Monday, November 25, 2013

Net Neutrality and Fiber Internet: Where Will it Go?

It's not easy math.

•    If Internet provider A offers fiber Internet plan B, but doesn't want website C to run as quickly – or at all – can it be dictated in Terms of Service D?
•    If Internet provider E doesn't allow customers to use router F – or write blog G using Internet application H – is it in violation of net neutrality rule X?

So rages the debate in American courts over whether ISPs can:

a)    Legally throttle access to certain sites, or block them, and
b)    Restrict the use of servers on home broadband connections – or define it

Central to the argument is Google. Once the champion of the net neutrality movement, Google is now staunchly opposed to the idea that ISPs should operate without promotion of any service or site, nor obstruct any service or site accessed on that connection.

Who is right? How will that dictate how ISPs operate?

Google's pair of 180s on neutrality

Google's flip-flop stance has two chapters.

Initially, Google implored user to "take action to protect Internet freedom," in executive chairman Eric Schmidt's note in summer 2006. Schmidt's communique warned of a bill that "would give the big phone and cable companies the power to pick and choose what you will be able to see and do on the Internet."

But with a planned business-class version of its 1Gbps fiber Internet, Google switched lanes.

Citing "no enforceable protections" of carrier discrimination against Internet traffic, Google in 2010 allied with Verizon to give the Federal Communications Commission power to preserve an open Internet. Namely, the FCC would prevent carriers from blocking or degrading wireless Internet traffic.

Google, citing a "spirit of compromise," put the brakes on its original version of net neutrality, in favor of keeping a market free of regulation, at least temporarily, dependent on Congress to keep watch.

In October 2013, Google made another U-turn.

Amid public pressure regarding its fence-straddling stance, Google updated its terms of service. Absent from the new document: Prohibition of the use of servers on its fiber networks. Its ban on servers, enacted to protect consumers from bandwidth hogs, also trampled uses common to average users.

The old terms of service blocked email servers, nanny cams and peer-to-peer software – not exactly threats to overall bandwidth availability.

Google now allows server use for noncommercial, home use. It heard the people, and reacted. But it doesn't go far enough to help Internet commerce. Small businesses and innovative websites are still left behind. For them, with restrictions still on for those entities, hurdles still remain.

Google – and any big broadband player – is justified when it blocks content that could harm its network or customers' devices. Most providers guard against spam, malware, and other web-born threats.

But when providers slow or block non-threatening applications and sites out of concern for "quality of service," or in the loosely-interpreted spirit of "reasonable network management" it's nothing short of a manipulation of terms.

It’s closer in intent to foreign governments outlawing websites or using high-tech software to seek out terms and punish bloggers who use them.

The 1996 Telecommunications Act leaves too many terms ambiguously defined to prevent ISPs from a clamp down on sites and apps outside their best interest, and promoting those that will serve their business model. Or any interest, including political.

Open Internet as we know it in the western world would be at peril.

Terms must be defined

Let's take a look at terms that could use a better foundation:

"May not reasonably" impair, interfere, restrict

The 1996 Telecommunications Act doesn't define what's unreasonable, though. The phrase refers to certain classes of ISPs and their right to limit or ban Internet apps and services on their networks. Those Internet apps allow us to:

•    Download music
•    Listen to online radio stations
•    Make Internet video-conference sessions and phone calls
•    Play online games
•    Send email
•    Use instant messenger programs
•    Watch videos

Until the FCC can specifically define "unreasonable," ISPs could toss that net far and wide.

"Quality of service"

Caps and throttles of bandwidth aren't new to ISPs. Neither is the controversy around each practice.

Throttling is often used to limit the bandwidth a device can access to prevent it from overload of its capacity to process. A cap restricts the speed of data transfer, on upload and download. Both are implemented to reduce network congestion.

As "quality of service" stands, it's open for interpretation that could allow ISPs to restrict just about any app or site. It also allows for ISPs to tier the Internet. They could charge more money for access to the top level (few or no restrictions) for consumers and app providers.

ISPs might also offer a less-comprehensive, heavily moderated version of an Internet experience for those who don't upgrade.

Such interpretation could also allow an ISP to regulate access to certain search engines or news sites, and default to the engines and sites of their own preference.

What's next?

The threat of a fast-and-loose perception of these and other terms in the Act is more than forcing users to pay more for what they do online or funneling them to the ISPs search engine of choice. Your ability to watch movies and TV shows, make Internet phone calls, and provide a household network for your family's enabled devices is certainly at risk.

If ISPs continue this march on open Internet, web innovators who create the next Amazon, Pandora or Twitter might have the window of opportunity slammed shut before they can get started. Sites will die or thrive at the discretion of the ISP giants and those who can afford to pay their way into favor.

And all those things we love to do online – and accept as free – will have a price tag attached.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Google Glass and Social Media

If you’ve been breathing for the last few months, you’ve probably heard talk of Google Glass.

This ongoing conversation has been promoted by the media, personal blogs, word of mouth, and marketing efforts by Google. The talk ranges from Google Glass as the pinnacle of technology to Google Glass as the annihilator of privacy.

If Google Glass achieves half of this speculated ability, we’ll have X-ray vision superheroes (and villains) walk among us.

With lasers. Hopefully there will be lasers.

So much of the dialogue has been about these larger than life theories that one very important effect of Google Glass has been overlooked.

Google Glass and its relationship with social media

Social media is already at our fingertips. Literally.

We carry our smartphones around with us wherever we go. My smartphone has become an extension of myself and works as a means of organization, communication, scheduling, and socializing.

I update Facebook, check Twitter, and share photos on Instagram throughout my day, without ever reaching for a computer. I reach in my pocket for my smartphone instead.

Look, everyone! No hands!

At the most recent Google I/O conference, where techies of the world unite, Google announced that Google Glass will include social media applications. Glass will have third-party applications, called “Glassware,” for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Path.

With the device, you can automatically share videos and photos from Google Glass to your Gmail contacts and Google+ circles.

Social media applications available on Google Glass

According to, social media apps like Facebook and Twitter are extremely simplified on Glass. Some simplified versions of these social media applications work well (or relatively well) on Glass, and some of the apps still need some work.


Twitter for Glass allows the user to experience some, but not all, of the features of Twitter.

Users can:

•    Share Glass photos with followers
•    Compose tweets to @ replies from users they follow


The Facebook app for Glass is even simpler than Twitter for Glass.

With this app:

•    Choose to share to either Public, Friends, or Only Me
•    Upload photos from Glass


Tumblr for Glass is arguably the most useful social media app available on the device.

Users have options to:

•    Decide which Tumblrs and followers they’d like to share Glass photos with
•    Set frequency of Dashboard updates
•    View GIFs, even animated ones

How Glass will affect Social Media

If Google Glass takes off in popularity the way many predict it will, it may be incorporated into our culture and society as quickly and effortlessly as smartphone technology has. If this is the case, then the way we interact with social media is bound to be affected by the convenience of Google Glass.

We might be more social online than ever before.

Even closer than our fingertips, Google Glass will give the user the opportunity to snap a photo, record a video, update a status, and connect with people more easily than ever before. That means that you’ll share more and your friends will share more, creating a culture that constantly learns about other people’s lives.

This phenomenon will even extend to strangers, if facial recognition technology reaches Glass. See a stranger in the crowd, and receive information from Glass based on the personal information the individual shared on his or her social networks. It might even be acceptable to spark up a conversation with the individual if your interests align.

There could be a merger of traditional interaction and online social interaction.

Again, this prediction assumes that Google Glass and/or its competitors become as popular as smartphones are today. If everyone has Google Glass, or a comparable wearable device, then in-person social interaction may be supported, or even initiated, by interaction on social networks.

In-person conversation may center on a funny video someone just shared via Glass, or a hangout between Glass users may continue once the group meets up in person.

The giant influx of data will cause an information overload.

If you think people post photos, videos, links, and status updates a lot now, just wait until everyone owns their very own Google Glass. The prediction is that Google wants their wearable device to eventually be as widely available as the smartphone. That means a lot of Glass users.

As people share more and more information online, this may cause there to be too much data available online. Your feed will be bombarded with too many photos, videos, and updates for you to possibly react to them all.

This overload may cause important information to fall through the cracks, especially if Google attempts to alleviate the problem by ranking information in your feed based on your predetermined interests and preferences.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

5 Essential Free Software Programs

Before the world said, “There’s an app for that,” it said, “there’s free software for that.”

OK, maybe no one really said that. They didn’t need to.  They were busy doing cool things with the free software they’d installed. From fix-its to system monitors to data backups, there’s a wealth of free software. Of course, if you download it all, you might need something like recuva, for data recovery.

Here’s nine essential programs we found.   After all, what’s the coolest hardware without a good suite of (free) software?

For an operating system

With a sleek, intuitive interface, Ubuntu feels like the future. It has the speed and security you’d hope for, and thousands of applications for customization. Firewall and virus protection are built-in, with quick, automatic updates available. It’s especially speedy on new enabled devices.

For browsing

Google Chrome
This browser can cook. Meaning, it’s really fast, and the security is tight. In true Google fashion, it includes instant site prediction and loading. The extensions are plentiful, useful and innovative, and can be synced to other devices. The integrated Flash player and PDF reader are definite plusses.

Mozilla Firefox
Fresh and minimalist in design, Firefox is a fast web browser with customization potential. It supports HTML5, and is quite secure. You can sync your extensions, history, passwords, and tabs. An integrated PDF viewer is a nice touch, as is the Do Not Track option to keep surfing data from advertisers.

For productivity

Foxit Reader
Some even consider Foxit superior to popular Adobe Reader, especially with the 5.0 update, including tabbed PDF viewing. The new version comes with an upgraded interface. Beware numerous opt-ins and opt-outs as you install Foxit. Choose your color scheme and customize your toolbar and shortcuts.

For system health

This comprehensive dashboard covers the hard-disk, solid-state and several external drives on your system, in an efficient, user-friendly display. It’ll warn you of possible trouble, in an unobtrusive position atop your window. Check details of your current firmware versions with the click of any drive’s icon.

It’s a unique concept: Soluto checks out your system, and then confers with an online database for answers to performance roadblocks. It specializes in startup-time reduction, web-browser optimization, and crash remedies. Soluto tells you what to boot, and what to skip, and its data base grows all the time.

How much disk space do you use? This program shows you visually your hard-drive usage. Local devices can also be examined, and, in about 10 minutes, you’ll get a color-coded rendition of your files. Your most memory-gluttonous files will show blue, followed by red, then green. Where can you save space?

For virus protection

AVG Free Antivirus
Updates in 2013 have tightened up this program, including a new interface optimized for Windows 8. It’s quick from download to first use (5 minutes), and has a slimmer presence (from 100MB to 33MB) than before. The Do Not Track feature works only if you opt in for the AVG toolbar.

For recovery

Undeleting, made easy. Recuva allows you to securely delete, if you’re absolutely sure. Take the portable rendition of Recuva on a USB stick. For-pay alternatives might be more comprehensive, but for free, it does a great job.

The pleasant interface and easy-to-use navigation are perfect for stressful moments when you wonder if your data can be retrieved, or is lost forever.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Fourth of July: Best Songs and Drinks for Your Party

The Fourth of July is a time for celebrating in style.  The key to having a legendary summer party is to have the best drinks and the best playlist for the occasion.  As Americans, we all know the importance of individuality and fun, which is why there are so many varieties of Fourth of July parties out there.  From entertaining kiddies with their sparklers and hot dogs, to rocking a killer outdoor barbeque with dangerous explosives and excessive bandanas, each Fourth of July party is unique.  

Your party environment relies on the background music to fuel conversation, dancing, and drinking (The “Shots” song, anyone?!). Minimize party planning stress by relying on online music streaming websites to do the playlist creating for you. 

Be sure to crank that Pandora station to randomize song choices, or use Spotify to play specific playlists and songs at the click of a mouse.  You can also use sites like Grooveshark to upload your own music into the streaming mix. 

If you want to have a kickass playlist to suite your party by streaming music and offering up awesome drink choices, the following list has got you covered.

Country Party on the Lake
If you’re planning a party with a “no shoes, no shirt, no problem” motto, a country themed playlist will be a perfect fit.  Start the day off right with some LiberTea to go with those daisy dukes and ball caps. Here are the best songs to plug into a music streaming website that’ll have you screaming “Yee-Haw, America!” 

American Saturday Night” by Brad Paisley - “American Saturday Night” originated from the TV show name “Saturday Night Live” and was the basis for Paisley’s entire album. 
 Only in America” by Brooks & Dunn - “Only in America” was released in June 2001, but the song got grouped in with similar patriotic songs all created in response to the September, 11 2011 attacks.
 All American Girl” by Carrie Underwood - Carrie Underwood shared to Entertainment Weekly that the high note during the bridge in the song is the highest she had ever hit.
Made in America” by Toby Keith - Toby Keith almost left this song off of his “Clancy’s Tavern” album because he thought he had “a lot of America songs.”
 American Beautiful” The Henningsens - “American Beautiful” was The Henningsens’ first single ever released from their debut album.

SIP:  LiberTea

Poolside Pop Party
If your party calls for any combination of dancing, swimming, and socializing, turn up any of these songs to get in the groove.

Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus - “Party in the U.S.A.” was originally written by and intended for pop singer Jessie J., however she decided the track wasn’t edgy enough for her and it was eventually passed to Cyrus to record. 
 Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys - “Empire State of Mind” went platinum 5 times and won 2 Grammy Awards.
 California Gurls” by Katy Perry - Perry has said this song was made in response to “Empire State of Mind.” The song reached number one in over ten countries.
 Fourth of July (Fireworks)” by Kelis - Although the “Fourth of July” title implies a strong connection to U.S. culture, the song peaked at #2 in Belgium.
 American Boy” by Estelle ft. Kanye West - This song by U.K. R&B singer Estelle has been parodied numerous times with new names like “Egyptian Boy” and “Australian Boy.”

Children’s Patriotic Party
If you’re hosting a party for all the kids in the neighborhood, here are a few sing-a-long tunes that will rock their tiny world.

Yankee Doodle - Alvin & The Chipmunks covered this song for their debut album in 1959.
 You’re a Grand Ole Flag - This patriotic march was written in 1906 for the musical “George Washington Jr.”
 Celebration” by Kool & The Gang - This classic party song is still heard today at events like weddings and hit #1 on five different song charts in 1980 and 1981.
Surfin’ in the USA” by The Beach Boys - This summertime anthem was featured in the 1985 Michael J. Fox comedy “Teen Wolf.” 

SIP:  Patriotic Mocktail

Rock ‘n Roll Barbeque
Gather all your Harley-ridin’, America-lovin’, backyard-grillin’ boys and girls to a Rock themed barbeque that will leave everyone wishing every day was the Fourth of July.

American Woman” by Lenny Kravitz - “American Woman” was first released in 1970 by Canadian band The Guess Who and has been covered by many artists, like Jimi Hendrix, in addition to Lenny Kravitz.
 Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynard Skynard - This southern rock song was played in the film “Forrest Gump” as Forrest dances with his friend Jenny in the living room of his Alabama home.
 Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen - Springsteen declined al multi-million dollar offer by Chrysler to have the song be used in commercials.
 Don’t Tread on Me” by Metallica - The musical introduction of the song includes an 8 bar phrase from the song “America” made popular by “West Side Story.”
 American Badass” by Kid Rock - After the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, this song was broadcast over the ship’s PA system upon leaving the port.

SIP:  Go simple, classic, and American with buckets of Yuengling Lager from America’s oldest operating brewery.

Romantic Fireworks  After-Party
Unwind after your Fourth of July festivities with some relaxed holiday songs and a pitcher of Sangria to keep you cool. 

Star Spangled Banner” by Whitney Houston - The national anthem was performed by Whitney Houston in 1991 at the Super Bowl and quickly became one of TVs greatest moments and one of Houston’s most memorable performances.
Imagine” by John Lennon - This song became the most commercially successful and
 critically acclaimed of Lennon’s solo career.
United States of Eurasia” by Muse - This song was placed on Muse’s album titled
“The Resistance” and is followed immediately by an instrumental solo called “Collateral Damage.”
American Baby” by Dave Matthews Band - This song peaked at #16 on Billboard Hot 100, which was Dave Matthews Band’s highest peak in the U.S. 
Where We Left Off” by Hunter Hayes - This song appeared on the soundtrack for the 2012 film “Act of Valor,” which starred actual active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs and SWCC.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Comparing Google Glass to Tim Cook’s “Watch” Vision

Google Glass has people wondering about the future of smart devices. Can we expect almost everyone to be wearing Glass-like devices in the coming years? Apple CEO Tim Cook has a different vision for wearable computing: Wrist devices. At the recent All Things Digital conference, he brought to light the validity of this alternative.

The Question of Aesthetics

Despite Google's best efforts, Glass does not look ordinary. One quick look and people can tell you are wearing Glass. Your day-to-day appearance is essentially impaired by wearing Glass. The product itself is attractive, but it is hard to deny that it lacks any subtlety.

A wrist device is straight-forward. It is not distracting to you or anyone else around you. Tim Cook laid this out succinctly stating, "I wear glasses because I have to. I don’t know a lot of people that wear them that don’t have to."

The Wrist is Natural

Watches are no longer a common item to wear, especially for the younger generation. Cook pointed this out himself at the All Things Digital D11 conference stating, "If we had a room full of 10 to 20-year-olds and we said, ‘Everyone stand up that has a watch,’ I’m not sure anybody would stand up.”

While Cook's observation is accurate, you don't need to be a watch wearer to find a wrist device natural. Looking at your wrist is just as straight-forward as the slight look up Glass requires, and more importantly it doesn't have to be in front of your face if you don't want it to. Google Glass gives the eerie sensation of technology being invasive to our everyday lives. A watch-like device can operate as a more intuitive smartphone without getting in your way.

Convenience & Safety

What if you want to take Glass off? Just like with eyeglasses, you probably won't want to carry them folded up in your pocket. Chances are you will need to carry around a case for Glass. The naturalness of a wrist device means you probably won't mind whether it is off or on. Glass has also led people to voice concerns over privacy and safety. While Glass' limited availability makes it difficult to call it either way, it is certainly something to consider.

That Apple Touch

While Cook did not explicitly state that Apple would be going into the wearable computing market with wrist devices, their patents seem to indicate that they will. They have filed patents for a flexible display based device with a slap bracelet mechanic.

While Google is an innovative company that has come out with its fair share of great products, Apple's reputation for innovative and successful products is near legendary. If Apple were to make an 'iWatch', we can have faith that they will be able to pull it off successfully. Combine this with their current product ecosystem, and you could end up with a central controller for everything Apple – right on your wrist. We may already be seeing some hints of design innovation for a new wrist wearable design. Apple recently also filed a patent for devices with displays you can actually press. This could add an entirely new element to touch devices.

Which product will succeed?

How Apple and Google advertise to us is going to be a huge part of which one of these products garners the most success. New technology, like Glass and a possible Apple watch, is supposed to make life easier – supposed to fulfill a need. People are always looking for something, and Apple and Google are hoping they have what we are looking for.

But people don’t make decisions rationally all the time – a lot of decisions are based on emotions. Whichever product stirs the most emotion through marketing will have a better chance of winning the attention, and the money, of consumers.

Consumers are also looking to avoid risk. Yes, we are curious of new products and we love to buy, but we don’t like to think we are risking more than we will gain. Buying a new product always carries some sort of risk – that’s why people often wait to buy the second version of products, so all the kinks get worked out.

Glass seems like a product that people would wait to buy the second time around – it almost seems fragile. It wouldn’t be surprising if consumers held off on the first product and instead opted to wait for the second wave. Since Apple’s plans for a watch device aren’t exactly clear, it’s hard to say which product would come out on top – but what is clear is that if either company delves into what consumers think about when they buy products they’ve never seen before, they have a better shot at coming out on top.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What videos the Internet had to offer in May

Viral videos are becoming cliché. The news report that gets auto tuned. The baby that does something baby-like. The dog/cat who acts like a human. 

Over. It. 

We need a new type of viral video, people. As May comes to a close, let’s reflect on what the Internet has had to share with us the past two weeks in the unusual viral video department. 

May 8: John Krasinski challenges Jimmy Fallon to a lip-sync off. 

Jimmy Fallon is known for playing interesting games with his celeb guests – but this time, it was the guest – not the host – creating a game. John Krasinski, AKA Jim Halpert from The Office (RIP), challenged Jimmy to outdo him lip syncing. They each choose three songs, and competed to wow the audience with their lip sync skills. 

Now, Jimmy is also known for his musical talent. But Krasinski came out guns blazing – all you need to know is Krasinski made love to a teenage dream, and it was awe inspiring. 

May 14: Grizzly eats a GoPro. He ate it. 

Well, he tried to eat it at least. Brad Josephs was filming up close and personal footage of a grizzly bear for the BBC with his GoPro – and he got some footage he wasn’t exactly anticipating. 

Ever seen the inside of a hungry grizzly’s mouth? Me neither, until I saw this clip. 

May 17: Patton Oswalt “Parks and Recreation” Filibuster Is REAL.

Back in April the Internet exploded when a clip of comedian Patton Oswalt guest starring on Parks and Rec went viral. He was told to just improvise and talk about something he knew about for a couple minutes. Holy improvisation, Batman. 

Oswalt legit spoke non-stop for nearly EIGHT MINUTES about his proposed plot for the new Star Wars movie. Never has watching a grown man talk for nearly 10 minutes about Star Wars and superheroes been so entertaining – until someone took all of his ridiculous/genius ideas and brought them to animated life. Baby Padawans anyone? 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Google Glass: Which Original Apps Do We Want to See?

Google Glass is unquestionably an original product it’s a totally intuitive, sort of cool looking (okay, not really) wearable computer.

As unique as it is, there’s not a lot of originality going on in the app department. Google Glass already has the “duh” apps – Facebook, Twitter, CNN, Tumblr etc. Those are a given. With AppLaunch, a free app template tool available to developers, maybe we can get some of those “oh, what!” apps, along with the predictable ones.  

Take Winky, an unofficial app (it requires some work to get up and running ) that lets you take a picture by winking your eye—as opposed to the normal way of asking the camera or tapping your Google specs. That’s innovative, handy, and okay, maybe a tiny bit scary (especially if you’re at a bar, and someone winks at you from across the room and you don’t know why…).

Still, this is a wearable computer hooked up to Google and its endless databases. We’ll need to see at least a couple of these original apps (or something like them) before Google Glass becomes a must-have for everyone.

The idea: Keep-Me-Healthy App

Smartphones have a bazillion apps (or close to that, I haven’t counted) for fitness and health – Google Glass should have the same. It could be anything from an app that acts as a pedometer or one that syncs with Google Maps to create and track running routes.

Or, how about you take a picture of your meal and Google Glass tells you the calorie count? You could actually see the calories floating in front of you before you stuff them in your face.

Oh what.                                                                   

Yes. I want that.

The idea: Name-That-Tune App

Part Shazam, part karaoke machine – how about an app that shows you the lyrics to songs playing around you? Find yourself in an elevator and want to name that tune (probably a show tune)? In a restaurant and can’t remember the lyrics to the upcoming chorus? At a concert and want to sing along? How about an app that fills in the musical gaps?

The idea: Keep-An-Eye-Out App

So let’s say you have a baby – instead of having to stay glued to a monitor, wouldn’t it be cool if there was an app that let you check in on your new addition right from Google Glass? Yup, I think so too.

The idea: Kill-Some-Down-Time App

There are those times where you’re between meetings, running a few minutes early, or just have time to kill before meeting up with friends. Wouldn’t it be cool if Glass had an app where you could program it to know your interests, then show you places that you’d be interested in going to when you need to kill some time?

You could filter out the places you’re not interested in, so Google Glass gives you a detailed and personalized experience. You’ve got 15 minutes, there’s a park a block away if you fancy a stroll around the lake—thanks Google!
Google Glass is in the beginning stages – this isn’t a notorious Google Beta, this thing feels more like an open alpha. It’s still got bugs and kinks and setbacks and limitations. But even as the software (and nerdy hardware) is refined, the platform won’t reach its full potential without original, off-the-wall, innovative apps. Let’s hope developers never hit the Glass ceiling.