Data Hogs Beware!

Verizon is gunning for users of its legacy Unlimited Plan…

If there’s one thing that I know, and I know well, it’s that mobile carriers get their undies in a bunch when it comes to customers using what they consider to be “too much” bandwidth. In fact, Verizon has been, it seems, on a mission to get users of its legacy unlimited data plan to move to a current plan.

Back in 2011, Verizon killed their unlimited data plans, requiring everyone on those plans to move to a different, shared data plan. However, some users weren’t affected, and were able to remain on a legacy, unlimited data plan. Verizon has been on a mission ever since to remove remaining users from those legacy plans so they can finally be retired in favor of more lucrative data plans that limit customer bandwidth.

Recently, Verizon sent a notice to users on those plans who were using at least 200Gb a month that they would be required to choose a different data plan by 2016-02-16, or risk having their service terminated. Terminated clients will have 50 days to get with the program and get a new service plan. Clients failing to do this will be hit with contract termination fees and will have their lines of service/ accounts closed.

Back in August of 2016, Verizon targeted users consuming 500GB or more of data a month and gave them the same message – find a newer data plan or be terminated. Verizon no longer offers unlimited data on any device. They have a 100GB plan that costs $450 per month, before line and access fees. The legacy, unlimited data plan costs $100 per month.

Verizon has made a number of different changes to its service plans over recent months. At the beginning of 2017, Verizon raised its line upgrade fee from $20 to $30 per line. Every line that is upgraded to a new device will be charged this fee going forward. Verizon has also stopped offering two year subsidized phone contracts as of 2015.

Verizon has historically been an expensive mobile carrier. Individuals who use Verizon do so under one of just a few key conditions, in my experience:

  1. It’s the only carrier in town
    Verizon is often the only carrier in many rural areas. Their mobile network was built out first and in some cases, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint either haven’t gotten there or don’t intend to.
  2. It’s the only carrier in town with a decent signal
    In some (rural) areas, there’s carrier choice, but service from other mobile carriers is SO bad, that it’s not worth using them. Folks in this category may also travel for business and need to have a reliable signal that can be reached in the devil’s basement.

I used to be a Verizon customer. However, shortly after AT&T started offering the iPhone – and before I switched – I moved from Verizon to AT&T simply because I was able to cut my monthly spend nearly in half. Back in the day, the family and I were spending nearly $500 a month on cellular service for just three lines. Switching to AT&T drastically dropped our monthly spend.

However, their legacy unlimited data plan, popular with many iPhone and smartphone users offered access to Verizon’s fast 4G and LTE network at a reasonable cost. Now, according to Verizon, those folks are costing the company too much money and clogging up the pipe.

If you’re still a Verizon Unlimited Data user, if not now, you’re going to be targeted by the organization in the very near future. Verizon wants you off that data plan and on something else that provides them with better revenues. Let’s be clear about this – regardless of how Verizon tries to spin this to you, this is about their bottom line, not the service quality on their network.

According to VzW spokesperson Kelly Crummey, speaking with Ars Technica,

“Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a small group of customers on unlimited plans who use more than 200GB a month that they must move to a [different] Verizon [data] Plan by February 16, 2017.”

Are you a Verizon customer? Do you still have their legacy Unlimited Data Plan? Have you received any kind of notice from Verizon that you’ll have to pick a new data plan or risk losing your line/ lines of service? If so, which data plan(s) look attractive to you? Would you consider a change or move to a different carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile who are both offering unlimited data plans again (albeit, with a few prerequisites)..?

If you fall into one of these categories, I’d love to hear from you and get your opinion on what is happening with Verizon and more importantly, how you’re treated by the company when you call them and have a customer service issue to resolve. Do they hound you to switch data plans? Have they in the past tried to force you out of your existing plan and on to another? Are they offering any kind of incentive to make the move early (I haven’ t seen any evidence of any kind of incentive…). I’d also love to know which data plan you end up choosing, if you decide to stay, and how that new data plan effects your bill.

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your details? If enough people respond, I’ll do a follow up article on your experiences and put you in the lime light!

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Verizon to Rename Yahoo, Altaba after Purchase

It also looks as though Marissa Mayer is out of a job…

Verizon announced yesterday that it still intends to acquire Yahoo for its aforementioned $4.8B purchase plans. This is surprising to many, me included, as Yahoo revealed that it had a security breach where over 1.0B user accounts had been exposed. This large breach occurred six to twelve months prior to the attack in 2014 where 500M user accounts were compromised. This deal came about after CEO Marissa Mayer failed to turn the company around after her arrival in early to mid-2012.

It also looks as though she’s completely given up. According to Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, “…it looks like [Mayer’s] plan is to complete the sale of the operating company to Yahoo and let the lawyers and tax accountants figure out the best option for the stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.” She is also out as a director, as she as well as six other key board members, including Yahoo cofounder David Filo and former board chairman Maynard Webb, will be stepping down. Webb was named Chairman emeritus.

Despite the additional, larger breach, Verizon still appears to be interested in the 23 year old company. After the sale of the company, Yahoo will change its name to Altaba – a combination of the words, “alternate” and Alibaba,” according to someone familiar with the matter. Yahoo owns stakes in both Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. And Yahoo Japan, where, according to analysts, is where the core of the sale’s value for Verizon lies. Verizon isn’t expected to gain a lot of value from its direct purchase of Yahoo.

Interestingly enough, according to the Wall Street Journal, Mayer is expected to stay with Yahoo after the sale to Verizon, though her exact role has yet to be announced.

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Yahoo Hacked – 1.0B Accounts Exposed

Dude… The Fat Lady is SO singing over at Yahoo…

yahoo exposed

  1. There are a few things that come to mind here:
  2. If I were Marissa Mayer, I would crawl under a rock and hide. Like… forever.
  3. If I were Verizon, I would run, not walk, so fast and so far away from the purchase of Yahoo, and I would NEVER look back (or second guess that decision)
  4. If I were a Yahoo user, I would set fire to my account and use the mail account that my ISP gave me. At this point a comcast.net mail account can’t be seen as a bad thing…

To be honest, this is beyond pathetic.

I’ve heard it mentioned that the security breach in question is the result of a separate, earlier attack that occurred in 2013, at least six to twelve months before the attack in 2014 that exposed 500 million accounts to hackers. I’ve heard that security analysts at Yahoo brought their concerns to the management team and the analysis was effectively ignored.

In a statement, Yahoo said they weren’t able to identify the intrusion associated with the breach. Hackers may have stolen names, email addresses, telephone numbers, MD5 hashed passwords, dates of birth, and in some cases, both encrypted and unencrypted security questions and answers.

The company has further admitted that hackers may have accessed all of this information due to a theft of source code, enabling them to manufacture a way in without requiring a password. Apparently, they were able to forge a cookie that allowed them to retrieve credentials that were stored locally. While Yahoo has invalidated the security questions and their answers as well as the forged cookies, the damage has already been done.

The thing that really irks me the most here, is that this was a bigger breach than the one that was reported in 2014; AND it occurred BEFORE the breach that got so much publicity. This hack is twice as big and in my opinion twice as damning. Verizon was already “evaluating” its purchase of Yahoo. If I were them, I’d evaluate myself right out of the deal. The assets aren’t worth the risk.

Yahoo has been severely criticized by six different US senators for taking two years to publicize the September 2014 breach that lost them 500,000 accounts. This latest breach occurred a full year or so before that, and its being revealed AFTER the 2014 breach.

At this point, Yahoo knows basically NOTHING. They have no idea who may have perpetrated the attack, which nation may have sponsored the hackers or the full extent of the information that has been compromised. As a result, Yahoo’s stock took a 2.5% hit in afterhours trading on 2016-12-14. At this point, I can see the value of the stock dropping more as Verizon “evaluates” their purchase plans.

As I said, Yahoo is over. Marissa Mayer is done as a CEO, despite the amount of promise she showed during the early part of her tenue with the company. Verizon should do themselves a favor and target other web content and properties . I think their money would be better spent on assets that weren’t compromised.

If I were a Yahoo user, I’d shut my account down, get a secure password manager, and change passwords and security question answers on all my financial accounts… and that’s just for starters. Yahoo has been around since the early 1990’s. A lot of users have a great deal invested in them, and all of that metadata may be compromised at this point. Better safe than sorry for ALL involved (including investors, Yahoo management and Verizon, as well as users)…

Are you a Yahoo user? Are you still using your Yahoo account? Are you concerned about this breach? What, if anything, have you done to protect yourself and your account information? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the breach and on Yahoo itself as well as what you’re doing to make yourself safe.

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Symantec to Acquire Identity Protection Service, LifeLock

The deal, worth $2.3B, is intended to create a more powerful AV tool

symantec_lifelock

2016 was a big antivirus year for me. I had two articles on how anyone could pick up malware. I followed it up here. Its true. Anyone can get a bug, so if you aren’t running a malware scanner or antivirus product, you really should be. Soft32.com has a number of GREAT antivirus products available. Some are free to try, or are completely free. Others, may cost you a subscription fee. Regardless of its payment structure, you need to run a virus scanner, whether you’re using a Mac, a Windows PC or a Linux machine.

Better safe than sorry…

And in that light, an interesting development occurred the other day. Antivirus maker Symantec is going to acquire identity protection service, LifeLock in a deal that’s currently valued at $2.3B dollars.

The deal, a combination of cash and $750M in new debt is scheduled to close in the first quarter of 2017. The merger of LifeLock and Symantec is anticipated to provide comprehensive online protection for consumers. They’ll have premier antivirus protection coupled with identity theft protection, according to Symantec’s CEO, Greg Clark.

Symantek is interested in moving away from just providing malware protection. They’re looking to go into the “digital safety,” an estimated $10B business. With personal information and data becoming an increasingly larger tarket, Symantec is “stepping up to defend [them] through innovation and vigilance.”

LifeLock shares rose 14% in the aftermath of the Symantec announcement, while Symantec shares were flat. LifeLock is best known for its former CEO K Davis sharing his social security number with the public. Since 2010, he had been a victim of identity theft at least 13 times. In 2010, the FTC said it reached a deal with LifeLock where the company would pay $12M to settle claims it used false advertising to push its identity protection services. Then, it reached another deal with the FTC to pay $100M for violating the terms of a 2010 court order to secure consumer’s personal information and stop deceptive advertising practices.

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Connectify

Easily create and connect all of your wireless devices with this handy networking utility

connectify-hotspotI can remember back in the 1990’s when computing was just in its infancy. Back then, no one hardly ever got online. If you did, it was with a dialup connection, and then you likely had AOL, CompuServe, MSN or some other online service. Normally, what you did was dial up, get in, get what you needed and then IMMEDIATELY get off. If you didn’t, you likely ended up using (nearly) all of your monthly connect time, and after that, it got really expensive.

Computing today is TOTALLY different. People are connected all the time. Quite honestly now-a-days, NOT getting online often seems to be a waste of time unless you have specific computing tasks to do – writing a report, tweaking a presentation you already have on your hard drive, or working on a spreadsheet. Most other modern computing activities require some kind of internet connectivity. It’s simply a given.

When it comes to finding an available, trusted internet connection in today’s malware ridden, maze of untrusted networks isn’t easy. This is why apps like Connectify are so important. It’s a networking and hotspot tool for Windows.

connectify

With Connectify, you can easily create a Wi-Fi hotspot that will allow you to connect all of your wireless devices to the internet, while on the go. Connectify isn’t just the world’s most powerful hotspot app, it’s the easiest, to use. All you have to do is give your Hotspot a name and password. After that, you’re ready to go.

You can share any internet connection as a Wi-Fi hotspot. It doesn’t matter if that’s an existing Wi-Fi connection, a wired Ethernet connection, or even a 4G LTE network. However, doing THAT will require you to upgrade to Connectify’s Pro or Max version.

Some of the coolest parts of the app, however, don’t have much to do with actually creating a network signal. Some of the cool stuff comes from some of the ancillary functionality that’s included in the app. Connectify will monitory your network usage, by device. You can track down that friend who’s using all your bandwidth. Connectify’s newest feature gives you real-time graphs of your data usage at a glance.

Get access to the internet is a necessity for many people today. Much of what we use computers for today involves some kind of network functionality or connectivity from sharing files across devices to checking email, or sharing photos. Insuring you have the connectivity you need WHEN and WHERE you need it can sometimes be problematic, especially when you don’t have a data plan for every device you own. With Connectify, those troubles are greatly lessened.

The app is a huge boon to those that need internet on devices that for some reason don’t or won’t connect to some Wi-Fi networks but will connect to others. Keeping track of how much bandwidth you’ve burned and who’s the bandwidth hog on your network used to be mysteries, but now, with included utilities, you can easily figure out both of those things.

Connectify comes in four different flavors – free/ 30 day trial version, Hotspot Pro, Hotspot Max and Hotspot Max Bundle. Each version is subscription based, however, and unless you buy the lifetime version, you’re going to be renewing your license next year. If you like Connectify and feel that its bringing value to your online experience, do yourself a favor and buy the lifetime version of whatever flavor you’re interested in. The lifetime license isn’t all that much more expensive, and once you start your fourth year of use, you break even on the purchase.

download Connectify

 

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WhatsApp Blocked in Brazil due to Criminal Case

Facebook won’t turn over data, so a judge shut it down…

whatsapp-logo-iconeA Brazilian judge has blocked Facebook’s WhatsApp from operation inside the country and has authorized a fine of up to R$50,000 ($15,273 USD) per day while Facebook refuses to comply with a secret judicial order to provide data in a criminal case, according to Reuters. This is apparently the third such incident involving the popular IP-based messaging app since December of 2015.

The judicial order is officially being kept secret, according to Reuters; and is speculated to be related to conversations involving a number of drug trafficking cases currently under investigation. This action, however, appears to be severe, as its open ended. WhatsApp has been shut down indefinitely, and the outage affects more than 100 million Brazilian users.

WhatsApp is popular in Brazil and other countries due to steep local cellular carrier fees.

The big issue here is that WhatsApp’s data is encrypted. This case is similar to the recent case here in the US between Apple and the FBI. The Brazilian government wants to know what information was traded between suspects and is expecting WhatsApp to provide the unencrypted data.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with the order(s) coming from the office of Brazilian Judge Baniela Barbosa Assunção de Souza from the state of Rio de Janeiro – Facebook doesn’t store the encrypted data on their servers,

“As we’ve said in the past, we cannot share information we don’t have access to. We hope to see this block lifted as soon as possible,” said a WhatsApp spokesperson in a public statement.

Brazil’s attorney general’s office has restated its position that judges who suspend WhatsApp for failure to provide data are incorrectly interpreting a 2014 law meant to provide a legal framework for the internet.

Brazil has five (5) major cellular carriers: Telefonica Brasil SA, América Móvil SAB’s Claro, TIM Participações SA, Oi SA and Nextel Participações SA. None of them had an immediate comment regarding this suspension.

I think they are waiting for either the other shoe to drop or for a higher judicial authority to lift the suspension. Since the nation’s attorney general doesn’t support this type of suspension, I suspect that it won’t last very long, and that any fine levied against Facebook/ WhatsApp will be negated, but we’ll have to wait and see.

What are your thoughts on this development? Should WhatsApp provide any information at all? Should they show the judge that they don’t have the messages? Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the discussion area below and tell me what you think?

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Apple to Acquire Tidal?

Apple may acquire the streaming service to obtain exclusive content…

tidalstreamingmusic

I’ve seen a number of reports on the internet about Apple being interested or in talks to acquire the music streaming service, Tidal. For those that remember, Tidal was setup by Jay-Z, as in Beyoncé and Jay-Z, so yeah… Them.

The talks are reported to be exploratory and may not result in a deal; but Apple appears to be serious. It also doesn’t hurt that Tidal is in a huge money crunch, and Jay-Z may get his butt out of the financial fire if this turns out to be true and the acquisition goes through.

However, according to sources reported by the Wall Street Journal, a Tidal spokesman said that Tidal executives had not held talks with Apple, and the terms of any deal are unknown.

This would not be the first music company that Apple has purchased. They purchased Beats from Dr. Dre in 2014. However, Tidal is the first artist owned streaming service, and as I said, it has exclusive content from Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Prince. Music from these artists was removed from Apple Music (and Spotify, for that matter) about a year ago in July of 2015. Tidal currently has 4.2 million paying subscribers.

Apple is looking to expand its presence in the music industry. Since it acquired Beats in 2014, its launched its own streaming service in Apple Music and will be making important modifications to it with the release of iOS 10 later in the Fall of 2016.

Tidal has streaming agreements with Bea, J, and The Artist, as well as artists like Kanye and Madonna. Apple seriously wants a chunk of the streaming pie, and has been pushing to acquire rights to exclusive and original content for Apple Music and its 15M+ paying subscribers.

I’m not certain why streaming is the big deal that it is. There’s only one carrier that I know of right now that is offering a current, non-grandfathered unlimited data plan, and that’s AT&T, provided you have them for mobile service AND are also a DirecTV customer. If you are, AT&T’s unlimited everything, everything plan is truly the way to go. It makes everything way cheap.

However, unless you have that plan – and most people don’t – mobile bandwidth can be expensive, especially if you eat through yours streaming music and video content all day long. While Wi-Fi will help you here, Wi-Fi is not ubiquitous, and as such, you’re likely to burn through your bandwidth very quickly and get hit with overage charges unless, of course, you buy a big streaming package for your phone, and then… things can get expensive.

I don’t know why streaming is the thing. It might be because paid streaming subscriptions make finding new music economically affordable. However, after you find it and you download it, you’re leasing it. Once the subscription is gone, you can’t listen to it any more. You can’t burn downloaded subscription content to a CD, kids…

Are you a music streaming service subscriber? Do you have issues with your monthly allotment of mobile data every month? Join me in the Discussion area and let me know what you think of this deal and what it might mean to music streaming subscribers.

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Whisky Tango Foxtrot – Microsoft Buys LinkedIn

This was the WTF on the top of my day…

I’ve been a LinkedIn member since the very early 2000’s. Back in the day, you had to be INVITED to join LinkedIn, and you couldn’t connect with just ANYONE. You really had to have done business with a person or had to have worked with them; and you had to know their email address, too. If you didn’t know them, LinkedIn wouldn’t let you connect. In situations like that, you had to have a common contact between you and your desired connection “introduce” you; and then the person you were trying to connect with would very often either ignore you, or decline the connection. Back in the day, actually MAKING a connection on LinkedIn was a BIG deal.

LinkedIn used to be… USED to be… VERY exclusive.

microsoft buys linkedin

Today, it was purchased in total by Microsoft (MSFT) in a $26.2B (that’s Billion with a “B”), all cash deal, that is likely going to be 2016’s most outrageous and totally over paid deal of the year.

If I were the guys at LinkedIn… I’d be laughing all the way to the bank. If I were Microsoft, I would be trying to figure out how long it would be before I’d totally call the acquisition a failure before writing everything off… and if I were a long time, seriously dedicated LinkedIn user (and I am…) I’d keep my eyes open for the next big professional, social networking site. If I were Lynda.com, I’d be doing my best to try to figure out the best way to buy myself out of this deal…

If it doesn’t sound like I have a lot of confidence in Microsoft, or this acquisition, you’d be correct. I don’t. Not one bit.

Over the past couple of years, Microsoft’s track record for integrating businesses into its core hasn’t been a huge success. They bought Nokia and burnt it to the ground. They’ve totally screwed up their ENTIRE mobile strategy as a result, and I think I can say with 100% certainty that they have totally ruined their chances of EVER having any kind of meaningful presence in the mobile computing space.

On top of this, I have no confidence that OneNote is EVER going to work right on a Surface Pro 3 or Surface Pro 4.

Speaking of the Surface Pro… don’t even get me started on this thing. As much as I like it – and honestly, I really do – it’s not a tablet. It’s not. It’s an ultrabook. At best, it’s a slate computer with a removable keyboard…

THAT’s not a tablet, folks.

That’s a really thin PC with an even thinner keyboard. It runs desktop Windows. It doesn’t run Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile. (and a UWP – Universal Windows Platform – does NOT a unified OS make… Just because the same version of Notepad that runs on desktop Windows will also run on Windows Mobile, doesn’t mean that Windows Mobile and desktop Windows are the same operating system. If they were…the same build would run on any Windows compatible device, regardless of form factor, and that’s simply NOT the case…)

Getting back on track… If I can’t trust Microsoft to not screw up my productivity software or produce an ultrabook that doesn’t have ENDLESS driver problems, or to not totally obliterate a mobile platform that, quite honestly should be ruling the world (because it outlasted Blackberry and had THE most universal mail platform that during 2009 – 2011 simply EVERYONE was using and interoperating with), or to not totally cannibalize and destroy THE single, most prestigious name in mobile handsets on the entire planet, how the H3LL am I – or anyone for that matter – going to trust them NOT to screw up the BEST – and really ONLY – professional networking site on the internet?

I have ZERO confidence in Microsoft when it comes to LinkedIn. I mean… when they integrated Skype into their productivity model, it didn’t screw it up at all, did it…?? It took me years to build and curate the pedigree that is my LinkedIn profile.

Quite honestly, LinkedIn is how I landed my last two jobs. If LinkedIn goes sideways, the entire way people look for jobs and network with coworkers and potential, professional network contacts will need to change. This may sound totally cynical, and it likely is, but I don’t have the time, patience or desire to completely rebuild that wheel; and based on what Microsoft did with Surface Mini, has been doing with Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, Windows Phone, Windows 8.x and Windows 10, I have zero confidence that they will succeed with LinkedIn on their watch.

I think my former coworker, Paul Thurrott said it best, “So let’s see. Microsoft is spending four Nokias for a company that will it treat like Skype. Does that sound like a recipe for success to anyone?”

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