Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Sony Issues Statement About the PlayStation Network

Posted by Alan at 3:27 PM on October 12, 2011

playstation network

2010 and 2011 have been rough years for Sony and for PS3 owners who use the popular PlayStation Network for online gaming.  The service has come under attack, and been taken down, on more than one occasion, and for extended time periods.  The latest attack began to hit the news yesterday, when it was learned that the service was again under attack.

Reports have ranged from DDOS attack to user account hacking, but earlier today Sony finally set the record straight about what is going on, how extensive the attack is, and what steps they are taking fix the problem.

According to Sony, the attack spanned three of their networks – the PlayStation Network, Sony Entertainment Network, and Sony Online Entertainment.  A total of approximately 93,000 users have been affected, and those accounts have now been locked by Sony.  It appears to have been a hacking attack – the perpetrators attempted to gain log-in access to accounts, and succeeded on 93,000 of them, which is actually a relatively small percentage.  At this time, Sony says that those users’ credit card data is still safe.

If you have a PSN account, even if you don’t think you were affected, I would still recommend changing your password.  Use a long password that incorporates letters, numbers, and symbols.  Although, Sony says credit information wasn’t gained, it would still be prudent to monitor you account closely and report anything that seems suspicious.

Below is full text of Sony’s announcement.

“12 October 2011

Tokyo, October 12 – Sony Network Entertainment International LLC and Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) have detected a large amount of unauthorized sign-in attempts on PlayStation®Network (PSN), Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) and Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) services. We discovered these attempts and have taken steps to mitigate the activity.

Less than one tenth of one percent of our PSN, SEN and SOE consumers may have been affected. There were approximately 93,000 accounts (PSN/SEN: approximately 60,000 accounts; SOE: approximately 33,000) where the attempts succeeded in verifying those accounts’ valid sign-in IDs and passwords, and we have temporarily locked these accounts. As a preventative measure, we will be sending email notifications to these account holders and will be requiring secure password resets or informing consumers of password reset procedures.

Credit card numbers associated with these accounts are not at risk as a result of these unauthorized attempts. Only a small fraction of these 93,000 accounts showed additional activity prior to being locked. We are continuing to investigate the extent of unauthorized activity on any of these accounts.

These attempts appear to include a large amount of data obtained from one or more compromised lists from other companies, sites or sources. These were unauthorized attempts to verify valid user accounts on our services using very large sets of sign-in IDs and passwords. Between October 7 – 10 US Pacific Daylight Time, we confirmed that these were unauthorized attempts, and took steps to thwart this activity.

For the latest updates please visit http://blog.eu.playstation.com/

Sony Announces Network Media Player at IFA

Posted by Alan at 9:02 AM on September 5, 2011

While it was announced several days ago at IFA, the new Sony SMP-N200 Network Media Player has gone largely unnoticed.  The new version, which replaces the SMP-N100, brings support for HD and even 3D.  The player integrates seamlessly into your home network via 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (it is unclear if ethernet, which is the fastest most reliable connection, is included).

Of course, it integrates with the Sony Entertainment Network to get much of it’s content, but it can also stream from any compatible DLNA device on the network, including the also just announced Sony Tablet S, as well as USB drives.

There is a remote control included, but users with Android and iOS devices can get a slick remote control app, which will be available for free download from the respective mobile markets.

There is a built-in web browser, and they boast Twitter and Facebook, although it isn’t clear if these are apps or simply through the browser.  Finally, they claim a lightning-fast 3 second start-up time.

The device will be available in October 2011, but pricing has not been announced.  However, the SMP-N100 can be had for about $69.99 at many US retailers.  For more information, you can read the Sony Press Release.

 

Sony Announces 2 New Tablets

Posted by Alan at 4:40 PM on August 31, 2011

sony tablet s sony tablet p

Today, at the IFA trade show, Sony announced their first two tablet computers.  The Sony Tablet S and Sony Tablet P are both powered by Android.The Tablet S is available for pre-order today and will ship next month.  The Tablet P will be available later this year.

The Sony Tablet S has a 9.4 inch screen, NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, weighs just 1.33 pounds, and is Wi-Fi enabled.  The Sony Tablet P has two folding 5.5 inch screens, an NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, weighs just 0.83 pounds, and has both Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity.  The 4G works exclusively with the AT&T network.  While both devices currently run on Android 3.1, Sony promises that both will have version 3.2 of the OS by the time they ship.  Both devices have front and rear facing cameras for video and still images.  Both also have micro USB ports and support SD cards.

Sony’s press release states that “Sony Tablet devices are also distinguished by four key features that set them apart from any other tablets on the market. These include: optimally designed hardware and software, a “swift and smooth” experience, network entertainment services and cross-device functionality.”

Sony will also include their own services which include Video Unlimited, Music Unlimited, PlayStation, Reader Store, and Personal Space.  To get more information on these services and more, you read the full Sony Press Release.

Barnes & Noble Nook – A UK Perspective

Posted by Andrew at 1:04 AM on May 6, 2011

When it comes to ebook readers, I think it’s fairly safe to say that there are three main contenders in the market – Amazon with the Kindle, Barnes & Noble with the Nook and Sony with the Pocket Reader range. Three contenders in the US market that is. If you live in the UK, your choice is more restricted with only the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Pocket Reader being widely available.

Regrettably, Barnes & Noble don’t exist over here but there are plenty of bookstores such as Waterstones and WHSmith. There are others readers available too, such as the Samsung E60/E65, the Kobo, the iriver Story but I’ve never met anyone who actually has one, whereas I know several people with Kindles and Sony Readers. The latter was previously reviewed on GNC in the autumn.

Like many of my compatriots, I’ve looked longingly at the Nook while on holiday. It seemed to have the best of both worlds – although it has access to a closely integrated store in the same way as the Kindle, it reads the more open epub format like the Sony Pocket Reader can. It doesn’t have the full touchscreen of the Pocket Reader but it does replace the Kindle’s keyboard with a small colour touchscreen, which I like.

But a little research showed that Barnes & Noble won’t sell ebooks outside of the USA, so I was reluctant to purchase a Nook in case I ended up with an expensive paperweight.

Further research on the forums suggested that sideloading ebooks onto the Nook worked fine, i.e. copying ebooks via USB, so in the end, I took the risk and imported a Nook back into the UK. I only purchased the wifi version rather than the 3G version as even if the 3G worked (and I doubted it would), there wasn’t going to be much I could do with it if I couldn’t buy directly from Barnes & Noble.

Here’s what I’ve discovered after a few days of playing around.

The good news is the you can easily purchase books from the likes of Waterstone’s and read them on the Nook. The first step is to download and install Adobe’s Digital Editions on to your PC or laptop. When the program is run, you “authorise” the computer to store and manage your DRM’d ebooks (not that you have any at this stage).

Once that’s done, the second step is to go to the ebook store of your choice and purchase what you’d like to read. When you download the purchased books, Adobe’s Digital Editions will automatically launch to receive them and once completed, you can see and read them within the software.

Finally, when you connect your Nook via USB, Adobe Digital Editions will ask you if you want to “authorise” the Nook reader. After accepting this, the Nook appears as another container within Digital Editions and you can then copy your newly purchased ebooks to the Nook. Disconnect the Nook from the PC or laptop and the ebooks will appear in “my library” on the Nook. Select one of your choice and you’re reading. Excellent!

That’s the main concern dealt with so what else is good? I didn’t exhaustively try to break B&N’s regional restrictions but some content, e.g. The Daily blog, is available to be read.

Disappointingly, the built-in web browser doesn’t allow downloads. There are many ebook stores such as SmashWords which offer un-DRM’d ebooks which could be downloaded direct to the Nook because there’s no need for Digital Editions to manage the DRM. Unfortunately, when you try to download anything directly to the Nook, the web browser refuses to do it. A little irritating.

The audio player works ok, though it relies on the small colour screen to select tracks. This is fine if you have a small music collection or you shuffle the playlist, but it’s not great if you have a big collection and want to listen to ZZ Top.

If weight is an issue, Nook is definitely a bit heavier than both the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader. Folio covers seem to work better on the Kindle with its latching mechanism whereas the Nook seems to rely on “pockets and elastic”.

Overall, I like the Nook. The loss of the connection to the Barnes and Noble shop puts in on a par with the non-Kindle ereaders in the UK and it’s really a choice between the touch screen of the Sonys and the colour navigation screen of the Nook. But the main point of this article is that if you are in the US and you like the look of the Nook, you can be confident that you’ll be able to purchase and read ebooks from bookstores here in the UK.

Sony Wireless 7.1ch Headphones

Posted by Andrew at 4:39 PM on April 18, 2011

Sony in the UK have announced the MDR‑DS6500 digital wireless 7.1ch surround sound headphones. That’s quite a collection of adjectives, so to break it down into the constituent parts…

Digital wireless – All-digital wireless transmission resists noise and interference from other devices in the home. Automatic tuning switches seamlessly between RF channels in the 2.408 – 2.473 GHz range to optimise signal reception. Range approximately 100 m so you can roam your home while listening to you tunes.

7.1ch – Exclusive to Sony, Virtualphones Technology (VPT) reproduces the soundstage of multi-channel speakers. Even if you’re listening to a stereo 2ch or 5.1 channel programme, VPT builds a virtual 7.1 channel stage that stretches behind and beyond the screen. There’s also a choice of selectable surround sound modes to optimise listening for movies, gaming or speech.

Surround sound – Supporting Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, DTS and DTS ES, the base station will take both digital optical and analogue inputs.

Headphones – Over the ear, weighing in at 320g. Pretty good looking too. When they’re not being used, you can rest the MDR‑DS6500 headphones on their wireless charging dock. Three hours charging time provides power for approx 20 hours listening time.

Available in May for a £249. Not cheap. Full specs here too.

Sony Debuts DAB+ Radios

Posted by Andrew at 12:36 AM on April 5, 2011

Sony has debuted two new DAB+ radios, the XDR-C706DBP clock radio and the XDR-S16DBP portable radio. Both radios can received DAB and FM broadcasts too.

DAB+ is an enhanced version of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), which is being rolled out in several European countries and Australia and the main difference between DAB and DAB+ is support for more efficient codecs such as AAC+ and MPEG Surround.

DAB+ is not currently used in the UK, though may be introduced in the future. The whole digital radio transition has been a bit of a debacle here with only about 25% take up since it was introduced in 1995. The high cost of the radios and little perceived benefit has been the main source of the problem and the current UK government has backed away from a previous commitment to turn off the FM transmissions in 2015.

As you’ll see from the pictures, both devices are stylish and I like the retro looks of the portable radio, though I can’t find any evidence that the “portable” radio runs off batteries – they’re not mentioned anywhere in the blurb.

The XDR-C706DBP clock radio is £59 and the XDR-S16DBP, £79. Available now.

 

Sony Drops Two New Headphones

Posted by Andrew at 5:17 PM on April 3, 2011

Sony has dropped two quite different headphones onto the market, one a wireless headset for cord-free listening and the other a set of noise-cancelling earbuds.

The MDR-RF865RK headphones are traditional over the ear cans with plenty of padding, finished in what appears to be a dark graphite grey. However, they have the further benefit of being wireless with a 100m range in ideal conditions, using a 3 channel FM system. When not in use, the headphones can be hung on the charging station to recharge and they give 25 hours of listening on a 3.5 hour charge. The headphones have handy volume controls, so it’s not necessary to adjust the source volume if it’s too quiet or too loud. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the headphones are a fairly weighty 320g.

At the other end of the spectrum and weighing in at just 7g, the MDR-NC13 noise-cancelling earbuds are aimed at the traveller rather than the stay-at-homers. These headphones can reduce ambient noise by over 87% meaning that “getting away from it all” becomes much easier. Impressively, a single AAA battery gets a 100 hours of noise-cancelling listening pleasure.

Available from Sony in April. Prices not currently disclosed.

Sony Pictures Releases ‘My Daily Clip’ For Apple Devices

Posted by Don at 8:27 AM on March 11, 2011

Sony Pictures’ ‘My Daily Clip’ app is now available for iPod, iPhone and iPad from the App Store. Everyday, 365 days a year, the app will show us a different clip from one of Sony Pictures’ films. We’ll have the option to watch the clip and if it’s a movie we’ve never seen or would like to own, it gives us a link to the movies iTunes page where we can purchase the entire movie. There’s also trivia for each clip and a calendar so we can go back watch clips from previous days.

I’ve spent a little time playing around with the app and so far it’s pretty cool. Right when the app boots up you’re introduced to a memorable scene from one of Sony’s past films. When we click to play the clip a quick trivia question pops up. For instance, today’s clip was from the classic military drama ‘A Few Good Men’ — “You can’t handle the truth!” — and the question was in regards to leading ladies Jack Nicolson has worked with. More specifically, it wanted to know which of the given choices was a leading lady that Jack Nicolson killed on screen — kinda gruesome but, fun nonetheless. When the trivia question comes up you have a short amount of time to answer. The faster you answer the more points you get, that is of course if you answer right, which I did not. I’m not entirely sure what the points will grant us other than bragging rights but, everyone likes to test their movie knowledge once in awhile, right?

The clip loaded up surprisingly fast and looked great. ‘A Few Good Men’ is a movie I’ve seen countless times but, the app did a great job pulling me in, leaving me wanting more. Needless to say, I hit the calendar and found a bunch of movies from previous days. Just like the clip of the day, each of the previous clips throws another trivia question at you regarding a character, crew member or actor from the film. It’s a great way to kill some time and I will surely be going back. The calendar shows you what clips will be shown in the coming days and I’m looking forward to the quick trivia questions regarding movies I’m more familiar with — I want those points!

Another cool feature My Daily Clip provides is the sharing option. If you load up the app and happen to find a clip that you and a bunch of your friends love, you can share the clip via Facebook or e-mail to spread the movie joy. My Daily Clip is available now from the App Store and won‘t cost you a penny, unless it inspires you to make a movie purchase via iTunes which is clearly Sony’s goal here. Either way, it’s worth the free download so check it out.

Sony 3D Consumer Video Cameras – HDR-TD10 & Bloggie 3D

Posted by Andrew at 5:20 PM on January 24, 2011

Todd talks with Paul from Sony about the the “first” 3D consumer-level video camera. The HDR-TD10 records double HD at 60 fps  with a full pair of optical imaging systems in the one camera. Playback can be either in 3D or 2D, with the camera automatically eliminating one video channel if necessary. Available soon for about $1500.

The Bloggie 3D also puts in a quick appearance on the video, if you’re looking for something cheaper at $250.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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Sony Vaio F Series – 3D Powerhouse Laptop

Posted by Andrew at 8:25 AM on January 6, 2011

Sony today unleashed the Vaio F Series 3D notebook – an absolute beast of a machine featuring the latest i7 Intel CPUs, 16″ full HD 3D display, surround sound, Blu-ray drive, 11n and USB3.  In short, everything needed for a full-on 3D experience.

Hyperbole aside, the Vaio F series is a powerful machine.  Under the hood, it’s powered by the new Intel Core i7 processor, coupled with nVidia’s GeForce GT540M which has DirectX 11 support built-in, giving smooth full HD video and games.

The 16″ screen is full HD at 1920 x 1080, delivering up to 240 frames per second.  The screen uses “advanced frame sequential panel technology”, i.e. active rather than passive, giving sharper and brighter images.  Sony has standardised on active shutter glasses so they are the same as used with the Bravia 3D TVs.

Incredibly, not only can you watch 3D games and films in 3D (obviously), the Vaio F Series can up-convert 2D media into simulated 3D.  Now that I have to see.

Rounding out the multimedia experience is surround sound with Dolby Home Theater v3 (through headphones) and S-Force virtual 5.1 surround sound with Inbox bass-reflex speakers to give realistic sound.

Technical features include two USB3 ports, 11n wireless, Bluetooth 3, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, HD webcam, 640 GB HDD and Ms Windows 7 Home Premium.  Available from end of February.