Monthly Archives: October 2016

App of the Week – We The People

 we_the_people_logoAs citizens we can demand our government address our complaints. As a matter of fact that is one of the primary responsibilities of the government. You have the right to petition the government. You have a right to be heard and you have a right to expect a response. Thats is whyWe The Peopleis the App Website of the Week. (With the elections so close we made an exception.)

‘We The People’ is not a new app. Its a website. But the White House has upgraded its online petitions website for an increasingly mobile citizenry.  ‘We the People’ now makes it easier to file and sign a petition from smartphones and tablets. 

According to a White House Press Release the new site lets the citizen view, sign or create a petition in just a few, easy steps. “That means it’s also way simpler for people, no matter their age, location, or level of technical prowess, to participate in petitioning. That’s a critical step in ensuring that ‘We the People’ remains universally accessible.”

Following up on a 2015 White House promise to breathe new life into the system the White house has cleared a backlog of 20 petitions and has created a new target of issuing responses to citizens petitions in 60 days.

‘We The People’ kicked off 2011 to answer to constitutional right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Any citizen can create a petition. If that petition gains the signatures of 100,000 fellow citizens the White House tries to respond.

The Internet and the Black Voter

get-yoAs the presidential election campaigns wind down America is looking forward to a new face in the White House. African-Americans we can wish Brother President Barack Obama and his family a loving farewell with thanks.

But as black voters we need to understand three things. First, our support of the first black president was a powerful indicator of what changes can come about when we vote. The black vote secured President Obama’s first and second terms.  Second, the black vote can be powerful and not just in presidential elections. We can change things from our own neighborhoods to what happens in Washington D.C. If we vote. Finally, Black people have died for this right. Not acting on it is a sickening betrayal.

The Internet is an effective tool to extract the power of black voters.  To be a voter you must first register. Many states (not all) make it easy to register. Some states allow you to register at the local DMV also know as “motor voter” or post office. But if you have not registered to vote you can visit USA.gov to get the process started and get valuable information about voting in your state. You can also search the Internet for your polling place.

Young black people are in love with technology, especially social media. And social media is helping the democratic process by using their platforms to get young people registered to vote. SnapChat began encouraging young users to register via its app by running video ads. According to Mashable the ads are shown only to users who are 18 years of age and older. This is a powerful effort because Snapchat is used on a daily basis by 41 percent of all people aged 18 to 34 years old in the U.S.

Other social media sites that are urging voter registration can be found in this report from Mashable. Though not a social media site even Uber is encouraging participation in the democratic process.

Google and Facebook, the world’s most powerful social network, are also encouraging you to vote and helping you get registered. Simply search “how to register to vote” and Google will tell you how to do it in your state. Facebook offers a “Register Now” button that sends the user to Vote.gov.

Voter registration apps are all over the place. So black people have no excuse for not being registered. A simple web search can reveal a voter website, app or printable form for all fifty states. Its that simple.

Registering to vote could also get you a date or help find a significant other. There are apps that can hook you up with a like minded voter for romance.

But there is more to it than just registering to vote and then stepping up to the ballot box. Black people need to be informed voters; know what’s happening!

Finding information on your local, state and national issues is as simple searching the Internet. Want to know what your representative is doing or has done?  Want to check out his biography? Examine his life, his voting position on issues that affect black voters? How he has voted on issues that affect you? Who is contributing money to his campaign? You can find that information and a helluva lot more at Votesmart.org. This is one of the most powerful and impartial voter information tools available to the black voter. You can even call them with a question and someone will personally research your question and get you an answer.

Another powerful voter information tool is Countable.us. This is an informative website and application that allows the voter to read about the current bills moving through Congress and issues facing the federal government. The voter can get fair and impartial synopsis of current bills, where they are in the legislative process, what they will cost the taxpayer, who supports the bill and why and when the vote is expected to take place. In addition the user can direct email their representative their stance on the issue or bill. Download Countable.us for Apple and Android devices.

Finally do you know who your elected representative is? To find who is representing you on the local, state and nation level check out  the Common Cause  website to find that person.

Now you know.

 

 

Breach Brief – Anthem Incorporated

anthemIn one of the largest data breaches in corporate history Anthem medical insurers lost the information of more than 80 million customers including the company’s CEO. The information stolen includes names, birthdays, medical IDs, Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information and income data.

Anthem is the second-largest health insurer in the United States. The company offers insurance plans that include Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue ShieldAmerigroup and Healthlink.

The company reported it has found no evidence that credit card or medical information was compromised. While damage is still being assessed, the compromised database contained up to 80 million customer records.

Anthem has promised to notify all current and former customers individually if their data has been stolen. The company began the process notifying customers of the breach as early as late Wednesday. Customers affected by the breach will receive free credit monitoring and identity protection services.

In a statement company CEO Joseph Swedish admitted that his information was also lost in the data breach. “Anthem’s own associates’ personal information, including my own, was accessed during this security breach. We join you in your concern and frustration, and I assure you that we are working around the clock to do everything we can to further secure your data.”

According to the company the breach resulted from a “very sophisticated external cyber attack,” and added that law enforcement agencies were investigating to identify the perpetrator. The company has hired Mandiant, a leading cybersecurity firm, to help in the investigation.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said that it was aware of the intrusion and was investigating the matter. 

Anthem has created a website for its current and former customers  to get information about the incident at www.AnthemFacts.com. They can also call 877-263-7995.

T-Mobile to Pay for Misleading Customers

t-mobile-logoThe FCC has dropped the hammer on cell provider T-Mobile. T-Mobile USA Inc. agreed to cough up at least $48 million for making customers believe it offered a truly unlimited data plan. It was never true.

An FCC investigation that began last year  looked into whether the company properly disclosed that it was slowing down data speeds for heavy users. In the cell phone industry this is a common practice known as throttling.

As part of the agreement T-Mobile will pay a $7.5 million fine and offer $35.5 million in customer benefits that includes data upgrades and discounts on accessories. The giant cell provider will also spend another $5 million to improve mobile high-speed Internet access for as many as 80,000 low-income public school students.

Travis LeBlanc, head of the FCC Enforcement Bureau said, “Consumers should not have to guess whether so-called unlimited data plans contain key restrictions, like speed constraints, data caps and other material limitations.When broadband providers are accurate, honest and upfront in their ads and disclosures, consumers aren’t surprised and they get what they’ve paid for.”

The FCC enforced settlement applies to T-Mobile’s unlimited data plans but not its Binge On service.

According to the FCC it began investigating in March 2015 after T-Mobile and pre-paid service provider MetroPCS customers complained. T-mobile customers complained about being mislead by the so-called unlimited data plan. According to the FCC the plan throttled customer data speeds after a certain data threshold is used each month.

T-Mobile “de-prioritized” heavy users data speeds during times of network congestion. Unlimited plan subscribers who consumed more than 17 gigabytes of data in a given month, typically about  3% of its users, were subject to slower speeds than advertised.

The FCC found that T-Mobile failed to properly notify its customers of the restriction from August 2014 to June 12, 2015.  T-mobile has agreed to better inform its customers of the restrictions and notify customers when their data usage approaches the monthly limit at which it could be slowed.

For T-Mobile  customers they could get 20% off the regular price for any accessories up to $20 and an automatic upgrade of 4 gigabytes of data for one month, valued at $15 that can be used over the course of a year under its “data stash” program. MetroPCS customers automatically get the 4GB of data to use over two months. The company must also notify eligible customers of the benefits by Dec. 15.

In an effort to help bridge the digital divide T-Mobile has also agreed to spend an additional $5 million providing free tablets and other mobile devices to low-income public school districts. Beginning in October 2017 eligible schools will receive reduced-cost mobile broadband services for the devices. Students and their families will get the service at no cost. The program will enroll 20,000 students annually over four years.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Goes Down in Flames!

samsung-note-7Its not often a company releases a product that is an absolute disaster. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it is history.  Samsung has joined the list of companies that have done so. Here is the history of the Galaxy Note 7.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 was thought to be another major success in the heavyweight battle between Samsung and Apple. It turned out to be a calamity of un-imagined dimension. As a result the Note 7, Samsung’s flagship smartphone, has been completely, totally and finally thrown on the crap pile of  epic product failures.

August 19, 2016 – Samsung released the Galaxy Note 7 to the market with great fanfare. Many critics hailed the waterproof device as the best smartphone ever.

August 24, 2016 – Reports surface of  Samsung’s new smartphone bursting into flames.

September 2, 2016 – Samsung announces the first recall of the Note 7. According to Samsung the reason the phones were catching fire was because of a faulty battery from a supplier.  It is one of two batteries that power the phone. Note 7’s sold in the U.S. were recalled. But the recall did not extend to other countries because, according to Samsung, they did not receive phones with the faulty battery. However the recall was delayed and not initiated until  September 21st. Consumers are left confused by the delay.

September 8, 2016The FAA warned owners of the Samsung phone not use the devices on board commercial flights. International and domestic carriers followed the directive and banned use of the phone on flights.

September 21, 2016Samsung initiates Note 7 product recall. The recall did little to correct the situation as replacement phones also began catching fire. This was followed by reports of phones catching fire in other countries like China where the was no recall in effect.

October 5, 2016 – A Southwest Airlines flight was evacuated when a Note 7 went up in smoke on board the plane. The owner of that phone reported that it was a replacement phone.

October  9, 2016 – AT&T refuses to exchange the Note 7 for replacement phones.“Based on recent reports, we’re no longer exchanging new Note 7s at this time, pending further investigation of these reported incidents,” an AT&T spokesman said in a email statement.

October 10, 2016 – Samsung ceases all production of the Note 7 phone but does not initiate a second recall of the device.

October 11, 2016 – Samsung announces the death of the Note 7 phone when it initiates the final global recall of the product. Owners can return the phone to the store for another device or a refund.

October 12, 2016 – Samsung begins to suffer the fall out from the Note 7 catastrophe.  The Korean technology company announced it has slashed its quarterly profit estimate by a third. The company will absorb a $2.3 billion direct hit from the flaming demise of it’s latest smartphone. Experts are already calling it one of the costliest product safety failures in tech history. Samsung has not been able to tell consumers what caused the phones to catch fire.

October 14, 2016In an effort to get the phones back Samsung announced an incentive to owners of the Note 7 who have not returned the device. Samsung is offering a $100 credit to owners who trade in the Note 7 for one of Samsung’s other devices like the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. Samsung is seeking to regain control of these dangerous devices by encouraging owners to return them.  Owners of the suspect phone who ask for a full refund or switch to another manufacturer’s phone will receive $25.

Tim Baxter president and chief operating officer of Samsung Electronics America said in a statement, “Customers’ safety remains a top priority and we ask consumers with an original or replacement Galaxy Note 7 to power down and take advantage of the remedies available.” 

But Samsung is encountering even more problems trying to retrieve the dangerous devices than it counted on. First many owners of the phone love it because of its waterproof construction, curved screen and excellent cameras. Another problem is the complicated process of packing the phone in the fire proof box provided by Samsung.

For more information and how to return your phone please got to Samsung Product Safety Recall.

Breaking It Down

Samsung is a smart company. It is also a caring company that takes a lot of pride in its products. They are some of the best on the market. So in the long run with solid business leadership this company will recover. But what the consumer is waiting for is a straight answer as to what caused the problem in the first place. Samsung, like Apple, have loyal customers who deserve an answer.  Hey Samsung if you read this; we’re waiting.

But lets look at the market as a result of the Samsung stumble. Look for makers of Android devices to step up marketing and manufacturing to fill the gap left by the Korean giant. Market share is up for grabs. Apple will also look to tear off a chunk of Samsung’s customer’s as well.  After all they are its primary competitor. From Samsung you will probably never hear of the Note product line again. Its gone.

For the foreseeable future its the battle for increased sales from the likes of Motorola, Lenovo, LG, heck even Microsoft might get something out of this.

As for Samsung, the future still looks bright because this company will comeback stronger than ever. Investors know this. Although the stock price has dropped, almost no one is selling. They know that this problem will be solved and Samsung phones will return to market. Most CEO’s understand that these things happen. Not often but they do. The trick is to keep your customers on your side until you get it fixed. Trust me, this is going to be a great business school lesson in few years. Hopefully with a happy ending. Good Luck Samsung.

 

 

 

App of the Week – Register To Vote

register-to-voteThe presidential election is just over a month away. And the bottom line is that the black vote is more important than ever. So “GET YO BLACK ASS OUT AND VOTE!”

Registering to vote should be easy and simple in the world’s greatest democracy. But as black people we know that is not the case and its made that way deliberately. That is why Register To Vote is the App of the Week.

Register To Vote is intended to take some of the hassle out of this process by offering an app that scans your state ID, verifies your information and sends it to the relevant state to get you registered in a few seconds. Three simple steps.

The truth about voting is glaring and racist. As black people you are not wanted in the election process. And its a disgrace that so many of use play right along! America is the technological capital of the world and yet state after state simply refuses to use technology to register and verify voters. So far the registration process has only been simplified for voters in California, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Arizona, Colorado and Massachusetts the few states with online voter registration.

get-yo

In other states blatant efforts have been made to exclude blacks and other minorities from voting. One North Carolina’s judge described the efforts of GOP legislators to limit black voting by saying, “Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist.”

Register to Vote is supported by Actor Samuel L. Jackson who is a staunch advocate of voting rights. 

Register to Vote has one flaw. It is only available for Apple. That means that it will certainly attract younger voters but older voters, those less likely to own an iPhone and less likely to vote, won’t get the app.

But that is no excuse for not voting! Consider how may black people died trying to secure the vote.

The United State Election Assistance Commission has a website that shows you where and how in your state to register to vote. You can also go to Vote.gov.

GET YO BLACK ASS OUT AND VOTE!

 

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Beyonce, Jay-Z

beyonce-22Black artists and athletes are all seeing the value of technology. Beyonce, the ‘Queen Bee’ herself has jumped into the technology investment game. But Beyonce is showing her smarts when it comes to the tech game. Miss Bee and her management company, Parkwood Entertainment, dropped $150,000 on Sidestep, the company that created an app that lets music fans purchase those concert t-shirts and other merchandise and pick it up without waiting in line.

Beyonce and her business people understand that concert souvenirs bring in a nice chunk of change. Anyway you look at it for a superstar like Beyonce  this is a smart move. The Sidestep app started selling t-shirts and posters for Beyoncé’s current world tour. Apparently the purchasing app must’ve performed pretty well since Beyonce invested in the company a mere two weeks. Beyonce is also invested in her husbands Jay-Z’s  music streaming service  Tidal.

You can download the app for Apple devices here. Click here for Android.

tidal-share.239a2bdcSpeaking of Jay-Z and Tidal things are not so smooth over there. According to an Esquire.com report the music service has been nothing but disappointing. Tidal was supposed to be the standard in high fidelity music streaming with a nice share of the money going to the artists. At least that was the original idea. And plenty of artists and music fans jumped on board. But according to reports Tidal has become known for slow download times and little if any increase in the sound quality for too much money. Complaints have surfaced that Tidal has been luring in listeners by promising a complimentary trial subscription then making it difficult if not impossible to cancel the  subscription before it automatically starts charging.  Tidal has also been stringing users along with some shady tactics like Kanye’s  Life of Pablo album release. The rapper updated The Life of Pablo with new songs right as the 30-day free trial ended.

But the news gets worse. Tidal has made some decent moves with people like having his wife Beyonce and buddy Kanye onboard but there is still the problem of money. Tidal is losing it big time!

 According to the Wall Street Journal Tidal lost $28 million last year as reported by the streaming service’s Aspiro AB holding company. That’s down another $17.4 million more over 2014. The WSJ reports that Tidal is struggling to pay its bills owing roughly $438,000 to about 100 record labels and is lacking enough on hand capital to make it through 2016. The bottom line is, Tidal bleeding to death…slowly.