From: —

Canadian cell phone service provider giant Rogers Communications Inc. is expected to drop the controversial ‘system access fee’ from its Fido discount service.

As reports, Rogers will relaunch Fido today, with a new logo and a new service package structure. Insiders say that, under the new rate structure, the hated (C)$6.95 ‘system access fee’ will no longer be charged on prepaid Fido plans.

Industry observers say the move, by one of Canada’s largestr cell providers, may signal the end of system access charges all together.

“It’s the number one complaint about cellphones,” said John Lawford, counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. “People are getting a little more traction with their pushback in a lot of telecom issues now. … We just might see the end of [system access fees]. We’ll see them slowly disappear.”

BC-based Telus was the first Canadian cell provider to scrap system access fees, for pre-paid users of its discount Koodo service, last March.

Apple has summarily quashed rumours that a new Mac Mini and an updated iMac family will be unveiled in time for year-end holiday gift giving.

The rumours surfaced on fan blogs and online forums over the weekend and quickly took on a life of their own.

However, an Apple rep told Macworld magazine yesterday that, “Our holiday lineup is set.’

Apple released a totally-revamped Mac Book lineup just last month, in anticipatioon of the coming Christmas season. The new portables both raised the bar in terms of MacBook design and lowered the entry level price point for Mac portables.

Apple has traditionally made major new product announcements in January, at the annual Macworld Conference and Expo, and in mid-summer, in anticipation of the fall back-to-school sales spike.

The Coolpix P6000 is Nikon’s flagship compact digital camera. Its main features include a 13.5 megapixel sensor, a 4x zoom lens (35mm equivalent of 28-112mm) with vibration reduction, a beautiful 2.7” LCD display, full manual controls, and RAW image capture. Nikon also added two firsts: A built-in GPS for automatic geotagging and an Ethernet port to facilitate direct uploads to Nikon’s Picturetown online service.

During testing I found the P6000 a pleasure to use. While the camera is small, the rubberized grip felt solid, the controls were easy to use, and the menus, in typical Nikon character, were very intuitive. I activated the GPS, and while it took a few minutes, it did acquire a GPS fix inside my home near a window. Once activated, the GPS feature adds location information to every photo taken (assuming that camera can receive the GPS signal) – a great feature for people who travel and take a lot of outdoor photos.

While innovative, the built-in Ethernet port was a bit disappointing because it only allows uploading photos to Nikon’s online photo sharing service. Hopefully Nikon reconsiders and adds the ability to upload to other services and the user’s hard drive in an upcoming firmware release.

Raw shooting has also returned to the Coolpix line with the P6000. However Nikon, in a bold move, introduced a new raw file format that is not compatible with the Nikon raw format. As of the time of writing, applications like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom don’t yet support the new raw format.

It’s important to keep these limitations in perspective. The best way to transfer images from your digital camera is to remove the memory card and use a USB reader, and photo applications will catch up with Nikon’s new file format. Perhaps more significant is that innovations in the P6000 signal Nikon is taking the compact digital camera market seriously again, which is good news to Nikon afficionados and great news for the compact market as a whole.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the P6000’s image quality, and the exposure system performed well in automatic mode even shooting in challenging conditions. The Nikon Coolpix P6000 is a great camera that still fits in your jacket pocket, making it attractive as a primary camera for those seeing convincing and a great second camera for those times when you just can’t carry your SLR.

Cell phone design innovator Motorola has launched a new, top-of-the-line super phone just in time for holiday gift giving…

The AURA, which is designed to sell for ‘around (US)$2,000’, features a sumptuous array of luxury features and appointments including an ultra-scratch-resistant man-made sapphire crystal protecting its distinctive 16-million colour, 300 dpi circular display.

According to the official AURA Web site, “ [Its] stainless steel housing with chemically etched textures and patterns takes nearly two weeks to sculpt, etch and polish.”

The AURA features a 2 megapixel camera, 2 GB of built-in storage, Bluetooth and USB 2.0 connectivity and is compatible with both GSM and GPRS networks.

The AURA should be available from most Motorola dealers and service providers of record soon, if not now.

Hundreds of Japanese enthusiasts lined up to buy Nintendo’s new DSi portable game console this past Saturday at its Tokyo launch event, involving a host of stores in that city’s legendary Akihabara ‘electronics market’ district. The (US)$178 device actually sold out everywhere it was offered by noon.

The DSi is similar in many respects to its predecessor, the DS Lite, but sports a larger 3.25 in. diagonal screen and new photo editing capabilities.

The DSi hits the store shelves in Japan in plenty of time for the coming holiday season. But Nintendo President Satoru Iwata says it won’t be available in North America until next spring. By then, Iwata says, the DSi should be available in a range of designer colours as well the current black or white.

The RSA FraudAction Research Lab reports it has uncovered a three-year campaign by cyber criminals which resulted in the theft of personal and financial information from more than half a million people worldwide.

“This may be one of the most pervasive and advanced pieces of crimeware ever created by fraudsters,” the RSA blog warns. “Dating back as early as February 2006, the Sinowal Trojan has compromised and stolen login credentials from approximately 300,000 online bank accounts as well as a similar number of credit and debit cards. Other information such as email, and FTP accounts from numerous Web sites, have also been compromised and stolen.”

According to a post on the official RSA blog, sophsticated criminal hackers distributed the Trojan infection to victims’ computers via so-called ‘drive-by downloads’. Then, when users accessed certain online banking or transaction Web services, the trojan inserted additional fields into the forms displayed by the real sites, asking for additional information that the legitimate site would not normally request.

Information keyed into the extra form fields was sent directly back to the criminals while information keyed into the legitimate fields was sent on, to the legitimate site, and the expected transaction would take place, as usual, without the user or the service provider suspecting that any clandestine activity had taken place.

RSA notes that, once downloaded to a victim’s computer, the Sinowal Trojan could be triggered by any of over 2,700 banking and transaction site URLs.

From: CNet News —

Google has issued a patch for the buffer overflow vulnerability revealed in its Android cell phone operating system shortly after the release of the first Android-based phone, T-Mobile’s G1, in the U.S. last week.

As CNet’s Stephen Shankland reports, the patch is now available via download, through T-Mobile. Users should receive on-screen notification from the service provider, with the option of updating immediately or at a later time.

T-Mobile notes that users will not be able to place or receive calls while the update process is in progress and the phones will restart without warning during the update.

Although the Android flaw cast at least a small cloud over the launch of both the G1 phone and the Android oprating system, there have been no reports of criminal hackers taking advantage of the vulerability.

Facebook (along with other social networking sites) has been around for a few years, and a lot has been written about the security issues involved. Googling “facebook security” yields about 20,500 hits. But what do users really need to know?

Information about Facebook users can be broken down into several categories:

  • Personal information: Facebook allows users to enter personal information such as their date of birth, home town, relationship status, sexual orientation, religious views, email address, telephone number, educational background, and employer.
  • Friends: The point of social networking is to connect with “friends”. Facebook users send requests to add friends, and if the potential friend agrees, they are connected on facebook. Any user who can view either of the “friends” profiles can see that they are connected. Some people allow anyone to see who their “friends” are, so social networks can be mapped.
  • Photos: Facebook users can upload photos and tag people in them. For example, if a friend uploads a photo that you are in, they can tag you in the photo. Another user viewing the photo can see your name associated with the photo.
  • Facebook Applications: Facebook applications allow users to post information on their profile, other user’s profiles, etc. Whether other users can see the information depends on your privacy settings (more on that later).
  • Third Party Applications: Facebook and third party applications that you enable have access to information in your profile. While there are some privacy restrictions in place, you should assume that all your personal information is available to any application you add.

So how do you stay safe on Facebook? The various applications and privacy settings may be overwhelming, but the answer is simple:

  1. Don’t enter unnecessary personal information into Facebook in the first place. While they require that you provide your date of birth (although they have no way to verify that you are providing correct information), virtually all the other personal information is optional. If you wouldn’t be comfortable answering the same question posed by a stranger or at a job interview, don’t type it into Facebook.
  2. Do not supply information about your school or employer. While you might not consider your employment details particularly sensitive, doing so may give your employer a legitimate reason to object to what you have written since it may reflect on them. Unless you use Facebook for business purposes, keep your employer out of it.
  3. Configure all privacy settings for your profile (Settings > Privacy Settings > Profile) to ‘Only Friends’. This makes it more difficult for people who don’t know you to obtain personal information about you. You can always change this later if there is specific information you wish to share with a wider audience.
  4. Don’t blindly accept friend requests. Identity thieves and unscrupulous marketers may send large numbers of friend requests. If you’re not comfortable simply ignoring requests from people you don’t recognize, you can always send them a message back politely asking, “Can you remind me where I know you from?” Just remember that sending someone a message on Facebook gives them access to some information in your profile.
  5. Think before you post. As a general rule, don’t post anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want posted on the Internet. You may think that only your ‘friends’ can read it, and today you might be right. However, your words may hang around Facebook for a long time. Also, you have no way to prevent a ‘friend’ from copying, printing or creating a .pdf and sharing it with others.

Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with friends. By following a few basic rules and considering the potential consequences before giving Facebook information you can keep it safe.

Philosophers will argue that it’s morally reprehensible to profit from the misfortune of others. Nevertheless, it’s inevitable that Internet security companies will benefit from any upsurge in malware/virus attacks or other criminal hacker activity.

If you’ve been thinking that viruses and online frauds have been in the news a lot lately, you’re right. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising to find that Internet security leader McAfee Inc. recently posted 27 per cent growth [in sales] on record revenue of (US)$410 million for the third quarter of 2008.

(US)$163 million of that total came from sales of McAfee consumer products, notably its family of Internet Security suites.

Among the new product/service announcements from McAfee during its tumultuous third quarter: The promise of McAfee Active Protection, an internet-based personal computer security system which will, “shield computer users against attacks as they happen without requiring a traditional scheduled update.”

The financially-minded can access the full financial statement and a Web cast by McAfee execs here.

The TECHLife Post is your daily window on technologies that matter to you !

We’ve just completed a two-week shakedown cruise, tweaking the site’s infrastructure and content. Now, we’re ready to bring you news, reviews, opinion columns and editorial commentaries on the technology issues that impact you, your family and your life as it happens, daily, Monday to Friday.

Our regular columnists will look in every week or two week on key issues that affect our digital lives:

Danielle Donders shares her adventures in digital-age parenting every Thursday under the Digital, Baby! banner.

Eric Jacksch keeps us informed on digital privacy, safety and data InSecurity issues every Monday.

Our in-house futurist, Zoe Brain, will peer into the tea leaves every second Wednesday and speculate on another intriguing aspect our digital future.

And Senior Correspondent Fred Ennis, The Cranky Man, will wax critical on economic, political and regulatory issues relating to the technology ‘cloud’ whenever the spirit, or his ire, moves him.

We’ll bring you news of new digital products and services as they’re released and all of our correspondents will pitch in, as appropriate, with in-depth reviews of the best new products and services in their respective areas of expertise.

Every day, we’ll skim the cream off the top of the news churn, and spotlight the Best Of… other leading tech news and comment voices from across the globe.

Occasionally we’ll bring you Editorials on important issues on which the Post takes a stand. More often, under the Editorial banner, I’ll share personal perspectives reflecting my fifteen years on the tech news beat.

And… If there’s a tech issue that’s important to you that we’re not already covering, let me know directly via:

Right off the top, let’s clarify one key point: Cell phone users are using their phones more than ever, so it’s not the service side of the business that’s suffering. In fact, a recent survey of consumer preferences showed that phone service — be it cell or land line — was one of the last things people would give up when money got tight.

As a recent Reuters report reveals, growth in cell handset sales ground to a halt in the third quarter of this year. Only Samsung posted a gain in market share, and only because it aggressively cut prices with that goal in mind. Notably, handset giant Motorola last week posted a loss of nearly (US)$400 million for the most recent fiscal quarter — attributed largely to tanking handset sales.

The problem is that many cell users are simply not upgrading to newer, more feature-packed handsets as regularly as they used to.

As well, some cell service providers are how encouraging their subscribers to hold onto their old handsets rather than upgrading to new ones when they renew their service plan subscriptions, all in the name of offering less costly cell services and greening their industry, which has been criticised for generating mountains of old-handset techno-junk.

Industry observers say cell sales could well deteriorate further in Q4 2008 and into next year. Specifically, they foresee weak handset sales this Christmas season, traditionally a time when gift phone sales soar.

Behold the CineMassive OmegaPlex jumbo display

They don’t call the OmegaPlex ‘the final word in multi-monitor displays’ for nothing.

This 27.6 million pixel ‘wall’ of video will dominate any room. Composed of 12 24 in. diagonal widescreen monitors in a 3 x 4 matrix, the monster measures almost 80 in. / 200 cm wide by 44 in. / 110 cm tall and sports a composite functional resolution of 7,680 x 3,600 pixels.

One small technical detail that might hang-up some potential buyers: The computer or video system you use to drive the OmegaPlex must have 12 DVI digital video outputs…

Nevertheless, if you buy the OmegaPlex direct from the manufacturer, you can take advantage of a ‘new low price’ of (US)$12,995.

And, if that’s too rich for your blood, tour the CineMassive Web site for details on their entire line, starting with more-modest dual-, triple- and quad-panel displays, starting from ‘just’ (US)$749.

Merry Christmas! Maybe…