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Business, Financial & Legal Posts - Page 8

Apple makes changes to AppleCare support plans

Apple has been offering support plans for a number of its gadgets for a while now called AppleCare. Apple plans to make a big marketing push to get people to adopt the premium AppleCare+ offering for the iPhone and iPad.

 

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AppleCare+ is a premium plan offering support for two years on top of the standard 90 days of support. AppleCare+ will also cover your device for up to two instances of accidental damage. One of the big changes to AppleCare+ is that users now have longer to buy the protection on their phone.

 

In the past, you only had 30 days to opt to purchase the protection if you didn't get it at the time of purchase. Moving forward, the plan will bring that purchase window out to 60 days. AppleCare+ for iPhone and iPads is $99. Apple has also now discontinued the older and cheaper AppleCare plan that didn't cover damage from accidents.

Apple rolls out new Mac Pro security lock adapter

It has been a while now since Apple rolled out the cylinder shaped Mac Pro desktop computer. One of the problems that this machine has for people who use them in areas with lots of traffic is that the new Mac Pro has no provision for locking itself to a desk as you can with laptops thanks to the Kensington lock port on many computers.

 

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With the lack of a Kensington port, many people were left cobbling their own systems together to help prevent theft. Apple has now announced an official accessory for the new Mac Pro that lets users add a Kensington lock to the machine for more security.

 

The accessory is called the Mac Pro Security Lock Adapter and it sells for $49. The device is a metal bracket that secures the lift-off cover of the Mac Pro to the base of the machine with a security cable. This prevents access to the internals of the machine. The cable can also be locked to the desk to make it harder to steal the machine. The security adapter is available now on the Apple Store.

Synek draft system lets you draw a pint of beer at home

Homes and offices around the world have made specialty single cup coffee machines very popular over the last few years. Those coffee machines can brew you up a cup of your favorite coffee and even have flavors from high-end coffee shops like Starbucks among the selections. Beer drinkers may soon have a similar system for getting a pint of their favorite beer anywhere.

 

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The system is called the Synek draft system and it will make a personal pint of beer straight from the tap. This isn't exactly like making a single cup of coffee using water from your faucet at home though. This device is designed to let you fill the beer bag from any tap and then place it inside the machine to keep it cold and fizzy.

 

The company says that the beer inside the machine can remain fresh for months and dispensing a pint from the bag won't affect the freshness of the beer still in the bag. The bags are also designed to be interchangeable so you can get different brews when you need it. The device is legal in all states except Alabama, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Vermont. It is on Kickstarter now seeking $250,000 in funding.

Facebook ICO probe in UK to investigate user experiment legality

A couple days ago, it came to light that Facebook had tweaked the algorithms in the news feeds of hundreds of thousands of users to see if it could affect the mood of the users of its network. In this experiment people were shown either posts that were more negative in nature or posts that were more positive in nature. Facebook says that the experiment proved you could change the mood of a user based on what they read.

 

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Facebook's experiment was controversial and now the social network is facing a probe from the ICO, Information Commissioners Office, in the UK to see if the experiment violated the law at all. A spokesperson for the ICO has said that it is too early to tell what portion of the law the experiment might have broken.

 

Facebook was found to have added a clause to its terms and conditions four months after the experiment was conducted that allowed research to be performed on users of the service without their express consent. Facebook maintains that it has permission to experiment from the terms and conditions that people agree to by using the site.

Google purchases Songza music service with mood-based playlists

Google has been reaching into its wallet to make some purchases and the latest purchase made by the web giant is of a music startup called Songza. Songza may not be a name you recognize, it is a company that streams music from playlists that are based on your mood.

 

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For instance, it offers playlists for taking the day off, an energy boost, and other moods. Google hasn't really said what it has in mind for Songza, but the assumption is that the tech will be used in Google Play to help personalize music.

 

The tech could also be used in the coming subscription service on YouTube, but no official comments have been made at this point. Some reports indicate that Google paid around $15 million for Songza.

FTC says T-Mobile knowingly hit subscribers with bogus charges

If you're a T-Mobile subscriber, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants to inform you that the wireless carrier has been accused of adding bogus charges to subscriber bills. Without customer consent, "hundreds of millions of dollars" worth of charges were added, starting in 2009 and lasting until December 2013. Charges typically were tied to expensive premium apps with monthly surcharges, often not even wanted by smartphone owners in the first place.

 

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The cramming practice led to 40 percent refund rates per month, and that should have provided an "obvious sign" to T-Mobile that something was wrong, the FTC noted. And with T-Mobile phone bills sometimes more than 50 pages in length, it was virtually impossible for subscribers to fairly identify - and request - the charges to be halted.

 

"It's wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent," said Edith Ramirez, FTC Chairwoman, in a press statement. "The FTC's goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges."

Europe cuts cell roaming charges in all territories

Gadget-happy consumers across Europe will breathe a sigh of relief to hear the European Union has officially slashed roaming charges in all 28 countries.

 

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Anyone with a contract from European telcos won't have to spend an arm and a leg for calls, text messages or even data abroad - compared to the widely reviled, sky-high rates that were previously set by providers. "This huge drop in data roaming prices will make a big difference to all of us this summer," European commissioner Neelie Kroes, who oversaw the plans, said in a recent statement. "But it is not enough."

 

These developments will be welcome for beleaguered European consumers - who have been left behind in the worldwide race for 4G networks. But they may not be so welcome for network providers who have felt forced to up call rates outside of Europe to compensate. Companies such as Vodafone have struggled in Europe of late, posting profit warnings amid high tax rates in certain territories, and diversifying product portfolios to supplement mobile businesses.

Apple hiring team to build its own speech recognition for Siri

Apple has been working with other firms for a while now to bring better speech recognition to Siri. Siri can recognize the voice commands it hears and perform the action asked of it in many instances. However, the speech recognition in the Siri assistant could be better and Apple knows that.

 

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Apple is reportedly working on building a team internally to help it improve speech recognition for Siri. Currently Siri's voice recognition is powered by Nuance and Apple wants to get away from using that tech and get into using its own.

 

Apple is expected to release its own in-house voice recognition service in the future. Apple is reportedly hiring at management levels for this in-house team and is hiring on the research and team level as well. The next iteration of iOS, iOS 8, is expected to use Nuance tech.

GE Link bulbs promise smart LED light bulbs at low prices

There are plenty of LED light bulbs on the market today that allow the user to control lighting and even light color using smartphone apps. The catch is that many of those bulbs also carry a rather steep price blocking entry into the smart bulb market for some. GE has announced a new smart LED bulb series that it promises will be cheap compared to existing products.

 

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GE's new family of bulbs are called Link bulbs and the system does require a hub to connect the bulbs in the home. That hub will set you back $30 on its own. After buying that hub, the bulbs will cost in the area of $15 to $25 each depending on the style chosen.

 

A kit is available with the hub and two 60W equivalent bulbs for $50. Once connected, the app and hub allow you to schedule the lights and control brightness. It doesn't appear that the bulbs allow you to control the color of the light. Home Depot is taking pre-orders on the bulbs now and they will ship this fall.

Google appeal in Wi-Fi snooping case rejected by Supreme Court

Google has been fighting in court for a while trying to get out of the trouble it landed in with the Wi-Fi snooping that it performed with its Street View cars several years ago. Google has lost the case in court and has been appealing trying to get a different decision, but it looks like its appeals are over. The US Supreme court has refused to hear Google's appeal on a ruling in the case.

 

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The refusal to hear the appeal will allow consumers to proceed with a privacy suit that stems from the snooping scandal. A lower court had previously ruled against Google saying that it may had violated a federal wiretap law when it collected payload data from Wi-Fi networks using its street view cars.

 

The data that Google captured with tech aboard those vehicles includes emails, passwords, and URLs that people had visited at home and in the office. The legal case around this issue began in 2010 when it was revealed that Street View cars were collecting data from Wi-Fi networks that weren't protected. Google argues that it didn't violate the wiretap law due to a clause in that law that gives an exception for networks readily accessible to the public.

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