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Category: #Pandemic (Page 1 of 2)

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Comcast Sucks. The Saga Continues – Episode 62|Data Capping the Pandemic

Perhaps you’ve heard about Comcast’s New Data Caps. They are very real…and very low. If you stream a lot of video, EVEN USING the XFINITY STREAM app, you WILL go over. Even if you only have HD…not even 4K…video.

Of course…They offer an ‘Add-On Unlimited’ plan for an extortionate price that’s more than some pay for their unlimited cell service each month. That’s just so nice of them.

Let’s stop for a second to reflect that this is occurring during a pandemic, where most Americans are stuck at home and depending on the Internet for remote learning for the kids, and just trying to stay connected to the world with video chats and Zoom calls. While many are struggling to pay bills and feed their families… In THIS environment, Comcast is choosing to place a stiff tax on the Internet service its customers are now so dependent on. Holy crap! That’s some cold blooded Bernie Madoff shit. Almost as bad as say, shorting airline stocks on 9/11. 

“How do they think they can get away with it?”, you ask.

Such an atrocity can only occur when a company has an unfair advantage over its customers, like the last mile monopoly that most cable companies…including Comcast around my house…fight HARD to maintain. If there’s no competition, you can’t really DO anything about it. That’s likely ending soon, once 5G coverage and devices converge to dilute this wiref monopoly, but not soon enough. 

For now, it seems Comcast knows it’s coming, and has decided that in the meantime, they should fleece their customers for every last cent they can. In this case, for the SAME SERVICE they currently provide (often poorly I might add). It’s criminal. Literally.

Some background.

We use Comcast’s Xfinity Stream app exclusively to watch TV in our house. We have 200mbps service and usually get around 110mbps. We don’t have movie channels, a cable box or any extras like pay per view. It costs around $145 a month. We have two HD (not 4K) smart screens and generally one of them is on all the time, rarely both. Based on network tracking, these two screens make up 85-90% of our data usage, and are almost exclusively streaming Live TV via the XFinity Stream app. So THAT’S what is pushing us over the unreasonably low 1.2TB Data Cap, as each screen uses around 30GB per day or around 900GB per month. JUST TO WATCH TV (HD) that is INCLUDED in our package on 2 screens, we can exceed our data cap and incur up to $100 in EXTRA charges!!!

Sure, we could Buck Up and pay the $30 surcharge for ‘Unlimited’ data, but honestly I would sooner MOVE. How long before the ‘unlimited’ data gets soft capped and slowed down? Or they get rid of ‘unlimited’ altogether, in favor of metering? The abuses will continue until they no longer have that last mile monopoly advantage. You can yell. You can scream. You can write angry letters. You can get fed up and pull the plug…or even move. 

You can also contact Comcast and complain. Do it NOW before you start getting charged extra. I can’t tell you if it will help, because I am still in conversation and so far they’ve offered no suitable resolution.

Or you can suffer, cut back on usage or pay extra and wait. Wait, until 5G is everywhere and Comcast becomes just another telco company competing for your business. Right now, they think they don’t have to compete. They think profiting on the suffering of others during a pandemic is fine. I’m telling them…and everyone else who can read, it’s NOT fine. At all.

Android COVID-19 tracking apps are experiencing loading issues

15ef7b80-38e3-11eb-ba2a-3318da227b9eApps that use the Android Exposure Notifications System are currently experiencing loading issues. The Android apps, which track the spread of COVID-19 via Bluetooth, are seemingly taking longer to load or to carry out regular exposure checks. Google…

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Every NYC subway station now supports contactless payments

cb2eb7b0-4b9c-11eb-bf7e-1e62f8a155cbNew York’s MTA has finished rolling out contactless payments across all the subway stations and bus lines in all five boroughs. The OMNY (One Metro New York) system allows riders to tap-and-pay for fares with smartphones, smartwatches and contactless…

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Smartphones in the age of pandemic

We are just a few weeks away from the end of the year and, as always, it is an opportune time to take stock of the past twelve months. And boy what a whirlwind those twelve months were. Almost no one was left unaffected by the COVID-19 coronavirus, whether directly or indirectly. Of course, the mighty mobile market didn’t escape … Continue reading

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The Article Was Written/Published By: JC Torres

2020 Has Been One Godawful Year, but Not for OnlyFans


While I realize that the world won’t magically reset when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, I’m still counting down the days until this cursed year is over. I mean, the universe has to be running out of ammo to hit us with, right? So far 2020’s seen an ongoing global pandemic, the spread of murder hornets,

Read more…

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Alyse Stanley

Facebook’s Content Moderators Have Had Enough


In spite of coronavirus cases continuing to climb around the world, Facebook’s legions of contracted content moderators are still required to work out of offices “to maintain Facebook’s profits during the pandemic.” This is according to an open letter published on the company’s internal Workplace communication…

Read more…

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Shoshana Wodinsky

Google Maps no longer has to guess how crowded your transit line is

16a600f0-28e2-11eb-811f-709e8c4daa24These days, finding out when a public space or subway car is crowded isn’t just for convenience, it could potentially save lives. That’s why Google is talking up its Maps update which now offers real-time crowding information for your local transit l…

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Plague Inc.’s new ‘The Cure’ mode is free until the coronavirus pandemic ends

8ff3ff10-253c-11eb-97b9-8058eb856dacAnnounced back in March, Plague Inc.’s The Cure update is now available on iOS and Android. The new mode reverses the title’s usual gameplay loop in which you design a virus to wipe out the human race. Instead, you’ll need to implement measures such…

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These Stanford students are racing to get laptops to kids around the U.S. who most need them


The digital divide is not a new phenomenon. Still, it largely took Americans by surprise when, as the U.S. began to shut down to slow the spread of Covid-19 in March, schools grappled with how to move forward with online classes.

It wasn’t just a matter of altering students’ curriculum. Many lacked either internet access or home computers — and some lacked both. According to USAFacts, a non-partisan organization funded by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer,  4.4 million households with children have not had consistent access to computers for online learning during the pandemic.

It’s a problem that two Stanford students, Isabel Wang and Margot Bellon, are doing everything in their power to address, and with some success. Through their six-month-old 501(c)(3) outfit, Bridging Tech, they’ve already provided more than 400 refurbished laptops to children who need them most — those living in homeless shelters — beginning with students in the Bay Area where there are an estimated 2,000 homeless students in San Francisco alone.

Unsurprisingly, it began as a passion project for both, though both sound committed to building an enduring organization. They always cared about the digital divide; now they’ve seen too much to walk away from it.

Wang, for her part, grew up in the affluent Cleveland, Oh., suburb of Shaker Heights, which has “always had racial tensions,” she notes. (The best-selling novel “Little Fires Everywhere” is set in the same place, for the same reason.) Partly as a result of “racism in our community,” Wang became involved early on in public health initiatives that address those from underserved backgrounds, and part of that focus centered on equitable access to education.

Bellon, a biology major who met Wang at Outdoor House, a student-initiated outdoors-themed house at Stanford, had similar interests early on, she says. Growing up in San Mateo, Ca., she volunteered in homeless shelters in high school and in college, experiences that made her aware of the challenges created by a lack of access to technology. For many, just getting WiFi can mean having to linger outside a Starbucks, she notes, and often, the only computer available is inside a library.

As the world shut down in the spring, Bellon realized these options were no longer available to the many people desperately needing them, just as Wang was coming to her own worried conclusions. The friends joined forces and now 30 other volunteers, almost all fellow Stanford students, are also contributing to the effort.

So far, Bridging Tech has been most focused on securing laptops for students lacking access to tech. Citrix Systems and Genetech have been among the bigger donors, but it’s easy to imagine that the nascent organization could use far more help from the region’s many tech giants.

Once it has lightly used computers in its possession, they are distributed to a handful of refurbishers with which Bridging Tech has partnered. All guarantee their work for a year. One of these partners, Computers 2 Kids in San Diego, also provides clear instructions so that children can get up and running without much assistance.

Bellon says that homeless shelters in the Bay Area typically have tech volunteers who help children turn on the computers and get set up, and that organizations like ShelterTech have partnered with Bridging Tech to ensure these young computer recipients also have access to WiFi.

The devices are also gifted permanently.

In the meantime, Bridging Tech has also launched a tutoring program, as well as a mentorship program based on more skill-based activities like computer science.

It’s a lot of moving pieces for two college students who not so long ago were primarily focused on getting through the next assignment. That’s not keeping them from barreling ahead into other geographies based on the traction they’ve seen in Northern California. Bellon says that they’ve already talked with shelters in New York, L.A. Boston, Washington, Atlanta, and a handful of other cities.

As they’re made more aware by the day, all around the country, disadvantaged kids who’ve been forced into distance learning because the pandemic are falling further behind their peers.

It’s not an issue that the federal or state governments are going to solve alone without more resolve. Consider that about one in five teenagers in America said in a 2018 Pew Research Center survey that they are often or sometimes unable to complete homework assignments because they don’t have reliable access to a computer or internet connection. In the same survey, one quarter of lower-income teens said they did not have access to a home computer.

One of the biggest questions for Wang and Bellon is how they scale their ambitions. Right now, for example, the computers being refurbished by Bridging Tech are being delivered to shelters directly by volunteers who drive them there. Bridging Tech doesn’t yet have the network or infrastructure elsewhere to ensure that the same happens in other cities.

Both founders are aware of their limitations. Wang says very explicitly that Bridging Tech needs not only more device donations but could also use the skills of a grant writer, a marketer, and a development professional who can help introduce the outfit to other potential partner organizations. “We’re college students, so anything people can teach us is very valuable,” she says.

She also readily concedes that Bridging Tech “doesn’t have the process nailed down for in-kind donations in other cities, so we’re mostly beginning to purchase those devices.” (One way it’s doing this is via an organization called Whistle that pays users for their old devices but also enables them to donate the proceeds.)

Still, the two want to keep at it, even after Wang returns to school and Bellon moves on next year to a master’s program.

“For a more equitable society,” says Bellon, tech clearly needs to be equitable. “Covid has exacerbated these issues, but you need tech for everything and that’s not going away.”

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Microsoft says hackers backed by Russia and North Korea targeted COVID-19 vaccine makers


Microsoft has revealed that hackers backed by Russia and North Korea have targeted pharmaceutical companies involved in the COVID-19 vaccine development efforts.

The technology giant said Friday that the attacks targeted seven companies in the U.S., Canada, France, India, and South Korea. But while it blocked the “majority” of the attacks, Microsoft acknowledged that some were successful.

Microsoft said it had notified the affected companies, but declined to name them.

“We think these attacks are unconscionable and should be condemned by all civilized society,” said Tom Burt, Microsoft’s customer security and trust chief, in a blog post.

The technology giant blamed the attacks on three distinct hacker groups. The Russian group, which Microsoft calls Strontium but is better known as APT28 or Fancy Bear, used password spraying attacks to target their victims, which often involves recycled or reused passwords. Fancy Bear may be best known for its disinformation and hacking operations in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, but the group has also been blamed for a string of other high-profile attacks against media outlets and businesses.

The other two groups are backed by the North Korean regime, one of which Microsoft calls Zinc but is better known as the Lazarus Group, which used targeted spearphishing emails disguised as recruiters in an effort to steal passwords from their victims. Lazarus was blamed for the Sony hack in 2016 and the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, as well as other malware-driven attacks.

But little is known about the other North Korea-backed hacker group, which Microsoft calls Cerium. Microsoft said the group also used targeted spearphishing emails masquerading as representatives from the World Health Organization, charged with coordinating the effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Microsoft spokesperson acknowledged it was the first time the company had referenced Cerium, but the company did not offer more.

This is the latest effort by hackers trying to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for their own goals. Earlier this year, the FBI and Homeland Security warned that hackers would try to steal coronavirus vaccine research.

Today’s news coincides with the Paris Peace Forum, where Microsoft president Brad Smith will urge governments to do more to combat cyberattacks against the healthcare sector, particularly during the pandemic.

“Microsoft is calling on the world’s leaders to affirm that international law protects health care facilities and to take action to enforce the law,” Burt said. “We believe the law should be enforced not just when attacks originate from government agencies but also when they originate from criminal groups that governments enable to operate — or even facilitate — within their borders.”

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