Thursday, December 31, 2009

Staff Mashup: Our favorite games of 2009

FROM GAMERTELL - Here’s a look back at a few of the Gamertell staff’s favorite games released during the last year of the first decade of this century (aka 2009)...

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Weekend Investor: Stock-fund investors greet new year with a grimace

What goes down mustn’t go up, but for investors in U.S. stock mutual-funds this year, the law of gravity reversed -- and in a big way.

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Crippled by conspiracy theories

Iranians must determine their own political destiny. They're not helped by a culture too ready to blame things on foreign forces

This week the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, blamed America and Israel for the widespread anti-government protests around Sunday's holy mourning day of Ashura. He insisted that "Americans and Zionists are the sole audience of a play they have commissioned and sold out".

These allegations echo earlier episodes when Ahmadinejad, his ministers and loyal clerics, have insisted that Britain, Israel and the US are responsible for fomenting the mass protests that have followed June's election-grabbing coup.

Iran has formally protested this alleged foreign interference, summoning ambassadors and crying foul. Relations with the west â€" already tense over the nuclear impasse â€" have been further strained by arrests of foreign nationals, harassment of embassy employees and the unsavoury record of Iranian involvement in Iraq. Just today this newspaper has published evidence showing that a British hostage captured in Iraq may in fact have been held in Iran by the Revolutionary Guard. This revelation will worsen already deeply strained relations.

At one level Ahmadinejad's remarks blaming the west for recent protests seem a crass political attempt to discredit the opposition and to play both on a certain Iranian tradition of xenophobia and on a widespread public memory of repeated foreign power interference historically in Iranian affairs. At another, and more worrying, level they are clearly indicative of an irrational conspiracy theory mentality that permeates Iranian society. An obsession with conspiracy theories is, unsurprisingly perhaps, particularly concentrated among the supporters of a regime now totally lacking legitimacy.

Iranian conspiracy theories are above all centred on the British, and an obsession with a pervasive, quasi-omnipotent British power, a siasat-e engelis, dates back at least to the start of the 20th century. This obsession reached the very highest levels: Reza Shah, Iran's first Pahlavi monarch, suspected his own son of working as a British agent. In turn, when that son Muhammad Reza became shah he blamed the British for virtually every international incident, according to the diaries of Asadollah Alam, his confidant and minister of court. Muhammad Reza was even convinced that Muhammad Mosaddeq, leader of the anti-British oil nationalisation movement, was a British employee.

Conspiracy theories persist under the republic: lift up Khomeini's beard â€" so the popular joke goes â€" and you'll find it stamped "Made in England". Years back, a diplomatic friend told me of a meeting in Qom with senior clerics who appealed for Jack Straw to change some aspect or other of Iranian domestic policy, seemingly convinced â€" despite the diplomat's protestations â€" that Britain actually had this level of control over domestic Iranian affairs. Others have told me similar stories from ambassadors and other members of Iran's political elite, as well as from the regime's apparatchiks more generally.

Other conspiracy theories accuse variously the Americans, European powers, Zionists, Baha'is and freemasons. A ludicrous and nakedly antisemitic news item carried recently by Press TV (essentially a state mouthpiece) accused Israel of kidnapping 25,000 Ukrainian children and bringing them to the occupied territories to harvest their organs.

Another episode reinforcing this divorce from reality shared by the conspiracy theorists is the report of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari's interrogation in Evin prison. The story is harrowing indeed but especially given the preposterous insistence (which might in other circumstances be comic) of his interrogator that the journalist was employed simultaneously by four intelligence agencies: the CIA, MI6, Mossad and Newsweek.

Of course there is a real and significant history of meddling and interference by foreign states in Iranian affairs. The British legation provided refuge to thousands of anti-government figures during the constitutional revolution, and in the Anglo-Russian convention of 1907 Iran was divided into zones of influence.

Later Britain backed the coup that brought Reza Khan to power, so establishing the Pahlavi dynasty, and in 1953 worked with the CIA to mastermind the overthrow of Mosaddeq, the then prime minister, in Operation Ajax, which restored the autocracy of the shah. There were other episodes of foreign interference: some self-serving and pernicious, others with perhaps nobler â€" albeit often misguided â€" intentions.

Popular memory and the historical narratives propagated by the republic emphasise this foreign involvement. In so doing they deny agency to Iranian society to control its own destiny. Take Operation Ajax. It is certainly true that M16 and the CIA conspired against Mosaddeq. However they were able to exploit a fear of Mosaddeq's reforms that was growing among the conservative mercantile and clerical classes, and to work with royalists already plotting against Mosaddeq. The opposition of several major clerics, notably Ayatollah Kashani, helped cement a wider opposition to Mosaddeq, utilised by American-paid agents provocateurs. Had large elements of the traditionalist middle class not turned against Mosaddeq it is unlikely that the coup would have been successful.

Conspiracy theories have been brought back to the foreground by the political crisis of recent months. This crisis should be conceived as a dual problem of deep schisms within the ruling religio-political elite coupled with a broad mass movement challenging the election-grabbing coup of last June alongside a multitude of other grievances.

Faced with a massive legitimacy crisis, the Iranian regime and its supporters have been quick to point the figure at foreign powers. While Whitehall and the White House were rightly initially wary of overtly supporting the Iranian opposition for fear of tainting the opposition as foreign lackeys, they were nonetheless branded as such. Many have been arrested, tried and even convicted of espionage and of working as foreign agents.

Washington and London have now taken a more critical line: directly challenging the brutal repression and violence used against protesters and opposition figures and their families. Mike Hammer of the White House's national security council stated recently that America stands behind those "who peacefully seek their universal rights".

Ahmedinejad's insistence in blaming the unrest on foreign powers is not simply disingenuous; he may well genuinely believe his assertions. Many are convinced that a "British establishment" is working to overthrow Iran's political system and that it co-ordinates such varied organisations as varied as the BBC, the Guardian, the Palace of Westminster, the British Museum (with its Shah Abbas exhibition supposedly intended to reinforce Sunni/Shia divides), and the Queen's College at the University of Oxford (which established a scholarship in memory of Neda Agha-Soltan).

Iranian society is certainly not unique in favouring conspiracy theories. However, in Iran these ideas reach the highest level of the ruling classes with horrific consequences.

In engaging with Iran and its leadership the international community should be mindful of this conspiracy mentality. They must be transparent and candid in their dealings with Iran. They should be open in their opposition to Iran's violence against peaceful protest which patently contravenes treaties including the UN international covenant on civil and political rights of which Iran is a signatory.

Read the full story here, from Guardian Unlimited

Apple COO Tim Cook said to be a ‘top candidate’ for GM CEO job

Apple COO Tim Cook is executive search firm Spencer Stuart's first choice...

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Documents To Go Adds PowerPoint Editing to the iPhone

Documents To Go Premium has been updated to add editing of PowerPoint files from your iPhone.

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Review: News Fuse USA for iPhone

Having 54 news sources in one app is definitely convenient, and News Fuse USA delivers them in a snappy interface. But the absence of customization and social features is too noticeable.

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Apple tablet team in a "cone of silence"

<img align='left' src='' border='0' width='176' height='120' />Apple has maintained a level of secrecy surrounding its tablet project not seen since the iPhone about three years ago, John Gruber says. Referencing sources at Apple, the historically accurate technology writer reiterates that a Get Smart-like "cone of silence" exists surrounding those developing the tablet and virtually no information comes from those directly involved. Many of those involved are the same who developed apps like Calendar, Mail and Safari for the iPhone and underwent a similar routine in late 2006....

Read the full story here, from MacNN | The Macintosh News Network

New iPhone App, "SURVEY ON THE SPOT," Enables Air Travelers to Take TSA Survey Rating Airport Security Screening

BOSTON, Dec. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- On The Spot Systems, Inc., announced today that their iPhone application, SURVEY ON THE SPOT, is now available to air travelers to rate airport security screening by completing a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) survey. SURVEY ON THE SPOT uses the iPhone's GPS to identify

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WakeMate provides quiet Bluetooth alarm for iPhone

<img align='left' src='' border='0' width='176' height='120' />In an attempt to help users get a better night's sleep, a company called WakeMate has introduced a product that will pair with the iPhone and other Bluetooth handsets to detect a user's sleep patterns and wake them up within a 20 minute window that is said to be the most efficient and healthy for the body. The wrist band is an actigraph and will infer the wearer's sleep pattern and circadian rhythms based on motions....

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10 iPhone Apps to Kick Off 2010

The celebration of the New Year traditionally signifies a chance to start over and make resolutions to change for the better. For participants in 21st century technology, the New Year also symbolizes the start of updated gadgets and gizmos that promise to make our lives more entertaining and easy to live. With those two concepts in mind, here are 10 iPhone applications that offer users a chance to pick up a new hobby, live healthier, or simply organize their lives a little bit better. Happy New Year!
- ...

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Billings 3.5 'Trojan' Adds Support for Upcoming iPhone App

Billings 3.5 adds synchronization support for the upcoming Billings Touch – Billings's iPhone brother

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Review: Voltron for iPhone

Voltron doesn't wow with impressive visuals, but the retro graphics and gameplay suit the '80s cartoon series very well. Fans nostalgic for Voltron should definitely give this game a try.

Read the full story here, from Macworld

Orange to launch "HD" calls in 2010

<img align='left' src='' border='0' width='176' height='120' />Orange UK today said it would be one of the first carriers to upgrade its call quality with plans to launch "high definition" calls. The HD Voice service will use a new speech transmission format known as Wideband Adaptive Multi-Rate (WB-AMR) that allocates multiple times more bandwidth to a call than normal 3G voice without increasing the amount of data used. Orange expects calls to sound as good as if the other caller was "actually in the same room" if both are using the same technology....

Read the full story here, from MacNN | The Macintosh News Network

Reviews: LE rush Computer Bag

be-ez's new LE rush laptop bag is versatile, well built, and comes in sizes to fit Apple's 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro. Read on to see how the LE rush held up under Nancy Gravley's real world testing.

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The Most-Viewed Bits Posts of 2009

From announcements about new iPhones and e-readers to a mysterious apparition in Google Earth, a look back at which blog posts captured reader's attention in 2009.

Read the full story here, from Technology - International Herald Tribune

288 Vroom Releases 100 Horror Stories And Sounds

Developed specifically to take advantage of the iPhone's unique capabilities, 100 Horror Stories And Sounds is for the horror fan in everyone.

Read the full story here, from iClarified - Apple News

Mophie to Debut iPhone Credit Card Reader at CES

Mophie will reportedly debut a solution to process credit card transactions on the iPhone at CES.

Read the full story here, from iClarified - Apple News

Giovannini Simone Releases Enigmo! 1.0

Enigmo! is a new iphone application in where you can test your intelligence.

Read the full story here, from iClarified - Apple News

PreBrowser for iPhone Released in Cydia Store

Omar Mashhour has released PreBrowser 1.0, a Palm Pre themed, full screen, tabbed browser for the iPhone.

Read the full story here, from iClarified - Apple News

Billings 3.5 paves the way for iPhone companion

A new version of Billings, Marketcircle's time tracking and invoicing app, is ready to sync with a forthcoming iPhone version.

Read the full story here, from Macworld

Apple takes holiday customer satisfaction honors

Consumers were happier with their online shopping experience at Apple's site this holiday season than at any other computer or electronics maker, according to ForeSee Results.

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Mortgage rates end the year above 5 percent

Mortgage rates rose for the fourth straight week, ending the year above 5 percent. The average fixed rate on a 30-year mortgage was 5.14 percent this week, up from 5.05 percent last week, Freddie Mac said Thursday. Mortgage rates are closely tied to yields on...

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Mortgage - Freddie Mac - Business - Financial services -

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Apple misses Boot Camp update deadline

Apple has less than 24 hours to meet a self-imposed deadline to produce a version of its Boot Camp software that supports Windows 7.

Read the full story here, from Computerworld Macintosh News

Hot Forum Topic: Speculating on an AAPL Split

Apple's stock has topped the US$200 mark, leaving TMO readers debating the possibility of an AAPL stock split.

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Report: Scanners

HP Snow Leopard problems

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Review: iPhone bill trackers

In our round-up of mobile bill tracking apps, both BillMinder and BillTracker are very good options with features that some users may find more appealing than others. But in Ben Boychuk's estimation, BillMinder enjoys an edge over the competition.

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Taxpayer tab for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac likely to rise

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government's Christmas Eve pledge of unlimited financial aid to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is aimed at making sure the housing market doesn't take another turn for the worse and cause the economic recovery to unravel.

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Update: Billings 3.5

Marketcircle's time tracking and billing software adds synchronization with Billings Touch (iPhone/iPod Touch), support for on-the-fly slips created by Billings touch, better performance with large databases, improved Address Book integration, and more.

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Super Monkey Ball: Step and Roll Video Interview with Yasuhito Baba - online fuctionality to be considered for future series entries

Direct link and impressions here

Super Monkey Ball - Video game - IPhone - Game -

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Grab the iPhone deals at this year’s “New Year’s App Blowout”

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Pocket Devil for iPhone

Fans of Pocket God will notice a lot of similarities between that god game and Pocket Devil, which puts you in the cloven-heeled boots of the man downstairs. Pocket Devil is not without its gory charms, but it's a far cry from the quality of Pocket God.

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'Best of Innovations' Award-Winning Viper SmartStart From Directed Electronics Adds User-Friendly New Features

VISTA, Calif., Dec. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Directed Electronics announced that its award-winning Viper SmartStart, which allows users to start their car from virtually anywhere with their iPhone, has been updated to provide exciting new features including 2-Way confirmation. (Logo: According to Mike Simmons, Executive Vice President of Directed Electronics: "Viper SmartStart

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Apple Picks New Technology as Featured iPhone App

Grammy Award winning producer Dallas Austin and Fried Green Apps announce that Mix Me In has earned a spot in the coveted “New and Noteworthy” section of Apple’s

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Former Google China president reveals details on Apple's tablet

The ex-president of Google China has revealed on his microblog supposed details on Apple's forthcoming tablet: 10.1-inch screen with webcam, "awesome UI."

Read the full story here, from AppleInsider

Product News: Add Emoticons to FaceBook Posts with Emoti for iPhone

Nodconcept announced Wednesday the release of Emoti, an iPhone app that allows users to add emoticons to their FaceBook status updates and posts to their FaceBook friends' wall. Emoti uses 42 custom emoticons developed for the app, and uses a FaceBook API to allow users to post directly to FaceBook and add the emoticon at the same time.

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News: Gaming & Relaxation Apps Dominate Holiday iPhone FaceBook Chatter

iPhone users discussing apps focused on gaming and relaxation apps in the days surrounding the Christmas holiday (December 24th through December 28th), according to monitoring company Mplayit. The company released Top 10 lists for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Mobile Java-based cell phones, lists that suggest differentiation between the platforms.

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SIManager 1.4 Adds Option to Copy All iPhone Contacts to SIM

Giovanni Chiappini has updated his SIManager application for the iPhone with an option to copy all your contacts to the SIM card.

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BusinessWeek: Apple’s ‘Jesus Tablet’ could change the world

Apple's new tablet really could shake up society...

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Apple briefly cuts educational price of unibody MacBook to $728

Apple on Tuesday reduced the price of its least expensive notebook to $728...

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Product News: V Phone Adds VoIP, SIP to iPhone

Matrix Knowledge announced the immediate availability of V Phone on Wednesday. V Phone is a Voice Over IP and SMS over IP client application for the iPhone.

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Read the full story here, from The Mac Observer