Episode 40 News: Robocops and Robbers

Hate unauthorized robocalls on your cellphone that eat into your monthly minutes? The Federal Communications Commission has issued citations to two big political robocall companies accused of spewing audio spam to mobile numbers in 2011 and 2012. The firms could face up to $4.8 million in fines for this particular investigation. FCC rules and the Communications Act ban robocalls to mobile phones unless the recipient has given permission to be contacted by the company doing the calling or unless the call is part of an emergency information system. (Dirty tricks are an unfortunate part of politics and it appears there was even a cyberattack on the online election system last fall. )

picardSamsung finally whipped the veil off its Galaxy S4 smartphone last week and the fancy new model should be on sale by the end of April. The Android-based Galaxy S4 is bringing Samsung a lot of attention for its hardware design, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that some Google executives are getting worried about that because it may mean Samsung wants to horn in on mobile-search revenue. Samsung has been tinkering around with its own mobile operating system as well.

Google itself it keeping busy and is said to be working on a new note-taking app called Google Keep that works a bit like the popular Evernote service and uses its own Google Drive cloud storage system. Some sources are also saying the company will soon be unifying its multiple messaging services — which include Google Talk, Hangout, Voice, Messenger, Chat for Drive collaboration, and the Google Talk for G+ — into one fresh new service called Babble that can go up against Apple’s iMessage service and BlackBerry Messenger. Google’s recent decision to kill off Google Reader has proven to be good news for the Feedly RSS service. The Los Angeles Times and others have reported that Feedly gained half-a-million users after Google announced it was dumping Reader and robbing the faithful of their favorite RSS software.

Electronic Arts says that customers who buy and register SimCity 5 before March 26 can choose a free game from a selection of EA digital downloads including Mass Effect 3, Plants vs Zombies and Bejeweled 3. Since SimCity 5 arrived in early March, many players have blamed the “always online” requirement for causing bugs, in-game glitches, crashes and long waits to even get on to play the game. Electronic Arts is also investigating a security issue with Origin, its online distribution system. Security researchers have experimented with exploiting a loophole in the way Origin handles links to games users have downloaded and installed, and they’ve been able to make it run code that compromised a target machine. (On a happier note, visitors to New York’s Museum of Modern Art can now see SimCity 2000 on display, along with several other classic games in the Applied Design exhibit.)

Microsoft would like you to update your Windows 7 machine to Windows 7 Service Pack 1 if you haven’t already done so. If not, Microsoft will start doing it for you this week as part of Windows Update. Microsoft has also stamped an end of mainstream-support date of July 8th, 2014 for its Windows Phone 8 software, which has started speculation that Windows Phone 9 may be on the way soon. And over in Cupertino, Apple released iOS 6.1.3 this week to fix a pesky flaw that knowledgeable intruders can use to blow by the lock screen.

And finally, Verizon could be to changing up the way it charges its customers for channel subscriptions on its FiOS TV service. The company would like to charge subscribers just for the channels they actually watch. This move could potentially weed out little-watched channels from the lineup, change how Verizon pays networks for their shows and make for more stable pricing. It could also make room for newer, more interesting channels. (Yo, Disney, how about a 24-hour Star Wars channel?)

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