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Hybrid Satellite-Cellular Network Debuts

HughesNet made its name with its satellite internet system. Some people think this is all it does. Now, though, the firm wants to unite the stratosphere with terra firma. For selected areas, Hughes Network Systems has begun operating a hybrid internet service combining satellite and terrestrial cellular signals.

Hughes calls the new system HughesNet Fusion.

Why would anyone bother with such a combination, you might ask? It’s because each component enhances the other, and the combined system functions better than the separate components do.

Hybrid Broadband: The Best of Both Worlds

The satellite system can work almost everywhere. Its signals come from satellites 22,500 miles in altitude, so it covers almost the entire planet. It doesn’t require cable or telecom lines, nor wireless cellular towers, so it’s not limited to urban or suburban neighborhoods. Because of this, HughesNet serves areas other high -speed providers can’t reach.

The 5G wireless cellular component provides fast, low-latency signals, making it suitable for gaming and video streaming.

Areas with the hybrid system get the best of both technologies. The network can switch from the satellite system to the local cellular system, depending on the needs of the moment and the traffic the network is carrying. Gamers get sufficient speed and capacity, and rural areas get broadband service.

For the consumer, the hybrid network is low in cost. It offers true broadband speed. It’s available almost everywhere. It is highly reliable and it’s dense in capacity.

HughesNet previewed the hybrid system for the press at the SATELLITE Conference last March.

Hughes calls the new network a “multipath system”, and says it’s the wave of the future. To our knowledge, nobody else offers anything similar.

HughesNet offers 25 megabits er second (MB/S) download speeds with no hard data limits. Fusion plans, though, are available only in select regions of the U.S. To find out what’s available where you live, call Satellite Country.

Hughes will offer Fusion in many other areas early next year. So if you can’t get it where you live yet, you may be able to get it later. We will provide updates.

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Metaverse Hype: Communist Propaganda?

Does the recent noise and fuss about the Metaverse resemble Communist propaganda? Phil Libin, A CEO who grew up in the Soviet Union. says so. He calls the hype “empty promises of an idealized future.’

Soviet propaganda poster" Art Board Print by Khokhloma | Redbubble

Libin founded Evernote, a note-taking app. He now heads Mmhmm, a videoconferencing firm.

Speaking in a recent podcast hosted by Eric Newcomer, Libin blasted Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of alternate reality. Mr. Z’s promises, he says, will never materialize. It is “…a gloss that uncreative people and companies put over fundamentally a lack of good ideas.” Ouch! That had to leave a mark.

What makes Metaverse hype like Communist propaganda?

So then, where does the comparison with Communist propaganda come in? “I went to first grade in the Soviet Union”, Libin said. “I was subjected to a lot of Soviet propaganda, and I was told… repeatedly, “Communism doesn’t exist yet. We haven’t built Communism yet. We’re building towards Communism.” Libin believes Zuckerberg and company are playing the same game. “You know, you can smell a bad idea before it’s fully built”, he says. “So I don’t want to hear, ‘Oh yeah, the Metaverse doesn’t exist yet. No, no, no, all this stupid, useless, crappy stuff that exists right now, that’s not the Metaverse. The Metaverse is coming. It’s coming.'”

Zuckerberg’s pet project has drawn fierce criticism. Some analysts say it will prove even more addictive than current social media. And so far, a distressingly high percentage of users seem to be children. They would be especially prone to suggestion through immersive digital environments. And people who grow accustomed to such experience would lose ability to function in reality.

Libin sneers at such concerns. He calls the Metaverse idea “so spectacularly stupid, there’s actually not that much to fear.”

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Across the Metaverse

Is your future in the ’embedded internet’?

Can you travel across the Metaverse? Should you?

If you ever saw The Matrix, a 1999 movie starring Keanu Reeves and Lawrence Fishburn, you might guess roughly what this is about. In the movie, self-aware machines have trapped the human race in a virtual reality simulation.

Laurence Fishburne Doesn't Know Why 'Matrix 4' Left Morpheus Out | IndieWire

Well, now a real life version of The Matrix could be coming our way. Facebook and Microsoft have made much noise lately about their versions: an “embedded internet” meant to render the current internet obsolete.

Facebook’s Version of the Metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, calls his version the “Metaverse”. A “people-first internet”, it would rely less on current forms of social media and browser search. Instead, it would rely far more on VR and AR connections that seem almost to be alternate worlds. Zuckerberg has committed himself so fiercely to this vision, he renamed Facebook as ‘Meta’.

At a recent Oculus Connect event, Zuckerberg’s troops demonstrated seamless connectivity between some of its apps, such as Messenger, and Oculus VR and AR devices. Zuckerberg emphasizes social media and personal use.

Microsoft’s Version

Microsoft, by contrast, gears its version to business and professional use. The company claims to have built a collection of tools for enabling businesses to create “immersive spaces”. Via AR and VR, these tools will facilitate more advanced online meetings. Some apps enable ‘moving’ and interacting in virtual factories and retail outlets. These apps go by the name of Dynamics 365 Connected Spaces.

Microsoft calls the software for this project “Mesh”.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, dismisses Meta’s version as unrealistic. “The public perception of The Metaverse, as a futuristic world where plugged-in people recreate their whole lives online, is still a ways off. But business uses are starting to be available now.”

What Should You Believe?

Of course, we can’t predict the future. However, we can make some educated guesses. The Metaverse is unlikely to be as sinister as alarmists predict. And it’s unlikely to benefit us as much as its promoters predict.

Every new communication medium can draw us in and tempt us to abandon reality. All can be addictive. This was true of the original internet. It was true of television. It was even true of radio. We decide how much we’re going to immerse ourselves in any medium. We can walk away if we want to.


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LG Builds 325″ Direct View TV Set

Would you pay $1.7 million for a TV set? Well, on the off chance you were dying to part with such a large sum, LG wants to help you do it.

LG Launching 325 Inch TV That Costs A Staggering Amount Of Money

On September 14, the South Korean electronics giant announced the release of a 325″ ( 27 feet and 1 inch) direct view 8K TV set. It shatters the previous record of 171 inches.

LG’s behemoth somewhat resembles Sony’s Crystal TV and Samsung’s The Wall. Like them, LG’s new offering features a gargantuan screen with millions of LEDs. The LG set, with 33 million LEDs, is a component of its Extreme Home Cinema line.

Unlike The Wall, LG’s new set is not modular. It is a single screen, not a combination of of screens configured to display a single image. Also, it differs from most other giant sets in its direct view format- the same one you’d find in most homes. Most giant sets rely on rear projection.

LG’s giant set weighs more than a ton. Merely installing the beast requires specialized training.

LG says its new TV set is rated for a half-life of 100,000 hours, which means it’s good for at least ten years of standard use. And if you buy one, LG technicians will visit your house twice a year to check on it.

Direct View LED (DVLED) technology has seen fairly common use in commercial signage in the last few years. However, it has seen almost no residential use.

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Could Someone Blow Up the Internet?

You may have heard of Seth Aaron Pendley. The FBI arrested him last week for plotting to blow up an Amazon data center in Virginia in hope of crippling the internet.

Man in Texas Tried to Buy Explosives to Blow up Data Centers

The Department of Justice announced his arrest in a press release: “Mr. Pendley allegedly told the undercover he planned to attack web servers… he believed provided services to the FBI, the CIA, and other federal agencies. He said he hoped to bring down the ‘oligarchy’ currently in power in the United States.”

The DOJ said the undercover agents discovered the plot because one of Pendley’s friends warned them. He had allegedly frequented This, according to the DOJ, is a website on which ‘extremists’ socialize and plot subversion, and through which Pendley had boasted of his plans. Under the screen name ‘Dionysus’, someone had said he planned to “conduct a little experiment.” He said he would “draw a lot of heat” and “would be dangerous”. According to the DOJ, “When another user asked what outcome Dionysus desired, he responded ‘death’.”

In a separate post, Dionysus wrote, “I’m not a dumbass suicide bomber.” Well, that’s reassuring!

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The DoJ said its agents quickly figured out who ‘Dionysus’ was. After learning he was Pendley, the FBI reviewed his other social media feeds. An FBI informant then began discussing Pendley’s plans with him via Signal. He allegedly told the source everything. The DoJ said he planned to blow up a prominent data center with C-4, allegedly hoping “this would kill off about 70% of the internet.” C-4 is a plastic explosive.

If convicted, Pendley could serve up to twenty years in a federal prison.

Could he have pulled it off? Could someone actually blow up the internet?

Was Pendley realistic in thinking he could have “killed off about 70% of the internet”? Experts say no; his self-appointed task was impossible. IT professionals typically arrange extremely tight multi-level security for data centers. And on the off chance someone could blow up a data center, internet functions are so widely dispersed, auxiliary servers could easily fill in for the damaged ones. Most people would not even notice any slowing of web service.

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Hong Kong Internet Group Resists Chinese Censorship

The Reds are clever. They are relentless. Where they hold power they are, as they’ve always been, ruthless in suppressing challenges to it.

Related image

demonstrators n Hong Kong

The People’s Republic of China is no different. It has long operated one of the most sophisticated, thorough, and effective internet censorship systems in the world. The PRC is especially ferocious in attacking the anyone who erects proxies or VPNs to help other citizens bypass the state blockades.

Why can’t Beijing crack down?

The PRC is supreme in its core territories. It faces extreme difficulty, though, in forcing Hong Kong’s web traffic through the state’s firewalls. Consider, for example, what happened when a report began circulating all over East Asia that Beijing was planning to block access to certain websites and online services. The Hong Kong Internet Service Providers Association (HKISPA) said it would not and could not comply:

Technically speaking, given the complexity of the modern internet including technologies like VPN, cloud, and cryptographies, it is impossible to effectively and meaningfully block any services, unless we put the whole internet of Hong Kong behind large scale surveillance firewall.

Of course, Beijing could throttle web services in Hong Kong anyway. But it can do so only at the cost of stifling industry. This outcome the state wants to avoid if it can. China already suffers severe economic pain, and will tolerate otherwise intolerable challenges to prevent more.

Of course, it’s impossible to predict how much more Beijing will tolerate. The regime may be nearing its limit.

So far, though, the Hong Hong ISP Association seems undaunted. It continues to remind the regime that it will pay a fearful price for further efforts to suppress internet freedom.

What price will Beijing pay to maintain control of the web?

…Imposing any insensible restrictions on the open internet would only result in more restrictions, as the original restrictions wouldn’t be effective, and ultimately the result is putting Hong Kong’s internet behind a big firewall. Therefore, any such restrictions, however slight initially, would start the end of the open internet of Hong Kong, and would immediately and permanently deter international businesses from positing their businesses and investments in Hong Kong.

This doesn’t mean Beijing is or has been completely passive about the matter. Telegram, an encrypted message service used to coordinate recent mass demonstrations, has suffered a series of massive DDOS attacks. These attacks were almost certainly the state’s handiwork. Still, the Hong Kong ISPs insist they won’t censor Telegram or any other platform.

Beijing has to be careful. The PRC’s economy is already fragile, with growth slowing sharply, and U.S. tariffs are likely to sharpen the pain. A crackdown on internet services in Hong Kong would induce a mass exit of international businesses. China’s economic crisis, severe already, would worsen exponentially.

How will the standoff end? We’ve no idea, but we’re certain to see a great deal of drama before it’s over.

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World Wide Web Inventor Calls for Its Overhaul

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, is unhappy with it.  He has been saying for years that it has evolved into something far different from what he envisioned. Not much more than ten years ago, the web was a decentralized open platform, but since then a few corporate giants have come to dominate it. Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon hold a near-stranglehold over online information and commerce, and web surfers have to surrender privacy to get much use out of the web.

Image result for world wide web images

So what can we do to correct this sorry state of affairs? Well, Berners-Lee is hard at work on an alternative. Next week, he will launch a for-profit business called  Inrupt. Based on a crowd-sourced platform called Solid, it is meant to enable developers all over the world to wrest control of the web away from governments and corporate giants.

“It’s a historical moment.”

If Berners-Lee and his crew are successful, Google, Facebook, and Amazon will soon be struggling for survival. Berners-Lee is open about hisdesire not only to challenge them, but to take them down.. He jokingly (?) says his goal is ‘world domination’, and he says he wants a completely new internet. He said he is not consulting with Google or Facebook about how he will upend their business models. In his words: “We’re not asking their permission.”

“We have to do it now”, he said of Inrupt. “It’s a historical moment.”

Why now?

The need for a disruptive internet model has never been more obvious. For the last five years, one scandal after another has reminded us that our personal data is subject to manipulation and theft.

You’ve no doubt heard the news about Cambridge Analytica and the Obama reelection campaign hijacking Facebook user data to aid their political campaigns. Twitter and YouTube have been caught blocking, shadow-banning, or demonetizing conservative content. Google vacuums up personal data for ads, and apparently adjusts search functions for political reasons. In a recently released video of a Google corporate conference, several executives spoke of “our values”, with some pledging to use the platform to promote them. All of ‘our values’ were blatantly political.

We obviously- and urgently- need drastic overhaul of the world wide web. Otherwise, we will soon lose all semblance of honest and objective online information service.

Who’s in control?

Berners-Lee and Inrupt propose to address the failings of the dominant internet systems with a platform called Solid. With it, the user can create his own ‘personal online data store’ or POD. It will feature his calendar, music library, video library, contact list, to-do list, chat, and research tools. It’s like combining Outlook, WhatsApp, Slack, Spotify, and Google on the same browser- all available at the same time.

Most importantly, the data is under the user’s control. All the data he produces will be protected within his POD. The information will be secure, out of reach for his ISP, Google, Facebook, or any advertising engine- unless the user wants to release it. He can customize the degree of access he wants to provide for each bit of data.

This is a huge departure from the current internet model. In the last few years,  Google, Facebook, and other firms have been holding and controlling most online data in ‘silos’ that they built.

In the Solid web model, there are no silos.

What happens next?

Beginning almost immediately, developers can start building their own apps for the Inrupt platform. And Berners-Lee will spend the autumn tutoring developers and executives in building apps for Solid and Inrupt.

Tim Berners-Lee has set a daunting goal for himself. Can he really replace the current world wide web with something far better? Don’t bet against it. He has a record of bringing into fruition projects that others thought impossible.

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California Enacts New Privacy Law

The Golden State claims to have blazed a trail in the protection of online privacy.  The California legislature has passed, and Governor Jerry Brown has signed, an online privacy bill that its supporters say requires full disclosure and the right to opt out of data sharing and third-party sharing. The consumer will also be able to delete collected data if he wishes.

Image result for california images

Some consumer advocates are unsatisfied with the bill. They say that businesses should be required to obtain opt-in consent before collecting or sharing user data. Some internet service providers and online advertisers fiercely opposed the bill, though, so it couldn’t have been entirely toothless.

All parties will have ample time to adapt to the new law. It won’t be in force until 2020.

Was the privacy bill necessary?

Advocates of the privacy law point to recent events that they say indicate need for action. Among these are a pattern of serious data breaches, Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data, scrutiny of tech platforms by Congress, and the FCC’s handing off of online privacy concerns to the FTC.

An even tougher data privacy bill had been scheduled for placement on this November’s ballot. Now that the California legislature has acted, though, the sponsors of this tougher bill have agreed to abandon their effort.

The lobby that most actively promoted the bill is Common Sense Media. Two Democrats, Senator Robert Hertzberg and Assemblyman Ed Chau, introduced it n the legislature.

Did anyone object?

Some analysts say the new law will bring more harm than good. The critics argue that web users gladly exchange personal data for free goods and services. The new law would inhibit these exchanges. Web users, then, would miss out on many essential services- or would have to pay for them.

Some privacy advocates say the California law doesn’t go far enough. They want the ‘opt out’ standard replaced with ‘opt in’. In other words, ISPs, browsers, and social media couldn’t collect user data without express consent from users. Under the the new privacy standard, consumers can opt out of sharing or commercial use of their data. But they have to act affirmatively to do so. They waive their online privacy unless they remember to act affirmatively to protect it.

The new law incorporates a separate children’s rights section. This section does require opt in parental consent for sale of data from minors under 16 yeas old. The law provides for fines and lawsuits for breaches of this section.

Will other states follow suit?

Will California’s online privacy bill be a model for other states? It’s too early to tell. The state’s political and cultural climates are so unusual, it can be difficult to predict when its accepted practices will be adopted elsewhere.


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End of ‘Net Neutrality’

The sky has not fallen. Armageddon has passed evidently passed us by. We have not seen the Great Tribulation that was expected to fall on us on June 11, with the official end of the FCC’s Title II ‘net neutrality‘ internet rules.

Image result for net neutrality images

Without the regulations, we were told, the web wouldn’t work properly. Disaster would follow: fire and brimstone, floods, earthquakes, mass extinction, dogs and cats living together- real Wrath of God stuff. At the very least, we’d see our content requests blocked or slowed, with frustratingly long buffering of music and video. Of our afflictions there would be no end.

Why hasn’t the sky fallen?

So far, none of the dire predictions has been realized. We haven’t seen ISPs rushing to raise rates, block or slow content, or otherwise restrict internet access.

In fact, most ISPs have announced plans to develop advanced 5G systems. They are investing massive amounts in creation of new networks and expansion of existing ones. These investments had been retarded under the Title II web rules, because ISPs did not want to risk capital in an uncertain regulatory climate. The FCC had too much discretion, and ISPs could not be sure how it would rule from one case to another. With the end of the Title II framework, ISPs are more certain about what the law allows.

What happens now?

Does this mean the industry is finally at peace? Will the advocates of the restricitve web rules admit that they could have been wrong? Don’t bet on it. Though the legal battle over Title II is settled- for now- the political quarrel is nowhere near its end.

The industry is sharply divided over the issue. Google and Facebook have argued strenuously for retaining the Title II rules for ISPs, while Verizon and AT&T called for their abolition.

Several states, and some municipal governments, have said that they will enact ‘net neutrality’ rules on their own.  This effort has encountered stiff resistance. Roslyn Slayton is a scholar for the American Enterprise Institute who served on Mr. Trump’s transition team. Slayton said to CNN, “It’s patently illegal for the states to make their own internet policy.”

The Trump Administration is likely to join some of the larger ISPs in lawsuits against state attempts to regulate the web.

UPDATE:  We’ve received word that an effort to enact a state ‘net neutrality’ law has stalled in the California legislature.

What does it all mean anyway?

‘Net neutrality’ is the principle that an internet service provider (ISP) should treat all data equally. An ISP should not block, slow, or charge extra for any data based on the user, application, website, platform, connected equipment, or means of communication.

The Title II web rules are extensions of the 1934 Telecommunications Act. Under its terms, an ISP is to be regulated like as a ‘common carrier’, like a land line telephone exchange.


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