by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 23rd 2013 7:58am
by Tim Cushing
Wed, May 22nd 2013 12:17pm
AT&T Says You Can Use Any Video Streaming App You Want... Just As Soon As It Can Get The Meter Running
from the cheap-phone-subsidized-with-a-two-year-shakedown dept
AT&T isn't going to let something like "net neutrality" slow it down from shaking every spare cent out of its customer base. (Source: I'm a customer. Also: see these.) Beginning last year with its blocking of Apple's Facetime app (exempting customers who were paying for higher service tiers) and continuing on through its recent lockout of Google Hangouts, AT&T has skirted neutrality by using one term: pre-loaded.
In its mind, as long as an app is "pre-loaded" by phone manufacturers (and competing options are available), AT&T can block app functionality if it feels it's somehow leaving money on the table. Of course, this irritates many of its customers and brings with it an uncomfortable amount of heat as the word travels around the web.
AT&T has now issued another statement to critics of its Hangout-blocking, one which sends the clear message that the company will gladly welcome streaming video apps with open arms (even pre-loaded apps), just as soon as it's able to simultaneously welcome a fat stream of income.
AT&T has issued a second, follow up statement that doesn't make a whole lot more sense than the first one did, and again tries to place the blame at the feet of OS and device makers. AT&T does, however, promise that they'll stop blocking video chat apps from running over their network by the end of this year:AT&T's buying time while trying to appear to be working towards a "solution" for all of its customers. The longer it can hold out, the more likely the chance that someone upgrades or switches devices, thus pulling them off their grandfathered unlimited data plans and onto tiered/metered plans that earn AT&T a bit more money.
"For video chat apps that come pre-loaded on devices, we currently give all OS and device makers the ability for those apps to work over cellular for our customers who are on Mobile Share or Tiered plans. Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry have chosen to enable this for their pre-loaded video chat apps. And by mid-June, we’ll have enabled those apps over cellular for our unlimited plan customers who have LTE devices from those three manufacturers.
Throughout the second half of this year, we plan to enable pre-loaded video chat apps over cellular for all our customers, regardless of data plan or device; that work is expected to be complete by year end.
Today, all of our customers can use any mobile video chat app that they download from the Internet, such as Skype."
It tries to present this as a network issue, but Karl Bode translates AT&T's corporatespeak into the miserable truth:
In other words this isn't really technical (AT&T's LTE network is currently ranked the fastest available in the States), it's a way to bully unlimited users on to costlier plans. It's also a network neutrality violation, regardless of AT&T's choice of language.Now, there's nothing wrong with a business attempting to earn more money. But the key word here is "earn." AT&T's just trying to grab more income while offering nothing in return but a bunch of laughable statements -- both in regards to the current issues, as well as the non-stop "congestion" posturing it uses to justify limited, expensive data plans. It's obviously most interested in tying users to high-margin "services." The least it could do is drop the obviously ridiculous statements and tell its customers they can have what they want just as soon as it gets what it wants.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 16th 2013 12:52pm
from the you-need-permission-to-innovate-on-our-network dept
All AT&T Mobility customers can use any video chat app over cellular that is not pre-loaded on their device, but which they download from the Internet. For video chat apps that come pre-loaded on devices, we offer all OS and device makers the ability for those apps to work over cellular for our customers who are on Mobile Share, Tiered and soon Unlimited plan customers who have LTE devices. It's up to each OS and device makers to enable their systems to allow pre-loaded video chat apps to work over cellular for our customers on those plans.The whole focus on "pre-loaded" apps was how AT&T tried to tap dance around net neutrality questions last year with FaceTime. And it's completely made up and bogus.
Basically, they're saying if you want to do video, you have to ask permission. That's a broken system. It goes against what makes the internet good and useful: the fact that you can innovate without permission. A mobile carrier -- one who may see video chat apps as competition, for example -- being able to act as a gatekeeper to block the usefulness of such apps is a dangerous situation for those who believe in promoting innovation. We shouldn't stand for an internet where one company gets to pick what you're allowed to do.
And, just to cut this off before anyone brings up a really silly argument to defend AT&T: yes, bandwidth on mobile broadband networks is somewhat more limited (though not as limited as they would have you believe). But, these networks, for the most part, have all done away with unlimited accounts anyway. So if people use up all their broadband quota on video calls, that should be their own decision. AT&T has already made pricing decisions that limit bandwidth to consumers, so further limiting their choice in apps makes no sense on top of that.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, May 14th 2013 9:46am
Why ESPN's Offer To Pay To Have Its Content Bypass Data Cap Meters Plays Right Into The Hands Of Wireless Providers
from the stop-it,-ESPN.-you'll-just-encourage-them. dept
ESPN has been making a little bit of noise recently about being willing to throw a few bucks towards wireless providers in exchange for letting its content roll through to users without affecting their data caps. While this may sound like a good deal for sports fans stuck with low data caps, there's a whole lot wrong with this "offer," above and beyond the obvious "pay-to-skirt-net-neutrality" issue. Chris Morran has a good rundown of the negative side effects ESPN's data subsidy would unleash. First and foremost, ESPN offering to help out users with data caps plays right into the industry's talking points.
Subsidizing wireless usage in this way would only give rise to this myth that smartphone data plans are capped because of congestion and a supposed high cost of moving data. However, studies show that the cost of delivering content to wireless customers has dropped while the user base has increased.Morran's right. The last thing the wireless providers need is someone granting credence (albeit in a very roundabout way) to their ongoing myth of congestion and costs. This allows these providers to continue dining out on this story while simultaneously casting themselves as "good guys" in the new narrative. "See, we're allowing you to access popular content without using up a chunk of your data plan!" ESPN gets preferential treatment, the providers make more money and everyone wins. Well, almost.
Well-heeled content providers like ESPN would not be hurt financially by subsidies, but if they became standard, that extra could effectively put up a huge roadblock — or at least a very nasty speed bump — to smaller startups seeking to compete.Basically, if one content provider is shown preference in exchange for a fee, it makes it tougher for the competition to reach consumers. If FOX Sports is just going to eat away at your data plan, it only makes sense to switch to the "free" data ESPN is providing. Wireless companies will be able to leverage content providers against each other, gradually levelling the playing field with fat stacks of subsidy dollars.
If ESPN is able to follow through on its plan, this will become the norm. Wireless providers will have a new source of income and exactly zero reasons to increase or remove data caps, seeing as the caps themselves are providing the incentive for content providers to ante up for unmetered data to keep consumers hooked.
As unmetered data usage increases, the wireless providers will simply adjust the argument, stating that this new level of network strain requires data caps to stay in place and that the infrastructure improvements needed to support this will require higher overage fees and lower caps.
Morran argues it shouldn't be that way, and again, he's right, but given the track record of most providers when it comes to data caps, nothing will change but the amount of cash flowing towards wireless companies.
If content providers do begin subsidizing wireless plans, then consumers should demand lower monthly rates — or the elimination of data caps entirely, as that extra cost will be borne by ESPN and others. Of course, we all know that will never happen.Consumers can make all the demands they want, but the simple fact is most of them lack the options to make a stand on principle. Even in areas covered by more than one provider, the differences between the "competing" companies is almost imperceptible.
From a business standpoint, this works out extremely well for ESPN. Even if most customers are in no danger of hitting their data cap, the pull of unmetered data is very strong. Unfortunately, it works out all too well for wireless providers, most of whom have shown little interest in upgrading their infrastructure even as they shed crocodile tears over congestion.
by Tim Cushing
Mon, May 13th 2013 11:52am
from the keeping-the-peace-at-a-ratio-of-nine-to-one dept
How many law enforcement officers does it take to subdue one intoxicated man? In Bakersfield, CA, it takes nine: seven sheriff's deputies, two CHP officers and a police dog. It also appears that being publicly intoxicated and resisting arrest in Bakersfield is punishable by immediate death in the same county.
At this point, consider everything regarding the beating to be "alleged." After all, we don't have any conclusive evidence of what happened, despite two people filming it (and a handful of eyewitnesses) because law enforcement made sure every recording of the event (except one -- more on that in a bit) was seized as "evidence."
Also, keep in mind that David Silva, the thirty-three year old father of four who was allegedly beaten to death by nine law enforcement officers, was only allegedly intoxicated and violent. Evidence of his crime(s) disappeared along with the footage of multiple cops swinging batons. (I suppose this will be verified when the autopsy results are made public, presumably featuring a full toxicology report.)
Here's an eyewitness account of the beating:
At about midnight, Ruben Ceballos, 19,was awakened by screams and loud banging noises outside his home. He said he ran to the left side of his house to find out who was causing the ruckus.The phones used to record the incident were seized by law enforcement as "evidence." As it's highly doubtful the sheriff's department is looking into charging a dead man with a crime, the only "investigation" possible would be a look into the actions of the officers at the scene. This also means the only criminal activity captured on film would be the officers'. Turning over the only copy of evidence to the perpetrators is generally considered to be a terrible idea. But when you've just witnessed nine law enforcement officers beat a man into unconsciousness (and eventual death), your normal citizen is probably going to think twice before telling another officer, "No."
"When I got outside I saw two officers beating a man with batons and they were hitting his head so every time they would swing, I could hear the blows to his head," Ceballos said.
Silva was on the ground screaming for help, but officers continued to beat him, Ceballos said.
After several minutes, Ceballos said, Silva stopped screaming and was no longer responsive.
But the witnesses held out as long as they could. The incident happened around midnight. The two witnesses who had recorded the event (a male whose name hasn't been released and Maria Melendez) were called back to their apartment by the sheriff's department. This was at 3 AM. At that point, the officers demanded they turn over their cell phones. They refused to do so without being served a warrant. The officers then detained them in the apartment, telling them they couldn't leave without turning over their phones.
Three hours later, the male turned over his phone, stating he needed to be to work in a couple of hours. The officers detained Melendez for nearly nine hours. The search warrant finally arrived around noon and Melendez relinquished her phone. The two witnesses were told they could pick up their phones the next day. When the unnamed male went to recover his, he found the timeframe had now changed to "months, even years" before he could get his phone back.
Two bits of evidence have made their way into the public, unimpeded by sheriff's deputies with endless amounts of time to waste and rights to violate. The first is a 911 call reporting the beating made by Salinas Quair, Melendez's daughter. This call alerted law enforcement to the fact that the (alleged) beating had been recorded, triggering the intimidating roundup (and detainment) of these witnesses.
There's a man laying on the floor and your police officers beat the [explicit] out of him and killed him," said the woman. "I have it all on video camera."The second piece of evidence, a security camera recording, was turned over by an individual who (unsurprisingly) has refused to go on camera or reveal his or her name. Here's KERO TV's (Bakersfield) description of the recordings' contents.
The woman continued:
"I am sitting here on the corner of Flower and Palm right now and you have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight Sheriffs. The guy was laying on the floor and eight Sheriff's ran up and started beating him up with sticks. The man is dead laying right here, right now."
The grainy black and white video appears to show the alleged victim, David Silva, 33, lying on the ground. Another person is then seen walking up to Silva and attempting to pick him up. Both men appear to scuffle, and after a few minutes, Silva is seen being struck with an object.If you click through and watch the footage, at about 4:05 an officer can be seen taking a two-handed swing with a baton. Shortly thereafter, more officers arrive. One of the first to arrive also takes a two-handed swing with a baton. In all, nine baton-swinging officers showed up. A spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff's Office reassures everyone that the officers felt no need to deploy any of their other weaponry, as well as undercounting the number of respondents.
Other cars are seen arriving at the scene with lights flashing on top of them. Several other men are then seen in the video, also striking Silva more than a dozen times with objects. Silva is then seen being taken into custody.
KCSO Spokesperson Ray Pruitt told 23 ABC it took 5 deputies, 2 CHP officers and a K-9 to subdue Silva.His count is off. Here are the names of the Sheriff's Department personnel involved in the incident, as released by the Sheriff's Office.
Pruitt said officers were forced to use their batons to arrest Silva but no tazers, pepper spray or guns were used during the altercation.
The office did identify the officers involved in the arrest as Sgt. Douglas Sword and deputies Ryan Greer, Tanner Miller, Jeffrey Kelly, Luis Almanza, Brian Brock and David Stephens.That's seven from the sheriff's department. The names of the two CHP officers have not been released. That's nine altogether, plus a police dog.
One has to wonder, though, how the officers were "forced" to use their batons. Perhaps some force was needed to subdue Silva, but with nine officers responding (and swinging), you'd think the tide would have turned in law enforcement's favor long before Silva lost consciousness. And how much "resistance" did Silva actually offer, considering the first officer on the scene was responding to a call from Kern Medical Center security who reported Silva as "passed out?"
End result: a man loses his life for being intoxicated. Nine officers
Not content to limit its wrongdoing to a beating, deputies then barge into a home without a warrant and detain two citizens against their will, one of them for nearly nine hours, until the warrant they should have needed just to get in the door at 3 AM finally shows up at noon.
Now, all of the inarguable evidence is in the hands of the same people who would prefer it just went away. It will be tough for them to get away with simply deleting the recordings, but stranger things have happened to evidence that implicates law enforcement officers but has ended up in the possession of law enforcement. The recording can be termed "unrecoverable" or have inexplicably large gaps in the footage. Or the phone may be damaged during "processing." Sometimes, the evidence just vanishes conveniently and a lengthy internal investigation will unwind at a glacial pace until everyone loses interest.
There's a law enforcement problem here, and the problem is with the brand of "enforcement" that bypasses the law entirely. David Silva's death at the hands of police officers conjures up images of similar methods being deployed to subdue a schizophrenic homeless man in nearby Fullerton, CA. Kelly Thomas was beaten by several officers, resulting in a death by "mechanical suppression of the thorax." This one was caught on tape (via security camera), as well as captured more intimately by a microphone worn by one of the officers.
The people who witnessed this beating have nowhere to go. They can't trust the police and they've seen those who recorded the event quarantined in their home until they complied with the officers' requests to turn over their phones. If not for the constitutional violations committed by "law enforcement," the footage would already be publicly displayed. The longer the Sheriff's office delays in releasing this footage, the worse it appears. If this went down as described, there's no way law enforcement can hope to salvage some respect by attempting to downplay or justify the actions of these officers.
Even if Silva was putting up the fight of his life, he was intoxicated and was outnumbered 9-to-1. Any reasonable person would expect a suspect to be subdued before it got to the point where it became life-threatening. But any hopes of a reasonable outcome were discarded the moment that first two-handed swing connected.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 3rd 2013 5:11am
from the i'd-bet-more-on-him-being-obsolete-by-then dept
“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,” Heins said in an interview yesterday at the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles. “Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.”That's the sound of denial that you're hearing. It is actually okay for a CEO to admit that his company screwed up (especially when, as in this case, he can dump some of the blame on its strategy on the previous leadership). But to argue that the need for tablets is going away without a more detailed explanation? That just sounds like rationalizing.
To be clear, I could easily see a world in which a tablet does become obsolete, but it would likely be one where we see a rise of eye-displays like Google Glass or further advances beyond that -- and there's no indication that that is the direction that Heins is taking Blackberry. Instead, this just looks like him covering up for the failure of Blackberry to offer a compelling product by claiming that the whole space is going to go away.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Apr 30th 2013 8:28am
from the is-this-really-the-best-use-of-taxpayer-money dept
Apple is working with the government to shut down those who mislead consumers.This seems like a massive overreaction to a mere case of "misleading" consumers. They paint this as if it's some massive danger to make use of an aftermarket/non-Apple parts in doing the repair, but it's not. In many cases, such aftermarket parts are a good way to fix a phone at a more reasonable price. If Apple feels some of the shops are misleading customers, then it can sue for trademark infringement and deal with it that way.
Having over-aggressive, amped up ICE agents pretending this is a drug raid and that they need to "shut down" these shops is a massive overreaction which only serves to help prop up Apple's bottom line by taking aftermarket competitive parts out of the market, so that Apple can keep the margins on its parts extra high. Either way, there's simply no reason for treating the whole thing like a drug raid:
"When they came in it almost looked like a drug raid," Said Abella.They came after you because you weren't paying the toll to Apple, and Apple doesn't like competition. Why our taxpayer money is being used to support such a massive overreaction, shutting down small businesses who provide a useful service repairing phones, is beyond me. Honestly, ICE's propensity to act as private cops (with guns) doing favors for giant businesses is really sickening. ICE has been out of control for a long time, and shutting down small businesses because Apple doesn't want to compete? That's just crazy.
Abella claims there were 20 ICE agents and two people from Apple in his small Bird Road store.
Abella says he began fixing Apple Products because everyone else was.
"We got the parts from a company in California. To this day that vendor is still selling parts," Said Abella.
"Why did the come after me?” he added.
by Michael Ho
Wed, Apr 17th 2013 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Transmitting a wireless signal at 2.5 terabits per second isn't anywhere near commonplace yet, but maybe someday wireless spectrum will have almost unlimited capacity. Networking equipment that can handle both orbital angular momentum (OAM) and spin angular momentum (SAM) modulation will have to get out of research labs first. [url]
- Antennas can be the largest component in a wireless device, but a hemispherical antenna design might approach fundamental size limits. Phones might not get any smaller, but there could be more room for batteries.... [url]
- Antennas made of thin films of graphene could allow for terabit per second data transfers over short distances. Graphene is still a tricky material to work with, but as researchers work out how to make useful electronics from graphene, there could be some amazingly small wireless devices in the future. [url]
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Apr 16th 2013 9:07am
from the the-Man-sticks-it-to...-the-Man dept
Having your cellphone go off during a movie or during your kid's school concert is considered by many to be the penultimate act of rudeness. (Actually answering your phone in these locations is the ultimate act of rudeness, one many feel should be punished by immediate death.) Having your cellphone go off in court is not only considered rude, but (legally) contemptuous.
But, what's the expected response if it's a judge's cellphone that starts making noise while court is in session? At most, we'd expect a brief and possibly brusque apology from the judge before returning to the case at hand. We'd expect nothing more because many authority figures have presented themselves as exempt from the rules they enforce for most of the past
20 50 100 years.
Judge Raymond Voet of Ionia County, Michigan is an exception. Rules are rules and should apply equally to everybody, no matter what position they hold.
A Michigan judge imposed a $25 contempt of court fine on himself after his cellphone made noise during closing arguments of a jury trial.A new phone can have a steep learning curve and this one soundly defeated the judge's embarrassed attempts to silence it. But rather than just dealing with the misbehaving phone and returning to work (actions no one would have questioned -- after all, he is the judge), Judge Voet subjected himself to the same rules he holds everyone else to.
"I'm guessing I bumped it. It started talking really loud, saying 'I can't understand you. Say something like Mom,'" he said. "My face got as red as a beet."
Voet, who said the phone is new and he is still learning how to work it, said he decided to hold himself in contempt of court and fine himself $25 because he wouldn't accept excuses from anyone else whose phones caused disturbances in court.
"If I cannot live by the rules that I enforce, then I have no business enforcing these rules," Voet said.
Sure, the fine is only $25, but the gesture is much, much bigger than that. Voet earned plenty of respect in return for a nominal cash outlay. While we can only speculate as to whether he would have subjected himself to a larger fine in order to set an example, the fact is he followed through on an action that wouldn't have occurred to most of his peers, much less been considered (briefly) with any seriousness.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 15th 2013 2:14pm
Boston Officials Allegedly Shut Down Mobile Service In Boston To Prevent Remote Detonation (Update: Or Not)
from the overreaction dept
As I'm sure you've heard by now, there were some explosions not too long ago in Boston at the end of the Boston Marathon. Not surprisingly, this has become the important (and horrifying) news story of the day. At a time like this, there generally isn't that much news for us to report, because (1) others are doing it much better and (2) we're just as much in shock as everyone else.