Jim’s WebLetter for 5/24/14


This weekend is Memorial Day when we remember those who gave their life so we can live ours. Freedom is a precious thing. Take a moment to reflect on the freedoms you enjoy because an ancestor, relative or friend served in the military. Memorial Day was established to recognize and honor those who served in our nation’s Civil War and was extended after WW I for all who died while serving in America’s wars. We use it today to remember all those who did the honorable thing and died for it. They are our heroes.


This week, Facebook announced that, while you’re using the app, they can turn on your microphone and pick up what’s going on in your room. Wow. Did you just understand what you just read? The Facebook app can automatically identify music and TV shows playing in the background as you’re writing a status update. At the present time, you need to activate this new feature which uses your smartphone’s or tablet’s microphone to listen to your surroundings. To know it’s working, you’ll see a sound icon moving on the screen as it does. Facebook is quick to say it doesn’t store any of the sound it analyzes, and emphasizes that “we can’t identify background noise or conversation.” This is Facebook’s entry in its battle with Twitter to become the best “second-screen” app that people use for discussion while watching TV, but it’s easy to see that it is also an easy way for them to spy on users and could be forced by the NSA to turn over what they record. So, is this really a good idea? http://readwrite.com/2014/05/21/facebook-spying-mobile-microphone-music-tv

With all the commotion over Net Neutrality, one major player is doing something about it. Google has been working to extend its internet broadband service. With Google Fiber, the plan is to get better Wi-Fi in the hands of small and medium sized businesses in order to get more users working on Google apps and services, which ultimately means more customers spending more time engaging with Google’s money-making products, even when they’re away from their usual home and work Wi-Fi networks. But most of all, it means more locations offering Wi-Fi for us to use. http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/21/google-plans-low-cost-high-quality-wi-fi-networks-for-small-and-medium-sized-businesses-report-says/

That said, you can imagine Comcast isn’t “best pleased”. Couple that with the fact Google Fiber is teaming up with Netflix to offer movies at a better price than what Comcast is offering. Ben Popper of the Verge wrote, “What’s ultimately at stake, however, is the power dynamics in the long term. The ISPs want to be able to charge content companies, both for special connections to their network, and possibly for priority lanes that privilege which bits get to the home first. That’s a future Netflix and Google dread, which is why, despite already doing paid peering deals, they are fighting back in such a public fashion, hoping to win over the FCC as it debates a new set of open internet rules”. For Netflix users, the partnership with Google will keep the prices down. If they are forced to work with Comcast, well, prices will continue to rise to offset their expense. http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/22/5741748/google-fiber-netflix-isp-free-paid-peering

Unlike the Facebook app which can listen to your surroundings for clues as to what you’re doing, the new version of Google Chrome browser can listen for commands from you, as long as you have a microphone connected to your computing device. With the words, “OK Google” the browser becomes a hands-off search device for most anything you need. Depending on the information being sought, Google might also respond by voice when returning the results. http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/22/5740946/chrome-ok-google-voice-search

Lastly, my daughter sent an email with a link to run a video she had recorded of herself as an animated character with a photo in the background. I became fascinated with the program and downloaded the app Tellagami, which has an IOS and Android version, and tried it out. Clearly, there are a few bugs before this can be considered a great app, but, it’s fun and will allow you to become innovative with creating videos up to 30 seconds in length. The avatar can be male or female, the options for appearance are limited, but sometimes the responsiveness of the avatar is a bit quirky to your voice recording and I was never able to type text and have it speak in one of the preselected voices. Again, there are a few bugs to be worked out, but I can see this being useful in classroom instruction, tutorial introductions and even opening videos to product and service demonstrations; all of which can be sent via email or social media, or embedded in a web page. Aside from all this, it’s just plain fun to create … https://tellagami.com/

There are many new stories on the Web this week that are included in WebLetter, the online magazine and companion to this newsletter. Click and read it here … http://WebLetter.jimonline.com/

During my uncle’s physical exam, his doctor mentioned that he was slightly overweight. “Do you get any exercise?” the physician asked.
“Well, I used to have an exercise bike in the TV room,” my uncle began.
“Used to!” the doctor said. “Where is it now?”
“I had to store it in the basement,” my uncle confessed, “because it got in the way of my snack trays.”
(Thanks, Nancy)
I’m high maintenance … I take aspirin for the headache caused by the Zyrtec I take for the hayfever I got from Relenza for the uneasy stomach from the Ritalin I take for the short attention span caused by the Scopederm Ts I take for the motion sickness I got from the Lomotil I take for the diarrhea caused by the Zenikal for the uncontrolled weight gain from the Paxil I take for the anxiety from the Zocor I take for my high cholesterol because exercise, a good diet, and regular health care are just too much trouble.
(Thanks, Rob)
That’s this weeks take on the World Wide Web, friends. Have a great weekend and may God bless you and keep you safe.

Jim’s WebLetter
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