Monthly Archives November 2015

Verizon Introduces $10 TravelPass

verizonVerizon subscribers traveling in foreign countries can now pay a flat daily fee for calls, texts and data. Launched last week, TravelPass will set you back $10 per day if overseas, or $2 per day if visiting Canada or Mexico.

The flat fee is simpler than the old system, which saw users pay separately for international minutes, texts or data. Verizon is promising 3G to 4G speeds under their new plan.

“Unlike other providers, Verizon doesn’t use gimmicks like ‘free data roaming’ to lure you in and then put you on the slowest network and restrict your data use while outside of the U.S.” the company was quoted as saying in a CNN article.

TravelPass is best suited for short trips. Those who plan on being out of the country for a longer period of time may want to consider the International Travel Preferred Pricing Plan with 100 MB of data, 100 outgoing texts and 100 voice minutes for $40 per month.

Mozilla Rolls Out Firefox for iOS

firefox for iosAlthough it has been a long time coming, Mozilla’s Firefox for iOS app is finally available publicly to anyone with an Apple device. Last December the non-profit browser maker, whose mandate is to keep the Internet open, announced it would be reversing its stance against making software for the App Store. By May, the earlier versions of Firefox for iOS were released in a limited capacity for user testing.

It’s certainly great that users now have access to Firefox on their phones, but will the app actually make a splash amongst its competitors? Safari comes installed on all iOS devices and Google Chrome remains the most popular browser on the web. One perk – which is great for Mozilla faithful – is that with a pre-existing Firefox account, users are able to access their bookmarks, browsing history, tabs and passwords via their mobile device. Mozilla also hopes its search prediction, visual tab management and incognito browsing features will attract new users too.

In its review of the new app, TechCrunch notes it works well and has interesting features, but does not distinguish itself enough from Chrome to draw users away from the other browser.

Firefox is available in the App Store for iOS 8.2 or newer.

FCC Can’t Stop Facebook from Tracking Users

FCCThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says it cannot force companies like Google, Facebook, or generic ad providers from tracking users online.

The privacy advocacy group Consumer Watchdog has been petitioning the commission to make the “Do Not Track” setting in browsers illegal to ignore. It sends a signal when visiting websites that supposedly limits the amount of data that can be collected. However, this reduced collection must be voluntary and the “Do Not Track” setting is simply a preference.

The FCC said in a written order that enforcing the “Do Not Track” setting actually falls out of its jurisdiction.

“The Commission has been unequivocal in declaring that it has no intent to regulate edge providers,” read the statement. “We therefore find that the Consumer Watchdog Petition plainly does not warrant consideration by the Commission.”

Edge providers like Microsoft and Twitter provide services on the Internet without actually selling Internet connections.

Consumer Watchdogs is understandably unhappy with the decision, but will not give up its pursuit.

“We believe that the FCC has the authority to enforce Internet privacy protections far more broadly than they have opted to do,” said John Simpson, the director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project, in a statement. “Requiring that Do Not Track requests be honored is a simple way to give people necessary control of their information and is in no way an attempt to regulate the content of the Internet.”

*Source: NBC News

Will iPad Pro Kill the PC?

iPadProThe iPad Pro is close to its release date, and its 12.9-inch screen is nearly the same size as a MacBook and other laptops. Apple CEO Tim Cook thinks that this will finally be the product to do the long prophesized task of replacing the PC.

“I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore?” Cook told The Telegraph. “No really, why would you buy one? Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones.”

Skeptical about replacing your laptop with a tablet? Well, the iPad Pro comes with useful accessories like a keyboard case and the Apple Pencil, which is a pressure sensitive stylus good for many applications. There are a lot of reasons why, theoretically, you could get by with an iPad Pro as your main work device. However, almost all prominent tech companies have suggested their products would be the one to replace the PC. Asus, HP, Microsoft, and Lenovo are just some of the names to manufacture tablets with this objective in mind.

Apple’s idea behind innovating products is to always go for the simpler, easier, more accessible device. “The job of the [Apple Watch] is to do more and more things on your wrist so that you don’t need to pick up your phone as often,” Apple’s VP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller was quoted as saying. “The job of the phone is to do more and more things such that maybe you don’t need your iPad, and it should be always trying and striving to do that.”

Google Introduces Smart Reply

smart replyOf all the small things that might make your day a little bit longer, replying to a series of unessential emails could be on the list. Google has an answer for that: Smart Reply. This new tool has the ability to generate simple responses like “thanks” or “will do” to emails you’d rather not deal with.

Smart Reply launched Nov. 5 as an update to Android and iOS’s Gmail Inbox application. The software will scan emails to understand the overall gist of what is being said and suggests three likely response phrases. You can then select the best option at the bottom of your screen, or if you prefer, continue to type a more personalized response. This software works similarly to spam recognition software that identifies intrusive messages based on patterns of past responses.

Experts are so far skeptical about Smart Reply, saying it won’t do much to lessen the burden of the email flow people experience daily. After all, 205 billion emails are sent each day, with more than half of them being business-related.

“I just don’t think this is going to help reduce stress in peoples’ lives,” Stephen Liptrap of Morneau Shepell was quoted as saying in a Toronto Star story. “It if automatically generates a reply for me, then the machine on the other end replies to that and I almost worry that we end up with more messages.”

Whether or not it will reduce the amount of emails being sent back and forth, Smart Reply may make the process of reading and replying quicker and simpler – especially if you’re dealing with someone whose communications skills are below par.

Schooley Mitchell Lawsuit Watch: Fake Calls Plague Consumers

Schooley Mitchell lawsuitThe phone rings and you pick it up. On the other end, a recording tells you the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you. You’re given a phone number to call to get more information about your case. Your heart beats a little bit faster and anxiety rises. The IRS? Lawsuit?

Take a deep breath, exhale and relax. Resist the urge to dial your lawyer. You’ve got nothing to worry about: this phone call is currently being received by people across America. And it’s fake.

There are a few versions of this scam currently circulating. But the essence of the call is the same: the robocaller will say the IRS has made multiple attempts to contact you and a lawsuit is being filed. The voice will advise you to call back – sometimes a number is left, other times it is not. Then a second call often follows, this time with more urgency, threatening to place a lien on assets.

Those who call the scammers back usually end up talking to someone who tries to elicit sensitive personal information, such as your Social Security Number. Sometimes they’ll even know the last few digits already, or offer to send you an email decked out with fake IRS branding to trick you into thinking it’s the real thing. They’ll ask you to wire money or send prepaid debit or credit cards to pay back your debt.

Though the majority of us see through these scams, there are people who fall victim. According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), over 3,000 people have been bilked out of over $14 million over the last few years. Nearly 300,000 complaints have been registered with the TIGTA.

The IRS says the scammers have preyed on immigrants – people with less knowledge about the U.S. tax system – in the past. Activity often picks up during the income tax filing season. The agency reminds consumers it never asks for credit or debit card information over the phone. If you receive such a call, you are encouraged to report it to the TIGTA via this online form.

Pinterest Launches Shopping Initiative

pinterestAfter existing simply as a social media platform for five years, image-collecting site Pinterest has launched its first mobile-app store: The Pinterest Shop. The shop is a catalog of hand-curated goodies that users can purchase through ‘pins’ safely and instantly.

Pinterest has introduced 60 million shopping pins, meaning that users should never run out of original, creative shopping ideas. Some topics include graphic tees and winter accessories. The products are made and sold by merchandisers, small businesses, and e-commerce platforms. These are available to all 100 million Pinterest users.

This launch, conveniently close to the holiday season, will allow users to filter their pinned items based on cost, quality and other criteria. This move should bring huge success for the ever-growing company, with “Buy Buttons” in mobile apps becoming an increasing trend.

The Pinterest shop is available on both iOS and Android.

*Source: Tech News Today

FCC Creates Robocall Shame List

FCCAmericans will soon have more power to put an end to annoying robocalls. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is posting data from consumer complaints online in an effort to promote feedback and prevent robocalls.

The FCC says these automated messages that interrupt people at all hours of the day are the most frequent complaints submitted by consumers.

Aaron Foss, founder of call blocker NomoRobo, said he’s traditionally had to submit a Freedom of Information Act Request in order to get the information the FCC is now publicly releasing.

“For the past two years I have been advocating for all of the government organizations to report this data,” Foss told 7 News. “And the push-back that we always get is that there’s personally identifiable information, what about the consumer, how do we protect the consumer, and what I’ve been saying is, ‘Listen we don’t need to know any consumer information. All we need to know is what is the robocaller’s phone number.’ If we get that, that really helps us.”

The data the FCC is releasing will be limited to the phone numbers of robocallers. As of today, there are more than 16,000 numbers posted online and it will be updated every week. The FCC hopes this list will encourage more blocking tools, like NomoRobo, which is free for Internet-based phone numbers.

Comcast Launches Unlimited Data in Atlanta

comcast1Love the Internet and live in Atlanta? Comcast’s new offering might be of interest to you. For an extra $35 per month, Comcast will remove the 300 GB cap and let you surf to your heart’s content under a new unlimited data plan.

The Atlanta pricing structure was announced over the weekend, but it isn’t the first of its kind – Comcast rolled out a similar trial in Florida last year where subscribers pay a $30 fee to go unlimited. According to the Washington Post, the company started toying with the idea last year after surveying heavy users. Sixty percent of respondents said they’d be happy to pay an extra $30 to $40 for unlimited rather than pay overage fees for every extra 50 GB consumed.

If people are willing to pay, Comcast could potentially have a nice new source of revenue.

Agency May Soon Oversee Cable TV Complaints

Schooley Mitchell complaintsAre you a Canadian with a telecom complaint? If you’re mad and informed enough you may take it all the way to the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS). If you don’t know about this watchdog, you should: the CCTS handles over 10,000 complaints per year and can force providers to pay consumers up to $5,000 in the event of a billing error.

That’s $5,000 in compensation over and above the amount of the error to be refunded. Have we told you some studies show up to 80 percent of telecom bills contain errors? Do the math. I bet you’re paying attention now.

While the CCTS has acted as official ombudsman over the telecom industry, its role may be widening. Depending on the outcome of a public hearing that starts today, cable television providers may soon join the list of industries the CCTS is charged with monitoring. The hearing, hosted by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), also allows for public input via online forum until Nov. 9.

“While our public hearing is being held in the National Capital Region, the room itself stretches from coast-to-coast-to-coast to include all Canadians,” said CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais, in a press release.

“The Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services plays an important role in a competitive marketplace, and is a resource for those who have experienced problems with their service providers. We invite Canadians to share their views throughout the public hearing to help us make decisions that are in the public interest.”