Has Facebook gotten out of control? After listening to Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify before a committee of the U.S. Congress last week, I didn’t pity him at all. He deserved it, and, in fact, probably was treated too kindly.
His presentation seemed decent in comparison to those dire warnings about the boy wonder and his inability to conduct himself in a mature fashion in public. He allegedly was thoroughly schooled on the proper behavior before political vultures, supposedly.
I mean he did all right, I guess. But far too often he’d respond to a complicated question with a stock answer, that he’d have his team get back in touch with the questioner. I just wonder if that has happened already or ever will happen. The fact checkers also found some contradictions in what he said about when and how Facebook first became aware of the existence of Cambridge Analytica, which reportedly harvested user information without their knowledge.
In any case, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we presented security expert Chris Weber, co-founder of Casaba Security, a Seattle-based ethical hacking firm that advises major tech, financial, retail and healthcare companies. They also work with companies to develop secure apps and software. He is the co–author of the book, “Privacy Defended: Protecting Yourself Online.” During this session, Chris discussed the growing brouhaha over Facebook privacy, and the kind of information they’ve collected about their users. Its unexpected involvement with the 2016 Presidential campaign was also covered, and what about the appearance of Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg before Congress? You also heard Chris talk in general about protecting your privacy, and making it harder for hackers to take control of your accounts by using strong passwords and two-step authentication, which involves adding a second method, often a smartphone, to provide extra security from hackers.
You also heard from long-time Apple guru and prolific author Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus, as Gene recounted yet another annoying episode of his ongoing troubles with AT&T when he tried to check into a cheap offer for DirecTV. Gene explained why he’s kept AT&T service for his iPhone even though there are other and possibly better alternatives. Bob says he switched from AT&T to T-Mobile. There’s also a brief discussion of “world backup day,” as Gene facetiously suggested that maybe the show ought to go back in time to honor the event in the proper fashion.
And what about published reports that future versions of macOS and iOS might allow you to run the same apps on both? And what about recent speculation that Apple will someday ditch Intel processors on Macs and make yet another processor move, to the same A-series ARM chips used on iPhones and iPads? Is this a reasonable possibility, or would the fact that many Mac users need to run Windows at native speeds make such a move unfeasible?
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and special guest cohost Don Ecker introduce UFO researchers Ben Moss and Tony Angiola, from MUFON Virginia. The two focus on their four-year study of the 1964 Socorro, NM case and their friendship with UFO researcher and amateur paleontologist Ray Stanford. Both Moss and Angiola have been guests on the History Channel’s “Hangar 1” reality show, loosely based on MUFON’s research. While this episode will focus heavily on hardcore research of UFOs and the possibility that they are extraterrestrial, they will admit that, so far, very little progress has been made towards solving the mystery.
WATCHING TV WITHOUT iTUNES AND APPLE TV
Aside from adding 4K and HDR support and a few odds and ends, the Apple TV 4K didn’t change much from its predecessor. Well, except for those complaints about the fact that the 32GB model is, at $179, $30 more expensive than the already-expensive fourth-generation model. That doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense inasmuch as the 64GB version is unchanged at $199.
Evidently Apple’s bean counters have an answer for this screwy move, but it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. It’s not that the Apple TV 4K does so much more than the Roku Ultra, which can be had for as little as $69.99 from Amazon.
Well, there is the fact that Apple TV of any sort is required if you are invested in Apple’s ecosystem for iTunes video content and hope to watch the forthcoming TV shows that will probably come to you via Apple Music.
I do have a handful of iTunes movies that I have acquired over the years, mostly when they were dirt cheap. But there’s also a service called Movies Anywhere that can concatenate your videos from several services into one readily accessible library.
When VIZIO sent me a 2017 M-Series TV display for review last year, I was able to take advantage of the fact that it included support for Google Chromecast. The remote has dedicated buttons for such services as Netflix and VUDU; the latter is roughly an iTunes equivalent from Walmart mainly focused on movies.
In addition to the built-in streaming apps, a SmartCast app for iOS and Android lets you “cast” or stream a thousand or two more services via your Wi-Fi connection to the TV. With all that going on, I realized I hadn’t used my third-generation Apple TV since December. After moving to a new apartment last week, I unpacked all the TV accessories, and promptly put the Apple TV on one of the bookshelves in my office.
As most of you know, VIZIO is not the only company to make smart TVs with support for third-party streaming services. Since the ones the TV makers design are usually pretty bad, buying a dedicated set-top box to handle those tasks makes sense. But some TV makers have opted to deliver built-in support for Google or Roku. Apple doesn’t embed its hardware and software into third-party products, but maybe it should if it wants to spread the joy. Think about CarPlay.
As it stands, if you’re not embedded in Apple’s ecosystem, Apple TV offers little if any advantage.
So how is life with one less appliance connected to my TV?
Well, as I said, Netflix is a dedicated button on the VIZIO remote. When you press it, you get a very standard menu that isn’t that different from the one on an Apple TV. I had no difficulty whatever playing the shows I wanted to see, even the ones that were started on Apple’s streamer. I was able to just resume playback. Indeed, while deciding whether to set up a DirecTV at my new home — the only option available because the place is wired by CenturyLink and they embed the satellite provider with dishes installed on each building — Barbara and I mostly ran Netflix. Maybe we’ll stay that way and save some bucks.
But I found a bargain rental at VUDU and ordered it. Walmart’s order processing is a tad more complicated than iTunes. It’s set to bill via my Walmart account, where my payment option is stored. When you order a movie rental from iTunes, the transaction occurs in the background unless there’s a problem with your payment method. So, yes, you are charged, but you don’t see a receipt until it arrives via email.
Not so with VUDU, where you are taken to an online order form where you are shown what you’re ordered and the price with tax. You have to physically OK that order for it to work. When you want to resume playing your movie, you have to select it again from the VUDU home page to continue watching. You are stepped out of the listing for that movie, unlike iTunes where you just pick up where you left off.
All right, a couple of more steps for ordering and resuming playback, but otherwise I had no difficulty in managing the interface. This sort of represents an Apple approach versus a Microsoft approach; the latter usually involves extra steps to accomplish the same task.
But since movie rentals are a rare thing for me — and usually only when there’s a special offer — a few more clicks on a remote is not going to represent a problem.
So what is going to become of Apple TV anyway?
Well, a company executive announced recently that full-featured games are being brought to the iOS platform because the power of Apple’s new graphics processors, and Metal 2, make it possible to bring you the entire experience at a performance level similar to a console. I suppose it’s possible that Apple TV could be upgraded to provide similar levels of performance. When equipped with a gaming controller, it would provide an experience that would freak the console industry. It might also offer additional sales potential.
On the other hand, since I’m not a gamer, it doesn’t really matter to me. I still don’t need an
Apple TV — or a HomePod if you care.
So I’ve decided to send my Apple TV on to someone who might need it.
You’re no doubt familiar with the name Robert Mueller and his investigation into the Trump campaign’s affiliations and alleged involvement in the Russian campaign to interfere with the 2016 Presidential Election. You’ve probably heard that Facebook was used by Russians to interfere with the 2016 Presidential election, and you’re no doubt aware that the Facebook data of more than 87 million users was obtained by Cambridge Analytica to influence the 2016 Presidential election. But you’re probably still wondering how this all happened, and we’re all wondering who’s guilty.
The question no one’s asking, however, is why a campaign calling to “Make America Great Again” by growing jobs and the American economy spent almost $6 million to employ an analytics firm in the United Kingdom with employees from the U.K. and Canada?
Facebook chairman and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before Congress this week, but his prepared testimony is already available, and he won’t likely stray far from it regardless of the questions asked by the Senate Judiciary Commerce Committees at 1:15 p.m. CST on Tuesday and House Energy and Commerce Committee at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. Here’s what happened in Zuckerberg’s own written words.
“In 2007...we enabled people to log into apps and share who their friends were and some information about them...In 2013, a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan created a personality quiz app. It was installed by around 300,000 people who agreed to share some of their Facebook information as well as some information from their friends whose privacy settings allowed it...Kogan was able to access some information about tens of millions of their friends.”
“In 2014...we announced that we were changing the entire platform to dramatically limit the Facebook information apps could access. Most importantly, apps like Kogan’s could no longer ask for information about a person’s friends unless their friends had also authorized the app. We also required developers to get approval from Facebook before they could request any data beyond a user’s public profile, friend list, and email address.”
“In 2015, we learned from journalists at The Guardian that Kogan had shared data from his app with Cambridge Analytica...we immediately banned Kogan’s app from our platform, and demanded that Kogan and other entities he gave the data to, including Cambridge Analytica, formally certify that they had deleted all improperly acquired data -- which they ultimately did.”
“Last month, we learned from The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data as they had certified. We immediately banned them from using any of our services. Cambridge Analytica claims they have already deleted the data and has agreed to a forensic audit by a firm we hired to investigate this.”
So the first thing we learn from Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony is that Facebook failed to protect the data of our friends from third-party app developers if our friends’ privacy settings allowed the sharing of some of their personal information. It took Facebook seven years to right that wrong. Even after doing so, Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to simply “certify” that they had deleted the data instead of proving they had deleted the data. “Clearly it was a mistake to believe them,” Zuckerberg said during the hearing, Tuesday.
The last, and most important thing we learn from Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony is that without the work of journalists, Facebook wouldn’t be aware of its mistakes in order to rectify them, providing just another reason for the importance of a free press. This while the government is compiling a database of journalists, where they reside, what they write and for whom in the interest of homeland security. Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary Tyler Houlton asserted on Twitter that the list is “standard practice of monitoring current events in the media,” but the list’s existence will scare aspiring journalists from the trade like similar lists scared patients from applying for medical marijuana prescriptions in Montana. I personally heard from multiple Montanans who chose to continue self-medicating their conditions with marijuana illegally for fear of being found out by the federal government as a user of cannabis.
Facebook is only guilty of being careless. Zuckerberg nor his company can be charged with a crime, but they failed to notify the more than 87 million users that their information had been acquired by Cambridge Analytica. They also failed to make sure that data was not available for further exploitation by Cambridge Analytica by accepting Cambridge’s word that the data had been deleted. Judging from the effects of Zuckerberg’s failure to accept blame for Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive data mining and the effects of his recent testimony, that mistake won’t be made again.
On March 27, when Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie dismissed earlier claims from Cambridge Analytica that the firm had not used Facebook data, Facebook’s stock price was $152.22 -- down from 185.09 on March 16. Facebook’s stock price was up 4.55 percent to $165.11 as Zuckerberg testified on Tuesday. Cambridge Analytica won’t be so lucky.
A slew of Cambridge Analytica employees are likely guilty of violating the federal law prohibiting foreign nationals from “directly or indirectly participat[ing] in the decision-making process of any...political committee...such as decisions concerning the making of...expenditures, or disbursements in connection with elections for any Federal, State, or local office,” according to a complaint by Common Cause submitted to the Department of Justice.
“[Former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher] Wylie said that many foreign nationals worked on the campaigns, and many were embedded in the campaigns around the U.S.” Wylie told NBC News that there were “three or four full-time [Cambridge Analytica] staffers embedded in [Thom] Tillis’s campaign on the ground in Raleigh,” North Carolina.
A second Cambridge Analytica staffer said the “team handling the data and data modeling back in London was largely Eastern European and did not include any Americans.” On March 25, the Washington Post published that “Cambridge Analytica assigned dozens of non-U.S. citizens to provide campaign strategy and messaging advice to Republican candidates in 2014, according to three former workers of the data firm...Many of those employees and contractors were involved in helping to decide what voters to target with political messages and what messages to deliver to them.”
Cambridge Analytica’s “dirty little secret was that there was no one American involved...working on an American election,” Wylie said. One Cambridge Analytica document obtained by the Washington Post explained, “For the Art Robinson for Congress campaign, Cambridge Analytica SCL assumed a comprehensive set of responsibilities and effectively managed the campaign in its entirety.” The New York Times reported that the John Bolton Super PAC “first hird Cambridge Analytica in August 2014” and “was writing up talking points for Mr. Bolton.” Cambridge Analytica also “helped design concepts for advertisements for candidates by Mr. Bolton’s PAC, including the 2014 campaign of Thom Tillis, the Republican senator from North Carolina, according to Mr. Wylie and another former employee.”
Mother Jones reported the deep involvement of Cambridge Analytica staff in the management and decision-making in Senator Ted Cruz’s 2016 Presidential campaign. “Cambridge Analytica was put in charge of the entire data and digital operation, embedding 12 of its employees in Houston.”
So there’s ample evidence that many employees of Cambridge Analytica have violated the Federal Election Campaign Act prohibiting foreign nationals from participating in the decision-making process of any political committee with regard to such person’s Federal or nonfederal election-related activities. But why isn’t the Trump campaign and fellow Republican campaigns subject to punishment for hiring foreign agents to participate in American elections?
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. paid Cambridge Analytica almost $6 million to effect the 2016 Presidential Election. Cruz for President also paid Cambridge Analytica almost $6 million to effect the 2016 Presidential Election. Make America Number 1 paid Cambridge Analytica almost $1.5 million during the 2016 election cycle.
The John Bolton Super PAC paid Cambridge Analytica more than $1 million during the 2014 and 2016 election cycles. The North Carolina Republican Party paid Cambridge Analytica more than $200,000 over the same period.
These are all Republican campaigns, supporting Republican candidates who, allegedly, want nothing more than to create American jobs and a thriving American economy. But they’re not putting their money where their mouth is. Giving more than $16 million to an analytics firm in the United Kingdom does nothing to improve the economy or create jobs in America, which is why the Trump campaign and other Republican campaigns are more guilty than Facebook and even Cambridge Analytica.
The Federal Election Campaign Act should not only prohibit foreign nationals from participating in and effecting American elections, but prohibit campaigns from spending campaign funds on services provided by foreign entities.
We can’t stop campaigns from purchasing products made outside America’s borders. Not much is produced in America anymore. But when it comes to services like catering, polling, marketing and advertising, campaign spending should be limited to those firms that reside in America in the interest of protecting the integrity of American elections and growing the American economy. It’s hypocritical of the Trump campaign to run on a slogan of “Make America Great Again” and then spend its money to grow un-American economies and jobs. Regardless of what the Mueller investigation uncovers, the Trump campaign is already guilty of selling out America.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights
I recently scored a Fitbit Alta for $40 and have been making the transition from using the MyPlate app by Livestrong to using the Fitbit app. I mostly purchased a Fitbit because I suspected I was underestimating my daily caloric exertion in the MyPlate app. What made me suspect that? Well, I set a MyPlate goal of losing a half pound per week and shed six pounds in three weeks.
It only took one day for my Fitbit to prove my hypothesis true. I had been underestimating my caloric exertion by a lot because I don’t carry my phone with me everywhere I go. I was shocked by how many steps the Fitbit monitored and was immediately pleased with my purchase. But over the next few days, I discovered things I miss about the MyPlate app and things I like about the Fitbit app.
I really like the burn I got from the 10-minute abs workout and seven-minute cardio sculpting workout. I can still do the workouts, but logging the calories burned isn’t as easy as wearing my Fitbit while I exercise.
I noticed after completing my abs workout that my Fitbit didn’t come close to logging the 74 calories burned the MyPlate abs workout says it burns. That’s probably because most abs exercises involve very few steps, and the Fitbit Alta doesn’t monitor heart rate. I ended up adding my calories burned manually, using “Calisthenics” as my exercise in the Fitbit app. I have to do the same for the cardio sculpting workout. This is a minor inconvenience.
The MyPlate app also has a more vast database of exercises you can add manually, including cooking, baking, bathing, and even sexual activity. My Fitbit might be splashproof, but it’s not meant to be worn in the shower, which means it doesn’t log the calories you burn while bathing (roughly 140 calories per hour).
In the Fitbit app, I had to substitute the “cleaning” exercise for the baking I did while my Fitbit charged. Had I been wearing my Fitbit, however, my movements would have been monitored and calories burned registered.
The MyPlate app also does a better job breaking down your macronutrient consumption with pie charts indicating the percentage of calories consumed from carbohydrates, fat and protein. It also breaks down your macronutrient consumption for each food and meal. The Fitbit app fails to do so, only offering a macronutrient breakdown of your daily consumption.
The Fitbit Coach app provides a slew of workouts for Fitbit users, some of which are free for all users. You can even pick your trainer and whether you want to hear their encouragement and tips during your workout. The free catalog of exercise options is vast and diverse when compared to that of the MyPlate app, and calories burned are automatically registered in the Fitbit app.
The Fitbit app displays your caloric intake right next to your caloric exertion to give you an idea of how far you are under or over your caloric goal. It takes into account your weight loss goal, so if you are looking to lose weight half a pound each week like me, your caloric deficit will be 250 calories per day. That means you’ll be “in the zone” if your caloric consumption is 250 calories less than your caloric exertion.
Your caloric consumption and exertion graph will indicate your success with a green graph when you’re “in the zone.” If you’re over your caloric deficit, your graph will be pink. If you still have room to consume calories given your caloric exertion, your graph will be blue. This graph makes it easier to meet your weight loss goals.
The most frustrating thing about the MyPlate app is its barcode reader, which takes considerably longer than the Fitbit app does to recognize the barcodes of particular foods. Not only does it take longer to recognize the barcodes, but MyPlate’s database of barcodes is not as vast as Fitbit’s. The Fitbit barcode reader recognizes barcodes, even in low light, almost immediately, and is more likely than the MyPlate reader to find the food you’re eating.
Overall, the Fitbit app is slightly better than the MyPlate app, but only when linked to a Fitbit. If not for purchasing my Fitbit Alta, I’d probably still be using the MyPlate app. I say that because of the macronutrient breakdown of foods and meals MyPlate provides. I really like to see how everything I eat breaks down into carbohydrates, fat and protein before I eat it. I plan my meals days in advance at times, and now I have to estimate those macronutrient breakdowns based on the nutrition facts of each food. It’s a modest inconvenience I can tolerate as long as my caloric exertion is more accurately monitored.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: America’s Healthcare Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, Free Talk Live
Thomas Edison will forever be remembered for inventing the light bulb, phonograph and motion picture camera. Alexander Graham Bell will be remembered for the telephone. Nikola Tesla’s induction motor is still used in power tools, blow dryers and vacuum cleaners. His “teleautomotan” was the first remote-controlled robot, and his contributions to advancing alternating current helped make it the electrical system still in use today.
But there are plenty of inventions we take for granted and hardly consider who had a hand in their creation, let alone give thanks for their work. So what about those underrated inventions and their inventors who deserve to be remembered?
While defecating in perfectly good freshwater might not be something we should be doing, most people throughout the world couldn’t imagine getting rid of their bodily waste any other way. The flushing toilet is one of the few inventions with an initial design that has held up over centuries. Every time you flush the toilet, you should thank Sir John Harington for allowing you to do so.
For over 400 years the flushing toilet has provided the masses with a means of making their movements disappear. Sure, without the work of Thomas Crapper, who heavily promoted sanitary plumbing, there wouldn’t be a system in place to move those movements somewhere else. But the flushing toilet might be the most underrated invention and Sir John Harington the most underappreciated inventor in human history.
The modern refrigerator is the result of multiple inventions by multiple inventors, but Jacob Perkins took the design of Oliver Evans, who failed to build a working model, and built the first apparatus and means for producing ice, and in cooling fluids through vapor-compression refrigeration.
Where would we be without refrigeration? We’d still be dying from foodborne illnesses at immense rates. We would be exhausting our freshwater even faster than we are, and we’d be sweating our asses off, living without air conditioning. But we’d probably be thinner.
If you don’t have four-wheel drive and live in a place that experiences all four seasons, you probably have a set of tires specifically for winter, and you have Nokian Tyres of Nokian, Finland to thank.
Nokian is the northernmost tire manufacturer in the world, so it’s no surprise they were the ones to find a solution to transporting goods on unplowed roads covered with snow. The Kelirengas was the world’s first winter tire, designed with lateral grooves designed to grip the surface of the snow and making snow chains unnecessary.
For lighter, passenger vehicles, the Lumi-Hakkapeliitta was designed two years later so tourists could ski slopes otherwise unreachable. And for quite some time, there was no new advancement in winter tire production.
Then came Nokian’s Kometa in 1961 -- the first studded, snow tire. The studs significantly increased traction on icy roads. Now Nokian is working on a studded, snow tire with retractable studs that can be used all season, which could be the best thing to happen to cars since the invention of headlights.
Sørensen changed the marketing and advertising business with the advent of ad-blocking software. He changed the world wide web and the world, in fact. The way we consume everything will never be the same.
The Danish software developer was just a university student back in 2002 when he started work on the side project for Firefox. Now the AdBlock extension has been released for Mozilla Firefox (including Firefox for mobile), Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge (beta version), Opera, Safari, Yandex Browser, and Android.
Eventually, AdBlock will be forgotten altogether. Much of the advertising industry is already operating on the assumption that every consumer utilizes some form of ad-blocking software, and eventually they’ll be unable to subvert that software. Andrew Essex’s The End of Advertising: Why It Had to Die, and the Creative Resurrection to Come details the future of advertising thanks to Sørensen’s invention, and it’s much more beautiful than the ad-riddled century before it.
So the next time your ad-blocker blocks an ad, or your snow tires save your life, or you enjoy a cool drink or a pleasant movement, now you know the inventors who deserve to be remembered.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Americanuck Radio, American, Building America, The Debbie Nigro Show, Free Talk Live, Freedom Feens, The Power Hour
If you watch any number of TV dramas, no doubt you’ve run across so-called police procedural shows, such as “Law and Order: SVU.” From time to time, an episode will feature a computer expert or hacker who is talking about the “Dark Web” or “darknet.” It’s very much the equivalent of the Internet’s underworld, where all sorts of unsavory types usually hang out. There are criminals there who offer all sorts of illegal services that you’ve also no doubt heard about on those TV shows.
Well, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured Jarrod Suffecool, Intelligence Team Lead for Binary Defense, who took us on a fascinating journey through the Dark Web (darknet). You learned about the unsavory activities that include “crime-as-a-service” — professional hacking kits and criminal services (created or offered by skilled hackers) that anyone can buy or rent online, and they’re often very inexpensive. This makes it easier for less skilled criminals to pull off sophisticated attacks and scams, and we’ll see a lot of this with tax fraud rings over the next two months. You also learned about Tor, the browser used to access Dark Web. Binary Defense Systems specializes in monitoring and infiltrating criminal marketplaces on the Dark Web to protect businesses and uncover evidence of crimes.
Now it’s easy enough to download and set up Tor, and I expect the curious would want to check about what’s going on in darknet. But it’s also easy to get yourself in trouble if you don’t watch what you’re doing when exploring a dangerous neighborhood. It’s not meant as a place to have fun, unless it’s a very unusual sort of fun. I’ve checked it out from time to time, but I usually stay away.
You also heard from author/publisher Joe Kissell, of Take Control Books. Joe talked about some of the troubling problems he’s encountered with macOS High Sierra, and about the decline in the quality of Apple’s operating systems. What about reports that Apple is cutting back on planned features for iOS 12 to emphasize reliability? Also discussed: The apparent failure of Apple’s “underpromise and overdeliver” policy by postponing features in new products that aren’t ready for prime time, including the delays in expanding support for the APFS file system to Fusion drives and Time Machine. What about the complexities and reliability problems of iCloud, which is a cornerstone of Apple’s services? Joe mentioned that he’s had to backup and restore his new Mac after owning it for less than a month, and Gene talked about the very worst Mac he ever owned, one that required constant repairs from Apple in the short time he owned it.
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Best-selling author Erich von Däniken and UFO researcher and biblical scholar David Halperin debate the theory of ancient astronauts, that advanced beings from other planets visited Earth in ancient times. David also continues with discussions about his very different views of UFO reality, and the causes behind related events. von Däniken is arguably the most widely read and most-copied nonfiction author in the world. He published his first (and best-known) book, Chariots of the Gods, in 1968. In the 1960s, David Halperin was a teenage UFOlogist. He grew up to become a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with special expertise in religious traditions of heavenly ascent and otherworldly journeys. He is the author of five books and numerous articles on Jewish mysticism and messianism, and a novel, ‘Journal of a UFO Investigator.”
Will Apple’s Critics Admit They Were Wrong About iPhone X?
When it comes to actual fake news, Apple is often the victim of phony stories about one thing or another. The reasons why are varied. So putting Apple in the headline, good or bad, is certain hit bait. That means more ad clicks, and more money.
But I often wonder whether some of those faux stories aren’t fueled by Apple’s competitors. Certainly they have motives, because Apple earns the lion’s share of profits in the smartphone business, lots more than even Samsung. Apple pretty much owns the smartwatch market with Apple Watch, and the iPad, with sales on the rise again, dominates tablets. You get the picture.
Obviously, there’s no clear evidence if another company is instigating those unfavorable comments or the alleged bad news that’s based on lies. But I can see where some carefully selected bloggers and so-called industry analysts might be encouraged to post reports that are deliberately manipulated to make Apple look bad. I wouldn’t suggest any transfer of money or goods is ever involved.
Consider what’s been going on since the summer of 2016. Even as speculation built over that year’s new iPhones, there were expectations of a far better 10th anniversary version. It made sense from a logical point of view, that Apple would want to create a premium model, maybe even limited production, which would observe the occasion. Perhaps new technologies would be featured, but what?
Now the early speculation may not have been fueled by any real information, but was mostly based on good guesses. Apple doesn’t always adopt new features first, so just what is missing?
OLED displays of course. Unlike LCD, OLED is more similar to plasma, once fairly common on TV sets. You get a rich picture, with deep blacks and a virtually unlimited viewing angle. The comparison is obvious. Take a regular iPhone — other than the iPhone X of course — and turn it to the side slowly and you’ll see the picture dim, with colors becoming more muted. It’s a phenomenon typical of a regular TV set except, of course, for those with OLED displays.
Why Apple avoided OLED before this may be due to getting more accurate color and reducing the burn-in problem, where remnants of constant images stick on the display. That was also true of plasma. Regardless, it seemed to make perfect sense that Apple would go there.
Understand that the presence of such a model was used as ammunition to claim you shouldn’t buy the 2016 iPhone family, the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. After all, they represented modest improvements over the previous two models, so why bother? What for the “real” update?
As 2016 turned into 2017. the speculation of the 10th anniversary iPhone coalesced, though it was at first referred to mostly as the iPhone 8. OLED was a given, but since Samsung couldn’t embed a fingerprint sensor beneath the edge-to-edge display on the Galaxy S8 family, it was assumed that Apple would confront the same problem.
The speculation first had it that Apple would put Touch ID in the rear, same as Samsung. It was also suggested by some that there would be no Touch ID or any biometric, which was, at every level, a preposterous concept. Such a feature was a must-have for many functions. Apple wouldn’t casually drop it without something better, which is why facial recognition came into the picture. But development was reportedly begun long ago; it was not tossed in as a last-minute replacement.
At this point, the complaints had it that Apple couldn’t come up with anything altogether new, since other smartphones had both facial biometrics and OLED. So how does Apple make a difference?
But remember that Apple often innovates by devising ways to improve on existing technology with its unique flair.
Yet another potential complaint had it that Apple planned to gouge customers with a $1,000 price tag, which would make the presumed iPhone 8 a non-starter. It was the height of hubris to expect customers to pay even more for a premium iPhone. This speculation continued unabated even when the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 debuted at $949. That disconnect was never explained.
But even when the iPhone 8 became the iPhone X, and the real iPhone 8 ended up as a more modest refresh of the previous model, the complaints never stopped. Face ID would present privacy problems, even though it used the same secure enclave scheme as Touch ID. When it was actually shown for the first time, it turned out that the “notch,” the narrow area at the top of the unit that contained the embedded sensing technology, dubbed TrueDepth, blocked out a small portion of the edge-to-edge display. Developers had to work around it for the best presentation of their apps.
When Apple began to take orders for the iPhone X at the end of October of last year, the backorder situation rapidly worsened. As the critics claimed, it soon lengthened to five to six weeks, implying that getting one before Christmas would be hit or miss.
As is often the case with Apple, the facts kept getting in the way. For the most part, Face ID turned out to be as reliable or more reliable than Touch ID. Not perfect, but almost seamless for many users who no longer had to reach for a Home button. Indeed, there was no Home button, meaning you had to learn a few new gestures to get around, but most people appeared to adapt to them without much complaint.
In short order, Apple began to match supplies with demand, and the situation improved really fast. So if you had to get an iPhone X immediately or with a short delay, it became more and more possible.
Why? Well, instead of assuming that Apple was simply competent in managing the supply chain, it was all about a presumed lack of demand. Soon it was rumored that Apple cut parts orders big time for this quarter, thus indicating that sales were far lower than expected.
In the days ahead of the release of Apple’s December quarter financials, the stock price began to drop. Apple allegedly placed a huge bet on the iPhone X, and it lost.
Again, the facts get in the way. Once it began to ship, the iPhone X became the number of smartphone on the planet. The iPhone 8 Plus, also fairly expensive, starting at $799, was number two, and the “lesser” iPhone 8 was number three. For the quarter, Apple’s smartphone lineup beat every other mobile handset maker in total sales, even Samsung, which sells loads of product at a fraction of the price.
That average sale prices exceeded $700 confirmed the product mix, that people bought higher quantities of the larger, more expensive iPhones.
Despite all this success, Apple still sold slightly fewer units during the quarter compared to the previous year. But was due to an accident of the calendar. So in 2016, the holiday quarter lasted 14 weeks; this year it was 13 weeks. But weekly sales totals were much higher in 2017. Apple’s revenue and profits hit record levels once again.
Apple’s guidance for this quarter reveals a healthy increase over last year, although, at $60 to $62 billon, it’s still below exaggerated analyst expectations. Indeed, Apple expects iPhone revenue to grow by double digits compared to last year. That’s supposed to be good news, better news than one has a right to expect from a product entering its second decade in a saturated market.
Overall, Apple has once again demonstrated that the critics were utterly wrong about the iPhone X and the company overall. Don’t expect any retractions or apologies, though. That’s not how things work when it comes to fake news about Apple.
Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Tech Night Owl LIVE - broadcast on Saturday from 9:00 pm - Midnight (CST), and The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST). Both shows nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2018. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.
According to the CDP Carbon Majors Report released in July of 2017, “investors in fossil fuel companies carry influence over one fifth of industrial greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.” There’s a very good chance your investment portfolio includes the ticker symbols of some of the biggest contributors to climate change, and with the largest greenhouse gas emitter, Saudi Aramco, opening up its initial public offering to foreign investors, it’s time you knew the ramifications of giving these companies your money.
Of the 30.6 gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxide of operational and product greenhouse gas emissions from 224 fossil fuel extraction companies, 41 percent are either public- or private-investor owned. While another 59 percent are state-owned, there’s not much you can do about those emitters unless you live in those countries. But you can withhold funding from publicly-traded companies looking to use that money to further sully the Earth, and 20 percent of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions comes from companies owned by public investors, which will grow significantly with the addition of Saudi Aramco as a publicly-traded entity. Saudi Aramco was responsible for 4.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.
The best way you can curb climate change is to not give or loan your money to these carbon-emitting companies. If you can’t afford an electric vehicle, you still have to fill the tank, but perhaps instead of filling your tank at the nearest or cheapest gas station, you fill it at the gas station owned by the company that emits the least carbon, which is likely Conoco in the United States.
According to the CDP report, ConocoPhillips was responsible for 61 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, half the emissions of BP, and emitted 40 percent less carbon dioxide than Chevron in 2015. So buy your fuel at ConocoPhillips’ stations if you can and Chevron if you can’t. If neither are available near you, Shell seems to be working the hardest toward a low-carbon, energy policy globally. Phillips 66 is doing the least.
With enough people boycotting the purchase of shares in corporate carbon emitters, these companies will be forced to change their approaches. So here are the publicly-traded companies to avoid supporting financially.
Saudi Aramco is responsible for almost twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as the next biggest emitter in the CDP report. When it comes to polluting the Earth and warming the planet, no one does it like Saudi Aramco.
But even Saudi Aramco is planning for life after oil, investing $20 billion to construct the largest chemicals facility in the world. The move is in tune with the wishes of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who would like to see the country wean off its “dangerous addiction to oil.” Still, investing your money in what is likely to be the biggest initial public offering in history is an investment in the destruction of Earth.
Gazprom is the largest natural gas company in the world and is tasked with providing most of Russia and some countries of the former Soviet Union with natural gas. It controls one quarter of the world's known natural gas reserves and accounts for eight percent of Russia's gross domestic product. But international sanctions have cut into the success of Russian energy companies since the country’s annexation of Crimea, so Gazprom isn’t exactly a safe investment. It certainly isn’t a safe investment for Earth.
Coal combustion is generally more carbon intensive than burning natural gas or petroleum for electricity, which is why Coal India easily makes this list. Although coal accounted for about 70 percent of CO2 emissions from the electricity sector, it represented only about 34 percent of the electricity generated in the United States in 2015. In India, more than 75 percent of electricity came from coal in 2014 -- up from 67 percent in 2011 and at an all-time high.
India is working its way off coal just as Saudi Arabia is looking to lessen its dependence on oil. Research from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) suggests that India can cut its CO2 emissions by up to 10 percent or 600 million tons after 2030 if renewable energy and batteries become less costly than coal within 10 years. An investment in Coal India is a sucker bet.
Shenhua Group is a Chinese coal company, where 72.63 percent of electricity came from coal in 2014 -- down from an all-time high of 80.95 percent in 2007. It’s another sucker bet, as China is ahead of schedule when it comes to curbing carbon emissions.
Rosneft is a Russian oil and gas company. Again, sanctions have limited the success of Russian energy companies, so you wouldn’t want your money behind them regardless of their damage done to Earth.
ExxonMobil is selling itself as an innovator in energy solutions and biofuels, but it also spent almost $31 million supporting organizations that spread climate change denial propaganda between 1998 and 2014. ExxonMobil reportedly spends $27 million annually to oppose climate policy as of 2016. It’s the largest carbon emitter amongst the gasoline companies and that should be all you need to know.
Shell was second to ExxonMobil in dollars spent to oppose climate policy with a $22-million annual budget. It even made a film warning of climate change in 1991 but did not heed its own warning so it could reap the benefits of increased profits. Of the energy giants, though, Shell and Total are the only companies to receive a “D” rating from InfluenceMap when it comes to transitioning to a low-carbon, energy policy globally. ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron all received “E-” ratings.
We all know BP for spilling 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and killing 11 people at Deepwater Horizon -- the largest oil spill in history and eight to 31 percent larger than the next largest. In September 2014, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that BP was primarily responsible for the oil spill because of its gross negligence and reckless conduct, and in July 2015, BP agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines -- the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history.
Peabody is a coal company based in St. Louis, and as less and less American energy is produced by coal, Peabody’s stock price will fall more and more. Just 34.34 percent of America’s energy production came from coal in 2015 -- down more than five percent over the course of a year.
Petrobras is Brazil’s largest oil and natural gas company and is dirty in more than one way. It paid $2.95 billion to settle a U.S. class action corruption lawsuit at the beginning of 2018 -- the largest settlement paid to the United States by a foreign entity. The settlement was six times more than it has received so far under a Brazilian probe into bribery schemes that involved company executives and government officials.
Shares of Chevron have increased nearly 30 percent in the last six months, so there will be no bargain for buyers of CVX now. Worse yet, its $34-billion project in Western Australia could face tougher emissions curbs, which would increase costs and sink shares.
Gross profits of the state-run, Malaysian oil and gas company have decreased over the last three years in all divisions -- gas processing, gas transportation, utilities and regasification. And its Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline transporting liquid natural gas sprung a leak on Jan. 10. A 2015 report found that there’s enough natural gas leakage to outweigh the climate benefits of using natural gas instead of coal.
The Democratic Republic of Congo forced Glencore’s billionaire head of copper into a smaller role after a review raised questions about accounting and management, but Congo’s doubling of taxes on cobalt will hurt Glencore even more.
How much Koch Industries actually pollutes Earth is difficult to determine, as Koch is privately owned and exempt from risk disclosures required of publicly-traded companies. Multiple estimates have Koch Industries at 300 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, but the Kochs do more to obstruct policy addressing climate change than anyone.
InfluenceMap ranked Koch Industries dead last in its readiness for a transition to a low-carbon policy globally. The Koch Brothers also contribute more to climate-change-denying candidates than anyone else. They budgeted for $889 million in campaign contributions to Conservative candidates in 2016 and are planning to spend up to $400 million during the 2018 midterm elections.
You can avoid giving Koch Industries your money by avoiding the companies it owns, like Vistra Energy Corp. (VST), of which it holds nearly five million shares. Vistra is a Texas energy company.
The Australian-English company is the world’s largest mining company.
The French, multinational, “Supermajor” oil and gas company was fined $313,910 for air emissions violations at its Port Arthur refinery in Texas just under a week ago, and this after the Clean Power Plan was mostly repealed.
Arch Coal is an American coal mining and processing company. They burn coal.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, USA Prepares, Building America, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense
As if there weren’t enough political fireworks occurring in Washington, you can bet that Apple will find itself involved, somehow. It all started with what I’ve been calling Throttlegate, the faux scandal that erupted when it was discovered that older iPhones, with failing batteries, were running a lot slower.
It was easy to attach a conspiratorial angle to this development, the theory that Apple deliberately reduced performance on older iPhones to trick you into buying a new one. But it was also discovered that the mere act of replacing the battery fixed the problem.
Apple admitted that it was doing this to regulate power utilization, and thus prevent a possible sudden shut down problem. Supposedly this was done to allow for smoother performance, though it’s obvious that customers should have been alerted as to what was really going on. It’s also curious why iOS doesn’t present an interface to check battery health.
The follow-up message was more detailed, with references to support documents that explained battery technology and its limitations in a consumer-friendly way. Apple dropped the price of replacement batteries from $79 to $29 until the end of 2018, but that evidently wasn’t good enough for some. There are a number of pending class action lawsuits against Apple.
I don’t think that Apple should be giving away free batteries with normal wear and tear. That should only be done for defective product, though I can still see where Apple wanted to be generous with customers to compensate for not fully explaining what it was doing and why.
On the other hand, anyone who replaced the battery in the month or two ahead of the announcement ought to get a rebate. If someone can demonstrate that they went ahead and bought a new iPhone because they wrongly believed the old one was broken, perhaps they should get a refund. But I can’t see how that could be proven. Perhaps just allow people a few extra weeks to return their devices for a refund.
But you know that the powers that be in Washington, D.C. are poised to make political hay of the situation.
So there’s a published report that Senator John Thune of South Dakota, who is chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, wrote a letter to Apple demanding an explanation.
In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Senator Thune stated, “…even if Apple’s actions were indeed only intended to avoid unexpected shutdowns on older phones, the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency with respect to these practices.”
All right, they are being attacked for not properly communicating with customers. Apple isn’t the first tech company to be guilty of not providing adequate support information about a maintenance update. The letter also asks that Apple explain whether models previous to the iPhone 6, or the newest models, will be similarly throttled. And why not give the battery away free?
To me, this is little more than political posturing. Apple has already apologized for failing to provide sufficient information, and has promised to do better. There will reportedly be an iOS update this year that will allow you to check battery health on your iPhone and iPad, so you’ll know when it needs to be replaced.
But I understand where one might try to gain brownie points, or believe they might, by putting Apple on the carpet. All Senator Thune is doing, however, is just repeating what’s already been written on the subject, including Apple’s promises to do better.
Maybe he should be writing to Microsoft and asking why they released a patch for the CPU bug, fixing the Spectre flaw, which bricked some older PCs with AMD chips in them. We’re talking there about computers that were rendered inoperable. Whatever you say about what Apple did, all the affected iPhones continued to work. What about Samsung’s handling of the battery flaws that resulted in overheated and smoking batteries in the now-discontinued Galaxy Note 7? They were recalled twice before the company pulled the plug. Is it because Samsung is a foreign company? Well, its hardware still had to receive FCC certification to be sold in the U.S.
Again, I understand why customers who bought batteries at full price from Apple, or a third-party reseller, should get a partial rebate. But it makes no sense to give them away free unless they are defective and the unit is under warranty, and that’s not what is being claimed. Besides, if there were batches of defective batteries that failed even after the original warranty expired, Apple would no doubt make some accommodation to be certain they were replaced at no charge.
I suppose one can suggest that Apple needs to be punished for allegedly misleading customers, although the real “crime” was failing to explain the workaround to deal with the problem of sudden iPhone shutdowns. But it’s not as if the U.S. Congress expects to force a company to give away free smartphone batteries. Maybe call on the Federal Trade Commission next and squander the public’s money on a probe?
In any case, I suspect that Cook will probably write to the Senator, make appropriate assurances of good behavior, there will be some headlines and that, as they say, will be that.
Whether it's nuclear winter, terrorist hacking of our energy infrastructure, a climate catastrophe, robot war or the zombie apocalypse, there will come a time the internet dies. A terrorist attack on America’s energy infrastructure would be far more damaging than an attack of civilian lives. Losing our energy infrastructure would make just about every tool useless except those running on renewable energy sources or generators, which is why everyone should be hoarding solar panels and solar chargers.
A terrorist attack of America’s energy grid would be devastating to the Internet. It’s not as though it can survive on life support. While server “caretakers” would likely prioritize which servers need to stay running, like those upon which the economy and banks rely, the 191.78 million kilowatt hours required to run Internet servers daily would require more than 53,000 commercial generators rated at 150 kilowatts. That’s just not possible.
Relying on solar energy for support would also be problematic. The 191.78 million kilowatt hours to run the Internet each day would require two square miles of solar panels dedicated solely to Internet servers. With 27.2 gigawatts of solar panels installed in America as of May 2016, the U.S. would need more than six times that in order to run the internet from solar power.
So it’s time we started using a tool that doesn’t require anything more than food and water to run -- a tool that’s kept people alive for centuries: memory. Committing things to memory could save your life in the event of an energy infrastructure failure, so here are four things you should learn before we lose the Internet forever.
Batteries will be a luxury in the post-energy infrastructure world. Those who have them or can build them will live lavishly. With one car battery or its equivalent, you could run a television and a Blu-ray player for the length of a movie, or even video game consoles for a few hours. But let’s focus on our needs before we get to the wants.
The price of bagged ice would skyrocket, as refrigerators and freezers would become traditional iceboxes. Microwave ovens and conventional ovens would give way to open flames for cooking food. Fire would also be the only way to heat our homes unless you had a battery and electric heater, which would save you from carbon monoxide poisoning and lower your risk of burning down your home or shelter.
Learn how to build a battery out of pennies to power small things like LEDs here. Since ice cube trays will be obsolete, you can use them and some sheet metal screws to build a 9-volt battery. You can make a 12-volt battery out of other batteries, too. You can build an inexpensive, lithium-ion battery pack to run your phone as well.
A battery is only as good as your ability to recharge it, so learning some basic electrical infrastructure installation will be most valuable. Not everyone will have the ability or means to build a hydroelectric generator, wind turbine or install a solar array to power lights and heat in their house or shelter. But there are enough junk bicycles out there to power lights and heat throughout America.
As long as food can be found, the bicycle will continue to serve as more than just a form of transportation in a post-energy infrastructure America. At night, bicycles will be brought indoors, where people take turns pedalling to power lights and heat and to charge batteries. Here’s how you can build a bicycle generator, which can typically produce 100 watts. Note: bicycle generators are incredibly inefficient, so exhaust your alternative energy options before resorting to the bicycle generator.
A boat will be an advantage enjoyed by those who survive the death of the Internet and America’s energy infrastructure. Only so much food can be found on land, and those with boats will have access to high-protein meals providing healthy calories that allow them to hunt and gather for longer hours.
You can build a boat with hand tools. There are plenty of designs from which to choose as well. Given the situation, however, you might have limited materials for boat building. Good thing a fishing boat doesn’t require much. This one is made from PVC pipe, and since indoor plumbing will be useless given that water pumps wouldn’t be powered, you can just rip those pipes right out of your walls.
Since you won’t be sending your poop to a wastewater treatment plant, you should be using it to fertilize your garden. The most important commodity in the post-energy infrastructure America will be food, and you’ll want to be able to grow as much as you can with whatever space you have.
A good start is using the scraps of food you don’t eat to make more food. You can transplant the roots of green onions after slicing them up as well as celery. You can even plant the tops of carrots and eat the greens.
You can also use trash to grow food. Large plastic jugs like milk containers, egg cartons, produce bags and aluminum trays are all useful in growing food. Shredded paper, cardboard, shoe boxes and paper bags are also useful in the garden.
Lastly, human waste makes for a fine fertilizer, so poop in a bucket and mix it into your garden soil. You can drink your urine when times get really tough.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Americanuck Radio, American Survival Radio, Building America, The Debbie Nigro Show, Free Talk Live, Freedom Feens, The Gun Owners News Hour, Homeland Security Radio, LockNLoad, The Power Hour, Sons of Liberty, Stone Cold Truth, USA Prepares, American Family Farmer, The Easy Organic Gardener
GCN proudly welcomes Michio Kaku’s long running radio program Science Fantastic to our weekly line up! Professor Kaku probably needs little introduction but introduce him I must. And so, from Wikipedia:
Professor Kaku is a Japanese American theoretical physicist, futurist, and popularizer of science. He is professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center. Kaku has written several books about physics and related topics, has made frequent appearances on radio, television, and film, and writes online blogs and articles. He has written three New York Times best sellers, hosted several TV specials for networks around the world and since 2006 has broadcast his radio program Science Fantastic -- previously syndicated by Talk Radio Network and now, beginning at midnight on Saturday December 30th will be nationally syndicated by the Genesis Communication Network - that would be us. =)
The Science Fantastic show page will be up on the GCNlive site ASAP with more program and affiliate information to follow.
We’re very excited to have Professor Kaku join the team and we hope you’ll tune in to -- Science Fantastic!
This week I heard a surprising announcement from a regular guest on The Tech Night Owl LIVE. So we presented tech commentator Rob Pegoraro, who writes for USA Today, Yahoo Finance, Consumer Reports, Wirecutter and other publications. During this episode, Rob put the FCC’s decision to abandon net neutrality into perspective, and I’ll have more to say about that shortly. The main question, of course, is whether ISPs will begin to prioritize net traffic, or will the possibility of negative publicity and potential lawsuits postpone — or prevent — any changes for the near future? Rob also discussed the end of AIM, and how this pioneer instant messaging app influenced an entire industry? And do we really need lots of messaging apps to stay in touch with our contacts? Gene laughingly referred to Rob as a turncoat as he explained why he, a long time Mac user, recently purchased a PC notebook to replace his aging MacBook Air.
So why did Rob switch?
Well, his response was reasonable. He didn’t want to spend more money for a MacBook Pro, and the recent pathetic upgrade to the MacBook Air didn’t appeal to him. He chose, instead, an HP 2-in-1 notebook. And since, for the most part, he could use the same apps and services on both the macOS and Windows, it wasn’t so big a deal, at least so far. But will he feel the same a few months from now? He laughingly suggested turning it into a Hackintosh, by following the online instructions to induce it to run macOS. But that process may not work on an off-the-shelf PC notebook. Usually, it requires picking and choosing parts tested and found to be compatible, and outfitting a custom-built PC with them.
You also heard from tech journalist Jeff Gamet, Managing Editor for The Mac Observer. As the segment began, Jeff complained that his copy of Skype 7 for the Mac was upgraded to Skype 8 without his approval, and he doesn’t like the all-new interface. In an extended discussion of net neutrality, Gene pointed out that more and more cable companies are embedding Netflix into their set-top boxes, perhaps as a move to help reduce cord cutting. As the pair moved into pop culture mode, Gene mentioned the latest reported move by Apple to add original TV content, with a direct-to-series order for a new sci-fi series from producer Ronald D. Moore, whose previous shows include Battlestar Galactica. Jeff explained in great detail why the fabled Star Wars lightsaber would be impossible to use in a real world setting. Gene suggested that the DC Comics super heroes on TV are better than their movie counterparts. And what about having different actors portray such characters as the Flash and Superman?
On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present Alejandro Rojas of OpenMinds.tv for a 2017 retrospective and a preview of the 2018 International UFO Congress and Film Festival. Alejandro is the host for Open Minds UFO Radio show, and emcee for IUFOC. He is also a blogger for the Huffington Post. As a UFO/Paranormal researcher and journalist, Alejandro has spent many hours in the field investigating anomalous phenomena up close and personal. Gene and Chris will also talk shop with a focus on UFOs. There will also be a pop culture-related discussion about what both regard as the sad state of pop music.
GETTING IT WRONG ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY
Part and parcel of our polarized society is the feeling that, if we accept the other side’s approach, it may be the end of the world as we know it. They wish us ill, and are doing foolish and/or evil things to take us all down.
Now I’m not going to dwell on my political viewpoints about the crazy things that are going on in Washington, D.C. except for one thing, and that’s the promise — or threat — that net neutrality is ending soon.
As is often true, the facts are more nuanced, and whatever does happen can be overturned by a future FCC, and we start all over again.
So this past week, the Republican majority of the FCC decided to undo a move by its predecessor that, among the things, prevented ISPs from prioritizing Internet traffic. What this meant is that these companies could not demand that a high-traffic service pay extra to enter a fast lane.
Those who opposed net neutrality, including FCC chairman Ajit Pai, claimed that putting restrictions on ISPs would somehow prevent them from improving and expanding their services. Being forced to allow online traffic to flow freely was somehow an impediment to growth.
I’m not sure I see how, or any evidence that this could happen. But it’s unfortunate that the cable TV talking heads who interviewed Pai — or at least the ones I’ve seen — simply allowed him to repeat his unproven talking points without questioning the logic. There was no request for evidence that what he said was true.
Supporters of net neutrality also maintain that it’s not just about getting miserable performance from Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, with constant buffering even on a fast connection. What about the streaming startup, a company that wanted to someday compete with Netflix? If they had to pay extra to achieve good performance, it’s likely that they wouldn’t be able to attract venture capital to cover their costs.
This, too, may be an overwrought conclusion if we assume things will return to the way they were before the concept of net neutrality ever arose.
A key reason for government regulation is not that regulators just need something to do. It’s often in response to a need, to address abuses by private industry. That explains why there are rigid controls covering the approval of a new drug by the FDA in the U.S. It means that pharmaceutical companies have to subject new drugs to a rigid set of tests to make sure they actually perform as advertised without seriously endangering one’s life in the process. Or at least disclose the dire side effects so you know what you’re in for.
Net neutrality was a response to something the ISPs did, which was to slow down such services as Netflix, largely because they sucked up huge quantities of data.
As of now, Netflix consumes nearly 37% of all Internet traffic, and when you add all the streaming services it’s 70%. That also includes such services as YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Dish Network’s Sling TV and DirecTV NOW.
That leaves 30% for the rest of online traffic.
From a business point of view, I suppose it made sense to focus on the worst abusers and see if there’s a way to manage the load without inconveniencing other customers. Back in 2014, there were reports that such ISPs as Comcast and Verizon were putting the brakes on Netflix. In turn, Netflix reportedly paid extra in order to deal with the situation, with reports of mixed success.
During that period, you may have experienced constant buffering from Netflix. Loads of complaints from customers and tech companies helped influence the previous FCC to reclassify an ISP as a Title II communications service, thus preserving net neutrality. Prior attempts were blocked in the courts.
Despite the new regulations, there were recent reports that Verizon, particularly through its high-speed FiOS service, was once again throttling Netflix and even YouTube. So it seems peculiar that the FCC would believe that ending net neutrality was a good idea.
But what’s also happening is even more interesting. It appears that Netflix is taking a “can’t beat them so join them” approach, which is to strike deals with some ISPs, so their app appears as just another premium channel on a cable set-top box, similar to HBO and Showtime. What this means is that the ISP would, in exchange for offering Netflix without speed restrictions, get a piece of the action. By being part of their regular cable service, the load on broadband bandwidth would be sharply reduced.
By including Netflix — and I suppose Hulu and other services can be offered in the same fashion — customers are being offered more attractive cable packages that might help stem the tide of cord cutting.
While an experiment with Netflix and DirecTV appears to have ended, you can get it on at least some cable boxes from Comcast, Cox, Verizon and other services. You’ll have to check with your cable company to see which hardware it’s offered on, and how much it costs.
Now when I checked with the cable company I use, Cox, it appears Netflix is available on their Contour 2 box, but is limited to HD. If you have a 4K TV, you’ll have to still depend on a smart TV or a streamer, such as an Apple TV 4K, and certain models from Roku and other companies. As it stands, the cable and satellite companies are only testing the 4K waters. Higher resolution means there is less space for other channels, so it may be a juggling act until capacity is boosted.
In any event, despite the FCC’s vote, net neutrality isn’t going away tomorrow. There’s a comment period, and the attorneys general of a number of states are planning to file lawsuits. So this matter may not be resolved for months or years, depending on court rulings and potential appeals. I suppose it’s possible that the U.S. Supreme Court will get involved.
After all is said and done, I doubt the ISPs are going to act hastily, knowing the political winds may likely change with the next administration. In the meantime, if more cable and possibly the satellite companies strike deals with Netflix and other services to offer them premium channels, that might sharply reduce the load on their systems.
So they wouldn’t have any motive to throttle anyone’s traffic, and it would also provide an additional revenue stream. Assuming Netflix’s 4K service comes to your cable box, would that influence your decision about cord cutting?
So it’s possible that the ISPs and streaming companies could work out reasonable solutions without harming anyone, assuming the price you pay doesn’t change too much. That said, net neutrality offered more than a few ounces of protection against the worst offenders. The suggestion that it may have stifled innovation is absurd. The move to embed Netflix on cable boxes clearly disproves that claim.