Let's Gut Net Neutrality

If Trump truly cares about business growth and innovation, he'll work to keep Net Neutrality in place rather than to allow the below nonsense to take place.

 "FCC Republicans Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly sent a letter to five lobby groups representing wireless carriers and small ISPs; while the letter is mostly about plans to extend an exemption for small providers from certain disclosure requirements, the commissioners also said they will tackle the entire net neutrality order shortly after President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration on January 20.

"[W]e will seek to revisit [the disclosure] requirements, and the Title II Net Neutrality proceeding more broadly, as soon as possible," they wrote, referring to the order that imposed net neutrality rules and reclassified ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. Pai and O'Rielly noted that they "dissented from the Commission's February 2015 Net Neutrality decision, including the Order's imposition of unnecessary and unjustified burdens on providers." "

Password Sharing Is a Federal Crime, Appeals Court Rules

Jason Koebler, writing for Motherboard:

One of the nation’s most powerful appeals courts ruled Wednesday that sharing passwords can be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a catch-all “hacking” law that has been widely used to prosecute behavior that bears no resemblance to hacking.

In this particular instance, the conviction of David Nosal, a former employee of Korn/Ferry International research firm, was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who said that Nosal’s use of a former coworker’s password to access one of the firm’s databases was an “unauthorized” use of a computer system under the CFAA.

The decision is a nightmare scenario for civil liberties groups, who say that such a broad interpretation of the CFAA means that millions of Americans are unwittingly violating federal law by sharing accounts on things like Netflix, HBO, Spotify, and Facebook. Stephen Reinhardt, the dissenting judge in the case, noted that the decision “threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct engaged in daily by ordinary citizens.”

This is going to ruffle a lot of feathers.

Netflix Sued over Price Increase

Netflix offers extraordinary value to US consumers for the money they expect. I'm happy to pay a bit more-- especially since I understand that prices for the IP they stream are going up.

Still, it wouldn't be America without a little litigious love, as a man who thought he was locked into the $8/mo price was outraged when his bill came in at $10/mo.

"For a period of time, Netflix solicited persons to subscribe to Netflix's streaming service by guaranteeing that Netflix would not increase monthly subscription prices as long as the subscribers maintained the subscription service continuously," states the complaint. "Netflix has broken its contract with these subscribers by unilaterally raising monthly subscription prices."

Court Backs Rules Treating Internet as Utility, Not Luxury

An important example of when it's important to maintain the status quo. still, while this is definitely a desired outcome in the view of the public interest, this won't be settled until it's been looked at by the Supreme Court.

Cecilia Kang of The New York Times wrote a great article about this and their video (below) is exceptionally informative.

Is there any way to make Superman interesting again?

"When it comes to superhero stories, there’s something so much more compelling about the tortured soul of Bruce Wayne, who must rely on his intelligence and guile to save the day. Superman, on the other hand, is just way, way too powerful and his “mild-mannered” alter ego of Clark Kent has just never really done anything for me."

This really connects with me. Superman always seemed a little too... Super. He's super strong, super fast, super smart-- where's the conflict? In an age of Iron Man's zany personality, and beings with more relate'able problems like the X-Men, Superman is pretty boring. In fact, I often look to Marvel's holier-than-thou Thor as a great parallel to the Man of Steel. 

The article, of course, makes some good points. I love a good comic book but it's unclear to me whether or not I'll see this new Superman/Batman film.


The (Unofficial) Tesla Commercial

"Tesla 'Not a Dream'" is an independently created commercial, using the words of inventor Nikola Tesla to extol the virtues of Tesla Motors's vehicles and their presumed ability to lead the US to a future that's free of the pollution and destruction of fossil fuels. It's visuals are a little extreme, but I'm sure that those passionate about the problem and/or the car will find the video moving.

It's worth noting that Tesla Motors doesn't advertise very much. The fact that fans are willing to create content like this for them is impressive to say the least.

And for any geeks out there it's like 1984, all over again

So what does Tesla Motors CEO think of the video? He digs it.


Stern takes on the Universal Remote

Joanna Stern recently published a piece in her personal technology column over at the Wall Street Journal that details her frustration with television remote controls in the age of increasingly complex set-top-box and audio set-ups. 

In typical awesome sauce Stern fashion, she surveys the best available products on the market and gives the user a recommendation- if one's warranted. 

Her conclusions however, throw me off. While the Ray Super Remote is impressive, it lacks something essential to a great experience-- tactile buttons for all of the major functions. The problem with the thing is that except for strange volume buttons the device is all screen, meaning that one has to look at IT rather than the content, when one wants to change an aspect of the viewing experience. God forbid that experience is taking part in a dark room, and suddenly you've got white LEDs shooting light at your face, violently throwing you out of your cinematic experience, along with anyone who may be sitting beside you. That's a problem. With any such device, one's fingers should be able to do the talking without their eyes having to get involved.

More problematic is the Ray Super Remote's $250 price. And old iPhone 5 or 5S does nearly everything the Ray Super Remote does and you've already paid it off and can easily power it since you've likely got chords lying around. If Ray made a Lightning-based IR dongle that would make more sense; which is why the Peel route seems the most proper for the touch-screen approach.

Still, you're forced to deal with a screen, which is less than ideal.

I'll extend that criticism to one of my fav devices, Google's Chromecast. As Stern rightly points out, the idea that I've got to unlock my device to get it to the remote function is a pain.

It may be that right now, Apple has the right of it with the Apple TV 4's remote. The touch -based navigation surface, tied to buttons is impressive. Voice is likewise impressive but frankly, talking is the last thing I want to do when I'm enjoying something in front of me. I also have to admit that I suffer from feeling a little silly talking to a computer in front of anyone but my cats.

Unlike most consumer technologies, there may not be a "winner take all" product in this category yet. Preference is everything here, so screens have their proponents. Some of those proponents aren't even watchers-- rather they're marketers hoping that the second screen, be it phone, tablet or remote, can be a place to grab eyeballs for advertisements in an age of increasingly ad-free digital streaming.

At the end of the day, this space is suffering from the frustration that many consumers are feeling in the connected home. These devices need a shared protocol not unlike ZigBee or zWave with which to communicate with one another. Are the speakers on or off? Set to the right input? Output? One thing is clear. The next generation of home theatre peripherals should incorporate that sort of communication functionality in order to make life much easier for the consumer. It would also represent a paradigm shift that would engender sales.

The New Yorker on the The Oscar Whiteness Machine

Richard Brody writing for the New Yorker:

"The underlying issue of the Academy’s failure to recognize black artists is the presumption that baseline experience is white experience and that black life is a niche phenomenon, life with an asterisk. Many of the great classic jazz and blues recordings were marketed as “race records.” To this day, the Academy proceeds as if movies about black experience were race movies. The result is that only narrow and fragmentary views of the lives of African-Americans ever make it to the screen—and I think that this is not an accident. If the stories were told—if the daily lives and inner lives, the fears and fantasies, the historical echoes and the anticipations of black Americans were as copiously unfolded in movies as are those of whites—then lots of white folks would be forced to confront their historical and contemporary shame. They’d no longer be able to claim ignorance of what they’d like not to know—which includes their own complicity in a rigged system."

Remember Cool Runnings? Certainly not Oscar worthy, but certainly proof 20+ years ago, that diversity can be sold universally. Fast forward to the commercial success of the Fast and Furious franchise and the recent record-breaking Star Wars film, and it's clear that films do fine-- lo they do better than fine-- with multi-racial casts... Which is why there should be more of them, allowing for more $$$ and more representation across all genres of features.

Such action will inevitably lead to more roles for actors (of all types) in more prestigious films. The idea that accident of birth is the hallmark of talent is absurd. Access to opportunity is all that's needed to for the talented to rise. A walled garden in this respect keeps the entire art of cinema from achieving it's most impressive and vibrant expression.

Samsung Introduces Powerful Smarthome Devices

Despite a growing consensus that today's households are saturated with human-interaction diminishing screen-time, Korean-based Samsung has decided that the solution to meaningful family interaction involves MORE screens, rather than less. Enter their new line of connected home devices:

1) The Samsung Activewash (TM) clothes washer includes a deeper and wider sink than last year's model, allowing users to pre-treat a load right on top of their washer rather than having to locate the unit near a sink. For Front-loading machines, Samsung has added a portal-like feature that allows one to pause the cycle and subsequently shove anything from a sock to a towel or pair of jeans through to add it to the wash. Both of these devices include new controls that are set in the middle of the lid rather than in the "difficult-to-reach" rear of the machine. But wait-- what abou the screens? Both types of machines feature wifi that allows them to connect to users' phones for notifications about cycle duration and status, as well as command and control of the machines. 

2) For centuries, the kitchen has been the heart of technology in the home. We've shoved fire, ice, and water into the room and today take for granted that each appliance is something of a testament to both our oldest and newest food processing technologies. Taking that paradigm to a new level, Samsung has introduced a new version of it smart fridge. With its wifi-connection, apps and HUGE 21.5" screen, Samsung's smart fridge includes not only connectivity, but collaboration and interactivity. Citing the way the recent trend in stainless-steel finishes has removed the family's ability to use the refrigerator as a billboard for childhood art, important announcements, and novelties like magnets, Samsung has created several apps that allow families to use their smartphones to post not only images, but notes and other information on the fridge. In addition, the refrigerators can now mirror the content displayed on a user's Samsung Smart SUHD television set, so that they don't have to miss that critical moment of the Big Game while getting up to retrieve a drink or some snacks. 

Not only does the fridge watch TV, it also contains robust grocery-shopping functions, that are designed to help contemporary families save money and time when it comes to keeping their homes stocked with food. 

The most straightforward of these tactics is the fridge cam. Samsung have developed a system in which every time the users closes his or her refrigerator door, the machine take a photo of the contents of the cold Box. Users can gain access to the fridge's photos through the available Samsung app and use the image to determine what they need for the next week's stores,

At first glance there's a "who cares" reaction but apply a little thought and you begin to realize how much money (over time) you'll be able to save by checking the fridge before you buy. It's something we should all be doing before going to the store, but let's be frank-- the vast majority of us forget to. When you consider the fact that Amaricans throw out something like 45% of food, it's clear that we've got too much of it lingering in our fridges-- and some of that is from over-buying. 

The second trick that this fridge has in store for its users is deep integration with MasterCard's vendor partners like FreshDirect. Through the fridge, you can buy groceries and have them delivered to your door. No word on what the delivery cost might be, but it's an interesting way to make good on Samsung's promise to deliver technology which provides convenience by saving both time and money. 

3) The Smart TV got smarter. A lot smarter. Not only has Samsung added a complimentary USB dongle enabling support from their mid-2014 purchase of Smart Things, but the company has retooled the Smart TV interface to support a number of new and intuitive interactions. 

The Smart Things dongle enables users to vocally command any device compatible with the Smart Things hub. With the device properly installed inserted into the side of the television set, the functionality seems to mirror Amazon's Echo, which also connects to various connected home devices platforms, including Smart Things. 

The the interface update is perhaps more exciting. The Smart TV places content directly in front of users, rather than the typical app-enabled paradigm of having to click into an app in order to gain access to its content. Rather than opening Amazon Video and browsing the app, the Smart TV can lay out the trending content from Amazon or ESPN or any other connected service right as soon as the user selects that source of content. 

Further more, the television is equipped with technology that empowers it to learn various remote functions quickly and easily so that your Samsung remote can easily become your only remote. On top of all thins functionality is Samsung's ability to quickly access devices attached to the Smart TV without having to focus on changing inputs. The television seamlessly move the user over to an Xbox One or, a Time Warner's cable system. That last bit's a boon to anyone who's ever wanted to hide or get rid of their clunky cable box. 


On their own, all of these devices, with their robust feature sets and well honed interfaces would be compelling to even lead in their respective categories. working together, Samsung has put together a suite of devices that work well together and are accessed by the same app in a phone. This means users can just look for the Samsung brand on any of these electronics and assume that it's going to play nicely with their other Samsung devices. 

Among other items mentioned were wifi connected... 

...Which belies a significant marketing pain point: why aren't all of these devices protected under the very same brand. We've got the Galaxy phone and the Smart TV. The wifi-enabled stove and oven are all named with disparate brands. Would that I were in charge of marketing, it might be fun to rebrand the line of products to just read "Galaxy." This way phone owners would recognize immediately that this washer or TV, or other device was compatible with their phone.

But that would make too much sense. 

Where are they?

"Hong Kong’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying said that it was “not acceptable” for Chinese police to operate independently in Hong Kong, but Leung, a Beijing loyalist, said there was “no indication” this was what had happened.

But pro-democracy lawmakers said it appeared likely Lee had been kidnapped by Chinese police, and expressed shock, anger and fear.

If confirmed, lawmakers said, Lee’s abduction would be a serious violation of the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle and the Basic Law framework that has defined Beijing’s relations with Hong since the 1997 handover from British rule."

Worrisome. Is there an official investigation?

Quartz - More Americans are relying exclusively on their phones for Internet access

The cost of home broadband is just too high.

And paradoxically, we can't afford for it to be too high since:

(1) our economy requires rich connectivity to support its entertainment, software, and services-based sectors and

(2) young people need regular, cheap and abundant access to the Internet in order to become the workers and innovators of tomorrow.

The solution is simple: The broadband market must be made more competitive. Congress, in league with the FCC and the FTC can and should make this a priority.

Understanding the iPad Pro


In a recent piece on his site, Daring Fireball, John Gruber (who inspired the format of this blog) layed out an effective response to anyone confounded over the price and purpose/scope of the iPad Pro:

"We’ve now reached an inflection point. The new MacBook is slower, gets worse battery life, and even its cheapest configuration costs $200 more than the top-of-the-line iPad Pro. The iPad Pro is more powerful, cheaper, has a better display, and gets better battery life. It's not a clear cut-and-dry win..."

At first, many complained that the iPad Pro was too expensive since it began at $700 ($200 more than a base model iPad Air 2) and that to add insult to this imagined injury, its storage capabilities are tiny at 32GB.

When you look at the device as a computer replacement however, the pricing begins to make a lot more sense to me-- especially since this iPad, with the Pro designation, is not marketed as a movie watching, comic reading, couch surfing device - it's meant for productivity. It's meant for work. It delivers on that front and that means as is the case with all well-used tools, it pays for itself.

Perhaps if Apple had called the device the "iMac Mini," or the "Mac Nano," there wouldn't be any confusion on these points. But they won't because it runs iOS rather than Mac OS, so it can't be a Mac. As Apple continues to develop two operating systems, iOS will have to struggle with growing out of the perception that iDevices are toys or field hardware to be synced up w/ a computer later; that they're the stuff of reading, and Instagramming and games. It's a marketing struggle, to be sure, but one which Apple will handle with aplomb, as it always does.

The iPad Pro is the first device to directly confront that struggle.

The Empire Strikes Back - Comcast Edition

Dante D'Orazio, writing for The Verge: 

 "If data caps don't improve network reliability or performance, why does Comcast now see the need to charge customers more for the same data they've been using for years? Since there's such scarce competition in the US cable industry, the answer is likely quite simple: because Comcast can."

So...having lost its bid for a two-tiered Internet, Comcast institutes data threshold in order to wring yet more revenue out of its customers...because it's the only game in town. It's time for the DOJ, the FCC and the FTC to look into what it's going to take to open up competition in the wired ISP space. 

War on Drugs Wanes as Demographics Shift

 "War" is how the US mainstream fights its enemies. Put another way, for many, the War on Poverty and War on Drugs were US lead conflicts against the poor and against people inflicted with addiction.

Perhaps now that these ills have taken hold

of the mainstream, we can, hand in hand, actually begin working on how to solve the problems we face rather than scheme to attack and exploit a faceless "other."

Computer Show brings Contemporary Guests Back in Time

Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

ComputerShow is a beautiful and inspiring throwback. It's the SNL WeekendUpdate of Tech & Geekdom. And in this episode, Angela's facial expressions are laugh-out-loud* hilarious.

*I Don't think LOL would have been a thing for something like a decade after the time in Computer Show's fictional universe.