Aereo – No, Really… We’re a Cable Company

In an interesting turn of events, Aereo has decided to, “go with it.”

I’ve been doing a lot of yacking about Aereo over the past few months.  The SCOTUS recently ruled that the company violated broadcaster copyright ownership when it rebroadcast antenna captured OTA signals over the internet, without the appropriate license.  Then the company pushed pause for a bit while it huddled and decided on its next steps.

TV on the Internet

They’ve made a decision. They’ve decided to embrace the ruling.

Wait…!  What?!

Yep. They’ve decided to embrace the ruling.

One of the options that many technologists – myself included – have suggested for Aereo was to pay for a compulsory license.  The only way they would qualify for something like that would be to categorize themselves as a cable company.  Doing so would qualify them to take part in a royalty system setup in the Copyright Act of 1976 that allows cable systems to retransmit copyrighted programming by paying royalty fees with the Licensing Division of the US Copyright Office.  Aereo can pay the fees and won’t need the approval of any broadcasters in order to restart operations.  They basically drop the “FRAND-styled” payment off and crank ‘er up again.

Specifically, Aereo is arguing that

“if [we are] a ‘cable system’ as that term is defined in the Copyright Act, it is eligible for a statutory license, and its transmissions may not be enjoined.”  It’s a compelling argument as, that’s what the type of company the SCOTUS said Aereo was in its original ruling in June 2014.  Aereo added that it’s already begun filing the necessary paperwork to begin paying the royalties in its response to the Second Circuit Court.

The broadcasters involved in the case are, well, in a word – flabbergasted.  In their opinion, Aereo is “astonishing in its presumption” that the SCOTUS transformed them into a cable company, especially since they’ve been arguing from the get-go that they are not.

It’s up to the Second Circuit Court to decide whether to issue an order for Aereo to totally cease operations or allow them to continue operating during the pending trial.

Aereo’s main argument is that the broadcasters can’t have it both ways.  If Aereo’s business model classifies it as a cable company as defined by the SCOTUS ruling and the Copyright Act of 1976, then they should be entitled to the compulsory license under the Act.  It’s clear that the broadcasters don’t want their content pushed over the Internet, and they certainly don’t want it time shifted (via DVR) without a MUCH larger fee from Aereo.  The argument has some legs.  It’s just up to both sides now to make their arguments for or against this new classification.

What do you think?  Is Aereo a cable company?  Should they be closed down during the trial? Should they be eligible for the compulsory license, or should they have to pay a larger royalty to the Broadcasters if they wish to be in business?  Has greed taken the broadcasters too far; or are they entitled to more money? If so, why?  Why don’t you let me know in the comments section, below and tell me what you think?

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Keep your PC’s hardware working to the best of its ability with Smart Driver Updater

Keep your PC’s hardware working to the best of its ability with this important Windows utility.

SDU-01

One of the most important parts of any operating system as the drivers for each component under the hood or connected to your computer.  Having really good drivers can mean the difference between your PC running well, your performance tanking or not being to use either an accessory or peripheral or the entire PC.  This is especially important with newer operating systems, as updates to drivers can come, literally, all the time.  At that point, versioning can become an issue as app and driver installers are notorious for leaving artifacts behind and in some cases, drivers can even become outdated. This is why I really like Smart Driver Updater.  It helps you find and keep the best drivers for your Windows PC, up to date.

Just because a file is a driver file, doesn’t mean that it’s excluded from errors and other kinds of file corruptions that happen to other Windows components.  As peripherals and accessories move through their life cycle, drivers get updated and your copies can become out dated, quickly; and you often won’t know if that happens. Most computer connected devices don’t have auto-updaters.

Sometimes, installation processes can go sideways and an update gets applied incorrectly.  Or sometimes OTHER drivers get updated, and that update effects the performance of another peripheral or accessory because they share some kind of soft-component…  When something like this happens, it can take one, the other or both drivers – and devices – down.

Provided that the device or accessory isn’t damaged, all you likely need to do is update the actual driver file(s) for any related accessories and you’re back in business. Unfortunately, trying manually track this stuff down can be a HUGE headache. I know from firsthand experience. It can be a nightmare, especially if you’re trying to update drivers for more than one device at a time. This is where Smart Driver Updater comes to your rescue.

Smart Driver Updater has a database of over 600,000 drivers. The app’s database is constantly updated and edited to make sure that the best driver updates are available. With Smart Driver Updater, you’ll always have the latest driver updates available to you.

Having a Windows PC – especially for someone like me who is constantly testing both software and hardware – means that you’re always only a few months away from a complete tear down and rebuild of your PC.  If you ever have to nuke the hard drive and start from scratch, getting right back where you were with all of your drivers is very easy with Smart Driver Updater. It backs up all of your drivers to a zip file that is easily exported, giving you a quick, easy way to get back to where you were.

Smart Driver Updater isn’t the kind of application that has a lot of bells and whistles. It’s no nonsense, pragmatic approach to keeping your computer’s and peripheral’s drivers updated and current isn’t going to be the application that you ache to run every time you boot up your PC… That is, until it saves your bacon.  Then, you’re probably not going to want to run your computer without it.

The app’s Scheduler gives you standard “set it and forget it” functionality. Once activated, the app will scan your drivers at startup or at a day and time during the week or month and tell you what needs updating.  Putting that in place should be part of EVERY Windows PC’s boot process so that your PC is always running at peak performance.

 

Download Smart Driver Updater

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The Next Item Up for Bids

Eddy Cue Apple SVP is offering a one hour lunch AND a 13″ MacBook Air and it’ll likely only cost you a couple hundred grand…

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Following Tim Cook’s lead, Apple SVP Eddy Cue has decided to offer an hour long sit down with anyone as well as a 13″ MacBook Air – valued at $1199 – to the highest bidder.

This “Fortune 500 Charity Dunk Tank” is a GREAT idea. The MB Air chaser is an awesome idea, as the winner not only walks away with a dozen or so selfies with Cue, but a 13″ MacBook Air as well. I’m certain that if you bring a Sharpie, you could get Cue to autograph the case, and/ or the box, as well.

Tim Cook’s last time out brought nearly $1.0M in a direct donation to the RFL Center for Justice and Human Rights, as that was his choice for the destination of the winning bid. This time, like Tim, Eddy will host up to two guests after they have both passed a security screen. Depending on schedules, you may have to wait up to one year before you get the sit-down; and Apple doesn’t cover travel or lodging. Honestly, if you’re going to be able to afford this, travel and lodging probably aren’t high on your worry list, though.

This is the one thing that bothers me the most about something like this. There’s NO WAY the little guy has a chance in the Hot Place to win this kind of thing. It’s clear to me that the bids for this auction will soar, like Tim’s did. For example, as of this writing, bids were currently up beyond $10,500. The whole sha-bang is valued at $10k, so it’s already reached saturation. Bidding started at $1000; and has quickly climbed to the current $10,500 over the past couple of days. Bidding started on 2014-06-20. The auction closes at 2:20p EDT on 2014-07-16.

These high bids are good for the charity; but as I said, the little guy doesn’t have a chance at scoring the sit down. And while I get it – it IS for charity, after all – it would be really great if something like this could also be around for the little guy.

I know, I know… and yes, it is a bit of sour grapes on my part, I freely admit it. I need a little cheese with this whine; but it WOULD be cool to have the sit down, don’t you think? I have a ton of questions I’d like to ask, and I’m certain that with YOUR help, I could come up with one HECK of a list, especially with up to a year’s lead time. After the general, “whaddaya wanna do?” stuff ends, I’d have all kinds of questions about internal development processes, challenges, product development processes, testing and prototyping processes, NONE of which, I’m certain Cue would (be willing to) answer. Still, it would be awesome to go to the campus and have the meeting.

If you won, what would you ask Apple SVP Eddy Cue? What charity would you like to see the winning bid go to? What charity would you donate to, if you won? Whom would you bring with you; or would you go alone? Why don’t you join me in the Discussion Area below, and let me know. If you’re gonna dream… dream big!

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Secure your PC with Privazer

Secure your PC with this must have Windows utility.

PZ-01

Keeping your PC safe while you use it is probably the most important thing you can do while actually using the device. Unfortunately, its one of the hardest things to do. Simply going online opens you up to all kinds of attacks, malware hacks and other nasty bugs and viruses. That’s why having an app like Privazer is so very important. It’s a Windows security utility, and its worth a bit of a look.

Privazer cleans your PC in-depth and removes unwanted traces of your activities at home or at work. You can see what can be recovered of your past activities and securely clean traces to get a PC Privazer cleans your PC and your external devices. Privazer is a smart cleaning tool that helps you master your security and freedom, free up disk space and keep your PC fit and secure.

With simply one click, Privazer is able to clean securely your browsing history and files, your registry, RAM, virtual memory file and hibernation file. It will also clean IM tracks of your computer as well. With the use of such apps (browsers, key system files and IM clients) nearly universal, this is something that everyone can benefit from.

Most security apps can do all of this. Its really nothing to write home about. However, what really makes Privazer valuable is its ability to scan the contents of your drive’s free space to see what data fragments have been left behind in what was once previously used space. The app will intelligently scan this space and can remove data traces that need to be reset to “0.” Performance of the app improves over time

Privazer is a great application that handles some very important, very complicated tasks. Having a tool like Privazer is something that every PC owner needs. The price is free and the risks of using are non-existent. If you don’t have a tool like this, then you need to give it a try. You likely will not be disappointed.

Download Privazer

 

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Would I be a Mac, if…?

It’s a great box and I love it, but…

For those of you that know me, you know that my love affair with the Apple ecosystem is very recent. I’ve been a Windows advocate most of my computing career.  In fact, most of my computing chops were earned in the Microsoft ecosystem – Windows, WindowsCE, PocketPC/ PocketPC Phone/ Windows Mobile and Windows Phone. I am still listed as a Sr. Content Editor for WUGNET, the Windows User’s Group Network and have been associated with them since 1997. For example, most of contents of their Windows and Computing Tips database are my work.

There’s been a bit of talk in the tech world about some changes Apple is making. Recently, Apple announced a decision to kill both Aperture and iPhoto. Jason Perlow over at ZDNet wrote a column about it.  It got me thinking about my own Mac journey.

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I bought my first Mac in 2006; and believe it or not, I bought it to be a Windows machine.  Boot Camp is a GREAT tool; and Intel-based Macs do a great job of running Windows (though I know Steve Jobs can hear me, and is definitely rolling over in his grave as I type this.)  I apologize, Mr. Jobs; but your hardware, IS the best in the business. Period…AND they make awesome Windows PC’s.

Since 2006, I’ve owned 3 different MacBook Pro’s or Unibody MacBooks.  However, it wasn’t until late 2010/ early 2011 that I made the complete switch over from Windows to OS X. This happened for a number of reasons.

1. I Invested in the Mac Ecosystem
It’s gotten better over time, but even though iPods were Windows compatible, they REALLY didn’t want to live there.  The differences in their operation were subtle – and still are – but if you have a chance to have an iPod or an iPhone pair up with a Mac, you will see they are much happier speaking their own language with their own people than they are living as an exile in a foreign country. In other words – you iDevice wants to pair up with an iTunes library on a Mac rather than on a Windows box. It’s easier to manage. It’s easier to sync content to, though that may not be as obvious today as it was back between 2004 to 2010.

It was also about this time, that I started buying more audio and video directly out of the iTunes Store rather than buying CD’s and ripping them myself.  As I began doing this, I decided to move my music library from the Windows side to the Mac side of my MBP. Since I knew that my iDevice life would be a better experience as a native Mac device AND I had a Mac to do this with, it simply made sense to move everything to the Mac side.
2. I Became Lazy
I don’t want to say that I made the permanent switch to OS X from Windows because I got tired of stopping and starting my PC when I wanted to watch a movie or sync my iPod/ iPhone; but stopping what I was doing and trying to quickly swap over was becoming a bit of a pain.  There wasn’t a real good way to reading or writing to an HSF or HSF+ volume from the Windows side of things, though you could at least read from an NTFS volume via OS X, natively at the time.

My biggest problem at the time was Office for Mac 2008 – it stunk. Period.  Word, Excel and PowerPoint were DEFINITELY behind in both technology and functionality with their counterparts from both Office 2007 and 2010. As I was (primarily) a Windows tech journalist/blogger at the time, and all of the GOOD tools that I was used to using were on the Windows end of things, it made sense to stay there, despite the fact that I had a Mac.

The other big problem I had was that despite how much I tried, despite how much I upgraded my Mac(s), running Windows as a VM with either Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion was a horrible experience.  The only way you could get good performance was to run Windows via Boot Camp, and that meant bopping back and forth between the two operating systems. Running Parallels or VMWare was painfully slow, and threw a boat anchor around the host OS, too.  So, I stayed a Mac owner running native Windows.  However, it was becoming clear that if things ever did improve, or if I ever did get a Mac that could run Windows in a VM with decent performance, I’d make the switch.

It was in late 2010 that Office for Mac 2011 became available and I jumped on early betas thanks to my TechNet subscription. It was also during this time that I was able to purchase an Early 2011 15″ MBP that had decent enough specs to push Windows as a VM via Parallels Desktop that it made sense to make the full switch over to OS X.  I’ve been a full-blown Mac ever since.  However, I do want to make one very important point.

I’m not made of money.  I love the Mac ecosystem; but the price of entry is WAY too high for the average consumer, in my opinion. While it may be easier to get there with iPhone and iPad, buying a Mac laptop or desktop costs a LOT of coin, and honestly, I wouldn’t own a Mac computer if I wasn’t a technology journalist.

Since I can VERY EASILY run OS X natively and Windows (as well as any variant of Linux) in a VM with decent performance thanks in no small part to Intel’s i7 processor and 16GB of RAM it makes sense for me to stay here. Running a VM of OS X or Linux on a PC hasn’t always been easy, and I gave up on tweaking and pushing hardware to do things they REALLY don’t wanna do (even though they should be able to) a few years ago. It’s just not worth the hassle, and I have better things to do with my time.

However, Jason Perlow brings up a very good point in his Aperture/iPhoto argument – would I be a Mac for any other reason?  Jason’s pull was digital photography. Mine was the need to easily run more than one computing OS at a time without having to reboot OR having to put up with crappy performance so I could write about apps, hardware, accessories, etc. used with those operating systems.  I was forced recently to admit – and rightly so – that if I weren’t getting paid to do that, I wouldn’t have purchased a Mac in 2006 in the first place.

It’s true. I really like my Mac, OS X and the way all of my iDevices work and integrate so well in their native environments and operating systems.  While it isn’t as “just works” as it used to be, owning and using a Mac is still a lot more elegant than anything that I’ve seen on the PC side.

Are you a Mac?  Have any of the recently announced changes to the Apple ecosystem turned you off to the Mac?  Why don’t you let me know your thoughts in the discussion area, below? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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Smartphone 101 – Receiving a Call

There are a couple-three different scenarios here, believe it or not. Some or all of them may present you with different screens and buttons when they occur.

  • Receiving a Call with the Phone in Standby/ Screen Locked
  • Receiving a call while using the Phone/ Screen Unlocked
  • Receiving a call while on Another Call (Did you know your Phone (likely) has Call Waiting, free of charge?)

Receiving a Call with the Phone in Standby/ Screen Locked

This is probably the most common scenario, unless you’re on your phone, literally, all the time.   Let’s assume that your smartphone is charged, and on a desk, or in a bag

    1. From a screen off position, your phone rings.
      RECV-ios-01 RECV-and-01 RECV-WP-01
      iOS Android Windows Phone
    2. Unlock the phone and answer the call. For iOS, slide the bar to the right. For Android, tap the green call button. For Windows Phone, slide the screen up.
      RECV-ios-01 RECV-and-02 RECV-WP-02
      iOS Android Windows Phone
  1. Conduct your call.
    RECV-ios-02 RECV-and-03 RECV-WP-03
    iOS Android Windows Phone
  2. When you’re done, press the End Call button to terminate the call.
RECV-ios-02 RECV-and-04 RECV-WP-03
iOS Android Windows Phone

 

Receiving a Call while the Device is in Use

This is probably the next most common scenario.   Let’s assume that your smartphone is charged, on and you’re using an app.

 

    1. While the phone is in use, you receive a phone call.
      USE-ios-01 RECV-and-01 RECV-WP-01
      iOS Android Windows Phone
    2. Answer the call. For iOS, tap the green call button. For Android, tap the green call button. For Windows Phone, tap the blue answer button.
      USE-ios-01 RECV-and-02 USE-WP-02
      iOS Android Windows Phone

 

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Aereo Pushes Pause

After the latest from the SCOTUS, Aereo is taking a step back…

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The SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) has been on a roll lately, and it seems they’ve rolled right over Aereo in a sweeping decision that has all but shut down the little startup that would.  While I’m not an Aereo subscriber, the company has sent out a second update to its users.  The company has decided to “pause.”

In his short update to Aereo’s customers, Aereo CEO and Founder Chet Kanojia let’s everyone know exactly what the company is looking to do in the coming days.  They’re pausing operations as of 11:30am ET Saturday 2014-06-28.

“As a result of that decision, our case has been returned to the lower Court. We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps… All of our users will be refunded their last paid month. If you have questions about your account, please email support@aereo.com or tweet us @AereoSupport.”

At this point, as I understand things, Aereo has three options:
1. Cease total operations and close down
While this would be the most disappointing of all the options available to Aereo at this point, it seems like this is the most likely outcome. Their case has been returned to the lower Court and the decision that was originally found in their favor has been overturned.  The trial, if it goes forward, is still on, but with the Supreme Court having indicated that Aereo is effectively a cable company (as defined by Congress, in 1976, I think…) Aereo has said that they would close their doors rather than take either action 2 or 3, below.
2. Change their technology so they do not infringe copyright laws
I have no idea exactly WHAT this would entail, but it MAY be possible for Aereo to change what they’re doing so that they don’t infringe on the copyright owner’s performance.  I had heard on TWiT that some experts had explained that there’s NO WAY a dime-sized antenna could be pulling in any kind of OTA TV signal and that what was likely happening was that each antenna was instead part of an array that pulled in the appropriate signal(s) in each broadcast area. As such, this is where you get the 1976 cable company (think: regional, shared or community antenna) comparison.
3. Try to strike a deal with the Networks and Pay a Rebroadcast Fee
All of the hullaballoo could be over tomorrow if Aereo agreed to pay a rebroadcasting fee.   It’s unlikely that that will happen, however, as Aereo went to great pains to construct their product and business model around what they believed to be loopholes in the law.  While not illegal by any means (EVERY corporation does that with the tax laws of EVERY government they do business with, world-wide), they did get shot down.  As they went to such great lengths to avoid having to pay ANY kind of rebroadcasting fee, it’s unlikely that Aereo will agree to pay the fees on behalf of their customers (with them likely passing that fee on to each customer…). However, this would make everything legal, and wouldn’t require Aereo to do anything to their technology or their product(s).

At this point, it’s all on hold as Aereo circles the proverbial airport and tries to figure out how to move forward.  What I think is funny is that Aereo in their current incarnation represents what the consumer wants and how many see the future of television.  Nearly all video is going to go from OTA to OTI (over the internet) in 5 to 15 years.

I think Comcast sees this as fact, as they have been steadily raising the price of their Internet service over the past few years in order to combat lost or declining television package revenue.  Most consumers would love to purchase individual channel broadcasts or services – i.e. an a la cart service – instead of having networks or specific channels bundled with channels and services they will never use.  They’d also rather push it over the internet to a connected TV, computer, mobile device or other set top box so they could watch what they want, where they want, when they want.

The issue is without a doubt, complicated.  I actually think very few people in this country know what the TRUE right and wrong answers are to these legal questions, based on the current state of all relevant US legislation.  In the end, I think it’s all going to boil down to who gets paid and how much they get paid; but that’s just me, I guess.  Greed in America is running amok at this point (and I’m a conservative, too….); and I’m not certain where it will all end.

What do you think of all of this?  Are you an Aereo customer? Are you a cord cutter? If you don’t have an Aereo subscription, were you thinking of getting one if and when the product became available in your home city?  Do me a favor and sound off in the comments area, below and tell me what you think. I’d love to hear a confirming or contrasting decision. As I said, this is a confusing and complicated question, and the results of all of this are going to be felt for quite a long time, I think.

 

 Our other article about Aereo Infringes Copyright

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Smartphone 101 – Making a Phone Call

OK… now that we have everything synching between your phone and your email account, let’s figure out exactly how to use it.

If you remember I started this series a few weeks ago and had one article about setting up your email account and address book and then one about synching that data to your smartphone. At this point, any changes or additions you make to either your email account via your computer or on your smartphone, to any of that data, will appear in both places.  It’s really pretty cool.

Integration, remember..? It’s all about integrating your data into the places where you will make the most use of it. That’s what makes your smartphone smart. It puts your data where you want to use it most – meaning your phone – and even anticipates how you want to use it, sometimes.

Your address book can hold listings for friends, family, businesses and the like. You’re likely going to want to call your parents on the weekends, your children’s pediatrician when they’re sick or need a checkup, and your dry cleaners to make sure that your clothes are read to be picked up, among many, many other things.  You may just want to yack your head off with your best friend.  Who knows…

Here’s the best way to do all that in all three major mobile operating systems. There are a couple-three scenarios here.

  • Making a Call

  • Receiving a Call

  • Retrieving Voice Mail

Let’s run through all of them quickly.

Making a Call

There are a few different ways to make a call – you can dial directly, search for a person in your address book or dial from a Favorites – or frequently called numbers – list.  I’m going to try to make this easy and have screenshots from all three operating systems in each section so we only have to do this once. Please note that the instructions here are going to reflect calling numbers here in the United States. If you live in another country, please sub in your country specifics for direct dialing numbers.

Dialing Directly

  1. Open your device’s Phone app and switch to the dialing pad screen

    DD-ios-01 DD-and-01 DD-WP-01
    iOS Android Windows Phone
  2. Dial the 10 digit phone number:  (area code) phone-number and press the (usually green) Phone button on the dialer to initiate the call.

DD-ios-02 DD-and-02 DD-WP-02
iOS Android Windows Phone

Please note – in the US, you do not NEED to dial a “1” in front of the phone number as you do on your land line phone.  While your call will still connect if you do, it’s not required on the cellular network like it is on the land line network. In most cases, unless you’re going to do any regular, international travel, you should NOT store your phone numbers as +1 (area code) phone-number.  Leave the “1” (or “+1″) off unless you DO travel internationally; and then it’s a good idea to have the “+1″ prefix.

    1. Conduct your call.

      DD-ios-04 DD-and-03 DD-WP-03
      iOS Android Windows Phone

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