Confidential Mode is the Snapchat of Gmail

Gmail users! Haven’t you always wanted to send and receive self-expiring messages through your trusted email service? No? Well, you’re getting it anyways! According to Android Authority, Gmail’s new ‘Confidential Mode’ is bringing “self-deleting messages” which allow “you to specify an expiration date or manually revoke access to a message.”

Messages sent in Confidential Mode also cannot be copied, forwarded, printed, or downloaded. If you’re really serious about sending a an email confidentially, you can choose to require the recipient to enter a passcode (sent via SMS or email) before opening the message. Android Authority specifies, “SMS-based passcodes are the only option if your recipient is using a Gmail account — recipients using another email service can receive either SMS or email passcodes… SMS-based passcodes are only supported in Europe, India, Japan, North America, and South America.”

If you’re familiar with the world’s biggest self-deleting messaging service, Snapchat, then you will know the app notifies you if someone ever takes a screenshot of your snap. In contrast, Gmail’s Confidential Mode both allows screenshots and does not include an alert function when one is taken. So Confidential Mode is not perfect, but it does allow a certain amount of control over your emails.

Confidential Mode is available now for Gmail Users. You should be able to enable it when composing a new message.

Source: androidauthority.com – Gmail now has Snapchat-style self-deleting messages
Published: August 17, 2018

How much damage are screens doing to our eyes?

Most of us use screens in our professional lives as well as during leisure time in large quantities. For as long as this has been true, new studies have been published connecting our screen time to some plethora of health risks. Most recently, as explained by Popular Science, “researchers at the University of Toledo have begun to parse the process by which close or prolonged exposure to… ‘blue light’ can trigger irreversible damage in eye cells.”

Blue light, produced by our screens, can apparently cause a damaging chemical reaction in our eyes. Study author and chemistry professor Ajith Karunarathne found that, “In the lab, when cells from the eye were exposed to blue light directly—in theory, mimicking what happens when we stare at our phone or computer screens—the high-intensity waves trigger a chemical reaction in the retinal molecules in the eye. The blue light causes the retinal to oxidize, creating ‘toxic chemical species’… The retinal, energized by this particular band of light, kills the photoreceptor cells, which do not grow back once they are damaged.”

In case none of that makes sense to you, here is the point. Blue light “can kill photoreceptor cells” in your eyes. And “murdering enough of them can lead to macular degeneration, an incurable disease that blurs or even eliminates vision.”

Of course, you might be thinking, doesn’t blue light occur naturally in sunlight? Yes, it does. But as Karunarathne says, we are usually told to avoid looking at the sun, and listen to that advice. The same can’t be said for our screens.

This information, Karunarathne thinks, can lead to positive technological developments to aid our ocular health. He told Popular Science, “Who knows. One day we might be able to develop eye drops, that if you know you are going to be exposed to intense light, you could use some of those… to reduce damage.”

The research out of the University of Toledo was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: popsci.com – Screens are killing your eyeballs, and now we know how
Published: August 10, 2018

Firefox is launching Advance extension to help you find recommended websites

firefox for iosIf you’re one of the few people who doesn’t have enough to do on the internet, Mozilla Firefox has just the new extension for you. Almost. According to The Verge, the browser is “launching a new experimental browser extension called Advance, which recommends new websites and articles based on what you’re currently reading and your recent browsing history.”

Advance works in two separate parts. There is a “Read Next” sections, which recommends articles based on your current tab, as well as a “For You” section, which amalgamates all your recent browsing history to make more general recommendations.

The Verge explains, “Firefox said that when browsing, say, a list of popular restaurants, Advance could recommend other, similar eateries to make it easier for you to compare them.”

Advance is powered by Laserlike, a machine learning startup that specializes in recommendations. For user safety, if you download the Advance extension, you will have full control over when it is running, and you will have access to see what browser history Laserlike can see. If you are unhappy with certain data, you can request its removal.

You can sign up to install Advance early as a part of Firefox’s Test Pilot program, where the company gets users to “test new features for users who want to try them before rolling them out to the main app.”

Source: theverge.com – Firefox’s latest experiment recommends stories based on your browsing history
Published: August 7, 2018

You get six months of free Apple Music with a Verizon unlimited data subscription

On August 8th, Verizon announced it would be launching a “new and exclusive” partnership with Apple, so that customers who subscribe to one of the carrier’s three unlimited plans are eligible to receive six months of free Apple Music. According to Apple Insider, this promotion goes into effect on August 16th. It will also apply to all subscribers to Verizon’s unlimited plans, whether “they are new to Apple Music, cancelled the service, or are a current subscriber.”

Apple Insider points out that means any Verizon subscriber is “able to stream all of Apple Music’s 45 million tracks over Verizon’s 4G LTE network without worrying about data caps.”

This isn’t an unusual move for carriers. T-Mobile has made a similar partnership with Netflix, Sprint has bundled Hulu and Tidal with its offerings, and AT&T offers WatchTV. However, the Apple-Verizon deal is valid only for six months, whereas the other carriers’ deals don’t expire.

Nonetheless, Apple Music is a very popular service right now, and this new bundle might just attract new subscribers. As Apple Insider mentions, “In April, it was revealed that Apple Music had 40 million paid subscribers and in July it was said to have overtaken Spotify in paid subscribers in the U.S.”

Source: appleinsider.com – Apple, Verizon partnership gives unlimited data plan subscribers six months of free Apple Music
Published: August 8, 2018

Are rural Americans getting ripped off on home internet?

A big disparity across North America is access to reliable, fast internet connection. In the United States, tens of millions of consumers live in AT&T and Verizon serviced territories where they “can only buy slow DSL Internet from the companies, yet they often have to pay the same price as fiber customers who get some of the fastest broadband speeds,” says Ars Technica. This sad fact was unveiled by a new white paper written by broadband advocacy group, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA).

According to the white paper, “AT&T has been charging $60 a month to DSL customers for service between 6 and 10Mbps downstream and 0.6Mbps to 1Mbps upstream. AT&T also charges $60 a month for 50Mbps and 75Mbps download tiers and even for fiber service with symmetrical upload and download speeds of 100Mbps. These are the regular rates after first-year discounts end, before any extra fees and taxes.”

Likewise, Verizon “charges $65 a month for 100Mbps fiber service (including a $10 router charge), and $63 or $64 a month for DSL service that provides download speeds between 1.5Mbps and 15Mbps.”

More of less, if you’re living outside of fiber connected areas, where you have to use DSL service, then you are being sold a slower, less reliable product for the same price as a better product that you cannot access.

The NDIA calls this practice “tier flattening.” Tier flattening impacts “both urban and rural customers who live in areas where AT&T and Verizon haven’t upgraded networks because they face no competition, or because the upgrades wouldn’t result in higher profits.”

The NDIA points out that this practice “imposes higher rates on millions of urban households who are relegated to slow ADSL technology by AT&T’s documented ‘digital redlining’ of lower-income neighborhoods as well as Verizon’s refusal to deploy broadband upgrades in some entire cities like Baltimore and Buffalo” and “victimizes millions of underserved households in the two companies’ rural service areas.”

Although AT&T did not dispute these facts, it told Ars Technica that the white paper was “misleading.” It said, “Attempting to assess Internet service offerings by only looking at standard rates does not give a complete picture; the Internet service market is more competitive than ever and most customers make their purchases at bundled and discounted rates. The claims made in this report are completely misleading and do not reflect all options available to consumers.”

The carrier also explained that DSL service has “higher costs of maintenance and fewer subscribers.”

Whether or not you agree with the carriers’ pricing models, delivering affordable internet to underserved areas continues to be a problem. As CNET points out, “Nearly 24 million Americans do not have access to broadband with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and uploads of 3 Mbps.”

Source: $50 a month for 1Mbps: How AT&T and Verizon rip off DSL customers – arstechnica.com
Published: August 2, 2018

T-Mobile promises not to raise the prices on its unlimited data plans

Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T have all recently reshuffled their data plans, offering a wider variety of plans as well as some pricier options that include new, expensive features. CNET describes this shift as “a reversal of years of aggressive promotions that included free iPhones, lower rates and other throw-ins.”

T-Mobile, ever vocal about its opinion of its competitors, has kiboshed that idea.

“We’re not pursuing a monetization path,” said CFO Braxton Carter in an interview about the carrier’s Q2 results. The company believes it is not the best way to attract or keep subscribers. Carter says, “”The benefits of creating more subscribers outweigh the shorter term benefit of tweaking (average revenue per user).”

That doesn’t mean T-Mobile won’t be toting promotions in the future – in fact, they definitely will. Carter and COO Mike Sievert both described in their interview with CNET that the company plans on creating a promotion surrounding the upcoming new iPhone release. And, of course, there is the impending 5G tech and compatible phones to sell.

Source: cnet.com – T-Mobile won’t raise the prices of its unlimited data plans
Published: August 1, 2018

Should we enable cell service on flights? Americans say NO!

A study done by market research institute Nielsen has revealed that an overwhelming amount of Americans who travel by air – 89 percent in fact – would prefer to keep their flights disconnected from cell service.

“A total of 8,150 individuals, aged 18 years and older who have flown with an airline company in the last two years were surveyed in an online poll. Respondents from China, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, the UAE, the UK and the US participated in the survey from February 16-26, 2018.”

The American participants of the survey mainly cited “nuisance, disturbance” as the most important reason to keep flights cellphone free. This belief represents a trend that has been on the incline since 2015, according to eTurboNews.

However, Americans were not in the majority on this matter. Although Nielsen found the global average to be 51 percent, “the rate of passengers in favor of allowing mobile phone usage in flight is significantly higher in India (73%), China (70%), and the UAE (63%).”

Source: eturbonews.com – 89 percent of American flyers don’t want cell phone service in-flight
Published: July 25, 2018

Soon you’ll be able to pick up a BMW for your wrist

Previously, when someone said they own a BMW, your first thought might be of a luxury sports car. Now when someone mentions their BMW, they might just be talking about the one on their wrist.

BMW has partnered with Fossil Group to “collaborate on development of a new range of watches and smartwatches sporting the former’s brand,” according to TechRadar. The end products will be distributed by both BMW and Fossil.

So far there is no release date and both BMW and Fossil are being secretive about the design. But, what we do know is that Fossil designs smartwatches for brands like Diesel, Emporio Armani, Kate Spade, and Michael Kors – perhaps looking at those watches will give us better insight into what we can expect from BMW?

Chairman and CEO of Fossil Group, Kosta Kartsotis, said in their announcement July 30th that “BMW is one of the most iconic brands in the world. We look forward to bringing our watch design expertise and smartwatch capabilities to BMW enthusiasts around the world.”

The two companies signed a deal to collaborate until 2023.

With the rise of self-driving and IoT connected cars, is BMW looking to break further into the tech game? Will these smartwatches be somehow compatible with BMW vehicles? Time will tell!

Source: You’ll be able to buy an official BMW smartwatch in 2019 – techradar.com
Published:
July 30, 2018

How has electronic payment processing changed tipping?

Every country, and many professions, have different standards regarding tipping. Of course, your waitress may be more than happy to break your bill to make some change for you, but what about the increasing amount of people who don’t carry cash? How has that trend in North America, and elsewhere, changed tipping?

For one thing, payment processing machines often suggest a tip amount that can be anywhere between fifteen and 30 percent. This seems normal at certain business establishments, but some are wondering if the option to include the suggested tip amount is prompting some businesses to ask for tips where previously leaving one was not expected. Take for instance, over-the-counter coffee shops.

Torontonian and etiquette expert Lisa Orr told Calgary’s Chronicle Herald that she’s seeing suggested tip amounts “everywhere now” partly because “it’s so easily built into our payment gateways.” Despite the rise in this technology, Orr believes, tipping etiquette does not require leaving a tip of “fifteen percent or more” at to-go restaurants.

“The use of digital payment terminals encourages consumers to be more generous than they would be if they were using cash,” Orr suggested.

A lot of this can be traced back to payment processing companies like Square Inc., a San Francisco based entity founded in 2008. Square Inc. allows retailers to process payment on smartphones, tablet, etcetera. It’s the kind of service you might use if you needed to process payments at a food truck, or some other smaller-scale operation. Square Inc. also allows its retailers to choose whether or not they prompt for tips.

The Chronicle Herald explains that “Nearly 90 percent of retailers that enable tipping rely on the company’s ‘smart tip amounts’ feature… When consumers spend less than $10, they can choose between no tip, $1, $2, or $3. When they spend more than that, they can choose between no tip, 15 per cent, 20 per cent or 25 per cent.”

Square Inc. spokesperson Leslie Jackson told the Chronicle Herald in an email that retailers can also choose to input custom amounts, and that the highest amount chosen in Canada was a 30 percent tip option.

Company data suggests that so far in 2018, “Canadians tipped an average of 13.4 per cent using Square at food and drink sellers…. That includes an average 13.7 at coffee and tea shops, 13.1 at food trucks, 12.9 at bakeries and 11.9 at quick service restaurants.”

Orr believes that tip prompts make customers feel guilty about if they choose not to tip at to-go restaurants. Do you think that electronic payment processing has changed the way we tip?

Source: thechronicleherald.ca – Cashless consumers face tipping quandary for over-the-counter service
Published: July 26, 2018

More cities will be revealing 5G service from AT&T

Wondering when 5G service will be coming to your city? On July 19th, AT&T announced three more cities where the company plans to launch a 5G network by the end of 2018. According to CNBC, these are Oklahoma City, Charlotte, NC, and Raleigh, NC. Previously, AT&T had promised the same to Atlanta, Dallas, and Waco, Texas.

AT&T Chief Technology Officer Andre Feutsch said Oklahoma City, Charlotte, and Raleigh were chosen “based on where the company already held spectrum, or airwaves that carry data, and were open to AT&T installing the necessary infrastructure.”

“We worked with the cities that embraced the technology,” Fuetsch has stated in an interview.

AT&T has also said it will be introducing six more cities to this program. Although the promise AT&T has made is to deliver 5G to the original six cities, and perhaps six more, by the end of the year, the company has declined to disclose a more specific date or month.

In order to help consumers adjust to 5G networks in late 2018 and early 2019 – when 5G-enabled smartphones aren’t likely to be available until 2019 – AT&T plans on introducing “a puck-shaped device to allow users to access the 5G network with their current phones.”

Source: AT&T reveals three more cities for 5G launch by end of year
Published: July 20, 2018