Digital Zone 228: Oops

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In this edition of the Digital Zone, we talked about:

  • Verizon Wireless issues refunds
  • Fake iTunes receipts
  • Toasted Skin Syndrome
  • Apple ordered to pay up
  • Apple close to market cap domination
  • Android passes iPhone
  • Apple voluntarily pays $1.7 million to couple
  • Google introduces URL shortening service
  • Facebook issues 5 for 1 stock split
  • Facebook supports high-resolution images
  • Windows Phone 7 coming October 11

Verizon Wireless said it will pay millions of dollars in refunds to 15 million cell phone customers who were erroneously charged for data sessions or Internet use. Verizon did not disclose how much exactly it would have to pay but said 15 million customers would receive credits or refund checks that in most cases would range from $2 to $6 and be on customer’s October or November bills. Former customers will get refund checks while existing customers will get credits. A person familiar with the matter said the refunds would come to more than $50 million. If all 15 million customers receive $6 in refunds each this would come to $90 million. The New York Times reported that the Federal Communications Commission is pressing Verizon to agree to a penalty for the unauthorized charges. The charges affected customers who did not have data usage plans, but were billed because of exchanges initiated by software built into their phones. For example, trying out a demonstration of a game that Verizon Wireless had pre-loaded onto a phone would sometimes trigger data transmissions from the phone unbeknownst to the customers who were then charged by Verizon Wireless for the data.

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PandaLabs said that the company has discovered fake iTunes receipts being sent to iTunes users in an attempt to steal personal information. Ironically, the attack uses Flash. According to PandaLabs, the research arm of antivirus vendor Panda Security, users are sent a “receipt” from iTunes that looks completely authentic, with no telltale spelling errors or issues with the image’s source code. However, an image posted to the PandaLabs blog had problems with the bill’s total. The attack begins when the user is invited to click a link to “report a problem”. After clicking the link, the victim is asked to download a fake PDF reader. Once installation is complete, the user is redirected to an infected Web page containing the Zeus Trojan, which is specifically designed to steal personal data.

According to medical reports, having a hot notebook on your lap is creating “toasted skin syndrome,” a skin condition caused by long-term heat exposure. In one recent case, a 12-year-old boy developed a sponge-patterned skin discoloration on his left thigh after playing computer games a few hours every day for several months. The temperature underneath another person’s laptop registered 125 degrees. The condition also can be caused by overuse of heating pads and other heat sources that usually aren’t hot enough to cause burns but cause permanent skin darkening. In very rare cases, it can cause damage leading to skin cancers according to researchers.

A jury in Texas has ordered Apple to pay $625.5 million for violating patents owned by a firm founded by a computer science professor. Apple Inc. is challenging the verdict. The patents cover Cover Flow and Time Machine.

According to the Associated Press, Apple is on the verge of becoming the largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization. The total value of Apple shares almost exceed those of Exxon Mobil, the current market cap leader.

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According to Bloomberg, Apple paid a couple $1.7 million in order to secure just one more acre of land for its North Carolina data center, . Donnie and Kathy Fulbright originally paid $6,000 for the acre, which they occupied for more than 30 years. It took several offers from Apple before the Fulbrights could be persuaded to leave. “They told us to put a price on it and we did.” The couple ultimately used the money to buy a 49-acre plot, a new house and a jacuzzi. The initial land purchase for the data center may have cost Apple about $35,000 per acre. The center is believed to be worth about $1 billion.

According to Nielsen, Android has overtaken the iPhone as the most popular smartphone platform. Americans who purchased bought a smartphone within the past six months, 32 percent had bought an Android phone. Apple held virtually steady at 25 percent and was only just slightly eclipsed by the BlackBerry’s 26 percent.

Google introduced their URL shortening service – Goo.gl – which allows users to transform long Web addresses into short URLs. Google says it wants to keep its Goo.gl service lean, with an emphasis on stability, built-in spam protection, and speed.

Facebook said it is splitting its shares five for one, so that it can give larger stock grants to current and prospective employees. The split doesn’t change the actual value of these grants. Facebook isn’t disclosing the value of its shares but the stock was recently trading between $72 and $76 on SharesPost which values Facebook around $33.7 billion. This is the third time Facebook has split its shares.

Facebook is rolling out support for high-resolution images this month to give users the ability to share print-quality photos with friends and family members. The company is also introducing an improved photo viewer for handling large batches of photos.

Singapore Airlines said it will be able to offer passengers inflight wireless Internet access and mobile telephony services as early as 2011. Passengers will be charged for using the service, which will be available on all long-range aircraft. Details of the charges will be announced closer to the launch.

Microsoft will launch Windows Phone 7 in New York on October 11.

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