Monthly Archives August 2013

Cashing in on Telemarketers

We’ve all had it happen – dinner interrupted by a call from the duct-cleaning company, or the annoying pre-recorded message proclaiming you’ve won a free vacation. Unsolicited calls from telemarketers continue to plague us despite the establishment of Do Not Call registries in countries around the world.

One UK man has found a way to use these pesky calls to his advantage. He signed up for a premium phone line, which charges callers every time they dial him. The telemarketers haven’t been dissuaded by the upfront cost and so far, and he has made over $450 USD.

The premium line has changed the way he approaches telemarketers. Instead of hanging up, he keeps them on the line as long as possible. He’s also now requesting more companies contact him at home. The volume of calls has dropped slightly.

It’s not a practice you should adopt for legal reasons, but does show how some people are able to work the system to their advantage.

Nokia Launching New Phones Next Month

Nokia hopes to regain some status and give Samsung a run for its money by releasing a new line of handsets under its Lumia brand next month.

There is more than one new device that Nokia plans to unveil. While details are scarce, these handsets are said to be phablets, another word for smartphones with a screen larger than five inches. Like other Lumia smartphones, Nokia will release its new products with Microsoft Window’s Phone software.

A revamp might be what Nokia needs to get back on its feet.

iTunes Radio Coming This September

When Apple rolls out a new service or product, the media pays attention. The eagerly anticipated iTunes Radio release is no different. The free radio service will be a big competitor to similar services, including Pandora and Spotify, when it is released this September. To rake in the advertising bucks, iTunes Radio will play an advertisement every 15 minutes.

Companies that have already signed on to advertise include McDonald’s, Pepsi, and Nissan. While only audio commercials will play if you’re listening to iTunes Radio, if you’ve got it streaming on screen, video ads will play. The videos are only scheduled to pop up once per hour. You can avoid the ads by purchasing a subscription to the service.

iTunes Radio will be available on every Apple platform. That means you’ll be able to access it if you have an iPhone, iPad, a computer with iTunes loaded on it, or an Apple TV.

Faking it on Instagram

Social media has shown as that people will do just about anything to appear popular and relevant. And it appears that paying money for fake likes on Instagram is now a reality.

Meet the Zeus virus. Originally developed by hackers to steal credit card information, it creates thousands of fake accounts on Instagram with the sole intention of liking photos and other accounts … for a price. Reports say the malware is powerful and is responsible for an array of hacker-related crimes. Microsoft has taken steps to wipe it out.

It turns out fake Instagram endorsements are relatively inexpensive. Coming in batches of 1,000, a batch of followers goes for about $15 in hacker forums. A batch of likes sells for around $30. Not too much to pay when it comes to status.

But businesses beware: Though having thousands of followers or hundreds of likes may make you appear relevant on the surface, your genuine followers will likely see through the fake accounts fairly quickly. This is something that can do more damage than good.

Unions Rally Against Verizon

Two major Canadian unions will take their fight against Verizon to the streets on Friday, with a rally in downtown Toronto. It’s their latest move in a growing battle to keep Verizon – which has been considering the purchase of a small Canadian carrier – out of the country.

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) and the Canadian Auto Workers have organized the march.

“Opposition to allowing Verizon to take over our Telco industry is growing every day,” says CEP President Dave Coles, in a press release. “The deal will give Verizon the green light to piggyback on technology built by and for Canadians, and put thousands out of work.”

Samsung to Release Smartphone Wristwatch

Samsung, one biggest companies in the tech world, is taking another step in the direction of success. The smartphone giant will release Galaxy Gear next month, a line of devices worn like a wristwatch that preforms just like your phone would.

Galaxy Gear will use Android software like other Samsung products. It will make phone calls, browse the Internet, and handle emails. It will be made public on Sept. 4, two days before the IFA electronics show in Berlin begins. Consumers will get their hands on it sometime next year.

While Galaxy Gear will be the first of its kind on the market, Apple is rumored to also be developing a watch. As of February, sources say Apple had 100 people working on the device. It seems that Samsung – which has already pulled ahead of Apple in the smartphone game – has beaten the company to the punch.

Galaxy Gear will be available in 2014, but if Apple did release a comparable product, which would do better? Would you buy Galaxy Gear or the Apple Watch? It will be interesting to see what innovative new gadgets these companies roll out in the months to come.

Microsoft Adds Skype to Outlook

Big news from Microsoft this week with the announcement it has merged popular video-chat service Skype with Outlook email.

As of Monday, it was announced that users in Brazil, Canada, Germany, the UK, and the United States will be the first to have access to Skype through Outlook, though further global expansion is expected.

With more innovative technology being developed every day, communication is a rapidly changing area of life. Microsoft has made a smart move by adding one of the most frequently used means of communication to their list of services. In the long run, this will probably be a smart and natural move for the tech giant.

Would BlackBerry Benefit From Android? Probably Not.

Android phones are leading the market, and Samsung is dominating the smartphone industry. There have been more than a few suggestions that BlackBerry should have jumped on the Android wagon instead of developing its own OS.

But, as pointed out by Mary Branscombe in this ZDNet article, all that Android touches isn’t gold. In the first quarter of 2013, Samsung sold over 70 million handsets, about 40 million more than Apple. That’s impressive. However, all companies producing Android-run devices didn’t share in the glory. LG – the third biggest name in the industry – only sold 10 million handsets in Q3. Other companies didn’t even produce numbers worth reporting.

But it’s clear that BlackBerry must do something to bounce back, because the BlackBerry10 platform – touted as the company’s savior by many – doesn’t appear to be gaining enough ground. This week, the Canadian smartphone maker laid off 100 employees from its home base in Waterloo, Ont. The cuts came just weeks after 250 others, and three senior execs, were let go.

At least one tech analyst is urging critics to go easy on BlackBerry.

“The fact that we’re talking about BlackBerry now makes this headline news, but really this is just normal business for any company,” Carmi Levy was quoted as saying. “Investors will pay particular attention to even the smallest employment adjustment at a company like BlackBerry, despite the fact that other companies of similar size are probably doing the same thing right now but not getting the headlines. It just so happens that the spotlight is being shone very brightly on the company right now.”

Windows 8 Update Coming This Fall

While some love the makeover the Windows OS got with the release of Windows 8, others hate it. Microsoft will be releasing an update, Windows 8.1, this Oct. 17.

Windows 8.1 will be available in retail stores the day after its release, and as a free update to Windows 8 users. Changes include a search function powered by Bing, and the ability to play a slideshow on your lock screen rather than a single image. Also, users will have the ability to save their files to SkyDrive by default.

Come this fall, we will be able to see if the changes help Windows 8’s reputation, or hurt it.

Canada’s Facebook Addiction

It is no surprise that the social media site that has made its mark on the entire world is hugely popular in Canada as well. But do you ever wonder just how many Canadians are scrolling through their newsfeeds and liking their friends’ posts? According to a recent study conducted by Facebook, the number is shockingly high.

There are nearly 34.5 million Canadians, and statistics indicate more than half of them use Facebook once a month. Nineteen million users use it monthly, and 14 million check their newsfeed every day.

More people use their phones to check social media than those who go home and use it on their PC. Of the 14 million daily Facebook users, 9.4 million access the site on their mobile device. Facebook Canada managing director Jordan Banks notes that Canada has a higher usage rate than the United States, and the rest of the world.

“Sixty-one percent is pretty much the global average, in the U.S. that number is somewhere around 70 percent and in Canada it’s 74 percent,” Banks was quoted as saying.

Clearly it can be seen that Canada has a serious Facebook addiction.