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Trump’s AT&T merger position at odds with FCC dismantling of net neutrality

(TECH NEWS) We all know Trump hates the TWC/AT&T merger, but no one has noticed that the FCC is simultaneously filling the companies’ pockets. Is Trump’s administration even aware of this conflict?

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A snag in Trump’s fabric

Though it’s been clear from the start of his campaign for presidency that Donald Trump’s focus is to bring jobs and grow small America’s wealth, one snag in the fabric of his stout business-first beliefs is that of net neutrality.

The administration is currently fighting against a “big cable” merger while simultaneously preparing to stuff their pockets by dismantling net neutrality.

The contradiction makes it impossible to tell if they’re in favor of the mega brands or not.

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Fighting the potential monopoly

Referred to by his fans and biggest supporters as the “champion for the forgotten millions” and being for the “little man” (referring to small business in America), he has repeatedly spoken out against the potential AT&T/Time Warner Cable merger.

It would, indeed, be a huge monopoly. The biggest service provider merged with a company that owns HBO, Warner Bros (that means Harry Potter, folks), and the NBA (I mean – name a network, TWC likely owns it. Yep, that’s one of them. That one too. And that one).

Though mildly surprising, it doesn’t quite reach shock-level when noted that CNN is also owned by Time Warner Cable. The network with which Trump potentially has the biggest beef. It makes sense that the man who casts a side eye at the media would not want to deepen their pockets or their reach.

So – that’s easy, right? Done. Figured it out.

Not so fast.

Limiting Americans’ access to info

Trump’s hand-selected FCC Chairman pick, Ajit Pai, is slashing through net neutrality safeguards. Pai is a former Verizon attorney, and not to say he can’t do his job at the FCC without bias, but these unpopular moves are a clear win for his former employer.

The Trump administration has been loud and clear on their intentions for the nation. All except for this – the one issue where two things are being said at once. Loudly.

The freedom of access to information, AKA net neutrality, allows all Americans to have the same information available to them as any other American. Whether you’re in Brooklyn or a small town in Nebraska, running a startup in SF, or a mom ‘n’ pop shop in Louisiana, the pipeline is open and equal.

Once regulations that sustain this flow are removed, broadband and cable providers have the opportunity to cash in by segmenting information or even diverting it away.

Want to stream video games? That’ll cost extra. Want to use Facebook? Sure, but our company made a deal with Google+ and that means Zuck’s stuff will just move… very… slowly. Want to watch Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC? No, you don’t. You can’t afford that package. But Cartoon Network is free!

The same regulations that keep access to information free from bundling and extra fees, when removed, would deepen the pockets and reach of companies like AT&T and TWC. In the same way that the proposed merger would. Scratching your head? Us too.

This conflict will likely inflame Trump’s relationship with the Libertarian arm of the Republican party, and could spell disaster for the Trump movement, not to mention the fact that no party is openly in favor of nixing net neutrality. The American people who can see through the poorly marketed concept of net neutrality are universally in favor of keeping information free.

So what now?

So, where will it go from here? If the merger reaches the SEC (possible, but not an absolute), will there be a clash between departments in a Trump administration?

Does Trump really stand behind Pai’s decisions, and if so, will he back down from his formerly harsh stance on the merger? Is the Trump administration aligned with cable companies or not? It’s impossible to tell.

Most importantly, can the market really be free if access to information is controlled by the few?

#CableContradictions

Jenna keeps the machine well-oiled as the Operations Coordinator at The American Genius and The Real Daily. She earned her degree in Spanish at the University of North Texas and when she isn't crossing things off her to-do list, she is finding her center in the clean and spacious aisles of Target or rereading Harry Potter for the billionth time.

Tech News

DIY: Project Alias protects your privacy from invasive smart speakers

(TECHNOLOGY) Smart speakers are beloved, and oh so helpful, but they’re always listening, no matter what tech companies say. This DIY stops that.

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project alias for smart speakers

DIY culture has a solution for everything, including protecting your privacy. Home assistant devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, while helpful, are constantly listening for commands which means any nearby conversation is free game for information gathering. On the bright side, Karmann’s Project Alias is a “parasitic” device that gives you control in what your home assistant device hears.

True to its function, a Project Alias device looks like a parasitic growth that can fit atop your Amazon Echo or Google Home. Inside its 3D-printed shell are a Raspberry Pi A+, a ReSpeaker 2-Mics Pi HAT, and a pair of small speakers.

Once you install the Project Alias code, you can use your phone to connect to the device, and train it with a “wake” word. The Echo or Google Home will not hear you until you say this “wake” word to Project Alias.

Ta-da! Privacy is back in your hands! (Some assembly required).

The pieces to make your own Project Alias device, while attainable, (Office Max and Staples offer 3D printing services), requires some hands-on work and possibly several trips to the store. When all is said and done, the overall cost in time and money can add up. It’d be much simpler if a Project Alias device came in the mail or on a store shelf ready to roll.

This is sounding like prime Kickstarter material here.

The exploitation of privacy through our smart devices including phones, tablets, laptops, tvs, gaming consoles, etc. is becoming a common concern. Not only are we feeling attacked by advertisements that feel like they’re reading our thoughts, but anything said around these devices is collectable data.

Unfortunately, it’s wishful thinking to have any trust in the gadgets we own.

A device like Project Alias is a long time coming and needed now more than ever. Until tech companies begin to take measures to protect the privacy of their customers (which isn’t in their financial interest), we’re likely to see a new market for devices like Project Alias. The odds are you’ll need more than one.

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Descript is a mindblowing editing shortcut for audio and video

(TECH NEWS) Descript is an automatic transcription tool that uses machine-learning to make transcribing easier.

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transcribe descript

Anyone getting into audio/video editing for the first time is almost immediately struck with the sheer enormity and complexity of it all. Even if you have the physical hardware, the proper software, and the creative spark to produce media, that doesn’t make the process of editing it all into a cohesive product any less daunting. For those of us struggling under the sisyphean weight of complicated editing workflows, a new product aims to relieve us all of this struggle. Enter Descript, an automatic transcription tool.

Descript uses machine-learning to transcribe your raw audio and video files into a dialogue script. This in itself is an incredibly valuable tool for anyone looking to transcribe podcasts, youtube videos, or whatever kind of media you produce. But this is just the beginning of what makes this app so special.

Descript is the world’s first audio word processor. Using the transcript the app creates from your audio, you can edit the text script to change the media itself. Removing the “umms” and “ahhs” from your speech — or removing whole sentences at a time — is as simple as using the backspace key on a word processor.

As a would-be podcaster, I played around with the app over the weekend, so I can tell you my initial impressions of the app. While it’s not for me (not yet, anyway), it is incredibly easy and fun and quite frankly mindblowing to use.

First things first, let’s talk about the cost.

The app works on a subscription model that pays by the minute. New users are able to upload up to 30 minutes of audio for free, but anything past that will require paying 15 cents per minute or signing up for a monthly subscription. Keep in mind these costs apply to total raw audio uploaded, not finished product audio produced. So if you’re the type (like me) to record several hours of audio per week only to trim it down to a single hour of product, this may be a bit on the wasteful side.

As for the transcription itself, the program’s machine-learning transcription transcribed my dulcet tones into the appropriate written words with nearly complete accuracy. I did have a few issues with the program understanding other speakers, but I believe that may have been a fault on my end that I’ll go into later. If the machine-learning transcription isn’t accurate enough for you, you can also choose to pay extra in order to have your audio specially transcribed by real human professionals.

The app can divide audio between different people speaking, but not automatically. If you have different audio files for each speaker, then each audio file will be labeled separately from the start. If multiple speakers are on the same audio track (like mine), then you’ll have to notate these differing speakers in the script yourself. I believe this is why the program had difficulty transcribing other speakers on the audio than myself. Being on the same audio track, the machine attuned itself to my voice (the first speaker on the recording) and was trying to interpret other people’s words as if I were the one saying them.

As for the audio editing aspect of this program, well, it really needs to be experienced to be believed. I was told what the program could do beforehand, but actually editing audio just by changing words around on a script is something else entirely. Cutting out non sequitur sentences, removing unnecessary articles, or even changing the order of words around to better suit the flow of conversation — through a literal word processor — will make you feel like an arcane grammar wizard.

Will this replace your entire audio/video workflow? Probably not. At least not yet. In addition to the cost factor which may be prohibitive to some users, there are some issues of editing that aren’t based on word choice. I found myself frustrated at my inability to change the timing of spaces between words, sometimes leaving gaps between sentences (or not enough space between words). Of course, I only had the program for a weekend, so this could very well be attributed to user error.

Whatever flaws real or imagined this program may have, it’s very important to keep in mind that Descript is the first of its kind.

It can only improve from here, not to mention potentially inspire a wave of similar programs that may very well function better. Whether or not Descript is right for you, what’s undeniable is that this program is the start of something amazing.

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Tech News

This eye tracking tech could be what saves VR

(TECHNOLOGY) VR has struggled with adoption rates, but this new technology could finally make it more useful in daily life.

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VR could be saved

The new HTC Vive Pro Eye VR headset made its debut at CES 2019. An updated version of the HTC Vive Pro, its features are expected to have a variety of uses over the long-term.

The Vive Pro Eye features new eye tracking technology developed in partnership with Tobii Eye Tracking. Inside the headset are sensors around the eyes to help the A.I. target what your eye is seeing. This is integrated into the UI design, allowing users to select menu options just by looking at their choice. In theory, users can choose how to interact with different A.I. characters or in VR chat spaces.

The eye tracking features Dynamic Foveated Rendering which will allow the computer to render VR objects the user is looking at to a high resolution. Likewise, images on the user’s periphery or outside the field of view will appear at a lower resolution or won’t be rendered at all. This way headset will require less performance power from its graphics card, and can still generate high-quality images in the places that matter.

Another feature is the A.I. assist where the computer can register intended targets in the VR environment based upon where your eyes are looking. This could be helpful for newcomers to VR instead of adjusting to the hand-eye coordination with the remote.

In a new industry like VR, the turnover rate for technology is fairly high, but the fovated rendering is likely to stay. Since its practicality not only enhances user experience, but also provides support from a hardware standpoint, its not outlandish to think developers will piggy-back off this new feature.

Sounds like fun? Well, currently the Vive Pro Eye is meant for business ventures rather than for consumers. But we’ll likely see this technology eventually find its way into more affordable VR products. There is no release date or price range yet available.

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