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+ - Comcast Pays Overdue Fees, Free Stuff For Time-Warner Merger Approval

Submitted by WheezyJoe
WheezyJoe (1168567) writes "In seeking more support for its mega-merger with Time-Warner Cable, Comcast has been going across the country giving local governments a chance to ask for favors in exchange for approving a franchise transfer. In Minneapolis, this turned up an unpaid bill of $40,000 in overdue franchise fees, so Comcast will have to pay the city money it already owed in order to get the franchise transfer. Comcast will also throw in $50,000 worth of free service and equipment.

"Thirty Minneapolis city buildings will get free basic cable for the next seven years as part of a package of concessions the city wrung out of Comcast in exchange for blessing its proposed merger with fellow cable giant Time Warner," Minnesota Public Radio reported. "Comcast has also agreed to pay Minneapolis $40,000 in overdue franchise fees after an audit found it underpaid the city for its use of the public right of way over the last three years." The article notes that getting any kind of refund out of a cable company is not easy.

Part of the deal with Minneapolis involves the spinoff of a new cable company called GreatLand Connections that will serve 2.5 million customers in the Midwest and Southeast, including Minnesota. After the deal, Comcast's franchises in those areas would be transferred to GreatLand. Such goodwill concessions may seem impressive as Comcast seeks to foster goodwill, but one wonders how Comcast/TimeWarner will behave after the merger."

+ - Computer chess created in 487 bytes, breaks 32-year-old record->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "The record for smallest computer implementation of chess on any platform was held by 1K ZX Chess, which saw a release back in 1983 for the Sinclair ZX81. It uses just 672 bytes of memory, and includes most chess rules as well as a computer component to play against.

The record held by 1K ZX Chess for the past 32 years has just been beaten this week by the demoscene group Red Sector Inc. They have implemented a fully-playable version of chess called BootChess in just 487 bytes."

Link to Original Source

+ - FCC calls blocking of personal Wi-Fi hotspots "disturbing trend"->

Submitted by alphadogg
alphadogg (971356) writes "The FCC on Tuesday warned http://transition.fcc.gov/Dail... that it will no longer tolerate hotels, convention centers or others intentionally interfering with personal Wi-Fi hotspots. This issue grabbed headlines last fall when Marriott International was fined $600K for blocking customer Wi-Fi hotspots, presumably to encourage the guests to pay for pricey Internet access from the hotel."
Link to Original Source

+ - Latest Windows 10 Preview Build Brings Unexpectedly Large Number of Enhancements

Submitted by Deathspawner
Deathspawner (1037894) writes "Following its huge Windows 10 event last Wednesday, Microsoft released a brand-new preview build to the public, versioned 9926. We were told that it'd give us Cortana, Microsoft's AI assistant, as well as a revamped Start menu and updated notifications pane. But as it turns out, that's not even close to summing up all that's new with this build. In fact, 9926 is easily the most substantial update rolled out so far in the beta program, with some UI elements and integral Windows features seeing their first overhaul in multiple generations."

+ - Why was "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?" accepted by 17 medical journals->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 (797399) writes "As a medical researcher at Harvard, Mark Shrime gets a very special kind of spam in his inbox: every day, he receives at least one request from an open-access medical journal promising to publish his research if he would only pay $500.

"You block one of them with your spam filter and immediately another one pops up," Shrime, an MD who is pursuing a PhD in health policy, tells me.

These emails are annoying, for sure, but Shrime was worried that there might be bigger issues at stake: What exactly are these journals publishing and who is taking these journals to be credible sources of medical information?

Shrime decided to see how easy it would be to publish an article. So he made one up."

Link to Original Source

+ - YouTube Ditches Flash For HTML5 Video By Default

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "YouTube today announced it has finally stopped using Adobe Flash by default. The site now uses its HTML5 video player by default in Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s IE11, Apple’s Safari 8, and in beta versions of Mozilla’s Firefox browser. At the same time, YouTube is now also defaulting to its HTML5 player on the web. In fact, the company is deprecating the “old style” Flash object embeds and its Flash API, pointing users to the iframe API instead, since the latter can adapt depending on the device and browser you’re using."

+ - FCC Fines Verizon for Failing to Investigate Rural Phone Problems

Submitted by WheezyJoe
WheezyJoe (1168567) writes "Verizon agreed to a $5 million settlement after admitting that it failed to investigate whether its rural customers were able to receive long distance and wireless phone calls. The settlement is related to the FCC's efforts to address what is known as the rural call completion problem. Over an eight-month period during 2013, low call answer rates in 39 rural areas should have triggered an investigation, the FCC said. The FCC asked Verizon what steps it took, and Verizon said in April 2014 that it investigated or fixed problems in 13 of the 39 areas, but did nothing in the other 26.

"Rural call completion problems have significant and immediate public interest ramifications," the FCC said in its order on the Verizon settlement today. "They cause rural businesses to lose customers, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications." Verizon has been accused of letting its copper landline network decay while it shifts its focus to fiber and cellular service. The FCC is working a plan to protect customers as old copper networks are retired."

+ - Koch Brothers Budget $889 Million for 2016 Election

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Nicholas Confessore reports at the NYT that the Koch Brothers and their political network plan to spend close to $900 million in the 2016 election, an unparalleled effort by coordinated outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history. The group’s budget reflects the rising ambition and expanded reach of the Koch operation, which has sought to distinguish itself from other outside groups by emphasizing the role of donors over consultants and political operatives. Hundreds of conservative donors recruited by the Kochs gathered over the weekend for three days of issue seminars, strategy sessions and mingling with rising elected officials. These donors represent the largest concentration of political money outside the party establishment, one that has achieved enormous power in Republican circles in recent years. “It’s no wonder the candidates show up when the Koch brothers call,” says David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “That’s exponentially more money than any party organization will spend. In many ways, they have superseded the party.”

Espousing a political worldview that protects free speech and individual and property rights with equal protection for everyone under the law Koch says: “It is up to us. Making this vision a reality will require more than a financial commitment. It requires making it a central part of our lives.” Told of the $889 million goal, Mark McKinnon, a veteran GOP operative who has worked to rally Republican support to reduce the role of money in politics, quipped: “For that kind of money, you could buy yourself a president. Oh, right. That’s the point.”"

+ - Tesla P85D g-forces hold iPhone against seat and elicit surprising reactions->

Submitted by FikseGTS
FikseGTS (3604833) writes "DragTimes puts a few unsuspecting riders in the seat of a 691HP Tesla P85D while using the Tesla's "Insane" mode launch. An iPhone goes flying out of a kids hand and sticks to the rear seat from the g-forces and others have some interesting choice of words from the experience. Clean and Explicit versions of the video are availalbe."
Link to Original Source

+ - Comcast Ghost-writes Politician's Letters to Support Time Warner Mega-Merger

Submitted by WheezyJoe
WheezyJoe (1168567) writes "As the FCC considers the merger between Comcast/Universal and Time-Warner Cable, which would create the largest cable company in the U.S. and is entering the final stages of federal review, politicians are pressuring the FCC with pro-merger letters actually written by Comcast. According to documents obtained through public records requests politicians are passing letters nearly word-for-word written by Comcast as their own, politicians are passing letters nearly word-for-word written by Comcast as their own. "Not only do records show that a Comcast official sent the councilman the exact wording of the letter he would submit to the FCC, but also that finishing touches were put on the letter by a former FCC official named Rosemary Harold, who is now a partner at one of the nation’s foremost telecom law firms in Washington, DC. Comcast has enlisted Harold to help persuade her former agency to approve the proposed merger."

Ars Technica had already reported that politicians have closely mimicked Comcast talking points and re-used Comcast's own statements without attribution. The documents revealed today show just how deeply Comcast is involved with certain politicians, and how they were able to get them on board."

+ - Verizon, Cable Lobby Oppose Higher Broadband Definition

Submitted by WheezyJoe
WheezyJoe (1168567) writes "Responding to the FCC's proposal to raise the definition of broadband from 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream to 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up, the lobby group known as the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) wrote in an FCC filing Thursday that 25Mbps/3Mbps isn't necessary for ordinary people. The lobby alleges that hypothetical use cases offered for showing the need for 25Mbps/3Mbps "dramatically exaggerate the amount of bandwidth needed by the typical broadband user", referring to parties in favor of the increase like Netflix and Public Knowledge.

Verizon, for its part, is also lobbying against a faster broadband definition. Much of its territory is still stuck on DSL which is far less capable of 25Mbps/3Mbps speeds than cable technology.

The FCC presently defines broadband as 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up, a definition that hasn't changed since 2010. By comparison, people in Sweden can pay about $40 a month for 100/100 mbps, choosing between more than a dozen competing providers. The FCC is under mandate to determine whether broadband is being deployed to Americans in a reasonable and timely way, and the commission must take action to accelerate deployment if the answer is negative. Raising the definition's speeds provides more impetus to take actions that promote competition and remove barriers to investment, such as a potential move to preempt state laws that restrict municipal broadband projects."

+ - Verizon Nearing the End of its FIOS Builds

Submitted by WheezyJoe
WheezyJoe (1168567) writes "If you've been holding out hope that FIOS would rescue you from your local cable monopoly, it's probably time to give up. Making good on their statements five years ago, Verizon announced this week they are nearing "the end" of its fiber construction and is reducing wireline capital expenditures while spending more on wireless.
Verizon CFO Fran Shammo says "we are getting to the end of our committed build around FiOS". The expense of replacing old copper lines with fiber has allegedly led Verizon to stop building in new regions and to complete wiring up the areas where it had already begun. So, if Verizon hasn't started in your neighborhood by now, they never will, and you'd best ignore all those sexy ads for FIOS."

Comment: Maybe Some Clarification (Score 3, Informative) 570

by WheezyJoe (#48871301) Attached to: Microsoft Reveals Windows 10 Will Be a Free Upgrade

Ars Technica was present at the announcement, and the Q&A afterward was both insightful and confusing. They clarify the free upgrade to Windows 10 as follows (emphasis mine):

Update: Microsoft fielded some questions about this upgrade in its Q&A session after the event. The company "hasn't decided" how it will handle upgrades from Windows 7 or 8.1 after the first year of Windows 10 availability ends, and it is "working on an update for Windows RT," but doesn't have further details to share.

Update 2: A blog post from Terry Myerson clears up what "Windows as a service" means, though the duration of "the supported lifetime of the device" is still foggy. "This is more than a one-time upgrade," writes Myerson. "Once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device—at no additional charge."

It seems to me Microsoft is still keeping the details close to the vest. So, for my money, the jury is still out for what happens in a year.

Still, as a strategy to get people to move off Windows 7 in a hurry, this is pretty good. You'd only wonder what would have happened to the XP user base if Vista or 7 had been free. On the other hand, this Windows 10 ecosystem is a really big gamble, and Microsoft desperately needs developers to make their platform compete against iOS and Android. Based on that, giving the first taste away free is a pretty ballsy move.

I only hope they don't try to recoup some of that lost revenue by filling Windows 10 with trackware and clickbait, forking out tons of your personal data to Bing servers because, well, that's where the action is.

Comment: Re:politicians make deals for a living (Score 1) 160

by WheezyJoe (#48862407) Attached to: A State-By-State Guide To Restrictive Community Broadband Laws

Kinda, not quite right.

Just checked at https://epbfi.com/internet/, 100 Mbps is $57.99... not free, but not bad. Triple-play goes for $132.82. It ain't Sweden, but not awful.

And whereas Bob the Politician would like campaign funding for keeping his job (would that be a part-time or a full-time job, by the way? term limits? what's the pay? does he really give a shit about keeping that job in a local city council?), he can get a lot more campaign donations by getting into bed with commercial internet providers with deeper pockets then some small-change locals.

And while one state's corruption laws vary from another's, a politician putting his friend (or relative) in charge of a government program, and then receiving campaign donations back, is at least easy-pickings for a local TV eye-team investigation report. Taking such a man's seat in the next election would be like shooting a fish in a barrel... just run on a campaign of anti-corruption and eliminating government waste. I'll bet Frontier or Comcast would be happy to pay for printing up your campaign signs.

And don't think customers who get service from Frontier don't send money through the Council's hands. Be it through fees or taxes, the City gets paid. Always. The only difference is whether there are shareholders who get a piece of the action.

When Comcast runs the Internet, a substantial cut of the profit goes to shareholders, and another cut goes to expanding territory and growth, again to please shareholders to thereby drive up stock price and raise the value of the company, further increasing the wealth of the shareholders. When the City sets up its own internet, all profit goes back to the City to be redistributed by the Council, maybe to upgrade equipment, maybe to fix roads or schools, maybe as a local tax cut.

If the City Council's internet starts to suck, well, the customers are also voters, and they can replace a politician, maybe with the guy next door. On the other hand, if Comcast starts to suck in a town where there's no competition, customers can call customer service and wait on hold until they go insane. Comcast has enough customers that they don't have to listen to any customers. They only have to listen to shareholders... that is, shareholders with enough voting stock to threaten the sitting Board of Directors (currently, their stock price is $55.81, for just one little share; you can look up how many shares you'd have to buy to get anyone at the company to listen to you).

The point is, if you're a Chattanooga customer, and you're upset, you have a lot better chance of someone giving a shit than if you're a Comcast customer. Local politicians can fuck things up, sure, but unless the local politician is aiming to move higher to state of federal office (where the money is), then he's got to live with you, and probably would just as well keep you happy and off his lawn. A board member or senior management in Comcast, on the other hand, will never give a shit about who you are or what you think of your service, ever, unless maybe you start a class-action lawsuit, or a local broadband initiative in your home town. Then, you'll hear from their lawyers.

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. -- Christopher Lascl