Caller ID Spoofing: Journey through the Un-phone

 

Caller ID Spoofing is no fun for the Owner or Recipient

Jokes and pranks are all fun and games until you are on the receiving end.  Some people can take a joke, but when it’s a joke that involves their business, livelihood, or their lifeline to the world, then it’s no laughing matter.   Lately, Caller ID Spoofing has become the domain of scams and debt-collectors. And both the owners of the numbers and recipients of these calls are getting shafted.

It’s always someone else’s problem until it’s your problem and recently it became mine. In Mid October of 2015 I noticed that I couldn’t make any calls from my cellphone.  Every number that I dialed returned the Routing Error message of three ascending tones and the response, “The number you have dialed has been disconnected or is no longer in service, please recheck the number and dial again.”  Every single number that I dialed had the same response and it was getting very annoying. GoogleVoice

I finally narrowed the problem down to the call forwarding service (Google Voice) that I had been using for many years.  Apparently, when I tried to dial out with the forwarding service, the system needed a valid carrier connection.  That connection had been labeled as a spammy number by another phone company and so when I was dialing every call was being blocked.  After a great deal of testing, both with apps, the phone, and another cellphone, I resigned to using a VoIP app (Google Hangouts) to make all my calls.  This was not ideal, but it could work.

The answer to my issue came the following day when I received a call FROM MY CELLPHONE.  My cell number called my Google Voice number — of all the weird things to happen — and I realized what I needed to do. I called my carrier and had them give me a brand new number.  (Recently where I live a new area code had been set because of the population increase.)  This new number had never belonged to anyone and would be free of the issues that prior numbers usually had.

Immediately I could call out again, the problem had been resolved.  I only spent about 4 hours with Google and with my carrier to resolve this issue, and fortunately I have a forwarding number, so that I can change my carrier number without much hassle.   But for all the other people who do not use Google Voice or some forwarding service, when they get a spoofed number they have less immediate recourse.

As technology improves and we see more that a tool can be used both by regular citizens as well as criminals, we will need to become more vigilant in our design as well as use.  Telecommunications have drastically changed our society and we need to respect that change as we move into the future.  Legislation is only one way to resolve these issues, right thinking and acting will help curb the misuse of such tools.

 

All other ISPs Vs Google Fiber

 

All other ISPs Vs Google Fiber

If you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the very few cities or metro areas, such as Kansas City or Austin,  that have Google Fiber, you probably remember the battle to get there.  But for those who have yet to experience the wonder of the modern world, there are semi-alternatives available. These faux alternatives are offered by the companies that Google is battling with and they are AT&T, Comcast, Time-Warner, etc… That battle is still waging now, but it’s akin to the beating that the Seahawks gave to the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII (48).

Let’s review what each company has to offer.

Google Fiber is 1000 Mbps Synchronous, that is both directions, upload and download.  It costs $70 per month.  You can get Television service as well for an additional $50 per month.  Installation is Free if you sign up for a 12-month contract.  The price does not change after the contract period.

AT&T does not currently offer Fiber service in areas that do not currently have Google Fiber available.  But you can get up 50 Mbps / 5 Mbps (Dn/Up) in many areas for between $50 and $100 / month with a 24-month contract.  And the price will go up after that.

Comcast does offer Fiber Service, even as much as 2 Gbps in areas where Google Fiber is currently available.  The deal is great for those with money to burn; $500 for install, $500 for activation, and $300 per month with a 12-month contract.

As for Time-Warner Cable, there’s only whispers of a suppositional possibility for 1 gbps service in the future.

It would appear that the best deal, even if not available in your town, is Google Fiber.  You may have to suffer with slow speeds, high cost, and wretched customer service, for a while until Google Fiber gets to you.  And there are usually other alternatives locally, but you may pay more for them.   For example, in Northern California, a local company Etheric Networks, offers a land-based microwave system that offers up to 100 Mbps, but at a steep price.  Whereas another local company offers AT&T’s U-verse service for 50% less and it includes VoIP phone service (Sonic.net)

If you’re wondering why Google Fiber is so much less expensive and why all the other ISPs have yet to offer Gigabit service, the answer is a complex one.  Google wants everyone on the internet and the fast, the better.  Google sells ads and the more bandwidth, the fast ads can be sold.   The other ISPs currently make a very good living from charging consumers for slow internet, especially in monopolized markets.  Plus, improving access speeds is a massive infrastructure cost.  In short, it is in Google’s interest to give you faster internet, it is not in the interest of all other ISPs.

 

 

Smartwatch or Not-so-Smart watch

 

LG Watch Urbane Smartwatch

There are currently two types of Smartwatches available in the world, those that must connect to a phone and those that are independent. The latter is not nearly as common, which would include it’s own data and calling plan, but it is still a possibility.  Maybe most people do not want this stand-alone functionality, but should we want it at all?

The screen on the Smartwatch is quite small, even the Apple Watch isn’t much of a screen. And with the move toward larger screen in Smartphones, it’s a wonder how the world is interested in the tiny face of a Smartwatch.

Calculator WatchI wore a watch as a kid, and I certainly yearned for the possibility of a Maxwell Smart or Dick Tracy wrist-communicator.  I had a calculator watch in middle school and it was pretty chic in the geek circles that I ran in.  But it was a far dream to have the functionality available today in a Smartwatch. Still, I would not conceive of the Smartphone ideal for another decade.

It is my impression that the Smartwatch market is yet just another intrigue of the Tech Industry.  Many of us gave up our watches (myself included) when we purchased our first Apple Smartwatch mobile (cell) phone.  Only those who sought the elegance of jewelry or retained the business formality of the US East Coast, seem seek a clock on the wrist.

This is what I believe has happened in the presentation of the Smartwatch today, that we’re only barely scratching the surface of what can be or rather should be expected from a wrist-worn computer.  Where the Smartphone has become a pocket computer that happens to be able to offer the time and phone calls, it is in fact a pocketable computer. The Smartwatch that is tethered to your Smartphone is little more than a trinket or extension of that pocket computer.  Could it yet be the primary device or are we fooling ourselves into believing that it is anything other than a fancy time-piece?

Samsung Gear S SmartwatchThe Samsung Gear S and the LG Watch Urbane both have WiFi, although the Gear S goes a bit further offering 4G connectivity.  Both can operate at a distance that is greater than the limit of Bluetooth. However, the Gear S can operate at any distance from your phone as it is effectively a phone unto itself. But in being capable of separation from a Smartphone, or run alone, it is itself weak.

As the Smartphone is to it’s functional predecessor the laptop computer, so the Smartwatch is lacking not only in power, but battery-life and ease-of-interface. One automatically reaches the conclusion that the Smartwatch should not and in fact likely is not designed to be a stand-alone device.

Agent Smith SmartwatchIt might appear that someone has replaced the author of Get Outta My Head, with an impostor, by the assertions made in the prior paragraph.  But I assure you nothing could be further from the truth.  I want the Smartwatch to be capable of all that a desktop or laptop, but even the greatest of current technology does not appear to be able to prove such a fantasy.    To quote a famous  character from a science-fiction movie, “Some believed that we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world.” (Agent Smith, The Matrix)  I agree with Agent Smith in saying that we lack the technical capacity to create a Smartwatch that rivals a laptop or desktop.  And that, for now, we should not try to act like we have one.

The Smartwatch is cool, no doubt, but until an interface comes along that does not require a tiny touch screen, I think that it should remain a watch (with benefits).

 

May the Fours Be With You

May The Fours be with you

 

Shamelessly carrying on in respect of May the Fourth, I say May the Fours Be With You.

It actually was a striking coincidence that I happen to have come upon this number of fours and it also being May the Fourth.  But if I can celebrate both Pi day and 2Pi day, then I can celebrate May the Fours.

So happy Fours! And May the Fours Be With You!

 

Note: if you can guess which vehicle this odometer reading originates from, then the Fours are strong with you.

Sony Digital Paper Tablet (w/ Video)

Sony Digital Paper tablet 01

The Sony Digital Paper Tablet

Oh great savior of paper, Sony, you’ve finally done what Amazon never had the guts to do. A real electronic ink tablet, with all the bells and whistles that the Kindle never had.  Thank you very much.

Alas, why did this tablet not see the normal fan fare that you’d expect from a very useful device?  Is it the $1000 price tag? is it the 13.3″ full touch screen?  What about the WiFi and 3-weeks of battery life?  External Memory card slot? Still nothing?  Okay, so it only has 4GB of on-board storage, a measly 1200 x 1600 resolution screen and only 16 shades of gray scale.  But who cares about that crap, it’s a full e-ink tablet.

For now it is the closest thing I have yet seen that matches paper, letter for letter, word for word, and isn’t vaporware.  You can actually buy this tablet on Sony’s Direct to Consumer website (and a few other sites).  Considering the recent release of the Russian Yota Phone 2 with it’s dual screen action (one color led touch, the other gray scale e-ink touch), I think it’s high time something this cool hits the market.

If Sony won’t sing it from the roof tops,  I will.  Check out the video