Monthly Archives January 2016

Firefox Adds Push Notifications

firefox for iosEnjoy the push notifications that browsers like Chrome and Safari offer? Clearly Mozilla does, because it had updated its Firefox 44 browser for Windows, Mac, and Linux to include them. The push notifications work only with your permission, for websites you specifically choose. That being said, if you update Firefox and don’t want push notifications, you have the choice not to enable them at all.

“This is similar to Web notifications, except how you can receive notifications for websites even when they’re not loaded in a tab,” Mozilla said, in a release. This is super useful for websites like email, weather, social networks and shopping, which you might check frequently for updates.”

Some perks? Websites like Facebook and Twitter will still send you notifications, even when you don’t have those tabs open. This makes organizing your browser easier, while keeping you connected to the sites you care about the most.

*Source: Hothardware.com

What is Your Communications Contingency Plan?

contingency planForty-two degrees, no electricity, the slightly audible hum of a hard drive on a fully charged laptop, and – thanks to my camping stove – a hot cup of coffee in an otherwise dark and quiet home office. Cell phone? Check. Internet connectivity? Through the cell phone hot spot, check.

Office phone lines and fax available? Because of unified communications, check. Can clients and associates reach me? Yes, but only if they have a contingency plan for their communications needs when systems fail. A week of power loss due to the most damaging windstorm on record in the greater Spokane area has left a dent for businesses in productivity and revenue.

Contingency or catastrophe? Most businesses’ plans depend on the support of a few key players in each market, mainly the utility providers. What if….? When asked early enough, this is the start of a contingency plan. Redundancy or regret? Fail safe or failure? Does your business have a contingency plan to keep in touch with clients and key personnel? Or will you scramble to just get some form – any form – of communications up and running if you even can?

What are the costs to your business? Revenue? Some for sure. Customer loyalty? Definitely. In today’s connected world, if your communications are down and your customers can’t get in touch with you, it’s your fault. And your clients may not understand why, or even care.

Do you want your business to take a hit, or worse another one, because your company can’t be contacted by customers? Great solutions in the telecommunications marketplace are available and some can even save your company monthly. It’s time to take a look before you have to reacquaint yourself with your camping stove for a cup of coffee. By then, it will be too late.

Pat Arguinchona is a Schooley Mitchell Business Optimization Specialist based in Spokane, Washington. He delivers objective telecommunications and merchant services advice to his clients, offering a broad range of services including analysis of existing and future needs, assessment of best alternatives, implementation of cost-effective solutions and billing error recovery.

Google Donating to Syrian Refugees

google-donating-to-syrian-refugeesGoogle.org wants Syrian refugees to be connected as they start life in their new homes. Donating a grant of $5.3 million to non-profits in Germany, the Internet giant is helping provide Chromebooks to the newly settled Syrians in that country. The initiative is called Project Reconnect.

“As they [the refugees] make it through a dangerous journey, the first thing refugees need is to find shelter, food and access to care,” wrote Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google.org, in a blog post. “But soon enough, they have to learn the local language, acquire skills to work in the new country, and figure out a way to continue their studies – all in an effort to reclaim and reconnect with the lives they had before.”

Chromebooks come at a relatively low cost and can be programmed to run a variety of relevant, educational programs.

Fuller says that the Chromebook “can run an educational game for kids, a language course for younger adults or even feature information about the asylum application process on a pre-installed homepage.”

*Source: PC Mag

AT&T Launches New Unlimited Data Plan

AT&TIt’s baaaaaack. Five years after scrapping it, AT&T has launched a new unlimited data plan for customers with DIRECTV or U-Verse, offering unlimited data, talk and text for $100 per month.

Couples and families can add two smartphones to the plan for $40 each, with the fourth phone added at no additional cost. AT&T is wooing television subscribers who aren’t currently wireless customers by offering $500 in credits, while wireless subscribers without a satellite package can add DIRECTV for $19.99 per month. Combining your bills will shave off another $10 per month.

It’s interesting to see AT&T utilizing its unlimited offering to boost TV subscriptions, an area that is faltering with many people choosing to cut the cord for good. AT&T says it plans to launch more integrated video and mobility plans in 2016. Stay tuned.

Would You Turn Off Your Ad Blocker?

adblockerAd blockers are a useful tool. But what’s more important to you: having the content of your favourite websites or avoiding pesky advertisements? Some companies are stopping ad-blocking users from accessing their sites in order to maintain their advertising revenue.

Ad blocking users who visited Forbes.com last month were greeted with the message “Please turn off your ad blocker in order to continue.” The test worked: since Dec. 17 the publication has tracked 29 million single views of ads that would not appear with an ad blocking tool.

In a Globe and Mail article, Forbes Chief Product Officer Lewis Dvorkin said that ad blockers are a “building dilemma that threatens the industry’s digital revenues.”

He isn’t wrong. More than 200 million people worldwide have installed an ad blocker, which is a startling increase from 2013, when the number was just 54 million. Both advertisers and media companies are taking a hit, with ad revenue decreasing substantially. For some companies, this threatens their survival in the digital world.

Toronto Adblock Plus user Arleth Slater, who also happens to work for a marketing company, argues this is the fault of advertising companies like his own.

“We haven’t done our jobs and given people what they actually want to see,” Slater was quoted as saying. “We need to go back to paying attention to the consumer.”

Slater may be right. In order for companies to regain revenue, they might need to figure out why customers are so put off by ads in the first place. What will make the general public willing to watch a 30-second clip or notice a banner on the side of their screen?

Microsoft to Donate the Cloud

microsoft logoMicrosoft plans on donating $1 billion in cloud computing services to non-profits over the next three years. CEO Satya Nadella recently announced the news while attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, adding that Microsoft plans on spreading the $1 billion between 70,000 non-profits and NGOs.

“Microsoft is empowering mission-driven organizations around the planet with a donation of cloud computing services – the most transformative technologies of our generation,” Nadella in a statement published by eWeek. “Now more than 70,000 organizations will have access to technology that will help them solve our greatest societal challenges and ultimately improve the human condition and drive new growth equally.”

The software giant’s intention is to “serve the public good” by providing cloud services like its own Azure and Enterprise Mobility Suite. As well, 900 university faculty researchers will be given expanded access to Azure for Research.

“Cloud services can unlock the secrets held by data in the ways that create new insights and lead to breakthrough, not just for science and technology, but for addressing the full range of economic and social challenges and the delivery of better human services,” said Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, in a blog post.

In order to connect underserved communities with the necessary Internet broadband speeds, Microsoft plans to use TV white spaces or unused broadcasting frequencies.

“We’re enthusiastic about the potential for TV white spaces to bring broadband connectivity at a low cost to more communities around the world – and to do so in 2016, without waiting for the arrival of the next decade,” Smith said. “By combining connectivity with cloud services and training focusing on new public-private partnerships, we are setting a goal of pursuing and supporting at least 20 of these projects in at least 15 countries around the world by the end of 2017.”

Apple Hikes International App Prices

apple logoThe Canadian loonie is struggling in comparison with the American dollar and citizens are feeling it in more than one way. Now they are bracing themselves to pay more for apps after Apple adjusted its pricing to reflect the rising disparity around the world.

The App Store in Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Mexico, Russia, Singapore and South Africa will see a hike in prices. The cost of an app is expected to increase 17 percent in Canada, meaning a $1.19 app will now set Canucks back $1.39. An app that costs $50 will ring in close to $70.

These price hikes are being blamed on increased costs for maintenance of the App Store and software creation. Right now the Canadian dollar stands at around 69 cents USD.

*Source: Toronto Star

AT&T to Axe Collect Calls

AT&TIf AT&T has its way, collect calls will soon be a thing of the past. In a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing, the communications giant asked for the discontinuation of several legacy services, including collect calling, Busy Line Verification, Busy Line Interruption, person-to-person calling, billed to a third party and international directory assistance.

The reason is simple: there is no customer demand for the services, says AT&T. Operator assistance calls have declined 18 percent per year for several years, and traffic volumes have plummeted 93 percent since 2004.

“… On average, AT&T has experienced more than an 18.7 percent decline in the volumes of these services over the last two years,” states the filing. “These services have declined in popularity over the years due to the growth of other communication methods, including mobile phones, text messaging, email and other social media applications.”

The times, they are a changin’.

Big Phone Bill Thanks to Wi-Fi Assist

apple logoYour iPhone’s Wi-Fi Assist feature might help keep your phone up and running, but it could also be doing some serious damage to your cellphone bill, as one California father found out.

The San Francisco family received a $2,021.07 phone bill – leaps and bounds beyond their usual $250 spend – and traced it back to their teenage son’s phone usage. Turns out, his bedroom was a weak Wi-Fi area and his phone was automatically switching over to cellular data. The kid churned through about 144 GB of data, resulting in the shocking phone bill.

Sadly, this is just one story of many. Users have voiced complaints from around the world and there is already a class-action lawsuit churning its way through the courts. For its part, Apple is taking steps to mitigate confusion around the feature by showing how much data is being used by Wi-Fi Assist in the Settings app.

Netflix to Deport Canadians from U.S. Site

netflix logoPlenty of Canadians and other internationals use proxy sites to stream the American version of Netflix, allowing them to access a wider variety of content. But the activity could soon come to an end, with Netflix vowing to crack down on the behaviour.

Since Netflix’s negotiations with the content providers are made on a regional basis, using a different country’s site goes against the policies of the video-streaming giant. Netflix in the United States has twice the content as its Canadian counterpart, with more Hollywood titles and popular network television series. This is appealing to Canadian consumers, no doubt. Netflix’s vice president David Fullagar recently said the use of unblockers has to stop. At the same time, Netflix is reiterating its commitment to improving international content.

How many people are cheating Netflix’s system? In April 2015, Media Technology Monitor reported that an estimated two in five Anglophone Canadians had a Netflix subscription, with a third of those people accessing the American site.

According to Fullagar, the site is “evolving” its approach to dealing with these proxy sites and is putting a new strategy in place within the next few weeks.

*Source: Toronto Sun