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Smart speakers surpass novelty stage, go mainstream

(TECH NEWS) Smart speakers, once considered gimmicks, are now the leading reason behind smart home implementation and app adoption as the tech goes mainstream.

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Once considered a response to a niche market, smart speakers are everywhere now – and with options like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and upcoming Apple products, it’s easy to see why.

As the idea of smart speakers becomes more normalized in our homes, analysts expect to see an upswing in the number of speakers implemented by the end of this year.

As with any new technology, smart speaker sales started out with a healthy degree of skepticism; with over 11 percent of Americans now owning a smart speaker (a number that’s grown almost three percent from this past June), that skepticism appears to be dissolving.

In fact, the sheer number of households that own smart speakers seems poised to rise even higher, with sources like comScore predicting that as many as 15 percent of all homes in America will own a smart speaker by the beginning of next year.

Similarly to how smartphones began easing into the market during their inception, smart speakers are slowly becoming more and more relevant to the everyday consumer.

One of the more interesting aspects of the smart speaker boom is its effect on smart homes in general. Smart speakers tend to act as gateway devices, prompting consumers to buy more smart items – thermostats, lighting, and smart TVs, to name a few—which in turn facilitates the birth of yet another true smart home rather than just a house with a smart item in it.

The accessibility of a smart speaker in comparison to the accessibility of another smart home device is one possible reason for this effect; the fact remains that homes with smart speakers are much more likely to begin pushing toward higher smart home implementation than those without, and the number of homes with smart speakers is expected by all to continue to rise.

Smart speakers (and thus smart speaker apps) are rapidly becoming big players in the tech market, but the most important part of their mainstream inclusion lies in smart home conversion. It seems logical to expect that, in 2018, we will see a sharp upswing in both smart speaker sales and smart home adoption across the board.

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove’s Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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Dittach: Chrome extension keeps your Gmail files ultra organized

(PRODUCTIVITY) Reclaim your time with Dittach and quit digging through Gmail files for that needle in the haystack.

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So, have you ever been sent a picture of something in your Gmail and lost it for a few weeks? What about a copy of a form you need to sign? What about a document for your boss? If you’re sharing a lot of files in your Gmail, you may have a hard time keeping track of it all.

That’s where Dittach hopes to get back a bit of your time.

It’s a free Chrome extension that works with your Gmail to help organize those attachments in a way that’s a lot more efficient than the built-in filter – especially if you have thousands of emails in your Gmail.

The attachment adds a side bar to your inbox and displays thumbnails of the files you’ve received and sent, and that includes documents, audio, and video (most images of the sidebar sort by other, photos, docs, pdfs, movies, and music). There’s a date scroller to help you go through dates, and it even works with your search bar. And of course, you can then forward, download, print, or view the message that is attached.

Dittach captures the key elements of a good productivity app – it’s both incredibly intuitive to use, and it addresses a productivity need by creating time.

The applications of this software are vast if you use Gmail to manage your life, business, life + business, business + side gig + other gig + shopping addiction, or whatever permutation works for your life. If you have any privacy concerns: Dittach doesn’t make any changes to your account, emails, or attachments, and the extension can be removed anytime.

The biggest concern with Dittach actually comes from Google itself – it’s limited to how many attachments it can index every day, so older attachments may not appear initially during that first day – so if you have a lot of older stuff it may not capture them. The app is also in beta, so you may have some bugs with the experience, but it looks very promising. At the time of my review, the feature isn’t working due to a transition, but is expected to be back up soon.

Dittach ultimately is a great Gmail addition if you find yourself handling a great deal of attachments and need a way to quickly find them. Beyond business, I could see the applications of this for graduate students, working professionals, or even digitally connected families. There’s a lot of promise here, if you have the need – so if you use Chrome and Gmail – get Dittached from time wasting (when it’s available, of course).

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FCC Chairman confirms fears, jokes about being a Verizon shill

(TECH NEWS) FCC Chairman Ajit Pai jokes about being a shill for Verizon, feeding into what many suspected when he was appointed.

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Leaked video shows FCC Chairman Ajit Pai joking about being a shill for Verizon, as we all suspected when he was nominated. Last week Pai was a speaker at the Federal Communications Bar Association, an event similar to the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Major telecom companies and the FCC gather at this annual event for dinner, mingling, and enduring awkward political policy jokes. At the event, Pai roasted himself about major headlines from the past year, like his decision to kill net neutrality against the wishes of the majority of the nation. Hilarious.

Pai also brought up the whole thing where he refused to cooperate with an investigation into the validity of comments filed in support of ending net neutrality.

Although cameras weren’t officially present at the event, someone surreptitiously filmed and sent the clip to Gizmodo. The kicker comes around twenty minutes into Pai’s speech when he jokes, “in collusion—I mean, in conclusion, sorry, my bad—many people are still shell-shocked that I’m up here tonight.”

He goes on, “they ask themselves, how on earth did this happen? Well, moments before tonight’s dinner, somebody leaked a fourteen-year-old video that helps answer that question, and in all candor, I can no longer hide from the truth.”

Pai then starts a video, which opens with 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” playing in the background. This is the only thing I’ll give him points for on this amateur drama class project.

The skit is set in 2003 at “Verizon’s DC Office”, when Pai was an attorney for the company. In the video, Kathy Grillo, current Verizon senior VP and deputy general counsel, tells Pai, “As you know, the FCC is captured by the industry, but we think it’s not captured enough, so we have a plan.”

“What plan?” Pai asks. Grillo tells him, “We want to brainwash and groom a Verizon puppet to install as FCC chairman. Think ‘Manchurian Candidate.’” To which Pai responds, “That sounds awesome!”

Gizmodo posted the video on Friday after the dinner, and the internet exploded with reactions to Pai’s gag. Reddit in particular went nuts, to the point that one thread in r/technology was locked—as in no one else can comment—for “too much violence.”

In a thread on the r/television subreddit, a moderator reminds users, “please refrain from encouraging or inciting violence or posting personal information […] don’t post anything inviting harassment, don’t harass, and don’t cheer on or upvote obvious vigilantism.”

While some of the threads were full of awful remarks, other posters commented in the spirit of reasonable conversation. The general sentiment of those engaged in non-harassing discussions is that Pai is a symptom, not the cause of FCC’s problems.

However, many argued that the video showed Pai’s willingness to bend (then joke about) FCC regulations indicates he’s not a puppet so much as a willing participant in corruption. Pai’s appointment to FCC Chairman was suspicious from the beginning considering his ties to Verizon.

Although Pai is obviously joking in the leaked video, the general public isn’t find it nearly as funny as those at the dinner.

Check out the clip for some cringe-worthy digs at net neutrality and have fun questioning the integrity of the FCC.

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FCC Grinches plan to steal poor peoples’ Internet access

(TECH NEWS) Merry Christmas! The FCC is trying to take away poor people’s Internet access, pointing the finger one way to distract you from the other.

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In case anybody with enough bandwidth to read this wasn’t sufficiently terrified by the FCC’s ongoing campaign to break the internet by dismantling net neutrality, the nation’s communication authority has kindly provided another reason for any digital-enabled American to expatriate and/or secede.

The FCC’s most recent reform proposal proposes to reform the absolute Hell out of Lifeline, the $2.25 billion program to provide low-income Americans with broadband Internet access. Also, phones. The Lifeline Program has been doing its job since 1985, when noted socialist firebrand Ronald Reagan instituted it to subsidize phone service in underprivileged communities. It was expanded to include broadband Internet access in 2016, and right now 12 million households benefit from Lifeline-subsidized phone and Internet access.

That’s apparently a problem.

The FCC’s stated concern is that the General Accounting Office recently found $1.2 million of the $2.25 billion Lifeline budget was being used fraudulently. Fraud is bad! But in case you don’t have your TI-85 handy, that’s less than a tenth of 1 percent. That is not very much fraud. Not enough to nix an entire program, at least.

The greater concern, as usual, appears to be about profit. Under the current Lifeline guidelines, many subsidized companies are small ISPs and resellers providing access to third-party networks. Often, these services are the only Internet access available in rural areas, tribal lands, and other underserved communities.

That doesn’t work for Commissioner Pai.

Earlier this year, Pai used “delegated authority,” the FCC’s version of executive orders, to bypass oversight and personally rescind subsidy access from 9 ISPs providing services to rural areas and tribal lands.

These reforms continue that trend. They ban subsidies for no-cost Internet service, which is the business model of 70% of current Lifeline subsidy recipients. It is notably not the business model of large ISPs that rhyme with Buhrizon. I’m sure that’s a coincidence.

They also impose an absolute budget cap, meaning that millions of poor households could lose their Internet access, and the increased opportunities for education and employment that come with it, if someone in a comfy office a thousand miles away effs up the accounting.

In short, it sucks.

The proposed reforms to the Lifeline Project are another example of the FCC, deliberately or through negligence, rigging the market in favor of major conglomerates at the expense of consumers, small businesses and the general public.

Lifeline isn’t perfect, but it’s doing its job. Whether the same can be said for Ajit Pai’s FCC is, at best, an open question.

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