To Play With The Oculus Rift You Pay With Your Privacy

We all love the idea of virtual reality and augmented reality, the idea that technology can send us to the deepest parts of the earth or the farthest reaches of space inspires us to enjoy things we will never get to do in the real world, all from the comfort of our sitting rooms. The question is how much we are willing to give in exchange for this “freedom”, with the enjoyment the Oculus Rift requiring you to pay with your privacy.

What do we mean by “pay with your privacy”? When you first install the software required to run the Rift on your PC a process called “OVRServer_x64.exe” is created, something normal given that it detects when the Rift is connected, on your Facebook and actually turned on. If you check the Privacy Policy (something we all know, including the companies that write them, is rarely checked) there are a few other things that the process can do.

The full section regarding “information collected about you when you use our services” states:

Information Automatically Collected About You When You Use Our Services. We also collect information automatically when you use our Services. Depending on how you access and use our Services, we may collect information such as:

  • Information about your interactions with our Services, like information about the games, content, apps or other experiences you interact with, and information collected in or through cookies, local storage, pixels, and similar technologies (additional information about these technologies is available at https://www.oculus.com/en-us/cookies-pixels-and-other-technologies/);
  • Information about how you access our Services, including information about the type of device you’re using (such as a headset, PC, or mobile device), your browser or operating system, your Internet Protocol (“IP”) address, and certain device identifiers that may be unique to your device;
  • Information about the games, content, or other apps installed on your device or provided through our Services, including from third parties;
  • Location information, which can be derived from information such as your device’s IP address. If you’re using a mobile device, we may collect information about the device’s precise location, which is derived from sources such as the device’s GPS signal and information about nearby WiFi networks and cell towers; and
  • Information about your physical movements and dimensions when you use a virtual reality headset.

Worrying parts about this is the mention of “pixels” in the first section, stating that they could find out what you are viewing and even go so far as to take a copy of your interaction. Full information about the games and everything you install are also fair and open to them with information going so far as your physical movements and dimensions being tracked as well, these seem a little bit further than just idle curiosity.

The policy continues to state how this information is used, with one section clarifying their marketing approach with this information:

To market to you. We use the information we collect to send you promotional messages and content and otherwise market to you on and off our Services. We also use this information to measure how users respond to our marketing efforts.

With Oculus now in partnership with Facebook, a move that raised concerns when it was first announced, people were concerned about privacy and tracking, something these conditions seems to allow. Going further the agreement states that “third parties may also collect information about you through the Services”, meaning that the agreement doesn’t limit but, in fact, allows apps to be created on the basis of tracking and monitoring your actions.

Thanks to Woofington over at Reddit who spotted this, if you’re interested in finding out how deep this goes you can read the full privacy policy here.

All BBC Services are Currently Down

The BBC is currently suffering from intermittent internet service outages this morning. All BBC web-based services have been affected including iPlayer and the main news website.

DownDetector has shown a dramatic rise in reports of the websites being unavailable from around 7am too, the website is showing 500 error pages, with some parts of the website not loading at all, and others partially loading. It seems that radio and television broadcasting services are not affected but many of the services remain offline.

BBC have tweeted an apology via their Twitter account.

The last outage that the BBC encountered was back in 2011 due to technical issues and later in 2o12 the BBC revealed that it had been under cyber attack which took its telephone and e-mail services offline. However, the cause of this outage has not currently been confirmed, but we will post more information as we find it.

https://twitter.com/MintRoyale/status/682480371112505345?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

When such a big website goes down, it can be a major inconvenience for quite a lot of people. Especially for a site like BBC, which is a hub for many around the world for breaking news, weather, and so much more.

Amazon Web Services Goes Down Before Getting Up Again

Bit of Tubthumping play on words in the title there, readers who remember the 90s will get this, surely, oh come on I am not that old! Anyway, many web services are intrinsically integrated with each other to bring benefits to consumers, all well and good then right? Yes and no, as having many services which rely on a single destination, whether it be a server or software, provides its own challenges; this includes a domino effect to any technical glitches that would inevitably affect other connected pages.

Yesterday (20th September 2015) there was a problem with a server in Virginia which affected most of the north-east of the US. This glitch in turn killed the infrastructure for many popular products and services including Netflix, Social Flow, Group Me and Amazon Echo among others. The error was described as an “Elevated API Error rates” but has since been resolved to normal operating functionality within the same day.

Any outage in these services for the US giant could lead to a painful financial loss; let’s take a 2013 technical outage as a study example. AWS suffered a similar problem which took services that included Instagram, Airbnb and Vine off-line, it was reported that Amazon accumulated a loss of about $1,100 dollars per second in average net sales.

To keep track of any potential errors there is a handy website by the name of “Amazon web services health dashboard” which publishes up-to-the-minute information on the health of services within four tabs, these are North and South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. It’s pretty interesting and I have said before that in fact I do have a life, just intertwined with stats and tech that is all.

“Amazon reminds us of the good times
We sing songs that remind us of the best times”  ha!

Thank you status.aws and thenextweb for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of muycloud

Hulu Planning An Ad Free Subscription?

On paper, the media streaming service Hulu is a great idea, either watch selected shows for free or pay a $7.99 (£5.12) fee to view an expanded array of content. But the problem lies with United States based consumers who pay a subscription but are still subjected to commercials within the lowest tier package, which I think is a cheek considering if you pay a price, you should not have to view ads as well.

Recent reports have suggested that Hulu is planning to respond to this by offering consumers a new subscription package which wipes out adverts altogether. There is speculation that Hulu would be willing to market these new tiers at between $12 and $14 dollars (£7 – £9) approx.

This on paper sounds an improvement, but in order for the rumoured change to be successful, the media streaming service will need to re-think an additional subscription tier by the name of “Showtime”. Which for an additional $8.99 dollars (£5.76) a month on top of the current subscription, consumers can watch a larger library of content which is commercial free.

On top of this there is also another problem, technically, Hulu is only available in the US, Yes we all know where we are going here so I won’t say. So, if Hulu wishes to grow its business model, it will need to offer content to consumers in more countries legally. I do feel Hulu has been dwarfed by Netflix in terms of territories and also notoriety with the most logical outcome being one subscription price for all content.

Will these possible changes be a turn off for consumers? Well here’s the killer, Hulu is owned by many of the TV companies which include-21st Century Fox, Comcast, and the Walt Disney Company. These conglomerates have a vested interest in marketing the product with commercials in order to garner increased revenue. If more people migrate to ad free alternatives and are still able to watch the latest shows at the expense of the traditional TV, what incentive is there for Hulu to move completely away from adverts?

Now, as I write this, I am not condoning or supporting piracy in any way, the facts are this, unless Hulu changes and implements a service which is completely ad free. How will Hulu market the product at new subscribers when said consumers are able to watch the same content, which is available ad free to download illegally or to view on other legal services?

Companies need to drastically re-educate themselves on the effectiveness of adverts in the Internet generation; otherwise there will be a steep decline in revenue as streaming services becomes the prime destination for consumer viewing habits.

Thank you Gamespot for providing us with this information

Image Courtesy of gadget review

Amazon Home Services Now Available in Major US Cities

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Amazon’s new Home Services options are now available in the US to “major” cities in 41 states. The service lets customers shop for professional services locally from Amazon in categories from tech support to home maintenance.

Amazon rolled out the brand new Home Services, where customers can purchase anything from appliance repair to goats to graze a field. The services are hand-picked professionals by Amazon and offer up front pricing. The job is only paid for when it is done so customer satisfaction should be high and the likelihood of contractors cutting corners will be low. The amount of services offered will vary greatly from city to city, with the largest cities likely having a lot more options than smaller ones.

Source: Engadget

Rideshare Applications Put Taxi Companies in Turmoil

Have you gotten on the Uber or Lyft craze yet? New reports have just come to light that thanks to these new offerings, Taxi business has been majorly disrupted due to the new their technological advantages and pricing structures.

It’s a common complaint in much of the Western world, users upset that their taxi and/or driver is one, or a combination of: smelly, late, unsightly, rude, knowledgeable or in disrepair. Ride-share apps like Lyft and Uber have been designed to take these short-distance travels into a more personable situation.

According to a New York Times analysis, owning a taxi service has become less worthy in recent times. They claim that price of medallions have plummeted sharply over 2014, seeing the price drop by 17-20 percent within major US cities such as Boston, Chicago and New York. This is alongside news that Philadelphia has cut their prices to the customer drastically and half of New York’s most recent sales have been foreclosures.

Unfortunately there isn’t a 100 percent straight link between the Taxi service plummeting and ride sharing app business because of no reported ride numbers released, however it gives us insight into the taxi industries performance as a whole. As far as the local market is concerned here in Australia, many of my friends are taking the application plunge – seeing them utilize services like Uber for hotel to airport transfers and a safe ride home after a night of partying. Although Australian Uber prices are can be slightly higher than that of the localized taxi business, users are happy to bear the cost due to the improved benefits and claimed safety aspects.

Do you agree with these claims? Are Taxi’s going out of business due to public transport or own methods, or are they seeing a downturn due to their nature?

Image courtesy of Wake Up News
Information courtesy of Engadget

Amazon Offers Handyman Services through its ‘Amazon Local Services’

Amazon has started offering local handyman services with its ‘Amazon Local Services’.

A number of visitors to Amazon.com have started noticing listings for local technicians for the fitting of items like TVs and washing machines.

It’s not just about installation either, Amazon’s site for providers interested in the new service, lists a whole hosts of potential services from repairs for phones laptops to bike chain lubrication and car oil changes. Amazon will take a 20% cut on service charged less than $1000 and a 15% cut for services charged above that amount. The service is currently only available in select cities in 9 states. Re/code says that this is all part of Amazon’s efforts to become the absolute central location for all purchases – whether that be for goods or services.

Let’s just say that Amazon is trying to take over the world.

Source: Re/code

T-Mobile Users Now Able to Gain Data Free Access to Music

T-Mobile hit the market hard at Seattle’s Paramount Theater last night, announcing some big offers to end users.

Alongside their ‘free trial’ offer of an iPhone 5s to potential subscribers, T-Mobile have announced that their service will allow free data streaming to all top music streaming services, including:

  • Pandora
  • iTunes Radio
  • iHeartRadio
  • Slacker
  • Spotify
  • Samsung’s Milk service, and
  • Rhapsody

T-Mobile currently offers its consumers 1GB, 3GB or 5GB worth of full speed data allotment – go over this cap and you will be reduced to functioning on 3G speed. But with the announced change coming into effect, you’ll receive full speed unlimited service on these streaming services no matter if you’re over your cap or not.

Some people are claiming this service may be an issue to ‘net neutrality’ as offering this service for only a select few streaming companies helps give them a boost. Rdio is one main contender missing from this list as you may have noticed, but T-Mobile’s John Legere stated that these chosen stream services are not due to a business move or competitive angle. Either way it’s certainly a cop out for the smaller guys and Rdio alike. Legere also went on to state that T-Mobile’s plan is to include all streaming services in the future – whether realistic or not is up to you to decide.

All-in-all we’re sure that consumers are generally quite happy with this news because in our experience, streaming uses a lot of data!

What could this mean for premium streaming subscriptions? Currently in Australia Spotify premium subscriptions are quite popular, due to the ability to download music to your device and that streaming uses quite a high rate of data on our current low caps. Can the same be said for T-Mobile’s current target audience? Or can this be easily written off by Spotify as extra users, extra ad listeners and extra exposure?

Want to see your favourite streaming service added? T-Mobile have claimed they will be opening the next contenders up for customer voting.

Image courtesy of 9to5mac.

13 Countries Added to AT&T’s International LTE Roaming Add-On List

American multinational telecommunications corporation AT&T is planning to expand its international LTE roaming services, having it being made available in Canada and the UK last year.

The corporation is planning to extend their services by adding 13 more nations to the feature list, including Spain, France, Russia and others. Taking into account how AT&T is dealing with EE in the UK and Rogers in Canada, the charging rates for the additional feature, named “Data Global”, will not change with the LTE service additions, but AT&T has not specified anything about it in their press release.

“Today, AT&T has expanded its international LTE footprint to now include Spain, France, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, Guam, Hong Kong and Antigua & Barbuda. AT&T is committed to providing its customers a wider global footprint to enjoy LTE data speeds. In fact, AT&T currently has agreements to allow for LTE roaming in over 200 countries.”

However, due to different countries having different LTE bands, it would be a bit hard to get your phone to work with LTE while roaming, though if the smartphone used is fairly new, it would have more chances of connecting thanks to the newer LTE technology which adds support for more and more LTE bands into one single handset.

Thank you Android Central for providing us with this information

Google’s Drive, Docs and Sites Experiencing Issues, Should We Be Surprised?

Google has experienced a lot of problems with its services lately, from Gmail to Calendar, which affected a great deal of people. It appears that their flaws have not yet been fixed, since we can see that the Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Sites services still experience problems even now.

The corporate giant has posted the first investigation notes for the Drive, Docs and Sheets, adding its Sites services roughly 50 minutes later to the list. The situation is still under investigation, however the services have “already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future. Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change.”

There is still no official information about the cause of the issue, however most people have not been affected by this disruption. Those affected however consist mostly of students who opted to use Google’s Docs and Sheets services in order to prepare their assignments. Some might even miss their deadline on uploading their projects and assignments due to the developing issue.

A recommended action for future online workspace usage is to always make a backup copy of all online documents and files to your personal computer in order to avoid such situations.

Thank you Android Central for providing us with this information

Google Services Go Down For 50 Minutes? What Next, The Internet?

Today, Google’s Gmail and Google+ services has been down for roughly 50 minutes. Reports from Europe, Canada, India, United States and other countries confirm that it was a worldwide phenomenon which affected a lot of users, including companies, from big to small.

Whoever tried to access Gmail or Google+ would be greeted with an “Error 500” code, which indicated a temporary problem but not the cause. The 500 code error in browsers represents the service is temporarily out-of-order and points primarily to the server or servers in use. The Google+ outage also has reportedly affected some YouTube comments working on the new system by not loading them when viewing YouTube videos.

Attempting to access the Gmail box through an external client such as Outlook or Thunderbird, or even from your mobile phone, both through POP and IMAP did not help as well. Also, it is said that Google’s Site Reliability Engineering team was also performing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit when the issue started to occur, not exactly the right time to do something like this it seems. We all know what happened next.

Google named it as a “disruption” in its Gmail services and promised to fix it as soon as possible. Well, the services went online for a brief period after the issues started to appear, but went down again, only to start going back online 50 minutes later. Currently, not all services are fully functional worldwide and nobody knows exactly when they will be. You can check the services’ status on Google’s Apps Status Dashboard here. Google officials did not release any more information regarding what caused the outage, and most likely will never comment on the exact cause of the problems.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of

Google Rolling Out An App For Live Video Lessons From Experts Named Helpouts

Google is launching a new product it’s calling “Helpouts.” It’s a new website that allows users to get in touch with experts and pay them for “services” over video chat. Google is imagining that it will be used for things like cooking tips, home repair, guitar lessons, and even healthcare. The service is now live with a small set of partners, including Weight Watchers, Sephora, and One Medical. Google is vetting anybody that wants to offer Helpout services with a full background check and keeping the categories of services offered relatively short.

The video-chat services will be offered in a wide range of prices, from free with volunteers up to $20 per hour or more. Google says it has no intention of allowing “adult” content on Helpouts. Users will be able to rate the experts they work with and said experts will have a few tools to block users, should it come to that. For all of it, Google gets a 20 percent cut and is offering a money-back guarantee if things don’t work out.

The website for Hangouts looks very much like a one-off custom version of Google+, and even shares some of the same Hangouts on Air features that have been baked into that product. Each expert has a landing page where users can schedule a future Helpout or start one immediately. Users are identified with their public Google+ profiles, so each party knows who is calling, but nothing is posted publicly to Google+. If both parties agree, a Helpout chat can be saved for later review.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-VFC9AQM1k[/youtube]

Some of those policies don’t apply to the health section of Helpouts, however, where Google says it applies slightly stricter rules surrounding a user’s identity and privacy. It also claims that any health-related Helpout will be HIPAA compliant.

Although it’s a small launch, Google VP of Engineering Udi Manber was bullish on Helpouts’ future. Likening current skepticism about Helpouts to how some felt about online shopping in the early days of the internet, Manber repeated over and over at a press event today that “in the end, convenience and efficiency always win.”

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information
Image and video courtesy of The Verge

Rural Internet Access: Finding High-speed Connections

The author of this article Sarah Bolloum advised her daughter to do a broadband speed test when she had some speed issues on her computer.

In rural communities, high-speed Internet access is not always easy to find. Even if a local provider offers service, your home might be ineligible for various reasons. Consider these tools and options to help locate a provider that serves your area.

Check with companies that offer other services

Sometimes, nationwide companies bundle different services for rural customers. For example, your telephone or satellite-TV provider might offer Internet access via satellite dish. Visit the company’s Web site, or make a phone call, to learn more.

Get on waiting lists

Waiting lists tell providers that they have potential customers in the area. If access is close to your home, but not quite there yet, a list of interested people might persuade the company to plan for expansion. This can take time—months, even years—but adding your information to the list does not take long. Afterward, you can move on and continue looking for other providers.

Search online for providers

Sites like DSLReports.com have searchable databases. These sites include different kinds of Internet connections; customer reviews; and multiple search options (by ZIP code, for example, or by state). Some companies that come up in your search results don’t serve your area, but others might.

Look for more than one kind of connection

You might not be able to get a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) through your telephone provider, but what about a WISP (terrestrial wireless) connection from another provider? This kind of access is ideal for some people in rural areas. Others can use satellite dishes. In some parts of the country, cell-phone providers’ connections work well. Don’t limit yourself to one or two kinds of service; you might have other, unexplored options.

Use local resources

Ask your neighbors how they get Internet access at home. If the family next door has a high-speed provider, the odds are very good that you, too, can subscribe. Sometimes, providers advertise in your area. Keep an eye on billboards, the local newspaper, and even signs staked out in yards. Rural areas are no different from more-populated regions as far as advertising goes; companies find creative ways to get your attention.

You might have only one option other than dial-up. If that’s the case, keep looking while you make the most of what you have. Companies expand coverage areas on a regular basis. New providers move into underserved areas and set up shop. Businesses that offer other services expand. Keep looking, stay on the waiting lists, and talk with your neighbors; convincing them to express a desire for high-speed Internet in their homes can encourage a company to sell you all what you want.

Image courtesy of NYnet