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The long-rumored Nokia Lumia 928 will debut this Thursday when it becomes available on Verizon as the answer to AT&T’s Lumia 920. This Windows Phone 8 handset is slimmed down compared to its predecessor and has some spec bumps.
The Lumia 928 has a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage with no SD card slot. The display is a 4.5-inch PureMotion HD+ OLED WXGA HD display with a 1280x768 resolution. We’re very impressed with the quality of the screen on our initial viewing: it’s crisp and bright with good black levels.
The body of the phone is highlighted by a curved white plastic back. The phone is heavy for its size while a good-sized bezel on the 4.5-inch screen means it’s not very thin either. Although it’s not quite pocket-friendly, the curvature makes it comfortable to hold even if the plastic is a little slippery.
Every so often an oddball peripheral or product comes around and your attention is demanded, but with the Stinky Footboard I felt unusually torn. As a gamer I'm an incredibly simple creature: I may assign extra functions to my mice, but I usually don't use them. There are eighteen programmable keys on my Corsair Vengeance K90 keyboard, but of those keys I use...one, which is assigned to a script that toggles Aero on and off. Peripherals are funny things, though, and a feature that one person may have no use for could be extremely desirable to another. A good friend and I both really like the Logitech G500 (and now the G500s); he liked the adjustable weight and didn't care about the freewheel, I loved the freewheel and didn't care about the adjustable weight. So it goes.
And then, every so often, something really unusual comes around. Submitted for your approval, the Stinky Footboard:
Essentially the footboard is as it says; there are four switches in a cross formation, and the board is designed to be used longways, with your foot stretching between the two LED points. Tension can be adjusted on the underside of the board, and they even include different springs so you can manually change the tension within the board. From there you just plug in the board using a conventional mini-USB 2.0 cable and install the lightweight software. Each of the four actuators is assigned a different keystroke, and you're off.
Credit where credit is due, the designers of the Stinky Footboard at least did right on the software side. This is a simple peripheral that demands a simple interface, so there's no reason for the software to be bloated. As for how it works in a more practical sense? That's trickier.
As far as I can tell, the build quality is good, the software side is good, so the pieces of a good experience are at least in play. In practice, though?
Designing a good user experience is an insanely tricky prospect. In my estimation, when you're considering whether or not something is intuitive, you're actually looking at two different types of intuition. The first is intuition within a vacuum: assuming no prior experience with something, how easy is it to figure out, does it work the way you'd hope or expect it to. The second is intuition through experience: you have experience with a particular action, maybe a particular piece of software, so even if that action or software isn't intuitive in a vacuum, you learned how to use it. This second type is where Microsoft tripped up tremendously with Windows 8; there weren't any breadcrumbs leading to the new user experience, it simply came into being, and thus people who were used to the Windows desktop and used to certain things being in certain places are suddenly completely baffled. Confusion frustrates.
By the same token, the Stinky Footboard is a fantastic idea in a vacuum that takes some serious getting used to in practice. I can see some users making the jump, but as someone who can't rub his stomach and tap the top of his head at the same time, I found I used it as a glorified pedal. The idea that our feet, which ordinarily hang uselessly beneath us, could be used to hit additional keys as needed is a sound one in theory. I can't be the arbiter of whether or not this is a good peripheral for everyone due to the very subjective nature of peripherals, but I found the Footboard complicated my gaming experience more than it enhanced it.
As a sidenote, while I was enamored with the concept I did find myself pretty severely put off by the branding. I'm not a foot fetishist nor do I harbor any illusions about the kind of funk that seeks refuge in my nether digits, but the cheeky branding and the idea that I'm going to rub my filth-infested hooves all over a peripheral was incredibly unappealing. I don't have a problem stepping on a peripheral, I play Dance Dance Revolution (badly) in the comfort of my own home whenever my living room isn't overflowing with cases, I just don't like my hardware tacitly acknowledging that my feet are raunchy.
Undoubtedly part of the reason the Footboard came our way was because it's being Kickstarted with a few days to go. My experience with it hasn't been super positive, but the times where I've felt like I was shy keys for whatever I wanted to play have been rare enough that I can't really see myself training myself to use both hands plus my foot. If it seems like something that might work for you, though, no harm in helping out with the Kickstarter. Fair warning, though: minimum pledge to actually get a Footboard is a not insubstantial $89.
Back in 2007, a company called D-Wave made waves by claiming it had built a 16-bit quantum computer at a time when most academic labs could only manage a handful of bits. What they demonstrated, however, wasn't a quantum computer in the sense that most people use the term. The company has since started calling its device a "quantum optimizer." Although it's not a general-purpose quantum computer, the hardware does seem to be capable of tackling some computationally hard challenges.
The actual performance of the hardware and the software that controls it (called, somewhat ironically, the Black Box) hasn't really been described in detail. That situation seems to be changing this week, as a pair of academic researchers will be presenting a set of problems tackled both by D-Wave's hardware and by software running on more traditional computers. The results generally show D-Wave's equipment performing well, but it doesn't always beat the more mundane computers.
In a quantum computer, a set of qubits are both entangled and placed in a superposition state where they have a mixture of the two possible values (zero and one). The system is manipulated to perform a calculation, and then the actual values held by the qubits are read in order to provide the solution.
Despite the fact that four of the lawyers linked to porn-trolling enterprise Prenda Law have been forwarded to criminal investigators, the organization is charging full-steam ahead with one of its last cases: LW Systems v. Hubbard. The case is an Illinois state lawsuit making vague allegations over computer hacking against a defendant with a lawyer who some have said is actually in cahoots with Prenda.
The case landed Prenda an incredibly broad order that allows it to subpoena subscriber information from practically any ISP in the country. So Prenda lawyer Paul Duffy has used that power to launch a barrage of threat letters telling people to pay up or get sued. In mid-April—just a week after Duffy pled the Fifth to avoid testifying about his actions in Prenda litigation—his law firm was sending out demand letters asking for $2,400.
Now, the anti-Prenda blog Fight Copyright Trolls has published a newer version of the letter, which also appears to be signed by Duffy. The new letter has gone out under the name of Anti-Piracy Law Group, and it suggests that letter recipients might have their neighbors or family members contacted about the allegations in the lawsuit. Since those accusations concern adult content, that action seems like a threat that could increase the embarrassment factor for recipients.
If you've ever been nagged about the weakness of your password while changing account credentials on Google, Facebook, or any number of other sites, you may have wondered: do these things actually make people choose stronger passcodes? A team of scientists has concluded that the meters do work—or at least they have the potential to do so, assuming they're set up correctly.
The researchers—from the University of California at Berkeley, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and Microsoft—are among the first to test the effect that the ubiquitous password meters have on real users choosing passwords. They found that meters grading the strength of passwords had a measurable impact in helping users pick stronger passcodes that weren't used on other accounts. But the group also discovered these new, stronger passwords weren't any harder for users to remember than weaker ones.
The scientists were quick to point out caveats to their findings. For one, the meters provided little benefit when users were choosing passwords while setting up a new account, as opposed to changing passwords for an already established account. And the meters provided no improvement for accounts people considered unimportant.
The federal judge who would have overseen the trial of Aaron Swartz on computer hacking charges has ordered the prosecution to reveal much of the evidence it had against him. However, the government and MIT will be allowed to keep most of the relevant names redacted.
Swartz killed himself in January, not long before he was scheduled to defend himself in a trial that could have resulted in several years of prison time. Swartz famously used MIT's computer network to download millions of academic papers published in the JSTOR archive, and prosecutors said those actions violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
In the wake of Swartz's death, the Internet activist has become a symbol and rallying cry for those who want to reform CFAA. Swartz's attorney accused the prosecutors handling the case of misconduct, and in March family members moved to unseal the evidence against him. Members of Congress have also asked to see documents related to what happened in the Swartz case.
An interview with Sundar Pichai over at Wired has settled some questions about suspected Google plans, rivalries, and alliances. Pichai was recently announced as Andy Rubin’s replacement as head of Android, and he expressed cool confidence ahead of Google I/O about the company’s relationships with both Facebook and Samsung. He even felt good about the future of the spotty Android OS update situation.
Tensions between Google and Samsung, the overwhelmingly dominant Android handset manufacturer, are reportedly rising. But Pichai expressed nothing but goodwill toward the company. “We work with them on pretty much almost all our important products,” Pichai said while brandishing his own Samsung Galaxy S 4. “Samsung plays a critical role in helping Android be successful.”
Pichai noted in particular the need for companies that make “innovation in displays [and] in batteries” a priority. His attitude toward Motorola, which Google bought almost two years ago, was more nonchalant: “For the purposes of the Android ecosystem, Motorola is [just another] partner.”
A long-lasting court fight over patented soybeans is over, and agribusiness giant Monsanto has won.
In a decision issued today, the US Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that Monsanto must be allowed to patent its seeds—and it must be able to punish farmers who try to dodge the patents.
Farmers are compelled to sign a patent agreement when they buy Monsanto's Roundup Ready herbicide-resistant soybeans, promising that they won't use the seeds to produce additional crops. A small-time Indiana farmer, Vernon Bowman, tried to avoid signing that agreement by simply buying a batch of undifferentiated "bin grain" from a grain elevator. Bowman went ahead and sprayed his crops with glyphosate, knowing that because Monsanto's genetically altered seed has become ubiquitous in the food supply, around 90 percent of soybeans would have the Roundup Ready trait that provides resistance to that herbicide.
Mobily, a Saudi Arabian telecommunications company with 4.8 million subscribers, is working on a way to intercept encrypted data sent over the Internet by Twitter, Viber, and other mobile apps, a security researcher said Monday.
Moxie Marlinspike, the pseudonymous cryptographer who has identified several security bugs in the secure sockets layer protocol used to protect website transactions, said he learned of the project after receiving an e-mail from company officials. Carrying the subject line "Solution for monitoring encrypted data on telecom," it said the project was required by "the regulator." Marlinspike believed this meant the government of Saudi Arabia. In follow-up e-mails, the Mobily officials said they were looking for ways to bypass the protections built into the SSL and Transport Layer Security protocols so telecom workers could monitor messages spreading terrorism.
"One of the design documents that they volunteered specifically called out compelling a [certificate authority] in the jurisdiction of the UAE or Saudi Arabia to produce SSL certificates that they could use for interception," Marlinspike wrote in a blog post. "A considerable portion of the document was also dedicated to a discussion of purchasing SSL vulnerabilities or other exploits as possibilities."
Google I/O officially kicks off on Wednesday, and the current scuttlebutt is that Google will be announcing a follow-up to the Nexus 7 tablet at its day-one keynote. We still like the original Nexus 7, but last week we put together a list of improvements we wanted to see in the new version. We also asked you what you would liked to see in a new Nexus 7, and you came through with some solid suggestions.
Naturally, you have many of the same requests we do: a higher-resolution screen, a faster processor, and a rear-facing camera among them. But you also came up with plenty of things that didn't make our list. With our combined suggestions, Google can create the perfect Nexus 7.Don't touch that bezel!
The Nexus 7 has pretty large bezels around the screen in comparison to tablets like the iPad mini, and in our post we suggested that the screen could be made slightly larger (or the device slightly smaller) by shrinking those a bit. Commenter Phil Ta agreed with us in the post's first comment, but most of you disagreed.
Facebook’s HTC First, the smartphone herald of Facebook Home, will be discontinued by carrier partner AT&T, according a report from BGR Monday. The phones, released just over a month ago, will be returned as unsold inventory to HTC, with only 15,000 handsets making it into customers’ hands.
Facebook announced its Android UI overlay Facebook Home in early April, and both the flagship HTC First phone and Google Play became available on April 12. The First hardware was solid (if lackluster) and in line with the $99-with-two-year-contract price. But the Facebook Home interface has proved confusing and borderline repulsive to users, with a current Google Play store rating of two out of five stars generated from 16,700 votes.
Last Thursday, the First was discounted to a mere 99¢. Just four days later, it appears AT&T can no longer bear the shame of associating itself with Facebook’s unwanted Android love-child.
You might think that Dennis Toeppen, the one-time domain squatter and owner of weekend shuttle service Suburban Express, would have learned valuable lessons about social media by now. Toeppen became the focus of much Internet anger and earned the attention of activist attorneys and the Illinois Attorney General after threatening to sue a reddit moderator. Around the same time, his personal and business websites were all apparently defaced.
But if you thought that he was done, you'd be wrong. Toeppen has once again taken to the Web, raising the stakes in his attack against a social-media critic of his company. Some reddit users claim that he is again trolling reddit with "throwaway" reddit accounts as part of his campaign to silence critics. And there has been speculation that Toeppen defaced his own sites in an effort to make himself look like a victim.The full Streisand
Toeppen's activities have already drawn the interest of the Illinois Attorney General's Office in addition to the massive amounts of bad press. The problems began when Toeppen's company assessed a $500 "liquidated damages" fine to the credit card of passenger Jeremy Leval after Leval recounted an incident on a bus contracted by Suburban Express on March 31. Leval said that the driver had yelled at an international student boarding the bus for not following his instructions, reportedly telling her, "If you don’t understand English, you don’t belong at the University of Illinois or any ‘American’ University."