FCC Repeals Net Neutrality Rules

The FCC voted today, 12/14/17, to remove net neutrality regulations that were put in place two years ago. For details on the vote, its consequences, and upcoming challenges, check this article from Wired:

THE FCC JUST KILLED NET NEUTRALITY. NOW WHAT?

If you wish to learn more about Net Neutrality and why it matters to you, watch the video at the top of this post and read the following article (also from Wired):

WHY NET NEUTRALITY MATTERS EVEN IN THE AGE OF OLIGOPOLY

Posted in Internet

YouTube TV is Latest OTT Service for Cord Cutters

When it comes to TV, over-the-top (OTT) services essentially offer a variety of channels that stream via your existing Internet service provider. If you pay only for Internet access (no cable TV), you have many choices when it comes to watching your favorite movies and shows. Millions of individuals turn to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu to watch a large variety of content; however, those shows are never live. OTT services are unique because they bundle a set of channels that you can watch as they are broadcast live. In most cases, you can also record those shows to the cloud so that you can watch them at a time that is convenient for you. To learn more about OTT services, read the following article and pay special attention to the table that compares the four major providers:

https://www.cnet.com/products/youtube-tv/preview/

YouTube TV in the newcomer in the growing OTT market. Google recently expanded this service to 10 additional cities, which gave me a chance to test it for a few days. Although it includes some excellent features, I am still not convinced that these OTT services are cost-effective for cord cutters. If you end up paying for several OTT and streaming services, you may find that your monthly costs are not much different than some cable TV plans. Most individuals should have plenty of content to watch with subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu, along with an HD antenna for local content. Do you agree? If you don’t pay for cable TV, which streaming and OTT services would you pay for?

Posted in Streaming

Amazon Go

Amazon has just launched a test for a new type of convenience store in Seattle. There are no cashiers, whether human or automated. You just scan your Amazon app when you come in, take what you want off the shelf, and then simply walk out. Amazon will use many cameras and sophisticated AI technology to determine which items you grabbed and charge you for them automatically as you walk out. For additional details, view Amazon’s video above or check out this article from The Verge:

Amazon just launched a cashier-free convenience store (The Verge)

Posted in Uncategorized

Tips: Speeding Up Your Computer and Extending Battery Life

Close-up of hands typing on a laptop computer

Two frequent questions asked by my students are:

  1. Why is my computer going so slow lately?
  2. Why is my laptop battery not lasting as long as it used to?

While there are no quick answers to these questions (especially the first one), there are many steps that we can take to make sure our computers are performing as optimally as possible. These two guides provide plenty of tips to get you started:

How to Stop Your Computer from Slowing Down (Gizmodo)

9 Tips for Longer Laptop Battery Life (PCMag)

 

Posted in Laptops, Windows

Intelligent Assistants

On October 4th, Google announced various devices (Pixel Smartphone and Google Home) that feature their new Google Assistant. As shown in the video above, this intelligent assistant aims to improve the way we interact with our devices and make the Google experience more personal. It seems to offer improvements to the current voice search embedded within the Google (or Google Now) app. The video also shows the progress Google is making with artificial intelligence in areas such as image recognition, voice recognition, translation, and more. If you wish to preview the new Google Assistant without purchasing a new device, you can install the free Allo messaging app on your smartphone.

As I viewed the presentation, it got me thinking about other intelligent assistants and the challenges that researchers face with respect to artificial intelligence. Click the links below for articles and videos related to intelligent assistants:

 

 

Posted in Artificial Intelligence, Speech Recognition

Apple vs FBI – An Important Debate

National security vs. personal privacy. We have been having this conversation for a very long time, especially after 9/11. This debate is again taking center state in a very public battle between Apple and the FBI. It has a been a few weeks since a court ordered Apple to create software that would help the FBI gain access to the phone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple has appealed the court’s order and issued various press releases warning of the long-term consequences if they are required to comply with this order.

The legal battle between Apple and the FBI is quite complex and it is forcing us to discuss a variety of security and privacy issues in today’s connected world. Writing for The Verge, Dieter Bohn makes the following argument in favor of protecting encryption: “Those who have called for breaking of that encryption through a backdoor seem to think that there is some essential difference between a private conversation in person and a private conversation over the internet. I don’t think that there is. And to ask that we threaten this amazing new freedom is to threaten the original freedom.”

Do you agree with this position? Should Apple be required to create new software for the FBI in this situation and, perhaps, future cases? Watch the video above to learn more about this topic and read the article below for a more ethics-focused analysis.

The encryption fight isn’t about Apple, it’s about all of us (from The Verge)

Posted in Privacy, Security

Amazon Echo – Ready for Super Bowl

Need an assistant to help you plan a Super Bowl party? The Amazon Echo is a voice-activated device that performs a variety of tasks by listening to your spoken commands. It can be placed anywhere in your home, preferably in an area where you and your family need hands-free answers and quick access to information (e.g. kitchen, living room). The Echo can also play music, control various home automation devices, communicate with select apps, and of course, order products from Amazon. The voice assistant that is included with the Echo is known as Alexa, and in some ways, is similar to Apple’s Siri, Google Now, and Microsoft’s Cortana.

Watch Amazon’s video and read the article below to learn about some of the things that the Echo can do. Would you find this type of device useful in your home?

Amazon Echo is a sleeper hit, and the rest of America is about to find out about it for the first time (from Quartz)

Posted in Home Automation, Speech Recognition

Free Up Space on Your Mobile Devices

Screenshot of used storage space on a smartphone

Regardless of the storage capacity of our smartphones, we always seem to run out of room. This excellent article from The Verge offers tips on how to free up space, including the use of the highly recommended cloud services from Google for photos and music.

Here’s how to live with a 16 GB iPhone (from The Verge)

Posted in Cloud, Mobile, Smartphones

2016 Chevy Malibu’s “Teen Driver” Monitoring System

Parental controls have moved from the computer into the car. Well, all cars have embedded systems these days, so this development isn’t very surprising. The 2016 Chevy Malibu will allow parents to get reports on their teen’s driving and set various parameters, such as no music unless the seat belts are on. All this is done via the car’s touchscreen interface, not an app.

What do you think about this feature? Will it be useful? Will it encourage safe driving and reduce accidents / injuries?

Full article from The Verge

Posted in Uncategorized

USB 3.1 (Type-C Connector)

USB Type-C connector

Image courtesy of TechStage at Flickr.com

How much do you know about USB 3.1 (with Type-C connector)? Several laptops, such as the MacBook and Chromebook Pixel, are already using it. Upcoming phones will use it. In a nutshell, the new connector is:

(1) Faster than USB 3.0
(2) Reversible (finally!) with same connector at both ends
(3) Able to charge larger devices (e.g printers)
(4) Small enough to connect to all devices, including smartphones

For additional details, take a look at this article:

USB 3.1 And Its Disruptive USB Type-C Connector (Tomshardware.com)

Posted in Uncategorized