Aereo Pushes Pause

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

aereo

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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Is Surface Pro 3 Microsoft’s Last Chance

…as far as the tablet market is concerned..?  Uh…yeah.

Pro3

I’m a big fan of Windows Weekly on the TWiT NetworkPaul Thurrott is a former co-worker and friend, Mary Jo Foley and I chat every now and again on Twitter.  Leo is also full of awesome-sauce.  He’s done a huge amount of work to advance consumer understanding of the tech world in general… Do they give medals for tech-awesomeness..??  ‘cuz I’m just sayin’…

Anyway, I was listening to episode WW367: Mucho Calibre of Windows Weekly, and about three quarters of the way through the show, the Leo, Mary Jo and Paul begin discussing the immanent, public release of Surface Pro 3, and start talking a little bit about whether or not this is Microsoft’s last real shot at the tablet market (and whether Surface and Windows RT is dead or not…). I have a couple quick things to say about this that I wanted to follow up on before it evaporated.

1. Surface Pro 3’s Last Hurrah?
Um, yeah…  This is the last real chance that the platform has. I love Surface Pro and I’ll be excited to see Surface Pro 3 when it really starts making its way on to local Best Buy, and other retail shelves.  However, no one really knows what Surface Pro wants to be, either. Microsoft has done a lot of work to try to define what that is exactly, but I’m not convinced that the public will connect the dots.

In Microsoft’s eyes, it’s the perfect combo device – tablet and ultrabook.  However, most consumers just think its overpriced and unproven.  While Microsoft may be offering a $650 trade-in for users of MacBook Air’s (making the Surface Pro 3 a $149 dollar device…), a lack of confidence in Windows 8.x and the public’s unfamiliarity with Surface Pro devices, as well as its high price point make the Surface Pro 3 a NEAR non-starter for many.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the hardware is solid. They did a lot to improve the pen and writing experience on the device with Surface Pro 3; but $799 is a lot to pay for a digital notepad (the Surface Pro and Microsoft OneNote are a completely AWESOME combination); but I don’t know many beyond the tech-savvy, executive management type who will actually give Surface Pro 3 a shot…And because Microsoft rebuilt the device from the ground up – different size, form factor, aspect ratio power supply, and pen (just to name a few) – I don’t know how many current Surface Pro/ Surface Pro 2 users you’re going to see upgrading to the latest version of Microsoft’s premier hardware line.  If this one doesn’t generate the kind of following that the MacBook Air enjoys with Mac lovers, I doubt you’re going to see Surface Pro 3 last long (and you won’t see a Surface Pro 4…). I hope Microsoft got it right.

And yes… changes to desktop Windows to make the tablet/ ultrabook even more compelling, while leaving the train wreck that is Windows 8.x behind…will be a must.

2. Is Surface/Windows RT Dead?
Um, yeah…  That ship sailed a while ago.  The fact that its recently been made public that Microsoft killed the Surface Mini just days or weeks before its launch isn’t helping much.  The fact that there’s no real big differentiator between Windows RT and Windows 8.x (aside from where you can buy apps from and which apps will run) isn’t helping matters. RT has a desktop and looks and sorta feels like Windows except when any ModernUI apps run. Microsoft should have killed the desktop entirely on RT, went full ModernUI on RT and really pushed the tablet as a lean-back device.  They didn’t, and the result is a total muddying of the Windows waters. There’s more OS confusion as Microsoft really didn’t draw a line between the two platforms and differentiate them.  No one knows what Surface and WinRT are, and at this point, the public is beyond the point of caring….that and a $900B write-off will not only get ya fired, but it will kill a platform.

Honestly, Microsoft just needs to realize that the only thing left to do is put flowers on the grave.  Windows RT died with Surface RT. They just apparently didn’t know it after the write-off, new CEO and the release of version 2 of the doomed platform.  What were they thinking?? Doesn’t a billion dollar charge kinda say that the public isn’t interested and doesn’t want the platform?

I don’t want to be hard on Microsoft. They need all the cheerleaders they can get right now; but I unfortunately think that Leo, Mary Jo and Paul are wrong on this one.  The Surface Pro 3 will be the last Surface tablet from Microsoft if this one isn’t just something that is “magical,” giving the MacBook Air and/ or an iPad with an awesome keyboard a run for its money.

What do you think?  Do you have a Surface or Surface Pro tablet (of any generation)?  Do you like it?  Do you use it?  Do you think that Microsoft can make a difference with Surface Pro 3..?  or is it all just too late, and everyone is just refusing to see the writing on the wall?  Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below, and give me your thoughts on the subject?  I’d love to know what you think…

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Get a handle of what apps are on your company’s computers with WinAudit

Get a handle of what apps are on your company’s computers with this important Windows app.

WA-01

Networking is the heart of computing today. Most everyone that has a computer has internet access and most everyone with internet access in their home has a home network of some type. Everyone with a home network has computers on it, most likely, a number of computers, depending on the number of people living in the home and what they are doing with those computers. Keeping your PC safe from dodgy programs that are potentially malware ridden is important, and its why I like apps like WinAudit. It’s a security app for Windows networks.

WinAudit identifies the hardware and software installed on Windows based computers. The app identifies every aspect of your computer is examined. After the app examines the computers on your network, it generates an inventory report. The report is displayed as a web page, which can be saved or printed in a number of standard formats.

You can e-mail the inventory report to your technical support staff or even post the report to a database for archiving. When used in conjunction with its command line functionality, you can automate inventory administration at the network level. WinAudit supports the remote desktop and pre-installation environments.

This app is great at what it does, but its not for everyone. Most home networks aren’t going to be as restricted and monitored as a corporate network is. This app would be perfect for small businesses looking to get a handle on what is connected to the network that all of their proprietary data is accessed and stored. The price is certainly right; and if you do decide to use it at home, it will certainly do a good job for you, though at this stage of consumer computing development and use, while EXTREMELY beneficial, its likely overkill.

Download WinAudit

 

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Hands on with early iOS 8 Beta Releases

It shows promise; but it’s REALLY buggy…

Untitled

I’ve been using iOS 8 Beta 1 for the past couple of weeks and I have to say that I like what I see, but it’s so buggy that it’s hard to really evaluate. Items that you thought would be solid – core apps like Mail and Music, for example – are just north of a train wreck. While this is to be expected in a beta release – especially in an early beta release – it does provide a bit of insight on what Apple is doing.

Based on every issue that I’ve bumped into so far, it’s clear to me that Apple is refining and optimizing code. iOS 7 introduced a lot of new interface options and changes to iOS; and it was the first real rearchitecting of Apple’s mobile OS since it was introduced in 2007. By that point, the OS was tired, long in the tooth and in need of a facelift, despite what everyone – me included – said about the redesign. Yes. It was difficult to get used to, but now that I’m used to it, it feels better than the old, skewmorphic look and feel of iOS 6 and earlier.

With iOS 8, Apple is following its old mantra – evolution, not revolution (again, they caused a revolution last time with iOS 7). Most of the changes will be under the hood, and users won’t see them. I can see evidence of this in the fact that apps that are core to what the iPhone does – like Mail, Music…Settings (yes, even Settings) – often force quit or hard reset the device.

I’ve encountered the following bugs in these programs throughout Beta 1. While this isn’t a complete or exhaustive list, these are the ones that keep me up at night…:
Mail won’t let you multi-delete more than three emails at a time. The app force quits.
Music won’t track back one song after it has moved to the next song in a playlist (so you can’t play the last song over again. Once is all you get.)
Songs often recycle quickly in large playlists when Shuffle is selected as the play method
Badge icon counts often do not reflect the correct number of alerts
The phone app ends the call if you try to take a screen shot of an active call
Settings often force quits when trying to work with Bluetooth settings (there are also multiple problems with the Bluetooth stack when it comes to pairing, playing Bluetooth audio and transferring data via BT-LE)

Because there are bugs in these core apps, it’s clear to me that Apple is optimizing core services as well as code in these core apps (to work with the optimized, core services), too. It’s the only explanation that makes sense. There are also a number of third party apps that just refuse to run or run correctly in iOS 8 Beta 1; but that’s also to be expected.

While preparing this article, Apple released iOS 8 Beta 2. I’ve downloaded the new OS, but haven’t had a chance to install it yet. While I’m certain that Apple is working on insuring that users can upgrade with settings and apps in place, it’s clear based on what I found in Beta 1 (I upgraded with apps and settings in place), that it might be a better idea to set up early beta releases of iOS 8 as a new iPhone rather than restoring the device from a backup. Bringing older settings and plist files into the device configuration may be the cause for some of the issues I am experiencing at this time. It’s likely a better idea for me to set it up as a new device between now and the release of Beta 4 (provided Apple drops a Beta 4 version before seeding the Gold Master to its developer partners).

The release documents for Beta 2 indicate that it provides some bug fixes as well as providing other small changes and enhancements, including the QuickType keyboard for iPad. This new release also has a major update to Apple’s Podcasts app. It’s now part of the base OS installation; and like iBooks, also can’t be removed. Apple also added a couple nice changes to Safari for iOS that prevents ads from automatically redirecting users to the App Store without any interaction; and users can now quickly add a site to Shared Links, or save a bookmark by tapping and holding on the Bookmarks button in the browser.

Other bug fixes of note include fixes to the screen brightness slider. It actually works now; and adding third party keyboards won’t force quit Settings like it did in Beta 1. As far as my Bluetooth issues… I’m going to have to wait and see how things go. There wasn’t a lot of information in the Beta 2 release notes related to anything specific that I was bumping into related to Bluetooth. However, Apple is still listing a number of known issues with core Bluetooth services, so I’m not holding my breath. Apple will likely tweak and make changes to the Bluetooth stack throughout the Beta Period. As Pebble and other fitness devices – including Apple’s (still) rumored iWatch – (will) make active use of BT-LE, I would expect fixes, improvements and changes to this key piece of core code throughout the development cycle.

iOS 8 Beta 2 also comes with a number of bug fixes. For example, the new beta release ensures that the screen brightness slider in Settings now actually works, and also prevents crashes when adding a third-party keyboard. I have no idea if Apple did anything to address the poor battery life performance that’s been reported with Beta 1.

However, I would expect Apple to address this – at least in part – in the next Beta release. Apple usually has a two week development cycle with its mobile OS Betas (it was 15 days between the releases of Beta 1 and Beta 2), so I would expect another release before the Independence Day Holiday here in the States on July 4th (but that’s based on past performance, so don’t shoot the messenger, if it doesn’t happen).

I’ll have other reports on iOS and Yosemite as Apple takes us through their Beta and development cycles prior to release of both. Look for updated information on these in the weeks to come. I’ll also have a more formal review of each after the GM version of both is released.

Do you have any questions about iOS 8 (or Yosemite)? Let me know in the discussion section, below and I’ll do my best to answer your questions either in-line or in a separate article.

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Play your multimedia files where and when you want to with MPCStar

Play your multimedia files where and when you want to with this cool Windows app.

MPC-01

Multimedia is a big deal. Apple’s iTunes is a multibillion dollar business. Apple concurred the world because of the iPod and iTunes, so, having the right kind of multimedia player for your computing preferences and experience is important. This is one of the reasons why I like apps like MPCStar. It’s a freeware multimedia app for Windows.

MPCSTAR is an all-in-one multimedia app. It consists of a video player, an audio player and a number of different audio and video codecs, that coupled with its conversion utility will allow you to put your video where you want to play it, in the format that is best suited for it. You can also download content from the internet and play it with MPCStar. The app is user friendly and can play a number of different type of multimedia formats. MPCStar is also free and doesn’t contain any kind of spyware or adware.

MPCStar reminds me of the multimedia players that I used back in the in the Windows 95 and Windows 98 era, though the app works with Windows 2000 to Windows 7. The big things that you won’t see here are mobile device support of ANY kind and the complete and total lack of any kind of a content store. While MPCStar is good at playing your multimedia files, I wouldn’t expect too much out of it in terms of library management. The app really reminds me of WinAmp and other type players with basic album support for cover art and other file tags.

MPCStar also hasn’t been updated in well over three years, so don’t expect any kind of additional support for the app, either. It is the way it is. Its good at what it does; and the interface is really great, but what it does seems stuck in 1998…

Download MPCStar

 

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Get your mail and read important articles with Sylpheed

Get your mail and read important articles with this cool Windows-based email client.

SYL-04

Believe it or not – and despite what other people might say about email dying – its not. In fact, most of what I do every day evolves around my email client both here at home and at the office. The biggest problem with email is finding an app that does what you need it to do without clogging up your computer with a bunch of stuff that you don’t want or don’t need. Its why Sylpheed is a good choice for a Windows mail client and RSS news reader.

Sylpheed is a mail client and news reader that runs on the X Window System. It has a 3-paned display similar to the popular e-mail clients for Windows such as Outlook Express and Becky. In fact, after taking a look at it, that’s exactly what I thought – it looks a lot like Outlook Express. To top it off, its easy to use right out of the box.

The app is very stable. You can have tens of thousands of messages in your inbox. The app protects your data and still functions well regardless of how large your information store is. If something does go south and the app does forcibly quit, you won’t have to worry about the state of your data. It won’t get corrupted.

Its also easy to search for mail with Sylpheed with its filtering engine. You can also refer to messages matching your search criteria by saving the query to a search folder.

If you’re looking for a decent mail and news only app, then this is a decent choice. The app is easy to use and is basically rock solid. If you’re looking for an Outlook replacement, don’t come here, though. The app doesn’t do calendar or to-do’s at all, though it will handle your address book. It also won’t sync with your smartphone.

Download Sylpheed Free

 

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Bring down Wikipedia to your hard drive for offline viewing with Xowa

Bring down Wikipedia to your hard drive for offline viewing with this awesome app.

When I was growing up (I graduated from high school in 1984), my parents had a set of Britannica Encyclopedias THEY used when they were in school circa 1950-blah, blah, blah. Its what I had at home to help me with homework – a 25-30 year old, out dated set of reference books…and it was far better than most anyone else had at home. Google didn’t exist yet. In 1984 when I graduated from high school, Sergey Brin was in the 4th grade. That, my friends… is TOTALLY depressing.

Today, with the advent of Google and other search engines, the world is your oyster. Students today have access to information that I could only dream about back in the day…that is, as long as they’re online. Well, until now. XOWA is a cool Windows app that downloads any Wikimedia wiki to your hard drive for offline use; and unlike my stale set of smelly encyclopedias, can be updated at will.

XOWA is a free application that lets you download Wikipedia and Wikimedia compatible wiki’s to your computer. With it, you can access all of Wikipedia offline, meaning without an internet connection. You effectively rip it to your hard drive and then access Wikipedia via the app.

It works with any Wikimedia wiki, including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikiquote, and Wikivoyage. It also works with other specialized wikis such as Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, or any other MediaWiki generated dump. Also works with any non-English language wiki (French, German, Dutch, etc.) compatible wiki.

When you search or find what you’re looking for, you can search for any page by title using a Wikipedia-like search box, browse pages by alphabetical order using special:allpages, or find a word on a page. You can also access a history of viewed pages and bookmark your favorite pages.

This application is really cool. Its something that every high school and especially college student should have, especially if you have a laptop, have to do some kind of a research paper and know you’re going to be some place that doesn’t have Wi-Fi (and you don’t have mobile broadband to burn – which is a very common state, especially among students here in the States).

With XOWA, you surf, download, storage and go. The app will even store data on a storage card or thumb drive, so you don’t have to eat up precious hard drive space. The app is also VERY difficult for first time users to get set up. You have to do a LOT of reading of instructions in order to actually get the app to rip something to your hard drive. Don’t expect to be able to flip a switch and start using it out of the box. Its going to take a bit of work to get going.

XOWA-01

 

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