Twitter hacked, 250k passwords compromised

February 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Internet, News

In their recent blog post Twitter announced that they were recently a victim of a hacking incident. An unusual pattern was detected which led them to identifying unauthorized access to user data.

“This attack was not the work of amateurs, and we do not believe it was an isolated incident. The attackers were extremely sophisticated, and we believe other companies and organizations have also been recently similarly attacked. ”

Apparently 250,000 user accounts were compromised wherein the attackers may have had access to limited user information, including encrypted version of account passwords and associated email addresses. Since the passwords were still salted/ encrypted, no real harm would be done immediately.

For each one of these compromised accounts, Twitter has reset the password and sent a new password recovery email to each account. If your account was one of the unfortunate one’s to get accessed, Twitter will have recently sent you an email requesting a reset, or will do soon.

Twitter suggests to maintain a 10-character password with varying characters, numbers, etc. and, interestingly, disabling JAVA in your browser.

Nvidia Titan to outperform GTX 690; out next month?

February 1, 2013 by  
Filed under News

While everyone is waiting patiently for AMD’s 8000 series and Nvidia’s revamped GTX 700 series to show up in the market somewhere around June this year, there’s a large gap left in the market for people who want a new bleeding edge graphics card.

 

The Nvidia Titan is one such card which was supposedly leaked last week on various forums around the net. Originally thought to be the new GTX 780, the Nvidia Titan is apparently a standalone card with no numerical value attached to its name. This single GPU card was though to have come close to the performance of Nvidia’s current flagship dual-GPU card, the GTX 690. However, according to Tom’s Hardware, the Titan actually outperforms the GTX 690 by healthy margin. Where a single GTX 690 posts around X6000 score in 3DMark 11, the new Titan GPU scores upwards of X7000.

Rumored to be available for retail in a limited quantity for $899 (AED 3,600) the Nvidia Titan is supposedly out by the end of February and will be based on the GK110 architecture with 6GB RAM.

2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL Review

January 31, 2013 by  
Filed under Car Tech, Reviews, Spotlight

Exterior

The Nissan Altima is one of the most popular cars from Nissan not only in our region, but worldwide as well. As cars in this segment normally are, competing with the likes of Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, it’s a mid-sized sedan bringing over Nissan’s personality of sharp design and focus on performance with award winning engines.

With the new Altima, Nissan seems to have asked their design team to take the existing Maxima, make it slightly smaller in size with more emphasis on curves. The result is a chunky looking saloon that looks like it’s trying too hard to please. Certainly an improvement over the previous generations rather bland looks, though.

It seems like as Toyota and Honda are going for sharp edges with aggressive angles, Nissan seems to be going the opposite direction with flowing lines and muscular outlooks.

Interior

Inside the new Altima is appropriately spacious with decent legroom for a car in this segment. Our tester came with beige leather seats and upholstery with silver plastic and wood grain trim.

On the center console the new Altima has had a much needed update thanks mainly to the 7-inch navigation system. The screen itself is crisp and very responsive, with one of the fastest Bluetooth connections to my iPhone 5 I’ve seen in any car recently. Paired with the Bose 9-speaker system, you have some really good audio pumping into the fairly quiet interior of the Altima.

The steering wheel has a full navigation buttons for the system display (Advanced Driver Assist Display) within the speedometer. Media controls along with cruise control are also thrown in for good measure. Driver assists such as blind spot warning and lane departure are clearly visible and easily adjustable on the Advanced Driver Assist Display.

 The overall interior of the new Altima is very nice, at least in the range topping 3.5SL, brining it very close to its Infiniti cousins. The general quietness of the cabin, relatively spacious legroom and pleasantly designed panels and buttons make a powerful statement as to how far mid-sized Japanese family sedans have come.

The Drive

Our Altima was equipped with Nissan’s legendary VQ35DE engine, so with 3.5-liters this V6 produces 270HP and 350Nm torque. The horsepower is reduced a little to keep the Altima 3.5SL from undercutting Nissan’s more expensive VQ35 equipped cars, such as the Maxima which makes 290HP.

As with the previous generation Altima, and most Nissan family friendly cars for that matter, the new Altima comes equipped with a CVT transmission. On the 3.5 SL we get the paddle shifts behind the steering wheel which emulates a 7-speed gearbox.

I must say that while I’m not a fan of CVT transmissions in general, the VQ35DE does a great job of porting the torque quite nicely through the RPM range. In particular city driving with traffic the CVT performs beautifully as the acceleration feels very controlled and smooth. If ever I wanted to drive a bit enthusiastically, simply putting the gear into Sports mode did the job adequately. Of course, the paddle shifts do add that feeling of gears changing.

All said and done, the CVT doesn’t hinder the performance of the Altima 3.5 SL, as sporty driving is only a hand-flip away. Oh, and a full tank with completely city driving will give you almost 600km.

So the drive is very subdued, with comfy (but not overly cushioned) suspension, lack of road noise and general sense of speed when you need it at an, admittedly hard, push of the foot. My only complaint is the amount of body roll, although it’s not unusual in this segment.

With great fuel economy, nice interior, updated driver assists and navigation system, plus a bold design, the new 2013 Nissan Altima is a compelling buy and excellent value for money if you’re looking for a new family sedan.

BlackBerry Q10 announced, out soon

January 31, 2013 by  
Filed under News, Smartphones

Yesterday’s BlackBerry conference wasn’t just to show off the new Z10 handset or a change in the name or the 70k apps it’s launching with, there was another handset there too. The BlackBerry Q10 is what traditional BlackBerry users will love since it’s their new BB10 smartphone with full QWERTY keyboard.

The form factor looks similar to the current Bold 9900, although it doesn’t seem to have that high-end feel. Still, with a 3.1-inch touchscreen and a resolution of 720 x 720, the Q10 looks very promising with a 350 ppi. It has the same dual-core 1.5GHz processor and 2GB RAM, the Q10 promises to be just as great an experience as the Z10, only it has the added benefit of a physical keyboard.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYKFpEOSyUQ&w=550]

Sadly there’s going to be a slight delay for the Q10, with the handset expected to hit our region somewhere around April. Still, the Z10 is out on February 10th in the UAE retailing for AED 2,599 without contract.

ZOTAC ZBOX ID83 Plus

January 30, 2013 by  
Filed under News, Product of the Week

Experience unprecedented CPU performance from a mini-PC with the compact ZOTAC ZBOX ID83 Plus and Intel’s 3rd-Generation Core processor. Equipped with an Intel Core i3 3120M processor with dual-cores, Intel HyperThreading and Intel Virtualization technology, the ZOTAC ZBOX ID83 Plus delivers outstanding multi-tasking performance and maximal manageability, security and flexibility with virtualized operating systems.

Intel HD Graphics 4000 graphics processing with Intel Clear Video HD and Intel InTru 3D technology transforms the ZOTAC ZBOX ID83 Plus into a multimedia powerhouse with hardware-accelerated HD video playback and stereoscopic 3D video output via HDMI 1.4a. Intel Quick Sync video technology enables lightning-fast video transcoding capabilities with supported software on the ZOTAC ZBOX ID83 Plus for quick conversion of various video formats for playback on portable media players, tablets and other mobile devices.

Check out our review to see what makes the ZBOX ID83 Plus so amazing.

Microsoft Surface Pro only gives 23GB out of 64GB storage

January 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Microsoft, News, Tablets

Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Pro tablets seem to be having a bit of a storage crisis. Apparently the 64GB version will only come with 23GB of free hard drive space, while the 128GB version comes with 83GB free.

The reason, according to Microsoft, is that 41GB will be used up for pre-loaded apps (commonly known as bloatware found in laptops) as well as a recovery partition. Talking to The Verge, Microsoft says that by ”creating a backup bootable USB and deleting the recovery partition,” users will be able to free up a lot of hard drive space.

Add to the empty space created by deleting the recovery partition is a microSDXC slot which should help increase storage space by a large margin, the Surface Pro’s storage issues aren’t as bad as they appear to be at first sight.  Still, by not providing a recovery USB along with the Surface Pro, Microsoft has created a very bad image for an out-of-the-box experience of their upcoming tablets.

Google+ overtakes Twitter as second highest social networking platform

January 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Google, Industry, News, Software

When Google+ first launched in June 2011, the whole world was skeptical about it, what with Facebook being at an all time high and showing no signs of decline, and Twitter just kept on increasing in popularity. According to a new research done by Global Web Index, Google+ is now the second most used social networking service, followed closely by YouTube and  Twitter.

To accurately determine the active users, GWI asked their respondents on which social networking sites they have an account on, and whether any posts have been made on them in the past month. Talking about numbers, as of December 2012 Google+ is estimated to have 343 million users worldwide, with Youtube approximating to 280 million, followed a hairs breath away by Twitter. Still, Facebook stays well in the lead with 693 million users.

Despite the large market share, Google+ also had a respectable growth of 27% active users, with Twitter blowing past with 40% increase. Facebook also saw growth, 33%  globally, despite the so called “Facebook fatigue”, with a total install base close to 1 billion registered users.

Let’s see how 2013 will shape things up, especially with a new revamp of MySpace.

Toshiba Satellite U940 Ultrabook Review

January 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews, Spotlight, Ultrabooks

Toshiba has been making some pretty slick ultrabooks since the format was introduced a year and a half back. They also like to dabble in some unorthodox designs, their recent ultra-widescreen Satellite U840W ultrabook being a good example. Today, though, I’ll be looking at the Toshiba Satellite U940 ultrabook which promises to bring some decently high-end hardware (by ultrabook standards) in a very reasonably priced package.

Build

On the outside our U940 ultrabook came in a nice silver blue plastic body that was pretty thin, 1.8cm to be precise, although it does taper off from the front and the rear. There is one USB 2.0 port on the left, two USB 3.0 on the right along with a LAN port, and HDMI port, and card reader and 3.55 audio jacks as well as the power plug. On the back we have an easily accessible panel to upgrade the hard drive and RAM.

Open inside and we have a 14-inch glossy screen, a very nicely laid out backlit keyboard that works like a charm, however the clicky plastic mousepad leaves a lot to be desired. Of all the things in the Toshiba Satellite U940, the mousepad is the weakest link. Sure, the plastic body doesn’t feel as sharp or tight as other high0end ultrabooks, especially those which are made from aluminum, but it’s decently sturdy.

Specs

Inside the U940 packs a low-voltage dual-core Intel Core i5-3317U @ 1.70GHz, with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive with 16GB mSATA SSD for cache and most importantly an Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics card with 2GB dedicated RAM.  I’m told that in the new 2013 models hitting store shelves soon, the RAM is bumped to 6GB along with a 750GB HDD and 32GB SSD for cache.

Just on paper, the Toshiba U940 represents one of the best value ultrabooks in the market right now. Nothing comes close to giving you these specs in this form factor plus a backlit keyboard and a dedicated graphics card.

However, let’s see if the Toshiba Satellite U940 holds up against our benchmarks.

Benchmarks

For comparison we have the Samsung Series 5 ultrabook with the AMD A6-4455M dual-core CPU @ 2.1GHz and HD 7500G graphics card, while the ASUS Vivobook has an Intel Core i3-3217U CPU @ 1.8GHz and integrated Intel HD 4000 GPU. All ultrabooks cost roughly the same.

Gaming benchmarks are done at 1366×768 with Low preset for Battlefield 3 and Low settings for Guild Wars 2.

As you can see, the Toshiba Satellite U940 comes off as a decent all rounder thanks to the Core i5 processor and SSD cached hard drive. When it comes to games, the GT 630M does a very decent job on the perfectly mated 1366 x 768 resolution. For most current PC games that are still ported from consoles, the GT 630M should be able to handle medium settings with ease.

Heat & Noise

 

During normal operations there’s a slight whirring sound from the U940’s fans, going to full speed when playing games. The sound isn’t annoying, but if you can imagine a hair dryer being blown into a cushion, you’ll get the idea. It does get borderline uncomfortable to play games on the lap, but the top surface and palmrest area remains fairly cool.

Conclusion

There’s very little to fault with the Toshiba Satellite U940, because for its price, it does a lot of things right. If you’re in the market for a semi0gaming ultrabook, the Toshiba Satellite U940 should be at the top of your list.

Toshiba Satellite U940 Ultrabook

January 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Product of the Week

Designed for everyday productivity and entertainment, the Satellite U940 Ultrabook is a sleek alternative to your average laptop, delivering an ideal mix of portability, features and performance for less than you’d expect to pay for an Ultrabook.

Get the most from the Windows 8 experience and your software applications with a solid 3rd Generation Intel Core i5 processor, and enjoy excellent speed and storage with a SATA hard drive paired with SSD cache. Enjoy stereo speakers bolstered by SRS Premium Sound 3D technology. Then add in the long battery life rating, and you’ll have all the power you need for exciting entertainment and everyday productivity.

Check out our review to see what makes the Toshiba Satellite U940 such an amazing ultrabook.

H.265 (HEVC) video format finally approved

The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Video Coding Experts Group finally approved the successor to the H.264 video format, creatively called H.265 High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). As the name implies, H.265 has a massively efficient encoding process whereby the same quality as H.264 can be achieved with almost half the bitrate. What this means is that H.265 can support videos up to  8K UHD (7680 x 4320) and resolution up to 8192 x 4320 pixels.

Apart from giving us the ability to watch 8K UHD content at a reasonably low bitrate, one of the most obvious benefits is that HD content being streamed to smartphones and tablets will be a smooth process, i.e. no more buffering. You won’t have to settle for sub-HD resolutions to livestream conferences or even HD quality videos on a slower broadband connection.

Ultimately, though, the hardware that supports this codec will not come into mainstream media devices until 2014, so for now, all we can do is wait and hope for a clearer than reality future on our handheld devices.

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