Category Archives: Technology
Much has been said about the negative impact that a media merger between the top two cable operators in the country could bring. Many believe that is the reason television and cable networks are opposed to it. Or is it?
For many networks, this may translate into lower revenue for them which means more money into the pockets of consumers. For the first time, a cable operator may have potential leverage over how much consumers pay for television. For years cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable have been raising the alarm over fees that both cable and television networks demand of them for carriage rights.
So, what’s in it for Hispanic audiences ? A lot.
Comcast-owned, Telemundo, has been producing original programming for years. Recently, they have been slowly chipping away at Univision’s core audience and that hurts. Ten years ago, Univision was flaunting to anyone who would listen that Telemundo was no competition for them but rather its sister network, UniMas, formerly Telefutura. And while the numbers aren’t quite there yet for Telemundo, Univision knows that sooner or later, it can overtake their main network.
For starters, some of Latin America’s top talent has been acquired by Telemundo. They have managed to secure beloved talent like Aracely Arambula, Diego Schoening, Adamari Lopez, Eugenio Siller and most recently Lucero, into their circle. Telemundo discovered Latin heartthrob William Levy too. Unlike Univision, whose telenovelas and other shows tend to be acquired from Mexico’s media giant Televisa, Telemundo produces most of theirs. Should Televisa ever pull the plug on Univision, although highly unlikely, the network will surely sink. Univision has tried to produce their own telenovelas but have yet to have any real and tangible success.
Secondly, former Univision talent have been quietly slipping over to the “other” side: Ana Maria Canseco, Raul Gonzalez, Neida Sandoval and Maria Celeste Arraras, to name a few. There has also been speculation that recently fired, Rodner Figueroa, is in talks to join the Telemundo family. Whether that’s true or not, remains to be seen.
However, the firing of Rodner Figueroa does bring up the issue of lack of diversity at Univision. For anyone who has tuned into the their local Univision news station, it is evident. News anchors like Fabiola Kramsky, Felicidad Aveleyra and Leon Krauze where flown from their native countries, given work papers and a contract to work for Univision. The company did not opt to hire on-air news talent that was born and raised in the United States. Instead, they imported them from another country to represent those who grew up in the States. How is that possible? Because they can.
And yet it is no surprise that most Univision talent, do not represent the Hispanic framework of Latinos in the United States. Leon Krauze also works for the Univision-owned cable network, Fusion, which represents Latinos born and raised in the United States. But how can someone who did not grow up in the U.S., who can barely speak English, represent those that were? Perhaps because he worked for Univision’s long-time distribution partner, Televisa. In hiring its on-air talent, Univision skipped the colorful array of Hispanic-Americans who were born and raised in the U.S.
Last month’s article from NPR summed it nicely:
“NYU Professor Arlene Davila, who studies Latino media, says she’s not surprised. ‘I think that anybody who watches Univision regularly … will notice the white, white space that station historically has been,’ she says. ‘You’re not going to see Indo-Latinos, you’re not going to see Afro-Latinos.’ In fact, she says, the Univision landscape is often whiter than mainstream U.S. television.”
Comcast, on the other hand, has a record of hiring minorities of all backgrounds. Not just on their cable operating business but as part of their on-air talent. Minority participation in news and public affairs programming has been a staple trademark of the media giant.
Should the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger go through, it will be a win-win situation for all American consumers, not just Hispanics.
Despite what critics of this deal want to make the public believe, the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger is the best deal that consumers need. Why? Because believe it or not, it equates to lower prices for consumers.
The television networks who have surged against the proposed merger have the most to lose. Media companies like Disney, Viacom, Scripps and Univision have made themselves rich off the backs of average consumers. When a cable company like Comcast and Time Warner Cable agree to carry networks like Nickelodeon, Lifetime, TNT, Galavision and so forth, they pay what the industry calls: network carriage fees.
Carriage fees are determined by the number of customers that a cable company reaches, usually within a basic standard cable package, on a specific cable television network. Some carriage fees are few cents to the dollar and some are higher but if those cents are multiplied by each and every network in your basic cable package (about 200 channels), how much do you expect your bill will increase every few months?
Every time a renegotiation of carriage fees comes to light, cable and satellite companies are obliged to renegotiate their affiliation agreements with the networks. Just think about how many times your favorite TV show and channel were pulled from your television screen because the networks wanted more and more money. How many messages flickered on your television screen, urging you to call your cable or satellite provider to avoid the blackout.
Yet, the networks never told you, the consumer, how much your monthly bill would increase by giving into their demands. All you wanted was your favorite television show. When your cable bill finally arrived in the mail, you called your cable provider to complain and demanded an explanation as to why your monthly bill increased although your services remained the same.
In October, Disney, Univision, Viacom, Fox, among others; paused the FCC merger review between Comcast and Time Warner Cable because they did not want their “highly confidential carriage agreements” to be exposed. In other words, how much profit they are making by forcing cable companies to carry their networks. Those negotiated carriage agreements, translates into an increased cable bill for consumers.
Last week, Univision-owned Fusion, closed a deal with DirecTV. With that deal, Fusion’s viewer-base would increase to approximately 20 million more customers. If for example, Fusion is seeking 0.05 cents for every DirectTV customer, that amounts to $1 million dollars in carriage fees for DirectTV (meaning its customers pay the fee in their monthly bills) and a $1 million dollar revenue for the Fusion network. Because of this, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have refused to carry the Fusion cable network.
The bottom line is that if the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger is eventually approved, consumers win.
As if the abusive nature of the U.S. Government over the NSA scandal and its PRISM project wasn’t enough, the Obama administration is now doing everything in its power to seek revenge against whistleblower Edward Snowden and any company that has developed tools to mask his whereabouts.
On their website, its owner, Ladar Levinson writes:
“I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.”
Levinson goes on to say,
“…I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”
In a CNN episode of Morgan Spurlock over the weekend, Lavabit founder exposed the price he was personally paid for refusing to hand-over Lavabit’s encryption keys over to the U.S. government. Most accurately, for refusing to give-up Snowden’s e-mail conversations.
The Fourth Circuit court of appeals ruled in favor of the U.S. government in affirming the lower court’s contempt sanctions. The decision came in large part because of pressure from the Obama administration who has extended and abused its power by spying on ordinary Americans.
The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to snoop on emails Edward Snowden may have sent and received from others, since Lavabit was one of the encrypted e-mail clients the whistleblower has used. Experts agree that the vengeful nature of the U.S. government is not new but has been largely expanded by the Obama administration, calling journalists spies and traitors when seeking to publish non-favorable articles on the administration’s practices. It is a well-known tactic that is aimed at coercing and smearing the credibility of those who differ with the government.
Lavabit refused to do what Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Verizon did: betray the American public.
Meanwhile, Levinson is already working on another project, Dark Mail, that provides e-mail security with end-to-end encryption.
Let’s face it; the tech industry is mainly a man’s world. Most of Silicon Valley’s tech giants were started by men and it’s dominated by men. However, women are emerging and being recognized by tech giants in California. Just ask, Marissa Meyers, current CEO of Yahoo!
Such is the case of boutique web developing firm, GeekMasterZ, which has been around since 1998. Although its owner does not have a computer science degree, she learned web developing coding on her own.
According to its creator, GeekMasterZ started as a hobby. She began selling on eBay when text and not a similar MS Word Pad option, was still the norm. To highlight her auctions, she had to learn basic HTML tags and attended one of the first eBay University courses to learn this.
She took an introduction to web developing class at a community college, when Netscape Navigator Gold was still used to create basic web pages. Her curiosity grew and she was soon consulting with fellow online “nerds” and people she had never met face-to-face, to learn code.
GeekMasterZ’s founder was in awe when Napster’s Shawn Fanning, unraveled his peer-to-peer file sharing software. While pursuing a business degree, she began crafting her skill.
In recent years, Amazon has pushed hard for the U.S. government to pass legislation, requiring it to collect sales tax from buyers in all states. Doing so, the company says will benefit local economies and provide for much needed services to each state.
However in requiring each internet business owner to collect state sales taxes from out-of-state buyers could mean the financial ruin of small online business owners, according to the grassroots organization eMainStreet Alliance. Big companies, like Walmart and Amazon, can afford to do so but small businesses could be wiped out because they will be unable to compete with the big online discount stores.
In addition, if federal law is passed to collect states taxes, Amazon will not be required to pay any back taxes it already owes to each state. And that essentially is the motivation behind Amazon’s hard sell to get this legislation passed.
Big businesses can afford to pay our state representatives to enact “loopholes” that will eventually require them to not pay any taxes due; a benefit that small businesses cannot afford to lobby for.
Just last year, Amazon came to a temporary agreement in California to avoid paying back-taxes it already owes and deter a million dollar lawsuit brought on by the State of California. The company essentially promised to open distribution centers there, opening jobs for Californians in an effort to avoid paying current and back taxes. Through lobbying efforts in the State’s capitol, Amazon walked away scot-free.
In an article published by The Seattle Times last year, it writes:
“We found that the company is a virtual no-show in the civic life of Seattle, contributing to nonprofits and charities a tiny fraction of what other big corporations give. In the political world, the company’s hardball efforts to fend off collecting sales taxes — a key advantage over brick-and-mortar stores — has ignited a backlash in several states. In the publishing world, smaller companies have begun to publicly criticize Amazon’s bullying tactics. And in some of its warehouses around the country, Amazon is drawing fire for harsh conditions endured by workers.”
Amazon recently purchased the Washington Post in an effort to stave off criticism about the company, though publicly they’re saying otherwise. CEO, Jeff Bezos, assures that his business is books not news, but the news organization’s acquisition is already in Amazon’s corner.
“The bill was Amazon’s top concern, accounting for nearly as many visits to lawmakers as electronic privacy, skilled-worker visas and all other issues combined. In addition, political-action committees of Amazon, eBay and similar businesses collectively are among the biggest sources of campaign donations to House Judiciary Committee members this year.” (Albuquerque Journal)
When an organization like Amazon “lobbies” for or against legislation, they are there to bribe our representatives in the form of unaccounted monetary donations, trips and other “gifts” and amenities. One must wonder how much did Amazon pay U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and fellow Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene, a House Judiciary Committee member and a co-sponsor of the bill, to push this bill through?
Skype users may have had a bit of a surprise yesterday when they opened their Skype app and found that their Skype credit had either dwindled or was wiped clean. Many users contacted Skype yesterday after they discovered that someone had made unauthorized charges and calls to their accounts.
Coincidently, Skype also had a new software upgrade yesterday around the time this was all happening. This morning, a news article surfaced about a bug in Skype’s new software upgrade that enables Android’s lock screen to be bypassed.
Yesterday “Pulser,” the developer administrator for XDA-Developers Forum, sent out a warning through its Full Disclosure mailing list. The developer tested the attack on the latest version of Skype (126.96.36.19973), which was released Monday on multiple Android devices.
“The Skype for Android application appears to have a bug which permits the Android inbuilt lockscreen (ie. pattern, PIN, password) to be bypassed relatively easily, if the device is logged into Skype, and the ‘attacker’ is able to call the ‘victim’ on Skype.”
One of yesterday’s victims said that she received an e-mail in Chinese confirming that her account had been automatically recharged. She thought that was strange because she doesn’t speak Chinese so she checked her Skype account, only to find that the Skype credit had already dwindled to a mere three dollars.
The victim, who asked not to be identified, immediately changed her password and removed her Credit Card information that was stored in Skype’s billing system. She contacted Skype and after an hour-long live chat, was finally fully credited.
She said “The Skype representative must have thought I was lying because he kept lagging it before he finally gave me my credit. Two unauthorized calls were made to a Suriname mobile phone number. He told me there were no signs that my account was compromised but the recurring credit that was supposed to be on my account was nowhere to be seen.”
As of now, Skype has not issued a formal statement regarding the reported bug on their software upgrade that was released yesterday, July 1st. Skype is a Microsoft-owned company.
Late last month, many individuals were shocked to find out that the government has been spying on its everyday citizens without being suspected of terrorism. The extent of that information and targeting innocent individuals is what has U.S. citizens concerned, mainly because a violation of their fourth amendment rights is in question.
Yet, many individuals authorized the government to initiate and expand its surveillance program after the horrific attacks of September 11th, 2001. What most people do not know is that the government already had a worldwide spying program in place before 9/11, on its every day citizens.
In light of the Prism scandal, reports written in September of 1999 have surfaced that exposes Microsoft as the willing purveyor of average citizens’ information to the U.S. government’s National Security Agency. A back-door NSA KEY was discovered in 1998 by Andrew Fernades of Cryptonym Corporation. Microsoft had installed this secret NSA key on all versions of its Windows operating software from Windows 95 onwards. At the time, Microsoft denied that the key belonged to the NSA.
“Fernandes said the evidence shows that the NSA is involved in the key but it fails to indicate who owns the key. Even if Microsoft claims the key is its own, Fernandes said he believes the key was put in the Windows products at the request of the NSA.
” ‘They’ve got their hand in the cookie jar and they’re trying to convince you they aren’t taking a cookie, they’re checking to make sure there’s lots of cookies left for you,” Fernandes said.” (CNN)
Microsoft’s ability to obtain each and every users information is worth big bucks. The selling of private information to the government does not come cheap and many are speculating as to the “deal” that Microsoft cut with government officials.
What this exposes is that the NSA’s surveillance program did not prevent 9/11 from happening. Sure the country’s surveillance programs were expanded after 9/11 but that was only in writing. In practice, the government was already snooping on its average citizens, they just needed to legitimize it.
Many blame the Bush Administration for encroaching on its citizens privacy but it was the Obama administration, who promised to “curb” those powers and actually ended up expanding (some say abusing) the program. A CNN poll was revealed this morning that shows the President’s approval rating has slipped eight percentage points because of this scandal. Many say they do not trust the President.
All of this is reminiscent of the Hollywood movie, Minority Report, where the government can “predict” criminal activity through data that’s been mined and act upon it before it actually happens.
In a long-awaited move by the modern world, it seems that both Univision and Televisa have woken up to the on-demand cyber age. For years, it made no sense that Univision waited two months to broadcast the famed awards ceremony from Mexico , TV Novelas and others. And for well over a decade, fans were able to search the results of the evening online instantly.
Many US fans had already had the opportunity to see the show streamed live, courtesy of fellow hackers, long before the show was shown to Us audiences. By the time US viewers were able to see the show a few months later, it was already old news. This weekend was a first and the beginning of many live feeds, fans hope.
The same can be said of most shows that Televisa currently broadcasts in their main Mexican channel “El Canal de las Estrellas”. Savvy worldwide viewers are able to stream their favorite shows currently airing in Mexico live, instead of waiting three or four months until they are retransmitted in other countries.
Many are hoping that the decision to air TV Novelas live between the two countries will transcend to other shows as well. However, ratings means money and regardless of the delayed retransmission of Televisa’s programs, U.S. ratings on the Univision network are still high. Because of this, many doubt this will mean more live programming between the two networks. Yet, many still hold out hope.
For more than a year now, Americans have heard of the failed Solyndra Energy company that declared bankruptcy in late 2011 and the wasted stimulus money that was granted to the company. Like this company, there are others who took off with taxpayer funds and headed to another country. Two of these companies are now in Mexico, and have angered the Oaxacan communities affected.
In a 2010 article, where congress harshly criticizes the use of stimulus money going to overseas companies, Investigative Reporting Workshop writes: “The Danish company, Vestas, said it was halting production at a wind turbine blade plant in Windsor, Colorado. The company said it would probably have to slow development of two other facilities planned for the same area. Gamesa, a Spanish wind turbine company, said it was laying off about half of the remaining workers at a Pennsylvania production facility.”
These two companies were recipients of state and federal incentives in 2009 via the U.S. stimulus that promised to bring jobs back to the United States. Instead, they packed up their bags and headed to the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
Since then, Gamesa has built wind turbines for Enel Green Power (EGP) and installed a second plant in that state. While Danish Company Vestas Wind Systems has agreed to construct wind turbines for Mareña Renewables, the consortium leading the project. With the help of the stimulus money, these companies were able to grow their profit margin by seeking cheaper labor in Mexico and sealing a 10-year service and maintenance agreement with their respective companies.
When these projects are completed, they will be the largest wind farms in Latin America.
Perhaps more surprising is that this project is backed by the U.S. government. In a scathing article last year, Upside Down World wrote:
“In April of 2004, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sponsored a study to accelerate the development of wind projects in the state of Oaxaca, which found that the best area for wind project development was in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in the heart of the ancestral Ikoots territory.”
On Friday Energy Secretary Chu, known for his handling of the Solyndra scandal, announced that he will be stepping down from his post at the end of the month. President Obama praised Secretary Chu for bringing a “unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy represents for our economy.”
An article by the Huffington Post reveals that U.S. company, Sempra Energy, is among the organizations “that have built huge wind towers that now crowd the Isthmus of Tehuantepec [in Oaxaca], leaving the local population feeling invaded.”
According to many reports in Oaxaca, this has been done without the consent of many residents there, namely the indigenous population. Most of the people living in that region speak their native dialects, do not speak Spanish and do not know how to read or write.
Many argue that these are the communities that companies like Vestas, Gamesa and consortium giant Mareña Renewables, have taken advantage of. And in similar fashion, have taken advantage of American taxpayers.
Far from the concerns for the environment that both the U.S. and Mexican government have wanted their citizens to conceive, this is big business and not just for the companies involved. The Huffington Post states, “So far in 2012, Mexico has posted a startling 119 percent increase in installed wind-power capacity, more than doubling the 519 megawatts it had last year, the highest annual growth rate listed in the magazine Wind Power Monthly’s ‘Windicator’ index. Mexico had only 6 megawatts when [President] Calderon took office in 2006.”
This project promises not only to help the environment by generating clean energy, but to help the state of Oaxaca and the country of Mexico. However, many fear that much of it will go into the pockets of government officials and the affected communities will see little, if any at all.
Over half of the residents have tentatively agreed to allow Mareña Renewables to install wind turbines in their territory. Those that have not, are being coerced to sell or give up their property. Concerns from residents range from the impact that this project could have on the flora and fauna of the region, fishing and gaming, in addition to their communities. No social or environment plan has been established by these companies.
Carol Schachet, who works for Grassroots International, writes, “…protestors say that they were not told of potential environmental impacts of the projects when the companies initially informed them about development, nor that existing wind farms have negatively impacted the livelihoods of communities where they are located, including impeding their ability to cultivate their lands. In this regard, the Mexican government failed to fulfill its responsibility to create a process that permits and ensures the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous communities with regard to projects that directly affect them, as required by national and international law.”
Citizens opposing the project have asked human rights defenders in Oaxaca for assistance and protection due to increasing violence in San Dionisio del Mar, where the incidents have occurred. Many of the residents affected, have families living in the United States — especially in Los Angeles, where the largest Oaxacan community resides.
Although their market share has decreased dramatically in the last four years, Blackberry still has a huge and loyal following, particularly in Europe. Which could explain why Blackberry 10 devices go on sale there as of today and the United States will have to wait until March to get their hands on one.
There were two new devices introduced for their highly publicized event. The most talked about was the Z10 which has touch screen features that consumers are now accustomed to on their current iPhones, Samsungs and other similar smartphone devices.
In an attempt to satisfy consumers who prefer a physical keyboard, Blackberry has come up with the Q10 which has a full physical QWERTY keyboard on the front interface of the device. Like their previous Blackberry Curve models, that’s still half a keyboard size on half a display size where the inclusion of a physical keyboard minimizes the screen size of the device. And while current Blackberry users may be accustomed to this, new users may not want to give up their entire touch screen size to accommodate a physical keyboard that they would otherwise desire .
The Q10’s screen size is 3.1-inch diagonally with a resolution of 720 by 720 pixels (330 pixels per inch) while the Z10 touch screen display size is 4.2-inch diagonally with a resolution of 1280 by 768 pixels (356 pixels per inch). The size and resolution that consumers would sacrifice should they choose the Q10 over the Z10, is significant.
Missing from the line-up of new Blackberry 10 models was a device with a full QWERTY slide-out keyboard. In 2010, Blackberry introduced the Torch 9800 model, the first with a vertical slide-out keyboard. Yet it doesn’t seem like they will launch a similar model any time soon. The Blackberry Torch 9800’s vertical slide-out keyboard allowed the entire screen to be enjoyed without compromising the size and resolution of the display.
On the other hand, there are consumers that will not accept anything less than a full-sized horizontal slide-out keyboard. After all, who wants to be pressing on those tiny buttons when the horizontal slide-out models provide bigger keys and much more finger room for those not-so-thin fingers.
Models like the Samsung Stratosphere and Captivate Glide offer a full-sized horizontal slide-out QWERTY keyboard, without compromising the screen size. Users don’t have to be constantly frustrated that they inadvertently pressed the wrong key because their fingers touched a different one. The best part is they can slide-in the keyboard when they’re not using it and take full advantage of the touch screen size, resolution and capabilities those models have.
But will Blackberry listen and satisfy consumers who insist on having a slide-out keyboard instead? Perhaps, but don’t hold your breath anytime soon. In the meantime, a compatible “Made in China” ultra-thin wireless keyboard for the new Blackberry Z10 will have to be suffice if Blackberry does not give consumers a choice.