Black Friday 2011: Amazon selling smart phones for a cent

Forget getting the most bang for your buck; think smaller. Amazon’s latest Black Friday deal has the online mega-retailer selling all non-iPhone smart phones for a cent, the Washington Post reports. Yes, it’s a gimmick in that nabbing the low-priced phones also requires a two-year contract, but the phone selection is (far and away) much better than the normal roster of the free phones that come with plans. AT&T has already advertised that it will sell some of its phones for a penny, but the Amazon deal covers all four major national carriers. The Droid RAZR, Samsung Galaxy S II (on all its networks), the Droid 3 and the HTC Amaze are just a few of the phones that start at the special price. Models of the iPhone, sadly, are not included in the sale. So if you’ve been waiting on a smart phone but couldn’t quite swallow the price of a new handset in addition to the data costs, now may be the time to act…

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Facebook users: Five degrees of separation

On Facebook, it seems that just about everyone is a friend of a friend somewhere down the line, reports the Washington Post. There are plenty of occasions where Facebook users will make a new connection, only to find that they have some very surprising mutual friends. So how unlikely is it, for example, that your new co-worker is friends with your best friend from elementary school? More likely than you may think. A new study from the social network and its data team has found that 99.6 percent of all people on the social network can be connected within five steps, or six relationships. Ninety-two percent can be connected within four steps…

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Google kills Knol, Wave, and others to focus operations

Google continued to kill off businesses Nov. 22 as it streamlines operations, axing its would-be Wikipedia rival, Knol, and Wave, a real-time collaboration tool, CNET reports. Earlier this year, Google Chief Executive Larry Page announced plans to shed businesses that didn’t offer big opportunities in order for Google to focus on the ones that do. Along the way, the company has killed off Buzz, a social-networking attempt; Google Health, a personal health records service; and Google Desktop, a PC application that let users search for files and documents on their computers, among others. The latest round of cuts, announced in a blog post by Urs Holzle, senior vice president of operations and a Google fellow, includes Google Bookmarks Lists, which let users share bookmarks with friends, and Google Friend Connect, which let webmasters add social features to their site…

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University’s tablet program under review after tech officials put on leave

Students and faculty were asked to present their tablets for proper tagging Nov. 18.

Three employees at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) have been placed on administrative leave while officials review possible errors in the implementation of a pilot program that provided tablet computers to students in an honors program.

The university said Nov. 18 that Homer Coffman, chief information officer; Mike Herndon, director of procurement and contract services, and Dr. Bob Lyman, who resigned his position as provost on Nov. 16 but remains a member of the faculty, each was placed on leave.

About 700 Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 devices were distributed as part of the U-Tab pilot program to selected students, faculty, and staff to help transform the educational experience by providing mobile access to courses and class content.

Read more about IT safety and security in higher education…

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The laptop project was announced in August.

University officials said the program is under review for failure to properly account for the distribution of the tablets as property of the State of Mississippi and possible violations of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning policies regarding contract review and state bid requirements.

Participants were asked to present their tablets for proper tagging Nov. 18.

Officials apologized for the inconvenience and failure to clearly communicate the terms of the program. Students apparently were initially led to believe they owned the devices upon receipt, officials said.

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Review: Nook Tablet is a worthy competitor to Kindle Fire

The Nook Tablet improves on the Nook Color mainly by beefing up the processor and memory and extending the battery life.

Last week, Associated Press technology writer Peter Svensson reviewed the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s $199 tablet that aims to challenge the iPad. This week, he reviewed the new $249 Nook Tablet from bookseller Barnes & Noble, which he called “a solid product, worthy of duking it out with [the] Kindle Fire.”

Here’s what he had to say about the device…

“Like the new Kindle Fire, the [Nook] Tablet has a 7-inch, touch-sensitive color screen, about half the size of the iPad’s. It’s the same screen as on the Nook Color, the eReader Barnes & Noble launched a year ago. I thought it was the best eReader yet when it launched.

“The Tablet improves on the Nook Color mainly by beefing up the processor and the memory and extending the battery life to 11.5 hours of reading, or 9 hours of video. The Tablet also has improved software, but the Color will be getting the same software through a downloadable update.

“The Tablet is debuting with Netflix and Hulu applications. Coupled with the nice, sharp screen, that makes for a good device for that TV and movie fix—as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

The apps actually highlight one of the shortcomings of the Tablet: there’s no way (short of hacking the software) to use it for offline viewing of movies you buy or rent.

“Barnes & Noble promises to provide some sort of movie store next year. Amazon, meanwhile, launched the Kindle Fire with access not just to Netflix and Hulu, but to its own store with downloadable video, plus free streaming content for Amazon Prime subscribers.

“Barnes & Noble is also well behind when it comes to the selection of third-party applications: It has about 1,000 available today. That compares to just under 10,000 at Amazon, and 500,000 on the iPad. However, the Nook has these features over the Fire:

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Savannah Tech unveils new 3D technology

SavannahNow.com reports that Savannah Technical College now offers three-dimensional training for students after buying four 3D trainers with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education as a Predominantly Black Institution. “Studies have shown that students absorb information faster, increase comprehension and retain what they’ve learned more effectively with 3D images,” said Savannah Tech president Kathy Love. “We are very pleased to be the first college in Coastal Georgia to offer this new 3D technology to enhance learning for our students.” The 3D holograms will allow students and operators to view and learn by experience and to apply what they’ve learned against real-world applications…

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Penguin pulls new eBooks from libraries

Citing unspecified “concerns about the security of our digital editions,” Penguin Group USA is pulling new eBooks from libraries; in addition, it is not lending any eBooks to libraries through Kindle devices, paidContent.org reports. In a statement provided to Library Journal’s Digital Shift blog, Penguin says that owing to security (read: piracy) concerns, it finds it “necessary to delay the availability of our new titles in the digital format while we resolve these concerns with our business partners.” Penguin, whose self-publishing service Book Country has already drawn quite a bit of criticism this week, is likely to receive more flak for this move. Yet it is unusual among the “big six” publishers in that it allows eBooks to be borrowed through libraries at all. Macmillan and Simon & Schuster do not distribute any eBooks (new or old) to libraries. Hachette Book Group does not allow new titles to be lent as eBooks, and HarperCollins allows new eBooks to be borrowed only 26 times before the library has to buy a new copy. This leaves Random House as the only big six publisher currently allowing unfettered access to its eBooks through libraries…

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The top 25 worst passwords of 2011: See what to avoid

Think your password is fine? You’d better check this list to be sure, reports the Huffington Post. Password management app maker SplashData has released their list of the 25 worst passwords of 2011. These are the passwords that get hacked the most frequently, based on SplashData’s study of millions of stolen passwords that have been posted online by hackers. Many of the worst offenders are sequential numbers (“123456”) or sequential keyboard keys (“qwerty”) or password-related words like “password” or “letmein”. According to SplashData CEO Morgan Slain, who was quoted on Mashable, “Even though people are encouraged to select secure, strong passwords, many people continue to choose weak, easy-to-guess ones, placing themselves at risk from fraud and identity theft.”

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Gates to testify in $1B lawsuit against Microsoft

Microsoft’s Bill Gates has arrived at federal court in Salt Lake City to testify in a billion-dollar antitrust lawsuit accusing the software maker of duping a competitor prior to its Windows 95 rollout, the Associated Press reports. Utah-based Novell Inc. says Microsoft tricked them into thinking its WordPerfect writing application would be included in the Windows 95 rollout. Novell says it was later forced to sell WordPerfect for a $1.2 billion loss. Microsoft lawyers will open their case Monday with Gates’ testimony…

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Quietly, Google puts history online

When the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, home to the Dead Sea Scrolls, reopened last year after an extensive renovation, it attracted a million visitors in the first 12 months, the New York Times reports. When the museum opened an enhanced website with newly digitized versions of the scrolls in September, it drew a million virtual visitors in three and a half days. The scrolls, scanned with ultrahigh-resolution imaging technology, have been viewed on the web from 210 countries — including some, like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria, that provide few real-world visitors to the Israel Museum…

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