Verizon Wireless announced this week that it’s confident in its 4G network -- so confident, in fact, that it’s going to start slowly retiring the slower 3G network next year.
If you don’t have a 4G smart phone, don’t worry: Verizon plans to keep the 3G network up and running at least through 2019, although it will slowly begin turning 3G signals into 4G signals in some cities. The company announced in a blog post on Thursday that its 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) network is basically complete -- it now reaches 500 US markets and covers more than 95 percent of the US population. Verizon now turns its attention to making upgrades to the network to try to address speed issues.
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Verizon was the first US provider to roll out a 4G network -- the company began offering service back in 2010 -- but third-party tests say AT&T’s data service is faster as of this year. Scott Moritz at Bloomberg reports that this is mainly due to congestion: Verizon has added customers more quickly than other providers, and all those extra devices suck up the once-plentiful bandwidth.
To remedy that, Verizon is eyeing advanced wireless services (AWS), a slice of spectrum that it acquired last year. AWS isn’t a new network; it’s just a way to improve the existing LTE service so it can handle more customers without becoming congested. Verizon says the improvements, which should take effect by the end of the year, will give its LTE network twice the current capacity and double the speed, at which point it'll be referred to as LTE-Advanced. Samsung has already announced a new version of the Galaxy S4 smart phone that’ll work with LTE-Advanced. The new Galaxy S4 will land in South Korea first, where the LTE network is more mature, before making its way to the US.
Verizon also plans to start deploying “small cells” later this year in densely populated cities. These new towers will relieve congestion in places like New York and San Francisco -- areas where millions of customers are putting strain on LTE networks. Between small cells and the introduction of LTE-Advanced service in parts of the network, Verizon hopes it’ll be able to relieve congestion even as more customers join its network.
It’s worth mentioning that Verizon isn’t the only provider with big plans. The other major cell providers -- AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile -- have promised to turn on LTE-Advanced on their networks in the coming months and years, too.
Do you have 4G service, from Verizon or any other provider, in your area? Is it snappy or sluggish? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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With Windows 8, Microsoft’s aim was to make an operating system that offered more or less the same experience on computers, tablets, and hybrid devices alike -- but many early adopters found the software confusing, since it contained features and design cues that didn’t make sense on all devices. With Windows 8.1, the first major update to the OS, Microsoft is bringing back familiar features that had originally been discarded, while doubling down on the idea that the OS can work equally well on a computer or a tablet.
At the Microsoft Build developer conference this week, chief executive Steve Ballmer said Windows 8.1 is a way for the company to “reblend the desktop and modern experience,” and that the company is responding to many computer users who wanted the new software to incorporate more familiar elements.
The venerable Start button is the most noticeable inclusion in Windows 8.1 -- it doesn’t behave the same way it did in previous versions of Windows, but it does allow users to access the Control Panel and Task Manager, and restart or shut down the device. Windows 8.1 can also boot straight to the desktop, bypassing the Modern UI tiles that make up a big part of the interface. (Those tiles are great if you’re using a touchscreen, but many users complained that they don’t make sense with a keyboard and mouse.)
Microsoft added polish to the more modern parts of Windows 8.1, too. It includes support for high-resolution displays, which means that high-end devices such as Microsoft’s own Surface Pro won’t display tiny text and small buttons anymore. Many of the Windows 8 apps have received updates -- Microsoft redesigned the Mail and Xbox Music programs -- and the OS itself can be made more personal, too. At the conference, Microsoft demoed the ability to show photos on the login screen, add personalized backgrounds, and organize Windows 8 tiles. There’s also a new search: Bing is now responsible for finding files both locally and on the Web, and the interface can collate text, images, audio, and video from different places.
Will Windows 8.1 bring more users into the fold? It might. In spite of Windows 8’s flaws, Microsoft’s overall strategy of creating a consistent experience across different devices is probably sound, especially as more and more touchscreen-enabled laptops and hybrid devices come to market. And those accustomed to older versions of Windows will probably appreciate seeing familiar features carry over. But we don’t know yet whether these sorts of updates -- or Microsoft’s welcomed improvements to its modern interface -- will be enough to sway large numbers of customers, or whether many folks plan to hold on to their Windows 7 computers a little longer.
Windows 8.1 will be a free upgrade for Windows 8 users, Ballmer said, and the company promised to make the software available by the end of the year. In the meantime, you can download a preview version of Windows 8.1 starting on Wednesday.
Microsoft started its retail ground game a little late -- its stores didn’t start popping up until 2009 -- but it’s making up for lost time. On Thursday the software company announced that it’s partnering with Best Buy to open small “Windows Stores” in 600 Best Buys in the US and Canada. The Windows stores will replace the computer sections in those locations, and will have computers and tablets running Windows 8, Windows phones, and Xboxes on display for customers to try.
There may be some extra pressures behind this announcement, however, besides the companies’ desire to showcase Microsoft products. Windows 8, the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system, hasn’t caught on the way the company hoped it would; PC sales were down last quarter by the largest margin ever, according to market-research firm IDC; and Best Buy lost $81 million that same quarter.
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Best Buy has taken a number of steps this year to fight back against competition from online electronics companies. In April, the store started allowing Samsung to open mini-retail stores -- staffed with Samsung employees -- in Best Buy outlets. And it instituted a policy of matching competitors’ prices, in response to consumers’ tendency to use the stores as showrooms (trying out products at Best Buy, then purchasing them more cheaply elsewhere). Now, the company hopes the Windows Stores will help people get more familiar with Windows 8 PCs, ultimately boosting sales.
“We’re pleased to partner with Best Buy in bringing the latest technologies to consumers ... where they can explore how Microsoft products fit together across entertainment, travel, music and other scenarios,” Microsoft executive Tami Reller said in the announcement. The operative words there are “fit together.” There are so many different Windows 8 devices out there that many customers feel bewildered and confused by how the phones, tablets, Ultrabooks, and computers are supposed to complement each other.
Windows Stores will give them a chance to get comfortable with the devices by having some hands-on time. Plus, Microsoft says it’ll give special training to Best Buy employees working in the Windows Stores, so they’ll presumably be well-informed and able to guide customers through a sometimes-confusing landscape of products.
The Windows Stores will roll out between June and September, and will be staffed by a mix of Microsoft employees and over 1,200 Best Buy associates.
Readers, do you do any of your computer shopping at Best Buy? Will the Windows Stores be helpful to you? Let us know in the comments section below.
Apple spent the lion’s share of its keynote address at this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference highlighting the flattened design and new features of iOS 7. But in spite of its mobile focus, the company certainly hasn’t been neglecting the computer market: Apple also unveiled new Macbook Air laptops and OS X 10.9 Mavericks, an update to its desktop operating system.
The biggest change to the new Macbook Air line is the inclusion of Intel “Haswell” CPUs, which have increased power efficiency and built-in graphics processing. The result? Better battery life -- Apple claims an improvement of 4 to 5 hours over previous Airs, and says users can enjoy “all-day” power -- and 40 percent faster graphics. The new Macbook Airs, like their predecessors, will come in 11- and 13-inch sizes and feature non-Retina displays (1366x768 resolution for the smaller model; 1440x900 for the larger). Apple announced that the flash storage in the new models is up to 45 percent faster, and that the machines will be compatible with snappy 802.11ac Wi-Fi networks.
The new Macbook Airs will ship with OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion), but they’ll be upgradeable to 10.9 when it comes out in the fall. The 11-inch model starts at $999 for a 128GB hard drive, while the 13-inch model starts at $1,099 (down $100 from last year) for the same capacity. And both can be upgraded with more storage, more RAM, or a better CPU.
On the software side of things, a non-feline moniker wasn’t the only change in OS X 10.9 Mavericks. Apple also showed off power-saving features, better support for multiple monitors, and a whole host of interface improvements. (It didn’t mention how much Mavericks will cost, though.)
One new feature is the introduction of Finder tabs, which let you bring several windows of files together into one, tabbing between them as you would in a browser. Apple also introduced system-wide file tagging -- you can add multiple tags to any file, and they’ll show up in the Finder sidebar and in the iCloud storage service -- which should help with filing and finding your stuff.
Mavericks also brings some extra iOS functionality to the desktop with automatic background updating for apps, as well as the introduction of Notifications, a feature that allows you to reply to e-mails and Facetime calls from within the notification box at the top of the screen. You’ll also see these notifications when your computer wakes up, much like you would on a phone’s lockscreen. And you’ll be able to receive push notifications, like news alerts, from an iPad or iPhone.
Apple has also made a number of tweaks that improve Mavericks’ power consumption, thereby giving laptop users a little extra battery life. “Timer coalescing” reduces the CPU activity by synchronizing app timers behind the scenes, so the computer isn’t constantly being pulled out of a low-power idle state. “App Nap,” a nifty feature built in to the Safari Web browser, makes sure the app isn’t drawing much power when you’re not actively using it. And other improvements to the way memory and system resources are used should make Mavericks less power-hungry, too.
Apple implied that a user running Mavericks on a low-power Macbook Air can expect pretty spectacular battery life -- users will have to wait until the fall, when the OS is released to the public, to try it for themselves, but there’s good reason to expect that Cupertino’s new hardware and software will be an efficient combination.
Many photographers, amateur and professional, are fearful the act will enable their work to be exploited without credit, permission, or payment.
The UK government says the act streamlines copyright licensing for works of unknown authorship.
This alteration to copyright law was tagged into a larger act aimed at cutting through regulatory red tape. Under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act – which last week received Royal Assent after passing parliament – “orphan works,” or works with an unknown author, could be used commercially or non-commercially.
The act alters the standing copyright regulations around “orphan works” by allowing businesses to pay a fee to use them if they can’t find the author. (The agency that receives the fee has yet to be established.) Usually, you’d have to wait for the copyright to expire to use an orphan work.
Orphan works include books, music, photos, and films of unknown authorship, but critics of the legislation say photos are particularly ripe for the taking.
The policy change still has one final tiny hurdle – that of authoring the “statutory instruments” or delegated legislation – that is, the exact workings of the law have yet to be formalized. Lawmakers have outlined a general plan, and that plan has been approved, and now all that’s left is filling in the blanks. A statutory instrument has not been voted down in 36 years, making it doubtful that any will this time.
The UK government says the purpose of the alteration is to make obtaining the copyright license of legitimate orphan works more efficient. “The powers [established in the act] do not remove copyright for photographs or any other works subject to copyright, nor do they allow anyone to use a copyright work without permission and free of charge,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Business, Innovations and Skills told the BBC.
The problem many see is, when a picture gets posted online, it gets shared around and posted on others’ walls, tweeted, and cross-tweeted, to the point where the original author can be near impossible to find. The average Internet user doesn’t include their author info in the metadata of all of their Instagram photos, and many images are orphaned soon after they are uploaded to the Web.
A media company can claim an image without ID after making a “diligent search” for the owner. If they can’t find one, they can then sublicense the work – in other words, they can obtain a picture that’s not theirs and charge others to use it, but only if they can’t find the author.
Many foresee a barrage of legal complaints revolving around the “diligent search” portion of the law, and whether or not a company actually searched “diligently.”
Greg Lastowka, professor of law at Rutgers School of Law-Camden, doesn’t think diligence will be quite so loosely interpreted. “There are very powerful image search engines out there right now,” he told MSN news. “Using an image search technology that looks all over the Web for a photo, or matching specific attributes of a photo, you can do a pretty good job of tracking the creator.”
Some of those opposed are upset that the alteration to copyright law has been inserted into an act that has nothing to do with copyright law as a whole.
"If this is copyright legislation, this deserves an act called the Copyright Act," said intellectual property expert Iain Connor to the BBC. "This [alteration] should not be tagged into a piece of legislation that has nothing to do with copyright."
Anyone that wants to use an orphan work will have to prove to an independent body that it performed a diligent search, says the BBC, and that body would then allow them to pay a licensing fee. That independent body will be outlined in the statutory instruments that haven’t been written yet.
Almost a year ago today, Facebook went public. Its infamous IPO last spring and subsequent price drop in stock had left investors worried.
However, much has happened in a year. When Facebook first went public, it had no real strategy for dealing with smart phones. Since then, it has launched Facebook Home, a series of Android apps that integrates Facebook into the phone’s operating system. There’s also been the release of Facebook Graph Search, which allows users to find other people by their job, likes, and locations. The Graph Search also allows advertisers to find and target users.
So, how else did Facebook beef up its revenue? Well, since last May, the company has updated its smart-phone application in order to ensure a smoother user experience. Right before the IPO, the social network also acquired Instagram, the photo-sharing application that became a hit last year.
All in all, the first quarter has proved that Facebook will continue to grow. The announcement of its $219 million revenue (up 38 percent from the previous quarter) signifies that Facebook must be doing something right, but what else does it mean?
1) Mobility is the key
Facebook has learned that if it’s going to make it as a company, it has to focus on mobile. The $219 million number announced today is made up of 30 percent mobile ad revenue. Coming from a company that had no mobile ad revenue last year, that’s something that should make analysts jump for joy.
2) Facebook still has “it”
The idea that Facebook is declining in popularity is, well, wrong. Chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social network continues to grow – this time in developing countries. “Now [new users] will be in developing countries -- after all so many people have already joined in places like the US and UK that Facebook is reaching saturation point,” writes the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones. Facebook saw its monthly users rise to 1.1 billion users in the last six months. That’s a total of 100 million new users.
3) Zuckerberg’s not afraid to take risks
It’s quite easy to get lost in the numbers announced. It looks as if everything is going great for Facebook; however, the company is still in an effort to prove itself. The numbers were strong, but they fell short of what Wall Street was originally expecting. The company’s high costs also have shareholders worried, but Mr. Zuckerberg insists that the money spent on new products like Home and Graph Search are “long-term investments.”
The loss of the titles comes at the heels of a deal expiration and the introduction of a new streaming service. Netflix’s deal with Warner Bros., MGM, and Universal came to an end last night, which resulted in the loss. MGM and Universal titles will now be available for streaming through the $10-a-month service, Warner Archive Instant.
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While the vast majority of the films will not be sorely missed, the loss could be an indicator of Netflix’s future.
To further add to the loss, it was recently reported that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is considering not renewing a deal with Viacom. If Mr. Hastings does not renew then Netflix will lose titles from networks such as MTV, Nickelodeon, and BET.
Streamageddon 2013 also serves as a reminder of the "great Starz purge of 2012." Just last year, Netflix ended its contract with Starz, consequently losing many big-name movies.
“The vast majority of the titles that expire on Wednesday are older features that were aggregated by Epix," says Evers, according to CNET. "We recently added many great, more recent titles such as ParaNorman (Universal), Hunger Games (Epix), Safe (Epix) and Bachelorette (Weinstein). Tomorrow we will also add MI:2, among many other titles.”
In an e-mail to Mashable, Netflix released an official statement explaining that it will add more than 500 titles today.
“Netflix is a dynamic service, we constantly update the TV shows and movies that are available to our members. We will add more than 500 titles May 1, but we also have titles expiring, this ebb and flow happens all the time,” says the official statement sent to Mashable. “We are selective about what’s available to watch on Netflix. We often license TV shows and movies on an exclusive basis, so we can provide a unique experience. We’ll forego, or choose not renew, titles that aren’t watched enough. We always use our knowledge about what our members love to watch to decide what’s available on Netflix.”
The statement goes on to explain that Netflix sees itself as an expert programmer that offers “a mix that delights our members, rather than trying to be a broad distributor.”
There’s much to speculate about Netflix’s future. The company has successfully launched two of its own series and has delighted users by creating new episodes of Arrested Development. However, the loss of titles whether popular or not, could prove to be detrimental.
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Reddit suffered a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack Friday that stretched into the afternoon.
At 6:02 a.m., the Reddit status Twitter account tweeted that the website was working to recover from what appeared to be a DDoS. A DDoS is when a botnet is sent out to cripple a server or to steal information from it. The source of the attack has not yet been announced.
A Reddit admin that goes by the username Alienth stated on an AskReddit thread that the person or people attacking the site have “a lot of time and bandwidth on their hands.” Alienth posted a graph of Reddit’s server load, claiming that none of the admins had ever seen an attack at this scale.
The attack on Reddit comes the morning that Boston has shutdown as a citywide manhunt continues for one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. Reddit users had been actively pursuing and trying to help solve the bombing. The Internet sleuths offered high-res pictures and information with regards to the case. The users’ interests, however, did not always end successfully. Their own investigations have led to false accusations. As the manhunt began on Friday, Reddit featured a live stream of the breaking events. It is still unclear whether Friday’s events have anything to do with the DDoS attack on Reddit.
Reddit, in the meantime, has stated that it managed to “mitigate part of the DDoS at this time” but that “certain site functions are disabled.”
“The Internet’s not working. Or at least the self-styled ‘front page of the Internet,' ” writes VentureBeat’s John Koetsier. “One thing seems to be clear: The outages are deliberate, not simply caused by a flood of traffic from the ongoing Boston manhunt for the marathon bomber who remains at large.”
Reddit is working for the most part, but the site can be slow to load. For now, the website continues to handle the attack.
For more tech news, follow Aimee on Twitter, @aimee_ortiz
Google Glass guidelines for software developers were released this week, and the first prototype glasses have been shipping to developers and “Glass Explorers” in batches as they are produced. Those receiving early-access Glass have paid $1,500 for the privilege of field testing.
Along with the shipment, which some users can expect this week, the company released tech specs, and Google's device guidelines.
Glassware will be cloud-based, meaning the apps don’t live directly on the device, which will have “12 GB of usable memory, synced with Google cloud storage,” according to the tech specs.
As Google’s business model evolves into hardware, rumors of brick-and-mortar Google stores solidify. They already have kiosks in Best Buys to educate consumers about Google’s Chromebook, Nexus tablets, and maybe Glass. Having their own store may help the company compete on the same level as Apple and Microsoft.
Many people see the potential for Glass to invade privacy, or to affect social mores. Mashable.com, envisioning a future where everyone used Google Glass, asked questions about the social and health effects of such a device.
These questions have some people on edge. As The Monitor reported before, the group “Stop the Cyborgs” opposes the potential loss of privacy, and the power of big data to pry into consumers’ lives.
For now though, a select few are living on the cutting edge of technology.
The Winklevoss twins (two major characters Facebook creation story) are back in the news, this time making headlines with their $11 million purchase of one percent of all bitcoins, the virtual currency.
As of Thursday morning, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss own approximately 108,000 bitcoins. The virtual currency has had a volatile week. Bitcoins were trading for as high as $266 each on Wednesday. However, it crashed that same day and sent the online money plummeting down to $105. It eventually stabilized around $150.
So, what is bitcoin? It’s a virtual currency that was created in 2009 by an anonymous person (or people) under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoins work on a peer-to-peer computer network. They are not backed by any government. They are worth only what people are willing to pay for them.
Bitcoins are known for being favorites among hackers and, most notably, as the method of payment on Silk Road – a website where narcotics can be bought and sold. So, what would prompt the Olympic-rowing twins to invest in virtual money?
The New York Times Dealbook states that the Winklevoss brothers believe that the bitcoin will become the next gold.
“People really don’t want to take it seriously. At some point that narrative will shift to ‘virtual currencies are here to stay.’ We’re in the early days,” Cameron Winklevoss told the Times.
The twins also told the Times that the fluctuations are simply the “growing pains” for the bitcoin.
The brothers became known for their antagonistic roles in the movie "The Social Network." The film shows the real-life lawsuit the brothers had against Mark Facebook founder Zuckerberg, claiming that he had stolen their idea for Facebook. The pair settled for $45 million and Facebook stock.