Windows Blue is leaked. The leak of "Windows Build 9364" appeared on torrent and file sharing sites Sunday morning in the form of a 2.6GB ISO file, and news of the leak blazed across the Net like wildfire after an initial appearance on Windows 9 Beta. Although Microsoft hasn't issued a formal statement about the leak, it's been dissected hands-on by WinSuperSite and numerous forum-goers, and Build 9364 appears to a 100 percent legitimate (and 100 percent unauthorized) look at the future of Windows. Some of the new features are half screen app snapping, IE 11, new live tile resizing options, and more. Previously, there was some debate about whether Windows Blue was a whole new OS or an update to Windows 8. Now we know it's clearly the latter, as evidenced by both the incremental improvements found in the leaked operating system as well as the screenshot at right.
TMobile kills contracts. The company, currently sitting in a festive fourth place behind AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint (even with the proposed merger between it and MetroPCS, which awaits stockholder approval), has officially flipped the switch on one of its more ambitious plans to court new subscribers: The complete elimination of wireless contracts. You know, those, "you're locked in for x amount of time" deals that you often sign when looking to upgrade your old and busted phone on the cheap. So how, then, does this process work in T-Mobile's new world? First off, interested purchasers of new smartphones will still find they're able to get a deal on their new devices - sort-of. While T-Mobile isn't requiring a contract for one to pick up a discounted phone, the company will nevertheless add a surcharge to one's monthly bill for a set amount of time depending on the price of the phone selected. Avoiding this fee is easy, provided one pays the full price of the phone up front. Removing that part from the equation for a moment, T-Mobile's base plan for unlimited talking and texting now starts at $50 per month - and includes 500MB of "speedy" data. Technically, it appears as if all of T-Mobile's plans include unlimited data, with the catch being that T-Mobile throttles the data rate down to measly 2G speeds once one exceeds one's paid-for allotment of "high-speed data." A press event is scheduled for Tuesday.
Another shot at Google Glasses. A West Virginia state legislator has introduced a bill that would ban the use of head-mounted gadgets while driving - a measure that was inspired by Google Glass. Delegate Gary G. Howell, a Republican, introduced a bill on Friday that would establish "the offense of operating a motor vehicle using a wearable computer with a head-mounted display." The bill, H.B. 3057, updates an existing law regarding texting and talking while driving to also ban: "Using a wearable computer with head mounted display."
In-app purchases are "coming soon" to Barnes & Noble's e-reader and tablet devices, the company announced today. In partnership with mobile payment provider Fortumo, the book retailer expects to begin offering the new service in the coming weeks and months. In-app purchasing allows users to buy extra levels, coins, and other upgrades within an app. B&N did not share specifics about apps that will include the added features. "In-app purchasing makes it possible for developers to ensure the customer only pays when they absolutely love the app," Fortumo founder and CEO Rain Rannu said in a statement.
As writer John Paczkowski notes in an AllThingsD article today, iTunes was originally "conceived as a low-margin 'break-even' operation intended to drive hardware sales" -- in particular sales of iPods. Now that the iTunes Store is used to sell more than just songs and videos, it's turning into a "significant profit center for the company". Paczkowski was commenting on numbers from Asymco analyst Horace Dediu, who notes that now that Apple has folded its in-house software group into iTunes, Apple software is having "significant implications for iTunes margins." The software, including items like iWork, iLife, Final Cut Pro, Aperture and more, has much higher profit margins than traditional iTunes items like music, books, video, and apps.
If the official Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson didn't have enough pictures for your liking, then perhaps a Japanese manga adaptation by artist Mari Yamazaki might be worth a look. It presents the late Apple co-founder as a doe-eyed child, a drug-addled bad boy, and a misunderstood genius - all in semi-realistic monochrome style. "[I]t's quite unlike anything I've read before," writes the Verge's Sam Byford. The first volume of the story is in the May 2013 issue of a girls' comic anthology named "Kiss" and it doesn't shy away from giving Isaacson's biography a solid nod right away. "Told from Isaacson's perspective, it begins with Jobs repeatedly nagging the biographer to write his story - a conversation that persists over the first fifteen pages before a call from Jobs' wife Laurene Powell finally breaks Isaacson's resolve," Byford explains. The story quickly jumps to Jobs' childhood days before walking readers through his life - there are moments in which a young Jobs wonders if his parents love him, schoolboy pranks, and drug experimentation - up to his first meeting with future partner Steve Wozniak. You can preview the first few pages of the Steve Jobs manga adaptation on Yahoo! Japan's online bookstore.
Google's Chromebook Pixel outperforms Apple's Retina MacBooks in one particular spec, and Apple recently changed the way it markets its notebooks to reflect that reality. The product page still features the "highest-resolution notebook" language, but it's no longer the top item. The language is now the second item, and it appears to be reserved to the 15-inch model. The 15-inch model has more than five million pixels, while the 12.9-inch Chromebook Pixel has just over 4.58 million. Apple, never shy in touting the specifications of its devices when they are at the top of industry offerings, used to market its 13- and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros as "The highest-resolution notebook ever. And the second-highest." That's no longer the case, though, and the product page for the Retina MacBooks has changed to reflect that.
Zynga moves away from Facebook. Of course, you can still sign in with your Facebook account if you want. Zynga will keep your games' progress as well as your Zynga friends list in its database. While Zynga wants to distance itself from Facebook, it doesn't want to burn that bridge entirely. It relies on Facebook for a huge chunk of its traffic, even though it already has a dedicated fan base of over 3 million people. Along with removing the Facebook login requirement, Zynga plans on implementing a feature next week that will allow players to find fellow gamers through their Gmail or Yahoo contacts list. Zynga will also be implementing its own payment system for its games, instead of relying on Facebook for its transactions. Before, people would be able to purchase premium content on Zynga through Facebook, however Facebook would take a 30% cut from all transactions.
And you thought buying online wasn't safe. A new piece of custom malware sold on the underground Internet market is being used to siphon payment card data from point-of-sale (POS) systems, according to security researchers from antivirus vendor McAfee. Dubbed vSkimmer, the Trojan-like malware is designed to infect Windows-based computers that have payment card readers attached to them, McAfee security researcher Chintan Shah said last week in a blog post. The malware was first detected by McAfee's sensor network on February 13 and is currently being advertised on cybercriminal forums as being better than Dexter, a different POS malware program that was discovered back in December. Once installed on a computer, vSkimmer gathers information about the OS, including its version, unique GUID identifier, default language, hostname, and active username. This information is sent back to the control and command server in encoded format as part of all HTTP requests and is used by the attackers to keep track of individually infected machines. The malware waits for the server to respond with a "dlx" (download and execute) or "upd" (update) command.
Telecommuting isn't anything new. Many companies around the world allow employees to work from home, but a new initiative from one Congressman in particular calls for the ability for Congressmen and Congresswomen to attend hearings, debates, etc. from their home districts, without having to fly out to Washington DC every time.
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