Codebreaker - Most Recent


Let the music Muve you

When people talk about digital music streaming services, the names Spotify, Rhapsody, and Pandora come up a lot. All three services started out by letting people stream tunes via computer, then they moved onto the smartphone platform. Muve, on the other hand, acts similarly, but it’s only found on phones. Users pay for unlimited streaming music by adding a $10 monthly fee to their phone bills. The service can be found on Cricket Wireless phones and has been quietly adding users from a largely untapped, minority market. Numbers are likely to grow after yesterday’s announcement that Cricket is coming out with a line of Android smartphones, pre-installed with Muve, priced at $50-$70 per month. From the New York Times:

“Cricket’s customer is young, is ethnic, and tends to be middle and lower income,” said Jeff Toig, the senior vice president of Muve Music. “This is not a segment of the market that the major technology companies innovate for.”

And yet, studies have shown that same demographic accesses the Internet more on phones than on computers. Again from the Times:

According to a study in June by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to consider the phone their primary means of going online.

Current bills, with Muve, top out between $55 to $65, and it’s unclear whether the bump up in price for the new phones might prove to be too much.

Aug 29, 2012

Isis gets ready to go live next month

Isis, the mobile payment system, was almost becoming as mythical as Isis, the Greek godess. Since it was announced over a year ago as a joint venture between wireless carriers, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, plans for an early 2012 had been stalled. The company just announced that test sites in Austin and Salt Lake City will go live next month. Better late than never I guess. Wired reports:

If you happen to live in Salt Lake City or Austin and happen to have an NFC-equipped phone (all 50 or so of you), you can use that phone to pay at stores that have terminals that can read the tiny chips. (Isis said this spring that participating retailers will include Foot Locker, Macy’s, Jamba Juice, and others, as well as Coca-Cola vending machines.)

Got it, I can buy shoes, clothes, and snack drinks in Salt Lake City or Austin. I’m all set. To be fair, the plan offers payments at local retailers like cupcake shops, pizza joints, and the Utah Jazz too.
The announcement comes at an interesting time too, after Square announced a deal with Starbucks a few weeks ago, mega-retailers banned together to launch the MCX payment system, and PayPal entered into a partnership with Discover. I’m hoping to only have to buy one more wallet in my life, because pretty soon it’s going to be all phone all the time everywhere for everything.

Aug 29, 2012

If your company is known for printers, a good business bet would be to stop selling printers

Lexmark announced yesterday that it’s getting out of the inkjet printer business, and upon hearing the news, investors pushed the company’s stock up by 14 percent. If logic follows, McDonalds will stop selling burgers, Disney will send Mickey to a home for old mice, and Bank of America will no longer accept money.
Truth be told, Lexmark has been at it for a while.Printing is sooo Y2-aughts. From the Wall Street Journal:

Diminishing demand for Lexmark’s traditional printing products prompted the company in 2007 to start exiting its consumer inkjet business in favor of higher-performance printers for businesses and electronic-document management software.

I would have thought home printers were a total win for companies like Lexmark. I mean, you buy one for a hundred bucks or so, spend another $50 in a couple months to replace the ink, then the thing breaks within a year, and you start all over. That sounds pretty close to a money printing machine. I must be missing something. The company noted that it still sees a future in laser printers, because who wouldn’t - you get to print WITH LASERS! If you’re one of those poor, laser-less souls who has a Lexmark inkjet printer, you’d better stock up on ink refills now.

Aug 29, 2012

Paper vs. iPad. NFL style.

NFL coaches are abandoning paper binders full of super-secret plays and strategies in favor of iPads. Apparently making all those paper binders can be really expensive (think $100,000 a season). Plus, it doesn’t sound like they were recycling. From CITEWorld:
"Until recently, they were printed and arranged into binders, distributed to players the week before the game, then destroyed and pulped after the game was over."
Adding updates required getting pages to each player. (Hey guys. Good practice. Now we have a few handouts for you to add to page 76 of your binders... One for you, one for you, one for you...)
"Plus, players are also supposed to watch hours of film from every game, which was a totally separate process."
Makes some sense, I suppose. But it’ll be interesting to see how the season goes for those teams that have made the change to the IPad (about 10 teams) and those that haven’t. I can imagine it’s a whole lot harder to memorize calls and plays and your opponents’ weaknesses when you’ve got Twitter and Facebook right there...begging for just a moment of your attention.
(@aaronrodgers Me too. RT @tonyromo Wish I could get a slice of cheese pizza right now. )
With a binder all you can do if you get bored is click the thing open and closed.

Aug 29, 2012

Can Tweets be private?

Twitter filed an appeal in New York Supreme Court Monday--arguing that individuals should have privacy rights in their Twitter accounts. Among other things, Twitter aruges, law enforcement shouldn’t have access to tweets that are no longer available or deleted. From the Washington Post:

The case turns on the Twitter account of Malcolm Harris who was arrested while walking on the Brooklyn Bridge during a 2011 protest. Early this year, prosecutors issued subpoenas demanding that Twitter turn over information for two names associated with Harris: “@destructuremal” and “@getsworse.” Twitter responded by telling Harris about the subpoenas who then asked a court to quash them.

The judge ruled that the tweets belonged to Twitter not Harris and wrote “the motion to “#quash” was “#denied.” (Seriously. #nojoke)

He ruled that Harris had no privacy rights in his tweets on the grounds that Twitter is like shouting on the street where everyone can hear. He added “the street is an online, information superhighway, and the witnesses can be the third party providers like Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, Pinterest.”

If the appeal fails, and tweets, once tweeted, are #4ever, what’s it mean to the value of Twitter? And the ways people should and shouldn’t use it?

Aug 29, 2012

Hack you!

We talk about video games from time to time here on Tech Report. Here’s one we wholeheartedly DO NOT ENDORSE. Brain hacking. Armed with a gaming headset, researchers from California, Switzerland and the UK were able to piece together banking PINs and addresses of test subjects. The Daily Mail tells how they did it:

The scientists took an off-the-shelf Emotiv brain-computer interface, a device that costs around $299, which allows users to interact with their computers by thought, and is often used to control games.
The scientists then sat their subjects in front of a computer screen and showed them images of banks, people, and PIN numbers.
They then tracked the readings coming off of the brain, specifically a signal known as P300.
The P300 signal is used by the brain when a person recognizes something meaningful, such as someone or something they interact with on a regular basis.
It is released by the brain around 300 milliseconds after recognition occurs, hence its name.

The good news is that it would be pretty difficult for somebody to “slip” one of these headsets on you, show you recognizable images and get you to spill the beans without you knowing. The researchers say this technology could be promising in prisoner interrogation. Slip a headset on, show the perp some pictures, and see whether they show any signs of recognition. If they do, then questioning might continue. If not, they’re either clean or a STONE COLD KILLER.

Aug 28, 2012

We like pictures

Of course Facebook still looks like King Kong on top of the Empire State Building, but a recent poll by Experian shows how much ground Pinterest and Instagram have gained in the last year, we really, really like pictures. Grouping pictures snagged from the web, that would be Pinterest, is the third largest social network site, behind Big Face and Twitter, which is up 185 spots, or 5,124 percent, from last year.
As if that’s not impressive, making pictures look old and distorted, that would be Instagram, has gone from the 609 to No. 11 on the charts - that’s a 17,319 percent increase. That kind of movement is also probably a big reason why Facebook bought purchased Instagram earlier this year. AllThingsD writes:

Based on the habits of early adopters, Experian research head Bill Tancer predicted that the window is still open for additional niche social networks.
Tancer has been studying growth patterns since following the breakout of YouTube in 2005, and attested that these days the hits are emerging faster than ever.
“The ramp is much quicker,” Tancer said. “You see a bunch of demographic segments adopting at once versus that sequential adoption.”

Google+ isn’t doing too shabby either. The site is currently sitting in the No. 4 spot, and Tancer thinks it has a secret weapon: local. Again from AllThingsD:
Earlier this summer, Google released Google+ Local, which combines place pages, free Zagat ratings and related social activity.
Why does that matter? Because local information is one of the biggest things people search for.
“When you look at search distribution being such a significant channel, local will cause a pretty strong growth pattern for Google+,” Tancer predicted.

Aug 28, 2012

Why waste good real estate?

If you’ve been to the Google homepage today, you may have noticed what CNET is calling a first. A big, ol, ad for Google’s new Nexus 7 tablet.

That Google would go to such lengths underscores the company's desire to make a bigger dent in burgeoning tablet market, one still dominated by Apple's iPad. Given the traffic that goes through Google, the home page is one of the most coveted spots and prime real estate for advertisers. The company, however, has traditionally resisted attempts to run advertisements on its main page, beyond a link to its Chrome browser.

Does this mark some sort of more fundamental change a Google? Is the Google search page going to morph into a Google store? And what about those artists that redesign the Google logo on holidays? Are they going to have to become ad guys now?

Bonus question: Why do so many tablets coming on the market cost $199?

Aug 28, 2012

What happens to your media when you die?

We’ve all watched that scene in a movie where a family gathers around a lawyer’s desk as he reads the last will and testimony of some pivotal character. (It’s a movie, so the lawyer is a “he.” Don’t get mad at me, send your hate mail to Hollywood.) Great Aunt Harriet left her entire fortune to her duck!!! And what now? We each get a month to take care of the duck, and whoever can get her to lay an egg gets the loot?!? Crazy? Sure. You bet I’m in.
But what if Aunt Harriet was a book collector? Better yet, what if all her books were on her Kindle, and she had terabytes of music all purchased from iTunes? Dividing up her digital detritus might be more of a headache than getting Quackers to produce an heir. When you buy a song from the iTunes store or an eBook from Amazon, you’re technically only buying a license - a non-transferrable license. Marketwatch spoke with estate planner Deirdre R. Wheatley-Liss:


Most digital content exists in a legal black hole. “The law is light years away from catching up with the types of assets we have in the 21st Century,” says Wheatley-Liss. In recent years, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Indiana, Oklahoma and Idaho passed laws to allow executors and relatives access to email and social networking accounts of those who’ve died, but the regulations don’t cover digital files purchased.

The article goes on to profile DapTrust, lawyer-created software getting ready to come to market that will let users create a trust account for media files. Sure, this sounds like a solution, albeit a labor-intensive one.


… experts say there should be an easier solution, and a way such content can be transferred to another’s account or divided between several people.“We need to reform and update intellectual-property law,” says Dazza Greenwood, lecturer and researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab.

Aug 28, 2012

Smartphones on a plane

What’s more grating than a fit-pitching toddler on a cross-country flight? A loud-mouth grownup complaining into a cell phone on that same flight. “The turbulence is crazy.” “Did you know crackers cost like 5-bucks now?” “And then he said....” From PC World:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is taking a new look at the use of portable electronics on airplanes, seeking public comments starting this week and forming a government-industry group to study when smartphones, tablets and other devices can be used safely.

But, and this is an important but: "One thing the study group won't look at is allowing voice calls on cellphones during flight, the FAA said."


Airlines once commonly offered pay phones in seatbacks, but since passengers started getting online in the air using Wi-Fi, the carriers have taken a firm line against calls using VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol).

Thank you FAA, for keeping a whole lot of passengers saner. (But if tablets and smartphones might be OK, what is the problem with VoIP calls?)

**Update: The FAA's actual request for comments doesn't make it sound like it has ruled out VoIP on Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs).  From the document

Increased access and usage of PEDs may distract passengers during crewmember safety briefings and instructions. In addition, PED usage may have an adverse impact on flight and cabin crew responsibilities and duties. In 2005, the FCC solicited comments on the potential to expand the use of cellular phones in flight and received responses from passengers concerned about the use of cell phones by other passengers. One of the main concerns expressed by the public comment was the fear of passenger disruptions caused by cell phone use in a crowded public conveyance. 

• If some PEDs are found to be compatible with aircraft systems, should there be
restrictions on the use of PEDs for other reasons?
• Should voice communications using other technologies such as voice over IP be
limited or restricted?

Aug 28, 2012


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