Monday, December 26, 2011

Hack to get free WiFi on Virgin America flights exploiting Chrome Book promo (Save $12.95)

So I’m currently a couple thousand feet up in the air on a Virgin America flight to San Francisco from Boston and Google are doing this cool thing where they loan you a Chrome Book for the flight, apart of this, you get free wifi on the Chrome Book, whilst on any other device you need to pay like $12.95. I figured out by faking the User Agent to be that of the Chrome Book, you can get free wifi.

TL;DR : Set your browser User Agent to this:

Mozilla/5.0 (X11; CrOS i686 1193.117.0) AppleWebKit/535.7 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/16.0.912.66 Safari/535.7

On Safari do it like so, make sure the Develop menu bar item is enabled (Do this in the Advance tab in Safari Preferences), then click on the Develop menu, then into User Agent, click other and copy and paste in the above browser agent string.
This tricks whatever is handling the wifi into thinking your computer is a Chrome Book and gives you free wifi as apart of the programme they’re running with Google!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Boycott Companies that Support SOPA and Protect IP

It's all about money. Boycott the goods and services of the companies that support SOPA and Protect IP.

(For Info on Protect IP, visit for now. I will try to incorporate this.)

Also, it has been suggested that you should support organizations and companies that express concern with these bills. If you do patronize these organizations, you should let them know that you appreciate that they are opposed to SOPA and Protect IP. Otherwise, they’ll just think it’s a good season for business.

Organizations and companies that support SOPA sent this letter to congress.

Start boycotting these goods and services immediately and let these companies know that you will continue to do so until they actively withdraw support for SOPA.

Here's links to contact info for each company. Try to make your message make sense. If you're not a lawyer, don't threaten to boycott a company that makes law practice software. It's better to tell them that you're disappointed in their decision to support SOPA and that you will tell anyone who will listen about their attack on free speech. Maybe even mention that you'll tweet about it or post their decision on your Facebook page.

I recommend doing the following. Be polite, and call each of the companies. Here’s a sample script:

“Hi. I am calling because I found out that your company supports the Stop Online Piracy Act. This legislation is an attack on freedom of speech. I’ve decided to stop purchasing/watching/using your product/show/service until you actively withdraw support for the SOPA. I really enjoy your product/show/service, but I don’t want to support companies that support dangerous legislation. I plan to tweet and Facebook about your support of SOPA. Thank you for your time. Good bye.”

Writing hand written letters to these companies is also extremely effective.

Company List:
(Note: sometimes I include a link to Hoovers rather than the corporate site because it’s easier to find the mailing address and phone number on the Hoovers page)

1-800 Contacts, Inc. - 801-924-9800

1-800-PetMeds - 954-979-5995

3M - 1-888-364-3577

ABRO Industries, Inc. (automotive supplies) - (574) 232-8289

Acushnet Company (Titleist and Footjoy golf) - (800)225-8500

adidas America - (800) 448-1796

AstraZeneca plc - 1-800-236-9933

Autodesk, Inc. - 415-507-5000

Beachbody, LLC - 310-883-9000
(P90X, Insanity Videos)

Bose Coporation - (508) 879-7330

Burberry - 800 284 8480

Business Software Alliance Members:

Adobe - 408-536-6000

Apple - 408.996.1010

Tim Cook, CEO

Autodesk - See individual listing.

AVEVA - Houston Office: 713-977-1225

AVG - 978-319-4460

Bentley Systems - 1-800-236-8539

CA - 800-225-5224

Cadence Design Systems - 408-943-1234

CNC Software – Mastercam - 800-228-2877

Compuware - 313-227-7300

Corel - 613-728-0826

Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corporation - France +33 1 61 62 61 62

Dell - 512-338-4400

Intel - 408-765-8080

Intuit - 650-944-6000

Kaspersky - 866-328-5700

Apparently Kaspersky doesn’t like SOPA. Thank them.

McAfee - 408-988-3832

Microsoft - 425-882-8080

Minitab - 814-238-3280

Progress Software - 781-280-4000

PTC - 781-370-5000

Quark - 303-894-8888

Quest - 800-306-9329

Rosetta Stone - See individual listing.

Siemens PLM Software, Inc. - 800-498-5351

Sybase - 1-800-792-2735

Symantec - 650-527-8000

TechSmith - 517-381-2300

The MathWorks - 508-647-7000

Callaway Golf Company - 800-588-9836

Caterpillar Inc. - 309-675-1000

CBS Corporation - 1-212-975-4321

Chanel USA - 1.800.550.0005

Coach - 1-800-444-3611

Columbia Sportswear Company - (800) 622-6953,default,pg.html

Comcast Corporation - 215-286-1700

Coty Inc. - 212-479-4300

CVS Caremark - 401-765-1500

Dolby Laboratories, Inc. - 415-558-0200

Dolce & Gabbana USA, Inc.

Electronic Arts, Inc. - (650) 628-1500 (they open at 8am PT)

Fender Musical Instrument Company - 480.596.9690

Ford Motor Company - 800-392-3673

Gibson Guitar Corp. - 1-800-444-2766

Harley-Davidson Motor Company - 1-800-258-2464

Johnson & Johnson - (732) 524-0400

Juicy Couture, Inc - 1-888-908-1160,default,pg.html

kate spade - 866-999-5283

Lacoste USA - 1-800-452-2678

Leatherman Tool Group, Inc. - (800) 847-8665

Lexmark International, Inc. - 1-859-232-2000

Liz Claiborne, Inc - (212) 354-4900

L'Oréal USA - 1-212-818-1500

Lucky Brand Jeans - 1-866-975-5825,default,pg.html

Major League Baseball - 212-485-3444

Marmot - (707) 544-4590

Monster Cable Products, Inc. - 415 840-2000

National Basketball Association (NBA)

National Football League (NFL)

NBCUniversal - 212-664-4444

Nervous Tattoo Inc., dba Ed Hardy - 323-785-4460

New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc. - (636) 326-1024

New Era Cap Co Inc - 1-877-632-5950

NHL Enterprises, L.P. - 212-789-2000

Nike, Inc. - 1-503-671-6453

Nintendo of America Inc. - 425.882.2040

Oakley, Inc. - (800) 431-1439

Peavey Electronics Corporation - 601-483-5365

Perry Ellis International - 1-800-994-0073

Petzl America - 801-926-1310

Pfizer Inc. - 1-212-733-2323

PGA of America - (561) 624-8400

Philip Morris International - 804-274-2000 or 800-343-0975

PING - 1.800.474.6434

Ralph Lauren Corporation - 888-475-7674

Red Wing Shoe Company - 1-800-733-9464

Reebok International Ltd. - 781-401-5000

Revlon - 1-800-473-8566

Rite Aid - Home Office: (717) 761-2633

Rolex Watch USA Inc. - 665 5th Ave, New York, NY10022 - Tel: (212) 758-7700 - Fax: (212) 223-7443

Rosetta Stone Inc. - 1.800.280.8172?

Shure Incorporated - (847) 600-2000

Sony Electronics Inc. (try 1-800-222-7669)

Sony Music Entertainment - (212) 833-8000

Sony Pictures Entertainment - 310-244-4000

Spyder Active Sports, Inc - 303-544-4000

Taylor Guitars - 619-258-1207

Taylor Made Golf Company, Inc. - 1.866.530.8624

The Dow Chemical Company - 800-258-2436

The Estee Lauder Companies - 877-311-3883

The Timberland Company - 603-772-9500

The Walt Disney Company - 818-560-1000

Tiffany & Co. - 1-800-843-3269

Time Warner Inc. - 212.484.8000

Toshiba America Business Solutions, Inc. - Corporate Offices (949) 583-3000

Ultimate Fighting Championship - (702) 221-4780

Viacom - (212) 258-6000

Wal-Mart - 479-273-4000

Warner Music Group - (212) 275-2000

World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. 203-352-8600 (see bottom of their link for corporate)

Xerox Corporation - 1-800-275-9376

Zippo Manufacturing Company - 888.442.1932

NOTE: Working on more... (Focusing on companies that sell products instead of associations) Gotta do some work. Be back later.

Dollar General Corporation
Eli Lilly and Company
Fortune Brands, Inc.
HarperCollins Publishers
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Kenneth Garrett, photographer for National Geographic
LVMH Moët Hennessy
Louis Vuitton
Merck & Co., Inc.
New Levels Ent. Co. LLC
News Corporation
Ramsay Corporation
SoBe Entertainment
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
Underwriters Laboratories Inc.
Universal Music Group
Uniweld Products Inc.
Vibram USA, Inc
W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co.
Wolverine World Wide, Inc.
Woolrich, Inc.
Zumba Fitness, LLC


2b1 Inc
Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed)
Allen Russell Photography
Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
Alliance of Visual Artists (AVA)
Altria Client Services
American Apparel and Footwear Association
American Association of Independent Music (A2IM)
American Board of Internal Medicine
American Federation of Musicians
American Gramaphone LLC
American Made Alliance
American Mental Health Counselors Association
American Photographic Artists
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)
American Society of Media Photographers
American Society of Picture Professionals
American Watch Association
Anatoly Pronin Photography
Andrea Rugg Photography
Anti-Counterfeiting and Piracy Initiative (ACAPI)
Applied DNA Sciences
Art Holeman Photography
Association of American Publishers (AAP)
Association of Equipment Manufacturers
Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP)
Association of Test Publishers
Australian Medical Council
Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association
Baker & Taylor Ent.
Bay State Psychological Associates
Beam Global Spirits & Wine
Blue Sky Studios, Inc.
Braasch Biotech LLC
Brian Stevenson Photography
Brigid Collins Family Support Center
Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)
C. F. Martin & Co., Inc.
Cascade Designs Incorporated
Caveon, LLC
Cengage Learning
Center for Credentialing & Education
Center Stage Photography
CFA Institute
Christopher Semmes Photography
Church Music Publishers Association
CMH Images
Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy (CACP)
Commercial Photo Design
Commercial Photographers International
Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System
Consumer Healthcare Products Association
Copyright Alliance
Copyright Clearance Center (CCC)
Council of Fashion Designers of America
Country Music Association
CropLife America
Cross-Entertainment LLC
CSA Group
D'Addario & Company, Inc.
Dan Sherwood Photography
Danita Delimont Stock Photography
Dayco Products, LLC
Deluxe Entertainment Services Group
Derek DiLuzio Photography
DeVaul Photography
Direct Selling Association (DSA)
Directional Insight
Distefano Enterprises Inc.
Doriguzzi Photographic Artistry
Dolby Laboratories, Inc.
Dollar General Corporation
Don Grall Photography
Dunford Architectural Photography
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Ed McDonald Photography
Educational & Industrial Testing Service
Electronic Components Industry Association (ECIA)
Eli Lilly and Company
Englebert Photography
Entertainment Software Association (ESA)
ERAI, Inc.
Eric Meola Studio Inc
Evidence Photographers International Council
Ex Officio
Exxel Outdoors
FAME Publishing Co., LLC.
FAME Recording Studios
Far Bank Enterprises
Fashion Business Incorporated
Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy
Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA) Ford Motor Company
Fortune Brands, Inc.
Fred J. Lord Photography
GAR Associates
Gelderland Productions, L.L.C.
Gemvision Corporation
Gospel Music Association
Governors America Corp.
Graduate Management Admission Council
Graphic Artists Guild
Greeting Card Association (GCA)
Greg Nikas Photography
Guru Denim
H.S. Marketing & Design, Inc.
HarperCollins Publishers
Harry Fox Agency
Hastings Entertainment, Inc.
ICM Distributing Company, Inc.
IDS Publishing
IEC Electronics corp.
Images Plus
Imaging Supplies Coalition (ISC)
Independent Distributors of Electronics Association (IDEA)
International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC)
International Trademark Association (INTA)
IPC-Association Connecting Electronics Industries
Ira Montgomery Photography
J.S. Grove Photography
James Drug Inc.
Jaynes Gallery
JCPage Photography
Jean Poland Photography
Jeff Stevensen Photography
John Fulton Photography
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Julien McRoberts Photography
K&R Photographics
Kekepana International Services
Kenneth Garrett, photographer for National Geographic
Killing Jar Productions LLC
Light Perspectives
Linda Olsen Photography
Little Dog Records
LVMH Moët Hennessy
Louis Vuitton
Major League Baseball
Marcia Andberg Associates LLC
Mark Niederman Photography
Marona Photography
McLain Photography Inc
Merck & Co., Inc.
Messy Face Designs, Inc.
Michael Stern Photography
MicroRam Electronics, Inc.
Minter Works of Art
Mira Images
Monster Cable Products, Inc.
Moose’s Photos
Morningstar Films LLC
Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) MotionMasters
Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association
MPA - The Association of Magazine Media
Mr. Theodor Feibel (sole proprietor)
Music Managers Forum-U.S.
Nashville Songwriters Association International
Natalie Neckyfarow Actor/Dancer/Singer
National Association of Broadcasters
National Association of Manufacturers
National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM)
National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO)
National Basketball Association (NBA)
National Board for Certified Counselors
National Board for Certified Counselors Foundation
National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)
National Football League (NFL)
National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA)
National Retail Federation (NRF)
Nervous Tattoo Inc., dba Ed Hardy
New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.
New Era Cap Co Inc
New Levels Ent. Co. LLC
News Corporation
Next Decade Entertainment, Inc.
NHL Enterprises, L.P.
Nicholas Petrucci, Artist, LLC
Nike, Inc.
Nintendo of America Inc.
Nissle Fine Art Photography
North Dakota Pharmacists Association
North Dakota Pharmacy Service Corporation
Oakley, Inc.
One Voice Recordings
OpSec Security, Inc.
Outdoor Industry Association
Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI)
Outdoor Research, Inc
Pacific Component Xchange, Inc.
Party Killer Films LLC
Pearson Clinical Assessment
Peavey Electronics Corporation
Perry Ellis International
Personal Care Products Council
Peter C. Brandt, Architectural and Fine Art Photography
Peter Hawkins Photography, Inc.
Photojournalist Dave Bartruff
Picture Archive Council of America (PACA)
Pigfactory Music
PNW Images
Premier League
Production Music Association (PMA)
Professional Photographers of America
Quality Float Works, Inc.
Raging Waters Music
Ralph Lauren Corporation
Ramsay Corporation
Rebel Photo
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
Red4 Music/Doogs Rock Inc
Reebok International Ltd.
Reed Elsevier Inc.
Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA)
Richard Flutie Photography
Rite Aid
Robin Davis Photography, Inc.
Rodger Scott Craig, a member of Liverpool Express, The Merseybeats, Fortune, Harlan Cage, 101 South, and Mtunz Media
Roger Smith Photography Services
Romance Writers of America (RWA)
Saddle Creek
Sage Studios LLC
Sam D'Amico Photography
Schneider Electric
Sean McGinty Photography
Secret Sea Visions (Photography)
SG Industries, Inc.
Shure Incorporated
SIGMA Assessment Systems
Six Degrees Records
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
SMC Entertainment
SMT Corp.
SoBe Entertainment
Society of Sport & Event Photographers
Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)
Soul Appeal Records and Music
Southern Gothic LLC
Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)
SPI (The Plastics Industry Trade Association)
Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association
Sports Rights Owners Coalition
Spring Fever Productions LLC
Spyder Active Sports, Inc
Stenbakken Photography
Stephen Dantzig Photography
Stock Artist Alliance
Stuart Weitzman Holdings, LLC
Student Photographic Society
Studio 404
SunRise Solar Inc.
Taylor Glenn Photographs
Taylor Guitars
Taylor Made Golf Company, Inc.
Tednologies, Inc.
The Cambridge Don
The Collegiate Licensing Company/IMG College
The Donath Group, Inc.
The Dow Chemical Company
The Estee Lauder Companies
The McGraw-Hill Companies
The Music People! Inc.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
The Recording Academy (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences)
The Timberland Company
The Walt Disney Company
Tiffany & Co.
Time Warner Inc.
Tony Bullard Photography
Toshiba America Business Solutions, Inc.
TRA Global
Tricoast Worldwide
Trio Productions, Inc. / Songscape Music,
Twist & Shout, Inc.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Ultimate Fighting Championship
Underwriters Laboratories Inc.
Universal Music Group
Uniweld Products Inc.
VF Corporation
Vibram USA, Inc
Virtual Chip Exchange USA, Inc. Voltage Pictures, LLC
W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co. Walcott Studio, LLC
Warner Music Group
Wendy Kaveney Photography
Western Psychological Services
Westmorland Images, LLC
Wild & Associates, Inc.
Wild Eye Photos LLC
William Sutton Photography
Willis Music
WindLegends Ink LLC
Winestem Company
Winslow Research Institute
Wolfe Video
Wolverine World Wide, Inc. Woolrich, Inc.
World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
Xerox Corporation
Zippo Manufacturing Company
Zumba Fitness, LLC

Saturday, December 17, 2011

How to watch streaming internet videos on any TV using just your computer.

There are a lot of great set top boxes out there that let you watch streaming TV and movies via the Internet, but maybe you’re not interested in spending the money or you’re just looking for a very simple way to hook your computer up to your TV and watch videos from popular websites like Hulu or different web sites. Here are five different ways you can connect your computer to your TV and watch streaming internet video….

The first thing you need to check is if you have a newer TV and computer which will let you use an HDMI cable to connect the two (don’t worry, there are still ways to do it if you don’t).
Once you get a HDMI cable, just connect your computer to your TV, use your remote to select ‘HDMI’ input and with any luck you should see a mirror image of your computer screen on your HD TV. Now you have a very simple inexpensive way of watching Internet content on your TV.

But what if you have an older TV or an older computer that doesn’t support HDMI?

If you have a standard definition TV, you won’t be able to use HDMI, but if your TV and computer have S video jacks and you have S video cable, you can follow the above steps to hook everything up.

But what if you have a real old TV or real old computer that doesn’t have any fancy inputs or outputs?

Just about all TVs made in the last 30 years have RCA inputs. These are the red, white and yellow jacks that you see on the back of your TV which were commonly used to hook up VCRs, DVD players and video games.
And just about all laptop computers ever made have what’s called an external VGA port that can be used to connect the laptop to a monitor.

Luckily, there are number of PC to TV converters which plug into the VGA port on your laptop and the RCA inputs on older TVs.

But what if you have a really, really, old TV?

And on the chance that you have an even older TV, maybe one made in the 50’s or sixties, you can use a RF modulator in conjunction with a converter and still watch streaming Internet television on your TV using the coaxial antenna connection.

The downsides of using your computer instead of a set-top box to watch videos on your TV

All of the above options help you connect the video output to your TV. This means you’ll either need to listen to the audio on your computer speakers or plug your computer into your stereo or entertainment system, or a simple set of amplified speakers. Also since you’re using your computer and not a specialized set top box, it’s possible that the video quality might not be as good or might not completely fill your TV screen, but this really depends largely on how fast your computer and graphic card is and the web site you are visiting.

Tip: when you’re watching Internet videos, be sure to look for the ‘full-screen’ icon on the video player which maximizes video to the largest possible size.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Building your own XP Service Pack 4

Building your own XP Service Pack 4

Susan Bradley By Susan Bradley

Starting today, Windows XP users will have 860 more days of official Microsoft support — and on every one of those days, many of those users will continue to run the operating system that just won't die.

Want to extend the life of your Windows XP Service Pack 3 as long as possible? You can do so by installing Microsoft hotfixes as needed.

It's ironic that the official Windows XP End of Support Countdown Gadget runs only on Vista and Windows 7. Perhaps Microsoft will offer a paper-based advent calendar for its XP users. Regardless of Microsoft's schedule, a significant number of people will continue to use XP well past the deadline. Their practical reasons range from line-of-business needs to the economy to "It still fills all my needs."

According to Microsoft, XP SP3 is the end of the line — there will not be an SP4. But that doesn't mean you can't build your own virtual version of SP4. Just use the hotfixes Microsoft develops over the remaining years of official support.

As far as Windows is concerned, hotfixes are essentially the same as the Windows updates you regularly receive from Microsoft. There are, however, some practical differences: for example, hotfixes are not put through the same level of rigorous testing that the standard updates get. (Yes, I can hear you chuckling. As we all know too well, updates have issues — despite that rigorous testing.) Also, some hotfixes are downloads and some are changes you configure manually. Updates are always downloaded patches. (A hotfix isn't the same as a Microsoft Fix it, which is typically temporary and often limited to Windows Registry or permissions changes.)

Like most updates, hotfixes are designed to repair a specific problem. However, Microsoft warns users that they should install a hotfix only if they know they have the specific problem the hotfix addresses. That said, as long as I've backed up my system (or can check the hotfix on a test system), I don't have any greater concerns about applying a hotfix than I do with an update — as long as the hotfix can be uninstalled. Some (such as KB 954550, listed below) cannot be removed with Windows' Add and Remove Programs utility.

Picking through the list of Windows XP hotfixes

There are dozens of available hotfixes, and you won't need — or want — them all. A Microsoft TechNet blog has a comprehensive list for XP SP3 systems. Again, not all of them will apply to your specific system, and you should install only those that fix a specific problem already afflicting your PC. Here's my short list of potential XP problems — ones you might see yourself — with published hotfixes:

948239: Your XP-based computer locks up when you click the Cancel button in a dialog box.

951126: When you resume from system hibernation, a multiprocessor computer running Windows XP hangs and displays a black screen.

953979: After installing SP3, Windows' Device Manager does not show devices, and Network Connections does not list any network connections.

954550: You're missing Microsoft XML Paper Specification (XPS) features; this hotfix adds them to Windows XP.

961555: Your computer randomly crashes.

968967: When an application or service uses MSXML 6.0 to handle XML requests, CPU usage climbs to 100 percent.

969744: Underlines are missing on printed documents.

970048: You have slow printing performance when using the Line Printer Remote (LPR) print protocol.

970922: TIFF documents are corrupted when you rotate them in Windows Picture and Fax Viewer.

971455: A Windows XP SP3 machine cannot authenticate a wireless router that uses Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) technology (designed to add devices to a network easily) because the router is configured for Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP).

972828: When you're copying files from a Windows Server 2008-based remote computer to a local Windows XP SP3 system via Remote Desktop Connection 6.1, the files become corrupted.

981669: During installation, a Microsoft Windows Installer package hangs. In this specific case, the Installer package is made up of smaller, chained-together packages and the installer has custom actions.

2454533: After installing the security update in MS Security Bulletin MS10-066 (KB 982802), Windows XP SP3 no longer displays the description of a shared folder that is mapped to a network drive.

How to request a hotfix from Microsoft

For many MS Hotfixes, you'll find a convenient Hotfix Download Available icon and a link (shown in Figure 1) in the upper-left section of their online-support pages. (You won't find a simple download link — you have to send an e-mail request to Microsoft support. The hotfix will then be sent to you.)

Retrieving the full hotfix
Figure 1. The hotfix-available indicator.

For hotfixes that don't come with that handy link, here's a neat trick: grab the URL for a hotfix that does have the icon, paste it into your browser, and then edit the KB number. For example, take

and change the 981669 to 2454533 — or 953979, or any other hotfix lacking the download-link icon.

Bottom line: There are still a couple of good years left in Windows XP. Undoubtedly, it'll be used right up to the end of its official, extended-support phase (April 8, 2014) — and beyond, whether Microsoft likes it or not. (For more on Windows XP lifecycles, check out the operating system's support lifecycle chart.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How to watch streaming internet videos on any TV using just your computer.

There are a lot of great set top boxes out there that let you watch streaming TV and movies via the Internet, but maybe you’re not interested in spending the money or you’re just looking for a very simple way to hook your computer up to your TV and watch videos from popular websites like Hulu or different web sites. Here are five different ways you can connect your computer to your TV and watch streaming internet video….

The first thing you need to check is if you have a newer TV and computer which will let you use an HDMI cable to connect the two (don’t worry, there are still ways to do it if you don’t).

What is an HDMI cable? Basically, a HDMI cable is a special type of cable HDTV’s use for high quality video input. Just about all HD and flatscreen TVs have HDMI inputs. Here’s what they look like…

Most newer laptops have HDMI outputs or in the case of Apple products like the Macbook, have adapters you can use to connect an HDMI cable to.

Here are 2 examples. The first one is a picture of a standard HDMI output on a PC notebook, the second one is the MiniDisplayPort output on a MacBook which can be hooked up to an adapter to connect to a HDMI cable.

Once you get a HDMI cable, just connect your computer to your TV, use your remote to select ‘HDMI’ input and with any luck you should see a mirror image of your computer screen on your HD TV. Now you have a very simple inexpensive way of watching Internet content on your TV.

But what if you have an older TV or an older computer that doesn’t support HDMI?

If you have a standard definition TV, you won’t be able to use HDMI, but if your TV and computer have S video jacks and you have S video cable, you can follow the above steps to hook everything up.

But what if you have a real old TV or real old computer that doesn’t have any fancy inputs or outputs?

Just about all TVs made in the last 30 years have RCA inputs. These are the red, white and yellow jacks that you see on the back of your TV which were commonly used to hook up VCRs, DVD players and video games.

And just about all laptop computers ever made have what’s called an external VGA port that can be used to connect the laptop to a monitor.

Luckily, there are number of PC to TV converters which plug into the VGA port on your laptop and the RCA inputs on older TVs.

But what if you have a really, really, old TV?

And on the chance that you have an even older TV, maybe one made in the 50’s or sixties, you can use a RF modulator in conjunction with a converter and still watch streaming Internet television on your TV using the coaxial antenna connection.

The downsides of using your computer instead of a set-top box to watch videos on your TV

All of the above options help you connect the video output to your TV. This means you’ll either need to listen to the audio on your computer speakers or plug your computer into your stereo or entertainment system, or a simple set of amplified speakers. Also since you’re using your computer and not a specialized set top box, it’s possible that the video quality might not be as good or might not completely fill your TV screen, but this really depends largely on how fast your computer and graphic card is and the web site you are visiting.

Tip: when you’re watching Internet videos, be sure to look for the ‘full-screen’ icon on the video player which maximizes video to the largest possible size.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

ConnecTV, is coming soon!

Something big is cooking in portable TV in the US. It's possibly the equivalent of a Hulu (in that it is owned by content owners), but from a group of broadcasters who have already identified themselves as being behind the ATSC M/H Mobile DTV services: but this time the subject is both social TV and over the top (OTT) content.

It looks as if this cluster of players got together and realised that there was strength in numbers, whether ATSC M/H takes off or not, and went around looking for projects to continue the collaboration.

The broadcast groups include Barrington Broadcasting, Belo Corp, Cox Media, EW Scripps, Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst TV, Media General, Meredith Corp, Post-Newsweek Stations and Raycom Media. When you combined all of these you get 201 TV stations which are mostly affiliates of ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CW and Warner Brothers, covering 45 of the US's top 50 markets for TV. Nine of these had already put their names down to be part of Pearl, a partnership behind the ATSC M/H-based Mobile DTV in the US.

The vehicle they have chosen to collaborate around is from ConnecTV, described as a social TV system designed entirely for watching TV, or at least for watching, voting, talking about and looking up stuff about TV. Think of it as a version of iMDB but about current TV programmes, put together with Facebook or Google+. ConnecTV has on-board executives who have worked at TiVo, MobiTV, Gemstar-TV Guide and TVN Entertainment, and until now has been operating for two years in stealth mode.
Social TV...for why?

One of the questions we have always had about social TV is why on earth anyone would want to engage in a dialog about TV, on a TV. Early IPTV system, to a certain extent later cable inventions, and now connected TV all seem to make that same mistake. Discussion needs to be private but viewing does not always need to be.

Social TV has to be able to cope with two or three things. The first thing is that little Johnny does not want his parents to know what he watches on TV, and when he makes a comment about how is Father is hogging the TV for Monday night football, he doesn't want to be overhead. So privacy is key, which is why it belongs on a tablets, not the TV screen.

Secondly how does a group of friends get to watch the same programming at the same time and deliberately log on to one another? In different parts of the US different shows are on at different times or at least on different channels. Whatever social network brings them together, also needs to point them in the right direction for their region and set up an open comment channel.

Thirdly, if you've gone to all that trouble of setting that up, then it might just as well be a viewing party over a VoD piece of content too – so that online rights need to be sorted out and a revenue share basis for the content owners for the social network viewing and any advertising that can be played on it.

In other words. it‘s tough to adapt existing social networks to social TV, and despite the fact that Google is working hard to incorporate this into Google+, the local stations do have an edge in bringing it all together. They also have a lot of weight with the stations they are affiliates to such as ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, as long as there is a potential revenue share for the national networks. In fact it is likely that the prime movers here are in fact the collective national networks, but they want to see what their affiliates can do with it before declaring their interest.

Our first thought when hearing about this move with the Pearl group is that this would be related directly to the ATSC M/H stations that these same organisations (with the exception of Barrington Broadcasting) have already launched. But we are told this is not the case. Their big problem remains (actually their only problem) is getting a major device maker to offer a way of viewing these networks on a tablet. ATSC M/H requires a specialist chip and although it is true that people want live TV on a handset (or tablet), they won't have it if comes with a monthly price tag or needs special unsubsidised devices.
How would it work?

Right now US citizens can buy a stand-alone device which will output the signal as local Wi-Fi video and that way TV can be viewed on all tablets, but it's still not as good as if it came as standard built into all Android and iOS devices – at that point mobile TV in the US would take off in a heartbeat.

We can‘t help thinking that however unrelated this ConnecTV service is to ATSC M/H, it has the potential to become related to it in the future, at the very least as two technologies this group is pushing. Perhaps the major broadcasters use one technology to push the other, for instance not giving permission to access Metadata from their TV programmes for use with ConnecTV, unless the broadcaster in question has already set up Mobile DTV broadcasting.

The broadcasters say their stations cover 76 million US households (out of roughly 111 million) and now have a long-term commercial partnership with ConnecTV, which lets viewers interact with other fans watching the same TV program and provides a broad range of related content and promotional opportunities which are synchronized with programmes being viewed.

There is obviously some work to integrate and synchronise the programming within ConnecTV, but then they plan to advertise it on air and online. As we suggested the advertising inventory inside ConnecTV will be synchronized and also used to promote key programs. Some of these broadcasters have made an undisclosed investment in ConnecTV.

In effect this is US broadcasters finding a way to create their own online service and social network, so they get internet revenues. Invariably the content services they have alluded to will be VoD services served through an application or portal, (the same content as is broadcast in ATSC M/H), we suspect.

"Our mission is for ConnecTV to be the social network that empowers entertainment, news and sports fans to share the greatest moments in television," said ConnecTV Co-Founder Ian Aaron. "The team at ConnecTV is thrilled to work with the leaders in local news and television across America as we bring to market an innovative and engaging second-screen experience for all TV viewers that works seamlessly across all programming genres and on all platforms. With over five billion TV viewers and the explosion of tablets and smart phones globally, we are truly at the beginning of a new way to watch TV."

ConnecTV is available currently in an "invitation only" sneak preview and will be launching to the public in early 2012. It was founded by Ian Aaron, former President of Gemstar-TV Guide and Alan Moskowitz, former senior engineer at MobiTV, with other team members from the engineering team at TiVo.

ConnecTV doesn‘t only have to be used with local entertainment and can equally be used with cable programming. It is available as a free application for tablets and for Macs and PCs. It‘s a bit unclear just how ConnecTV automatically identifies the show you are watching, but that‘s what the company boasts.

ConnecTV automatically logs in television viewers while they watch programmes and synchronises relevant content onto its screen, including latest news, celebrity information, trivia, polls and play-by-play sports stats. ConnecTV subscribers can see which TV shows their friends are watching, invite them to a "viewing party" and start a real-time conversation and they can also connect to share viewing moments using Facebook, Twitter and email and all this can work with up to 250 channels.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

PlayLater Offers an Online Answer to the DVR

An Online Answer to the DVR

SOME people who want to watch a movie at home wait for Netflix to mail it to them on a disc. Others click on a link at Netflix or other Web sites and immediately watch films, TV episodes or sports events streamed to them on the spot.

But streamed shows can be ephemeral — they depend on a good broadband connection, and they pass by as they are viewed, unlike downloaded videos that can be watched later offline. And some shows can’t be found again at a site that once provided them, because they are meant to have a limited run.

Now, for $5 a month, a new service called PlayLater lets subscribers copy streaming video as it shows up at 30 sites, including Netflix, Hulu, PBS, ESPN and CNN, so they can watch it later.

With PlayLater, viewers can stockpile episodes of their favorite television shows on their hard drives and thumb drives, just as they copy programs on a digital video recorder for later viewing.

PlayLater has many restrictions — it works only on PCs, and the videos made with the software may be watched only on the PC licensed by PlayLater to record the show, or on another PC that shares the license. And it doesn’t work with iPhones, iPads, or mobile Android devices, although Jeff Lawrence, the chief executive of PlayOn, the Seattle company that offers the subscription service, said these apps would be available soon.

The number of people who watch streaming video is climbing, said Radha Subramanyam, an executive at Nielsen, the ratings firm, “and so is the time they spend watching.” Netflix subscribers spent an average of nearly 8.5 hours doing so in June, she said.

“Everyone streams across all ages,” she said, “but some age groups stream more than others.” She said that there were strong numbers for both the 18-to-24 and 24-to-35 age groups.

PlayLater is among many new services that aim to take advantage of streaming’s popularity, said Dan Rayburn, a New York-based analyst at Frost & Sullivan, a market research firm, and an executive at, a Web site devoted to covering the streaming media field.

Mr. Rayburn called the subscription service “a great idea” but said it had many weaknesses. “Most important,” he said, “it doesn’t work on Macs.”

I signed up for a free trial offered by PlayLater and installed the software on my PC — a painless process that took about 10 minutes. There is no central schedule of streaming choices at the bare-bones PlayLater home page. Instead, I went to each participating site and shopped for shows I might want to copy. The software records in real time, so it takes 30 minutes to copy a 30-minute show — though you can skip the commercials when you watch the recordings later.

I listed in a queue all the programs I wanted, then PlayLater recorded them one after another. But I couldn’t program the software to record on future dates, as can be done with DVRs. (Mr. Lawrence of PlayLater says the company is working on creating this feature.)

Streaming quality, of course, will be affected by the Internet connection. PlayLater’s site recommends a broadband connection of at least 1.5 megabits a second, the same speed that Netflix recommends.

Even with a decent connection, you should be sure that other people on your home network aren’t downloading large files or playing an online game, taking away needed bandwidth.

The quality is also affected by computer hardware. You’ll need a laptop or desktop PC bought within the last five years to avoid problems, Mr. Lawrence said. Each hour of video being recorded requires about one gigabyte of storage space.

The picture quality of the shows I stored on the hard drive was similar to that of the movies I stream from Netflix or Amazon — sharp and clear when tiny, and grainier when I enlarged the image. That is how it should be, said Ara Derderian , co-host of the HDTV and Home Theater Podcast.

“Don’t expect high definition, or the quality of a Blu-ray player,” he said. “The copy of what’s streamed should look identical to what you’d get if you were streaming it.”

SUBSCRIBERS might also be worried about the legality of copying video content. Mr. Lawrence said PlayLater is following the path set earlier by VCRs and DVRs.

“PlayLater is legal for the same reason that using a VCR and a DVR is legal,” he said. “There is a well-established legal precedent that consumers are allowed to record videos for time-shifted viewing.” (In time-shifting, people make copies for their personal use that they can view later.)

Denise M. Howell , an appellate, intellectual property and technology lawyer in Newport Beach, Calif., says she isn’t so sure that software like PlayLater’s will succeed without a legal challenge. She pointed out that the terms-of-service agreements that users have with companies like Netflix and Amazon limit a video’s viewing.

“If the streaming sites let this go, ignoring it, they will irritate the people who provide the content,” she said. “They are not going to be able to sit back and look the other way.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

5 Free Ways to Encrypt Your Files on the Go

In our world, where information is constantly being plugged into one device after another and frequently changes hands, many people don’t realize how vital it can be to safeguard their digital information from sniffers and malware – destructive programs which can steal sensitive information. Here are 5 free software encryption tools for your on-the-go use.
1. How To Encrypt Your Files On The Cloud, e.g. Dropbox

clip image0041 5 Free Ways to Encrypt Your Files on the Go

It may be all smooth and easy going encrypting files on your own hard drives, but what about files on the cloud? As we become increasingly dependent on the cloud for storage, we also become more and more wary of the fact that all our personal, and potentially important files, are floating on some foreign server, exposed to the vulnerabilities of that server.

So if you have files on Dropbox, for instance, what’s a person to do? Thankfully, there’s BoxCryptor, a great free program which allows you to encrypt files even on cloud servers. The free version works great with the standard AES-256 encryption, but does not allow commercial usage and is only limited to encryption of files up to 2 GB. Still, that’s plenty enough for most of us, and is an excellent solution towards solving file encryption on the cloud.
2. What To Do If You Want to Encrypt Entire Hard Drives

clip image0021 5 Free Ways to Encrypt Your Files on the Go

The issue: Enabling encryption on one machine disables it from being read on another unless they both have the same encryption software installed; which is sometimes not practical when you have to constantly switch between PCs in an environment, such as a school setting.

Enter TruCrypt, a truly real-time encryption program which encrypts data as it is being written onto the file partition (e.g. folders), and decrypts it in real-time as it is being removed. Impressive feature aside, this gives you the peace of mind that you won’t ever find yourself stuck with an inaccessible file simply because you were trying to be careful.

TruCrypt also allows you to encrypt entire hard drives, which can be useful if you run your own company, and has a hundred and one other fancy uses such as enabling hardware acceleration during encrypting on modern processors. It is by far the most highly recommended free encryption software on the Internet, customizable for nearly all but the most specific uses.
3. How to Encrypt Your Entire USB Flash Drive Without Installing Anything

clip image0011 5 Free Ways to Encrypt Your Files on the Go

PenProtect doesn’t give you any excuse to not use file encryption while transferring files. There’s absolutely no hassle in using it – all you have to do is copy the downloaded file to the home folder of your USB drive – no installation required! It really doesn’t get any simpler than this, and it provides full 256-bit key AES encryption to your entire USB flash drive, hiding files from being interpreted by the host computer.
4. How To Plug In Your USB Drive With Peace Of Mind at Internet Cafés

clip image0031 5 Free Ways to Encrypt Your Files on the Go

By now, we should all already have recognized how dangerous it can be to plug in your flash drive into a port of a computer at a cyber café. Since you never know what the computer has been uploaded with, the potential for your information being compromised is mind boggling; there could be key-loggers to trace your passwords, malware to read your Word files, trojans to sneak onto your device… the list goes on and on…

Add to this the fact that most of the time, you don’t get administrator privileges in a computer at such places, disabling the option to install a “safe” encryption program on-the-spot. So what can you do? Well, there’s a solution with FreeOTFE Explorer, an encryption software which not only does not require installation, but works even on PCs where administrator privileges have been disabled! It works by creating a “virtual disk” on the computer in question, where everything that is written to that “disk” is encrypted securely before being stored.
5. How To Enable File Encryption using Tools Already Within Reach

clip image0051 5 Free Ways to Encrypt Your Files on the Go

Some people just don’t like having an extra program hanging around on their computer, especially something like encryption which isn’t visible enough to warrant having to stare at its icon every time you access My Computer. Well, did you know that you probably already have a fully sufficient encryption program sitting on your desktop?

7-Zip, the great file compressor, is also a decent file encryptor. Providing only AES-256, it’s really solid. Whether it’s sending work documents over email, or personal items to your loved ones, if you really don’t want to deal with the hassle of an extra program, 7-Zip may just be the perfect file encryptor for you.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Michael Hart, a Pioneer of E-Books, Dies at 64

Michael Hart, a Pioneer of E-Books, Dies at 64

Michael Hart, who was widely credited with creating the first e-book when he typed the Declaration of Independence into a computer on July 4, 1971, and in so doing laid the foundations for Project Gutenberg, the oldest and largest digital library, was found dead on Tuesday at his home in Urbana, Ill. He was 64.

His death was confirmed by Gregory B. Newby, the chief executive and director of Project Gutenberg, who said that the cause had not yet been determined.

Mr. Hart found his life’s mission when the University of Illinois, where he was a student, gave him a user’s account on a Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer at the school’s Materials Research Lab.

Estimating that the computer time in his possession was worth $100 million, Mr. Hart began thinking of a project that might justify that figure. Data processing, the principal application of computers at the time, did not capture his imagination. Information sharing did.

After attending a July 4 fireworks display, he stopped in at a grocery store and received, with his purchase, a copy of the Declaration of Independence printed on parchment. He typed the text, intending to send it as an e-mail to the users of Arpanet, the government-sponsored precursor to today’s Internet, but was dissuaded by a colleague who warned that the message would crash the system. Instead, he posted a notice that the text could be downloaded, and Project Gutenberg was born.

Its goal, formulated by Mr. Hart, was “to encourage the creation and distribution of e-books” and, by making books available to computer users at no cost, “to help break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy.”

Over the next decade, working alone, Mr. Hart typed the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the King James Bible and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” into the project database, the first tentative steps in a revolution that would usher in what he liked to call the fifth information age, a world of e-books, hand-held electronic devices like the Nook and Kindle, and unprecedented individual access to texts on a vast array of Internet archives.

Today, Project Gutenberg lists more than 30,000 books in 60 languages, with the emphasis on titles of interest to the general reader in three categories: “light literature,” “heavy literature” and reference works. In a 2006 e-mail to the technology writer Glyn Moody, he predicted that there would be a billion e-books in 2021, Project Gutenberg’s 50th anniversary, and that, thanks to advances in memory chips, “you will be able to carry all billion e-books in one hand.”

Nearly all the books are in the public domain, although a relatively small number of copyrighted books are reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. The library includes two books by Mr. Hart: “A Brief History of the Internet” and “Poems and Tales from Romania.”

“It’s a paradigm shift,” he told Searcher magazine in 2002. “It’s the power of one person, alone in their basement, being able to type in their favorite books and give it to millions or billions of people. It just wasn’t even remotely possible before; not even the Gideons can say they have given away a billion Bibles in the past year.”

Michael Stern Hart was born on March 8, 1947, in Tacoma, Wash. His father was an accountant; his mother, a cryptanalyst during World War II, was the business manager for a high-end women’s store. The couple retrained to become university teachers and in 1958 found posts at the University of Illinois, in Urbana, where his father taught Shakespeare and his mother taught mathematics.

Michael began attending lectures at the university before entering high school and, following a course of individual study on human-machine interfaces, earned a bachelor of science degree in 1973.

Work on Project Gutenberg proceeded slowly at first. Adding perhaps a book a month, Mr. Hart had created only 313 e-books by 1997. “I was just waiting for the world to realize I’d knocked it over,” he told Searcher. “You’ve heard of ‘cow-tipping’? The cow had been tipped over, but it took it 17 years for it to wake up and say, ‘Moo.’ ”

The pace picked up when he and Mark Zinzow, a programmer at the University of Illinois, recruited volunteers through the school’s PC User Group and set up mirror sites to provide multiple sources for the project.

Shrewdly, Mr. Hart included books like “Zen and the Art of the Internet” and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Internet” to expand the audience for the project’s books.

Today, relying on the work of volunteers who scan and proofread without pay, the project adds to its list at the rate of hundreds of books each month.

Even in the project’s early stages, Mr. Hart envisioned it in revolutionary terms. Borrowing a term from “Star Wars,” he referred to e-books as just one form of replicator technology that would, in the future, allow for the infinite reproduction of things as well as words, overturning all established power structures and ushering in an age of universal abundance.

One hurdle on the road to the diffusion of knowledge was the Copyright Term Extension Act, passed in 1998. The act, sponsored by the California congressman and former pop singer Sonny Bono, removed a million e-books from the public domain by extending the copyright by 20 years. Under United States law, the average copyright now lasts for 95.5 years.

Lawrence Lessig, then a law professor at Stanford University (and now at Harvard), approached Mr. Hart to see if he would be interested in taking part in a constitutional challenge to the law.

He met Mr. Hart in a pizza parlor in Urbana, where, Mr. Lessig recalled in a telephone conversation on Thursday, Mr. Hart added a thick layer of sugar to his pizza while explaining that he saw the case as much more than a test of copyright law. It offered, as he saw it, a way to challenge the entire social and economic system of the United States.

Mr. Lessig, looking for a somewhat less visionary lead plaintiff, eventually enlisted Eric Eldred, the owner of Eldritch Press, a Web site that reprints work in the public domain. In 2003, in Eldred v. Ashcroft, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the copyright extension act.

Mr. Hart is survived by his mother, Alice, of Fort Belvoir, Va., and a brother, Bennett, of Manassas, Va.

How-to: Travel with your Roku Player

Ever thought about taking your Roku player along on your getaway or family vacation? Traveling with your Roku can be a snap with a little bit of forethought; we’ll show you how you can bring your favorite black box along to some of your favorite destinations.

Broadband Internet is relatively common these days, but you should still consider the following questions:

Will there be sufficient Internet bandwidth at the place I am staying?
How will Roku connect to the Internet? Will I need a router or laptop?
What type of TV will there be?

If you are staying at a friend’s or family member’s home, you can usually rely on a stable Internet connection and the ability to plug into a router or connect over a wireless network. You should let them know ahead of time that you will be using your Roku player –then tease them for not having one already *wink.

image courtesy of MoToMo on Flickr

Most hotels offer free Wi-Fi and it’s just a matter of plugging in your Roku and connecting to the wireless network.There are some however that require authentication beyond a password–like your room number and name, etc…. To share an Internet connection, even with the authentication, I use my laptop and an older Netgear wireless travel router (a travel router is just a smaller version of a typical router, and any brand should get the job done).

You will need to clone the MAC address from your computer to your router. It sounds scary, but it’s typically a check box that you select in the router settings menu, which tells the router to use the same address as your computer. As every router is different, you should refer to the proper documentation.

If you have a Wi-Fi hot-spot, your golden wherever you go. Just make sure you have a solid connection, and connect your Roku player as you would if you were at home.

What to bring:
It’s wise to pack HDMI, component, power and Ethernet cables–and don’t forget the remote. Left your remote behind? No worries, you can find a quick fix using your iPhone (or other iOS device) or Android device here.

Made by Waterfield Designs, this travel case should do the trick.

If you travel quite a bit and don’t feel like unplugging cables from the back of the TV every time you travel, you can find spare cables in our accessory shop and create a dedicated travel pack.

A few takeaways:

Internet usage at some hotels may require authentication, but once enabled, it’s usually good for a few hours.
You can use a travel router to share the Internet connection with your Roku.
Find smartphone apps to control your Roku on our blog.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Certificate cleanup for most personal computers

Certificate cleanup for most personal computers

Susan Bradley By Susan Bradley

A little Dutch company potentially lets a flood of problems into our Windows machines.

The company manages digital certificates; after its recent break-in by hackers, security certificates for Mozilla, Yahoo, WordPress, and other sites are now suspect.

On a daily basis, no matter what our level of paranoia, we trust the companies we work with. … Well, at least our browsers and computers do. Inside all computers, both Windows and Mac, is a collection of digital certificates that everyone on the Net has agreed to trust. On Vista and Windows 7 systems, these root certificates (definition) are updated by the issuer automatically. But on Windows XP machines, they're updated manually.

Companies doing business on the Internet buy certificates linked to a root certificate and automatically become part of the chain of trust. Because your computer trusts the vendor who provided the root certificate, it automatically trusts all online businesses with associated certificates.

This process is the foundation for secure Web transactions such as shopping on Amazon, online-banking, and e-mail.

Many updates after breaks in the chain of trust

Typically, this system works well. But on the rare occasions it fails — when the chain of trust is broken — it can instantly affect thousands of PCs.

Such is the case with that small company in the Netherlands, DigiNotar. Reports from various sites indicate that hackers compromised the firm's servers and generated rogue certificates. In a Kaspersky Lab Securelist blog, lab expert Roel speculates that as many as 200 rogue certificates were generated before the hack was discovered.

With a rogue certificate in place, a hacker can make your system think it's using a legitimate, trusted certificate from well-known companies such as Google and Yahoo. The hacker can then intercept your Internet connection with the site you intended to use and redirect you to a fake site, where you are tricked into entering personal information such as your user name and password. Your computer still thinks it's connected to a trusted site.

Fortunately for most of us, this particular attack appears to have targeted Internet users in Iran — it's the only country where these rogue certificates were spotted.

Soon after the breach, browser vendors offered updates that removed the Dutch root-certificate holder from their browsers' list of trusted certificate issuers. An August 29 Chrome Online Security blog reported that Google had disabled the DigiNotar certificate authority in Chrome 13.0.782.218.

The next day, Firefox followed suit in a Mozilla Security blog, announcing the release of numerous updates for Firefox (versions 3.6.21, 6.0.1, 7, 8, and 9), Thunderbird (3.1.13 and 6.0.1), and SeaMonkey (2.3.2) that revoked the DigiNotar root certificate.

On September 6, Microsoft released an out-of-cycle update — KB 2607712 — for Windows 2003, XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Server 2008 that not only removed all DigiNotar root certificates from the trusted list but also moved them to the untrusted-certificate store. If you find any DigiNotar certificates in the Trusted Root Certification Authorities list, I recommend you install KB 2607712.

If you do not see these certificates in your trusted-root store, you probably ignored all previous root-certificate updates. You can safely wait until the next Patch Tuesday to install the patch.

Manually removing the certificates from XP systems

Windows XP users have the option of deleting the certificates manually or merely looking over the list of certificates installed to see whether the DigiNotar cert. is there. Here's how:

Start out by clicking on the start button and typing mmc.exe. into the Run box, as shown in Figure 1. You'll see a window pop up typically labeled Console1.

Launching MMC
Figure 1. Opening up the mmc snapin

Click File, then Add/Remove Snap-in. In the Add/Remove Snap-in box, click the Add button, select Certificates (see Figure 2), and then click Add again.

Add Standalone Snap-in
Figure 2. Adding the certificate snap in

Yet another dialog box will open, with three choices. Select Computer account and click Next. Select Local computer (the computer this console is running on) and click Finish. Now close the Add Standalone Snap-in box. In the Add/Remove Snap-in box, click Okay. That returns you to the certificate-management console.

In the left-hand pane of the console, you should now see Certificates (Local Computer) with a small + next to it. Click on the + to expand your selection. You'll now see numerous folders, starting with Personal and including Third-Party Root Certification Authorities, as shown in Figure 3.

For more information on what folders you might typically see, check out the superuser post, "What are the Windows system certificate stores?" (In my example, the Windows XP system is a client of Windows Home Server and thus has a WHS certificate folder you probably will not see on your XP machine.)

Console Root certificates
Figure 3. Reviewing the list of certificate types

Now expand the Trusted Root Certificate Authorities folder and click on the certificates folder underneath. You should now see a list of certificates in alphabetical order (see Figure 4). Find any DigiNotar Root CA certificates and remove them from your computer.

An alternative way to remove certificates is through Internet Explorer. In IE, click Tools/Internet Options/Content and then Certificates. Click Trusted Root Certificates. Find the listings for DigiNotar Root CA (there are two in Figure 4) and remove them by clicking the Remove button. Click Yes to the warning that removing these certificates may prevent Windows from working properly. Then click Close and Okay.

Removing the DigiNotar root certificate
Figure 4. Removing the DigiNotar certificate.

If you don't see these two certificates in your trusted-certificate store, it's because you've probably used the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" rule of updating and thus ignored previous root-certificate updates. (I found one system without the DigiNotar certificate, and when I installed the latest root certificate — KB 931125 — the rogue certificate appeared.)

Think you're safer running the Apple platform? Guess again! Apple also included DigiNotar in its trusted root certificate program. In Apple it's a little more complicated to remove this rogue cert — a FairerPlatform blog has the details. Apple will most likely release a patch for its platform soon.

This issue exposes the vulnerable underbelly of trust of certificates, a process we may really need to start questioning. The listing of certificate authorities includes companies from countries that aren't always friendly to one another — and companies that have already been in the news for security breaches. If one small certificate authority in the Netherlands can be used in this type of potential spoofing attack, I hate to imagine what mischief can be done with a larger organization.

Needless to say, I may recommend holding off on future root-certificate updates until they have been examined more closely. In some cases you might be better off editing your existing root certificates rather than blindly adding updates.

Bottom line. If you have the DigiNotar certificate in your trusted-root certificate store, I recommend installing KB 2607712. On XP and Server 2003 systems, this will force a reboot — so plan accordingly. If you do not have the DigiNotar certificate in your trusted-root certificate store, simply wait for the next Patch Tuesday and apply it then.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

PlayOn Thoughts Four Weeks Later

PlayOn Thoughts Four Weeks Later
Posted by mike on July 12, 2011

It’s been about 4 weeks since I used PlayOn to get my Daily Show fix. Since then, I’ve signed up for a month more of PlayOn service to keep getting this and a few other shows like Burn Notice and White Collar without paying for Amazon Instant Video. My feelings about the service have shifted some in that time.
PlayOn Better With Tweaking

I’m still finding that PlayOn gets the job done. With some tweaks to the various providers, it seems to get the job done quite admirably most of the time. It’s been a delightful bridge to get Hulu on my TV via my Roku box and has brought some unexpected benefits like closed caps on the Roku box. A few tweaks that have proven quite nice:

Turn on Hulu closed caps: In Hulu, go to Privacy & Settings and click the “Automatically turn on closed captions if available.” checkbox
Use the Hulu queue: To avoid navigating the crazy-large menus, use the Hulu website to queue up shows then go directly to your Hulu queue for quick viewing

Places To Improve

It’s not all roses, however. The interface, in general, is still clunky. For channels that don’t have queues, it’s downright painful to navigate on my Roku. I’ve used the PlayOn iPad app, and that is manageable. I’m holding out hope that the upcoming Roku refresh will give PlayOn both the motivation and the technical ability to make a more robust Roku interface. I’ve also, on occasion, had playback issues. PlayOn will spontaneously reset the video feed to the beginning of the show (yes, before the first advertisement) during some Hulu viewings. I blame my increasingly erratic internet connection (AT&T, your number’s up), but I’ll still be sending in a support request to see how PlayOn responds.
PlayOn Is A Recommend

After a month of use, PlayOn has a place in my setup. I’ll finish out my current month subscription and, if we get this Hulu video reset under control, pick up a year of service for $39.99.

I do have one aside on the PlayOn pricing. I like a good deal, but I think that the annual subscription is the best deal in the package. Because of how MediaMall structured the annual service, with each extra year costing $19.99, I have a hard time recommending the lifetime subscription. Looking at the pricing:
8 Months 1 Year 2 Years 3 Years 5 Years
Monthly Rate
($4.99 / mo) $39.92 $59.88 $119.76 $179.64 $299.40
Annual Rate
($39.99 first year)
($19.99 second+) $39.99 $39.99 $59.98 $79.97 $119.95
Lifetime Rate
($79.99) $79.99 $79.99 $79.99 $79.99 $79.99

If you’re going to use the service beyond dabbling with it, the breakeven point for the annual service is around 8 months. Subscribing to the annual pass and getting 33% off after 1 year seems like a no-brainer to me when I like the service. It takes more than 3 years to break even on the lifetime rate and, in this industry, that is a lifetime. In the end, pick what works for your household budget and run with it.

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PlayLater Beta DVR on your computer

PlayLater: Cool, But Why Do I Want It?
by mike

A little while ago, I got a chance to take MediaMall Technology’s PlayLater for a spin as part of their public Beta. PlayLater reuses the PlayOn technology (of which I’m a huge fan) to DVR online TV shows and movies, recording them on a computer for later playback. Let’s take a look at it.
PlayLater Basics

PlayLater allows users to record streaming video from a variety of internet sources like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and many others. Users can then watch the video at their convenience, even if the internet is down. From the PlayLater website:

PlayLater is groundbreaking new technology that gives you the freedom to record your favorite online videos and enjoy them on your schedule, even if you aren’t connected to the internet. As more and more of you are getting your favorite shows online, we felt that it was time the rest of your entertainment technology caught up. After all, the same reasons that apply to recording TV shows and movies in the old world apply to the new world, right? Convenience, access, and frankly — sometimes you don’t have an Internet connection available and that shouldn’t bar you from watching your favorite shows. The future of entertainment is online and now you can record the future.

The PlayLater installation is quite painless and went without a hitch. I was quickly hunting for the Daily Show and downloading videos. I was able get some downloading going. One thing that quickly caught my attention was that PlayLater really was a DVR platform. After living with the internet a while, it didn’t even cross my mind that PlayLater would take 30 minutes to record a 30 minute TV shows. It could download it faster, right?! Unfortunately, not so much. The technology under the hood re-encodes the video as it plays, so it’s just like my TV in that the show has to play in real-time to record it.

The 30 minutes aside, PlayLater delivered on what they claimed. I managed to record and later watch a Daily Show on my PC. At the time of my review work, PlayLater could only play back on a PC. They have since merged the technology with their PlayOn platform to allow videos to stream to any PlayOn compatible device.

Although PlayLater did deliver on the main claim, this is obviously a beta product. It seems like a lot of careful thought has been put into the DVR technology, but the user interface is less than ideal. This is definitely not a Tivo. Resizing the main window causes visual artifacts. A list view of shows where the description would seem when I hovers over the name would be great to allow fast queuing.

All little things, but Apple has shown that polish matters. These are user interface issues that can easily be squeezed out before the beta closes. The core technology appears solid and is ripe for building up upon. All of this doesn’t answer the more fundamental question: why do I want it?
But Why Would I Want PlayLater?

I have yet to understand what niche PlayLater is serving. It’s cool technology, but what problem are they solving? Their stated reason for bringing this out is summed up by:

After all, the same reasons that apply to recording TV shows and movies in the old world apply to the new world, right?

The problem is that the same reasons don’t apply. I originally got a DVR because my favorite TV shows came on at a specific time that was inconvenient for me. I was tired that night, or my daughter wasn’t going to sleep and I was in her room, or it’s a daytime show and I’m at work. None of these apply to streaming video. Daily Show episodes two weeks back are available on Hulu at my whim. I can watch them when I want. Anything on Netflix is available when I want it. The only reasons I’ve come up with to justify PlayLater are:

I’m about to travel or take my computer somewhere without the internet and I want to watch a show. This seems legitimate but strikes me as a very small market.
The streaming channel is about to drop the show and I want to record it for later. This requires a lot of foresight for the instant gratification crowd.

I can’t help but think that MediaMall is dangling this out there to see if something emerges.
Conclusions on PlayLater

PlayLater delivered on what they set out to do. They created a DVR system for online videos. The technology has potential once the rough edges are sanded down. What’s missing is PlayLater’s reason for existence. Streaming video is based on the “cloud” holding the videos until I’m ready to watch, and that’s in place right now.

I can’t wait to see what the PlayLater team will do as they exit beta and put a polished product into the market.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blockbuster Wants Unhappy Netflix Subscribers to Switch – But is it a Good Idea?

Blockbuster began rescuing upset Netflix customers by launching a limited time, nationwide promotion for all Netflix customers who switch to Blockbuster Total Access™.

Blockbuster Total Access provides benefits Netflix doesn’t offer: availability of many new releases 28 days before Netflix; unlimited in-store exchanges; games for XBOX 360®, Playstation3™, and Nintendo Wii™, and no additional charge for Blu-ray™ movies.

As part of Blockbuster’s ongoing efforts to provide the ultimate in convenience, choice and value, Netflix customers who switch to one of Blockbuster’s two most popular Total Access plans will receive a 30-day free trial. After the free trial, customers will continue to receive Total Access for a new everyday price of only $9.99 per month for “1 Disc” at a time or $14.99 per month for “2 Discs” at a time.

“Blockbuster quickly responded to the cries of Netflix customers,” said Michael Kelly, president of Blockbuster. “Blockbuster Total Access is Netflix ‘without the wait.’ The combination of DVDs by mail and unlimited in-store exchanges provides more than 100 million people living near Blockbuster stores immediate convenience and unparalleled choice.“

Many Netflix customers have voiced their frustration about the Netflix price increase on Twitter by posting “Goodbye Netflix, Hello Blockbuster!”

“We find it shocking that anyone would raise rates as high as 60 percent,” Kelly added. “In contrast, Blockbuster has worked hard over the past few months to deliver value in entertainment to consumers in this economy and has even reduced in-store movie rentals to as low as 49 cents.”

This special offer for Netflix customers is available through Sept. 15, 2011, in participating stores and at Blockbuster’s website ( or bring in the tear-off from their Netflix mailer to a participating Blockbuster store.
Blockbuster Plans Netflix Plans
Blockbuster offer 3 different subscription plans with low monthly prices to meet your entertainment needs and your budget:

1-out Unlimited - 5 Free Exchanges – $11.99 per month
2-out Unlimited - 5 Free Exchanges – $16.99 per month
3-out Unlimited – 5 Free Exchanges – $19.99 per month

Selection Includes:

Purchase pre-owned movies
Rent by Mail without a Subscription
You don’t need a subscription to rent movies and games by mail from Blockbuster.You can order from more than 100,000 titles online or in store.
See available devices
Return rentals in the postage-paid mailer or to a participating store.

Blockbuster doesn’t offer a streaming plan. Its On Demand movies are charged per use, with variable pricing ranging from $1 to $5 per rental.

You can also purchase On Demand movies from Blockbuster, which are then kept in a digital locker from which you can re-stream the movie at any time.
Unlimited Streaming

For only $7.99 a month, you get unlimited movies & TV episodes instantly over the Internet to your TV or computer. There are no commercials, and you can pause, rewind, fast forward or rewatch as often as you like. It’s really that easy! (see available devices – my suggestion is Roku Player)

Monthly DVD Rentals via Mail

1 DVD out at-a-time $7.99
2 DVDs out at-a-time $11.99
3 DVDs out at-a-time $15.99
4 DVDs out at-a-time $21.99
5 DVDs out at-a-time $27.99
6 DVDs out at-a-time $32.99
7 DVDs out at-a-time $37.99
8 DVDs out at-a-time $43.99

Monthly Unlimited Streaming Plus DVD Rentals via Mail

Unlimited Streaming + 1 DVD out at-a-time $15.98
Unlimited Streaming + 2 DVDs out at-a-time $19.98
Unlimited Streaming + 3 DVDs out at-a-time $23.98
Unlimited Streaming + 4 DVDs out at-a-time $29.98
Unlimited Streaming + 5 DVDs out at-a-time $35.98
Unlimited Streaming + 6 DVDs out at-a-time $40.98
Unlimited Streaming + 7 DVDs out at-a-time $45.98
Unlimited Streaming + 8 DVDs out at-a-time $51.98

Monthly Limited Plans

1 DVD out at-a-time (limit 2 rentals a month) $4.99
Starz Play Only (no DVDs) $6.99 a month

Blu-ray movies and are adding more as they are released by the studios. You can add access to Blu-ray discs to your account at any time for an additional $2 a month.
Bottom Line

Netflix is still a better choice with the added feature of Netflix Instant at only $7.99 a month, but, it is not the cheapest. If you have a Blockbuster or another video store nearby just get the Netflix streaming plan for $7.99 a month and rent your movies from your local retailer.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Rise & Fall of RIM

Research In Motion is in the midst of a major transition in every sense of the word. Publicly, the company is portraying a very defensive image — one that is very dismissive, as if RIM is profitable and class-leading, and the media is out of line to criticize its business, as are investors. Internally, however, there’s a different story to be told. It’s a story filled with attitude, cockiness, heated arguments among the executive team and Co-CEOs, and paranoia. We’ve spoken to multiple ex-RIM executives at length about their experiences with the company over the past few years. While most speak highly of RIM and their time in Waterloo, they also each left the company due mainly to RIM’s lack of vision and leadership. Read on for an exclusive inside look at a company teetering on the edge between greatness and collapse.

Lightning in a bottle.

“Lightning in a bottle.” That is how one former executive described Research In Motion in its early days. “This came together at the right time, the right place, with the right technology, and Jim and Mike are extremely brilliant individuals.” Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are two irreplaceable leaders who were largely responsible for RIM’s success, our source continued. But as time progressed, Mike did not listen to the marketplace. This is obvious from the outside view, though the details surrounding why RIM is no longer a market leader — and why RIM will most likely not be able to regain its leadership position in the near future — are most interesting.

Let’s rewind a few years. Picture yourself sitting in an executive briefing at Research In Motion. You’d hear Mike Lazaridis unequivocally state time and time again that BlackBerry smartphones would never have MP3 players or cameras in them because it just does not make sense when the company’s primary customers were the government and enterprise. “BlackBerry smartphones will never have cameras because the No. 1 customer of ours is the U.S. government,” Mike Lazaridis would say in meetings. “There will never be a BlackBerry with an MP3 player or camera.”

There will never be a BlackBerry with an MP3 player or camera.

The fact is, that RIM didn’t only miss the boat in terms of product features and device trends as we now know, but the underpinnings of the company’s consumer failure began all the way back in 2005 with bold statements like these, combined with a lack of research and development in numerous key areas.

Mike Lazaridis would say that the most ridiculous idea was to name a phone with a marketing-derived name, like the Motorola RAZR. “BlackBerry will never do that, it will always be a model number,” he said to executives. “A BlackBerry with a name is ridiculous.”

“Here we are, as young, brazen people, and we’re just like, ‘Mike, you’re missing out. There’s a trend here; it’s a social and collaborative scene in certain media circles’,” one former executive said, describing the general feeling among other executives at the company. “Now look at what’s happened 4 or 5 years later — an MP3 player, camera, name, all done reluctantly.”

“When I would work with our major carriers, I would have to go to Mike’s product development team, and ask what are we going to bring to [redacted],” and it was never a cutting edge product, one former executive told me. There wasn’t ever a three-year roadmap. Mike was always focused on small, granular features like how to make the speakerphone in a BlackBerry the best speakerphone on the market. Mike would say that people were going to buy a BlackBerry because of the speakerphone… “because they wouldn’t need a Polycom anymore.”

The three-year roadmap for RIM products focused on refining the technology in phones had already been released, rather than looking at where to add major new componentry or trying to identify or even shape future trends. “One of the main reasons RIM missed the mark with the browser was because
they were always proud of how little data usage a user would use,” a former executive said. “There was no three-year plan at RIM.” RIM would be proud of the fact that someone would only use 1MB of data in a month in 2005, and as a result, there wasn’t ever any extensive R&D done within the browser space. Over time, that misstep affected BlackBerry tremendously as competing devices began to deliver desktop-like Web experiences. “Mike Lazaridis couldn’t imagine that consumers would be spending hours watching and streaming video to their devices, he couldn’t understand it,” the former exec continued. This is why we don’t see RIM excelling in spaces like camera technology, or displays — because the company never even attempted to anticipate the smartphone trends we’re seeing today. “RIM is a reactionary company.”

A BlackBerry with a name is ridiculous.

I remember going to sit with the CMO of one of the largest wireless carriers, and we would deliver features like “increase battery life by 40%” in the next model, and we would get a blank look on the other side of the conference room. The executives would think, ‘so your telling me with this device I am going to sell 40% less car chargers’, there was a blank stare. “They want the flavor of the week, and the carrier’s loyalty is to their customers and what their customers want. Then try and delivery that.”

“Mike is really brilliant, and superior beyond his years, and what he’s doing with Stephen Hawking and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics is compelling,” he continued. “There are hundreds of millions he’s put into it, but that doesn’t have anything to do with what RIM’s facing, and what’s in front of them, and the market is asking for them to change their ways.”

“Back a handful of years ago, if someone had a phone at work that wasn’t a BlackBerry they paid for it,” another executive who no longer works at Research In Motion said. “I was at a Fortune 500 organization a few weeks ago, and people were carrying a corporate issued BlackBerry in their left pocket and their own personal iPhone in the right pocket.” He continued, “The fact that people are spending their own money to buy the iPhone, when their company is giving them a ‘free BlackBerry’ sends quite a message to RIM,” says one of our sources.”

The market is asking for them to change their ways.

They were both stunned that someone could have a corporate-issued phone that could handle some consumer needs, but still walk around with two devices. There were and are many paradigms at RIM. In the corporate world, especially at large companies, the senior executives would buy a BlackBerry as soon as it came out. They would then give their old devices to employees beneath them, and these BlackBerry phones would eventually make their way down through the corporation. This isn’t the case anymore, and now those people that used to receive the hand-me-down BlackBerry devices are asking for shiny new phones.

Jim and Mike got along very well, I was told by multiple current and former RIM employees. The interesting thing, however, is that when they have disagreements, Mike wins all of the internal arguments. “Jim, given his background, doesn’t have the pedigree to compete with Mike on an academic level.” As a result, perhaps, I was told that things have slowly deteriorated between the two co-CEOs. Jim and Mike have “titanic” arguments in the halls of RIM headquarters on various subjects, and we’re told it’s quite open. Stories of explosive fights bleeding out into the hallways and even lunch spots in Waterloo have filled Research In Motion. It used to be that only vice presidents or above would get the privilege of listening to Mike and Jim debate — behind closed doors or in the boardroom. Regular employees now hear the arguments as well, and “they aren’t insulated for that. It’s unnerving. It makes for a nervous environment, and many employees are looking to jump ship. Most people are just uncertain as to what the future holds [for RIM].”

Most people are just uncertain as to what the future holds for RIM.

“When you hear Mike talk about the latest and greatest, it’s been the same thing for ten years: security, battery performance, and network performance. RIM has positioned battery life and network performance for years. People are not concerned with iPhone battery life,” one source told me. Network performance, to Mike, trumps any innovation a device like the iPhone offers. “Mike is convinced people won’t buy an iPhone because battery life isn’t as good as a BlackBerry,” a different source said. Mike apparently is in disbelief that people can use over 15GB of data on their iPhone and Android devices, and he feels that people will buy smartphones based on network efficiency, even though carriers with tiered data plans in developed markets love customers who use monstrous amounts of data.

While RIM has always viewed carriers as customers rather than end users, carriers have long been trying to find a different partner that doesn’t charge network fees. Since all BlackBerry devices use the BlackBerry NOC, RIM gets a piece of the data plan users pay on their bills each month. And RIM is the only manufacturer whose products are configured in such a way. “Carriers have always tried to negotiate the fees they pay RIM. They try everything to get that dropped or lowered, but that has been the one holy grail of RIM that has not been touched. ”

An ex-executive who had been responsible for a number of carrier partners for RIM recently told me that the data network fees paid to RIM were definitely the number one cause of heartburn from carriers, and a big point of contention.

There was no three- year plan at RIM.

If you look at RIM’s global revenue today, the story it paints isn’t a good one as far as driving new business and revenue channels. “They essentially just channel stuff,” a former exec said. For instance, when RIM wants to sell to a new market, it will go to two or three primary carriers and make those carriers purchase a set amount of devices up front to stock the channel for what is typically the remainder of the calendar year. Then RIM will sell those devices at full margin. It’s a great quick and easy profit from the channel. So RIM has now opened up three new carriers in a new country, let’s say, and it had them each purchase “X” thousand units each. Now, RIM can report to the Street that it shipped 700,000 devices at full market value.

After multiple sequential quarters of opening up new countries, there’s obviously a lot of volume there. Though the consensus of many is that RIM is nearing capacity with this strategy. The company now has to rely on the old school model of growth within these existing channels, and just as we’re seeing in North America with the tide changing now that long-standing BlackBerry customers are moving to other platforms and devices, that will happen in countries outside of the U.S. and Canada that have been stuffed with BlackBerry phones. Growth will slow to a stall in these markets, one source told me, and the problems will be compounded by the fact that a lot of these devices are not being sold through to end users. “They’re selling a screen with a giant calculator attached to it. It’s not a cool device anymore.”

As far as the PlayBook is concerned, RIM’s initial 500,000 shipments weren’t even sold at full margin. “RIM’s thought process was that they hoped if they put a product in a carrier’s hands that was less than full margin, it would entice the carriers to apply whatever number of discounts against that to bring it to market at an even lower price — a subsidy on the tablet. RIM isn’t making any money on the PlayBook.” To complicate matters, however, Jim Balsillie told the carriers at the 11th hour that the PlayBook wouldn’t have native email and would require the Bridge app in order to receive emails and provide calendar functions. “RIM is notorious for dropping these bombshells at the 11th hour on the carriers, and the PlayBook not having native email was a shock to the carriers.” They were all expecting a BlackBerry with a bigger screen. RIM was hoping to blow through the 500,000 units and have carriers take orders for millions of additional PlayBooks, but that has not happened yet. Mike Lazaridis looks at it as, why aren’t people buying this tablet when it has the most powerful engine with respect to multitasking, and supports Flash? But consumers have spoken pretty loudly a number of times, and Mike unfortunately leads the product side and continues to miss the mark with the masses, a former RIM executive told me. “I don’t even see anyone in Waterloo walking around with a PlayBook that doesn’t work for RIM,” another former RIM employee said.

Mike is convinced people won’t buy an iPhone because it doesn’t have a battery as good as a BlackBerry

“People really think Mike has lost his touch and vision. He’s paranoid. It’s not uncommon to see him walking around campus with bodyguards in tow,” one source told me. “This is a small community of folks in Waterloo. There’s what? 100,000 people and 30,000 of them are students, and it’s an understated place. Sure there are millionaires but no one drives anything fancier than a 5-series BMW. For Mike to be on campus with bodyguards is very peculiar. It’s very Orson Wells-like.” Another former employee I spoke with doesn’t find the fact that Lazaridis has bodyguards to be odd at all due to his stature. RIM’s other Co-CEO, however, is a completely different person.

“Every year, Jim Balsillie and COO Dennis Kavelman would take all the executives to Redtail golf course for a day of R&R with great meals, great VIP service, and every year one executive would not ever go.” Mike could not understand why everyone would go and have a golf day. In fact, he supposedly hated it and he never showed up on purpose, I was told.

“Jim chasing the NHL teams, that caused some separation between Mike and Jim,” one former executive stated. When Jim was in the midst of buying an NHL team, the NHL hired a large group to work on the project, and it had countless former RIM executives called for testimony on what Jim Balsillie was really like — all of the “TMZ dirt,” as one source described it. One executive BGR spoke to refused to talk to the NHL when they reached out, however many others were happy to open up. While this former exec did not have an issue with Jim, it was hypothesized that those with an axe to grind lobbed some dirt at the NHL and it’s most likely one of the reasons they didn’t allow him to proceed with a purchase.

They’re selling a screen with a giant calculator attached to it. It’s not a cool device anymore.

Multiple former executives also spoke of a notable divide between Mike, an internal product guy, and Jim, who focuses more on external partner relationships, in how they each react to leaks from inside the company. “I remember this one time when we had a new device coming out and it leaked to BGR.” Mike lost his mind for a few weeks. He couldn’t fathom how something like this would happen, and he constantly threatened to fire any employees who leaked any information. “He had this ‘you’re either with us or against us’ attitude, and he went off the rails. Every product is Mike’s baby”. On the other hand, Jim would try and spin things, I was told. He would get everyone excited, “you know, here it comes, he’d roll with it and have the attitude that they’re boosting the hype of the device, they’re pre-selling it for us, and so on. That was the message Jim would take.”

RIM seems to be doing damage control in a bunch of areas right now. One such area is the PlayBook and trying to mitigate the negative response to that product, and I was told the company is even going so far as to selectively block different media and even social networking sites from being accessed by employees. One of my sources said he anticipates RIM always having a niche market in the enterprise and government spaces, but he doesn’t think RIM has the potential to become a true market leader with consumers due to several shortfalls. “You’d honestly think RIM is more than a year or two behind in [the consumer market],” one source told me. “There will most likely be another heavy reduction in the workplace later this year or early next year. I don’t see the stock getting back to where it was. There are no real market impact executives coming into RIM, times have changed since Robin came in from Motorola, that ‘stock’ incentive isn’t there any more.”