Over, Done with, Gone: Apple Anti-Trust – Not Guilty

Well… THAT was quick…

antitrustI’ve been looking for news on this since the jury got the case; and it finally came out – and a lot sooner than I expected it to, too.

This story broke during the day today and I’ve been struggling to get back to this so that I could find out more about what happened and what the next steps are for the plaintiffs. I have a feeling that as far as they are concerned, this isn’t over yet.

The long and the short of it, according to the plaintiffs, is that Apple improperly created a DRM system that prevented competitors, like Real Networks, from putting music from their stores on Apple’s iPod. This was really an issue between Apple and Real Networks who was feeling squeezed out of the business not only by the RIAA and the music labels who were trying to crack down on file sharing and piracy, but by a market that got out of hand quickly for them. They simply had bad desktop player software, and most everyone left for a system that had better support, better software and better hardware. You can’t blame the fish for following the ebb and flow of the tide.

But, I digress somewhat…

A federal jury in California, however, disagreed. They were able to determine after only four hours of deliberation that Apple did not violate any antitrust laws and did not harm consumers. While plaintiffs argued that Apple’s repeated updates to iTunes and its DRM were done explicitly to prevent competitors from integrating their own services with Apple’s iPod, Apple rebutted the article stating that any changes made benefited users and that competitors that may have been harmed were collateral damage.

With all the bad press that the case had, I’m surprised it got as far as it did. With all of their original lead plaintiffs dropping out due to ineligibility and the 10 years of dust on the case, I’m surprised it was heard at all. The plaintiffs are expected to appeal the decision (no big surprise there), but all that seems to be happening now is that the lawyers are billing hours to a case that should have died and/or was already decided by a jury.

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Secure your PC with Privazer

Secure your PC with this must have Windows utility.

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Keeping your PC safe while you use it is probably the most important thing you can do while actually using the device. Unfortunately, its one of the hardest things to do. Simply going online opens you up to all kinds of attacks, malware hacks and other nasty bugs and viruses. That’s why having an app like Privazer is so very important. It’s a Windows security utility, and its worth a bit of a look.

Privazer cleans your PC in-depth and removes unwanted traces of your activities at home or at work. You can see what can be recovered of your past activities and securely clean traces to get a PC Privazer cleans your PC and your external devices. Privazer is a smart cleaning tool that helps you master your security and freedom, free up disk space and keep your PC fit and secure.

With simply one click, Privazer is able to clean securely your browsing history and files, your registry, RAM, virtual memory file and hibernation file. It will also clean IM tracks of your computer as well. With the use of such apps (browsers, key system files and IM clients) nearly universal, this is something that everyone can benefit from.

Most security apps can do all of this. Its really nothing to write home about. However, what really makes Privazer valuable is its ability to scan the contents of your drive’s free space to see what data fragments have been left behind in what was once previously used space. The app will intelligently scan this space and can remove data traces that need to be reset to “0.” Performance of the app improves over time

Privazer is a great application that handles some very important, very complicated tasks. Having a tool like Privazer is something that every PC owner needs. The price is free and the risks of using are non-existent. If you don’t have a tool like this, then you need to give it a try. You likely will not be disappointed.

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iDevice Restore Gotchas

Sometimes the best thing to do is to wipe it and start over. Unless…

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I’ve said this before, but I’ve been in mobile devices since 1996. In fact, I cut my journalistic teeth on WindowsCE devices, getting started with a Casio E10 back in 1996. It’s been an interesting journey that got me involved with many members of the Windows Mobile MVP community.  Along the way, I also helped get pocketnow.com and Gear Diary, both of them mobile device sites (though Gear Diary is more of a mobile computing than mobile DEVICE site now-a-days) off the ground.  During that time, I got involved in custom Windows Mobile device ROM’s for a number of different devices. I was even able to make (albeit very basic) mods to some ROM’s so that when I hard reset a Windows Mobile device or PocketPC Phone, custom software would automatically install as part of the process.  During my brief romp in the Android world, I got very good at rooting Android phones with and without rooting tools.

I got my first iPhone in 2008, with the iPhone 3G. At that point, the device was still an AT&T exclusive, which for me was ok. As a Chicago resident, that metro area provided enough dense coverage that I didn’t think I’d have any call coverage issues.  As many found out, that was an incorrect assumption.  3G was still new at the time, and the iPhone 3G was plagued with both battery and call quality/ dropping issues due to radios and radio ROMS that would desperately try – come hell or high water – to keep or find a 3G signal.  As such, batteries would drain faster than you could say, “Bob’s your uncle;” and call quality tanked.  The fledgling iDevice had tower switching issues; and tended to drop more calls than it connected.  I had my iPhone 3G for less than 3 months before I sold it due to too many dropped calls.  I can remember speaking with a writing partner, and during one critical 20 minute call at my desk, my iPhone dropped the call 11 times.  At the end of the day, I had to ask myself if I would tolerate that level of performance from any OTHER mobile device I was using or reviewing, and the answer was a very quick and resounding, “no.”  So, out it went.

So, fast forward to present day…

I’m currently using an iPhone 5, on AT&T again (I left AT&T for T-Mobile, then came back with the release of the iPhone 5).  When it comes to mobile devices, I’ve somewhat changed my point of view and philosophy – I’m a little tired of the cuts and bruises one receives when living on the ragged, hairy, bleeding edge, so I’m very happy to be back inside Apple’s Walled Garden.  No jail breaking for me… I did jail break my iPhone 5 at one point and ventured outside of the walled garden for all of, like, 27 and a half minutes, and quickly ran back home.  Cydia… Oy!!  What a hot mess THAT is! Never again.

Anyway, the point to all of this rambling..?  Very simple – well, perhaps not THAT simple.  But there are a couple things that I wanted to say to everyone about their phones in general, and then wanted to point out something that SHOULD work, but absolutely doesn’t.  I’ll get to that in a sec…

  1. Do NOT Fear the Hard Reset
    I said this in a lengthy column back when I was writing for pocketnow, I think.  If you have a smartphone (back then, they were called PDA’s (personal digital assistants), and they didn’t have cellular connectivity), you’re going to put apps on it, and not all of them work and play well together.  Some developers just don’t produce quality code and don’t test well.  As a software quality professional with 25 years of experience, you have no idea how much that very common behavior just makes my teeth itch…As such, you’re likely going to wind up with a device that gets really screwed up at one point or another. When that happens, your best course of action is not to pull your hair out trying to fix things.  Most of your information is either backed up in your Google account on your Android phone, in OneDrive on your Windows Phone or in iCloud on your iPhone.  Don’t worry about it. Just hard reset the thing and rebuild the device from scratch and be done with it.If you’ve installed a lot of apps and had a good, functional back up of the device prior to things going south, you could also do a simple restore (which may save you time when rebuilding or reestablishing your device’s setup).  Unfortunately, depending on how diligent you are in backing up your device, you may or may not have a good, device back up available. Yes, you can try to trouble shoot the problems, but the likelihood of you pinpointing what combination of apps and/or settings that sent your device south is very slim.  The best thing to do is admit defeat, put on your big boy undies and wipe the device and rebuild. You may find that you’ll not only resolve the problem, but may see a huge performance boost. Your smartphone likes it when it’s clean.
  2. Make Sure you have a Solid Internet Connection
    Back during the jailbreak hay day, one of the things that Apple did to make certain you couldn’t jailbreak your device and to keep it running the way they wanted it to was to insure that it phoned home during a restore or reset operation.  This is fine when you have a decent Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet connection…and this is where things can get ugly – not so much when you’re using your iPhone as a hotspot.  iTunes puts the device in recovery mode before it verifies the ROM – AND, get this – it does it every single time you want to restore the phone to factory fresh.Dear Apple… STOP IT!This is the one thing that I mentioned above that absolutely should work, but doesn’t.  With iOS 8, though, you probably won’t need to do that anymore.  Apple has made it increasingly harder and harder for jail breakers to find an exploit so that they can actually create a jailbreak of iOS 7.x.  They’ve plugged nearly all the holes. I still think it’s important to verify that the restore file I am using isn’t corrupted or tampered with, but there HAS to be a better way to do this than by phoning home each and EVERY time I want or need to restore the device.  There has to be a way to do that ONCE and ONLY once per mobile OS version. Once that verification is done, I shouldn’t have to worry about what KIND of internet connection I have – Wi-Fi, wired or hotspot via my iPhone. I just wanna restore the thing and get it working again.I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stop myself from performing a restore because I was out and about and was using my iPhone as a hotspot. In one instance during a recent move to a new geographic area, I had problems with my iPhone, started the restore and then realized I no longer had an internet connection when iTunes tried to verify the restore file.  I had to pack up my MacBook Pro, my iPhone and jump in the car and try to find a MacDonald’s or Starbucks so I could have my cell phone – my only connection to the people who were helping me move – back from the dead.Restoring your phone shouldn’t be so complicated…I’m just sayin’.
  3. Don’t Connect your Smartphone to your PC through a USB Hub
    Yeah… I know this one can be hard, especially if you’re connecting through a laptop and don’t have a docking station (can you say every Mac EVER made) and you hate plugging and chugging a bunch of cords in and out of your computer; but don’t do this if you can help it.  I can’t tell you how many different times I’ve had iPhones get stuck in recovery mode because the signal from the PC burps because it’s connected through a USB hub.  Some people have better luck when the USB hub has its own power source and isn’t drawing juice from the laptop to split your USB port. This isn’t always the case. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter if the hub is powered or not.  I’ve had to retry iOS restores many different times on both iPhones and iPads due to weak or poor USB signals when I use USB hubs.  After the second or third failure, I usually just plug and chug USB cables out of USB ports and plug my iDevice directly into the PC. It usually works first try after that.If you’ve got an Android device, don’t try to root it while connected through a USB hub.  Some Android devices don’t recover well if the rooting or flashing process burps.  Don’t turn your cool smartphone into a brick or paper weight. Connect to your PC directly.

I started out making this totally about Apple products, but found out as I went through the process that the gotchas that I’ve pointed out can occur with just about any and all makes, models and mobile OS’.  The iDevice Phone Home thing is all Apple, though; and it really just needs to stop.

Do you have any mobile device horror stories that you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear them.  Why don’t you join me in the comments section, below and tell me what happened to you.

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Recover all of the data from your iDevice

With EASEUS MobiSaver – a must have, multiplatform tool.

0024695It totally sucks when your iDevice locks up or dies and you lose your data. If you live in your iPhone, like I do, having something like this around for those times when the world turns upside down is a must have…a must have. That’s where EaseUS MobiSaver comes in. It’s a data recovery utility for your iPhone and Windows machine.

EaseUS MobiSaver is an easy-to-use iPhone data recovery app that allows you to directly scan your iPhone – or extract iTunes backup files – to recover deleted iPhone dat. You can recover notes, text messages, call history, calendar data as well as photos and videos. EaseUS MobiSaver supports iPhone 5, 4S, 4, and 3GS. EaseUS MobiSaver can solve all data loss problems with 3 simple steps. You can preview your lost files, and get all your missing data back in minutes.

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EASEUS MobiSaver has two recovery modes – direct from the device and from iTunes backup. The app lets you scan your device, and with one click to recover data from iPhone 5/4S/4/3GS, New iPad and iPod Touch 4. When recovering data from an iTunes backup, you can extract the files and then send them to your device quickly and painlessly.

EASEUS MobiSaver is a great app. If you’re in a bind where you can’t get regular access to your iDevice or if your iPhone just isn’t doing what you want or need it to do and you MUST get your data off before you wipe it, then this is the app that you need. Its just that simple. The only thing that I don’t like about it is that you MUST have iTunes installed on the PC you use do to the recovery. This is the only fault that I can find with the app, however. So, other than that, this is a total winner of an app.

download EASEUS MobiSaver

 

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Transfer music and video files from iPod and iPhone with Ease

Have you had a problem with your computer or hard drive, lost all your music, then connected your iPod to your computer, hoping you could do a two-way transfer? Unfortunately, when you do that iTunes won’t let you copy your previous music library to your computer. That’s where Sharepod comes in. With Sharepod, you can copy music you have stored on your iPod to your computer with a simple drag-and-drop interface. You can arrange by track, by album or by playlist.

Sharepod is a simple, single-executable application that doesn’t need installing. So whether you are at home or a friend’s, it is easy to download, open and have your iPod connected within seconds. As well as iPod to PC sharing, Sharepod allows you to copy music from your PC to iPod without the need for iTunes. This is a great if you have multiple computers and want to use your iPod with all of them, instead of connecting your mp3 player to just one device.

Sharepod is a great freeware application for transferring music from your iPod to other computers and back again. If you have multiple computers in your home network or want to share music with friends, there is no simpler way to do it than with Sharepod. Sharepod fixes the universal problem iPod users have when trying to connect their device to secondary computers.

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Thunderbolt vs. the Standard 30 Pin iOS Connector

There’s a lot of speculation that a change in the iPad 3 and iPhone 5 connector may change.

The 30 pin iDevice connector has been around for a long time. Back in the day, when the iPod was originally released, Apple introduced it with the original 30 pin connector. Apple has on occasion since the original introduction of the connector and cable made tweaks to it. The connector has spawned the introduction and revision of many different accessories. Its created an industry all of its own.

With the introduction of Thunderbolt, a PCI Express related connector, there’s been a great deal of speculation that Apple would move all iDevices to it, beginning with iPad 3 and iPhone 5. There are some pluses and minuses to this, speculative change. Let’s take a quick look and see what they may be.

10 Plus Years at 30 Pins Can’t be Wrong
Apple’s love affair with their 30 pin connector goes back to the original release of their iPod music player. Back in the day, Apple’s 30 pin connector was Firewire only. It wasn’t until the 3rd generation iPod that USB support was built in, and then it was sync only support. It wasn’t until the 4th generation iPod that the 30 pin USB connector did sync and charge. The long and short of it, however is that Apple has had a love affair with their 30 pin connector since October of 2001.

The last 10 years has seen a great many iPod, iPod Touch and iPhone accessories evolve around the iDevice’s 30 pin connector. When Apple introduced the iPhone 3G, they changed the connector. When they introduced the iPhone 3GS, they changed the connector. When they introduced the iPhone 4 and then the iPhone 4S, they changed the connector. With each connector change, accessories were obsoleted – meaning, they would no longer function as designed and intended. Users were forced to look for updated versions or replacements entirely.

This was both good and bad, as aside from the economic stimulation which was good for retailers and accessory manufacturers, some users resented the fact that they had to spend money to repurchase an accessory that wasn’t broken. Users are now someone resigned to this continual need to “fix what wasn’t broken,” and make budgetary allowances for some key accessory repurchases at the time of device purchase. In some cases, accessories were unaffected by the pin changes. In those cases where functionality was affected, some users are willing to forego full functionality (usually charging), provided that some functionality remained. In the case of speakers or boom boxes, you have to watch to insure that you don’t completely run out of power, but in some cases, that may be acceptable considering the price of the accessory in question.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, given the accessory investment you made and the usability status of those accessories as they relate to the “new” device, do I have to modify how I use the device and if not; can I afford to repurchase said accessories if they don’t work the way I am used or need them to work?

Less of a Need for a Physical Connection
With the introduction of iOS 5, the need for a physical connector has really changed. It’s now possible to sync your iDevice to a given PC via Wi-Fi. With Airplay, the need for a physical speaker or TV connection is greatly reduced. Without needing to be physically connected to a speaker in order to hear playing music or a TV in order to view video and hear its audio, the need for a wired connection to that centralized or playing endpoint, is greatly reduced if not eliminated. In this scenario, the only reason to have a wired connection to anything is for charging purposes.

From a technology advancement perspective, 4G and LTE radios are a bit bigger in size. Apple’s 30 pin connector takes up a great deal of space – space that might be better utilized by a larger battery. Given that battery life is a huge issue for devices with advanced cellular radios, it really begs the question…What is Apple going to do with its connector?

Bus Compatibility
Obviously, the first thought is Thunderbolt. It’s much smaller, provides a huge speed boost, and would allow for either a larger radio or larger battery, or both. The problem here is that Thunderbolt uses PCI Express, and Apple’s iDevices do not. This would require a total internal redesign of the device’s communications bus, and may present other challenges that would negate the benefit the connector’s smaller form factor. While some of this may be required related to the implementation of LTE, that reengineering may not be as drastic or demanding as the implementation of both LTE and Thunderbolt in Apple’s handheld devices.

The other obvious alternative is microUSB. However, while this may solve the space problem, microUSB doesn’t offer much of an improvement other than size. From a performance perspective, Apple would likely see the same level of performance from a microUSB connector as it would from its current 30 pin connector. If space is the only consideration, this may be the move to look for. If Apple is looking for space and performance bumps, this likely wouldn’t be the solution that Apple would pursue.

Will Apple make a change here? Trying to figure out what they will do seems to be one of the most pursued netizen pastimes of the past few months. If they were to want or need to make a change, now, with pending releases of both iPad 3 and iPhone 5 on the horizon, would obviously be the best time to chase it down.

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CopyTrans Suite – a set of apps to replace iTunes and manage your iPod or iPhone

One of the most annoying features of the Apple iPod is that it can only be connected to one computer at any one given time. This isn’t useful if you have multiple computers on your network, in your house or at work, with different audio collections that you own. Likewise, if you are going to get a new computer and want to scrap the old one, you can’t just connect your iPod to the new computer and transfer that audio over.

CopyTrans Suite, an iPod utility, fixes all of these problems. With CopyTrans Suite you can back up, copy, recover and, simply, transfer music from your iPod to your computer. CopyTrans Suite is compatible with your iPod, Photo, Mini, Shuffle, Nano, Video, Touch and iPhone, so this even works if you are upgrading from your old iPod but want to keep some of those older songs that you no longer have.

CopyTrans Suite is a fantastic application for people with multiple iPods, multiple computers or multiple audio collections. Instead of having segregated music collections, you can now unify them together to give you all of your music, all of the time, wherever you go. CopyTrans Suite also acts as a fantastic backup utility, so that even if your computer crashes, you can restore your entire iPod library to your computer easily.

Read full review | Download CopyTrans

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2011 Gift Guide Part 2 – Suggested Gifts

Following the 2011 Gift Guide Part1 – Ok, Great! Now what should I buy? article here are my recommendations for just about every budget level, given our recent thorough discussion about Mobile Device Ecosystems.

It’s true.  The hottest ticket items this 2011 Holiday Season are all mobile – tablets, smartphones, music players, ultra-portable notebooks (the netbook is dead) – and the like will undoubtedly find their way to a gift box near you. Ecosystem aside, there are some really cool gadgets out there right now, and figuring out which basket to put all your eggs in can be confusing.

In order to make your last minute gift buying a bit easier, I’m going to take a quick moment and give you a couple recommendations in a couple different categories.  I hope this helps you in your Holiday gift giving.

Tablets

  • Apple iPad2: Ranging in price from $499 USD to $829 USD, depending on the storage and communications options you choose, the iPad has established itself as the clear leader in this category. This is the gadget that all tablet lovers are going to want this Holiday, as it plays music, movies, TV shows, runs applications, and is a great eReader. So if you’re budget is up to it, this iOS powered iDevice will be a sure winner.

  • Kindle Fire: At $199, this break-even priced Amazon, Android powered tablet has been labeled by some as the only non-iOS based tablet that can challenge the iPad. It streams thousands of movies and TV shows instantly via Amazon Prime, runs Android apps, plays music from Amazon’s MP3 store, comes with 8GB of internal storage, and reads Kindle eBooks without batting an eye. If the iPad is outside of your budget’s comfort zone, give the Kindle Fire some serious consideration, as the tablet’s UI and features are sure to improve in the coming months.

Smartphones

  • Apple iPhone 4/4S: Ranging from $99 USD to $399 USD, Apple’s iPhone 4/4S is the most popular smartphone in the US, and likely around the world.  Siri, available only on the 4S, will remake the way users interface with their iPhones, and is perhaps the biggest draw for new and existing iPhone customers alike. If you’re planning on giving an iPhone for the Holidays, order now, as many carriers, as well as Apple, are reporting lengthy lead times and delivery dates that are quickly nearing the end of December.

  • Droid RAZR: If Apple’s smartphone isn’t your cup of tea or is outside your budget, the Droid RAZR, available on Verizon Wireless in the US, also represents head-turning technology within the Android ecosystem. While a little more expensive than the entry level iPhone, at $299.99 USD, it sports “advanced artificial intelligence,” learning the user’s work habits, and speeding up those tasks it knows you’re going to perform most often.

Ultra-Portable Notebooks

  • Apple MacBook Air: As the only non-iOS/Android powered product in this gift guide, the Apple MacBook Air is both a Windows as well as a Mac based computer. The entry level model comes with 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD. This ultra-thin, SSD equipped ultra-notebook ranges in price from $999 to $1599 USD, and may be a bit on the pricy side. However, as current models don’t have DVD drives or Ethernet ports, you’ll need to remember to buy the external SuperDrive as well as the appropriate adapter not only for your desktop monitor, but its Ethernet adapter as well; and this will push the entry level price up by $137 USD.  You may also want to invest in a USB hub or two. Despite all this, however, the Air is proving very popular with consumers and enterprise users alike.

  • Asus Transformer Prime: The $499.99 USD Asus Transformer Prime is technically a tablet, but with its $149.99 Transformer Dock, it instantly becomes a powerful, light weight ultra-notebook, capable of satisfying most of the needs for a computing device in this category.  The best thing about this device is its ability to function as both a tablet and keyboard-based computer.  While the device currently runs Android’s Honeycomb 3.2, its sure to get an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich, ensuring that the device will provide a number of years of usability at roughly half the price of Apple’s MacBook Air.

As far as digital music players are concerned, the only one really left on the market, besides a slew of off-brand players is the Apple iPod.  You can’t go wrong with ANY of these, from the Shuffle to the iPod Touch.  You just need to pick a price point and a model and go with it.  This is a sure winner with anyone.

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