Friday, January 27, 2012

Cellphone Usage in North Korea Now Considered a War Crime

Kim Jong-ilLet's be honest, living in North Korea sucks, big time. The standard of living in the country is nearly barbaric and don't even get me started on former "leader" Kim Jong-il. While the ex-dictator's death may have seemed like a bright light for the country, it has actually resulted in more restrictions. It has recently been reported that North Korea has warned its citizens that any use of a cellphone whatsoever during the mandatory 100 days of mourning (more like 100 days of celebration) for Kim Jong-il's death is prohibited and that any citizen who violates this will be treated as a war criminal.

And I thought things couldn't possibly get any worse. The Workers' Party issued the threat in an attempt to deter North Korean citizens from fleeing the country to South Korea or China. It is reported that there are nearly 23,000 defectors living in South Korea as North Korea is experiencing food shortages, among other things. It is also assumed that the rule in the country is trying to deter people fleeing in order to ensure the stability of North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un, the son of Kim Jong-il.

Citizens attempting to flee the country, as well as those detained in China, are usually forced to work in terrible labor camps while repeat offenders are normally executed. The former dictator died on December 17th when he suffered a well-deserved heart attack at the age of 69. Years of mismanagement economically as well as stagnation have weakened the oppressive regime and it is even feared that the death of Kim Jong-il could result in public unrest (let's hope so).

Citizens of the country are severely limited in their connection to the outside world with the use of cellphones only permitted for a privileged few. However, discontent could increase if word of conditions outside the country and the other rebellions going on the world were to reach the citizens via cellphones. However, if using that phone could lead to imprisonment or execution, it could be hard for people to revolt.

United States-based research and consulting firm The Eurasia Group has identified that North Korea is the fifth-largest threat to international world stability in 2012. The firm noted that the "lack of information about events" in North Korea, as well as its new leader, is a high risk that is being "severely underplayed". It is far too early to tell what the country will be like under Kim Jong-un, though if he is anything like the man that raised him, we can assume things will only get worse.

Source: Engadget - North Korea makes using a cellphone a war crime during 100-day mourning period
Gizmodo - Using a Cell Phone in North Korea Is Now a War Crime
The Telegraph - North Korea threatens to punish mobile-phone users as 'war criminals'

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Data Plans from AT&T

On Wednesday, January 18, AT&T announced that it is adopting new smartphone and tablet data plans. These plans will begin to be offered on Sunday, January 22.

The new data plan breakdown is as follows:

- 300 MB of data will cost $20 per month (with an additional $20 charge for an extra 300MB of data if you exceed 300MB)
- 3GB of data for $30 (an additional $10 will be charged for each GB over 3GB)
- 5GB of data for $50 (also with an additional $10 charge for each GB over 5GB)

As of right now, AT&T has been offering 200MB for $15 per month, 2GB for $25 and 4GB for $45. Despite the issue of “extraordinary” amounts of data usage that AT&T dealt with back in October, there are also still customers that are lucky enough to be able to still take advantage of unlimited data from AT&T back when the company still offered it.

With tablets AT&T will now be offering either 3GB of data usage for $30 or 5GB for $50 per month. Before this new change, the company had offered 250MB for $14.99 and 2GB for $25.

All of these tablet plans run for 30 days, and unless you cancel the plan, it is automatically renewed. For each GB of additional data that users use, AT&T charges $10 in overage fees.

"Customers are using more data than ever before," said David Christopher, chief marketing officer of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. "Our new plans are driven by this increasing demand in a highly competitive environment, and continue to deliver a great value to customers, especially as we continue our 4G LTE deployment."

AT&T also made sure to mention that users will now receive text messages if they are close to running out of data. Users will receive messages saying what percentage of their data has been consumed, which is a very helpful feature.

Source: PCMag - AT&T Unveils New Data Plans for Smartphones, Tablets

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Looks Like Motorola Will Be Victorious in ITC Battle with Apple

On Friday, January 13 Motorola Mobility said that it was generally happy with the initial, unofficial word of the U.S. ITC which stated that smartphones released by Motorola have not violated Apple’s patents.

Now of course, this is not official yet. It is merely a preliminary ruling by the ITC. The decision will not be final until there is a full vote of the ITC. The vote will not take place until March.

All of this started when Apple sued Motorola in October of 2010. Apple claimed that Motorola had violated Apple’s patents with some of their wireless technology including the Motorola Droid, Droid 2, Droid X, Cliq, BackFlip, Devour and Charm phones. Apple had requested that the ITC stop the importation of these phones due to three different patents that the company felt Motorola was violating.

However, it doesn’t seem like the ITC is agreeing with what Apple believed had happened. "We are pleased with today's favorable outcome for Motorola Mobility," said Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Motorola Mobility, Scott Offer. "Motorola Mobility has worked hard over the years to develop technology and build an industry-leading intellectual property portfolio. We are proud to leverage this broad and deep portfolio to create differentiated innovations that enhance the user experience."

Motorola and Apple have been battling out legal issues in the U.S. and around the world. Both companies have cited patent issues in an attempt to block and restrict the sales of each other’s products. Although Apple may have had some success elsewhere, it does not seem like they are going to be winning this current battle. The ITC seems pretty set against Apple’s claims, but until an official final vote is taken, we’ll just have to wait and see. Anything is possible.

Sources: Chicago Tribune - U.S. trade judge: Motorola did not infringe on Apple patents, PCMag - Apple Sues Motorola for Multi-Touch Phone Infringement and PCMag - Motorola Scores a Point Against Apple in U.S. ITC Case

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Apple Store in China Suspends Launch of iPhone 4S

In the past couple of years, there have been some crazy stories about shoppers in China fighting over Apple products when they are first released; however, when the Apple iPhone 4S was released this week in Beijing, things got crazier than anyone ever anticipated. Things were so out of hand that Apple had to temporarily halt the sale of the devices.

Apple did expect that there would be an incredibly high demand for the device in China, but this is the first time that Apple has ever had to suspend the sale of a product because of its intense popularity.

It was just last week that Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, said, “Customer response to our products in China has been off the charts. With the launch in China next week, iPhone 4S will be available in over 90 countries making this our fastest iPhone rollout ever." Despite this exciting news, Apple has been forced to hold off on the launch of the iPhone 4S in China because the crowds at the Beijing store were simply too over-excited and there were several violent outbursts that occurred.

Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu told the Associated Press, "We were unable to open our store at Sanlitun [the Apple flagship store in Beijing] due to the large crowd, and to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, iPhone will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being."

Apple has said that shoppers in China that want the iPhone 4S can still purchase the device online; however, as of right now, the device is still not featured on Apple’s Chinese online store.

So why are there so many customers, you may ask? Yes, it is normal for there to be plenty of customers lined up at Apple product’s launch; however, these crowds were record-breaking. The explanation being given is that these customers were not just Apple enthusiasts, but there were also large groups of professional scalpers that were looking to purchase devices that they could then resell at highly inflated prices. However, this obviously didn’t work out for the scalpers or those genuinely wanting the new device.

Apple has not yet said how long the sales of the iPhone 4S will be halted in Apple Stores in China, but hopefully for the Chinese customers, it won’t be much longer.
If you are interested in seeing the crowds and the fights that broke out, check out the video below.

Source: PCMag - Unruly Crowds Prompt Apple to Halt iPhone 4S Sales in China

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Will Windows Phones Be Successful in 2012?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk concerning the lack of success of Windows phones; however, according to Greg Sullivan, senior product manager for Windows Phone 7, things are not over for Windows phones. Sullivan said that 2012 should prove to be a great year for the phone line.

At CES the HTC Titan II and the Nokia Lumia 900 were debuted featuring Microsoft’s platform. It seems that Sullivan feels that these are just two of the many great Windows phones that will help get Microsoft’s numbers back on track.

"We're seeing great hardware from all our partners. AT&T is clearly very excited and is putting a lot behind the platform. It's not just a piece of software that got thrown over the transom to succeed or fail," Sullivan said.

Although Windows Phone seems to be having some success with AT&T, that does not mean that the other major U.S. carriers are just as excited about it. Earlier at CES, executives at Sprint were expressing their concerns about the sales numbers for Windows phones.

"We have a Windows device in our lineup, but honestly, it hasn't done well enough for us to jump back into the fire. We told Microsoft: You guys have to go build the enthusiasm for the product. We'll train our reps on why it's great...[but] the number-one reason the product was returned was the user experience," said VP of Sprint’s product realization David Owen.

Lois Fagan, director of product development for Sprint, also commented, "We want to participate in the market, but we can't build that brand by ourself. We're cautiously optimistic, but [Windows Phone] just hasn't taken off."

Sullivan responded to these remarks saying, “That's something that our Sprint team and the folks back in Redmond can work on. We're working closely with carriers to help show how Windows Phone can meet their needs across an array of slots."

Sullivan also made sure to back the statements that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop had made concerning the false rumors about Microsoft buying Nokia’s smartphone business.

"It would make it more difficult for us to have as thriving a third-party hardware ecosystem if we were directly competing with them," he said. "I think that's a challenge Google is going to face with the Motorola mobile acquisition."

Sullivan believes that there is plenty of time for Microsoft to catch up with other phone operating systems.

"This is like the PC market in the early to mid-80s. If you were going to declare a victor then, what would it have been? CP/M? Apple II? I think declaring the smartphone space locked up and done is like declaring CP/M the victor in the early '80s."

Short-throw projectors only require half the projection distance of traditional projectors. The projector can be placed just a foot or so from the screen. This is nice because it keeps the projector and screen near each other instead of having a long throw projector that people can accidentally block.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Green Hat Purchased by IBM

Green Hat logoGreen Hat (not to be confused with Red Hat), one of the largest manufacturers of automated testing tools for integration, service-oriented architecture (SOA) implementations and cloud-based deployments, is being purchased by IBM, according to an announcement by the company on Wednesday. As of the announcement, no specific terms of the acquisition have been released, though some may make their way to the internet soon.

Green Hat offers customers a virtual test environment platform that allows development teams to test their applications without having to set up a bunch of actual labs. By using a virtual testing facility, these developers save a lot of time and money, according to IBM, and the rise of smartphones and tablets have called for faster development cycles that have severely increased the developer's need for increased speed and flexibility.

Green Hat's products will be combined into IBM's Rational division, a part of the company that already offers a plethora of software development and testing tools. However, the deal does seem a bit additive for IBM, at least in the eyes of Forrester research Analyst Jeffery Hammond.

In an email from Hammond, he stated, "I think Green Hat has extended capability over what Rational Quality Manager currently has. As an example, dedicated support for SAP NetWeaver and Oracle Fusion Middleware. Also I think the support for REST functional testing is a net add for the Rational group. With the proliferation of JSON and XML-based web services we're seeing as companies build for corporate engagement platforms, functional regression testing for these APIs is going to become more and more important."

Source: Computer World - IBM acquires software testing vendor Green Hat

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