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Category Archives: Computers

The FTC Finally Puts a Stop to the BlueHippo

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has had it with BlueHippo, which offers computers on layaway to consumers too poor to buy one outright. Buyers put up $99 to $124 in down payments, and then make regular payments of $36 to $88. After 13 of these payments have come in on time, the company claims it will send out a computer, while the payments continue until the machine is completely paid off.Unfortunately for BlueHippo, the FTC smelled a scam. People were simply not getting machines, and BlueHippo's "cancellation policy" required people to send in prepaid money orders first, even if their account contained enough money to cover the necessary fees, something not allowed under FTC consumer protection rules. In 2008, BlueHippo settled with the agency, however and under the terms of the deal, BlueHippo would pay... --
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Entire Town’s Network Punished for One Download

The MPAA has just successfully shut down an entire town's municipal WiFi network because a single user was caught downloading a copyrighted movie. This gross example of collective punishment in Coshocton, OH, a practice actually outlawed in the Geneva Conventions, was emabarrassing in generous terms, but the MPAA's spokesman decided to cry poor, despite the studios bringing in record box-office and aftermarket numbers.Coshocton's IT Director, Mike LaVigne, said that the number of people who access the Internet using this specific connection varies widely, from approximately a dozen people a day to 100 during busy times, such as First Fridays and the Coshocton Canal Festival. It's also used by Coshocton County Sheriff's deputies who can park in the 300 block and complete traffic or incident reports without leaving their vehicle. Out-of-town business people can park and... --
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Has Google Tried To Steal a Startup’s Idea?

Bills that would require organizations to notify consumers if their personal information has been compromised have been in the Senate for some time now, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved two of them on Thursday. Getting out of the Senate is a critical step toward the creation of a national data-breach notification bill, which is the ultimate goal.A variety of consumer advocacy groups, technology vendors, and privacy groups have long been calling for Congress to pass a comprehensive federal data-breach notification bill. Several of these have been introduced in both the House and the Senate in recent years, but none of them have made it to the president's desk as of yet.Each of bills from Thursday would mandate that organizations that store consumers' sensitive data must notify consumers if that data is breached. Senate... --
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New Music Rec Machine Rivals Apple’s Genius

Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego have recently been pitting Apple's Genius music recommender program against their self-proclaimed, new and improved version, which is said to include an ignored sector of music, dubbed the 'long tail', in music recommendations. It's always been well known that radio suffers from a popularity bias, in which the most popular songs receive an inordinate amount of airtime, while less popular, sometimes better music is heard very rarely. In Apple's music recommender system, iTunes' Genius, this bias is magnified.  Genius uses “collaborative filtering” on purchase statistics from iTunes Store- they've sold over 6 billion tracks- in order to help people organize their music and discover songs and artists they've never heard based on similarity to a “seed” song that they have liked in the past. But an underground artist will... --
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PayPal Releases APIs

At the inaugural PayPal X Innovate 2009 conference in San Francisco, the company officially announced the PayPal X program, to release APIs. This allows developers to integrate PayPal seamlessly into third-party applications, ultimately helping PayPal compete against similar online payment services.The new PayPal APIs allow developers to engage customers directly and within their own applications, where it has always been the custom to force users to visit the actual PayPal website. With the new system, customers who don't use PayPal can sign up for the service within the third-party application, able to begin making payments seamlessly and immediately.PayPal intends to make it simpler for developers to leverage its payment system, and hopefully for the company, make PayPal a sort of de facto currency for the Web. Another part of the goal is expanding the types of transactions PayPal is used for, including things like paying rent, or employee payroll.PayPal has been an... --
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The First White Spaces Devices are Up

White spaces, internet connectivity services that run in the unused portion of the television spectrum, have been called "WiFi on steroids" by Google founder, Larry Page. For years, IT companies like Dell, Google and Microsoft have campaigned in favor of opening up the spectrum for data service, specifically broadband internet access. But of course, the broadcasting industry has just as long been vehemently opposing the idea, spending huge quantities of money on FUD advertising campaigns meant to convice consumers that white spaces would harm their television quality.Back in November, 2008, the FCC made a surprising call when it allowed internet service carriers and other vendors to deploy devices in the unlicensed white spaces spectrum at up to 100 milliwats, but only up to 40 milliwats on white space spectrum which lies adjacent to TV channels. More dependable than WiFi, white spaces can support bigger bandwidths for... --
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Barnes & Noble Releases the Nook Against Kindle

Today, pictures and details about Barnes and Noble’s forthcoming e-book reader leaked, and it looks exciting, both inside and out. On sale next Tuesday, it looks set to take the wind right out of the Kindle's sails.Named the “Nook,” Barnes & Noble's reader strongly resembles Amazon’s white plastic e-book, except for the chiclet-keyboard being replaced by a multicolor touch screen, which can be used as a keyboard or for book browsing, cover-flow style. The reader runs Google’s Android OS, as well as coming equipped with wireless capability whose carrier remains unspecified. The Nook also rings up at the same $260 the Kindle goes for.Gizmodo leaked the images, but they also have information about Barnes & Noble's plans to heavily discount titles in their electronic format, which is as it should be. The Nook will also... --
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Research Group Develops Sonar Power Saving Technology

At the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, a research group has developed a unique new way for your computer to detect whether or not a user is present, and are presently looking for test subjects willing to try it out and see just how much power it can save.Using your computer’s existing hardware, the microphone and speakers more precisely, echolocation software will determine whether you’re watching a movie (present) or getting a snack (away). Discussions among the group led to the idea of using sonar, as well. Developing software that, when the user is not using the mouse or keyboard, plays a tone at a high frequency and records the tone’s echo, the computer then has the ability to process the tone and filter out everything except that frequency and detects any variance. The software can... --
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IBM the Subject of DOJ Antitrust Inquiry

IBM is reportedly facing an antitrust inquiry from the U.S. Department of Justice. Recent actions the company has taken in the mainframe computer market have caught the DOJ's attention, according to the trade group that filed the complaint, the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA).

The DOJ has issued formal requests for information related to a complaint that was filed against IBM in September. CCIA's problem with IBM is related to the company's refusal to issue licenses for IBM's mainframe OS to its competitors. In some cases, IBM has rescinded the OS license from customers when they attempt to switch from IBM mainframe hardware to a competitor's. The DOJ had a long-standing antitrust consent decree with IBM, but abandoned it in 2001.Several midsized companies have intentions to compete with IBM in the... --
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