with hair growing on your palms, you’ll know why. In addition to seeing your travel clinic, be sure to stock up on pain relievers, fever reducers, and antacids, at the very least.
One of the other shockers we encountered there is that public bathrooms rarely have soap in them. The pollution can get pretty heavy in the big cities and in your sightseeing and shopping, you’re bound to get your hands dirty, so be sure to bring plenty of hand sanitizer and moist towelettes to use before and after your meals, and, of course, bathroom runs.

Speaking of food, make sure you only eat at clean restaurants. Avoid getting food on the side of the road. When you see a guy wipe his nose with the same hand he uses to make your Bombay Burger, you’ll quickly lose your appetite. There is no Health Department in India, so you’re on your own. No matter where you eat though, definitely don’t drink the tap water. Unlike America where our water is processed assuming that it will be consumed, Indian water isn’t really filtered and only the most iron clad stomachs can handle it. Bottled water isn’t that expensive, so buy and drink plenty of it. Dehydration isn’t uncommon for travelers, especially in the South where it’s hot year-round. Another reason you’ll want bottled water is for brushing your teeth - some travelers get sick from brushing with tap water.

For your day-to-day expenses, you’ll need plenty of cash. In a country with over a billion people and fraught with small towns and villages, it’s not too hard to understand why credit cards are unpopular. I recommend using a money belt so that you don’t risk getting pick-pocketed. Additionally, I discovered why frugality runs in my family. It turns out that Indians are used to bargaining for literally everything - from meals to clothes to hotel rooms. Even being brown I was immediately recognized as an American by everyone and so the prices pitched to me were always ridiculous by Indian standards. You’ll get better and better at reading how low someone is willing to go on a price as you shop, but don’t be afraid to walk away because they’ll often end up ceding to you. If you’re traveling with friends then you can almost always get great bargains by buying multiple things – kind of like shopping at Costco but without the free samples. Unless you see the words “fixed price”, just assume that you can bargain.

Prices aren’t just cheaper there for tourist trinkets and food though, domestic travel is also much cheaper. Trying to drive around there yourself is like trying to drive on I-5 blindfolded – it’s just not a good plan. We were able to get a driver for a van for less than $40 a day. If you take a rickshaw, the vehicle of choice in Mumbai, you can expect to pay about $1 for a 30-minute trip across town. Of course, being in a rickshaw has the added bonus of letting you see your life flash before your eyes numerous times as your driver weaves in between lanes and gets within a couple of inches of huge trucks.

While I recognize that some of my tips may have been a bit intense I hope that I haven’t discouraged you from considering a vacation in India. It’s a great break from the cold in the winter, many people there understand English, you’ll discover the most delicious food you’ve never eaten, like vada pav, and there’s great beauty to be explored all around, such as a marble Bahai temple shaped as a lotus flower. There are some more common sense things you can do to prepare for your trip, like getting a visa, packing sunscreen, and bringing extra toilet paper, but I think I’ve given you the bare minimum in order for you to make it back home in one piece. You can [post a comment] if you’d like to learn even more about traveling to one of the most amazing and unique countries in the world.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Apple Becomes Your Mom

Apple Removes "Sexy" Apps

Apple has finally done it: they've become like a concerned mother wagging their finger at you. Last week, they took down hundreds of apps that satisfy more prurient interests. Yes, unfortunately, this was the biggest story last week. Call it a post-MWC funk.

Anyway, I really hate to harp on Apple about the iPhone app store, but every once in a while I think they need an "I told you so". I don't mean an "I told you so" that the app store would be unsuccessful - it's obviously doing gangbusters. Rather, a lot of tech journalists pointed out that censorship is a very slippery slope. Once you start policing what can be done on the devices you sell, you open a Padora's box of customer concerns and developer frustration. This latest app store bust is pretty crazy - even the biggest iPhone lovers have to agree. When you're literally kicking apps out because they have pictures of figure skaters in them, you're taking it too far. What's worse is when you kick out the little guys, like Suicide Girls, and instead preserve Playboy and Sports Illustrated. Now, Apple is not taking a stand for morality or against objectifying women, they're instead making a token concession while implicitly supporting Playboy. Yes, that seems crazy, but it's basically what they're doing. When you establish hard rules of what you're going to throw out of the store and then let someone off the hook who clearly breaks those rules it's a big contradiction.

Why did Apple do this? Apparently, they were getting too many customer complaints from concerned parents and women, in general. Apple already ceded a while ago by allowing you to restrict a phone to not be able to download mature apps, but you can still see them when you browse the app store. I think that was a valid concession (albeit, somewhat silly since it's not like there's already half-naked women all over TV and the Internet for curious teenagers). This censorship is just another reminder that Apple literally holds the incomes of more than a few mobile development shops in their hands. It's a lot of power when you consider how popular the app store has become. It's really unfortunate that they're being so irresponsible with it. If they had removed Playboy and Sports Illustrated then that would be more understandable, but Apple is basically showing that there are no rules in the app store other than the rules they make up depending on who you are and how much money you bring them. They can do this as long as Android, Palm, and Blackberry stay in the backseat, but I really hope that competition from Android helps them come to their senses. Between that story and the one on child labor at some of their factories, I feel really bad for Apple PR.

The Other Smartphones

I do have some news on your other favorite smartphone competitors.

Microsoft is actually putting some effort into courting developers with Windows Phone 7, which is something they've done a terrible job of with previous versions of Windows Mobile. Right now, they're working with hardware manufacturers to get some unity across different Windows Phone 7 devices (a big issue with previous Windows Mobile devices), but there's still no details yet on the development kit. Surely, Microsoft understands that this platform is dead in the water if they can't attract mobile developers, so we'll see what they do in the months to come. At the Engadget Show last week, an LG Windows Phone 7 device was actually spotted, but it doesn't seem all that exciting. Just another smartphone until we see more of it.

For the two of you out there interested in webOS: version 1.4 came out over the weekend bringing a number of welcome improvements including video recording (and editing), huge compatibility improvements in the browser, a much improved way to start apps to promote multi-tasking, and blinking light notification on the gesture area. Now that webOS 1.4 is out, Flash 10.1 beta is just around the corner as 1.4 has changes necessary to support it, which will make the Pre and Pixi (and, of course, their Verizon counterparts) among the first phones to support Flash. This has been one of the biggest updates to webOS since the Pre's launch, but it doesn't matter unless Palm starts pimping out these features in their ads.

If you think that the iPhone leads the smartphone market, then think again. I believe that graph reflects worldwide revenues, which is why Nokia is so big even though it's a struggle to spot a Nokia phone when you walk down the street. I know Nokias are big in India because I remember wondering when I was there how people could tolerate such terrible UIs. Nokia has even had better sales growth that Apple, who was actually 3rd behind RIM. I wish the graphic would've included webOS and Android, even if their combined market share is smaller than HTC (I hope that it isn't).

Google Hacker Discovered

The source of the attacks on Google from January has been discovered to be a Chinese security consultant. The attacks were cleverly disguised as coming from the IP addresses of a trade school, which doesn't prove anything given that they could easily have been part of a botnet. The government is believe to have leveraged this consultant's code to conduct the attack, but China still denies involvement.

This same guy may have been part of an attack on Intel that occurred around the same time. This theory hasn't been proved yet, but given the nature of the circumstances, it's likely that the attacks were related. Apparently, Intel and Google were two of 34 companies that were attacked around the same time, so this thing was a pretty big deal. Intel is remaining pretty mum on what damage the attack did, which could mean that serious secrets were leaked.

Unrelated to the January attacks, a major phishing exploit hit Twitter last week by way of direct messages. It asks if a given link is you, and when you click through it uses your account to send a similar message to 10 other people. It's not clear whether or not your login credentials are leaked in the process to send out future spam, but given that people are being advised to change their password if they've clicked through I'd bet that whatever else happens on click-through is not good.


I'm almost falling asleep here while typing so it's time to wrap up.

Ars Technica did a really great investigation of why most of the US doesn't have 100 Mbps internet connections. I wish I had more time to talk about it, but it's definitely worth a read.

3 Google executives were convicted for failing to comply with Italian privacy laws in a case where Google Video allowed a video to be uploaded of an autistic kid being bullied. This case has definitely gone too far and Google feels pretty sore about it.

Sony, Samsung, LG, Hitachi, and Toshiba have been accused by a small electronics store of price fixing on optical disc drives. Apparently, this sort of stuff isn't that uncommon in the East so these charges may have some merit behind them.

Amazon was the most trusted brand of 2009 (according to market research company Millward Brown)! Amazon actually sells about half the other brands on that list and ships merchandise through two of them.

UT Austin made Network World's list of the nation's 10 hottest computer science schools! Hook 'em!

The winners of the Engadget Awards have been announced with the PS3 and Droid aimpressively going home with two awards apiece. It was kind of interesting that the editors thought the Nuvifone was the worst device of the year whereas everyone else was more let down by the 3G Shuffle.

Have a great first week of March, everyone!