Sunday Ticket Arrives on Windows Phone

Microsoft's Surface Tablets will be on all sidelines this year.

Microsoft’s Surface Tablets will be on all sidelines this NFL season.

One of the reasons I had been hesitant on switching back to Windows Phone was the absence of Directv’s NFL Sunday Ticket App. This aside I still made the switch anyway. In the back of my mind however I was confident that this app would soon appear on Windows Phone as a side result of Microsoft’s recent deal with the NFL to provide Surface tablets to all of the teams for their sidelines.

Well one week before the start of the 2014 NFL season the DirectTV NFL Sunday Ticket app hit the Windows Store for Windows Phone and Windows 8. Of course you will still  need an NFL Sunday Ticket subscription (which I have had one since 1996) in order to access live games on your phone or tablet but I am sure everyone knows that by now.

NFL_sunday_ticket_610x273

Microsoft is an official sponsor of the NFL and this season coaches and players are using customized Surface tablets on the sideline. DirectTV has them covered, releasing a NFL Sunday Ticket app for Windows 8.1 and RT (tablets) as well. Another new app from the NFL, NFL Now, which streams archival footage and game highlights, is also available on Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Windows Phone users on Verizon can access local NFL games on the NFL Mobile app, which is also a change for this year, although it might require additional monthly subscription fees depending on your plan.

Windows Phone still does not have the sheer number of apps as the Google or Apple stores but slowly Microsoft has been adding apps users find essential. Of course you can find the Sunday Tickey app on your iOS and Android devices.

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Is Our Universe Wrapped Around a Black Hole?

The USS Voyager at the edge of a quantum singularity in 2371.

The USS Voyager at the edge of a quantum singularity in 2371.

Perhaps the biggest most compelling cosmic question ever asked has been “how was the universe born” and even more though provoking, “what was here before there was a universe”. The common belief is that a “big bang” started it all. A new theory suggests that what we perceive as the big bang could simply be the three-dimensional “mirage” of a collapsing star in a universe profoundly different than our own. 


 

“Cosmology’s greatest challenge is understanding the big bang itself,” writes Perimeter Institute Associate Faculty member Niayesh Afshordi, Affiliate Faculty member and University of Waterloo Professor Robert Mann (no relation), and PhD student Razieh Pourhasan.

The common and long held theory suggests that the big bang began with a singularity — an unfathomably hot and dense phenomenon of spacetime where the standard laws of physics break down. Singularities are bizarre, and our understanding of them is limited. In fact even in my favorite TV show, “Star Trek” which comprises 726 episodes each an every the crew has encountered singularities the mighty starship crew struggles to understand what is happening and usually bizarre adventures abound.

Before the Big Bang. Credit: Image courtesy of Perimeter Institute

Before the Big Bang.
Credit: Image courtesy of Perimeter Institute

So getting back to the “Big Bang” theory (not the TV show). The problem, as the authors of this hypothesis see it, is that the big bang therory has our relatively comprehensible, uniform, and predictable universe arising from the physics-destroying insanity of a singularity. It seems unlikely, atleast to them. It is because singularities are random and chaotic and our universe has physical rules that seem to apply.

How can a universe where the rules of physics apply be born from an event of such chaos and randomness such as “the big bang”? That is the basic question theorists such as these struggle with.

So perhaps something else happened. Perhaps our universe was never singular in the first place. Maybe – just maybe the big bang theory is wrong.

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Their suggestion is that our known universe could be the three-dimensional “wrapping” around a four-dimensional black hole’s event horizon. What?

In this scenario, our universe burst into being when a star in a four-dimensional universe collapsed into a black hole. Double What?

In our three-dimensional universe, black holes have two-dimensional event horizons — that is, they are surrounded by a two-dimensional boundary that marks the “point of no return.” In the case of a four-dimensional universe, a black hole would have a three-dimensional event horizon.

In their proposed scenario, our universe was never inside the singularity. The result being that our universe came into existent outside an event horizon, protected from the singularity. It originated as, and remains, just one feature in the imploded wreck of a four-dimensional star.

The theorists here suggest a parallel to Plato’s allegory of the cave, in which prisoners spend their lives seeing only the flickering shadows cast by a fire on a cavern wall.

“Their shackles have prevented them from perceiving the true world, a realm with one additional dimension,” they write. “Plato’s prisoners didn’t understand the powers behind the sun, just as we don’t understand the four-dimensional bulk universe. But at least they knew where to look for answers.”

Weird things happen in and around a singularity. For example in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Parallax,” the quantum singularity creates a mirror image and a temporal distortion as Voyages travels through it.

Weird things happen in and around a singularity. For example in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Parallax,” the quantum singularity creates a mirror image and a temporal distortion as Voyager travels through it.

Now I for sure have no idea if there is reality with this latest theory of how our universe came into existence but it certainly has a charm to it and it sounds remarkably close to an episode of Star Trek or two…

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Technology Training – Session 14

Today we had our 14th Technology Training for the staff. The training in “Session 14” included getting around our new website, password management with “LastPass”, Microsoft Word Tips and backups.

You can go to full screen on this presentation using the option on the bottom right corner of the slideshow. This as well as the previous 13 training sessions are available on the right side panel (Technology Links) of this fine blog.

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Microsoft Shrinks Their App Store

Try as Microsoft may they just can’t seem to catch a break with their app stores. Struggling to catch up to Android and Apple in the app world Microsoft got sloppy. It appeared, and Microsoft confirmed that junk apps have been running rampant in their app stores. It is clear that Microsoft in their haste to grow their app stores looked the other way as fake and scam apps made it through their “review” process.

Looking for the real Facebook app in the Windows store. Good luck. I think it's the second one.

Looking for the real Facebook app in the Windows store. Good luck. I think it’s the second one.

 

It is one thing to make a mistake but it is always worsened by either ignoring the problem or lying about it. Thank goodness it appears Microsoft is admitting this problem and is acting quickly to correct it. Microsoft initially responded that they “would look into the problem and act accordingly”.

Only days later Microsoft posted up on the Building Apps for Windows Blog that they are introducing new certification requirements to help prevent these apps from ever making it into the Windows Store. These 3 new changes are listed below:

  1. Naming – to clearly and accurately reflect the functionality of the app.
  2. Categories – to ensure apps are categorized according to the app function and purpose.
  3. Icons – must be differentiated to avoid being mistaken with others.

This revised policy is being applied to all new app submissions and existing app updates for both Windows and Windows Phone stores. Microsoft says that they have already started the process of looking back at prior approved apps and are targeting ones that are found to be in violation of these new polices as well.

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While Microsoft has said that most developers have been receptive to the changes and had good intentions, by agreeing to change their current app, others have not been happy about the change. Because of this, Microsoft has already removed over 1500 apps as a part of this review and will refund any money spent by consumers on these apps since they were determined to be misleading.

The store review process is on-going and the company says that they have more work to do. I am relieved to see Microsoft act so quickly with this problem. After all it is not the zie of the app store that matters, but the quality of the apps themselves. A hard lesson hopefully learned by Microsoft.

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Dropbox Reduces Storage Prices

dropboxIn the latest example of the major drop in the cost of cloud storage, Dropbox who has been very reluctant to reduce their pricing has succumbed to the market and also announced price reductions. The cloud storage price war has been going on for at least a year know but Dropbox has been slow to compete with the likes of Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple.

For example Microsoft gives away free 15GB of storage via OneDrive and gives 1TB of storage for subscribers of Office 365 which is $6.99 a month. Google has also slashed there prices but there was Dropbox refusing to budge. Until now.

Today Dropbox announced that Dropbox Pro users will now get 1TB of storage space for $9.99 month. This is a dramatic increase in storage considering that the same price got you just 100GB yesterday. Users previously had to spend $500 a year just to get 500GB of storage space.  Existing Dropbox Pro users do not need to do anything to receive the upgraded storage. It will simply appear in your account as additional storage.

In addition to 1TB of storage, Dropbox Pro is offering new sharing controls including passwords for shared links, view-only permissions for shared folders, the ability to set expiration dates for shared links, and a remote wipe feature to erase Dropbox files on a stolen device while keeping the “cloud” copy backed up for safe keeping.

The cloud storage wars are benefiting consumers in a big way as cloud providers look to compete and lore customers into their bigger echo systems.

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The Promise of Windows 9

windows_9_1_1We are only about a month away from the developer’s preview of Windows 9 so of course news about what’s in this new Microsoft box is starting to arrive. I for one am looking forward to test driving this new Windows version. Microsoft’s vision is to learn from Windows 8 and to combine the best of Windows 8 and 7 into one unified operating system to offer more control to the users of their operating system.

So what’s new?

First – You will often hear “Windows Threshold” being referred to in the news. That is because Microsoft’s code name for Windows 9 is “Threshold”. They are one in the same.

One of Window 9’s significant feature implementations is the return of the traditional Start menu, which had been a long-standing Windows feature until Microsoft retired it with their touch heavy Windows 8. To be clear on a touch device Microsoft was correct, there really is no need for a Start button (and menu) but the majority of users, especially in business continue to rely on non-touch screens and the missing Start button was a real point of contention that would not go away, no matter how much Microsoft tried to ignore the mass outcry. 

Windows 9 will bring many changes and enhancements in addition to the returning tart menu.  Of interest are new interactive Live Tiles which will apparently play a big part in Microsoft’s new UI. Also reported is the addition of a new notification center, much like we have come to expect on our smartphones.

Interactive Tiles

It is also expected that Windows 9 will also offer a host of new features and changes equating to a more well-rounded experience. Having joined the tablet market, Microsoft has certainly has hit some rock and struggled at times however with the eventual merging of Windows RT and Windows Phone combined with the Windows 9 release, it does appear that Satya Nadella’s company can expect brighter days.

What Will It Cost?

Microsoft it appears has received the message. Many users are not happy with Windows 8. There are real indications coming from Microsoft that Windows 9 will be offered “free” for current Windows 8 and 8.1 users while users on older operating systems will incur a cost of only $20.00.

There is all leads me to believe Windows 8 was a speed bump leading to better things from the software giant and the software giant adapts to the ever changing technical world.

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Amazon Fire Phone Fizzles

OK I think I called this one and I think it’s official. In a market where the excellent Windows Phone struggles for market share against Apple and Android what chance did the one trick pony from Amazon have?

The Fire Phonehas  accounted for just 0.02 percent of activity since it's launch.

The Fire Phone has accounted for just 0.02 percent of activity since it’s launch. Ouch.

The answer, almost no chance.

As reported by The Guardian yesterday the Amazon Fire Phone may turn out to be a flop of historic proportions. Reportedly the Fire Phone has accounted for only a tiny blip of North American mobile traffic since its launch with ComScore data on overall smartphone sales in the United States. It is estimated that there are now only 35,000 Fire Phones being used in the U.S. That if true is about as bad as it could get for Amazon.

The reasons for the Fire Phone’s flop are numerous and predictable. The Fire Phone was launched as an exclusive on AT&T, it was priced as highly as established brands such as the iPhone and the elite of the Android phones, a smaller app store then Windows Phone and it did not bring any compelling features outside of a 3D display and gimmicks that users quickly grew tired of.

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The Kill Switch Gets Closer

Stolen smartphones could become bricks at a moments notice soon.

Stolen smartphones could become bricks at a moments notice soon.

I have written about a proposed smartphone “kill switch” before and now it is official, at least in  California. The smartphone “kill switch” is an incredibly important function for all smartphone users and now that California has made it a law, perhaps there is hope for the rest of us.

The new law was signed into effect yesterday, August 25 and only applies to phones manufactured after July 1, 2015, and sold in California.

While its legal reach does not extend beyond the California’s borders, the inefficiency of producing phones solely for California means the kill switch is expected to be adopted by phone makers on handsets sold across the U.S. and around the world.

What is the “kill switch” legislation? 

The legislation requires a system that, if triggered by an authorized user (usually the owner of the phone), will lock a handset to essentially make it useless. The feature must be installed and activated in new smartphones, but users will be able to deactivate it if they desire, and it must be resistant to attempts to re-install the operating system.

Police can also use the tool, but only under the conditions of the existing section 7908 of the California Public Utilities Code. That gives police the ability to cut off phone service in certain situations and typically requires a court order, except in an emergency that poses “immediate danger of death or great bodily injury.”

The law does not specify how the system exactly locks the phone, nor what happens to the data on the phone when it is locked. Each manufacturer can come up with their own system.

Legislation, in this case actually may end in a big consumer benefit.

The law follows pressure on phone makers from the state’s law enforcement community to do something about rising incidents of smartphone theft, which has become one of the most prevalent street crimes in the state.

Apple, Google and Microsoft Respond

Apple has already responded and added a feature called “Activation Lock” into its iOS 7 operating system, which meets all requirements of California’s kill switch law bar one – it doesn’t come enabled in new phones. That will have to change.

Both Google and Microsoft have said they are introducing similar features in upcoming revisions to their smartphone operating systems.

48 To Go

The law makes California the second state in the U.S. to pass legislation aimed at reducing smartphone theft. Minnesota passed a law this past June as well. It is hoped that more states will follow with similar legislation but as indicated by Apple, Google and Microsoft that may not even be necessary in the end.

The kill switch function was actively opposed by the wireless industry until earlier in 2014, when carriers and their lobbying group reversed course and came out in favor of the plan. The wireless industry received additional persuasion in the form of two bills introduced to both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

Related Posts

Kill Switch 101 (June 25, 2014)

Knowing You Phone’s Kill Switch (April 1, 2014)

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Windows 9 Approaches

Microsoft reported new "start menu" includes the best elements of both Windows 7 and 8.

Microsoft’s reported new “start menu” includes the best elements of both Windows 7 and 8.

According to several reliable sources Microsoft is gearing up for its debut of Windows 9 next month.

Microsoft has scheduled a special press event for September 30th to introduce Windows 9 several sources have reported.

Windows 9 has been in development for at least a year now and is code named Windows Threshold.

ZDNet reported Microsoft is planning to launch a “technology preview” of Threshold at the end of September or early the following month. According to the report, users will be able to test the operating system but will be required to allow software updates to be automatically downloaded to the platform on a monthly basis.

Windows 8 was clearly to much change, too soon for many users and without a doubt for enterprises. The reliance on a touch screen UI actually burdened Windows 8 and most enterprises simply ignored it continuing their reliance on Windows 7. Windows 9 will strive to address both touch and non-touch devices while also proving more control for enterprise deployment.

Threshold — or Windows 9 — is expected to include a “mini Smart Menu,” a separate windows for Metro-style apps running on the desktop and support for virtual desktops.

It is expected the operating system will launch as a beta preview soon after its debut on September 30.

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Windows Phone Report

Since switching back to Windows Phone last week I must say I am happy I did. Do I miss my Android? Well I would be lying if I said I did not. To be frank, Windows Phone has a superior, cleaner and faster UI (user interface) then Android. This means when I need to use my phone quickly the Windows Phone far our performs any Android phone I have tried. However there is a huge hurdle Microsoft must conquer if they want to truly compete in the U.S. market.

Me and my Windows Phone. Friends Forever?

Me and my Windows Phone. Friends Forever?

Apps sell phones, and Windows Phone continues to lag behind both iOS and Android in app availability. There are more apps available today that is for sure then when I first used a Windows Phone (October 2012 – October 2013) but there is much more work to do.

If you look at raw numbers, Windows Phone still seriously lags behind its competitors. There are an estimated 1.2 million apps available for iOS, and more than 1.3 million for Android. As for Windows Phone apps, the total numbers it reported in April 2014 was 400,000. However Microsoft combines their Windows tablet and phone stores with these numbers so lets just agree that there are far less apps available on Windows phone then iOS and Android. And to make matters worse it has been reported widely recently and I have seen this myself that there is a lot of “JUNK” apps in the Windows Store.

To be clear, apps are the Achilles heal for Microsoft’s otherwise excellent smartphone.

Even for me, an admitted Microsoft fan the app situation is very bad and disappointing. The frustrating thing here is that this problem would be meaningless if Microsoft’s smartphone was not worthy, but it truly is.

If you had a Windows phone for a week and judged it on performance, ease of use and customization I am confident most users would consider using Windows Phone. However the mobile world we live in is an “app world” and Microsoft needs to address this issue if they ever want to capture meaningful market share.

Last month, WP Central did an analysis of apps available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone, and the results were not good for Windows Phone. WP Central used information from App Annie. It found that none of the 13 most popular free games available for iOS were available for Windows Phone. And of the 12 most popular free apps on iOS, it found, a mere six were available for Windows Phone. Overall, among the apps it found missing were WatchESPN, FIFA Official App, YouTube, Snapchat, and Google Maps.

Today there is an acceptable YouTube app published by Microsoft. Google Maps as well as other Google apps are being withheld by Google so Microsoft is really a victim with these, especially considering that Microsoft has made Microsoft Office apps specifically for both Android and iOS.

All is not lost however. The Microsoft Store is not a wasteland with app tumbleweeds rolling by. For example social media apps are abundant on Windows Phone like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Swarm and even Google+. However Apps that I particularly miss include, WatchESPN, Directv’s Sunday Ticket, SiriusXM and my local bank.

Windows Phone does come packaged with a full version of Internet Explorer therefore you can access any of these services through their webpage. This can be tedious and users are not accustomed to putting that much effort into the services they want to use, on their smartphone.

On the plus side, if you are a Microsoft 365 user Windows Phone will shine.

My Windows Phone journey continues…

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