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Scott Ertz Google TV is no longer showing Netflix content in search and tools
(2020-11-28)
Google TV is no longer showing Netflix content in search and tools Over the years, Google's inability to pick a business strategy, articulate it to its partners and customers, and execute it to perfection has caused the company problems. Take, for example, the company's messaging strategy with products like Allo coming and going, more than one text app for Android, and more. But messaging hasn't been the only place where the company's lack of focus has caused problems, with the latest being video, and particularly Google TV.

Google TV was a smart TV platform developed and provided by Google to TV manufacturers. It was a market failure and was replaced by Android TV in 2014. Recently, the Google TV name was brought out of retirement, but for something a little different. Now, it is an interface on top of Android TV and available on the newer Chromecast devices, which brings together a variety of streaming services into one place to allow you to search for and favorite content from all of the disparate platforms.

For a platform like this to be at all useful or popular, it has to support all of the major services. Until this week, that is how Google TV worked - until suddenly the ability to add content from Netflix to your watchlist. Initially, it seemed like perhaps a bug in the system. However, as the week went on, Netflix was removed from Google TV entirely. This includes adding Netflix as a service on the platform. The Netflix app and platform itself still works as expected - just not the integration with the Google TV interface. Google has responded to all requests about the change with the same statement, saying,

With Google TV, our goal is to bring the best of our search and discovery features across your subscriptions to your favorite devices. We work with each content partner to enable these entertainment experiences, and the level of integration will vary by partner.

Whatever is going on between Google and Netflix needs to be solved quickly if Google has any hopes of getting people to accept the newest incarnation of Google TV.
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Scott Ertz Amazon wants all of your neighbors to be able to use your internet
(2020-11-28)
Amazon wants all of your neighbors to be able to use your internet One of the biggest fears for a connected home is when that connection disappears. We've all experienced internet outages, causing our connected devices to become suddenly useless. For the most part, this is merely an inconvenience. But, what if someone is trying to get into your home and cuts your internet connection - killing your connected devices, such as security cameras? That is exactly the problem that Amazon is hoping to eliminate with its new Sidewalk feature.

The new feature creates a private, local network between Amazon devices. This will include some of the company's Echo, Ring, and more product lines. This private network will allow the devices within the network to switch over to one another's internet connection if the primary connection is unavailable. For some users, this feature will be an exciting addition. However, the company has made a major mistake and one that has caused other companies in the past.

This feature will be turning itself on by default. In fact, while Sidewalk networks are not already running (according to Amazon), the setting to turn it off is already available. You can head to More -> Settings -> Account Settings -> Amazon Sidewalk to turn it off. There are a number of reasons why users might want to consider turning this off.

Of course, there is the obvious issue of data caps, which are going to increase in 2021. If you have a limited amount of bandwidth, giving access to connected devices which are not your own is not a great situation at $10 per additional 50GB of usage. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The real situation is that connected devices are notorious for security issues, including Amazon's products. By creating an "accidental" backdoor into your private internet connection, the company is potentially creating a security nightmare for you and your family. For the same reason we have repeatedly fought against the idea of "public access" on consumer routers, we see the potential for abuse.
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Scott Ertz Amid work from home, Comcast plans to expand data caps nationwide
(2020-11-28)
Amid work from home, Comcast plans to expand data caps nationwide Recently, a report showed that the number of internet power users has grown over the past year. This was no surprise, as much of the world has begun working from home. In addition, school is now from home, the majority of entertainment is from home. Add to that, the number of devices in our homes that are connected to the internet has expanded. With all of these changes, the amount of data being used is bound to increase as well.

Thankfully, most of the major internet service providers that have data caps have suspended those caps for the time being. However, this week we learned that Comcast plans to expand its data cap policy across all of its markets in the United States. As of today, there are twelve states where unlimited data plans are still available. However, that is about to come to an end.

In January 2021, Comcast will expand the controversial policy to all of the 28 million subscribers in the company's 39 market states. The announcement came via the company's Xfinity page about data, though the language has since been removed. The company did confirm the change through Ars Technica.

They will, however, give a "grace period" to users who will be added to the policy in January. For the first two months, users will not be charged for overages. This means that the enforcement of the policy, in these new markets, will actually begin in March 2021. In addition, the company has options for those who want to maintain unlimited data. Users can pay an additional $30 per month, or sign up for the "xFi Complete" plan, which is an additional $25 (a better option, but still not great).

As the nature of internet usage continues to change, adding data caps and overage charges is unbelievably inappropriate. People will be continually using more data as entertainment, work, school, and more continue to change.
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Scott Ertz PlayStation Network accounts are getting banned over PS5 shortage
(2020-11-28)
PlayStation Network accounts are getting banned over PS5 shortage Before the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, we all knew that pre-orders were going to be rough. Between limited stock and pre-order bots taking a large percentage of what is available, availability was going to be a problem. While on the Microsoft side, it's only been an inconvenience, but on the Sony side, it's caused a different issue around PlayStation Plus.

The service offers subscribers free games every month, claimable on your console. As part of the hardware upgrade, part of the claiming process has moved to the new consoles. Because of that, people have needed to figure out how to get their hands on a PS5 in order to claim all of the games that are made available to them, even if the games are playable on the PS4. To do this, many gamers have borrowed access to consoles from their friends, or other owners, in order to claim their games to be played on their PS4.

While this sounds reasonable to most gamers, it annoyed Sony. The result has been PlayStation Network accounts getting banned for the practice. Yes, you read that correctly - Sony is banning PlayStation Network accounts because those gamers couldn't get one of the limited quantity of PlayStation 5 consoles but still wanted the games for which they were paying.

In fact, all participants in the process are being punished. The owners of the consoles themselves are being banned permanently, while the PS4 owners are getting a 2-month ban. There is currently no indication that Sony has changed the policy, either on claiming games or on banning PSN accounts. However, Sony has said that users who believe that their bans are incorrect are welcome to file a counter claim in an attempt to reclaim their accounts. However, for those whose PSN accounts have been permanently banned, it could be a massive blow, considering the cost and limited stock availability.
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Scott Ertz Samsung's NEON virtual assistants are heading to mobile devices
(2020-11-28)
Samsung's NEON virtual assistants are heading to mobile devices At CES this year, Samsung showed off an impressive yet bizarre product from its Star Labs subsidiary - NEON. This service uses AI to produce a digital assistant that is convincingly human in both vocal capabilities as well as in visual. The second aspect was the real shock - a moving, talking, interacting virtual human being on a screen. In the demo, these virtual people were on large screens on a wall at a distance. According to reports, this reality might be about to change in Samsung's device future.

Samsung is currently testing integrating NEON assistants into its phones. In fact, Star Labs CEO Pranav Mistry casually mentioned on Twitter that he's already running a NEON assistant on his own personal phone. We can assume that he is currently running a high-end Samsung phone, considering his employer. We can also assume that he's not running NEON on his phone as a casual experiment but as a technological test for future deployment. In fact, he also added that we can see on our phones before Christmas.

While this move is technologically cool, and I personally can't wait to see it in action on my phone, it is also a surprise. Samsung has not had the best of luck in the digital assistant realm. Bixby has been an absolute disaster for the company, with the biggest complaint about the launch of the Galaxy S10 being the inability to reprogram the Bixby button because no one wanted to use it. On the other hand, the company's Invoke smart speaker is set to lose its smart capabilities in January 2021.

The idea that Samsung would not just embrace a new digital assistant on its devices, but to expand the role from a disembodied voice to a virtual digital body, is a shock. Maybe the technological expansion will be the thing to finally win Samsung some market share in this area, but it seems like a big swing hoping to put a piece of technology it has invested in that wasn't able to be implemented because of the lockdowns.
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