Episode 239

posted in: Show Notes


PlayStation Network revival stumbles a flaw discovered

“We temporarily took down the PSN and Qriocity password reset page,” Sony spokesman Patrick Seybold said in an update posted at the PlayStation blog.

“Contrary to some reports, there was no hack involved,” he explained. “In the process of resetting of passwords there was a URL exploit that we have subsequently fixed.”

Details of the exploit were not disclosed, but a door open had reportedly been left ajar for hackers to change a user’s password if they knew the email address and birth date associated with an account.

Australian banks are yet to see evidence of fraud related to the Sony hacks

PlayStation network should be kept offline, expert warns
The call, by security expert Bill Caelli, follows Sony’s decision to restore its PlayStation network and its Qriocity media streaming service after a massive data breach involving more than 100 million PSN and Qriocity accounts last month.
Sony yesterday said services were being restored in Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and South America, but restarting services in Japan and parts of Asia were the subject of discussions with governments.

More staff than customers on NBN books

NBN Co, which has 784 staff, has at most 607 customers after Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy launched the first NBN site on the mainland in Armidale yesterday, with just seven users. And none of the network’s users is a paying customer yet.

NBN Co spokesman Andrew Sholl. “There are no paying customers. We’re in test phase.”

Yesterday, NBN Co’s head of product development, Jim Hassell, said the number of users in Armidale would be “increasing over the next few months” until trials finish in September “and then we open up to connection to everybody that we’ve passed”.

Senator Conroy said many customers were still waiting to get off their long-term Telstra packages so they could take advantage of the retail competition the NBN had created.

Queensland Police explain SMH journo’s Facebook ‘arrest’

On Sunday, security expert Christian Heinrich showed The Sydney Morning Herald’s Ben Grubb how a vulnerability in Facebook could be used to obtain privacy-protected photographs without being the member’s “friend”.

The demonstration was conducted on the sidelines of the AusCERT security conference on the Gold Coast.

Mr Heinrich based his test on photographs posted by the wife of Chris Gatford, a rival security consultant.

Mr Grubb, deputy technology editor at smh.com.au, published his story yesterday, which initially contained a blurred image of Mr Gatford’s child. The image has since been removed.

Later in the day Mr Grubb tweeted that he had been “arrested by Queensland Police for a story I wrote today. They’ve also seized my iPad.”

Mr Grubb was questioned based on a complaint made over a hacking incident but declined to say who lodged it.

Supt Hay said other people were interviewed but declined to shed more light on the case as it was a “live investigation”.

He could not nominate which law had been broken due to the alleged Facebook breach.

“We’re still examining all the legislation but I would say there’s consideration given to federal and state legislation,” Supt Hay said.

He declined to confirm if Mr Grubb’s iPad had been seized, saying “we have taken property as part of the investigation”.

At a press conference this morning Supt Hay likened Mr Grubb’s act to “someone breaks into a house and they steal a TV and they give that TV to you and you know that TV is stolen and you apply it to your own use.”

In a statement, Mr Burden airfax Digital news general manager, said the confiscation of Mr Grubb’s iPad raised issues around how journalists could protect their sources.

“Incidents like this could dissuade future whistleblowers from sharing vital information in the public interest.”

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/grubbs-story-privacy-news-and-the-strong-arm-of-the-law-20110518-1esn9.html 2 mins long

Dell profit margins outshine weak Hewlett-Packard

DELL’S first-quarter profit nearly tripled as the computer maker benefited from favourable component costs, strong corporate demand and rising sales of its higher-margin products.

For the quarter ended April 29, Dell reported a profit of $US945 million ($809m), or US49c a share, up from $US341m, or US17c a share, a year earlier

Revenue grew 1 per cent to $US15.02 billion

Gross margin widened to 22.9 per cent from 16.9 per cent

Why Erik buy Dell?

China blocks prized Apple app, Flipboard

Until now, Flipboard had provided a way around the Great Firewall of China as feeds, including those from apparently controversial sites, are routed to users from within the Flipboard application. Users can select the material Flipboard displays by their choice of RSS feeds

“Flipboard is coming to your iPhone this summer. Working on it now. It is shaping up to be something special,” he said.

Set-top scheme ripe for rip-offs: ACCC

the SCAMwatch website — administered by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission — has been telling householders that the scheme is likely to encourage rorts.

The website, set up to warn consumers about scams that have been brought to the government’s attention, warns of the risk of unauthorised “door-to-door salespeople” who falsely claim to represent the government and offer to sell equipment such as set-top boxes that allow people to access digital television channels after the switchover.

The SCAMwatch website states: “Scammers selling digital conversion equipment are targeting communities with the promise of a government reimbursement for any goods purchased.”

Key independent Tony Windsor also questioned the merit of the scheme yesterday, labelling it “a little bit gimmicky”.

“I think that it is one of those issues that probably does need to be reviewed,” Mr Windsor said on the Ten Network’s Meet the Press

Bill Gates says he advocated Skype takeover

Bill Gates, has said he advocated the company’s takeover of Skype, and urged other board members to support the move.

“I was a strong proponent at the board level for the deal being done,” Mr Gates,


Winklevoss twins’ latest Facebook case rejected

The latest attempt by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss to re-open their case against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been rejected.
They had asked the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to reconsider its April ruling upholding the $65m (£40m) settlement from 2008.
The twins say that Facebook concealed information and they should have received more Facebook shares.

The 2008 settlement gave them $20m in cash and $45m of stock valued at $36 a share.
But the shares are not yet traded anywhere


Erik’s Notebook


By David Murphy

Apple rumormongering: Go! A new research note from Jefferies & Co analyst Peter Misek suggests that Apple isn’t going to be performing a significant upgrade to the connection capabilities of its new, to-be-released iPhone—namely, no 4G LTE support.
Whenever the next version of Apple’s smartphone hits the market—we’re already nearing the one-year anniversary of the iPhone 4’s launch with no hint of a new product in sight—Misek suggests that the device will only have incremental upgrades compared to the iPhone 4’s specifications. Heck, it’s practically keeping the same name.
“We believe the likelihood of the iPhone 5 launch in September including LTE [Long-Term Evolution] is now remote,” wrote Misek in a research note on May 13. “According to our industry checks, the device should be called iPhone 4S and include minor cosmetic changes, better cameras, A5 dual-core processor, and HSPA+ [EvolvedHigh-Speed Packet Access] support.”
The bigger news on Apple’s side is Misek’s suggestion that the company will be pursuing an expanded carrier lineup for its iPhones. His “industry checks” indicate that Apple will be launching the iPhone on both Sprint and T-Mobile in time for the holidays—remember, although the latter is in the process of being purchased by AT&T, T-Mobile currently remains a separate company from the larger carrier. In other words, no iPhone… yet.
As for when the new iPhone is expected to actually hit the market—looking cosmetically similar to the iPhone 4, as indicated by current rumors—that’s anyone’s guess. While anonymous sources speaking to Reuters in an April 2011 article suggest that the iPhone 5 (or iPhone 4S) is expected to drop in September of this year, other rumors peg the next version of Apple’s smartphone to ship just in time for the holidays.
So why new carriers, but not LTE support for the new iPhone-whatever? In actuality, Apple was allegedly planning to support full-fledged LTE in the iPhone via a Qualcomm chipset, but Misek says that chip yields just haven’t been strong enough for Apple to be able bring LTE support into the picture just yet. While not explicitly stated by Misek, the iPhone 4S seems like it was Apple’s “backup plan” in case a full LTE-enhanced iPhone couldn’t come to pass.
For more from David, follow him on Twitter @TheDavidMurphy.

For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.

By Eric Mack, PCWorld May 15, 2011 12:15 PM

A Chinese global trade site is selling an item under the listing “Newest design crystal case for apple iPhone 5g,” which hints that the next generation iPhone could include some big changes.
If the design of the case, made by Kulcase, LTD in Guangdong and offered for bulk orders onalibaba.com, is actually based on leaked plans from Apple, it appears the next iPhone could have a new edge-to-edge display and a new location for the rear flash. At least, that’s what we can discern by looking at these photos posted on the site:

iPhone 5 case (Image: Alibaba)
It wouldn’t be the first time plans for Apple products have been leaked into an ultracompetitive Chinese manufacturing market.
Reports surfaced earlier this year that employees at Foxconn, which manufactures many Apple products in China, were arrested for leaking iPad 2 plans to accessory makers.
Lending a little bit of credence to this particular rumor is the fact that the images seem similar to an engineering mock-up leaked back in March (according to AppleInsider) that showed a bigger screen.

iPhone 5 engineering drawings (click to enlarge) Image: Apple Insider
But third-party manufacturers have also been known to begin production based on other rumors and leaks, only to see Apple make last-minute changes.
If you’re willing to take a risk and invest in some fifth-generation iPhone cases, Alibaba might be able to hook you up for as little as ten cents apiece, so long as you’re willing to buy at least a thousand.


From: Herald Sun
May 15, 2011

SONY has begun bringing its internet services back online weeks after a hacking debacle that saw millions of users’ personal details stolen.
The company announced a raft of pumped up security measures as it allows customers to resume everything from playing online games to downloading music.

The move may be too late for some however, with anecdotal reports of customers dumping their PS3s in favour of Xbox 360s and the Xbox Live online community.

The Japanese consumer electronics giant has been humiliated by the technology meltdown, with senior executives literally bowing in apology to customers worldwide.

Sony shut down its PlayStation Network (PSN) and Qriocity music-based service on April 21, after a cyber attack on its San Diego data centre.

The intruders accessed the personal details of more than 77 million user accounts, escaping with details ranging from passwords to home addresses.

Sony has been unable to rule out if the thieves got away with credit cards details as well.

Among the suite of security enhancements announced today was an early-warning system designed to detect unusual activity signalling a cyber attack.

Existing users must change their PSN and Qirocity account passwords as part of the revamped security measures.

Sony deputy chief Kazuo Hirai again apologised to customers.

“I’d like to send my sincere regret for the inconvenience this incident has caused you and want to thank you all for the kind patience you’ve shown as we worked through the restoration process,” he said.

“We are taking aggressive action at all levels to address the concerns that were raised by this incident and are making consumer data protection a full-time, company wide commitment.”

Internet security company Symantec, spokesman Francis deSouza, said there had been a dramatic rise in cyber attacks over the past 18 months along with their sophistication and impact.

“Today’s cyber crime attacks are proving to be more covert, more targeted and better organized than those we’ve seen in years past,” he said.

Sony said it hopes to have all it’s online services back up and running by the end of the month.
Read more: http://www.news.com.au/technology/sony-restarts-internet-services-weeks-after-hacking-debacle/story-e6frfro0-1226056231553#ixzz1MPRKKDxE


Google and Apple are in a race to make computers dumber and computing smarter.
Google has lifted the lid on its new Chromebook notebooks, which are basically stripped-down notebooks running little more than Google’s Chrome browser. We’ll see models available in Australia later this year.
The idea behind Chromebook is to simplify computing by getting rid of the hassles associated with traditional desktop operating systems – such as software updates, virus threats and backing up files. The Chromebook operating system will be little more than a life support system for the Chrome browser – with everything taken care of in the cloud. The Chrome Web Store will make it easy to find new online apps and services.
The Chromebook concept gives Google pretty much complete control over your computing experience, for better or for worse. You can forget about running powerful software like high-end photo and video editing applications – the Chromebook is designed to make day-to-day computing tasks as simple as possible. Sound familiar?
Of course we’ve heard this story before from Apple when talking about the iPad. “Hand control over to us and we’ll take away the pain of computing,” says benevolent dictator Steve Jobs. Obviously it’s struck a chord with many people. Apple is currently expanding its datacentres in preparation for a major cloud push to revamp and extend the mobileme concept – adding more online storage and services. Apple also wants us to live in the cloud. Apple’s cloud.
It’s easy to see the appeal of a simplified computing device with a “managed OS” – such as a tablet or a stripped-down notebook – to sit alongside your traditional computer. But would you completely abandon your traditional computer running Windows, Mac or Linux and replace it with a stripped-down device? Some iPad-lovers say yes, but I’m not sold on the idea.
What’s really interesting is that it looks like Apple is moving down the managed OS path with Mac OS 10.7 Lion – the next update to the Mac operating system. Rather than making tablets more like computers, Apple wants to make computers more like tablets. Adding the App Store to Mac OS was the first step. Moving more services to the cloud is the next step. Phasing out optical drives and restricting desktop applications won’t be far behind.
Eventually I think Apple wants Mac OS to evolve into a Chromebook-esque experience where everything is handed over to Apple in the cloud. It will happen slowly but, like Google, Apple also eventually wants to make computers dumber and computing smarter.
Apple and Google are betting that you’re willing to sacrifice freedom and functionality in return for convenience. Are they right?

May 12, 2011

VODAFONE is wooing new customers with higher iPhone subsidies than its competitors, in a bid to replace those who left because of network problems, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs.

Vodafone’s problems are a bonus for Telstra and Optus, because they can reduce their own iPhone subsidies, and costs, and wind back aggressive marketing strategies launched last year.

Optus and Telstra started reducing subsidies for the latest iPhone after Christmas.
Story continues below

”Changes in handset subsidy levels offer useful insights into the competitive intensity of the postpaid [contract] handset market and the future profitability of the mobile operators,” Goldman Sachs analyst Christian Guerra wrote in a note to clients yesterday.

”Vodafone significantly increased subsidies in April 2011 in an attempt to reignite subscriber growth following a weak subscriber performance in the March quarter.”

Vodafone’s customer numbers dropped by 150,000 from the start of the year to the end of March, due to a 244,000 decrease in contract customers but a gain of 94,000 prepaid customers.

”The most concerning issue here is the sharp decline in high-value postpaid customers during the quarter. [Vodafone’s] lacklustre performance is driving strong subscriber momentum for both Telstra and Optus,” Mr Guerra said.

In the same period, Telstra signed up 197,000 customers to mobile contracts, on top of 297,000 added since June, according to figures released by chief executive David Thodey last week.

Optus yesterday said it added 151,000 customers on mobile contracts in that period.

Its parent company, SingTel, will announce its full-year results today. According to Macquarie analyst Andrew Levy, Optus could deliver record March-quarter earnings of $639 million for SingTel.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/iphone/vodafone-in-iphone-cost-war-to-regain-244k-customers-lost-in-network-issues-retreat-20110512-1ej64.html#ixzz1MK7Qwl6x


Yesterday’s formal introduction of Chromebooks marked yet another category of portable computing gadget in a landscape that’s starting to feel overrun.

For $499, the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook has its work cut out for it–namely, because tablets and “high-end” 11- and 12-inch laptops and Netbooks (some with faster processors) have already occupied the same landscape.

It’s a question we’ve been pondering for a while now, writ again: what truly constitutes the perfect small-screen portable? Suddenly, instead of one or two OSes to consider, there are four: Windows 7,

Apple’s iOS, and Google’s Android and Chrome.

While the high end of the computer spectrum remains relatively stable (desktops, laptops), the increasingly fertile (or, perhaps, unstable) ground between laptops and smartphones has bred a variety of tech forms that all, in some way, are portable. Options have never been more diverse, or confusing.

Which one would you rather spend about $500 on? Well, let’s see what you get.

Chromebook: Samsung Series 5 (3G)

Price: $499
Screen: 12.1 inches
Processor: Dual-core Intel Atom N570 (1.66GHz)
Storage: 16GB SSD
OS: Chrome
Weight: 3.3 pounds
Upside: Thin (0.79 inch); quick bootup (8 seconds); built-in 3G with an included 100MB per month of free data for two years; SD card slot; solid-state storage.
Downside: Browser-based OS reliant on Google’s to-be-determined app strategy and offerings; extremely low amount of onboard storage compared with laptops; slower Intel Atom processor; not really a bargain next to comparable Windows laptops; requires near-ubiquitous broadband access.
Outlook: Slim size and quick boot time could make it a MacBook Air alternative, but a cheaper price tag and more versatile feature set would help it stand out from excellently valued Windows Atom-powered Netbooks.
Read CNET’s first take on the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook.

(Credit: HP)

Laptop: HP Pavilion dm1z
Price: $449
Screen: 11.6 inches
Processor: AMD E-350 dual-core (1.6GHz)
Storage: 320GB hard drive
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium
Weight: 3.4 pounds
Upside: Faster-than-an-Atom AMD E-350 processor; runs Windows 7 Home Premium; large, fast 7,200rpm hard drive; all the benefits of a laptop at a smaller size; SD card slot; HDMI port.
Downside: Slower bootup; no 3G; Windows 7 is full-featured, but comparatively clunky; the heaviest of the four devices.
Outlook: Getting what amounts to a complete laptop for less than $500 makes the Pavilion dm1z the most efficient use of your money, but it offers no quick-start apps or benefits that tablets and other devices offer, and it’s bulkier than any of the other options.
Read the CNET review of the HP Pavilion dm1z.

(Credit: CNET)

iPad: Apple iPad 2 (16GB, Wi-Fi)
Price: $499
Screen: 9.7 inches
Processor: 1GHz dual-core A5
Storage: 16GB flash
OS: iOS 4.3
Weight: 1.32 pounds
Upside: Incredibly thin (0.34 inch); long battery life; huge library of apps, plus Apple iTunes media store; solid-state storage; crisp IPS display; multitouch screen; front- and rear-facing cameras.
Downside: Doesn’t run Flash; iOS limited to apps in the App Store; expensive peripherals are required for SD, USB, and HDMI compatibility; 3G and larger flash storage bump up the price; no hard keyboard; extremely limited peripheral connectivity.
Outlook: Nothing can beat the iPad 2 on its ultraportable form and impressive app library, but you have to work within the limitations of the iPad’s hardware and iOS.
Read the CNET review of the Apple iPad 2.

(Credit: CNET)

Android Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Price: tbd
Screen: 10.1 inches
Processor: Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core
Storage: 16GB flash
OS: Android Honeycomb
Weight: 1.24 pounds
Upside: About as thin as the iPad 2, and even lighter; bright IPS display; customizable Google Honeycomb OS; runs Flash; access to Android’s extensive apps; multitouch screen; better camera than the iPad 2.
Downside: Android’s Tablet Market offers fewer apps than Android Phone Market and iOS App Store; same lack of ports as the iPad 2; the tablet experience, by nature, has its limits.
Outlook: Android offers a more complete app experience right now than Chrome, but any 3G Galaxy Tab offering will likely be considerably more expensive than the equivalent Chromebook.
Read the CNET first take of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Final verdict: Right now, I’d go with either the iPad 2 or the HP dm1z, simply because they’re both excellent pieces of hardware and they use operating systems that feel fleshed out. Without a doubt, Android smartphones are a force to be reckoned with; when it comes to Android tablets, however, products feel a little less well-defined. And Chromebooks…well, until we see one in person, it’s pretty hard to judge.
Another consideration: would it be worth your while to spend even less? Chromebooks actually start as low as $349 (the Acer Chromebook), as do Windows laptops (your average $299 Atom Netbook) and Android tablets (such as the Archos 101). The iPad 2 starts at $499, but you can always get a refurbished first-generation iPad for about $349, too.

What about you–what would you spend your $500 on? Or, would you rather get a smartphone or a cheap, larger laptop? Respond to our poll above, and share your comments below.



By David Goldman @CNNMoneyTech May 13, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (CNNMoney) — Google does battle with Microsoft in most of its business areas, but it’s gearing up to tackle the big daddy of them all: Windows.
With Windows — and Macs and other PC operating systems — Google sees an inefficient, costly, and decidedly 20th century mode of computing. Data is stored on each PC’s hard drive, so if a laptop is lost or damaged, all the data stored on it could be gone forever too. And when PCs break, they’re expensive and time-consuming to fix.

That’s especially true in the corporate world. Gartner estimates that each desktop in a corporation costs between $3,000 and $5,000 per year to manage. Laptops can cost even more.
Ironically, all that spending means offices end up with old, rickety computers that the users would never buy for themselves. The high cost of tech support makes it prohibitively expensive for many companies to keep their hardware and software up to date. Services firm NetApplications says that more than 50% of computers are still using Windows XP — a 10-year-old operating system.
Google’s (
, Fortune 500) solution: Chrome OS, a Web-based operating system that is set for release on June 15.
On computers running Chrome OS, all of a user’s information is stored in the cloud, in remote servers controlled by Google or other companies. Instead of a desktop software model, which relies on installed apps like Microsoft (
, Fortune 500) Outlook and Word, customers will use on Gmail or another Web mail program, and Google Docs or Office 365, which exist online only. (Yes, you can run Microsoft’s cloud Office software on a Google Chrome device.)
That goes for IT departments too. Intricate administrative software is replaced by a Web page that allows tech staff to manage all Chrome OS PCs. And Chrome OS automatically updates with the newest version, saving businesses from spending a fortune deploying new software versions.
“We’re venturing into a really new model of computing,” Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, said at a press conference this week. “This head-to-toe software model eliminates a lot of complexity. Complexity is torturing everyone, and that’s a flawed model.”

Google believes it can save businesses at least 50% on their desktop support expenses if they switch to Chrome OS.
But Google has a long, long uphill battle to fight against the entrenched corporate behemoth that is Microsoft Windows. More than 90% of the world’s computers run Windows.
Not every business is ready to simplify its hardware, since many rely on high-end software that does not yet exist as a Web application. And Google has had a shaky relationship with the enterprise in the past, gaining only tepid support for its cloud-based business applications suite.
Also, this has been tried before with practically zero success.
Nearly 20 years ago, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison predicted that “thin client,” hard-drive-less desktops connected to and managed by a server would be the future of business computing. Sun Microsystems — now owned by Oracle (
, Fortune 500) — also tried and failed to get businesses to adopt thin clients.
Google acknowledged past failures but says that this time, it’s different. The company surveyed 400 businesses of all sizes and found that 75% said they could migrate to Chrome OS.
People are now more accustomed to running applications out of a browser, Google executives say. The company partnered with virtualization giant Citrix to allow Chrome OS computers to run Windows applications hosted in the cloud, letting businesses run Adobe (
) Photoshop, for instance, on Chrome OS.
Also, unlike pervious attempts, Google is providing both the operating system and the computer as one package: For $28 per user per month ($20 for government offices and schools), companies can rent “Chromebook” netbooks from Google and get support included.
“For the first time, hardware and software are being packaged together as a service,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of Chrome. “We think this can fundamentally change the way people use computing in companies.”
As evidence that companies of any size can deploy Chrome OS, Google itself is in the process of switching over to the new operating system.
“We will be deploying them increasingly internally,” Brin said. “I hope to report next year that we have a very small percentage of anything other than Chromebooks at Google.”
Google thinks it can change the face of computing. The only obstacles: The world’s largest software maker, notoriously stubborn IT departments and decades of history going against it.
It’s a good thing Google likes a challenge.


BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. has recalled about 1,000 of its PlayBook tablets that were shipped with faulty operating systems which may have prevented users from performing the initial setup of the device.
In a statement, RIM said the majority of the affected devices are still in the distribution channel and haven’t reached customers. “RIM is working to replace the affected devices,” the statement said. “In the small number of cases where a customer received a PlayBook that is unable to properly load software upon initial set-up, they can contact RIM for assistance.”
The statement followed a report on the Engadget blog Saturday that said the faulty batch of PlayBooks were shipped to Staples Inc. The blog didn’t identify whether the Staples stores that received the recalled devices were in Canada or the U.S.
Officials from Staples weren’t immediately available to comment.
The news is the latest setback for RIM, which recently issued a first-quarter profit warning, citing lower-than-expected BlackBerry sales. RIM’s stock breached its 52-week low in Toronto trading and is hovering just above its 52-week low on the Nasdaq Stock Market, finishing Friday at $43.24 a share on Nasdaq.
The Waterloo, Ont., company is transitioning to new products that it hopes spark a turnaround in sales and revitalize its image. The highly-anticipated PlayBook launched to lukewarm reviews last month. The device features a new operating system from QNX Software Systems, which RIM acquired last year. It also features Adobe Inc.’s Flash software. However, it has a relative dearth of third-party applications, which are a key reason for the success of Apple Inc.’s iPad.
RIM hasn’t yet indicated how many PlayBooks it has sold to date. It is expected to provide this information when it reports its results in June.
Write to Stuart Weinberg at stuart.weinberg@dowjones.com

Lucy Battersby
May 18, 2011 – 1:06PM
Optus has been slugged with a $180,000 fine by the competition watchdog for misleading mobile plans in which the so-called maximum was in fact a minimum price.

Optus was issued with 27 infringement notices by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on April 18, and has now paid fines totalling $178,200.

“If you advertise a service as a ‘$49 Max Cap’ when $49 is the minimum that consumers have to pay, then you risk breaching the law by misleading consumers about the cost of the service,” ACCC chairman Peter Kell said in a statement today.

Advertisement: Story continues below
Optus advertised the product in July and August last year. It also claimed consumers could use call credit to call anyone when only certain call types were allowed, the ACCC noted.

It was fined $6600 for 27 infringements based on the number of advertisements and the number of claims in each ad. Optus has not yet responded to a request for comment.

It is the second time this year that Optus has been caught out for misleading advertising. In February the Federal Court in Melbourne agreed with the ACCC that Optus’s so-called unlimited fixed broadband plans did contain limits. Optus was not fined but had to pay its own costs.

At the time, Justice Tony North said the plans were not unlimited because a customer’s download speed was restricted to 256 kilobits per second after they downloaded 30 gigabytes of data, and this made internet applications “unworkable or significantly impaired”.

He rejected Optus’s argument that consumers would expect “unlimited” to refer to volume, not the speed of downloads.


Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/optus-fined-for-misleading-ads-20110518-1esb8.html#ixzz1MfdZhHa9

In an interview with PC World posted this morning, HP’s Consumer Desktops Product Manager Xavier Lauwaert was quoted as follows in regard to the absence of Thunderbolt ports in HP’s newly announced desktops: “On the PC side, everybody seems to be content with the expansion of USB 3.0. Do we need to go into more fancy solutions? Not convinced yet.”

The official Thunderbolt logo.

Thunderbolt, if you’re unaware, is a new peripheral device input standard. In development at Intel since 2009 (when it was code-named Light Peak), Thunderbolt debuted this year in Apple’s most recent MacBook Pro laptops and iMac all-in-one desktops.

Boasting 10Gbps full-duplex data transfer speeds (meaning it allows 10Gb of data per second both into and out of each port, simultaneously) Thunderbolt also integrates support for the DisplayPort and PCI Express 2.0 standards. That means along with fast data transfers, Thunderbolt can act as a monitor port, and also work with external video-processing devices at bandwidths approaching those of an internal graphics card.

Although Thunderbolt ports have been available by way of the new MacBook Pro since February 24, no Windows-based systems offer Thunderbolt. When we asked why, we were told by Intel’s Dave Salvator that we “should expect to see Thunderbolt in a lot more places in 2012.” It’s worth noting that Intel is currently the sole vendor of the necessary Thunderbolt controller chip.

No Thunderbolt-based peripheral devices have come to market yet, but Apple representatives told us to expect them “this summer,” in a meeting earlier this month. A number of vendors previewed Thunderbolt devices at the NAB Show this past April, among them external solid-state drive arrays and video port hubs.

USB 3.0 is sometimes called Superspeed USB.

USB 3.0, alternatively, has appeared in Windows laptops and desktops since 2010. It is a common feature in Windows-based PCs that use Intel’s second-generation Core processors. Although Intel doesn’t yet support USB 3.0 natively on its motherboard chipsets, a number of vendors sell the necessary USB 3.0 controller silicon. USB 3.0 features 5Gbps maximum data transfer speeds–half that of Thunderbolt–but it is also backwards compatible with the vast universe of existing USB 2.0 devices. Unlike Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 does not feature native support for any video bus or display standards.

From a purely technical standpoint, Thunderbolt is superior to USB 3.0 in that it’s faster, and offers greater potential in its video and graphics device compatibility. USB 3.0, though, has more immediate utility. You can already find USB 3.0 hard drives and other devices available for sale alongside legacy USB 2.0 devices. The only thing you can connect to a Thunderbolt port right now is an external monitor via a Mini-DisplayPort cable.

What to make, then, of these apparent battle lines? First, understand that the two standards do not necessarily exist in opposition to each other. Intel has said it will feature native support for both standards in chipsets supporting its next-generation Ivy Bridge CPU architecture, due out at the end of the year. That will allow PC manufacturers the ability to easily adopt both standards in the same system, similar to the co-existence of USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and eSATA ports on many existing motherboards.

Second, while Apple worked with Intel to bring Thunderbolt to market earlier this year, it does not appear to be an option available to Windows vendors or motherboard manufacturers at the moment. Intel was not willing to speak more specifically as to the reasons why, although Salvator said no when we asked whether Apple paid for short-term Thunderbolt exclusivity.

As for Mr. Lauwaert’s comments, although HP will have low-risk access to both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 a year from now, it still has PCs it hopes to sell today. HP’s TouchSmart all-in-ones, with their touch screens, Blu-ray drives, and HDMI inputs and outputs, for example, are aimed squarely at consumers who might not see the benefit of a standard like Thunderbolt that has no compatible devices available for purchase. USB 3.0 and its support for a large number of existing devices makes a far more logical choice for HP’s desktop target market, which is one reason you’ll find USB 3.0 ports on HP’s recent TouchSmart 610 all-in-one.

Alternatively, the new iMacs and MacBook Pros lack some of the more consumer-oriented features you’ll find on Windows PCs in the same price range. The new iMacs and MacBooks have plenty of merits, but by adding Thunderbolt, Apple has made a typically forward-looking decision that will attract digital media professionals and other serious-minded customers. A video editor who has to move a multigigabyte file between multiple workstations will always appreciate faster data transfer speeds, and Thunderbolt and its superior throughput allow Apple to make a better pitch to that customer than it could with USB 3.0, which provides only an incremental speed benefit over Apple’s existing FireWire 800 ports.

By bypassing USB 3.0 in favor of Thunderbolt, Apple has made its preferences clear. HP and other mainstream Windows PC vendors may need to see a broader consumer benefit before they embrace Thunderbolt. Once Intel adds native chipset support for Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 next year, we expect more PCs than not will support them both.

Rich Brown

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Rich Brown reviews desktops and various other components and peripherals for CNET. E-mail Rich.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011
The twin brothers who accused Facebook and and its founder Mark Zuckerberg of stealing their idea for the social networking website have lost their attempt to have a US court void a multimillion dollar settlement of their claims.

Cameron, above left, and Tyler Winklevoss failed to convince the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to reconsider its 11 April ruling upholding the $65m cash-and-stock settlement they reached with Facebook in 2008.

The brothers had complained the settlement was fraudulent because Facebook hid information from them. Their lawyer said he intended to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

May 17, 2011 9:47 PM EDT
Apple is said that they “may be planning something big” to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its retail stores this Thursday, according to a source cited by The Boy Genius Report.

Based on the Boy Genius reporting, it seems that Apple is planning a weekend celebration with some discount deals.

Also, Apple stores “already received hardware to install” and more will receive more Friday and Saturday.

During the overnight shift, it will be necessary for employees turn off mobile devices while in the office. They also have to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) with Apple.  All the containers received at Apple stores were to remain under lock and key until after close on Saturday night.

Apple employees also will be putting up black curtains at all stores so that people cannot see inside the Apple Store. The employees were to download gigabytes of password-protected data related to corporate training, the report said. Additionally, Apple retail stores have mandatory meetings on Sunday, May 22nd. Most meeting are scheduled for the morning, but there are evening meetings as well.

Apple has 236 stores in United States alone (more than 320 globally). The first two Apple stores were opened in America May 19, 2001 in Virginia and California. Apple stores netted $3.19 billion in revenues during the quarter, increased 51 percent from the same time last year.

Read more: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/147358/20110517/apple-preparing-big-for-10th-annivesary-of-retail-stores.htm#ixzz1MfTRe7U2

By Stan Beer
Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Over the past month, it seems as if the National Broadband Network and NBN Co, the company charged with making it happen, have been hit by a cyclone. With its greatest champion, the federal government, on the ropes over a number of issues, can the NBN weather the storm?

It’s hard to pin point exactly when the NBN storm started but for the sake of convenience let’s start with the building tender debacle.
Let’s not get into specifics and keep things short. The government budgeted for a total $36 billion NBN, with a building component of $12 billion.

Unfortunately for the government, in a fair and open tender none of 14 building companies came within a bull’s roar of the mark. Some commentators estimated that the real cost would have been closer to $20 billion.

So in April, the tender was cancelled and NBN Co, on the defensive, set about besmirching the reputation of Australia’s largest building companies, publicly accusing them of price gouging.

Three days later, the head of construction at NBN Co, Patrick Flanagan, resigned, prompting a flurry of media mayhem.

With the media still abuzz with reports about possible blowouts in the NBN budget, the uncertainty surrounding the building issue, and questions arising about how well NBN Co was being run, another storm was about to break.

This new storm had been bubbling in the background just underneath the surface for quite some time

The boss of NBN Co, Mike Quigley, is a man of considerable experience, having been the global president and COO of one of the world’s biggest telcos, Alcatel-Lucent.

Unfortunately for Mr Quigley, he happened to have been in charge of the French telco giant during a period when some of its subsidiary offices engaged in illegal practices, namely bribery of government officials in places such as Costa Rica.

The bribery incidents happened between 2001 and 2006. Mr Quigley was the head of the Americas (which had oversight of Costa Rica) and then moved up to his global roles during that period.

As many media reports and Mr Quigley himself have pointed out, there is no suggestion that he was somehow involved or had knowledge of the illegal activity while it was taking place.

However, a number of issues related to this affair have been raised.

When Mr Quigley applied for the NBN Co job, why did neither he nor the head-hunting firm Egon Zehnder which recommended him even mention the Alcatel-Lucent affair to the government?

Initially, Mr Quigley stated he did not inform the government because the Alcatel-Lucent affair was resolved and no longer an issue. He has since been forced to change that position and admit that this was incorrect.

In addition to this, Mr Quigley has been forced to correct another earlier statement.
Whereas previously, Mr Quigley indicated he did not have oversight of Costa Rica during the illegal bribery activity, he has now been advised that he did.

In light of this many are questioning the competency of NBN Co management, when the company cannot conduct a successful building tender and when its boss did not have the foresight to lay the cards on table about a highly sensitive issue involving his previous job.

About the only thing NBN Co has got going for it at the moment is the current government. PM Julia Gillard and Broad Minister Stephen Conroy are in too deep to back away from the NBN.

It was the current government after all who formed NBN Co and installed Mr Quigley as its boss. To withdraw support would be to admit the government was wrong in a key area of its grand vision and that is something governments rarely do.

Unfortunately for NBN Co, however, its strongest supporter is an unpopular minority government also under siege on a number of fronts.

So the answer to the question of whether the NBN can weather the storm basically hinges on whether this government can turn its fortunes around before the next election – whenever that is.

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