Steve Ballmer officially steps down from Microsoft board

Michael Hatamoto | Business, Financial & Legal | Aug 19, 2014 1:59 PM CDT

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wrote a letter addressed to current CEO Satya Nadella, stating he is stepping down as a Microsoft board member. Ballmer retired almost six months ago and Microsoft picked Nadella to try to steer the company into a mobile, cloud-connected world.

"I bleed Microsoft - have for 34 years and I always will," Ballmer wrote in the letter. "I continue to love discussing the company's future. I love trying new products and sending feedback. I love reading about what is going on at the company. Count on me to keep ideas and inputs flowing. The company will move to higher heights. I will be proud, and I will benefit through my share ownership. I promise to support and encourage boldness by management in my role as a shareholder in any way I can."

It's not a surprise to hear Ballmer has stepped down from the board, especially as his focus turns more towards the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. In addition to owning the NBA franchise, Ballmer has stayed active in the non-profit community, teaching and studying, which is "taking a lot of time."

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Lake Tahoe-area home site sells for $1.6 million in bitcoins

Michael Hatamoto | Business, Financial & Legal | Aug 19, 2014 1:15 PM CDT

A Silicon Valley resident purchased a 1.4-acre home site near Lake Tahoe, a popular Northern California tourist destination, for $1.6 million in bitcoins. It was the first time the Martis Camp real estate company handled a transaction in bitcoins, but enjoyed a pleasurable experience this time around. The deal closed on August 6 and serves as a significant real estate transaction using bitcoins, with many companies still seeking cold, hard cash.

"We didn't know much about (Bitcoin)," said Brian Hull, Martis Camp sales director, in a statement to the media. "We actually closed in the quickest time frame that we've ever closed on a developer lot transaction."

Earlier in the year, the Sacramento Kings NBA team became the first professional sports team to begin accepting bitcoins - as more businesses embrace the sometimes volatile cryptocurrency. Meanwhile, Overstock.com estimates $6 million to $8 million in bitcoin sales during 2014, with the popular e-tailer serving as a major business early adopter.

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Chevrolet Corvette Valet Mode records the people parking your car

Shane McGlaun | Business, Politics & Money | Aug 19, 2014 6:02 AM CDT

Anyone who has ever handed the keys to their car over to a valet at an event or restaurant has felt the fear at wondering what the valet will do to your car while you are gone. People with nice cars like the new Corvette Stingray may feel a bit more fear than others. Valets are known to be rather hard on some cars.

GM has announced that the 2015 Corvette fitted with the Performance Data Recorder option will have a slick Valet mode that will record the antics of the Valet while you are inside eating. GM says that the system is rather like a baby monitor for your car.

In addition to turning on the recorder, the valet mode will also lock the storage bin behind the center stack display, lock the glove box, and disable the radio and infotainment system. The Data recorder in the car records video for the front of the car overlaid with speed, engine RPM, gear, and g-force.

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Only 8% of PC games sold last year were physical, 92% sold digitally

Anthony Garreffa | Business, Financial & Legal | Aug 19, 2014 2:31 AM CDT

When was the last time you purchased a game for your PC from an actual retailer? If you're like me, every game you purchase is digital - either through Steam, Origin or even a service like GOG.com. Well, according to DFC Intelligence, 92% of PC game sales for last year were digital, leaving just 8% to physical copies.

Payday 2 publisher Starbreeze saw 80% of its first-month sales of 1.58 million copies being digital. But then titles like DotA 2 and DayZ were completely digital, adding to that huge 92%. Rewinding back to 2010, digital PC sales made up 48% of all PC sales, so we've seen a huge increase of 44% over the last three years.

But then powerhouse publisher EA has only seen 20% of its total sales being digital, but EA have titles on virtually every platform available to gamers, with games in both physical, and digital form.

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Edward Snowden says he would go to jail in order to return home

Michael Hatamoto | Hacking, Security & Privacy | Aug 18, 2014 2:46 PM CDT

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden would "volunteer" for prison but only under the right circumstances, he said in a recent interview with Wired Magazine. Considering he faces charges that include conveying classified information to an unauthorized party, theft of government property and disclosing communications intelligence information, he would likely face significant prison time if convicted.

"I told the government I'd volunteer for prison, as long as it served the right purpose," Snowden told Wired earlier this month. "I care more about the country than what happens to me. But we can't allow the law to become a political weapon or agree to scare people away from standing up for their rights, no matter how good the deal is. I'm not going to be part of that."

Earlier in the month, Russian officials announced Snowden's asylum was extended for an additional three years - allowing him to remain in a safe location as he tries to figure out what to do long-term. Most U.S. politicians have been less than kind when describing Snowden's actions, and it seems unlikely he would receive a fair trial if he returns back to the United States. However, they are still keen to see him return home, because they certainly seem to have a lot of questions they would like him to answer.

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Facebook tests satire tag for newsfeeds to avoid user embarrassment

Shane McGlaun | Internet & Websites | Aug 18, 2014 9:34 AM CDT

If you spend much time on Facebook, you have seen people share content from sites like The Onion and others. Many of us know that the content from The Onion and similar sites is satire, meaning it's fake. The problem for some folks is that they think the content is real. The upside for those of us that know the content is satire is that we get to point out their mistake, and make fun of them for it.

Facebook is said to be testing a new satire tag for content in your newsfeed. At first glance it sounds like that will take away all the fun of tricking people into thinking these often outlandish satire stories are true. Facebook is reportedly only marking the content with the satire tag in user's newsfeeds after they click the article to read it.

That means at first glance, someone unfamiliar might think it's real. Facebook told Mashable, "We are running a small test which shows the text "[Satire]" in front of links to satirical articles in the related articles unit in News Feed. This is because we received feedback that people wanted a clearer way to distinguish satirical articles from others in these units."

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Apple shareholder sues estate of Steve Jobs over Valley poaching deal

Tamlin Magee | Business, Financial & Legal | Aug 18, 2014 6:05 AM CDT

An Apple shareholder is suing the estate of deceased founder and CEO Steve Jobs, claiming that his actions compromised the company's value and put stock holders at risk.

In particular, R Andre Klein's complaint lies with Steve Jobs' hiring agreements with other Silicon Valley companies, which essentially amounted to a no-poaching agreement. Critics say that in effect, this secret deal could have stagnated wages and prevented workers from getting what they were due. Klein, who is filing on behalf of all Apple shareholders, says that this behavior violates the US Securities and Exchange act.

"Jobs's conduct is a reminder that even widely respected businessmen can knowingly commit unlawful acts in the zealous pursuit of profits," it was stated in court papers. "In this case, Jobs and the other individual defendants knowingly caused Apple to enter into agreements that violated California law and US antitrust laws." The present CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, is also a defendant. Klein is seeking a payment from Apple for damages to shareholders, Sky reports.

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20 years since IBM Simon, world's first smartphone

Tamlin Magee | Mobile Devices, Tablets & Phones | Aug 18, 2014 4:04 AM CDT

IBM in partnership with London's Science Museum is celebrating the world's first ever "smartphone" - the IBM Simon, which is now 20 years old.

Although it obviously doesn't hold a candle to the devices that are now available, the Simon was ahead of its time in many ways. For a product released in 1994. it was a piece of mobile technology that could take notes and even send emails, combined with a mobile phone. There was accompanying software and it could also operate with a fax machine. However, it weighed in at a chunky 1.1lb - a far cry from the portable kit around today.

At nearly 1,000 USD the Simon wasn't a market hit - and no mobile internet meant it wasn't particularly well connected. IBM's device had a battery life of just one hour, and it was taken off the shelves two years later. But museum curator Charlotte Connelly said that, nonetheless, it and the Information Age exhibition Simon will be shown at serve as a reminder of a more disconnected lifestyle. "It does remind us of that time," she told the BBC. "I definitely enjoy getting away from things and deliberately disconnecting myself. There's something quite nice about that."

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Nab Captain America: The Winter Soldier on Blu-ray in our latest promo

Ben Gourlay | Contests & Giveaways | Aug 18, 2014 2:17 AM CDT

Thanks to our friends at Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, we have copies of this week's Blu-ray release of 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' up for grabs for three lucky readers!

Nab Captain America: The Winter Soldier on Blu-ray in our latest promo

After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Marvel's 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' finds Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a SHIELD colleague comes under attack, Rogers becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy - the Winter Soldier.

To go into the running to take one Blu-ray copy home, simply correctly answer the following question:

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New King's Quest game from Sierra is a 'contemporary reboot'

Anthony Garreffa | Gaming | Aug 18, 2014 1:31 AM CDT

For those of you who remember King's Quest, you may begin to get excited that Sierra has a small team working on a 'contemporary reboot' of the super-classic point-and-click adventure game from way back when. Activision's MacLean Marshall talked with Game Informer about Sierra coming back from the grave, and King's Quest - our first details on the game.

Activision unveiled the revival of the Sierra brand at Gamescom last week, where the company has some big plans for Sierra's titles - old, and even new creations. Marshall talked with Game Informer about the new project, and how the company is bringing back Sierra. Marshall said: "There's one piece of the puzzle, which is that Sierra was a brand that we acquired with Vivendi. It's been dormant and there wasn't a place for it, and we didn't know what we were going to do with it. Then, over the however many years, everyone's been watching this indie movement. There was that angle, where we had this really nostalgic brand that most gamers to varying degrees by age know. We wanted to find a way to expand our digital portfolio".

Game Informer also talked with Marshall about the new King's Quest, which is being developed by The Odd Gentlemen. Marshall said: "They are doing a contemporary reboot of King's Quest. It's not just an HD port. But that's not also to say that, maybe King's Quest is or isn't the right one, that's not on the table, too. It could be HD remakes of original Sierra content. It could be contemporary reimaginings of the old Sierra IPs. It could be stuff that's new, kick-***, awesome IP that has nothing to do with the old Sierra brand, but will be a Sierra thing when it launches". The gameplay for the new King's Quest will be a big departure from what you remember, with Marshall teasing: "There's not much I can say about King's Quest. All I can say is that I've seen it, and it's not a point-and-click game. But it looks *** awesome".

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