Archive for July, 2012

Having already conquered search, Google seems to have set its sights on doing everything in its power to promote its Google+ network. There’s no need to feign surprise, then, that Google its giving is Gmail video chat service a makeover with Google+ Hangouts. The alteration upgrades Gmail’s peer-to-peer based video chat feature with “more modern video calling technology” that promises to improve reliability and enhance video quality, as well as allow Gmail users to connect with people using Google+.

“Since the introduction of Gmail video chat back in 2008, many of you have told us that you love the direct, personal communication it provides. That’s why we’re excited to announce that video chat is being upgraded to a more modern video calling technology — Google+ Hangouts,” Google announced in a blog post.

Google says Gmail users will still be able to chat with the same people as before, only now they’ll be able to reach them in a variety of places, not just when they’re using Gmail. There are several side benefits too, like being able to chat with up to nine people at once, collaborate on Google documents, share screens, and the ability to watch YouTube videos together.

The makeover is already being rolled out, though it won’t be completely finished for a few more weeks.

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Technology and Lindsay Lohan don’t seem to have a lot in common, but like the oft troubled celebrity, technology seems to always age faster than anyone thought possible. In a sense, there’s no such thing as future proofing. We bring this up because a pair of popular mid-range graphics cards from yesterday — Nvidia’ GeForce GTX 560 and 550 parts — are on the verge of becoming obsolete tomorrow.

By obsolete, we don’t mean they’ll suddenly stop pumping out playable framerates in whatever games you’re currently playing. Instead, we’re referring to Donanimhaber.com’s report that Nvidia is getting ready to tag both cards with an EOL (End of Life) label.

Nvidia’s hardware partners have reportedly already received their final order notices as the GPU maker looks to offload existing stock and make way for its upcoming GeForce GTX 660 and 650 series. One of the first of these is rumored to be a GK104-based GeForce GTX 660 Ti slated for an August 16th launch.

If you’re a bargain hunter who doesn’t mind investing in last generation hardware, keep your eyes peeled for price drops on GTX 550 and 560 parts.

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Honest PC users aren’t in need of yet another reason to rage against Digital Rights Management (DRM) schemes that often serve to setup hoops for law abiding citizens to jump through without stomping out software piracy, but just in case, here’s another one. Ubisoft’s Uplay client may contain a rootkit that could allow remote hackers to infiltrate your system and take control. Yikes!

Tavis Ormandy, who serves as an Information Security Engineer at Google, discovered the vulnerability and posted his findings on SecLists.org’s Security Mailing List.

“While on vacation recently I bought a video game called Assassin’s Creed Revelations. I didn’t have much of a chance to play it, but it seems fun so far. However, I noticed the installation procedure creates a browser plugin for it’s accompanying Uplay launcher, which grants unexpectedly (at least to me) wide access to websites,” Ormandy explained. “I don’t know if it’s by design, but I thought I’d mention it here in case someone else wants to look into it.”

Ormandy took it upon himself to follow up his post with a proof of concept exploiting the security hole, but what’s even more troubling is how widespread this is. It’s not just Assassin’s Creed that is affected, but all games that rely on Ubisoft’s Uplay DRM, including the entire Assassin’s Creed series, Call of Juarez, Silent Hunter 5: Battle of the Atlantic, Heroes of Might and Magic VI, all Tom Clancy titles, and many others. There are nearly two dozen titles in all that are affected by this.

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Let’s face it, Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform isn’t going to propel itself to the front of the pack, just like the Colorado Rockies aren’t going to rally and win their division in the National League. In both cases, it’s mathematically possible, but so is playing roulette and watching the ball land on 00 three times in a row. Be that as it may, Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform is making personal strides, with the month of July marking its biggest growth month so far this year.

The folks over at WMPowerUser.com culled through data from StatCounter and found that the Windows Phone install base in the European Union grew by 24 percent in July. Impressive? Sure, though that only represents a 1.68 percent share of the total mobile market in the EU.

Similar growth was spotted in other parts of the world, including a 27 percent month-on-month gain in Germany, 29 percent gain in France, 18 percent jump in the U.K., and a 19 percent in the U.S. where Windows Phone claims a 1.18 percent share of the overall market.

It’s interesting to see the Windows Phone platform gain momentum as the Windows Phone 8 launch looms on the horizon, considering all current Windows Phone devices will not be supported by the OS update.

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Windows users have already marked their calendars for October 26, 2012, which is the day Microsoft joins the touch-computing revolution with the launch of Windows 8. Not the least bit surprising, it’s also the day Microsoft will begin selling its Surface tablet, a revelation that appears in a recent 10-K filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in lieu of an official announcement.

“The next version of our operating system, Windows 8, will be generally available on October 26, 2012. At that time, we will begin selling the Surface, a series of Microsoft-designed and manufactured hardware devices,” Microsoft stated on page 4 of the 95-page document.

Microsoft has already gone on record saying its Surface devices will be available alongside Windows 8, but this is the first time the company has attached a specific release date (the product website still lists “coming soon”).

What’s still up in the air is pricing. There will be two versions of Surface, including one that runs Windows RT with ARM hardware and pricier model running Windows 8 Pro with Intel inside.

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