AT&T Unite Hotspot Launches Feb. 8 for $0.99

AT&T announced today that its Sierra Wireless Unite 4G LTE hotspot will be available for just 99 cents – yes, you read that correctly – with a new two-year agreement. The Unite supports up to 10 connections at once, from various Wi-Fi-capable devices, and offers a 2.4-inch touchscreen display for keeping track of your data usage, battery life and more.

The Unite was first announced in early January and will launch on Sunday, Feb. 8.


iOS 6.1 Jailbreak Now Available

The iOS 6/6.1 jailbreak was just released by the Evad3rs team. We already knew it was coming this morning for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and the group said we could expect it at about noon eastern. It looks like they met that promise, because you can now download the tetherless jailbreak tool. It’s called “evasi0n,” specifically, and can be applied through Linux, OS X or a Windows-based machine (XP or higher).

The site seems to be expecting some issues, likely due to demand, so you may need to wait a bit before you can download the tool.


You Can Now Virtually Hike the Grand Canyon Thanks to Google Street View

Google’s efforts to Street View the Grand Canyon is finally available to view online. It in no way is an adequate replacement for actually going to one of the world’s most breathtaking works of nature, but it’ll have to do. Take a break, stock up on some water, and take a virtual hike past views like the Bright Angel Trail, the Colorado River and the Meteor Crater.


TicketMaster Dumps CAPTCHA Verification, When Will Others Follow Suit?


Maybe it’s a small victory, but I’m still cheering nonetheless: TicketMaster has ditched CAPTCHA for an easier verification solution from New York startup Solve Media.

Now, if only others would get a clue.

Developed at Carnegie Mellon University in 2000, CAPTCHA (“completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart”) has gone on to prominence as one of the most universally despised facets of modern life. While companies need to make sure users logging in or registering for accounts are genuine human-beings and not robots, these crazy symbols or stylized letters are just too clever for their own good. I bet they foil as many, if not more, actual people than the dreaded bots.

“It is generally speaking the one of the most hated pieces of user interaction on the web,” says user experience expert Aaron Young. “The major problem with them is that it’s not unusual for several attempts to be needed…so when people see them again on different websites they have negative expectations.”

Solve Media’s answer to the problem lies in banishing ridiculous phrases like “tormentis harlory” (isn’t that one of Dumbledore’s spells?) and using either more common language, such as “freezing temperatures,” or multiple choice questions, among other factors.

Honestly, anything’s better than guessing at a jumbled cacophony of pseudo-letters forming esoteric or altogether made-up words over and over until the system freezes you out. If it came down to it, I’d rather hook up a USB blood sampling kit to prove my humanity, just to be done with it. Luckily that may not be required, as TicketMaster’s test of Solve’s system is going pretty well.

Overall, TicketMaster users take an average of 14 seconds to pass CAPTCHA verification, but Solve’s system only takes them seven seconds to complete. The company reports higher levels of customer satisfaction, and as far as security goes, the results look positive.

Have you ever come across any crazy CAPTCHAs? Do you stick with it until you get it (or the system locks you out), or move on to a competitor with simpler verification?


Sony Fined $400,000 for the 2011 PlayStation Network Hack

Sony has received a slap on the wrist for its 2011 PlayStation Network security breach. A U.K. Based watchdog group called Information Commissioner’s Office, ironically abbreviated as ICO, has hit the Japanese electronics giant with a £250,000 (approx. $400,000 USD) fine.


Gears of War: Judgment Gets New Trailer, Includes Original Gears of War

The brand new trailer for Gears of War: Judgment has been dubbed “The Guts of Gears,” and it’s meant to deliver a bit of information and footage regarding what Microsoft is calling “the most intense and action-packed ‘Gears‘ campaign yet.”

The trailer introduces “declassifying challenges,” a new element in Judgment that will give gamers a new set of rules and mechanics to play by in the game’s campaign. Why? Because, I assume, this comes in an effort by Epic and People Can Fly to encourage players to play the game’s campaign more than once.

In addition to the brand new trailer, Microsoft and Epic announced that the launch copies of Gears of War: Judgment will include download tokens for the Games on Demand version of Gears of War. That original game is currently selling on Xbox LIVE in digital form for $19.99; however, you can snag it used in physical form for much cheaper around the net and in retail shops.

Gears of War: Judgment will ship for the Xbox 360 on March 19th, 2013.


AT&T Reportedly Looking to Acquire a European Carrier

AT&T is reportedly on the search to acquire a European carrier based in the Netherlands, Germany or the United Kingdom. The news is courtesy of The Wall Street Journal, which said AT&T’s goal is to enter a new market where it “can upgrade technology and roll out more lucrative pricing strategies.” European carriers are still focused on rolling out 4G LTE, a technology that is now widely available in the United States.

A deal could happen by the end of 2013, andThe Wall Street Journal said Everything Everywhere and Royal KPN NV are currently in AT&T’s scopes.


Sprint Announces 28 New 4G LTE Markets

Sprint announced on Thursday that it will activate 28 new 4G LTE markets in the “coming months.”

The new markets include:

  • Albany, GA
  • Anderson, SC
  • Bay City, MI
  • Branson, MO
  • Bremerton/Silverdale, WA
  • Columbus, GA
  • Columbus, MS
  • Decatur, AL
  • Florence/Muscle Shoals, AL
  • Gadsden, AL
  • Gaffney, SC
  • Gettysburg, PA
  • Glasgow, KY
  • Homosassa Springs, FL
  • Hot Springs, AR
  • Lake City, FL
  • Lake Havasu City/Kingman, AZ
  • Midland, MI
  • Nacogdoches, TX
  • Opelousas/Eunice, LA
  • Oxford, MS
  • Paris, TX
  • Pittsfield, MA
  • Saginaw, MI
  • Spartanburg, SC
  • The Villages, FL
  • Waycross, GA
  • Winona, MN

“During the pre-launch phase, Sprint customers with capable devices may begin to see 4G LTE coverage in these areas and are welcome to use the network even before it officially launches,” the carrier noted on Thursday. Sprint’s 4G LTE network is currently “on its way” to more than 200 markets in the United States.


Instagram Rolls Back Terms To Old Version, Effective January 19

As promised, Instagram has announced that its user agreement will revert to its previous version starting January 19. The move comes after a public outcry last December over revised terms that insinuated user images could be pulled into advertising without consent or compensation.

Truth is, the old terms that are back on deck doesn’t really protect users any better than the revised version. And yet, the photo-sharing company updated its Privacy Policy and Terms of Service in an effort to appease the masses: “Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010.”

Originally, the changes were supposed to go live on January 16, but emails went out today publicizing a January 19th rollout. Instagram blogged a few tentpoles on the new/old version that will be going into effect:

Nothing has changed about your photos’ ownership or who can see them.

Our updated privacy policy helps Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups. This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used.

Our updated terms of service help protect you, and prevent spam and abuse as we grow.

Adds the company: “Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.”

The timing is interesting. Also this morning, parent company Facebook announced Graph Search, which has kicked up a few privacy concerns of its own. While Instagram data won’t get pulled into the social search mechanism, Mark Zuckerberg says it’s “on the list of things we will one day get to.” Whether it happens or not, the company would do well to remember this P.R. debacle. Facebook has promised to revise its privacy policy to cover Graph Search, so let’s hope it learned a thing or two from all of this — like not using verbiage that freaks people out. There’s simply no faster way to kill public acceptance. Just ask the scores of artists, photographers, journalists and other Instagram users that deleted their accounts.


Pearson Buys Stake in Nook Media

Pearson publishing has made an investment in NOOK Media, the company co-founded by Barnes & Noble and Microsoft.


It seems that some folks have a lot of faith in the recently formed NOOK Media company. Pearson agreed to an $89.5 million investment in the company for a 5 percent equity stake. That places the valuation of the company at $1.789 billion. Not bad for a company that only completed its $300 million formation in Oct. of this year. Microsoft holds 16.8 percent of the new company.

Pearson’s interest in the company is based on its interest to having “a more seamless and effective experience for students.” What exactly that means is unknown at this time.

To date it actually has been clear what the entire company will do as a whole. So far we have just seen a lot of money moving around, and a company name finally announced, but beyond that there hasn’t been much movement. Hopefully there will be some more details arriving in 2013.

NOOK Media Announces Strategic Investment by Pearson

New York, NY and London (Dec. 28, 2012) – NOOK Media, LLC, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the leading retailer of content, digital media and educational products, today announced that Pearson (NYSE: PSO), the world’s leading learning company, has agreed to make a strategic investment in NOOK Media, LLC. Pearson has agreed to invest $89.5 million in cash in NOOK Media, LLC at a post-money valuation of approximately $1.789 billion in exchange for preferred membership interests representing 5% equity stake. Following the closing of the transaction, Barnes & Noble will now own approximately 78.2% of the NOOK Media subsidiary and Microsoft, which also holds preferred membership interests, will own approximately 16.8%. Subject to certain conditions, Pearson will earn the option to purchase up to an additional five percent ownership in NOOK Media.

Pearson’s strategic investment in NOOK Media will accelerate customer access to digital content by pairing its leading expertise in online learning with NOOK Media’s expertise in online distribution and customer service. This will facilitate improved discovery of available digital content and services, as well as seamless access.

“We formed NOOK Media to be a leader in the exploding market for digital content,” said William Lynch, Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble, Inc. “Pearson is a forward thinking company similarly focused on reading and learning, with powerful assets and a terrific management team. We welcome their partnership in NOOK Media, and look forward to working with them and Microsoft to deliver great digital experiences for our shared customers.”

Will Ethridge, Chief Executive Officer of Pearson North America, said, “Pearson and Barnes & Noble have been valued partners for decades, and in recent years both have invested heavily and imaginatively to provide engaging and effective digital reading and learning experiences. This new agreement extends our partnership and deepens our commitment to provide better, easier experiences for our customers. With this investment we have entered into a commercial agreement with NOOK Media that will allow our two companies to work closely together in order to create a more seamless and effective experience for students. It is another example of our strategy of making our content and services broadly available to students and faculty through a wide range of distribution partners.”