Tag: Myron Jones

Leaked documents suggest ulterior motive for Comcast’s data plans

Recently leaked documents suggest that Comcast data plans may be implemented to discourage “cord cutting” and not to improve network performance.

Earlier this month, a reddit user by the name of  M00glemuffins posted a link to leaked Comcast support documents to the technology subreddit. These documents included information and quotations that Comcast staff was supposed to provide to users.
Presently, Comcast allows users to use 300GB per month in some markets (including the Southeast). They are considering these markets to be part of a data usage plan trial.

In the current trial markets, Comcast users are granted 3 courtesy months. Users in these areas may use more than 300GB three times.
Starting with the fourth overage, users are automatically billed an additional $10 for an additional 50GB. Many users would believe that this is actually a cap on usable data, but Comcast encourages support to describe data as never limited in the leaked documents.

As a response to commonly asked questions, the document states, “With our data plan trials, your XFINITY Internet data usage is never limited. By default, your data plan includes 300GB per month, with an unlimited number of additional 50GB blocks of data provided as needed for $10 each.
If you choose to enroll in the Unlimited Data Option, you will pay a flat fee per month regardless of how much data you actually use. That way, you can have the certainty of knowing exactly what your bill will be each month.”

The documents also specifically instruct employees not to state that the data plans are not designed to reduce congestion. In the documents, employees are instructed, “Don’t say: This program is about data congestion management. (It is not.)”.
This admission makes it clear that data trials exist for another reason. Some people suspect that reducing the number of “cord cutters” instead.

“Cord cutter” refers to people who go without traditional cable, or sometimes phone services, and instead use internet services as a replacement. Netflix, SlingTV, Hulu, and even Skype are some services commonly associated with cable cutting.
These services often use large amounts of data for heavy users. A household with a standard cable package might be tempted to leave the television running all day as background noise. However, users of internet services who wanted to do this with a Comcast data plan would almost certainly be billed extra.

The 300 GB plan is a low enough restriction that a heavy Netflix streamer could go over the cap in a matter of weeks. In some markets, Comcast offers an Unlimited Data Option which removes the 300 GB restriction.
Instead of being charged an additional $10 per 50GB, users may pay a flat rate every month for full access to their unlimited data. The additional cost for the Unlimited Data Option is between $30 and $35 per month depending on the area. In many cases, this $30 to $35 addition makes the price closer to that of Comcast’s Double Play plans, which include both internet and cable service.

As the internet becomes a larger part of society, companies and individuals are adapting to it in various ways. It is possible that data restrictions will become more common for internet service providers similar to how they work with cell phone plans.

Myron Jones
Tech Columnist

All-in-one vs. specialized devices

Electronics often come in many forms. Some devices are made to be used as a jack-of-all-trades, or a multipurpose device, while others are designed with one particular purpose in mind. Sometimes it is difficult to determine which device is better in these situations and there is often not a clear answer. However, there are a few important factors to consider when making your choices.

Affordability

Multipurpose devices often offer a more affordable solution. The more functions a device could potentially have, the better the value. One of the most common multipurpose devices used today is the smartphone.

Smartphones are phones, have access to the internet, function as multimedia players, can be used as a GPS and also offer camera functionality.

At first glance, it seems that a smartphone could completely replace all of these tools without blinking an eye. This is true for many users and especially for basic uses.

Battery shortfalls

The obvious argument for owning a multipurpose device is that it is easier to carry around one device instead of many. However, a multipurpose device has to worry more about battery life. Since you will be potentially using a device for many functions, it will be used more often. Because of this, it can be difficult to rely on a single device for so many functions. If the device is dead, you can not use it for anything, which makes it effectively a paperweight.

Power constraints

Another common issue is that a multipurpose device isn’t as powerful when it comes to specific functions. Although a smartphone camera may be quite good for smartphone standards, it can not compare with even an entry level camera in less than ideal conditions.

GPS functionality in smartphones is often closer to a stand alone GPS unit, but many options require network connectivity by default. Some do not allow you to download offline maps at all. This differs depending on the app and device.

Gaming consoles

Dedicated devices typically offer a more pleasant experience as they are streamlined and designed with a specific purpose in mind. One example is handheld gaming consoles like the Nintendo 3DS, Playstation Vita, and Playstation Portable.

All of these devices offer a better gaming experience than calculators or phones with a few games available. The dedicated devices offer a better handle and feel which provides the opportunity for a wider variety of gaming experiences.

In this particular case, the gaming devices also try to offer a multipurpose experience. However, they clearly specialize in one area.

Getting the right device for your particular needs is more important than getting the one with the fewest disadvantages. Unless you carry a bag or have a method of carrying multiple devices, a single device is most likely the way to go.

Another option is to have both. Carry the jack-of-all-trades device unless you know there will be a specific need for something more advanced.

A smartphone camera suffices for many situations in day-to-day life, but you might still want to pull out a true camera for special moments. Just remember that the dedicated device is generally going to be more reliable even if you can’t always have it.

Myron Jones
Tech Columnist

Selecting a gaming system to fit your needs

Gaming is a hobby enjoyed by many. Sometimes it can be frustrating deciding the perfect system to play on. There are major consoles such as the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U, but there are also personal computers.

It can be difficult to decide which system is the best fit because there are many factors influencing each decision. In many cases, games are often one of the deciding factors since not all platforms have the same games.

With the holiday season starting up, and a few gaming deals already in effect, it is an excellent time to know the distinctions for the gamer in your life.

On November 2, Sony’s Playstation 4 was available through Amazon Prime for $325. This version of the Playstation 4 is the lowest price to date and includes The Uncharted Collection. Uncharted is an action adventure series that once represented some of the highest quality that the Playstation 3 had to offer. Since then, Uncharted has been a staple Playstation exclusive series.

Amazon also offered a couple special bundles for the Xbox One. One notable bundle is the 1 TB Holiday bundle which costs $399 and includes 3 games in addition to Mad Max. The included games are Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Rare Replay, and Ori and the Blind Forest.

Halo 5, the latest entry to the Halo series, was released last week, so the console is likely to be in higher demand. Halo is one of the most popular exclusive Xbox franchises, and has been associated with the Xbox brand since its beginning.

Nintendo’s Wii U is another home console option that has a strong following. While there are not any notable sales happening right now, the main console bundle is only $299, which is the lowest of the 3 major home consoles.

Nintendo is home to many popular exclusive franchises such as Mario and Zelda. For gamers that love those series, a Nintendo console is essential.

While there are clear exclusive titles for the common home consoles, an area that can often be confusing is PC gaming. Unlike traditional consoles, PC gaming has a significant number of variables.

Not every PC will be able to run every game, even on the lowest graphics settings. However, unlike the consoles, a PC can be upgraded to remain compatible with newer titles and improve performance.

There are several “PC Exclusive” games because it is the easiest platform to develop for and publish. Overall, there are far more PC games than there are console games, but there are some restrictions in playing them. A console requires less thought and fewer decisions.

Although each system has some exclusive games, there will be many major third party games, such as Fallout 4 and Call of Duty Black Ops 3, that will be available on more than one console. These games will appear on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. Gamers who own only the Wii U miss out on many third party exclusives for one reason or another.

Another thing to consider when deciding an ideal gaming platform is the social aspect. One of the most enjoyable parts of gaming is playing with friends. Because such a small number of games have cross platform play, it helps to be on the same system as those you would like to play with.

Although there will be plenty of opportunities to make new gaming friends, it is easier to find out what existing friends have and go with that option. Unless there are specific platform exclusive games that you’re just dying to play, the more common system often offers the best experience. It also never hurts to have more than one platform available.

Myron Jones
Tech Columnist

Microsoft announces backward compatibility for new Xbox One

Microsoft announced that the next major update for the Xbox One will be released on November 12. The coming update includes the New Xbox One Experience, in addition to backward compatibility for some Xbox 360 titles.
The New Xbox One Experience is a revamped user interface that looks similar to the Xbox app available on Windows 10. Instead of using the tile-based design similar to Windows 8, the New Xbox One Experience uses a new system that focuses on vertical and horizontal navigation. The new user interface should improve overall system performance as well.
Backward compatibility is the major feature of this update. This feature gives players the opportunity to play Xbox 360 games on Xbox One. Not all titles are currently supported, but compatibility for more than 100 titles is expected at launch.
When played on Xbox One, Xbox 360 games can take advantage of Xbox One features such as screenshots and streaming. Backwards compatibility also supports cross-platform multiplayer. Whether you play an Xbox 360 title on Xbox 360 or Xbox One, you will still be able to play with friends on either console.
The new guide gives Xbox One gamers the opportunity to access more functionality without leaving or even pausing a game. The guide allows users to view friends, notifications, view and respond to messages. According to the Xbox website, “You can access the Guide from Home by pressing left or double tap the Xbox button on your controller to instantly overlay the Guide.”  This functionality should save gamers time and make console interaction less distracting.
For social gamers, Microsoft has added a new Community section. The Community section is designed to help gamers interact with one another through Xbox Live. A redesigned Activity Feed makes it easy for gamers to see what their friends are doing, or view the latest updates for their favorite games.
OneGuide has been modified to be a single home for TV, movies and video apps. A list of trending live TV shows will be visible from OneGuide as another addition for social gamers. A picture-in-picture mode has been added for TV to improve multitasking without interrupting the show.
The New Xbox One Experience has been available to members of the Xbox One Preview program since around the middle of September. The Xbox One Preview program allows users to opt-in for early access to updates that are a work-in-progress. Microsoft is giving Preview members multiple options to update to the New Xbox One Experience before the official November 12 launch date.
Halo 5 and the Xbox One Elite controller both released on October 27. The Elite controller is a highly customizable controller that seeks to give gamers a more refined experience. The controller features many options, such as remappable buttons and modified sensitivity that can be adjusted via an app on the console. The Elite controller also has swappable analog sticks and a swappable d-pad.
With these releases and the New Xbox One Experience, Microsoft appear to be taking an early start towards the holiday season. Halo is typically one of Microsoft’s most popular franchises and a common fan favorite.

Myron Jones
Tech Columnist

eSports grip the country

The Electronic Sports League Mortal Kombat X Pro League Season 2 officially begins on November 1. Preseason started on October 18. Prizes include $1,000 weekly and $100,000 for finals.

For gamers, eSports can be a healthy way of bringing in supplemental income, as it turns a hobby into something profitable with a little effort.

In the case of Mortal Kombat, ESL Pro League is run online via Xbox One. Other games such as Rocket League have their ESL tournaments on Playstation 4 so there are opportunities on both consoles as well as PC.

eSports are a growing trend in North America thanks to the success of streaming services like Twitch, and the large number of views and subscribers on gaming based Youtube channels. Modern consoles have made it easier than ever for gamers to share their gaming experiences with the world.

eSports are not limited to online events. It is common for gaming stores and facilities to host offline events that yield opportunities for money as well. The fighting game community has tournaments all around the United States for varying amounts of money. The largest events, referred to as majors, often have large pot bonuses provided by sponsors for the most popular games.

The most recent Mortal Kombat major, SoCal Regionals 2015, included a $10,000 pot bonus to be added to the pool of money from tournament entries. Generally, games with the most competitors have the largest pots, unless there is a bonus added for a specific game. In the fighting game community, Street Fighter is generally considered to be the most popular.

In addition to fighting games, sports games are a major component of the growing eSports community in the United States. Tournaments for Madden also have large pools, though entry fees can sometimes be higher as well. Team-based shooters such as Call of Duty, or Gears of War, are also very common in the competitive scene.

Although eSports seem to be growing in America, the competitive scene in the Jacksonville area is smaller than that of Birmingham. In order to compete, it is likely that Jacksonville residents will have to travel, or find ways to host and operate their own events. Fortunately, success can also be found online thanks to ESL, MLG, and other eSports operators.

Myron Jones
Tech Columnist

The competitive gaming community is growing in North America, and is an opportunity for gamers of all ages to be involved in turning their personal hobby into something that can be enjoyed with others who have the same passion. With the fall of arcades in favor of home gaming consoles, the gaming community has been separated, but the internet and online game functionality are bringing gamers together once again.