Jun 27, 2007

iPhone Mania

That's the iPhone. It's hard for me to see why all the fuss. It's just a phone and not only this, it's a very expensive phone (iPhone cost: $500 for the 4GB model, $600 for the 8GB model). Ok, leaving aside the cost of the iPhone, at least I'll own a piece of the apple right? Actually no. The iPhone also comes "bundled" with AT&T's plans, and get this, the lowest plan is $60/month, plus a $36 activation fee (source). Not even this, but it's a minimum of 2-year plan. Ok, so how much does the iPhone makes you spend in the first 2 years of its usage (assuming you're not purchasing any iPhone accessories)? $1976. That's right, almost $2000 for a phone. Anyway it's your choice. You want to buy it, well the line for purchasing an iPhone formed like 3 days ago, so go ahead and be there when the iPhone launch date is due (29th of June, 6pm).

I would not buy it right now. I would wait let's say for at least 3-4 months until all this hype finishes and we get some real iPhone reviews to see exactly what the drawbacks are, and what advantages such a miracle device has. Plus, if sales are good Apple is going to keep the same prices, if sales aren't good, they'll cut the prices and you'll spare some money (also towards the end of the year more promotions are available).

Some (lucky?) journalists already had the chance to review the iPhone, and given their feedback these are the major issues with the iPhone: comes with AT&T's plans, doesn't have games or instant messaging, doesn't allow video recordings, has no flash support, no voice dialing, no removable battery (that's right, to be changed you have to send the device back to Apple), no memory card support (you're stuck with 4/8GB) and other minor issues (see Gizmodo's list).

Critical Consensus did a pretty good scorecard based on the iPhone reviews from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Newsweek and USA Today. The result is a rating of 76.5/100 for the iPhone. Pretty good for a first release, but one thing is missing from these reviews: THE iPHONE PRICE! That's a major issue and if it would have been considered the iPhone's score would be around 50 out of 100.

Anyway, if you want to be part of this iPhone mania go ahead and droll over the shiny photos that Apple posted. You've got to give them at least this, they're good at creating hype given their background with the iPod. And I'm sure that on Friday when the iPhone is officially launched the web will explode, you can already hear the zzzzz of the news hurricane that's about to hit.

Jun 25, 2007

Transfer music to mp3 player for free

Need to transfer music from your pc to your portable player? Well, there are a couple of free mp3 player softwares that can accomplish that task. But before we get there, these are the steps you need to follow in order to copy music to your mp3 player:

  1. First of all have the music in the appropriate format, which is mp3. If you have the music on a cd for instance, you'll first have to rip the tracks and convert them to mp3 files. There's a free cd-ripper called AudioGrabber that does that, and is one of the best out there (considering the price).

  2. Second of all is the mp3 software that you need in order to sync your mp3 player with your music selection on the PC. For this purpose I've considered these free mp3 synchronization programs: iTunes (with iTunes Sync and/or BadApple plugins installed), MediaMonkey, musikCube and Yahoo! Music Jukebox

Once these programs are installed and your mp3 player recognized, you can transfer music to it.

  1. iTunes is one of the most used mp3 programs out there, but that's because its relation with iPod. However, if you don't have a iPod you cannot use iTunes to synchronize your playlist...at least not without any additional software. This is where iTunes Sync comes handy, as it tweaks iTunes to recognize any other mp3 player that shows up as a drive letter in Windows. So, first you need to download iTunes and install it on your computer. After that you have to download and install Microsoft .NET Framework, as it's required by iTunes Sync. Last thing to do is install iTunes Sync and follow the tutorial shown on Binary Fortress Software to sync your music.

    iTunes (default install, recognizes only iPods)

    iTunes Sync (plugin, tweaks iTunes to recognize any mp3 player)

  2. Still iTunes, but now a different plugin called BadApple. BadApple is a free plug-in for iTunes which allows you to sync your music library to any MP3 player (not just an iPod). After downloading and installing the software, you will have a "Sync to MP3 player" link you can click on from within iTunes. This will sync all tracks to a MP3 player. What's better over iTunes Sync is the fact that it doesn't require the .NET Framework. However, it seems that it doesn't work in recent versions of iTunes, and the dowload link points to a 404 page. After iTunes is installed, download and install BadApple using this link (click on the Zum Download button). Once BadApple is installed if you're lucky you'll have a way to select an mp3 player to sync to.

    BadApple (plugin, tweaks iTunes to recognize any mp3 player)

  3. MediaMonkey. Has a funny name but it works well, has a zillion of features and is one of my favourite. There's a free version that does it work well and can be downloaded here. The paid version ($20) attracts mainly because of this feature: "Auto-conversion allows you to automatically synchronize tracks no matter what format they're in, converting tracks on-the-fly to a format that is supported by your iPod or other portable device, while retaining all metadata." But, as I mentioned the AudioGrabber program earlier, you can do the conversion before the synchronization and save this way $20.
    It can synchronize with iPods, phones (with mp3 support) and other mp3 players.

    MediaMonkey's synchronization settings window

  4. musikCube does it too. Once you plug in an portable audio device it will appear under the Playlists section, and you'll be able to synchronize all music in the playlist with your mp3 player. Simple, structured more or less like iTunes, and free.

    musikCube - once an mp3 device is added will be recognized automatically

  5. Yahoo! Music Jukebox (formerly MusicMatch) can synchronize too with your mp3 player. The only thing is that I had problem with it after installing, as I was receiving a blue screen of death. However, might have been a one-in-a-million error so it might work perfect on other systems. Just like the MediaMonkey, there's a free version and a paid version (Musi Jukebox Plus, $20). The free version does more than you need so no need to pay for the "Plus" one. You can get the free version here. Of course they're using this free version to promote their music subscription plan (like Apple does). You can do the synchronization with your player using the Playlists section.

    MusicMatch main window

  6. Almost forgot about Windows Media Player 11. Looks well, works well, but it's Microsoft's :). Anyway, to download it you'll need to pass the Windows Genuine Advantage verification, so if you're ready here you can download it. However, first check to see if it isn't already installed on your computer, as it comes bundled with the operating system. Once opened you can use the Sync button to synchronize your playlist with the mp3 player.

    Windows Media Player 11 main window

So, plenty of free mp3 softwares for you to choose from. Note that these programs do much more than synchronizing music, but this is a plus.

Jun 19, 2007

Marketiva scam (phishing) emails sent to users

Well I almost fell for a phishing email today. I'm a member of Marketiva (forex trading platform) and today I received an email with the subject "MARKETIVA Your Identification Documents are Re-Requested". If you are a member of Marketiva delete that email immediately as it is a phishing email (scam) that is sent by a bunch of crooks and that's trying to fool you into giving away your username/password or eventually your identification details.

After asking Marketiva for support I've seen that the email mentioned above actually directed to a page (a hidden url) for a domain name called Marketiua, which is obviously a scam and has nothing to do with Marketiva. So be careful if you receive an email like the one below:

Dear Marketiva Traders,

Current status of identification documents ( personal detail )for your
Marketiva account is "Re-Requested".
Our support personnel indicated the following specific reasons for the re-request: Please scan a different document and resend, there is no stamp over your photo.
The identification documents you have uploaded in electronic form were inspected by our support personnel, but they did not pass the inspection
Please click on the link below to go to a page where you will be able to upload/ fill the identification documents again.
[Phishing url removed]
IMPORTANT: If our system detected this as a newly created duplicate, misrepresented, or parallel account, such account may already be disabled and you will not be able to access it anymore. Please read the details below to assist you in resolving related issues.
One person may open one Marketiva account only. Our administration system detects and suspends duplicate, misrepresented, or parallel accounts based on a very sophisticated computer model.
If you already have an account with incorrect data, you need to reply to this e-mail providing us with your actual first and last name, so we can update your name in our records. If your contact information is also incorrect, please update it at:
[Phishing url removed]
You will then need to contact us on the Live Support channel accessible through our web site, so we can verify your documents. Please do not use the Streamster software before your documents get verified; otherwise your account will be disabled again.
Thank you for using Marketiva services. Should you need any additional assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Best Regards,
Marketiva Support Team
[Phishing url removed]

In the email I received you can spot that is a phishing attempt as if you hover over the urls you'll see that it links to a Marketiua.com/randomly_verify phishing link that tries to get your identity.

Best thing to do when receiving these types of emails is to not click on anything inside the email but head on to the website as you have it saved in your favorites and see if anything is mentioned in there. If not, ask them for support and tell them what you received, but never login using links from an email, no matter if they seem to come from Paypal, Amazon, eBay or your bank. Too many people get fooled and have their identity stolen because of phishing, don't be one of them.

[Update] You can read a review on Marketiva's affiliate program here: Marketiva affiliate program.