The Day the Internet Died

In an expected 3-2 party line vote, the FCC has voted to end Net Neutrality…

Well, this was disappointing; but not unexpected…

Today, the United States Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 along party lines to repeal the Obama-era internet regulations aimed at insuring that the internet didn’t have pay to access lanes for consumer oriented content. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai cast the landmark tying breaking vote, providing ISP’s like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon the power to control what content consumers can access.

Many different groups, including Democrats, many movie studios and companies like Google owner Alphabet and Facebook had urged the FCC to keep the content neutral rules barring service providers from blocking or slowing access to content. Pai is a Republican, appointed by President Donald Trump.

Consumer advocates and trade groups representing content providers have planned to launch a legal challenge, aimed at preserving those rules. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, said in a statement he will lead a multi-state lawsuit to challenge the reversal. He called the vote “a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet.” ‘

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, also a Democrat, said prior to the vote that Republicans were “handing the keys to the Internet” to a “handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has argued that the 2015 rules were heavy handed, stifled competition and [limited] innovation among service providers, “The internet wasn’t broken in 2015. We weren’t living in a digital dystopia. To the contrary, the internet is perhaps the one thing in American society we can all agree has been a stunning success,” he said on Thursday.

The problem that he is refusing to lend credibility to, however, is that service providers like AT&T, Comcast (Xfinity) and Verizon have CLEARLY indicated, that they want consumers to use THEIR content networks and will institute pay for performance (speed) premiums against competing services like Netflix and Hulu (as well as others). Those premiums will ultimately be passed down to individual consumers and users.

Internet access with speeds suitable for streaming and general computing and browsing at the same time for many is already very expensive. With the focus shifting to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and to streaming boxes like AppleTV and Roku, or an Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, having affordable, non-taxed, high speed bandwidth available is probably one of the more important services you have coming into your home today.

That service is going to provide all of your TV service in the near future, if not now (if you’ve cut the cord). Its very clear to me that having an ISP free of neutrality restrictions is going to lead to additional charges and fees being passed on to the consumer.
At the end of the day – and this is very frustrating – no one has any idea yet of just what and how the removal of the Obama-era Net Neutrality rules will mean to consumer delivered ISP and consumer content services. However, its at least understood that there are likely fees and surcharges coming in a play to “play” scenario that is expected to be passed on to the end user.

Its this anticipated pay to “play” tax that most are concerned with, especially end users. Its clear that ISP’s like Comcast, who owns NBC and its related assets may give preferential bandwidth to their own content and make competitors like Netflix and Applet pay a surcharge or tax to insure that their services stream with the same bandwidth priority over Comcast’s backbone. This is where most of the consumer concern comes from.

What do you think is going to happen with Net Neutrality? Is the removal of the 2015 Obama-era rules a problem? Did they restrict competition or protect consumer interests? Is the internet freer now than it was before, or is the internet just more expensive to use now? Do you believe that the larger regional or national ISP’s will take advantage of this new development and begin charging clients surcharges or fees for accessing competing or different streaming services other than the ones they already partner with or are different from their own offerings?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts?

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Apple Releases watchOS 3.1.1

The latest release has a number of different fixes…

On 2016-12-12 the day proved to be very busy for Apple’s software release department. They released a number of different updates for their mobile platforms including wearables. watchOS 3.1.1 was released to the public with a number of different fixes.

The update included improvements and bug fixes for the following, more notable items:

  • Fixes an issue that could prevent contact names from appearing in the Messages app and notifications
  • Fixes an issue that could impact ability to respond to notifications
  • Resolves an issue where the Stocks complication may not update on the watch face
  • Fixes an issue that may prevent the Activity rings from displaying on the Activity watch faces
  • Fixes an issue that prevented the dials on an analog watch face from appearing after changing the temperature unit in the Weather app
  • Resolves an issue that could cause the Maps app to stay launched after navigation has ended
  • Resolves an issue where the incorrect date could be displayed in the Calendar app month view

Apple’s watchOS is the platform for their industry leading wearable, the Apple Watch. Version 3.x has significant improvements over versions 1 and 2; and is significantly faster, even on Apple’s original Apple Watch, affectionately dubbed, “Series 0” by many tech industry pundits, including myself.

Apple also released iOS 10.2 and tvOS 10.1 to the public today. Common to both of these platforms is Apple’s new TV app that allows users to search and watch TV shows. The app includes Siri integration so you can control the app with voice commands.

However, don’t look to use the TV app with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The app currently isn’t on speaking terms with those popular services yet. Whether or not that will actually happen remains to be seen, but you never know…

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IPhone 7 Rumor Roundup

Apple intends to announce the next generation iPhone at an event on 2016-09-07…

iphone 7

I’ve been doing this for several years now – Apple prognostication, I mean. I must say… I mostly suck at it.

In fact, most everyone does. Well, except for Ming Chi Kuo. He’s an analyst for KGI Securities and he has the best record for predicting what Apple will actually introduce; and even HE isn’t infallible. So, take everything you read about what Apple will actually introduce – including what I’ve included here – with a grain of salt…

So, as I said, Apple is likely to announce iPhone 7 (or whatever they decide to call it…) on 2016-09-07. For the last two years, we’ve gotten two different size iPhones: the 4.7 inch iPhone 6/6s and the 5.5 inch iPhone 6/ 6s Plus. Everyone, Kuo included, is expecting that to continue with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

Given this, the follow are the most commonly rumored and agreed upon new features by anyone that’s attempted even basic iDevice prognostication:

  • Increased screen resolutions
    • 1920×1080 (1080p) for the 4.7-inch and
    • 2560×1440 (2K) for the 5.5-inch.
  • DCI-P3 wide color gamut with True Tone support. (OLED??)
  • 3GB of memory
  • 32GB of entry level storage, 256GB max storage, likely on the 5.5 inch Plus model
  • Apple A10 system-on-a-chip
  • Increased water resistance.
  • Dual-lens camera for better low-light and depth-of-field. (Plus only)
  • Space blue color option
  • Gloss black color option
  • Additional Stereo speaker (and removed 3.5mm headphone jack, despite what Woz wants)

There may also be other iDevice announcements at the September 7th event, but honestly, I – and I think most everyone – is most interested and concerned with what happens with the iPhone. However, you can expect updates on iPhone as well as AppleTV, Apple Watch and iPad.

I’ll likely have something on the event after its concluded, reviewing everything that Apple is planning on doing. Stay tuned…!

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Convert your DVD’s to any video format with TDMore DVD Converter

Convert your DVD’s to any video format with this handy Windows tool.
TDMDVD-11

I don’t know about you, but I have an absolutely HUGE DVD collection.  I’ve got DVD’s. I’ve got Blu-rays.  I’ve got movies coming out of my ears…and I absolutely love them all. All of them; but I have a huge problem. I’m running out of physical storage space for all of them.  Literally.  I’m really struggling to find a place to store even one more physical jewel case. Its probably for this reason alone that I really love applications like TDMore DVD Converter..  It’s a DVD converter for Windows, and if it can help me…it can help you, too.

TDMore DVD Converter is a versatile DVD converter and ripper that helps users quickly and efficiently convert DVD’s.  With it, you can convert DVDs to MP4, MKV, WMV, FLV, AVI, VOB, TS among other video formats.  You can also convert 2D to 3D video in MP4, MKV, WMV, TS, AVI formats.  If you’re into the audio tracks, you can convert your DVD’s to MP3, WAV, AAC, FLAC, M4A as well as other audio formats.

The app uses some pretty advanced compression power to get the job done. It uses H.265 HEVC.  That gives it the ability to shrink both audio and video down to about 50% of its actual size without losing any quality during playback.  That means that the files should work very nicely on your smartphone, tablet, or anywhere else you have a finite amount of non-upgradable storage (like many of the more popular ultrabooks and other notebooks on the market today as well).  Speaking of working with today’s popular hardware, the app has integrated NVIDIA’s CUDA and Intel’s Quick Sync technologies to dramatically reduce conversion times without skimping on playback quality.

The new version of TDMore DVD Converter can provide amazing functions as other popular software with the most reasonable price. For more information, please visit official website.

TDMore DVD Converter is a decent app. Its easy to use and has supports some really cool technology built into it that allows it to create some really small video conversions.  The big problem with this app, however, is its non-standard user interface.  The problem here is PC based performance after the conversion starts.

The app does all right with its own functionality.  The PC does ok on its own, but not every PC will handle multi-tasks ok.  Now, that’s not necessarily a specific problem with THIS app on mid-range to high-end PC, but on low-end or budget based PC’s, it may be; AND the non-standard app graphical interface doesn’t help.

TDMore DVD Converter does a really great job converting movies. On my PC, it was fast and quick and PC performance didn’t tank; but then again, I have a quad-core i7 processor with 16GB of RAM. Other PC’s may not fare as well as mine; but the end result on the ripped movie will be really great.

Download

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Aereo – The Fat Lady has Sung

Aereo notifies customers of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Atlanta-Aereo

Over the past year, it’s been quite a ride for the little startup company that would. Aereo has been through a lot. Their past three years have been an interesting go – alternative TV watching with a rented antenna, a cloud based DVR… allowing you to watch all of your stuff over the internet from nearly anywhere in the world.

The world… LOVED the idea.

Networks and cable companies… totally HATED the idea.

They wanted a cut of Aereo’s business and took them to court to get it. In late June of this year, it was determined that Aereo DID infringe on the copyrights of broadcast and content owners.

That was a huge setback for them; and they didn’t have a “Plan B” to fall back on at the time. As such, after the SCotUS basically killed their business model, Aereo halted operations and took a brief “pause.”

Today, 2014-11-21, Chet Kanojia, Aereo’s CEO, sent a letter to their customers and supporters. The letter informs every one of the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization filing.

“…Accordingly, today, we filed for Chapter 11 reorganization proceedings. We also appointed Lawton Bloom of Argus to serve as Aereo’s Chief Restructuring Officer during this period.

Chapter 11 will permit Aereo to maximize the value of its business and assets without the extensive cost and distraction of defending drawn out litigation in several courts.”

The full letter to customers and supporters can be seen here at what’s left of Aereo’s home page.

Now, what they actually plan to reorganize into…? Nobody knows yet. Not a clue. The fact that they are filing for Chapter 11 (reorganization) though and not Chapter 7 (liquidation) says that they might have an idea of SOMETHING to build a business around. However, based on the court findings I wrote about earlier this year (links, again, are above…) I wouldn’t expect it to look ANYTHING like their “current” business model.

Since the SCotUS classified them as a cable company, basically requiring them to pay rebroadcasting fees to networks and other content providers, their business model of working within the current confines of US copyright law have been quashed. Aereo didn’t want to have to pay the rebroadcasting fees because they are steep and prohibitive to the model they were trying to put in place. While their model SEEMED to work within the law, the SCotUS disagreed and the rest is history.

IF Aereo has worked out a deal with the networks and other content providers, I’d be interested to know what it might be… However, if you’re looking for something quick, cool, fast, and above all…cheap, I wouldn’t count on it… and you can totally forget the cloud based DVR thing, too. Yeah. that ain’t NEVER gonna happen…

Is Aereo something you’re interested in? Are the issues of Aereo’s case of interest to you? Were you a customer of theirs? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue and this development. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below and give me your thoughts?

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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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Aereo Infringes Copyright – UPDATED

OK..!   Time for Plan B… What?   There is no Plan B..??

Aereo_logoWell crap!

Without a Plan B, Aereo cofounder Chet Kanojia had previously stated in April 2014 that without support of their business model by the Supreme Court, they would have to shut down.   Unfortunately for cord cutter’s everywhere (me included…) this is a horrible development not only for Aereo, but for American consumers everywhere.

What Aereo did was simple – it provided a small digital antenna for a customer to rent in their home city.   Aereo then transmitted the video received by that antenna over the internet for that consumer. Said consumer was able to view that video over the internet. The consumer could be physically in their home city, or they could be anywhere on the planet (provided they had an internet connection and the means to view the video signal).

Major networks filed suit against Aereo because this violated their business model of broadcasting television content to their viewers. They were also completely cut out of the revenue model; and cable companies and the networks that broadcast over them are desperately hungry for that revenue (so, now you know why the networks and cable companies sued them in court).

The Supreme Court’s split decision (6-3 in favor of the current copyright holders, or the networks) held that “Aereo’s customers constitute ‘the public,’ and that retransmitting television networks’ copyrighted material goes against their exclusive right to perform their works publicly as the holders of the copyright.” Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion.

According to that opinion, “We must decide whether respondent Aereo, Inc., infringes this exclusive right by selling its subscribers a technologically complex service that allows them to watch television programs over the Internet at about the same time as the programs are broadcast over the air,” the opinion reads. “We conclude that it does.”

In my opinion, the Court got it WAY wrong.   Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito got it right. Justice Scalia wrote the dissenting opinion, indicating that, [The networks failed to prove that Aereo’s product constitutes a performance] “at the very outset because Aereo does not “perform” at all.   The Court manages to reach the opposite conclusion only by disregarding widely accepted rules for service-provider liability and adopting in their place an improvised standard (“looks-like-cable-TV”) that will sow confusion for years to come.”

So yeah… those three DO get it. And with a 6-3 split, it’s clear that not everyone misunderstood not only the technology involved, but the business models that both sides employ to conduct business. I’m very disappointed in the results.

What about you?   Will the results of today’s decision effect you? Are you an Aereo customer? How do you feel about the Supreme Court’s decision?   Did they get it right?   Does Aereo’s product constitute a “performance” as legally defined by copyright law?   What do you think should have happened?   Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and give me your opinion?

UPDATE:
Since writing this column early the morning that the decision was announced (2014-06-25), Aereo has released the following statement.   I’ve read it a couple of times, but I’m not entirely certain HOW the company intends to “fight on” as they state in their posting to the public. Perhaps they will modify the way the system works. Perhaps they will work with the networks to somehow provide them with a percentage of their revenue stream.   (Perhaps I’ll win the lottery tonight and it won’t matter…)

In the end, I do believe this is a huge setback for the American consumer.   I will be monitoring this story and will report on any materially interesting updates that become available.

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Lessons Learned by a Would be Cord Cutter

Ya know… Getting rid of your cable or satellite subscriptions ain’t as easy as you might think. This is what I’ve learned so far…

 

Introduction

I recently got a new job in a different state. While we wait for the housing market to improve a bit before we sell the house, I’ve got long term, temporary housing set up. In an attempt to manage costs, I’ve decided to forgo with a local cable TV subscription and have decided to become a cord cutter. Internet TV or even getting TV on your computer isn’t as easy as you thought it might be; and I’ve learned some interesting lessons over the past few weeks. I’m going to do my best to cover as many of them as I can.

apple-itv

 

You Still Need a TV

I’ve got a 27″ Thunderbolt Display; and as a computer monitor it’s totally awesome. As a TV, however, it leaves something to be desired. It would be great if the right services were in place to be able to use it as a TV.

iTunes can be controlled with an Apple Remote on every Mac. I’ve also found that my Thunderbolt Display works well from across a small room; and an Apple Remote can perform basic VCR functions as well as control volume levels on my MacBook Pro. This however, is only part of the equation.

However, you can’t “change a channel,” and Apple TV functionality isn’t present on a Mac. Channel surfing really doesn’t exist in this situation. Things like Netflix or Hulu Plus are run in a browser and you need a full blown mouse or some kind of motion control device (like Microsoft Connect) to control your Mac from your couch.

If you have a TV and other accessories (see below) you can still cut the cable, but get the best of both worlds. If the Apple iTV was really a Thunderbolt Display with a built in Apple TV, or if there was a real world way to marry the two together, this would eliminate the need for a TV from the cord cutting equation. Unfortunately, I’m finding that a TV is still a required component.

 

Get a Set Top Box

As I mentioned above, if you REALLY want to have the best “cord free” experience, you’re not only going to need a TV, but you’re going to need a set top box. I’m really talking about an Apple TV, Roku Box, Chromecast dongle or other device that helps you find some traditional network (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) content, cable network (HBO, ShowTime, Cinemax, etc.) content, some specialty content (NFL Network, ESPN, etc.) as well as some streaming services like Netflix and/or Hulu Plus.

While streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus are available via a browser, as I pointed out above, getting a full blown TV experience is difficult without a set top box. It is possible to find traditional network, cable network or specialty content on the web with a web browser; but that often involves a separate fee. The set top box is often licensed by the content owner to play or stream the content without paying an additional licensing fee. It also makes using your streaming service subscription a lot easier, as it consolidates all of your options – including those available on your PC – into a single interface and place. Again, if I could use my Apple TV with my Thunderbolt display, this would solve a big problem for me.

 

Invest in a Really Good Digital Antenna

Services like Aero are really kinda cool. However, Aero isn’t available in all markets, and there really isn’t anything else like it that would allow streaming of local channels over the internet or other network connection. This is a huge problem if you’re a cord cutter and are trying to obtain digital TV services without any kind of cable or satellite TV package.

The obvious thing to do here is to purchase a really strong, really good digital antenna for your TV. While this will insure that you can get local TV programming, the most important thing you have to remember is that even though this is the Digital Age, you’re going to take yourself back to the Golden Age of Television when you do this. In other words, it’s going to be a challenge.

Local TV stations are required by Federal mandate to broadcast their programming over the air so that you can pick them up with a digital antenna. You don’t HAVE to have a cable or satellite TV subscription in order to get these channels, though in many ways, this is the easiest way to insure that

  1. You get the local programming
  2. You’re able to view it all clearly, without reception issues

I’ve used digital antennas before with other digital TV products and I’ve noticed that, like the SD TV’s from the ’50’s to the ’80’s (i.e.: before cable really took hold), a lot of antenna adjusting may be required based on your geographical and topographical location (where you are and the shape of the geography around you). The best thing you can do is to insure that the antenna you have is the best you can afford. The stronger that receiver is, the better the quality of the picture you will receive. (You’ll also cut down on the amount of tin foil and forks you’ll need to use to insure that the picture comes in clearly.)

 

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