New Game in Town – Redbox Offers Video Game Rentals

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Category : Bytes, Game On, News, Nintendo, PS3, Xbox

You recognize the big red box outside your local grocery and drug stores or the McDonald’s in town. While you are running errands, you can arrange a quick, convenient night in for $1-$2, by stopping at a self-service dvd rental kiosk. Redbox Automated Retail, LLC, a subsidiary of Coinstar, Inc. has quickly become a powerhouse in the movie rental marketplace since their launch in 2002. Last year, Redbox celebrated 1 billion movie rentals with more than 27,000 redbox locations. Now, Redbox is looking to take a bite out of the video game retail space by offering game rentals at many of their locations.

Video game rentals have been available at a select 5,000 Redbox locations as part of a pilot program. Despite the limited availability, video games exceeded one million rentals in less than two years. As of June 17, 2011, Redbox began offering the game rental option to a wider audience, expanding the rentals to 21,000 more Redbox locations. Redbox kiosks offer a variety of game titles, including new releases and family kids titles, across all console platforms.

Courtesy of Redbox Automated Retail, LLC

 Whether you play on Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii or Sony Playstation 3, the newest game release can quickly be rented online, via mobile app or on-site at a convenient Redbox location. Game titles will be available to rent for $2 per night with no required return date. As long as you keep the game, Redbox will continue to charge the daily rental fee plus tax. If the game is retained for more than 25 days, renters will be charged a one-time $50 fee and will own the game – no return needed.

Redbox has a few advantages over the competition:

The foremost advantage is convenience. One could argue that GameFly, the video game rental delivery service, also offers convenience. This is true. However, the idea consumers can act on on a spontaneous decision to play a game definitely works to Redbox’s advantage. Add accessibility via internet and app access and it does not get any easier.

Product placement is key. In this regard, Redbox is exceedingly intelligent. Placing kiosks in everyday locations such as McDonald’s locations and grocery stores is a huge positive, keeping the brand directly in front of consumers and presenting a quick, easy experience.

The option to try before you buy is also a big plus for Redbox. With popular new titles costing $39.99 to $59.99 or more, the ability to play the game before opening your wallet could itself bolster the appeal of Redbox game rentals.

Cash is king. Most new releases for Microsoft Xbox 360 or Sony Playstation 3 are priced at $59.99. Even with the one-time $50 charge (plus taxes) to keep the video game after 25 days of rental, you could save money.

Physical product. There is still something to be said for having the disc in your possession. Think of it as your gaming security blanket, or insurance against hard drive failure or a massive data breach. Sometimes it just feels good to know you have a disc.

Visit Redbox.com to find a game or your local Redbox location. You can also rent your movie or game on the website and mobile phone users can download the Redbox app for iPhone or Android.

Read the April 28, 2011 announcement from Redbox.

Uncle Sam Takes Steps to Secure Your Personal Data

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Category : Bytes, News, Tech

SAFE Data Act Mandates Security Measures for Companies Collecting Your Data

 

Photo Credit: Purple Slog

 

Data System hacks are becoming common occurrences. Large companies such as Sony Entertainment Corporation, whose popular PlayStation Network experienced a month of downtime after a massive breach, and Epsilon Interactive, an email service provider that maintains email subscription databases for the likes of Best Buy and JP Morgan Chase, are just a couple of recent targets. It seems these days everyone has been a victim of a data breach, whether you know it or not. Representative Mary Bono Mack (R.-California) is proposing a bill that seeks to mandate security policies for companies handling consumer information.

As Chair of the Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Rep. Mary Bono Mack is hoping the proposed bill will encourage better security practices by requiring companies to adhere to federally mandated procedures with regard to sensitive personal data. Further, the newly drafted bill would require companies to notify law enforcement of a breach, as well as US citizens affected by such a breach.

The Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee will convene a hearing today, June 15th, 2011 to discuss the Secure and Fortify Electronic Data Act, or “SAFE Data Act.” The purpose of the bill is to address the lack of federal law regarding data security, and is in direct response to the recent hearings related consumer data security and specifically, the Sony and Epsilon breaches earlier this year. The proposed bill hopes to enhance protection of consumer personal data and establish timely notification requirements.

The House Energy & Commerce committee published the Discussion Draft of the SAFE Data Act on their website, allowing a sneak peak at proposed bill. Among the stipulations, the proposed bill would require that companies collecting sensitive personal data put in place security policies governing the collection, use, sharing or sale of such personal data. Companies must establish processes for assessing data systems, including monitoring for possible vulnerabilities, and take preventative measures to minimize the likelihood of a data breach. Procedures to ensure the safe deletion or destruction of sensitive user data will also be enacted. Further, policies must be developed to limit the amount stored data; wherein, only information required for reasonable business operation and legal responsibility is retained and safe deletion or destruction of sensitive user data.

The regulations mandating the collection and maintenance of sensitive user data is paramount. Perhaps even more important are the proposed changes which would require timely notification of a data breach. Under the SAFE Data Act, companies that have experienced a data breach would be required to notify the appropriate law enforcement agencies within 48 hours of discovering the breach. Companies will assess the data involved in a breach. After the data has been assessed, and within 48 hours, companies will be required to report to the Federal Trade Commission if there is a likely risk of fraud or identity theft. At this point, companies would also be mandated to being notifying US residents whose sensitive data was accessed in the breach. If more than 5,000 US residents were affected by the breach, companies will also be required to notify major credit reporting agencies.

The SAFE Data Act is a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting consumer information; however, the bill already has a large loophole; whereby, companies would be exempt from notifying law enforcement agencies if the breach is found to be the result of “inadvertent access or inadvertent acquisition by an employee or agent of such person,” as stated in the Discussion Draft of the SAFE Data Act. Further, no consequences have been discussed as of yet. Ultimately, without substantial consequences, this well intentioned bill will do little to ensure the security of consumer data.

The Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee hearing will convene today, June 15th, 2011 at 10:00am ET. The hearing is open to the public and press. For more information, including witness list, memorandum, the complete discussion draft of the SAFE Data Act, or to access the live stream of the hearing as it happens, click here .

Sources:
“Discussion Draft of H.R. ____, a bill to require greater protection for sensitive consumer data and timely notification of breach,” Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee, House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Facebook Recognizes You with Enabled Facial Recognition

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Category : Bytes, News, Tech

Facebook is often at the forefront of controversy for questionable judgement when it comes to sharing user data. And it seems they’re doing it again. In the past few months, there have been rumblings facial recognition was coming to the social network. In a surprising turn, the rumors implied Facebook would release the new feature in beta testing among a smaller group of users for feedback before making the determination to roll out the feature across the network. The rumblings were correct, but it appears Facebook was given too much credit.

In a blog post earlier today, Facebook announced face recognition would be integrated into tag suggestions for photos. While the blog post puts a happy face on profile scanning, boasting increased ease of use for those mass photo uploads, the important point here is that the feature is enabled by default.

Facebook offers up harmless examples like your cousin’s wedding or a laughter filled birthday party, where it can be burdensome to tag your friends in each and every photo. Let us ignore possibly embarrasing occassions of which you hoped the photos were burned or lost forever. If nothing else, parents may want to think twice before uploading photos of their children.

Facebook claims the feature will only be available between mutual friends. This means only those people already on your friends list will be able to recognize you with the improved tag suggestion. In such an interconnected world, where Facebook friends consist of life-long friends, business collegues and casual acquaintances, this mutal friendship requirement does not do much to relieve doubts. The idea of Third Party Developers does not quell fears either, especially following the news earlier this year that Facebook is willing to share with third party app developers, more information than users may be comfortable with.

Facebook users in the United States will begin seeing the improved tag suggestions over the next few weeks. To their credit, Facebook did include instructions for those users that would like to disable the tag suggestions (see below). Users can do so by accessing the Privacy Settings within their Profile. However, friends will still be able to tag you manually. As always, you will still be notified if you are tagged in a photo on Facebook, whether manually or through the enhanced tag suggestions. Thus allowing you the option to remove the tag.

If for any reason you don’t want your name to be suggested, you will be able to disable suggested tags in your Privacy Settings. Just click “Customize Settings” and “Suggest photos of me to friends.” Your name will no longer be suggested in photo tags, though friends can still tag you manually. You can learn more about this feature in our Help Center.
-Justin Mitchell, Blog Post June 7, 2011 at 12:17pm

The truth is your online reputation is at the mercy of your friends. It is the responsibility of the individual to monitor their online identity. While this has always been the case, now Facebook friends have a little less control over how they may be perceived online.

Read the official post on the Facebook Blog – http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=467145887130

Twitter Mobile Gets A Facelift…Enhanced Functionality for Touchscreen Devices

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Category : Bytes, News, Tech

You use Twitter. You have a smartphone. Chances are you have an app for that . . . but what if you didn’t, or what if you didn’t have access the app? If you are a long time smartphone owner, you have undoubtedly been a casualty of a Twitter-API Developer war. Twitter wants you to know, no matter where you are, they have you covered.

Earlier today, Twitter unveiled their improved, and oh so pretty, mobile web app via their official blog. Starting from scratch, the app is designed specifically with touchscreen smartphones and tablets in mind, capitalizing on their adoption of the latest technology standards, including HTML5. Twitter set out to embrace the functionality of these devices and create a slick, easy to use experience. Packed with all the usual features you would expect, such as @mentions, direct messages, conversation views, lists, search, trending topics, and more promised.

Courtesy of Twitter

Last week we saw Twitter purchase the popular API Developer, TweetDeck. Surely, it is no surprise to see the official mobile site looking a bit similar to the newly aquired app. Coincidence or not, this is a much needed step in the right direction for the mico-blogging site. Twitter has the data, it is good to see them taking steps to make the user experience better.

So far the updated mobile app is only available to a small number of iPhone, iPod Touch and Android users. To access the mobile app, simply point your device’s web browser to www.twitter.com. If you have one of these devices and do not see the updated app, do not fret, Twitter is gradually rolling it out over the next few weeks.

To read the official announcement, visit the official Twitter blog.

Where’s Your Jet Pack? Yves Rossy Has It And He Has Taken Flight

Category : Bytes, News

If you are anything like me you’ve been wondering for years where your hovercraft, self-driving car and jet pack are. This is the future after all. With Google hard at work on their autonomous car and the airplane you can park in your driveway, it was only a matter of time before jet packs became a reality. And so it is.

Courtesy of Breitling

Breitling announced yesterday Yves “Jetman” Rossy successfully completed his  jet pack fueled flight over the Grand Canyon. Powered by 4 model jet turbines and a 6 1/2′ wingspan strapped to his back, Rossy began his flight with a free fall from a helicopter high above the Grand Canyon rim. His custom designed suit allowed him reach speeds of up to 190 mph and remain airborne for 8 minutes, until opening his parachute and gliding to the canyon floor.

Courtesy of Swissinfo.ch

Rossy’s flight was initially scheduled to occur friday with press in attendance to witness his latest achievement. However, the friday flight had to be cancelled. Reports conflict as to the true cause of the cancellation. The Grand Canyon flight is not the first time Jetman has flown, rather his U.S. debut. In fact, Rossy had already completed successful flights over the Swiss Alps and English Channel.

To read more about the Grand Canyon flight, visit the Breitling website.
To learn more about Yves Rossy and his dream, visit his website – JETMAN.

App Release – iOS: Today in Movie History

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Category : Bytes, Products, Tech

Jebs Apps, LLC announced the release of their Today in Movie History App for iOS devices in a press release yesterday. In addition to the availability on iOS devices, the Android version also received a major update.

 

Courtesy of Jebs Apps, LLC

 

From the official press release dated April 8, 2011 via PR Log:

“Do you like following the Hollywood scene? Do you like knowing when your favorite actor or actress was born or maybe when your favorite movie was released?”

 

 
The Today in Movie History app brings a bit of fun and trivia to touch devices and allows instant sharing with friends while on the go. While this is the first time, Today in Movie History has been made available for iOS devices, Android users have not been forgotten. To coincide with the iOS release, the Android version also received a major update providing even more interesting facts. The app now boasts more than 3,000 facts and trivia tidbits, including celebrity birthdays, movie release dates and much more. The app also allows you to share the fun with your friends with integrated connectivity via Facebook, Twitter, Email and SMS Messaging (where available on compatible devices). If you would like to submit your own movie history fact, you can . . . all without leaving the app.

Today in Movie History is available in Lite and Full versions for Android. The Lite version is ad-supported and does let you view the facts; however, users of the Lite version will not be able to share facts. The Full version also allows users to search for any date. Android users can purchase the Full version of Today in Movie History for only 99¢. Android users can download Today in Movie History now in the Android Market. Currently, only the Full version is available for iOS devices, also available for 99¢. iOS users can find Today in Movie History in the iTunes App Store.

Today in Movie History is not only great for fans of film, but fun for everyone. The app integrates interesting trivia, seemless connectivity and a slick interface. If you still are not ready to download, check out this video to see it in action.

 

 

Today in Movie History is the third mobile app released by Jebs Apps, LLC., following GoldenPic and Today in Geek History. Jebs Apps, LLC is a mobile development company founded by three friends out to make apps people can enjoy. The company’s primary focus is on iOS and Android devices.

For more information about Jebs Apps, LLC., Today in Movie History or any of their other apps, visit the Jebs Apps, LLC. website.

Read the complete press release on PR Log.

What once was old is new again . . . Commodore 64 back & better than ever.

Category : Bytes, News, Products, Tech

Tech geeks and gamers rejoice! The Commodore 64 is back in the PC market. Today, Commodore USA took to their website to announce the C64X, by asking “Do you remember your first love?” The original machine, we loved in the 80′s, proudly boasted an 8-bit processor and the large clacking keyboard in beige. While it wasn’t the most functional PC to hit the market, the Commodore 64 will always hold a special place in the hearts and minds of Tech enthusiasts and gamers.

Courtesy of Commodore USA

While the newest incarnation, dubbed C64X, will look to capitalize on the nostalgia of the original, it has been updated for today’s modern sensibilities. Updated features include an Intel Atom D525 1.8Ghz Dual core processor, 2GB DDR2 Memory (upgradeable to 4GB), NVIDIA ION2 Graphics chipset, and a Hard Drive ranging in size from 160GB up to 1TB. Commodore 64X units ship with an Ubuntu 10.04 LTS install disk and those purchasing units will receive a supplemental disk, including the proprietary Commodore 1.0 OS, emulator and classic game package when the software is available, at a later date.


Courtesy of Commodore USA

Prices range from $250.00 USD for the C64X Barebones unit to $895.00 for the C64X Ultimate unit. The C64X Barebones unit consisting of the case, chassis and keyboard, including the multi-format Card Reader & USB port. Meanwhile, the C64X Ultimate includes all the basics, plus additional optional features such as 4GB of internal memory, 1TB Hard Drive, BluRay, WiFi (802.11 b/g/n) and Bluetooth capability.

The online store is up and running at Commodore USA and units are available now for pre-order.

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** The announcement of the Commodore C64X is too suspiciously close to April Fool’s Day for my liking. You can bet if the announcement turns out to be an elaborate hoax, or a test of the market’s interest, this techie will be perusing eBay to purchase an original case and put my DIY skills to good use.

Cable is taking over the world, but you can still watch online . . . for a price

Category : Bytes, Conventions, D: All Things Digital, E-vents, News, Tech

In his appearance at the D8 Conference, Steve Burke, COO of Comcast, sat down with Kara Swisher to discuss Comcast’s expansion, cable versus internet content, and competition.

Burke expressed Comcast’s concern for customers and their desire to get the content customers want. He highlighted that Comcast has more than 70,000 hours of content for video on demand; however, it is not the content the company is content with. One of the unfortunate roadblocks is negotiations with content producers. Likely, Comcast’s interest in purchasing distributors like NBC Universal is an effort to bypass this impediment.

He supports the concept of customers being able to access programming online as long as they maintain a cable subscription. He understands customers want their shows online and he seems intent to find a way to make it work.

When it came to tiered pricing, Burke conceded  people may only want to pay for specific channels and they could create less expensive bundles; however, the tiered bundle business model has proven successful for cable companies, programmers and consumers alike. At the end of the day, it appears to be about satisfying a bulk of consumers and programming affiliates. So any hopes of a la carte pricing are nothing more than pipe dreams at this point.

Confronted with the possibility of consumers turning from cable to embrace content available on the web, Burke admitted it is a concern. However, with no concrete support that people are foregoing cable, he is resistant to believe this is the case. He believes consumers will continue to pay for their cable subscriptions, at least as long as cable offers exclusive content, such as ESPN.

As for Apple and Google as competition, Burke concedes his primary competition comes from satellite and telecommunication providers. While he admits they can be complimentary to cable services, he maintains cannot offer the same content in the same way cable does, certainly not when it comes to the sheer volume cable is able to provide with facility-based infrastructure.

New technology is one of Comcast’s focuses for the future, whether it be providing for the future of 3-D or providing content accessible on the iPad. While traditional set-top box cable may be a mainstay for now, he understands the importance of having a presence in other sectors as well.