Around the IT Industry 7/15-7/19

by Modis on July 19, 2013

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Netflix Secretly Cropping Your Movies

Popular movie streaming service Netflix has been quietly adjusting the ratio at which it streams users films. The standard for a widescreen film is a 2.39:1 ratio, whereas standard viewing is 16:9. This results in entire actors missing from shots, buildings and crucial scenery lost, and can turn a poignant shot into a mockery of what it was originally intended to be. Many DVDs will announce to users that they have modified the image to be viewed on their television. “This image has been modified to fit your screen” is something VHS tapes employed heavily. Netflix appears to be adjusting the screen ratios of its films with no warning to its customers, and letterboxing is something that many film fans do not take lightly. Netflix has yet to comment on this issue.

License Plate Scanners are a Massive Data Pool

Automatic plate scanners are mounted on police vehicles, on traffic lights, and some are even embedded into highway posts. These devices take photographs of every car which passes them, and this information is fed into massive databases and compiled. At first glance the data that was filed was to be used for checking on outstanding warrants, stolen cars, etc. The American Civil Liberties Union has released a comprehensive report detailing the extent to which the government and local law enforcement have been using the data compiled from these scanners, and what could possibly be done with the information they gather.

AT&T’s Response to T-Mobile Jump a Scandal at Best

Wireless communication provider AT&T unveiled its alternative to T-Mobile’s “Jump”service today. Many customers are looking for ways to reduce their wireless bills, and get access to upgraded phones faster. A Samsung Galaxy S4 costs $620 unlocked at retail. After completing a 2-year contract, customers will have paid AT&T $680 in device payments alone, allowing them to keep their phone. However, Next charges $640 in payments, while not allowing customers to keep their phone. Essentially, customers are leasing their phone for an exorbitant amount of money, allowing AT&T to sell it as refurbished for further profit upon its return. Next forces customers to pay full price for a phone, while also charging monthly subsidies aimed at reducing the cost of the phone, effectively canceling out any savings a customer may have seen. While some customers buy their phones at retail costs, the quest for affordable wireless coverage and a quality device to go with it remains elusive.

Tesla Motors CEO Hopes to Reduce Vehicle Charging Time to 10 Minutes

30 minutes is the average time it takes to charge an electric car currently. Tesla Motors CEO JB Straubel aims to have the company’s superchargers recharging their vehicles batteries in 5-10 minutes at a charging station. These stations typically operate anywhere from 20-30 minutes per charge, with the charge being only partial. The challenge in designing a faster charging station would be to deliver the power to charge a battery without rendering it useless due to overloading. Battery swap stations are still widely used across the country; however, Straubel hopes to change the landscape of electric vehicles in the not-so-distant future.

Technology Firms, Advertising Agencies, Companies, Nonprofits Call for NSA Transparency

Apple, Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are just a few of the companies that are demanding a drastic increase of transparency in regards to the US government’s surveillance efforts. These companies will call upon the President and the government to allow Web and Internet service providers to report the number of government requests for information, the number of individuals for which information has been requested, and basic tools to determine how often the government is using the tools at its disposal. Ensuring that Americans have access to this information will allow them to know where, when, and how often their data may be looked at. This call to action is perhaps the most cohesive yet, spanning over 63 companies, investors, and nonprofit agencies. Time will tell if the government responds to this request for further information.

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