AT&T Lands Proposed $600,000 Fine From FCC

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In a 3-2 vote, The Federal Communications Commission voted to fine AT&T for violating the rules and regulations of some airwave licenses. The United State’s second biggest wireless carrier landed a proposed fine of $600,000.

FCC officials reported AT&T operated a number of its cell sites differently from how it was authorized by the commission between 2009 and 2012. However, the Republican commissioners who voted against the fine said some information was missing and therefore couldn’t be sure the allegations were true.

AT&T revealed the fine came as a result of its own voluntary review, following its discovery of “minor” modifications to past documents submitted to the FCC. Despite this, a spokesperson said the company strongly disagrees with the violations amounting to a forfeiture of $600,000.

Why Trivia Crack and Candy Crush Apps are Hits


Psychologists have come up with an explanation as to why apps like Trivia Crack or Candy Crush have you so consumed. The answer is not as simple as being addicted.

Games that have small, easy to complete, tasks have users constantly on their devices – such as answering one final question on Trivia Crack. Long, drawn-out games such as Chess make less successful apps for this reason.

“You do a thing, you get rewarded for the thing, you get feedback on the thing, then you immediately get the opportunity to do the thing again,” summarized Jamie Madigan, a psychologist who specializes in gaming and entertainment. “It’s a really tight loop.”

This repetitive process has users spending money, while developers rake in the cash.

“From a psychological perspective, it’s an opportunity for the player to feel a sense of accomplishment, to feel competent for very little effort,” Berni Good, cyberpsychology consultant and lecturer, said in an email to TODAY. “The player may well be experiencing a dopamine hit in the brain. Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain, and humans will tend to seek out opportunities for dopamine.”

All this makes a user inclined to keep playing, but Madigan says that addicted is not the right word for this phenomenon. “I think ‘habit-forming’ is more accurate than ‘addictive.’ You don’t have withdrawal or any of the other hallmarks of addiction. You build the small habit of playing into larger habits, like your morning coffee — it becomes part of a larger ritual.”

Although developers may use this ‘tight loop’ to exhaust or trick users into buying upgrades, focusing on something and letting the stresses of daily life slip away for short periods of time can actually be relaxing and good for psychological health.

Facebook Responsible for Own System Failure


On Tuesday, January 26th, Facebook and subsidiaries became inaccessible to users around the world for around forty minutes, causing quite the social media outrage. Facebook says this incident was not the fault of any hacker group, but that the company itself is responsible for the millions of users who could not access their accounts.

“Earlier this evening many people had trouble accessing Facebook and Instagram,” a spokeswoman told the BBC. “This was not the result of a third-party attack but instead occurred after we introduced a change that affected our configuration systems. We moved quickly to fix the problem, and both services are back to 100% for everyone.”

Dating app Tinder, which is run by Facebook, was also compromised.

In the panic of those forty minutes, users took to Twitter to express their dismay. Others used satire to describe the chaos. Media analyst Arthur Goldstruck wrote: “I hope you all took advantage of the 35 second Facebook outage to Like a person in real life. #Faceboogeddon.”

Twitter Debuts Native Video Sharing and Group Direct Messaging


Twitter has just announced the rollout of two new features: group direct messages and native video sharing.

Group direct messaging will allow users to privately message a group of followers at once, without requiring they follow one another. This addition was likely motivated by the popularity of other messaging apps such as WhatsApp, as Twitter previously only offered direct messaging between two parties.

“There’s a real opportunity for us when we think about our private messaging to strengthen the core of our Twitter product by making it easier for users to move more fluidly between the public conversation that happens everywhere on Twitter and the private conversation between you and a friend or you and a few friends,” said Dick Costolo, Twitter’s CEO, on an earnings call last April.

Native video sharing will provide users with the ability to capture, share and edit up to 30-second videos through the use of the camera button built directly into the app. While these clips are still short, they are significantly longer than Twitter’s Vine service, which runs 6-second looped videos.

“We believe that during any sort of local event, national event, global event, the opportunity for people, participants, to be live tweeting those things and broadcasting them to the world is a massive opportunity,” said Costolo at an analyst event in November.

Twitter also has plans to introduce additional features in the future, such as breaking news alerts and new standalone apps. These significant product updates are a sign the company hopes to reignite user growth and boost engagement.

T-Mobile Offers New Incentive Program “Score!”


T-Mobile recently launched an incentive plan called Score!, providing customers with a new way to save on cell phone upgrades. Paying a fee of just $5/month will give customers various discounts depending on the length of time they are on the plan.

After six months of payments, customers are offered an entry-level 4G smartphone at no additional cost. After 12 months, users will receive discounted pricing on every phone offered by T-Mobile.

Since the “Un-carrier” has done away with phone subsidies, Score! is the new way to help customers avoid paying full price for their next cell phone. Paying in advance for a discount on their future upgrades will give users an incentive to stay with the carrier for their next phone, which T-Mobile no doubt hopes will help them win a market share away from their larger rivals AT&T and Verizon.

Score! is available to postpaid customers, as well as those on T-Mobile’s recently introduced prepaid plans.

Winter Weather Proves Challenging for Google’s Self-Driving Car


Everyone hates driving during a snowstorm. It turns out, Google’s self-driving car isn’t a fan either. In fact, inclement weather has posed some challenges in the car’s development.

“When it’s snowing or really foggy, for example, a human driver has limited visibility — so too do our vehicles,” said Google spokesperson Aaron Brindle in an email to the Toronto Star. “Though we’re working on improving this, the good news is that, in the meantime, our cars recognize when they have limited visibility and will make the safe decision not to drive.”

Despite the great progress driverless cars have been making in areas such as California, many experts believe the technology has a lot of work ahead of it before it is safe everywhere.

“A lot of these vehicles use computer vision systems to look at the roadway ahead to understand where the lane boundaries are. When the road is covered in snow, they can’t see the lane boundaries,” said Steven Shladover, an advanced transportation researcher from the University of California, Berkeley.

While many have been excited by the prospect of self-driving cars, experts in the field believe it will be decades before the proper technology can be perfected for cars to be able to detect obstacles such as snow or black ice.

“When you consider millions of vehicles on the road driving multiple hours per day, no designer sitting at a computer is going to be able to think of every situation that every vehicle is going to encounter,” he says. “It is extremely complicated.”

While Canadians might not be getting to enjoy driverless cars anytime in the near future, Google is still looking to do pilot tests in California.

Amazon Prime Offering Unlimited Cloud Storage for Photos


If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber in Canada, you have just been granted a new perk in addition to free two-day shipping: unlimited photo storage in the company’s Cloud Drive locker.

Prime users will still have up to 5GB of free storage in the Cloud Drive, but photos will no longer count towards this limit. This will give users more space for video and music storage.

For Canadian users, this comes as a first step towards catching up with American Prime subscribers, who already have access to some free music, TV shows and movies.

Amazon Prime’s app for iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows devices allows users to take advantage of this new feature by uploading photos using Wi-Fi or mobile data.

Popular Passwords of 2014 Show Lack of Security Concern


SplashData recently compiled a list of popular passwords based on the stolen data published by hackers throughout the year. The list of 2014 password trends revealed the most popular login was “123456” for the second year running.

Some of the other popular password choices this past year included “password,” “qwerty,” “baseball” and “dragon.” Other passwords making the top 25 were no better. Despite continual urging that passwords be more than eight characters in length, with a combination of upper and lower case letters and numbers, the data clearly shows Internet users do not listen.

Experts not only recommend a password more complicated than ‘123456,’ but also suggest the use of more than one password for your social media, online banking and other logins. That way, if you are ever the target of a cyber-attack, the hacker will only gain access to one account rather than all of them.

Marriot Testing Netflix Streaming Service in Hotel Rooms


Marriot is reportedly modernizing its in-room entertainment options by piloting a service that will allow guests to enjoy Netflix and other streaming services during their stay. This report comes hot on the heels of the news that Marriot will no longer block its guest from using the hotel’s Wi-Fi for their devices.

Marriot will be testing the service in eight of its locations, and will offer guests access to Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and more.

“We have invited leading technology companies and content providers to work with us to design the next wave in in-room entertainment focusing on on-demand programming,” said John Wolf, a spokesman for Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott. “We are currently offering guests in eight test hotels the opportunity to stream their content through our high-definition TVs whether it is Netflix, Hulu or Pandora.”

It is unclear if Marriot intends to charge an additional fee for this new streaming service. Either way, the hotel chain is leading the way for modern amenities that go beyond standard television options.

Google Interested in Buying Mobile Payments Company Softcard


To compete with Apple Pay, rumors suggest Google is interested in buying mobile payments company Softcard. The price may be under $100 million, which is either a huge bargain or a sign of Softcard’s current difficulties as a company.

Both Google and Softcard have declined to comment on the M&A rumors, but Softcard is currently in a consolidation phase, laying off around 60 employees earlier this month.

“Softcard is taking steps to reduce costs and strengthen its business. This includes simplifying the company’s organizational structure and consolidating all operations into its Dallas and New York offices, which involves layoffs across the company,” a spokesperson said. “We believe these efficiencies will best position Softcard in the marketplace while maintaining focus on serving our market.”

Softcard – formerly known as Isis – was started in 2010 by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile as a unified front for the big carriers to introduce a “contactless” NFC mobile payment solution. The company says over 200,000 merchants in the U.S. can accept payments with its app, which is currently available on Android and Windows Phone devices. Cards from American Express, Wells Fargo and other banks can be activated within Softcard’s app as well, allowing users to pay on their phones with those merchants.

The service’s success with customers, however, is unclear. A marketing campaign was launched around a new mascot called “Tappy” in November 2014. The mascot was created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop in “a new campaign aimed at educating consumers on Softcard and mobile payments in a fun, social, and sharable way.”

Google’s interest in the company may be related to Softcard’s more than 120 applications for patents. Negotiations could also involve deals to hold on to Softcard’s existing relationships with carriers and retail channels.