Archive for May, 2015

Do I really need a security system?

Do I really need a security system?
According to Alarm System Report, over 2 million home burglaries are reported in the United States each year and, on average, a burglary of a home in the U.S. occurs every 13 seconds-or about four burglaries a minute, 240 an hour, and nearly 6,000 a day.
Both homeowners and renters need to consider these statistics when it comes to protecting their families, roommates, and possessions. One potential deterrent to home burglaries is a home security system, which, according to statistics, does have an effect on whether or not a burglary will be successful.
Despite any numbers or fears of break-ins, only 14 percent of U.S. residents have an anti-burglar alarm protection system installed in their homes. With crime rates increasing in metro cities especially, now is the time to decide if investing in a security system is the right decision for you.
By The Numbers
Statistics paint an interesting picture as to how home security systems and alarm monitoring can affect crime rates and home burglaries. For example, the FBI burglary rates of homes states that 1 in 3 homes without a security system will fall victim to a burglary as compared to 1 in 250 homes that do have a security system.
Fifty-nine percent of home burglaries occur during the day while residents are at work or at school, and homes with a lot of cover, such as from trees, fences, and gardens, are most commonly broken into. Most break-ins occur in July and August, and February has the least amount of break-ins on average. Statistics show that more than 95 percent of burglaries involve break-in by force, such as by breaking a window or door lock. In many cases, a security system could prevent homes from becoming a part of these statistics.
Pros and Cons of a Security System
The main and most essential reason to invest in a security system is to deter crime in your home. According to the Electronic Security Association’s “Home Safety Fast Facts” report, 9 out of 10 burglars said that if they encountered an alarm or home security system, they would not attack the home. According to the Greenwich Study of Residential Security report, homes without a security system are 2.7 to 3.5 times more likely to be subject to a burglary. Thus, in addition to precautions like window locks and deadbolts on doors, a security system is a prime candidate for your home safety options.
Often the main deterrent for people thinking about getting a home security system is the cost, which usually includes a monthly bill and any initial installation products and fees. You may not think the cost is worth covering the potential risks-a decision that only you can make for yourself.
Pros and Cons of Alarm Monitoring
Not only can you invest in a security system itself, but alarm monitoring services are also crucial. Instead of just protecting your home, these types of systems can alert a company monitoring your home for you, send you messages regarding the status of your home, alert the police in the case of a break-in, and so forth. This can offer your home an even more complete security package, as someone will be safeguarding your home just as intently as you are.
Another important reason to invest in alarm monitoring is for smoke and fire detection, which often comes as part of the security package. Whether it’s a cooking mishap or an electrical issue or spark from your central heating unit, fireplace, water heater, heating stove, and so on, it’s important to have an alarm monitoring system that can report the fire quickly-possibly even before you can. Fires can be dangerous and cause a lot of damage, so it’s important to prepare and protect your home in any way possible.
Akin to security systems, cost is often the main drawback for some when they look into getting an alarm monitoring system. Monthly fees and initial setup costs can add up, but the safety of your home may still make these costs worth it to you.
Cost and Savings of Security Systems
The cost of security systems can vary widely with different monthly fees and contracts. Depending on the way you look at the costs versus the savings, security systems may or may not make sense for your home.
A 2005 FBI study showed the average burglary will result in $1,725 in losses and, depending on the area, a home could have a 25 percent chance of being burglarized each year. This means that a homeowner has a 1 in 4 chance of losing around $1,725 a year from a burglary.
While monthly fees certainly can vary, a basic security system will cost you far less than what the average burglary will cost you. And, depending on your policy, your homeowners insurance may be reduced by up to 20 percent just because you have a security system installed in your home.
A security system may ultimately be less of an expense when you include all of the potential savings. As compared to the yearly $1,725 average loss of a burglary, you could potentially have years of home security before reaching how much you could lose from just one burglary without a security system.
If you’re interested in learning more about security systems and comparing features and prices, you can use the SafeWise System Finder tool to find the right security system for you. You can also call 1-855-806-5457 to speak to a SafeWise security specialist for more information and a better understanding of your options.Security Alarm
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Are home security systems and alarm monitoring tax deductible?

 

Most savvy homeowners want to get every tax deduction they’re entitled to. Typically, though, a home security system does not qualify for a tax deduction. If your security system is only used to safeguard your personal property then it would fall under the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) list of nondeductible expenses.
However, if you claim a home office or use your home for a business like a child care facility, you may also be able to claim a portion of your home security system. In order to take advantage of the home office deduction, you must regularly and exclusively use the home office for business. If your home is used as a daycare, then the portion of the house used doesn’t have to be exclusively devoted to the daycare, however there may other requirements that need to be met in order to claim home security as a tax deduction.
According to the IRS, if you “install a security system that protects all the doors and windows of your home, you can deduct the business part of the expenses you incur to maintain and monitor the system. You also can take a depreciation deduction for the part of the cost of the security system relating to the business use of your home.” The tricky part when claiming the deduction, however, is the rule about exclusive use.
In a best case scenario your home office would be in a separate room and would not be available to family members for other purposes. If you set aside a portion of a room for business use, there must be a clear division like a partition and you have to demonstrate that no personal activities occur in that space. In fact, if you allow your children to do homework in your office, that would constitute a violation of the exclusive use rule and your deduction could be disallowed.
Similarly, because alarm monitoring is usually part of a home security package, it falls under the same IRS guidelines when it comes to whether or not home alarm monitoring is tax deductible. As part of your overall home security strategy, any portion of the monitoring that qualifies for use by your home-based business or daycare would be eligible as a tax deduction.
We understand you’re looking to save money, which is why we have a lot of great options for security systems. To compare features, costs, and equipment, check out the SafeWise system finder tool. Or, you can call 1-855-806-5457 today to speak with a SafeWise security specialist who can talk with you about the deals we’re currently offering and help you determine the perfect system for your needs.
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Razer Nabu X smartband review

Most people associate Razer with gaming laptops, mice, and other hardware. But at CES 2014, the company unveiled plans to enter the fitness tracker / smartband market with the launch of Nabu, a black wristband that combined basic fitness tracking features with an OLED screen for displaying notifications. One year later, Razer returned to Vegas with the Nabu X and ditched the screen in favor of three LED lights and a much lower price tag.

The original Nabu never really saw a proper commercial rollout, but the Nabu X is now very much on store shelves, and it’s cheap. You can pick one up for $50, and Razer is currently running a two-for-one promotion that basically puts a $25 price on the thing. Is low cost alone enough to make the Nabu X a worthy buy in a crowded field of competition? No, not quite.

 

The Nabu X has what I’d call an inoffensive and unthrilling design. It’s a boring (though comfortable) band covered in black silicone rubber. This has the unfortunate side effect of attracting lint and dust within minutes. The smartband is no fun to clean off by hand, but thankfully it’s water resistant so you can just run it under the sink. Unlike the awful clasps we recently saw on the Jawbone 2 and 3, this one is dead simple; there are two teeth that go into holes on the one-size-fits-all strap. You can easily strap the Nabu X on with just one hand, and it never came loose during my testing. I wore it both day and night.


Charging it is pretty inconvenient, though. Since the Nabu X uses a proprietary port, it’s yet another cord to carry around in your bag. Thankfully you won’t have to bother with that very often; Razer’s smartband easily lasted a week before its battery finally gave up. And while proprietary connections are always annoying, this one is at least very secure and won’t accidentally come unplugged.

Inside the Nabu X is a 3-axis accelerometer that it uses for step counting and to track your overall distance each day. The smartband syncs with both Android and iOS via Bluetooth. Windows Phone support isn’t yet offered; Razer says this is because it’s harder to offer the same functionality on Microsoft’s platform.

Up front are those three round LEDs. They’ll light up whenever notifications come in on your phone, and you can also tap twice to get an update on your daily fitness goals (total steps, calories burned, etc.) or the band’s remaining battery life. I hate the tapping interface on Jawbone’s new Up trackers, and I don’t like it any better here. Buttons, please. It’s worth noting that many people have compared the Nabu X to Xiaomi’s dirt cheap Mi Band, and the link is valid. There are some clear aesthetic differences between the two, but fundamentally they’re very similar.

YOU’LL NEED THREE APPS ON YOUR IPHONE TO GET THE MOST FROM NABU X

Razer’s whole vision for the Nabu X starts falling apart when it comes to software. To get the most out of the smartband on iOS, you’ll need to install three different apps on your iPhone. The first is Utility, which handles pairing with the Nabu X and shows critical information like remaining battery percentage. This is also the app you’ll use to trigger the band’s sleep tracking and set alarms. It works decently well as an alarm clock on your wrist. The vibration is so forceful that I can’t imagine anyone sleeping through it. Bizarrely, a separate Home app must be installed from the App Store if you want to view the Nabu X’s stats as a widget in your iPhone’s notification tray. For some reason, Razer couldn’t bundle this into the primary Utility software. And of course there’s the main Fitness app, which I’ll get to shortly.

But first let’s talk about the Nabu X’s strange focus on social features. Razer seems to think that a lot of people will be wearing its smartband someday, so it’s created something called “Pulse” technology that lets you shake hands with another Nabu X owner and instantly exchange contact info (Facebook or Twitter) and compare activity stats. Developers can also build smartphone apps and games that integrate Pulse and are capable of finding nearby Nabu X wearers. But not many are bothering at the moment, and the whole social end of this sounds like a pipe dream. If this were a product made by Jawbone or Fitbit with brand recognition and mass market appeal, maybe you could get away with it. But Pulse really just feels like a tacked on callback to Razer’s gaming roots.


WHERE’D THAT NOTIFICATION COME FROM? WHO KNOWSAnd then there are notifications. To signal that you’ve received any type of alert, the Nabu X’s three LEDs will all light up with the same color depending on what kind of notification it is. By default, they’ll turn blue for incoming calls, red for alarms, and green for everything else. And I mean everything else. This is where using the Nabu X starts to become infuriating. There’s absolutely no way to distinguish what app notifications are coming in; you just know your phone has something for you.

Was it a Facebook message? Three green dots. An ESPN score alert? Same thing. Sure, it could just be Trivia Crack pestering me to come play again, but the green lights could also mean I’ve just missed an important email or text message. Without a screen and without text, there’s just no way to know. Sure, getting a vibration on your wrist is useful when your phone is sitting across the room. But if it’s in your pocket, you’ll be fetching it every single time, and that’s maddening.

Filtering which notifications come through on iOS leaves a lot to be desired. Don’t want your wrist to vibrate every time a calendar alert goes off or an email comes in? You’ll have to disable those notifications across all of iOS to make it stop. Things are much easier on Android, where you get full control over precisely which apps the Nabu X will bother notifying you about.

On the fitness side of things, everything here is just barely par for the course. Razer’s Fitness app will display your steps, distance traveled, and calories burned in real time. It’ll also remind you of how much sleep you got the prior evening. You can review these four stats in day, week, month, or year views. Razer includes your resting calories in the figure, so there’s no easy way of seeing how many you’ve actively burned. Another tab lets you set daily goals, but the app offers zero guidance on what you should be aiming for. Don’t expect anything close to what competitors like Jawbone offer; that company’s Up smartphone app basically becomes your own personal fitness coach. On the plus side, you can export the Nabu X’s data to at least one popular service, MapMyFitness.

DITCHING THE DISPLAY WAS A MISTAKE ON RAZER’S PARTThroughout my testing of Nabu X, I arrived at this question: what’s the point? If you’re after basic step tracking, both Google and Apple now offer their own (free) software on Android and iOS, respectively. Google Fit and Apple Health are more than capable of providing you with a basic overview of your daily activity. So can Jawbone’s $50 Up Move — and the app you get with it is great. I’ll cut Razer some slack for being newer to this game, but going with anything from Jawbone or Fitbit is nonetheless a smarter move. And if you want notifications on your wrist, get an Android Wear smartwatch, a Pebble, or the Apple Watch. The Nabu X’s confounding LEDs will only frustrate and stress you out. Razer’s smartband is definitely affordable, but I can’t see why anyone would need this product. It seems like the company started off with a better product than the one it finished with; leaving the screen behind was a mistake, even if the end result would’ve costed a bit more. But if history is any indication, Razer will be ready to try again at CES 2016.
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CBS’s Video Streaming Service Now Offers Live TV In Over 60% Of The U.S.

CBS’s on-demand video streaming service will now offer local, live TV feeds which cover over 60% of the U.S., the company announced this morning. CBS All Access, the network’s over-the-top streaming video service, has long attempted to differentiate itself from competitors like Netflix by making live linear feeds from local CBS stations available to the service’s subscribers. That means that, in many markets, CBS All Access customers would be able to watch locally syndicated series, newscasts, and other content beyond the CBS-provided programming. However, access to these live streams have been limited to select markets and stations.

When the service launched last October, CBS was only making linear feeds available from its 14 owned and operated stations. That provided coverage in a number of major markets, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

But the company said that the larger plan was to bring its affiliate stations into the fold in the future. Earlier this month, CBS announced a significant expansion on that front, saying that it had set deals with 12 affiliate stations representing 56 markets. These stations would distribute CBS All Access in their markets starting in April. But the key piece to these deals is that those stations agreed to offer live streams to CBS All Access subscribers.

Today, CBS is says it has now added another 13 additional affiliates on top of the 12 added in April and the initial 14 CBS-owned stations. Combined, that brings the live, linear TV feeds to 64% of U.S. households, covering 94 markets in total.

Today’s additions bring in several notable markets, including Seattle, Raleigh-Durham, San Diego, Oklahoma City, Santa Barbara, Wilmington, Palm Springs and Wichita. The previous 12, meanwhile, saw the live TV service going online in many mid-sized markets like Atlanta, Phoenix, Orlando, Cleveland, Columbus, St. Louis, Charlotte, Hartford, Kansas City and Las Vegas.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.26.41 AM

CBS doesn’t disclose the number of subscribers it has for CBS All Access, which is $5.99 per month and offers access to nearly 7,000 episodes of CBS programming which can be streamed online at CBS.com, via mobile apps for iOS and Android, via its Roku channel, and now, Chromecast, too. The subscription service provides on-demand access to current seasons and past seasons of popular CBS shows, like The Good Wife and Blue Bloods, as well as older programs like CSI:Miami and MacGyver. New episodes of currently airing shows arrive on the service next-day.

But the advantage of the live TV feeds is that it means viewers don’t necessarily have to wait until the following day to watch their favorite shows or other special events – they can tune in and watch live TV, almost as if they had a cable TV subscription. However, the downside to this over-the-top play is that CBS doesn’t have the rights to stream some sporting events, like the NFL Playoff games, or other big specials, like the Grammy’s, for example.

The network has notably withheld from sharing much of its content with streaming services like Hulu, as it doesn’t have an equity stake in the service, which is jointly owned by NBCUniversal, Fox, and Disney-ABC. That means today, Hulu only offers back catalog CBS classics like I Love Lucy, Star Trek and Twin Peaks, for example. That has limited access to CBS programming in the on-demand world. And CBS just previewed at its upfront presentation yesterday a new drama Supergirl that could be a potential hit and a draw for its streaming service.

With CBS All Access, the idea is to share the revenue from the subscription fee with the affiliate stations in exchange for their live feeds – something that sets it apart from the other on-demand services available today. It’s basically a hybrid of a true on-demand service like Netflix combined with a live TV streaming service like Dish’s Sling TV.

CBS says it’s still in the process of bringing on affiliates, which indicates that its plan is to eventually offer live TV feeds for most of the U.S.Security Alarm
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Dustin Moskovitz shares his lessons on leadership

he New York Times recently asked readers, “can you learn to lead?” The article sourced a number of prominent educators about the recent trend of teaching leadership skills (as opposed to management skills) at top business schools.

As it turns out, the topic of leadership is a complicated one — some skills, it seems, can be taught, while others are a bit more nebulous. The article sparked a discussion amongst Asanas including Co-Founder Dustin Moskovitz. So we sat down with him to chat about what makes a great leader, what resources leaders have to become better at their jobs, and what skills can be worked on.

Let’s start off with the most obvious question: what is the difference between a manager and a leader?

Management is operational; it’s about setting priorities, evaluating priorities, hiring and firing decisions, compensation decisions, things like that. A leader is more of a coach, or even a spiritual guide. She is responsible for maintaining energy, keeping everyone on the team inspired and helping them grow, and for ensuring everyone is aligned in the same direction. A leader must be a point of strength and stability across changes.

Can someone be a leader but not a manager?

Definitely. At Asana, Areas of Responsibility (AoRs) correspond to leadership roles — most are not connected to managing people. There are also many formalized leadership roles without people management responsibilities at other companies (for example, tech leads and product managers).

What characteristics help determine if someone will be a great leader?

That’s a subjective question, but I believe someone who is empathetic, passionate, and has good social skills is more likely to be a great leader. Beyond that, someone who is clear-headed, intentional (as opposed to brash), and who isn’t easily shaken. I don’t necessarily believe that all these characteristics can be taught if they’re not innate, but some of them can be coached. For example, the Conscious Leadership Group training can help a leader or would-be leader learn how to be more intentional, both in their decisions and their communication, and therefore better equipped to lead.

Let’s talk more about the skills that a leader or would-be leader could learn.

Sure. A good leader can be taught:

  • Speaking skills
  • Writing skills
  • The ability to turn vision into strategy

A good leader should also possess good interpersonal skills, some of which can be taught through executive coaching.

What can a leader not be taught?

If a leader isn’t trusted, none of these things [skills] matter. You can teach people ethics, but not integrity. Additionally, even with the very best teaching, you are likely to make mistakes until you learn how to apply judgment and customize what you’ve learned to the specific context in front of you. Unfortunately, wisdom can’t be taught.

What do you think makes someone a great leader?

In a nutshell: people want to follow a great leader because they are headed in a direction that people want to go. You can have well educated managers coming out of training, but if no one wants to follow them, then they’re (tautologically) not leaders. A great leader must possess a great vision for a project AND have the kind of personality that makes people want to work with them to manifest it. These things matter at every level of an organization: the strength of an individual department is dependent on the strength of its leader.

What factors make people good partners in leadership?

Complementary traits are valuable. A big reason the partnership between Justin (Asana’s co-founder) and me works is that we complement each other’s strengths. Some of our individual strengths even contradict those of the other. Justin is aggressive and idealistic, a constant fountain of new and exciting ideas. I am more conservative and grounded, choosing to focus my energy on the execution of our existing plans. A company founded by Justin alone would have an expansive and differentiated vision, but may never bring a product to market at all. A company founded by me alone would deliver on time, every time, but create a product that was more like everything else out there. Neither of those would be a good company. The one we are creating together contains the best of both perspectives.

How should leaders handle disagreements?

In my experience, all disagreements come down to a difference in base assumptions. We use a coach here at Asana (she’s available to speak to any Asana as part of our mentorship program) and she emphasizes that the first step to reaching an agreement is to start by listing all the things you agree about. You’ll likely come up with a long list and will be left with a small set of assumptions that you happen to have different intuitions about. From this point, you’ll often be able to collect the data needed to determine which assumption is right. Even when you can’t, it’s a lot harder to feel like you’re “fighting” when you get down to that level of detail.

I’m also a big believer in maintaining clarity of responsibility: leaving room for ambiguity can cause a lot of conflict. We use the AoRs system to ensure that each leader knows what they’re leading and what they’re not — someone else’s AoR is an area where they ultimately must defer on any important decisions.

Of course, there are occasions when disagreements simply can’t be resolved. In those instances, it might be necessary to involve a third party to mediate or one person may even need to leave the company.

How and where can you practice leadership skills?

There are resources for anyone looking to practice leadership skills. At our company, we offer a number of opportunities like giving internal and external talks, mentorship programs, and the ability to take on important AoRs that require coordination among multiple people. We’re also big fans of the Conscious Leadership Group, which recently came out with a great book that I think is worth reading for anyone interested in being a more level-headed and mindful leader.

What are some of the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned / been taught?

I’ve learned a lot over the years, but here are a few key learnings that I employ regularly, in no specific order:

  1. Not delegating enough is bad for me and bad for people who could be getting more autonomy and learning more skills.
  2. Acknowledging that everyone else is a partner in what you’re trying to do and not an enemy.
  3. Recognizing that you agree with people more than you think you do. Where you disagree is probably a difference of input assumptions and not a real conflict.
  4. Avoiding paradox of choice and making decisions even if you’re unsure of what’s strictly the best one at that very moment. Letting a decision linger for too long is energy-draining; don’t let perfect be enemy of the good.
  5. Making sure there are regular checkpoints for reflection and there’s time to think at a high level and not just being tactical all the time is extremely important.

At Asana, a lot of leadership is actually baked into our values; we tend to attract the sorts of people who want to be led in this way. It’s not an objectively right way to do things but it works for us, and the people who work here. At the end of the day, we want to operate in integrity of those values.Security Alarm
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Researcher turns tables, discloses unpatched bugs in Google cloud platform

ulnerabilities in the Google App Engine cloud platform make it possible for attackers to break out of a first-level security sandbox and execute malicious code in restricted areas of Google servers, a security researcher said Friday.

Adam Gowdiak, CEO of Poland-based Security Explorations, said there are seven separate vulnerabilities in the Google service, most of which he privately reported to Google three weeks ago. So far, he said, the flaws have gone unfixed, and he has yet to receive confirmation from Google officials. To exploit the flaws, attackers could use the freely available cloud platform to run a malicious Java application. That malicious Java app would then break out of the first sandboxing layer and execute code in the highly restricted native environment.

Malicious hackers could use the restricted environment as a beachhead to attack lower-level assets and to retrieve sensitive information from Google servers and from the Java runtime environment. Technical details about the bugs, noted as issues 35 through 41, are available here, here, here, and here. In an e-mail to Ars, Gowdiak wrote:

[A] malicious Java app could use them to escape this Google-specific sandbox as well as the Java-based sandbox. As a result, a lot of information about the JRE sandbox itself [and] Google internal services and protocols could be gained by an attacker (the middleware layer Google runs on).

The vulnerabilities also seem to be a potentially good starting point to proceed with attacks against the OS sandbox and RPC (remote procedure call) services visible to the sandboxed Java environment.

Please note that we haven’t reached a point in our research where we could state that arbitrary compromise of other GAE user’s data or applications is possible (per agreement with Google, during our research we stayed within the JVM layer and did not move to the next sandboxing layer).
Gowdiak took to the Full Disclosure e-mail list to disclose the bugs and to call Google out for not responding to his private advisory, which he said included proof-of-concept exploit code.

“It’s been 3 weeks and we haven’t heard any official confirmation / denial from Google with respect to Issues 37-41,” Gowdiak wrote. “It should not take more than 1-2 business days for a major software vendor to run the received POC, read our report and / or consult the source code. This especially concerns the vendor that claims its ‘Security Team has hundreds of security engineers from all over the world’ and that expects other vendors to react promptly to the reports of its own security people.”

FURTHER READING

GOOGLE DROPS MORE WINDOWS 0-DAYS. SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE
With one fix delayed until February, Windows users are left exposed once more.
Google has received criticism in the past when its Project Zero has disclosed vulnerabilities in Windows and Mac OS X before Microsoft and Apple had patched them.
Asked for comment on Gowdiak’s Full Disclosure post, a Google spokesman issued the following statement: “A researcher recently reported a known issue affecting a preliminary layer of security in Google App Engine. We’re working with him to mitigate it; users don’t need to take any action.”Security Alarm
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Samsung Wallet to be discontinued on June 30th

With Samsung Pay’s launch inching closer and closer, the Korean manufacturer has decided to shut down the Samsung Wallet service. Samsung is currently emailing all Samsung Wallet users that the service will be discontinued on June 30th; it’s not saying what the reason is, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the reason is the company’s upcoming payment service.

Any tickets or reservations made by users through Samsung Wallet will be available after its termination, but everything else (like creating new reservations) will be disabled post June 30th. We’re not exactly sure how many users Samsung Wallet has out there, but it’s discontinuation is no doubt going to irk a few folks, but given Samsung’s ambitious plans for Samsung Pay, it’s not surprising that its wallet service will be shut down.

Here’s the email Samsung is sending out to users.

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Oculus Details Rift’s Recommended PC Specs, ‘Pauses’ Mac Development

We’re still a little while off from the Oculus Rift’s official consumer launch – pre-orders are starting later this year, the company revealed recently, with shipping beginning early next year. But the company has now revealed the recommended specifications for PC rigs powering the Oculus Rift headset, which gives potential buyers a good idea of what kind of system they need to save up for in time for next year.

The bad news is that the recommendations are starting fairly high, but the good news is that they’re now set, meaning costs should continue to drop for the required equipment in time for next year’s launch as newer and better GPUs and components come to market. Here’s what Oculus recommends for the best Rift experience, along with set-in-stone requirements for what yo absolutely must have on your hardware:

Recommended

  • NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
  • Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
  • 8GB+ RAM

Required

  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture

In their blog post, Oculus’ Chef Architect Atman Binstock provides some of the reasoning behind these spec recommendations – GPU performance is highly important, since you’re basically running two, 2160×1200 displays at 90Hz simultaneously, which takes around three times the GPU power of your average full HD, 1080p rendering. Dropped frames are also fine on traditional desktop monitors, for the most part, while missing frames in VR results in considerable discomfort.

Basically, as it stands with those specs and current hardware, you’ll need a desktop PC to work with Oculus – notebooks are basically classed out, and in what may be worse news, Oculus has also announced that Mac development (and Linus support) are paused while the team focuses on getting Windows Rift software to where it needs to be for launch.

Binstock notes that Oculus still wants to develop for Mac and Linux, but that at this stage, they “don’t have a timeline.”

That’s bad news for Mac and Linux gamers, but understandable given Oculus must be under pressure to deliver Rift at an acceptable level of performance within their announced timeframe.Security Alarm
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Mobile operators plan to block online advertising

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Several mobile operators plan to block advertising on their networks, setting the stage for a battle with digital media companies such as Google, AOL and Yahoo.

One European wireless carrier told the Financial Times that it has installed blocking software in its data centres and planned to turn it on before the end of 2015.

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The software prevents most types of advertising from loading in web pages and apps, though it does not interfere with “in-feed” ads of the kind used by Facebook and Twitter.

The blocking technology was developed by Shine, an Israeli start-up whose shareholders include Horizon Ventures, the investment fund of Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest person.

Mr Li also controls Hutchison Whampoa, one of the world’s largest telecoms groups.

“Tens of millions of mobile subscribers around the world will be opting in to ad blocking by the end of the year,” said Roi Carthy, chief marketing officer of Shine. “If this scales, it could have a devastating impact on the online advertising industry.”

Verizon, the largest US telecoms group, this week paid $4.4bn to buy AOL, seeking to gain a foothold in the rapidly growing market for advertising on mobile devices.

Marketers will spend almost $69bn this year on mobile ads — more than triple the sum they spent two years ago — according to research group eMarketer.

Shine said it was working with a number of operators, including one with almost 40m subscribers, though it declined to name them.

An executive at a European carrier confirmed that it and several of its peers are planning to start blocking adverts this year.

The executive said that the carrier will initially launch an advertising-free service for customers on an opt-in basis.

But it is also considering a more radical idea that it calls “the bomb”, which would apply across its entire network of millions of subscribers at once. The idea is to specifically target Google, blocking advertising on its websites in an attempt to force the company into giving up a cut of its revenues.

Chart: Mobile internet ad spending

The Silicon Valley company is the world’s largest advertising business, generating $60bn a year from search, YouTube, and services such as Google Display Network and DoubleClick, which both deliver ads for third-party sites.

The executive at the mobile operator considering “the bomb” acknowledged that targeting Google could be risky from both a legal and public relations perspective. Under “net neutrality” rules in the European Union and the US, telecoms companies are forced to treat all data that flow through their networks equally.

But even within those markets, it would be feasible to block adverts on Google “just for an hour or a day” to bring the company to the negotiating table, the executive said.

Many mobile operators are frustrated that digital media companies profit from their high-speed networks without having to invest in the infrastructure behind them. Such irritation was inflamed last month when Google launched Project Fi, its own wireless carrier in the US.

What are ad-blockers? 
Software that prevents advertisements from loading in web pages or apps. Blockers use a predetermined blacklist to determine what type of ads are blocked and on what sites. They also adjust a page’s layout so that it looks normal after the ads have been removed.

Why do people block ads?
Common motivations are to eliminate intrusive advertising such as pop-ups and to improve the appearance of web pages by removing clutter. For users of mobile devices, loading a web page is also faster when the adverts have been removed. Blockers also reduce the risk of a computer being hijacked by malware that is sometimes distributed through ad networks. Lastly, blockers can protect privacy by preventing websites from collecting user data.

What are the downsides?
One irritation for users is that ad blockers sometimes block too much content and interfere with the normal loading of a web page. Blockers also consume computer resources. For online publishers, ad blockers are an existential threat. Given that most free services rely on advertising, the spread of blocking threatens to upend the economics of the internet.

Google said it would be unreasonable for mobile operators to block ads, arguing that: “People pay for mobile internet packages so they can access the apps, video streaming, webmail and other services they love, many of which are funded by ads. Google and other web companies invest heavily in developing these services — and in the behind-the-scenes infrastructure to deliver them.”

Blocking advertising on mobile networks is likely to provoke a fierce backlash from digital media companies. In 2013, Free, the French internet service provider owned by Iliad, blocked ads by default through its Freebox modem, causing huge controversy. It was forced to scrap the initiative within a week under pressure from the Socialist government.

Mr Carthy of Shine said that eliminating intrusive adverts is a “consumer right”, even if it undermines the business model of online publishers that rely on advertising.

“Online advertising is out of control and it’s polluting the user experience,” he said. Pop-ups, auto-playing videos and other forms of digital advertising can consume between 10 and 50 per cent of a mobile subscriber’s data plan, he added.

While ad-blocking is a new phenomenon on mobiles, it is more established on PCs and growing quickly. More than 140m people, or 5 per cent of the online population, use software such as Adblock Plus to eliminate adverts when browsing the web on laptops or desktop computers.

As the Financial Times reported in February, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have paid the makers of Adblock Plus to allow some ads on their sites to slip

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10 Security Devices to Help Keep Your Family Safe

Most people who have home alarm systems live under the assumption that the setup will prevent them from ever being robbed. A fair assumption, right? Not necessarily. While it’s true that a potential burglar might pass up a home that clearly has an alarm system, police response times in many areas are so slow that the culprit will probably have time to get away even if an alarm does go off. However, studies do show that robbers leave faster (and thus take less stuff) when there’s an alarm system in place. And neighborhoods that have a high density of home alarms are generally safer. So that’s a little bit of comfort — and you’ll also get a decent discount on your homeowner’s insurance if you have an alarm system. So, when in doubt, just get one.

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