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Chromecast adds Pandora to short list of apps so far

Pandora is the sixth app to join the ranks on Google's app-to-TV dongle, and it's the second to arrive in the months since Chromecast launched.

(Credit: Pandora)

Pandora is on Chromecast at last, after Google said in July an app for the Internet's leading radio service was 'coming soon.'

After Google introduced its $35 Chromecast HDMI dongle (read CNET's review)

Many of the indications that Google got ahead of itself when it unveiled Chromecast are flattering to the search giant, even if they were frustrating to consumers. A Netflix promotion that Google touted would be available to Chromecast purchasers through the end of the year sold out in little more than a day. The device itself was on backorder for weeks at launch.

It's currently in stock at Best Buy, Google Play's store and Amazon, where it remains the top selling electronics item in that massive online store.

But Google appears to have been caught off guard not only by demand but also by the process of making Chromecast a fully fleshed-out 'over-the-top' TV device.

Chromecast launched with support for four apps, only two of which were outside the Google universe: Google Play Movies & TV and Google Play Music, plus Netflix and YouTube. The company said in late July at the unveiling that more apps, like Pandora, would be coming soon.

It wasn't until this month that Chromecast added it first additional app, that for Hulu Plus. Pandora on Thursday is the second addition.

At the far other end of the spectrum, Roku -- long leader in the world of over-the-top boxes -- adds new channels to its massive roster every day, though Roku was founded more than a decade ago and has years of work building up a channel list under its belt. (Roku also introduced a Chromecast-like feature that lets users stream video from third-party apps on their mobile device.)

'Overall, we're excited to work with more partners and bring more content to Chromecast,' a Google spokeswoman told CNET. 'It's only been a few months since launch, and we've since added Hulu Plus support, but the number of supported apps will only continue to grow as more developers bring their apps to Chromecast.'

A Pandora spokeswoman said the radio service works closely with leading partners like Google to achieve its mission of providing 'the best personalized radio experience to our listeners, anytime, anywhere.'

'We're proud of our most recent product developments and are pleased to offer Chromecast support at this time,' she said.

Chromecast device allows users to wirelessly stream Pandora using a smartphone or tablet as the remote control. The music is launched from a mobile device, and then it streams from the cloud, so listeners can multitask on their device while Pandora plays on the TV.

It brings Pandora deeper into the living room, an area of focus for the company. Earlier this year, Pandora launched the platform to make it easier to stream on televisions through set-top boxes and the TVs themselves, though initially it was available through gaming consoles XBox 360 and Playstation 3.

Owners of a Chromecast device can start 'casting' Pandora by downloading the latest Android or iOS mobile app.

Read the full CNET Review

The bottom line: Google's $35 Chromecast streaming-TV dongle is certainly cheap, but its limited initial app support and total reliance on mobile devices keep it well behind the Apple TV and Roku -- at least for now. Read Full Review

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Much like the launch of the Nexus 4, T-Mobile may carry the Nexus 5 the same day it's launched via the Play Store. According to one Redditor, their local store is confident they'll have the device. When prompted, the store employee hinted it would be much the same scenario as last year.

According to the post, the store employee seemed confident they'd have the device. They noted it would be available same-day, and run a little more than the Play Store would sell it for. If the store employee's confidence can be trusted, we should expect that there has been internal dialogue from T-Mobile corporate regarding the device.

The device seems to be ready for final destinations, as one Twitter user claims to already have his Nexus 5, and has been posting about it copiously. While he doesn't get into performance much, and has oddly covered the FCC info at the bottom of the rear of the device, it does indicate the newest addition to the Nexus family is in the wild, probably sporting a final build of Android 4.4. He also hints at a November 1st release date, but there is no other indication that will be the case.

This all coincides with news that nearly every Google app is primed for an update, and sitting in wait. With all guns pointing at a release, it seems we could get an announcement soon, if not the device. The lucky twitter user is also Irish, and Nexus devices typically launch stateside before migrating elsewhere in the world. We are now wondering if we'll see a worldwide rollout, or if he just got his hands on something he maybe shouldn't have.

Google has a long list of Android app updates waiting, but why?

Sixteen of the core apps found in Android are showing they were recently updated in the Google Play store, yet the updates are nowhere to be found. What's going on?

(Credit: Jason Cipriani/CNET)

When commenting on a Google+ thread earlier today about the timing of the impending release of Google Hangouts for Android, I clicked in the direction of this post on Reddit.

According to the post, though the actual updates and change logs are missing, 16 Google apps have updated since Monday. I was able to download a Google Earth update on my Nexus 4 earlier today, but Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Wallet, and Keep remain unchanged.

So, what's going on here? Well, one logical conclusion could be that the unreleased updates are pending the announcement of the Nexus 5 and Android 4.4 KitKat. We still don't have any word from Google as to when those announcements might come, but the latest rumors point to Thursday or Friday.

Indeed, it makes sense for Google to update all of its core apps once a new operating system is made available, even though the Nexus 5 (presumably) won't be in consumers' hands the same day. It's not uncommon, after all, for users to see a rush of app updates just before a new Android version becomes available (that's also true for iOS).

Also, as we've seen in the past, Google has done a terrific job of making the latest release of Android available to older Nexus devices on the same day it was announced. Sure, this could always be a glitch in the Play store, but that theory isn't as much fun as updates waiting to be released after an announcement.

Hopefully, it shouldn't be too much longer before we learn more details surrounding these mystery updates. And in the meantime, if you're able to grab one of the updates listed on the Reddit page, feel free to post about it in the comments.

Dark Mail Alliance develops surveillance

We wouldn't be surprised if you're looking for a more secure email provider after the whole government surveillance debacle. That's why Lavabit and Silent Circle have joined forces as the Dark Mail Alliance to develop a new snoop-proof email technology. Dark Mail's 'Email 3.0' tech applies peer-to-peer encryption not only to the body of the digital missive, but also to its metadata (To:, From: and Subject fields) that third parties are most likely to collect. One downside is that encryption only works between Dark Mail accounts -- messages sent using the tech to Gmail or a Hotmail addresses won't be protected from prying eyes. If the two firms sound familiar, that's because they used to offer secure email services of their own, which shuttered earlier this year. However, they're determined to rise from the ashes and make the tech available to the public via mobile and desktop apps by 2014.

[Image credit: g4ll4is, Flickr]

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Google has a long list of Android app updates waiting, but why?

Sixteen of the core apps found in Android are showing they were recently updated in the Google Play store, yet the updates are nowhere to be found. What's going on?

(Credit: Jason Cipriani/CNET)

When commenting on a Google+ thread earlier today about the timing of the impending release of Google Hangouts for Android, I clicked in the direction of this post on Reddit.

According to the post, though the actual updates and change logs are missing, 16 Google apps have updated since Monday. I was able to download a Google Earth update on my Nexus 4 earlier today, but Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Wallet, and Keep remain unchanged.

So, what's going on here? Well, one logical conclusion could be that the unreleased updates are pending the announcement of the Nexus 5 and Android 4.4 KitKat. We still don't have any word from Google as to when those announcements might come, but the latest rumors point to Thursday or Friday.

Indeed, it makes sense for Google to update all of its core apps once a new operating system is made available, even though the Nexus 5 (presumably) won't be in consumers' hands the same day. It's not uncommon, after all, for users to see a rush of app updates just before a new Android version becomes available (that's also true for iOS).

Also, as we've seen in the past, Google has done a terrific job of making the latest release of Android available to older Nexus devices on the same day it was announced. Sure, this could always be a glitch in the Play store, but that theory isn't as much fun as updates waiting to be released after an announcement.

Hopefully, it shouldn't be too much longer before we learn more details surrounding these mystery updates. And in the meantime, if you're able to grab one of the updates listed on the Reddit page, feel free to post about it in the comments.

Apple's fondleslab market share falls below 30 per cent for first time

IDC says iPad shipments stalled in Q3 as Samsung and Lenovo surged 5 ways to prepare your advertising infrastructure for disaster

Apple's fondleslab market share falls below 30 per cent for first time IDC says iPad shipments stalled in Q3 as Samsung and Lenovo surged Pundits partial to peak Apple prognostications have new data to fuel their ideas: IDC's newest report on global fondleslab sales has Apple's market share slipping markedly.

The analyst does offer one big caveat for its numbers: Q3 is a bad time for iPad sales because Apple now releases new models in Q4 and buyers keep their wallets shut until then. In Q4, 'IDC expects Apple to enjoy robust shipment growth'.

Even with that seasonal factor, the numbers don't look great for Apple because its sales in Q3 2013 are just 100,000 iPads higher than the were in Q2 2013, and that's with the new and cheaper iPad mini in the market. Also unwelcome is momentum for arch-rival Samsung, which managed to more than double its shipments from 4.3m to 9.7m. Lenovo also did well, pushing 2.3m 'slabs out the door, up from 0.4m a year back.

Top Five Tablet Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, Third Quarter 2013 (Shipments in millions)

Source: IDC Worldwide Tablet Tracker, October 30, 2013. Table Note: Year-over-year growth calculations are based on preliminary shipment data and may vary from estimates based on rounded figures above.

IDC also notes that shipments of 'white box' tablets are growing, especially at the low-price end of the market.

Tom Mainelli, the firm's research director for tablets thinks that's not good news.

'These low cost Android-based products make tablets available to a wider market of consumers, which is good,' he writes. 'However, many use cheap parts and non Google-approved versions of Android that can result in an unsatisfactory customer experience, limited usage, and very little engagement with the ecosystem. Android's growth in tablets has been stunning to watch, but shipments alone won't guarantee long-term success. For that you need a sustainable hardware business model, a healthy ecosystem for developers, and happy end users.' ®

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Sprint Spark tech promises LTE speeds up to 60Mbps, launches next week

Sprint's Spark tech will reach 100 cities in three years (credit: Gabriel Pollard)

Sprint today announced that its Sprint Spark tech, which it says will provide lightning fast LTE service around 50 to 60 megabits per second, will debut on three phones that are coming out next Friday.

Sprint Spark is 'designed to achieve unprecedented speeds by combining three bands of 4G LTE wireless spectrum,' according to the carrier.

The three phones on which Spark will debut are the Samsung Galaxy Mega, the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini and the LG G2.

All three debut next Friday, November 8, though they won't be compatible with Sprint Spark at launch.

Prices and availability

The Galaxy Mega will be available Friday at $199.99 with a contract or $19.59 per month with Sprint One Up. The G2 will cost the same on contract, or $22.92 per month. The S4 mini will be $99.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate, or $16.67 per month on Sprint One Up.

Out of the box, the three phones hyped by Sprint today won't be compatible with Spark, but the two Galaxy phones will be updated with Spark support 'shortly after launch,' the carrier said.

The G2, on the other hand, will gain its Spark support early in 2014.

The HTC One Max will also be compatible with Sprint Spark. There's no set release date there but Sprint said today that it's 'coming soon.' It will be available for $249.99 with a contract or $25 per month with Sprint One Up.

Faster and faster

In another announcement, Sprint revealed today that its Sprint Spark tech reached over-the-air speeds of one gigabit per second in a Silicon Valley lab.

In its current commercial form Sprint Spark reaches speeds up to 50 to 60Mb per second, but Sprint said it could theoretically get that up to 2Gb per second eventually.

'Sprint Spark is a combination of advanced capabilities, like 1x, 2x and 3x carrier aggregation for speed, 8T8R for coverage, MIMO for capacity, TDD for spectral efficiency, together with the most advanced devices offering both tri-band capability and high-definition voice for the best possible customer experience,' Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in today's announcement.

Sprint Spark will deploy in 100 cities over the next three years with initial availability in five markets: New York, LA, Chicago, Tampa and Miami.

Adobe hack attack affected 38 million accounts

The recent security breach that hit Adobe exposed customer IDs, passwords, and credit and debit card information.

A cyberattack launched against Adobe affected more than 10 times the number of users initially estimated.

On October 3, Adobe revealed that it had been the victim of an attack that exposed Adobe customer IDs and encrypted passwords. At the time, the company said that hackers gained access to encrypted credit card records and login information for around 3 million users. But the number of affected accounts has turned out to be much higher.

The attack actually involved 38 million active accounts.

'So far, our investigation has confirmed that the attackers obtained access to Adobe IDs and (what were at the time valid), encrypted passwords for approximately 38 million active users,' Adobe spokeswoman Heather Edell told CNET. 'We have completed e-mail notification of these users. We also have reset the passwords for all Adobe IDs with valid, encrypted passwords that we believe were involved in the incident -- regardless of whether those users are active or not.'

Adobe hasn't received indications of unauthorized activity on any Adobe account affected in the breach, according to Edell.

The attack also gained access to many invalid or inactive Adobe accounts -- those with invalid encrypted passwords and those used as test accounts.

'We are still in the process of investigating the number of inactive, invalid, and test accounts involved in the incident,' Edell added. 'Our notification to inactive users is ongoing.'

Following the initial report of the attack, Adobe reset the passwords on compromised customer accounts and sent e-mails to those whose accounts were breached and whose credit card or debit card information was exposed. At the time, Adobe had also issued the following statement:

Our investigation currently indicates that the attackers accessed Adobe customer IDs and encrypted passwords on our systems. We also believe the attackers removed from our systems certain information relating to 2.9 million Adobe customers, including customer names, encrypted credit or debit card numbers, expiration dates, and other information relating to customer orders. At this time, we do not believe the attackers removed decrypted credit or debit card numbers from our systems.


Adobe has posted a customer security alert page with more information on the breach and an option whereby users can change their passwords.

Update, 10:37 a.m. PT:Added comment from Adobe.

( Via Krebs on Security)

Windows Azure Compute cloud goes TITSUP WORLDWIDE

Looks like a distributed system, breaks like a single tenant Free Regcast : Microsoft Cloud OS

Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud suffered a worldwide partial compute outage on Wednesday, calling into question how effectively Redmond has partioned the service.

The problems emerged at 2.35AM UTC, and were still ongoing as of 10.20PM UTC the same day, according to the company's service dashboard.

'Manual actions to perform Swap Deployment operations on Cloud Services may error, which will then restrict Service Management functions,' the company said.

Every single Azure region - a geographically distant and independent set of data centers - was affected, but for posterity that included: West US, West Europe, Southeast Asia, South Central US, North Europe, North Central US, East Asia, and East US.

'We are taking all necessary steps to mitigate this incident for the affected hosted services as soon as possible. Further updates will be published within 2 hours to keep you apprised of the situation. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes our customers,' the company wrote at 10PM UTC.

Swap Deployment operations let developers initiate a virtual IP address swap between staging and production environments for services. Swap Deployment is an asynchronous operation that interacts with an Azure management service. Though not a main component of the IaaS cloud, an outage would be irritating for some heavy users, and a global outage is likely to damage confidence in Microsoft's ability to manage services at scale.

Alongside a global fail to a sub-component of Compute, the Azure cloud's Website feature also reported a global problem with 'FTP data access' which began at 7PM UTC, suggesting a cascading fail from some part of the problem that downed Swap Deployment.

The antithesis of cloud computing is a problem cropping up that affects all regions simultaneously, and yet this marks the second time in under a year that Microsoft has had a concurrent global fail.

Last time we had a Blue Sky of Death it was due to a lapsed security certificate which downed all worldwide Windows Azure storage services. This time a much more minor component of the cloud has gone down, but the fact it has failed globally is a severe indictment against the partitioning policies Microsoft may have put in place. ®

Email delivery: 4 steps to get more email to the inbox

Drive in Google Glass, get a ticket

(CNN) -- In what might be a first, a woman in California received a traffic ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving.

Cecilia Abadie was pulled over for speeding on Tuesday in San Diego and given an additional citation for driving while wearing her Google Glass. The officer considered the head-mounted display a monitor that was visible to the driver. Shocked, Abadie posted a copy of the ticket on Google+.

Traffic laws vary state by state, but many now have broad distracted-driving laws or bans on certain monitors that could easily apply to Google Glass.

The California law cited in Abadie's case is meant to prevent people from watching television while driving. V C 27602 prohibits televisions and similar monitors from being turned on and facing the driver. There are exceptions for GPS and mapping tools and screens that display camera feeds to help the driver navigate. If a device has a safety feature that limits its display to approved uses while driving, it can be allowed.

'I think the law is broad enough to say it violates the law,' said San Diego attorney Mitchell Mehdy, also known as 'Mr. Ticket.' Mehdy has been working in traffic law for 25 years and said this is the first case he's heard of involving Google Glass.

Abadie says her Google Glass was not turned on when she was pulled over, and that the officer said the screen was blocking her view. The Google Glass display is located slightly above the right eye, not directly in front of the eye.

Google does warn users about running afoul of traffic laws in its Google Glass FAQ: 'Most states have passed laws limiting the use of mobile devices while driving any motor vehicle, and most states post those rules on their department of motor vehicles websites. Read up and follow the law!'

However, in another section on navigation, it says Glass can give turn-by-turn directions, 'whether you're on a bike, in a car, taking the subway, or going by foot.'

Glass fans defended the technology in comments on Abadie's post, saying that a voice-activated screen close to the eye could actually be safer than trying to check a smartphone or other monitor while driving.

'Glass is far safer than any other means of information delivery. It is out of your view and not distracting,' said Aaron Kasten, who compared it to checking speed and other information on a car's dashboard, which requires taking your eyes off of the road.

The turn-by-turn directions on Glass can be turned on with a voice command. The display will show a map view, but for extra safety the screen can be turned off while driving so there's only voice navigation.

A Google Glass spokesperson didn't address the ticket directly but emphasized responsible Google Glass usage, saying, 'As we make clear in our help center, Explorers should always use Glass responsibly and put their safety and the safety of others first. More broadly, Glass is built to connect you more with the world around you, not distract you from it.'

Abadie could take the case to court and try to get the Google Glass portion of the ticket dismissed.

'How can this officer prove that this display was being activated or was actually on at the time and what kind of signal she's getting?' said Mehdy.

State laws are always adapting to new technology, and Google Glass is still a somewhat rare sighting. The device is only available as part of a beta program and is not yet sold commercially. According to Mehdy, new technology is a tempting target for law enforcement looking for new ways to bring in money.

'There's a wealth of revenue to be generated from technology. The traffic law enforcement is coming and saying wow, we've got this new incredible device and we want our piece too,' said Mehdy. With a mandatory minimum fine in California is $162, this is just the beginning of more tickets for Google Glass wearers according to Mehdy.

Law enforcement is increasingly enforcing distracted driving laws. During the month of April, there were more that 57,000 distracted driving tickets issued in California as part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Facebook Admits Teen Use May Be Declining

Many have claimed that Facebook's hold on the teenage demographic has been slipping. Facebook's earnings call on Wednesday did nothing to squelch these claims.

Facebook CFO David Ebersman said that while monitoring teen usage is a challenge, daily use among some may be declining.

'Youth usage among U.S. teens was stable overall from Q2 to Q3, but we did see a decrease in daily users partly among younger teens,' Ebersman said.

Ebersman's definition of 'younger teens' is unclear, as Facebook does not break out its user total by age group. But the comment does speak to the challenge Facebook has faced in retaining the attention of young consumers who are using other social sites like Snapchat, Twitter and even its own Instagram.

Younger teens may refer to Facebook users between 13 and 17 years old, an age group that Facebook has spent time focusing on in recent weeks.

Two weeks ago, Facebook changed its policy to allow teenagers in that age demographic to post publicly on the site. Previously, teens 13-17 could only share with friends and friends of friends, but now they can share with any users on Facebook.

'Teens are among the savviest people using of social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard,' Facebook wrote in a blog post about the change. 'While only a small fraction of teens using Facebook might choose to post publicly, this update now gives them the choice to share more broadly, just like on other social media services.'

Facebook's stock was up by more than 15% after hours following the earnings release, but dipped after the comment about teens. It's now flat.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.Image: OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images

New cybersecurity report from Microsoft details risks of running unsupported ...

REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 29, 2013 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- On Tuesday, Microsoft Corp. released its Security Intelligence Report volume 15, which analyzes threat intelligence from more than 1 billion systems worldwide to provide in-depth perspectives on exploits, vulnerabilities and malware to help customers manage risk. Among other intelligence, the report examines the security risk that consumers and businesses face when using unsupported operating systems and software and looks at the implications of using Windows XP once support, including security updates, ends April 8, 2014. In addition, new telemetry compares the security of modern operating systems such as Windows 8 with older operating systems such as Windows XP that, according to StatCounter, make up approximately 21 percent of operating systems used today.

The report found these top three worldwide threats for those running Windows XP:

-- Sality. Malware family that can steal personal information and lower a PC's security settings.

-- Ramnit. Malware that infects Windows executable files, Microsoft Office files and HTML files.

-- Vobfus. Family of worms that can download other malware onto a PC; it can be downloaded by other malware or spread via removable drives, such as USB flash drives.

The report found that in the first half of 2013, nearly 17 percent of computers worldwide running up-to-date, real-time security products from Microsoft encountered malware. Although Windows 8 encountered a similar amount of malware as Windows XP, computers running Windows XP were six times more likely to actually be infected with those threats.

'The data help illustrate the positive impact that security innovations in newer operating systems are having. Modern operating systems such as Windows 8 include advanced security technologies that are specifically designed to make it harder, more complex, more expensive and, therefore, less appealing for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities,' said Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing.

Rains added that once security updates for Windows XP stop on April 8, 2014, security risks associated with continuing to use the outdated software will increase as cybercriminals seek to exploit newly discovered vulnerabilities. The last version of Windows XP to go out of support was Service Pack 2. In the two years following, malware infections jumped 66 percent when compared with Windows XP SP3, the version for which support ends next year.

'The importance of upgrading from Windows XP cannot be overstated,' Rains said. 'We truly want people to understand the risks of running Windows XP after support ends and to recognize the security benefits of upgrading to a more modern operating system -- one that includes the latest in security innovations, provides ongoing support and can in turn better protect them.'

Those wanting to download and learn more about the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report findings should visit

Microsoft releases its Security Intelligence Report twice a year to inform the public about the most prevalent global and regional threats so they can better protect themselves and their organizations. Volume 15 of the report includes new data from the first half of 2013.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq 'MSFT') is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

SOURCE Microsoft Corp.

Copyright (C) 2013 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

4K Output for PS4 Games Isn't "Currently Supported"; No Launch Games are 3D ...

As we're just over two weeks away from the PlayStation 4 launch on November 15th in the United States and Canada, Sony has decided to release a Mega PS4 FAQ. Since it can be rather daunting and contains so much information, we'll be breaking the important information we've yet to cover fully into separate posts, hopefully making finding what you need a little easier.

Looking at screen resolution, the PlayStation 4 will support 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p via HDMI output. Additionally, the PS4 doesn't support analog video or audio output (HDMI handles both), with the system also able to output 5.1 or 7.1 audio via Digital Out (optical).

When it comes to 4K resolution output, Sony is considering it at the moment for still images and movies, but when it comes to games, 'PS4 does not currently support 4K output.'

Seemingly debunking the listing for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag on the PlayStation Store, the PS4 will 'technically' support 3D gameplay at launch, but there are no currently 3D compatible launch games.

Finally, when you change TVs with the PS4, you do not need to 'reset' your video settings, as you do on PS3.

Do you hope they add 4K support for games at some point in the PS4′s life? Let us know in the comments below.

NSA taps into Google, Yahoo data clouds, can collect data 'at will,' says Post

National Security Agency has secretly tapped private fiber-optic networks that connect Google's and Yahoo's worldwide data centers, giving it access to stored user data, Washington Post reports.

(Credit: The Washington Post)

The NSA has secretly tapped into the private fiber-optic networks that connect Google's and Yahoo's worldwide data centers, allowing the spy agency to suck up 'at will' metadata and content belonging to users of the companies' services, according to The Washington Post.

Under a program called MUSCULAR -- a joint project with British NSA counterpart the GCHQ -- the NSA takes advantage of overseas taps to intercept data flowing within Google's and Yahoo's geographically distributed data 'clouds,' where multiple copies of user data are stored unencrypted, the Post reports, citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, as well as unnamed 'knowledgeable officials.'

Such data might include, for example, information in Gmail accounts or Google Drive documents.

The hundreds of millions of user accounts that are thus accessible to the NSA include many belonging to Americans, but the offshore taps allow the agency to presume the users are foreign and to sidestep the restrictions placed on domestic surveillance by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Post reports.

In a statement to the Post, Google said it was 'troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers, and we are not aware of this activity.'

'We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping,' Google said, 'which is why we continue to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links.'

Yahoo told the Post: 'We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.'

And the paper said, 'White House officials and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, declined to confirm, deny or explain why the agency infiltrates Google and Yahoo networks overseas.'

Blog Politico reports that NSA Director Keith Alexander was asked about the Post report while speaking at a cybersecurity summit. Queried on whether the NSA tapped the data centers, Alexander replied, 'Not to my knowledge,' Politico said.

Ohh! The PRECIOUS! Give it to uss. We WANTS it: Shiny iThings coming in 2014

'Very, very unique', oh yes, Gollum. Now what was that about an Apple watch? 5 ways to reduce advertising network latency

Apple CEO Tim Cook has provided the clearest statements yet that in 2014 his company will launch products in tech categories it hasn't yet touched.

The iPhone supremo mentioned that time frame in answer to a question from an industry analyst about his earlier statements about new products, asked during a conference call after Apple announced its financial results for he final quarter of its fiscal 2013 on Monday.

'I've said that you'd see some exciting new products from us in the fall of this year and across 2014,' Cook replied. 'And I obviously stand by that, and you've seen a lot of things over the last couple of months.'

About new products in previously unexplored categories, Cook - surprise, surprise - offered no definite news. But he did strongly hint that such products are in the works.

'In terms of new product categories specifically,' he said, 'if you look at the skills that Apple has from hardware, software, and services, and an incredible app ecosystem, this set of things are very, very unique.'

As to the question of whether or not something can be 'very unique,' we'll let it pass. But Cook did emphasise that he believes Apple is in a position to expand its product offerings.

'I think that no one has a set of skills like this,' he said. 'And we obviously believe we can use our skills in building other great products that are in categories that represent areas where we do not participate today. And so we're pretty confident about that.'

What those new categories may be, of course, has been a matter of rampant speculation. There's the long-speculated iWatch that Jony Ive and his rumored team of 100 are said to be working on, one that will perhaps control your home. There's the even longer-rumored big-screen Apple television.

There are also rumors about new products in categories that a marketeer could deem 'new' but which industry-speak prefers to call 'adjacencies' - a 13-inch maxi-Pad and a Microsoftian keyboard cover for the iPad. There's even a patent application that Apple has filed that could be the basis for a 'refrigerator-magnet iPad'.

Whatever. There are two lessons that history has taught us about future Apple products: one, that Apple ain't gonna talk, and two, that there will be plenty more rumors to crop up before Cook, head marketing honcho Phil Schiller, or whomever bounds up upon some stage next year to introduce Apple's next 'stunning', 'amazing', and 'incredible' new bit of shiny-shiny. ®

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Adobe Hack Count Jumps to 38 Million Accounts

Early in October Adobe revealed that nearly 3 million user accounts had been compromised by hackers and some personal information may have been taken. Now company is revising that number and saying the actual number of hacked accounts is 38 million.

Adobe ID hack jumps up to 38 million accounts

Adobe's initial report said that user names and encrypted credit card information for 2.9 million users had been taken in the attack. Based on what the company knows now, it is saying Adobe IDs and encrypted passwords for 38 million users were taken.

'So far, our investigation has confirmed that the attackers obtained access to Adobe IDs and (what were at the time valid), encrypted passwords for approximately 38 million active users,' Adobe spokesperson Heather Edell said in a statement to CNET.

The company said it has already notified all of the affected users by email, and is now looking into the number of inactive and text user accounts the hackers were able to tap into.

Adobe is working with law enforcement officials on the investigation into the hack, and has also said hackers made off with the source code for several of its products.

Adobe is hosting a security alert webpage where users can reset their passwords and get some more answers about the security breach. Even if Adobe hasn't contacted you, it's still a good idea to change your Adobe ID password as a security precaution.

Dell users: Latitude 6430u laptops 'smell of cat urine'

A number of Dell users have complained that their Latitude 6430u Ultrabooks 'smell of cat urine'.

Dell engineers have ruled out biological contamination, and said the smell was not a health hazard.

The problem lay in the manufacturing process, which has now been changed, the company said.

Users affected by the issue should send their laptop back for replacement parts.

Customers first raised the issue with Dell's high-end business laptop in June.

'A few weeks ago I got a new Lattitude 6430u for work,' one user called Three West complained on Dell's hardware support forum. 'The machine is great, but it smells as if it was assembled near a tomcat's litter box. It is truly awful!'

Another customer, Hoteca, said: 'I thought for sure one of my cats sprayed it, but there was something faulty with it so I had it replaced. The next one had the same exact issue. It's embarrassing taking it to clients because it smells so bad.'

Other users said they had blamed their cats for the smell.

Dell support technicians initially suggested that users should clean the laptop air vents with compressed air, but users complained that the odour persisted.

In September, a customer known as Malioz raised a concern that the cause of the problem could be to do with the polymer used in the laptop plastics, and asked whether chemicals causing the smell could be a health hazard.

Replacement parts

After an investigation, Dell concluded that the odour was not hazardous to health.

'The smell is not related to cat urine or any other type of biological contaminant, nor is it a health hazard,' Dell support technician SteveB said.

The problem was related to the manufacturing process, and had now been resolved, he said.

'If you order an E6430u now, it will not have the issue.'

Dell recommended that users should send affected laptops away for a replacement palm rest and keyboard.

News of the issue spread after a link to the thread was posted to discussion site Reddit.

Google+ Gets New Photo Search and Backup Options

With over 1.5 BILLION photos uploaded to Google+ every week, we need a way to help us organize those many pictures. Google's Senior Vice President of Social, Victor Gundotra, made it clear that photography was a major area of concern for Google+ and their latest update. He likened photography as a journal of our lives - we take our smartphone/camera with us everywhere that we go, making it so easy to snap a picture, and many do it to the tune of a 100 photos a day. However, this is should be a journey of fun and not work when it comes to saving, backing up those photos, searching for them and finding the pictures that really matter to you.

Luckily for us, Google+ has incorporated many new features to make the taking, storing, sorting, and searching of our photos as easy as possible, and one thing that Vic stressed was that by default Google+ will upload your photos in full-resolution so that years down the road, you can enjoy your pictures the way they were meant to be viewed, with no degradation at all.

Below is an image of 683 photos that Vic took during his New Zealand vacation. He said he felt like he needed another vacation after sorting through all of his pictures to find the best ones to keep - well, Google+ now will sort through them for you, taking out the duplicates, blurry, or badly exposed photos so that your viewing list can be shortened.

The group of 683 photos was reduced down to a manageable number, making it much easier to sort and pick out your favorite pictures.

Another feature in the upgrade will be the ability to have your photos uploaded to Google+ automatically, even if your application is closed, that way you will never miss uploading a picture. Google has also incorporated what they call 'deep learning' into the Google+ photo search feature, allowing even untagged photos to be recalled by using words such as, 'beach,' 'sunsets,' or 'snow,' and Google+ will display only those photos for you to view. Google is adding 1,000 more terms to improve their search feature (see below).

There are so many features to help with your photos in Google+ and they really improved the editing features by incorporating Google's newly acquired Snapseed into Google+, and for more about that read our earlier article. These announcements today are very exciting for the future of Google+. Let us know in the comments or on Google+ what you think about the updates coming to Google+.

I am Pittsburgh born and raised except for a 21-year detour through the VA/DC area. I have loved technology and gadgets my entire life, especially mobile devices. I have loved all things Android since I purchased my Motorola Bionic on the day it was release. I now sport a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 that you would have to pry out of my cold, dead hands! I love the excitement each day of what new Android devices will be released, and then I get write about those devices...does life get any better?

Intel to ditch Web TV project, hand it over to Verizon

The company is in late-stage negotiations with Verizon, according to a new report. The hand-off comes after reports have suggested Intel will roll out the service next year.

(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)

Intel's long journey toward the creation of a television service might come to an end.

The chipmaker is in late-stage talks with Verizon to hand over control to its Intel Media business, All Things Digital reported on Wednesday, citing people who claim to have knowledge of its plans. Intel Media is the unit that is charged with delivering a Web-based subscription TV service.

According to All Things Digital, its sources are unclear whether Intel would hand over the entire TV operation or if it would hold on to a piece. Verizon already offers a TV service through its FiOS unit, making it a seemingly reasonable partnership, should the companies go in that direction.

Intel announced earlier this year that it plans to launch hardware and software that allows for live TV, on-demand, and streaming content viewing. The offering, dubbed OnCue, was supposed to be available this year, but has reportedly faced hurdles securing content deals. Last month, Intel pushed the product launch to 2014.

Neither Verizon nor Intel have commented on their alleged plans to ink a deal. CNET has, however, contacted Intel for comment on the All Things Digital report and will update this story when we have more information.

3DS hardware sales decline year

Sales of the Nintendo 3DS in the first half of 2013 have declined compared to the same period in 2012.

As part of its recent financial report, Nintendo has revealed that 3DS sales for the first half of the financial year (April-September 2013) totalled 3.89 million worldwide, compared to 5.06 million in the same period last year.

Within this, however, the 3DS XL system has increased in sales - from 2.1 million to 2.9 million - suggesting a decline on the standard 3DS system is responsible for the overall drop.

Software sales have also undergone a sharp increase, with 27 million games sold in the first half of 2013 compared to 19 million in the first half of the previous year. Animal Crossing: New Leaf alone has sold 2.5 million copies worldwide during the six months, Nintendo said. When including its pre-April sales, the popular sim game has now sold 6.4 million units in total.

To date, Nintendo has sold 34.98 million 3DS systems globally, of which about a third are the larger 3DS XL model. Lifetime software sales for 3DS are at 122 million.

Nintendo remains optimistic in its forecast for the entire year, predicting that 3DS hardware sales from April 2013 to March 2014 will reach 18 million.

The company will expect the recent release of Pokemon X & Y and its cheaper Nintendo 2DS hardware to help it reach this forecast. As both were released in October 2013, their sales are not counted in the above figures, though Nintendo reports that Pokemon had 'extremely strong initial sales'.

In the six months since April, Nintendo made $2 billion in sales, though costs and international market rates left it with a net profit of $6.1 million. The improvement is dramatic - in the same period last year, the company lost $285 million,

iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5 head to head review

GADGET DESIGNER Apple's iPhone 5S is the firm's latest flagship smartphone, which offers various feature updates or additions to try and tempt iPhone 5 users to upgrade. We've put the iPhone 5S up against its predecessor to see if it's worth upgrading from last year's premium model to its 2013 sibling.

The iPhone 5S, shown above left, houses the new dual flash

Design and buildThe iPhone 5S is pretty much identical to the iPhone 5 in terms of design and build. Both iPhones have an aluminium case and glass screen, retaining the premium look and feel for the latest model so you're not faced with downgrading to the plastic iPhone 5C. Both devices are also comfortable to hold, with the same thin and light build, measuring 124x59x7.6mm and weighing only 112g.

On the outside, both iPhones feature a power button, with a SIM card slot on the right, a ringer on/off button and volume controls on the left, and the plus button can also be used to take pictures from the Camera app. There's a headphone jack, microphone, Lightning charging port and speaker on the bottom of the device. On the back, you'll notice the flash has changed and is now egg shaped rather than circular. This houses the new dual flash, which Apple has added to improve image quality in poor lighting conditions.

The only other difference is the home button, which stays in the same position and retains its circular shape, but it is now edged in stainless steel with a sapphire crystal. This change is due to the new home button housing Apple's new fingerprint scanner technology, which we'll come to later.

The iPhone 5S, shown above left, has a new home button

The only other difference in design is colour choice. While the iPhone 5 was only available in black or white, the iPhone 5S is available in three colour options: with gold or silver backs and a white front, or with a grey back and a black front. The gold option will no doubt prove popular with those posers out there who like a bit of bling in their lives.

Winner: Draw, unless you're from Essex, in which case the gold option edges it for the iPhone 5S

DisplayThe iPhone 5S and iPhone 5 both feature a 4in Retina display with a 1136x640 resolution at 326ppi. While the iPhone 5S doesn't offer an upgrade in terms of display, the iPhone smartphone screen is still a high quality display. The colours on webpages, games and video are bright and vibrant, while text is clean and crisp. The high quality in-plane switching (IPS) panel is also evenly lit and the impressive viewing angles mean you can see what's on screen whether looking down from the top, up from the bottom, front or side on, or anywhere in between.

However, some iPhone 5S users or those who have upgraded their iPhone 5 to iOS 7 have complained about the new fonts, which are thinner and smaller, and the removal of boxes around menus, making text hard to read for those with visual impairments. So if you've got an iPhone 5 still running iOS 6, you might want to hold off upgrading if you're put off by the new pared-down interface.

Winner: Draw

Next: Security.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 and 10: Unique design on a budget (hands on)

Summary: Lenovo is heating up the Android tablet space with the introduction of two tablets aimed directly at the Nexus line. The Yoga Tablet comes in 8 and 10-inch models just like the similarly priced Nexus slates.

L-R: Yoga Tablet 8, Yoga Tablet 10 (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Lenovo unveiled the Yoga Tablet in an online event featuring Ashton Kutcher in its new BetterWay campaign. There are actually two Yoga Tablets, an 8-inch model and a 10-inch slate. Both tablets are essentially the same with the exception of the size. We've had both models in our hands for a short period and are impressed with what you get for the price.

When you unbox either Yoga Tablet you are immediately impressed with a hardware design that is unique in the crowded Android field. Each tablet has a cylindrical grip on one side of the device that houses a battery that Lenovo claims gets better life than any tablet on the market.

Yoga Tablets stacked (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The cylinder also has an integrated stand that folds out to support the tablet in two modes, a low profile typing mode and an upgright configuration for watching video. The stand can support the tablet in various viewing angles to fit the situation. The short stand is made of aluminum and supports the tablet securely.

Yoga Tablet 8 and 10 hardware specs as reviewed:

Both the Yoga Tablet 8 and 10 are very thin on the side opposite the cylinder grip. Surprisingly, the tablets are comfortably balanced when holding either the grip or the other side.

Choosing to design the Yogas with the cylinder grip allowed Lenovo to include unique features:

The only port on the Yogas is a microUSB port that is used for charging the tablets. It can also be used to charge other devices while the tablet is being used.

Yoga Tablets in tilt mode (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Lenovo has included Dolby technology, including an app to tailor audio to the user's taste, to drive the stereo speakers on the front of the cylinder grip. These speakers sound fantastic, easily the best we've heard on any tablet. The Dolby app can optimize the audio for movies, audio, and for voices.

Yoga Tablet stereo speakers


Yoga Tablet 8 (Image: Lenovo)

The MTK processor used in the Yogas is intended as a budget chipset for lower-cost devices, but in our testing it's a very good performer. Tablet operation sees things happen very quickly, and can rival that of premium tablets.

Two different Galaxy Note 8.0 owners were impressed with how fast the Yogas run apps and how fluid the interface moves. One Nexus 7 (original model) owner also noted how fast the operation is on the Yogas.

After a day of heavy testing, both the Yoga Tablet 8 and Yoga Tablet 10 have impressed us with the speed and performance of this hardware configuration. This testing did not include gaming, which may be a different story.

Battery life

The ability to use bigger batteries in the Yogas due to the cylindrical housing gives both tablets impressive battery life. According to Lenovo, web surfing can be done for 11.2/13 hours on the Yoga Tablet 10 and 8, respectively. The batteries will last a whopping 12.2/14.5 hours on the 10 and 8 inch tablets, respectively. Reading ebooks with the backlighting turned down to 20 percent sees the batteries last for 19/21 hours for the Yoga 10 and 8, respectively.

Optional cases

Yoga Tablet 10 Keyboard Cover (Image: Lenovo)

The unique shape of the Yoga Tablets requires special cases from Lenovo. We have tested a sleeve case for each of the Yogas. These protective covers are $29.99 each and are fitted for each Yoga. There is a magnetic flap that seals the tablet inside the case for transport. This case is available in several colors.

The Yoga Tablet 10 has a keyboard cover (not tested) that has a keyboard and trackpad for use with the bigger tablet. It is priced at $69.99 from Lenovo.


Lenovo has taken aim at the Nexus tablets with the Yoga Tablet 8 and Yoga Tablet 10. The Yogas have a design like no other Android tablet currently available, which comes with advantages over the competition. Long battery life, ergonomic design, and a reasonable price point will keep the competitors up at night.

Our testing of both the Yoga Tablet 8 and 10 has impressed us. The outstanding build quality is better than any Samsung tablet we have used, and the low price point makes these tablets a good value proposition.

Yoga Tablet ports and features (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Related stories:

'Titanfall' Exclusive To Microsoft, Definitely Not Coming To PS4

There's a rumor going around that Titanfall, EA's upcoming mech shooter from Respawn Entertainment, is a timed exclusive for Microsoft platforms, and will eventually make its way to the PS4. That rumor, EA emphasized during its earnings call, is not true. Titanfall is a pure exclusive for Xbox One, Windows and Xbox 360, and will not be heading to Sony's new system.

Some thought that Microsoft's Major Nelson had dodged the question in a Reddit AMA, leading to some people thinking the game wasn't as exclusive as it seemed. In reality, it was just because a Microsoft representative can't speak definitively for another company.

'As far as being an exclusive that's really a question for Titanfall,' he had said. 'I'm not worried about it though.'

Microsoft likely paid some good money to keep this game on its own systems. Making modern games is a costly endeavor, and third-party developers typically need to cast a wide net to recoup expenses. Limiting your audience without good reason is not something that a developer needs on its first outing, so we can assume that Respawn has a pretty good reason.

If that is the case, it's money well spent. Exclusives are far and away the biggest difference between the Xbox One and the PS4 and, so far, nothing is jumping off of virtual store shelves screaming 'buy me.' Titanfall, however, seems to be generating the most hype of any next-gen title, and PS4 doesn't have anything to match it yet. Xbox is well-established as a system for shooters, both due to Xbox Live and its controller, and getting exclusivity on the first big, new shooter to hit next-gen is a major win. I don't see Killzone: Shadow Fall generating the same sort of excitement.

In Titanfall, players control soldiers who can either jump around and fight it out on their won, or jump into huge, nimble mechs that behave like slightly less agile versions of the little guys. It's fast paced, vertically dense and from what I've seen, capable of producing some real moments of triumph when you go on a succesful run in a mech or take one down from the ground. It's got the pedigree of the shooter legends behind Call of Duty - if Respawn can make lightning strike twice, it gives the Xbox One a serious feather in its cap.

Xbox One Games

Google takes secrecy to new heights with mystery barge

Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam

A logo of Google's 'Hummingbird' search algorithm is pictured at the garage where the company was founded on Google's 15th anniversary in Menlo Park, California September 26, 2013.

At least one Coast Guard employee has had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the Internet giant, said Barry Bena, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman. Another person who would only identify himself as an inspector for a California government agency had to do the same.

Moored in the shadow of the Bay Bridge off of Treasure Island, a former military base, the nondescript barge is stacked several stories high with white shipping containers, and sprouts what appear to be antennas on top. The hulking structure, half shrouded in scaffolding, has stirred intense speculation in the Bay Area since reports of its existence surfaced late last week.

Technology website CNET theorized that the vessel might be a floating data center that will house banks of computers. Local TV station KPIX said the barge is intended to serve as a floating retail store for Google's 'Glass' wearable computer device - although its external appearance, at least thus far, doesn't suggest such a purpose.

Adding to the mystery, a second similar barge was recently spotted in Portland, Maine, and is also registered to By and Large LLC, according to local media reports.

The company itself is keeping mum, refusing even to acknowledge its affiliation with the vessels.

Secrecy is a standard business practice in Silicon Valley, where technology companies such as Apple Inc go to great lengths to keep their latest gadgets under wraps and a constellation of blogs compete to reveal highly prized details.

But the concealment effort surrounding the barge is in another league. Chain-link fences and security guards encircle a pier and a couple of nearby buildings on the island, which sits between San Francisco and Oakland.

A California state inspector, who said he had business in the hangar-like Building 3 where some of the early construction took place, told Reuters he had to surrender his mobile phone and sign a confidentiality agreement in order to enter.

Bob Jessup, a construction company superintendent who works in a building across the street, said Google spent the past year working on the project. He said they fenced off a wide area and brought in at least 40 welders a day, who worked around the clock and refused to say a word.

'They wouldn't give up any of the information,' Jessup said. 'It was a phenomenal production. None of them would tell us anything.'

He said they worked on the inside and the outside of the shipping containers, outfitting them with electronics - 'very hush hush' - and then loaded them onto the barge with a crane. They put sides on the containers, with glass windows in some of them. They had to weld them very precisely so they could stack, Jessup recounted.

Jessup said he could not imagine that Google would try to use the floating vessel as a retail outlet. 'Who's going to want to climb up in there?' he asked. 'It's really ugly.'

The vessel is registered to a company called By and Large LLC, and some nearby property on Treasure Island has been subleased to the same firm. Representatives of the firm could not be reached for comment.

Larry Goldzband, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, told Reuters his agency has had several meetings with Google officials about the barge in recent months. Yet the company provided little information other than telling him that the vessel will be used for 'general technology purposes,' he said.

Google 'could not give us a specific plan of any kind,' not even whether they intended the barge to move or stay in one place, Goldzband said. If the barge remains in place for an extended period of time after its construction is completed, it will require a permit from the BCDC, he said.

'We've asked counsel to get us as much information as soon as they can, so that we can continue the discussion,' Goldzband said, referring to Google's law firm.

(Reporting by Ronnie Cohen and Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Edwin Chan, Jonathan Weber and Lisa Shumaker)

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