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Friday, December 31, 2010

GSM phones vulnerable to hacking, claim researchers

Don't bother with a lengthy ring-round of your friends to wish them a happy new year. Just leave one of them a message on their mobile and wait for everyone else to hack into it.
A little premature, you might think. And you'd be right. But a pair of security researchers have told a Berlin conference how they were able to eavesdrop on mobile phone calls and texts made on any GSM network – used by around 80% of the world's phones – using four cheap phones, a laptop and some open source software.
 Karsten Nohl and Sylvain Munaut spent a year perfecting their eavesdropping technology, which begins by sending a "ghost" text message to a target phone that does not show up on the handset but enables the hacker to seize its unique identification number.
The pair, who gave a live demonstration to the Chaos Computer Club Congress in Berlin this week, said the whole process takes about 20 seconds, enabling phone conversations and SMS messages to be recorded and decrypted.
"Any GSM call is fair game," Nohl told the BBC. ""Now there's a path from your telephone number to me finding you and listening to your calls. The whole way."
Nohl said commercially available equipment capable of eavesdropping on other people's phone calls and text messages would previously have cost more than £35,000. He said the four Motorola phones used in their demonstration cost £9 each.
He told the conference that while computing power had continued to evolve, GSM phone software had become out of date.
"This is all a 20-year-old infrastructure, with lots of private data and not a lot of security," Nohl said. "We want you to help phones go through the same kind of evolutionary steps that computers did in the 1990s."
Nohl said there were no plans to make the eavesdropping kit available for others to use, but suggested it would not be difficult for a keen amateur to follow their lead. "I expect people to do it for the fun of doing it," he added.

The 10 most disappointing games of 2010

Alan Wake (Remedy Entertainment, Xbox 360)
This noir-esque "psychological action thriller" from Max Payne
developer Remedy emerged blinking into the sunlight after no less
than five years of development and vast hype. But despite its inclusion in the Guardian's Top 20 Games of 2010, I felt that a mediocre game hid beneath its pretentious literary epidermis. Sure, it was atmospheric, scary and cinematic, but it didn't half rub your face in it with a smug sense of self-satisfaction. The fight scenes were repetitive, the hyper-addictive gameplay that made Max Payne so special was nowhere in evidence, and between action sections you were force-fed vast chunks of sludgy and cliché-ridden story in video or sometimes even text format. In trying too hard to be an interactive literary experience, it totally forgot that it was supposed to be a game. Or even fun.
Alpha Protocol (Obsidian Entertainment, PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
Ugly and generic to look at, and annoying to play, this RPG from the makers of Knights of the Old Republic II, Neverwinter Nights and Fallout: New Vegas completely failed to live up to its pedigree. The concept was unusual and interesting, and there were a few genuinely neat touches sprinkled around. Unfortunately, pretty much everything else about it let it down, especially the clunky combat and the ludicrous AI.
APB: All Points Bulletin (Realtime Worlds, PC)
Basically Grand Theft Auto, except online and massively multiplayer. How could any developer possibly screw that up? Well, APB, in planning since as early as 2005, and a long-time pipedream of GTA lead developer David Jones, comprehensively answered that question. The driving dynamics were appalling: buggy, unsatisfying and constantly irritating. Gunfights weren't much better, and while occasionally completing missions with big groups of friends could be satisfying, the gameplay mechanics hamstrung the experience. After a very poor public and critical response, APB was shut down in September, about three months after it was launched. It may reappear in 2011 as a free-to-play, but it is more likely that it has been flushed for good.
Clash of the Titans (Game Republic, Xbox 360, PS3)
Developer Game Republic pretty much went at the God of War franchise with tracing paper to make this. It is therefore a mystery to me how they managed to miss God of War's fun factor by a matter of miles. Combat was fiddly and complicated and repetitive and frankly terrible, the story felt like a child's My First Greek Myths And Legends book translated from the original Greek by someone who didn't speak Greek with no interest in Greek myths or legends, or writing of any kind, and the characters were blander than homeopathic soup.
Dark Void (Airtight Games, PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
This game had a very promising idea: a 1930s-era fighter pilot gets sucked into an alternative reality through the Bermuda Triangle and finds a jet pack. Unfortunately, everything about the execution of this sub-par shooter just lacked spark. It purloined bits from much better games – the jungle from Uncharted 2, the cover mechanism from Gears of War – but then clumsily ruined them all, amalgamating them into a single messy lump.
Fighters Uncaged (AMA Studios, Xbox 360 Kinect)
Remember all that fuss about Kinect changing the way we interact with games forever? Well, this lame beat-'em-up showed that we shouldn't always believe the marketing. Buggy, agonisingly slow to respond and unsatisfying when your movements finally translated to the screen, it was a total let-down. To add insult to considerable injury, it was also cursed with one of the worst soundtracks any game has ever had, and its lack of any multiplayer – a beat-'em-up without a multiplayer! – was the icing on the cowpat.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (EA Bright Light Studio, PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)
A change of direction from the previous games led EA's Bright Light Studio to stray from its comfort zone, and it showed. Buggy, difficult to control and packed with side-missions that were poorly-disguised filler, its attempt to become more of a darker, combat-oriented game floundered helplessly on poor combat, worse duck-and-cover mechanics, and level design that it would be charitable to call uninspired. It doesn't help that there's also a Lego Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows coming out, which is probably going to blow this completely out of the water with all the usual Lego-y brilliance.
Iron Man 2 (Sega Studios San Fransisco, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)
This execrable game wins extra disappointment points for having two battle-suits on the box and then failing to provide a multiplayer: just an alternate suit to play the one-player mode with. Not that a two-player option would have rescued Iron Man 2. This charmless – in fact, spectacularly dreadful – movie tie-in actually managed to screw up in every category: controls, combat, movement, camera, graphics and story (despite a stellar cast of voice actors drafted in from the movie). A repulsor blast to the face would be preferable to ever encountering Iron Man 2 again.
Saw II: Flesh and Blood (Zombie Studios, Xbox 360, PS3)
After the first game, which was a sort of greyed-out and watered-down version of Arkham Asylum peppered with arbitrary quick-time sequences, the second did not have much to live up to. Somehow it still managed to disappoint. Elements that were even the slightest bit promising in the first game – the puzzles and the tense atmosphere – were washed away in a putrid flood of lazy design and cheap shock'n'gore. Saw II manages to make its predecessor appear almost competent in comparison.
Sonic Free Riders (Sonic Team, Xbox 360 Kinect)
Another launch title for the Kinect that let everyone down. This time it featured our favourite blue spiky flea-bitten ringworm-riddled woodland bug-eater and his friends riding hover-boards. This game doesn't really belong on the "disappointments" list because the last few titles in the series have been critically savaged and expectations were sub-zero. However, though we don't know why Microsoft decided despite universal disapproval that Free Riders was to be a launch game on the Kinect, we might at least have expected them to make it work properly. They didn't. Control was achieved more by luck and flailing than by positive activity on the part of the player, and the game was hilariously limited in scope.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

HEX Watch Band Joins the 'iPod nano – Watch' Trend

Apple's 2010 products have managed to stay in the spotlight for quite a while, either due to their various features and functions or (mostly) due to the very large number of accessories designed specifically for them that have made their way onto the market, such as the one we'll talk about as follows, namely the HEX Watch Band for iPod nano Gen 6.
As you might have guessed by simply taking a look at this thing's name, the HEX Watch Band is one of those protective cases designed specifically for the latest-gen iPod nano that's meant to be worn around the wrist, turning the device into a multi-function electronic watch, for all intends and purposes.
The HEX Watch Band features a “Pop-in, Pop-out” design which allows for easy placement of the iPod nano.
With premium silicone and integrated control buttons, the Watch Band provides maximum protection and full access to all controls on the iPod nano, as one would actually expect from such a protection solution.
Additionally, the inline orientation of the Watch Band allows headphone cords to run straight up the user’s arm or discretely through a sleeve keeping the cords from tangling or getting in the way while on the go.
The HEX Watch Band is available now in 9 fun colors including red, pink, orange, green, blue, clear, black, grey and white, which means that most users shouldn't have much of a problem finding the exact model that best suits their needs and style.
The HEX Watch Band for iPod nano Gen 6 sells for somewhere in the vicinity of $29.95, which is actually quite an OK price point, taking into account the average price points of some of the other similar solutions available on the market (and there are really plenty of them to choose from).  

Skype Video Call on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Skype today announced that the new version of its iPhone application adds Video call support, allowing users to make video calls over 3G and Wi-Fi networks. This means that users of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch are now able to make and/or receive free video calls with one another, as well as with anyone else running Skype software that supports video calling.

“With video calling representing approximately 40% of all Skype-to-Skype minutes for the first 6 months of 2010, our users have been eager to get Skype video calling on their mobile phones,” said Neil Stevens, general manager of Skype’s consumer business. “By bringing video to mainstream users at their home or work via their desktops, on the go with their mobiles, or into their living room via their TV, Skype has made it possible for millions of people to share video moments wherever they are.”
The new Skype for iPhone app is able to make and receive video calls with the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and 4th generation iPod touch with i0S 4.0 or above. The iPad and 3rd generation iPod touch are now able to receive, not send, video calls. Calls can be made between any device using the new Skype for iPhone app and desktop computers including Skype for Windows 4.2 and above, Skype for Mac 2.8 and above, Skype for Linux, and the ASUS Videophone.
Video calls use QVGA video and are reported to average 15 frames per second on received video and 12 frames per second on sent video. But these numbers are very much dependent on the quality of the 3G or Wi-Fi environment being used to make and receive the video calls.
When asked if they plan to add video call support to Android-based devices in the future, a representative from Skype said, “Mobile is a huge priority for us and you will see a lot more updates on the mobile front—including Android—in the new year.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Apple's iPhone most popular item on eBay in 2010

Apple's iPhone beat out Barbie and the World Cup to take the coveted spot of most popular item on eBay's Top Shopped 2010 list, while the iPad came in fifth.
eBay compiles the annual list by analyzing sale and search data from the year to track top shopping trends.
Over 1.63 million iPhone 4 related items were sold on eBay in 2010, according to eBay. The iPad and its related items saw over 600,000 sales this year, enough to take fifth place for the year.
Barbie came in second with 1.17 million sales. "Military jackets" took third place, while the classic Hot Wheels toys came in fourth. Rounding out the list were the World Cup, The Beatles, Silly Bandz, Alice in Wonderland and the New Orleans Saints.
The list demonstrates significant gains by Apple, as last year's list did not include any technology items. Sales of iPhone items this year nearly tripled the sales of last year's top seller, "The Yankees," which sold 551,230 items in 2009.
Apple's products have topped several year-end lists as 2010 comes to a close. Time magazine gave the iPad the title of No. 1 gadget of 2010, while the MacBook Air, iPhone 4 and Apple TV all made the top 10 list.
The iPad, iOS and iPhone were three of the top four tech topics on Twitter this year. Apple rival Google took second place with its Android mobile operating system.
And journalist Walt Mossberg ranked the iPad as his best reviewed product of 2010, calling it "amazing." The iPhone 4 tied for third place with the Android-based Samsung Galaxy S.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Most Challenging Christmas Plastic Wrapping Could Be Recycled With New Technology

On average we each consume 120 grammes of plastic wrapping on Christmas gifts most of which is of a type which almost impossible to recycle. Now researchers at the University of Warwick have devised a new technique which could process 100% of Christmas and other household plastic instead of the tiny fraction that currently actually gets processed -
Warwick have devised a new technique which could process 100% of Christmas and other household plastic instead of the tiny fraction that currently actually gets processed -- typically only 12% of such waste is truly recycled often the rest is often put into land fill or simply burnt as fuel.
Some plastic still goes straight to land fill but householders currently spend a great deal of effort separating out the rest of their plastic waste believing it will be recycled yet typically only 12% of "Municipal Plastic Solid Waste" is truly recycled. It is often simply too time consuming to separate out and clean the various types of plastic of their persistent labels or other problems, as that requires significant laborious human intervention. An additional problem is that often objects are made of more than one plastic that would require different treatments.
However University of Warwick engineers have come up with a simple process that can cope with every piece of plastic waste and can even break some polymers such as polystyrene -- back down to its original monomers (styrene in the case of polysterene).
The Warwick researchers have devised a unit which uses pyrolysis (using heat in the absence of oxygen to decompose of materials) in a "fluidised bed" reactor. Tests completed in the last week have shown that the researchers have been able to literally shovel in to such a reactor a wide range of mixed plastics which can then be reduced down to useful products many of which can then be retrieved by simple distillation.
The products the Warwick team have been able to reclaim from the plastic mix include: wax that can be then used a lubricant; original monomers such as styrene that can be used to make new polystyrene; terephthalic acid which can be reused in PET plastic products, methylmetacrylate that can be used to make acrylic sheets, carbon which can be used as Carbon Black in paint pigments and tyres, and even the char left at the end of some of the reactions can be sold to use as activated carbon at a value of at least £400 a tonne.
 This research could have a significant impact on the budgets of local authorities and produce considerable environmental benefits. The lab scale tests concluded this week have successfully produced distilled liquids and solids that can be taken away by the bucket load for processing into new products. The University of Warwick engineers are now working with the University's technology transfer arm, Warwick Ventures, who expect that their work will be of great interest to local authorities and waste disposal companies who could use the technology to create large scale reactor units at municipal tips which would produce tanker loads of reusable material.
The lead researcher on the project, University of Warwick Engineering Professor Jan Baeyens, said: "We envisage a typical large scale plant having an average capacity of 10,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year. In a year tankers would take away from each plant over £5 million worth of recycled chemicals and each plant would save £500,000 a year in land fill taxes alone. As the expected energy costs for each large plant would only be in the region of £50,000 a year the system will be commercially very attractive and give a rapid payback on capital and running costs."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pakistani IT firm's app a bestseller on Blackberry

Photo editing software developed by a Pakistan technology firm Five Rivers became the best selling paid-for application for the Blackberry, the firm said.

Lahore-based Five Rivers said its Photo Editor Suite had hit the top spot across all sectors on Blackberry's AppWorld store.

"This is extremely good news for us and especially for the Pakistani IT industry," Mahe Zehra Husain, the head of operations and product management at Five Rivers Technology, told AFP.

"We feel we are on top of the world. This is incredible."

The application "has been in the top five paid applications for quite a while now and on Sunday made its way to the number one spot," she said.

Photo Editor Suite allows users to crop, rotate, adjust brightness and contrast, recolour and resize photos, Husain added.

The website of Five Rivers, which opened a year and a half ago, says it has developed and run out more than 100 mobile applications for the Blackberry and iPhone as well as other smartphones.

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed conservative Muslim country of 167 million people, is in deep recession, exacerbated by years of Al-Qaeda-linked bombings, an energy crisis, poor foreign investment and this year by catastrophic flooding. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Windows 7 new features: Windows Defender

Windows Defender helps you keep spyware or other unwanted software from attacking your PC. And now, it's even easier to use.
Introduced in Windows Vista, Windows Defender is your first line of defense against spyware and other unwanted software. 
In Windows 7, it has simpler notifications, more scanning options, and less impact on your computer's performance. Plus, a new feature called "Clean System" provides one-click purging of all suspicious software. One more thing: Windows Defender is now part of Action Center, the new, streamlined place for keeping your PC running smoothly. 
 Windows Defender helps protect you from spyware.

Windows 7 new features: BitLocker

If you've got information on your PC that you need to protect, you can help prevent theft or loss by using BitLocker data encryption to put a virtual lock on your files.
How can you help protect your data from loss, theft, or hackers? The answer: BitLocker. If you've got information on your PC that you need to protect, you can help prevent theft or loss by using BitLocker data encryption to put a virtual lock on your files.
Improved for Windows 7 and available in the Ultimate edition, BitLocker helps keep everything from documents to passwords safer by encrypting the entire drive that Windows and your data reside on. Once BitLocker is turned on, any file you save on that drive is encrypted automatically.
BitLocker To Go—a new feature of Windows 7—gives the lockdown treatment to easily-misplaced portable storage devices like USB flash drives and external hard drives.
 BitLocker locks down all your drives, so your data is safe from prying eyes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Facebook Numbers - How does it work?

Following the last viral campaign which saw millions of Facebook users change their profile pictures to their favourite cartoon character, the latest craze set to go viral may be "The Number Game".
Just in case you have seen seemingly random numbers pop up in your friends' status updates, here is an explanation of how it works:

The Facebook Numbers Status game is based on a friend being identified to you by a number. The trick is to ask the friend for a number (this could be his or her favourite number) using a private message, so the number is only known to you.

You then post a message about the friend on your wall, identifying the friend only by the number. So, an example could be (after having received say number 55 from your friend):

"Number 55: You are one of the kindest people I know".

Your friends will all see the status update and will be left guessing who you are referring to, but your friend with number 55 will know. 

The game seems a little silly at first, but can be great fun as it helps people learn about your true feelings for your friends, and vice versa. It's also fun when duplicate numbers appear!

The Facebook number game is hoping to go viral and achieve 1 million members by Christmas. At the time of writing, that number stood at 8,314. It still has some distance to go.

Click the link to visit the official Facebook page for the Number Game.

Operation Payback Thousands of hackers attack Visa MasterCard websites

The websites of Mastercard, Visa and a Swiss bank were unreachable for most of Wednesday after hackers organised attacks in revenge for the organisations' decision to choke off funding mechanisms for WikiLeaks. 

Organisers of the group "Anonymous" were joined by thousands of voluntary hackers in what observers called "Operation Payback" directed against any organisations which withdrew their support for controversial whistle blowing website WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks confirmed it had nothing to do with the hacking attacks.
Ever since WikiLeaks started to release sensitive cables from U.S. diplomats, the website and its founder Julian Assange have come under fierce criticism also from the U.S. government. However, a wave of support under the "freedom of press" banner is grasping the internet following the arrest of Mr. Assange on rape charges earlier this week. Assange strongly denies the charges.

Coinciding with the busiest time of the year for online payments, the Visa and Mastercard payment services were down for most of Wednesday as a result of the cyber attacks. Operation Payback was initiated by hacking group "Anonymous" via a Twitter message, which read: "Operation Payback. TARGET: WWW.VISA.COM::FIRE FIRE FIRE!!! WEAPONS".

Icelandic firm Data Cell accused Visa of bowing to political pressure and said it would sue the credit card giant for blocking payments to WikiLeaks.

Meanwhile, the support of group "Anonymous" and Operation Payment is growing and further attacks on any organisation "that has an anti-WikiLeaks agenda" are likely.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bachat Offer(call in 30 paisa): Sasta (Cheap) Call rates offer, Bachat Ho To Aisi!!!

Ufone has always been committed in bringing U the best quality at the most affordable rates. Now more than ever before you have a reason to stop cutting your calls short because now for the first time in history of Pakistan , Ufone is proud to announce Bachat offer. Yes! this is your chance to talk your heart out to all numbers belonging to any network and that too 24 hours a day.
So now you can make calls without worrying about charges because all calls cost only Rs.0.30 per 20 seconds to any network in Pakistan.
To subscribe to Bachat offer, simply dial *24#.
Terms & Conditions:
Call rates compared on 3rd Dec 2010, with offers / packages launched by other operators with 20 second charging pulse mentioned on their respective websites. This comparison excludes location based, special time in a day, friends and family or daily or monthly charges / rates.
Charges are applicable on 20 second pulse.
One time subscription charge are Rs.10+tax
Daily charges are Rs 3.75+tax
Terms and Conditions apply.
Using SIMS without proper documentation is a crime – PTA
19.5% FED on usage and 10% withholding tax at recharge or bill applies.

World of Mobile Banking with U Payments (upayments)

World of Mobile Banking with U Payments (upayments)

Whenever U want, wherever U want, any time U want
After years of continuous innovation, the most technologically advanced mobile service provider and leader in Value Added Services, Ufone has now made its mark in the world of Mobile Banking too.
Use UPayments with complete confidence. It delivers the highest level of security with multiple layers of authentication.With the trusted support of HBL, UPayments allows you to conveniently make secure transactions directly over your Ufone. Now using any handset, without GPRS or internet, within Pakistan and abroad, with UPayments, you can easily:
Pay your Utility bills
Make Utility bill enquiries
ULoad any Ufone number
Pay your Ufone Postpay bill
Check your HBL bank account balance
View a mini bank statement of your HBL account
Why use UPayments?
UPayments is convenient: there are no more queues or limiting 9 to 5 banking hours
Enjoy UPayments on your cellphone, any time of the day, all through the year, even on holidays
UPayments works on any handset without GPRS or Internet
While roaming with your Ufone connection, manage your banking, pay your bills on time and ULoad balance from anywhere in the world.
To subscribe to UPayments, dial *808# now!
Rs. 5 + tax will be charged on the payment of every utility bill. (This charge will be deducted from customer’s airtime. The bill amount will be deducted from customer’s bank account)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Crysis 2 Gets Novel Version with Legion

Del Rey, an imprint of the Ballantine Books that is part of the Random House Publishing Group, has announced that it is working with developer Crytek and with publisher Electronic Arts to create a tie in novel for Crysis 2, written by Peter Watts and set to be released to the public during March 2011.
The novel will be called Crysis: Legion and will be set in the alien assaulted New York City, where giant bipedal walkers are assaulting every well-known landmark while a plague spreads like wildfire during the human population.
Everyone is trying to flee the besieged city and it seems that human forces are overwhelmed by the power and technology of the alien invaders.
In this bleak landscape one man steps up, using some of the most advanced combat tech ever created, to stop the destruction and take the fight back to the aliens.
The plot of the book sounds very similar to that of the game, which will focus on the exploits of one Nanosuit 2 wearing supersoldier who must save what's left of humanity in New York City.
Peter Watts is well known as a hard science fiction author, receiving a lot of praise for his trilogy of Starfish, Maelstrom and Behemoth, which focuses on humans that are modified to work deep under the sea.
In 2006 the author published Blindsight, a novel which was nominated for the Hugo prize.
He is now working on another two projects, in addition to the newly announced Crysis: Legion tie in.

Crysis 2 is now in the late stages of development at Crytek and will be launched on March 22 in North America and three days later in Europe, on the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360 and the PC.
Crytek is also working on a multiplayer only and free to play spin off which is called Warface and will initially target the South Asian market.

Download New DirectX Release

A new DirectX release is now available for download from Microsoft, offered by the Redmond giant just ahead of December 2010. 

The fresh version of the DirectX End-User Runtime Web Installer can be grabbed from the Microsoft Download Center, providing updates to 9.0c and previous versions of DirectX, according to the software company. 
Although normally Microsoft offers a collection of DirectX releases simultaneously, this time around the DirectX End-User Runtime Web Installer is available alone.
Both the DirectX SDK (software development kit) and the DirectX Redist continue to be live, but they are the same versions released in July 2010.
“The DirectX end-user installation includes the D3DX, HLSL Compiler, XInput, XAudio, and Managed DirectX 1.1 components,” Microsoft revealed.
“Note that the DirectX Runtime (Direct3D, DirectInput, DirectSound) is not part of this package as it is included as part of the Windows operating system, and therefore cannot be installed or uninstalled.
“Updating the DirectX Runtime is achieved by installing the latest Service Pack or obtaining a newer version of Windows,” the company added.
Users must understand that DirectX End-User Runtime Web Installer does not bring Windows 7’s DirectX 11 to older operating systems.
Fact is that customers still running Windows XP continue to be stuck at DirectX 9 level, with the Redmond company consistent in its initial stance to not backport DX11 to Windows Vista’s predecessor.
DirectX 11 continues to be available only by default in Windows 7, or as an update for users which have upgraded all the way to Windows Vista Service Pack 2 (SP2).
Customers running the latest upgrade to Vista need to download and install the “Platform Update for Windows Server 2008 and the Platform Update for Windows Vista.”
Obviously, the Platform Update for Vista SP2 is served automatically through Windows Update, and customers that did not install it should do so as soon as possible in order to be able and also enjoy new software such as Internet Explorer 9 and Windows Live Essentials 2011, which require DirectX 11.