Monday, November 18, 2019

Best alternatives to Skype 2019: paid and free - TechRadar

Best alternatives to Skype 2019: paid and free  TechRadar

Best alternatives to Skype 2019: paid and free - TechRadar

Best alternatives to Skype 2019: paid and free  TechRadar

Marek's Take: Who needs 5G when 47M U.S. customers still use 3G networks? - FierceWireless

Marek's Take: Who needs 5G when 47M U.S. customers still use 3G networks? - FierceWireless


Marek's Take: Who needs 5G when 47M U.S. customers still use 3G networks? - FierceWireless

Posted: 18 Nov 2019 05:39 AM PST

Marek's take

Early 5G deployments from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have so far focused on covering densely populated urban markets using millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. That high-band spectrum makes it possible for operators to deliver very high data speeds and lots of capacity, but only for a short distance. That's why operators are anxious to deploy 5G in mid-band and low-band spectrum that promises better coverage, capacity and lower latency.

But not all operators have access to clear low-band and mid-band spectrum, and the next auction of mid-band spectrum (the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum auction) is not expected to occur until June 2020. With that in mind, some operators are starting to re-use their 3G spectrum in the 800 MHz and 950 MHz bands for 4G LTE and ultimately 5G. 

Verizon said in a December 2018 SEC filing that it is "aggressively" refarming 3G bands for LTE. The company had originally hoped to sunset its 3G network by year-end, but recently said it will wait until December 2020 to give customers more time to move off its 3G network. Likewise, AT&T said in its December 2018 SEC filing that it was contemplating using its 3G spectrum for network upgrades. The company plans to sunset its 3G network in early 2022 but noted that about 11% of its postpaid customers were still using 3G. It didn't mention how many prepaid customers were on 3G.

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T-Mobile and Sprint haven't been as forthcoming when it comes to the retirement of their 3G networks. Sprint, which holds about 100 MHz of 2.5 GHz EBS and BRS spectrum in the top 100 markets, isn't under as much pressure to refarm its 3G spectrum. And T-Mobile, which is in the process of acquiring Sprint, is probably waiting for that deal to be finalized before it announces its 3G network retirement plans.

In GSMA Intelligence's 2019 Mobile Economy North America 2019 report, the trade association estimated that 17% of U.S. subscribers, or about 47.3 million, are still using 3G networks. A slightly older statistic from Cisco's Mobile VNI report said that in 2017 about 20.5 percent of all connections in the U.S. were on 3G networks.

That means that there are about 47.3 million wireless users that are getting by with circuit-switched voice services and data downloads speeds that max out at 3.1 Mbps.  

Where are all those 3G users? Many of them are customers of MVNOs. GoSmart Mobile started as a 3G-only MVNO, but it currently offers some 4G LTE data for free if users want to check Facebook. According to Jeff Moore, founder of Wave7 Research, GoSmart Mobile uses T-Mobile's 3G network. On its Web site, GoSmart Mobile advertises rate plans that start at $15 per month that include 250 Mb of 3G data.

GoSmart is part of TracFone Wireless, which is owned by América Móvil. Moore noted that when TracFone purchased GoSmart in 2016 GoSmart had about 300,000 customers.

But GoSmart isn't alone. Other MVNOs also offer 3G service. Ting Mobile says it provides service on GSM, HSPA and CDMA, as well as LTE.  Net10, another Tracfone sub-brand, still accepts devices that run on 3G spectrum bands.

It's also likely that some Lifeline customers are 3G users. Lifeline is the FCC's program to help make wireless services more affordable for low-income consumers. Lifeline provides subscribers with a discount on monthly cell service from participating providers, and its minimum guidelines call for customers to receive 3G data speeds. Not surprisingly, Lifeline providers include a lot of MVNOs such as Assurance Wireless, which is part of Sprint's prepaid brand Virgin Mobile. Sprint recently got into trouble with the FCC for falsely collecting government subsidies for 885,000 subscribers to the Lifeline program even though those customers were inactive and not using the service.  

U.S. operators and their MVNO partners might want to expedite their efforts on getting these 47.3 million subscribers off the 3G networks and upgraded to LTE. With all this talk of 5G use cases and the growing demand for higher speed mobile data, there are millions who are getting by minimal data speeds and lower quality voice services. 

Packet Brings its Bare Metal Edge Cloud and Sprint's Curiosity(TM) IoT Platform to EdgeConneX in Detroit - The Central Virginian

Posted: 18 Nov 2019 05:01 AM PST

HERNDON, Va., Nov. 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- EdgeConneX®, the pioneer in Edge Data Centers, announces that Packet, a bare metal cloud service provider, will deploy its platform at the EdgeConneX Edge Data Center in Detroit, Michigan. The site will enable expansion of the Sprint Curiosity™ IoT platform, the first fully virtualized wireless Evolved Packet Core (EPC) deployment, which runs on Packet's bare metal edge cloud infrastructure. The combination of Packet's Edge Cloud and the proximal data center solutions provided by EdgeConneX will benefit Detroit's growing autonomous vehicle and manufacturing sectors. Digital disruptors now have a hyper-local, scalable cloud and wireless framework at their fingertips. 

Packet's flexible bare metal automation, rapid "go anywhere" deployment model, and carrier-grade networking has positioned it as a leader in the edge computing market. With EdgeConneX providing access to high quality "in region" connectivity in Detroit, enterprises will be able to take advantage of Packet's bare metal Edge Cloud, as well as Sprint's Curiosity™ IoT product and IoT ecosystem for low-latency compute and wireless for real-world edge applications.  

"EdgeConneX is an ideal partner to help Packet bring the benefits of edge computing to Detroit, as well dozens of key markets globally," noted Zachary Smith, Packet's co-founder and CEO. "What makes this deployment special is that we're able to activate three key elements at once: bare metal cloud, rich local connectivity, and end-to-end wireless IoT services. It's like an edge computing triple play!"

"Curiosity™ IoT puts intelligence at the edge of the network by combining Curiosity™ Core, the first dedicated, distributed and virtualized IoT network — a network built for software — with Curiosity™ OS, an integrated IoT operating system," said Ivo Rook, senior vice president of IoT & product development for Sprint. "We are proud to be working with Packet and EdgeConneX to expand the Curiosity™ Core to Detroit, providing capabilities for network edge computing in the backyard of a city that is pushing boundaries in various industries. We look forward to the innovation that developers and companies will drive by utilizing our network built for software."

By localizing data acquisition and control functions, as well as the storage and processing of high bandwidth content in close proximity to the device edge, users can experience a more elastic, flexible, relatively proximate Edge – minimizing distance and capacity constraints of traditional Internet architecture.

"Our research reveals that edge execution venues are rapidly growing in popularity for IoT workloads driven by security, cost, performance, or data sovereignty considerations," said Brian Partridge, research vice president, 451 Research. "When we compare the results from our Voice of the Enterprise: IOT surveys in 2017 vs. 2019, the number of respondents processing IoT data on nearby IT equipment has jumped from 22% to 39%, nearly doubling. This increasing demand can be met readily by new 'edge innovators' like Sprint, Packet, and EdgeConneX."

"Given the rapid surge in the volume, velocity and variety of data, we will witness rapid growth of infrastructure being built at the Edge," stated Phillip Marangella, Chief Marketing Officer at EdgeConneX. "Packet's deployment in Detroit is emblematic of the future demands at the Edge where emerging applications and workloads like IoT or Autonomous Vehicles are highly latency sensitive and require very proximate compute resources. We are honored to be selected by Packet to help support its customers' local requirements in Detroit and other Edge markets across our global data center platform."

For more information about EdgeConneX and its leading Edge of network infrastructure solutions for expanding and improving access to data, content and communications anywhere, anytime, at any scale, visit edgeconnex.com or email info@edgeconnex.com.

About EdgeConneX:
EdgeConneX provides a full range of data center solutions worldwide, from Hyperlocal to Hyperscale, from purpose-built to build-to-order, working closely with our customers to offer choice in location, scale, and type of facility. Delivering flexibility, connectivity, proximity, and value, EdgeConneX is a global leader in anytime, anywhere, any scale data center services for a diverse portfolio of industries including Content, Cloud, Networks, Gaming, Automotive, SaaS, IoT, HPC, Security, and more.

Empower Your Edge® with EdgeConneX. For more information, please visit edgeconnex.com.

About Packet
Packet is the go-to cloud partner for today's leading developers, empowering SaaS companies and Fortune 100's alike to make infrastructure their competitive advantage with automated bare metal that can be deployed anywhere.  With 20+ global public cloud locations, a seamless API experience, and the ability to manage custom hardware on-premises or at thousands of edge sites, Packet is ideal for both traditional and cloud native workloads. Learn more at www.packet.com.

About Sprint
Sprint (NYSE: S) is a communications services company that creates more and better ways to connect its customers to the things they care about most. Sprint served 53.9 million connections as of September 30, 2019 and is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including the first wireless 4G service from a national carrier in the United States; leading no-contract brands including Virgin Mobile USA, Boost Mobile, and Assurance Wireless; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone. Today, Sprint's legacy of innovation and service continues with an increased investment to dramatically improve coverage, reliability, and speed across its nationwide network and commitment to launching a 5G mobile network in the U.S. You can learn more and visit Sprint at www.sprint.com or www.facebook.com/sprint and www.twitter.com/sprint.

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Trump administration extends reprieve allowing limited tech exports to Huawei - Washington Post

Trump administration extends reprieve allowing limited tech exports to Huawei - Washington Post


Trump administration extends reprieve allowing limited tech exports to Huawei - Washington Post

Posted: 18 Nov 2019 01:33 PM PST

In order to purchase replacement parts and software from Huawei, rural telecom companies need to issue purchase orders containing technical information, which counts as a technology export, according to the Rural Wireless Association, a trade group to which many rural telecoms belong.

Giving them temporary permission to continue these transactions "will allow carriers to continue to service customers in some of the most remote areas of the United States who would otherwise be left in the dark," said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

The United States banned tech exports to Huawei in May, adding the Chinese company to a trade blacklist. The Trump administration views Huawei as a security risk because it believes the Chinese government could tap into Huawei network gear installed abroad to spy on the West or disrupt infrastructure. U.S. officials have provided few public details to back up these concerns, which Huawei calls unfounded.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the extension of the trading window. "If President Trump and his Commerce Department agree that Huawei is a national security threat, they should start acting like it," he said in a statement. "Every day President Trump is soft on Huawei, the Chinese Communist Party takes that as a signal that they can continue hurting American jobs and threatening our national security without any repercussions."

In addition to the export ban, the Trump administration is cracking down on Huawei in other ways.

On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote on a proposal to block U.S. telecom and Internet companies from receiving federal subsidies if they buy foreign equipment from companies deemed to pose a security threat, including Huawei and fellow Chinese equipment maker ZTE. Rural telecom companies rely on these subsidies to make ends meet.

The FCC will also discuss a new proposal to require subsidy recipients to remove any existing Huawei or ZTE equipment from their networks.

Pine Telephone Company, which uses Huawei equipment in its network in rural Oklahoma, said the 90-day reprieve to continue trading with Huawei is useless if the government ultimately intends to order companies to rip out all Huawei gear.

"You want me to go buy more stuff that you're going to ask me to rip out? Let's make up our minds," Jerry Whisenhunt, general manager of Pine, said by telephone Monday. He said he is purposely avoiding spending money on Huawei software upgrades for his equipment because he fears he'll have to stop using the gear soon.

Beyond the trade allowed by the 90-day reprieve, most other U.S. tech sales to Huawei are still banned, although some U.S. companies say they are continuing to supply Huawei with parts that they say don't violate the prohibition. The ban applies to technology made in the United States, and to products made overseas that derive more than 25 percent of their value from U.S.-origin technology.

Dozens of U.S. companies have asked the Commerce Department for special licenses that would excuse them from the ban and allow them to keep selling computer chips, software and other parts to Huawei. The Chinese company is one of the world's largest sellers of telecom network gear and smartphones, and was a large buyer of U.S. technology before the trade ban.

U.S. companies seeking licenses have argued they should be able to sell Huawei parts for use in consumer technology such as smartphones, which they argue doesn't threaten U.S. national security.

The fate of these license requests is unclear. Early this month Commerce Secretary Ross said the agency "very shortly" would approve "quite a few" of the 260 license applications it had received. But lawyers familiar with the matter say no licenses have yet been granted.

President Trump has suggested Huawei's fate is tied up in the trade talks Washington is conducting with Beijing. Despite calling Huawei a threat, Trump has suggested that the United States could ease up on the company as part of a larger deal.

He Was Murdered in a Hate Crime. She Brought His Blood-Soaked Phone Back to Life. - VICE

Posted: 18 Nov 2019 07:16 AM PST

This article appears in VICE Magazine's 2019 Profiles Issue. This edition looks to the future by zeroing in on the underrecognized writers, scientists, musicians, critics, and more that will shape our world next year. They are "the Other 2020" to watch. Click HERE to subscribe to the print edition.

It was around two in the morning when Jessa Jones began to feel like the blood-soaked iPhone in her possession was a lost cause. The microsolderer had spent hours holed up in her repair shop, painstakingly cleaning and replacing rice-size chips on the phone's logic board and fixing a tiny electrical problem affecting its power button. But when she pressed that button, the device still wouldn't turn on.

"I was exhausted, and I was feeling kinda hopeless about this phone," Jones said. "I was pretty close to saying this is beyond what I can recover."

Jones is a world-renowned phone fixer, but this was far from an ordinary repair job. The device she was working on that night in May of 2017 belonged to Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old Indian man who was fatally shot earlier that year in a bar in Olathe, Kansas, a horrific hate crime that drew national attention. The phone was likely in Kuchibhotla's pocket when Adam Purinton, a white man, began hurling racial slurs at him and another Indian national named Alok Madasani, shouting "Get out of my country!" before opening fire. (Madasani was injured but survived.) By the time the police recovered the device from Kuchibhotla's body, it was drenched in his blood.

Several months later, Kuchibhotla's wife, Sunayana Dumala, took the phone to a local repair shop, desperate to boot it up so she could access some final snapshots of her husband's life. A technician, Dumala says, took one look at the device and knew he wouldn't be able to help. But he told her that Jones, who runs a gadget repair shop in the tiny upstate New York town of Honeoye Falls, just might.

Dumala shipped the phone off to New York almost immediately.

Our smartphones are practically extensions of our bodies these days, but we treat them as if they're disposable. We trade them in when the screen gets cracked; we discard last year's model for that shiny new one with slightly better specs or a new selfie camera. We do this, in part, because the companies that make our phones frequently tell us they cannot be fixed: The cost is too high, the internal circuitry too complex for our simple minds to fathom. Instead of being encouraged to try, we're told to replace.

Jones will tell you that's bullshit.

A mother of four with a PhD in molecular genetics, Jones has become an unlikely leader in a growing community of microsolderers. These are fixers who aren't just swapping cracked screens and dead batteries, but who are more like physicians, diagnosing and repairing tiny electrical problems on the motherboard (or logic board, as Apple calls it). This is the beating heart of your device, containing chips and circuitry responsible for many essential functions. In a matter of minutes, a skilled microsolderer can fix a short circuit on an iPhone that fell in the bathtub, and by doing so she can bring the device back from the dead—something Apple frequently tells customers is impossible.

But Jones doesn't limit herself to simple short circuits. She'll revive phones that have been through hell: phones that were run over by a car; recovered from the wreckage of a crashed airplane; bathed in the blood of a dead owner. She goes to great lengths to do so not because these devices will necessarily be used again, but because someone's last memories are locked away inside. In the case of iPhones, which have had their data encrypted since the release of iOS 8, the only way to recover those memories is to boot up the phone and enter the passcode.

For those who've lost precious photos, videos, or messages, getting those digital mementos can be a profound experience.

"People cry about it, all the time," said Joe Ham, a microsolderer whose Washington State repair shop, Gadget Genie, is one of the few shops that can do complex data recovery jobs from Apple devices. "They say, I really need this, I've taken it to three other shops, you're my only chance." Ham, who's been fixing gadgets his whole life, credited Jones with giving him the confidence to launch a microsoldering business after he flew across the country to learn from her.

Jones didn't set out to fix tiny computer circuits for a living. But after she left her job teaching college biology to become a stay-at-home mom, she had some time on her hands. When her sons started cracking iPad screens, Jones watched online repair videos and learned how to replace them. When her then-toddler-age twin girls dropped her iPhone 4S in the toilet, Jones took the toilet outside, sledgehammered it open, retrieved the phone, and decided to fix it.

That decision would change her life.

After she swapped the phone's battery and charge port, the phone still wouldn't hold a charge. Eventually "it became clear that it was a motherboard problem," Jones said. "And it just seemed like it had to be a solvable problem."

Jones purchased soldering equipment and a microscope and began tinkering with other dead devices. It took over two years and countless hours on repair forums, but eventually, she got the toilet phone working again. By the time she did, Jones was pretty good at repairing lots of common phone problems and had launched MommyFixit, a mail-in repair service she operated out of her dining room. Soon, Jones was drafting other stay-at-home moms to help her run the business.

"Moms are super capable," Jones said. "And they're really good at fixing phones."

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In 2015, Jones, along with fellow mom-fixers Sunday Thomson and Christy Dryden and another microsolderer named Mark Shaffer, moved into a derelict shop at the corner of downtown Honeoye Falls' lone stoplight intersection and rebranded themselves as iPad Rehab. They've been there ever since, using their specialized skills to fix smartphones and tablets from all over the world. Once a month, Jones teaches a practical board repair class out of the shop, and in doing so has spread her knowledge to hundreds of other fixers. She teaches far more on her repair-focused YouTube channel, which has amassed 130,000 subscribers since its launch around the start of 2015.

"She doesn't just fix stuff, she teaches others how to fix stuff," said Gay Gordon-Burne, the executive director of the grassroots trade organization the Repair Association. "Which means there's more skill out there than there ever was before."

Jones isn't just a teacher, but a voice for the community she's helped build. She's a vocal proponent of right-to-repair, the simple idea that if you own a device, you should be allowed to fix it. It's a stance that frequently puts Jones at odds with Apple, a company that has become notorious for its anti-repair stances. For years, it refused to sell parts and share information with unauthorized repair shops (and authorized shops are prohibited from doing any of the logic board repairs Jones offers), forcing independent and DIY fixers to rely on aftermarket parts that can vary in quality and, in the case of microsolderers, on board schematics that were leaked to the internet. As Apple lobbies against right-to-repair legislation and repeatedly introduces updates aimed at spooking its customers out of attempting repairs at home, Jones fights back, advocating at state houses, testifying as an expert witness in iPhone repair cases, and repeatedly calling the company out on her YouTube channel when she feels Apple is spreading misinformation about what can be fixed.

Data recovery is a common example. Jones said she frequently gets customers who've been told by an Apple employee that the data on their water-damaged phone or tablet is unrecoverable. Or the customer may have been directed to DriveSavers, a company that originally specialized in hard-drive data recovery, where customers sometimes are quoted upwards of $1,000 to get photos off iPhones. (When I called DriveSavers' customer service line and asked how much it would cost to recover photos and videos from a water-damaged iPhone, a representative told me it would be in the $700 to $1,900 range and "probably in the upper third.") Jones charges $300 for a basic data recovery job.

"How many people were told 'Kiss those pictures goodbye, there's nothing you can do'?" Jones said. "I don't know, but it's a huge number, and that's really sad."

"This is exactly why right-to-repair exists," said Nathan Proctor, who heads up the U.S. Public Interest Research Group's Right to Repair campaign. "So that there can exist a market for repair outside of what manufacturers want to offer people."

When I reached out to Apple to ask what sort of help it could offer a customer who wanted to recover data from a dead device, a spokesperson sent me a list of links to Apple support pages detailing how to back up your working iPhone and to Apple repair services (none of which mentioned data recovery). Apple declined to comment on record about independent repair shops that offer data recovery services.

Jones has a quick smile and a matter-of-fact demeanor that puts you at ease right away. Her shop is equally inviting; the front is styled like a parlor room with a dining table, a thrift store couch, and an array of beverage options available for clients. A painting of Mona Lisa holding an iPad, done by Jones' husband, hangs near the entrance. When I visited on a cold, rain-soaked October morning, I was offered a cup of hot tea and escorted to the back. There, the homemaker's façade gave way to a maverick's laboratory of microscopes, soldering stations, multimeters, and DC power supplies. At every workbench, phones and tablets sat in various stages of dissection.

Jones had pulled together some case studies for my visit: phones that were sent to the shop for data recovery after they died. There was an iPhone that a woman in California accidentally ran through the washing machine for five minutes. The phone was dead, and she had lost all her kids' baby pictures. An iPhone from Nebraska had also taken a bath and died, taking out a year's worth of family photos with it.

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As we opened up the phones to look at their logic boards, Jones talked me through the process of diagnosis and repair. She did so with the clarity of a doctor telling a patient about their latest lab results and the enthusiasm of a high school science teacher. "This is very much like science," Jones said. "It's troubleshooting, pattern recognition, and experiments. It's also fast and doesn't take months. So that's why I love it."

Some of the phones we dissected had neat and tidy solutions, like an iPhone 6S that had a single short circuit preventing it from powering on. Having seen this problem many times before, Jones immediately zeroed in on the sand-grain-size capacitor that was causing trouble, tweezed it out, and booted up the phone. Other cases weren't so straightforward. We examined a water-damaged iPhone that had important chips stripped from its logic board, meaning somebody had been working on it before it was sent in. Jones spent about an hour attempting to wind the clock backward from that prior repair attempt, but eventually concluded the phone likely wouldn't be recoverable.

There are so many data recovery jobs with similar stories—water damage or a bad drop; lost pictures of a newborn baby or grandma's birthday—that they blur together in Jones' mind. But iPad Rehab also receives devices from parents whose child committed suicide; from families who lost a loved one in a tragic accident. Working to restore these phones can be painful, but they're also some of the most rewarding jobs Jones gets.

A few years back, a Rochester native named Peter Lovenheim brought in a phone that belonged to his sister, Jane Glazer. The device had been recovered by divers at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea, where Glazer and her husband's private plane crashed in September 2014, killing them both. Lovenheim had sent the phone to a different repair shop first, which told him it was impossible to recover. Another company he called said to not even bother sending it in. When he discovered Jones' shop, based locally for him, he drove over and dropped off the phone.

Within a couple of days, he said, her team had recovered the data.

"It was astounding," Lovenheim said. "She was able to give us scores of photos." One of the final photos ever taken of his sister is now sitting framed on a dresser in his house.

Last year Jones' shop received another plane crash case. In late February of 2018, Bill Kaupp, a 64-year-old private pilot from Alberta, took a small aircraft out for a spin along with his 28-year-old son, his best friend, and his son's best friend. It was supposed to be a quick test flight, but something went horribly wrong, and the plane crashed just west of the Colorado border in Utah. Nobody on board survived.

Several days later, two iPads that Kaupp used for navigation were discovered cracked, smeared with dirt, and buried in snow amid the wreckage. It seemed "pointless" to try to fix them, said Lindsay Magill, Kaupp's 38-year-old daughter. But she tried anyway. One of the tablets turned out to be a lost cause—the memory chip was damaged. But Jones' team was able to recover the other, which contained photos and videos of Kaupp with his grandchildren in Montana just days before the accident.

"I can't express my gratitude enough to Jessa," Magill said. "There's no replacing the videos and pictures she recovered for us. And it's something his grandchildren will have for the rest of their lives."

Every phone that Jones brings back from the dead shines a little more light into a life someone wants to remember. For Jones herself, Kuchibhotla's story may be the most unforgettable.

Born in Hyderabad, India, Srinivas Kuchibhotla came to America for a master's in electrical engineering at the University of Texas, El Paso. There, he started a long-distance relationship with Sunayana Dumala, who was from the same hometown.

"For me he was the perfect guy," Dumala said. "He would add humor to a discussion when it was required. He would be the most mature guy in the group when it comes to giving opinions. He was caring, humble, always respectful of others."

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In 2012, the two got married in India and moved in together in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Kuchibhotla worked as an engineer at an avionics company. About a year later, Kuchibhotla was offered a job at Garmin, and so the couple packed up and moved to Olathe, a suburb of Kansas City where the company is headquartered. Kuchibhotla quickly became part of the community, joining a cricket league and playing pool with his co-workers at happy hours.The couple bought a lot and built a house, where they eventually planned to raise their kids.

That dream ended when Kuchibhotla's life was taken at a bar on the night of February 22, 2017.

When Jones received the phone that had been with Kuchibhotla in his final moments, she was hit with a torrent of emotion. There was no escaping the fact that this device was only in her hands because of an act of brutal violence.

"I can remember a thick, heavy feeling from the history of that phone, that just filled the room," Jones said. "This was filled with a human being's blood from the night that he died. And it was really hard not to just burst into tears."

The phone was so drenched with blood that Jones had to spend several hours cleaning the logic board in an ultrasonic bath before she could work on it. Once she'd gotten it as clean as she could, she sat down at her workbench, turned on a livestream, and began examining the phone under the microscope.

Jones removed chip after chip from the logic board and discovered that every one was still caked with blood on the other side. After she cleaned and replaced a number of critical chips and spent a while troubleshooting a power issue on a critical line, the phone still wouldn't turn on. It was well past midnight, and Jones was nearing the end of her rope.

Every phone that Jones brings back from the dead shines a little more light into a life someone wants to remember.

About to give up, she decided to try one last thing. Jones had been attempting to boot up the phone using the power button, but an iPhone can also be prompted to boot by connecting it to a USB device. So she did that. Somewhat miraculously, the phone started to boot. When Jones connected a screen, it was responsive to touch, meaning a passcode could be entered. She had a path to its data.

"It was just really amazing," Jones said. "I really had been very close to actually saying it's not responsive, and I've replaced this whole board."

The next day, Jones and Thomson together called Dumala to tell her they'd restored the phone and extracted all the photos. "We were in tears, she was in tears," Jones said. "You couldn't help it. And she was just, at the time, super grateful [to have] this little win in this horrible situation."

"The way they handled it just spoke volumes about them," Dumala said. "How they take it personally. I think, no wonder iPad Rehab is run by women, because we know the value of relationships and memories. It's not just data. It's the human value."

Dumala still lives in the house she and Kuchibhotla built. Because she was a dependent on her husband's visa, she had to apply for a new one after he was killed, and in doing so was bumped to the back of India's astronomically long immigration line. All the years she spent waiting to become a citizen with her husband were lost; she now has to start over.

But Kansas has become Dumala's home, and she's not leaving. When she's not working, she advocates for immigration reform. She started a Facebook page, Forever Welcome, to honor her husband's memory, share immigrant stories with her community, and spread a message of unity and acceptance. She's planning to turn it into a foundation.

The phone that Jones repaired sits on Kuchibhotla's nightstand.

How Amazon’s counterfeit problem reached a bird feeder manufacturer in Rhode Island - Marketplace APM

Posted: 18 Nov 2019 12:37 PM PST

In 2016, Trisha Torres, vice president of a small Rhode Island-based company, received a phone call from a customer.

Her company, Aspects, makes bird feeders, and this customer had bought what Amazon had listed as an "Aspects" hummingbird feeder.

Trisha Torres of Aspects, which manufactures specialty lawn and garden products in Warren, Rhode Island. (John Happel/Marketplace)

"It's a clear bowl that holds the nectar for the hummingbirds to feed from, and then there's a red cover that kind of just snaps on the top," Torres said. "And what happened was it just was not snapping on."

Aspects products come with a lifetime guarantee. Torres told the customer to send the feeder back. She then sent it to her supplier in Massachusetts, who called Torres the following day.

"They came back to us with: 'We didn't make this,'" Torres said.

The hummingbird feeder was a fake, albeit a convincing one. It even had her company's name and phone number on it.

Aspects' hummingbird feeders: the imitation (l) and the real deal (r). (John Happel/Marketplace)

"A lot of sleepless nights started with that phone call, saying: 'how did this happen?'" she said. "And, 'What do we do now?'"

Torres checked Amazon and realized there were a lot more fakes. She ordered some and could see the giveaways: a word spelled wrong, faded packaging. But customers would never know the difference — until the product started to fall apart.

When we think of Amazon, "we have in our minds the image of a giant warehouse, from which initially, books, and later everything we could possibly want in life, flows to us directly," said Susan Scafidi, director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University.

"But, in fact, any number of sellers are selling products on Amazon that Amazon never touches, has no control over."

Even when these products are delivered by Amazon, the retailer doesn't detect that they are fake. 

"Third-party" companies use Amazon as a sales platform; they're a huge part of Amazon's business model. In 2018, almost 60% of Amazon's product sales came from third parties.

They sell fake Louis Vuitton iPhone cases, fake sneakers, fake t-shirts, fake dietary supplements, and fake bird feeders.

Torres tried to figure out what to do next. Aspects has been in business for 40 years, and it holds multiple trademarks and patents.

She called in the company's patent lawyer. Aspects went on to pay nearly $10,000 to file its existing trademarks in the databases for U.S. and Chinese customs.

A couple of months later, officials blocked a container of 3,800 counterfeit Aspects products headed from China to an address in the Bronx. Then another container.

Aspects has fewer than 20 employees and brings in less than $10 million in sales per year. (John Happel/Marketplace)

Even so, Aspects kept getting phone calls from disgruntled Amazon customers who thought they had bought its products. They would complain, for instance, that the suction cups on their bird feeders stopped sticking.

"People will just be like: 'Well, just send me the suction cup, just send me the suction cups,'" Torres said. "And I'm like: 'OK, we can, but the problem is I'm replacing parts, now, for a product that I didn't manufacture.' You know, it's like a snowball effect."

Aspects' customers service representatives would tell callers that the company didn't make the product and that they should return it to Amazon. That didn't go over well.

"Their knee-jerk reaction was that we were just being dishonest and not standing behind that lifetime guarantee," Torres said.

An Aspects employee uses a stencil to screen print details onto window thermometers. (John Happel/Marketplace)

Torres says the ordeal has done irreparable damage to Aspects' reputation. She estimates that her company has lost about $1.5 million dollars in sales to counterfeits on Amazon over the past few years — roughly 4% of its revenue in the same period. 

The company has asked Amazon to intervene, Torres said, and the retail platform does take down listings of counterfeit products. But, she said, it's a game of whack-a-mole. 

"Joe Bad Guy can already have started another storefront by the next day," she said.

Amazon declined an interview but said in a statement that it blocked more than three billion suspected "bad listings" from its site last year.

Companies have sued Amazon, saying it doesn't do enough to keep counterfeits off its site. So far, though, courts have been reluctant to hold Amazon responsible.

4 Free Ways Local Businesses Can Get Found By More Customers in “Near Me” Searches - Business 2 Community

Posted: 18 Nov 2019 02:04 PM PST

The internet has turned local business on its head, giving rise to e-commerce companies like Amazon that compete with mom-and-pop shops in just about every retail category. The silver lining is that the mobile web has also made it easier than ever for people to search, find, and spend at local businesses.

In today's economy, mobile searching is driving local spending, even for brick-and-mortar shops. Consider this: Nearly 3 in 4 consumers visit a store within 5 miles of their location after doing a "near me" search, and 28% of these searches result in a purchase. Try as they might, internet retailers can't provide everything consumers want, especially when folks are driving around and want something now.

Local search is one of a growing number of free local advertising options for small businesses. It's no longer necessary to outspend competitors on traditional advertising to attract new customers. For most local businesses, a few simple steps will ensure that people can find you organically precisely when they're looking for the products or services you offer.

Claim your free business listings

Try this experiment sometime. Open a web browser on your smartphone and search for a restaurant, plumber, hair stylist, or auto mechanic in your town. What shows up in the search results? Chances are, you get a heavy dose of business listings from Google, Yelp, or similar review sites.

Your business probably has a listing on these sites whether or not you created one. If you don't claim these free listings, you're missing out on opportunities to attract new customers. This simple step could help your business earn 58% more money.

Claim your listings on all the relevant sites and make sure your business name, address, and phone number are accurate and consistent across all platforms. Post quality pictures and reply promptly to customer reviews. Make sure you complete your profile entirely and fill in every data point you can. Ensure that your hours of operation are correct and keep all your business information up to date and aligned with what's on your website and social media profiles.

Get and reply to more online reviews

Search engines like Google and Bing use a bunch of criteria to decide which websites they serve up in response to search queries. For local businesses, online reviews make up about 10% of the equation.

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Your business is more likely to get found in local searches if you have more online reviews and review replies. This means you should encourage your customers to leave online reviews for your business as often as possible on sites like Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor (but never buy fake reviews). Be sure to respond to your reviews.

In addition to bolstering your local SEO presence, online review management is just a good business practice. Research shows that local businesses with above-average review counts earn 54% more, and people spend 49% more at businesses that reply to reviews.

Start a blog

When it comes to getting found online, content is definitely king. Blogging takes a little commitment, but it's a proven way to show up in more internet search results and create awareness with potential customers.

There are lots of sophisticated SEO practices to optimize your blogging efforts, but start simple before trying to optimize your blog. As a first step, create a list of things your customers would search for online that relate to your business. Then, see which topics you can offer advice on through a blog post.

Let's say you're the owner or manager of a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) business. You know the common questions your customers ask during service calls. It's not hard to imagine that many more people ask Google for answers to those same questions before — or instead of — calling you.

If you notice that lots of customers in your area are asking about the benefits of whole-home humidifiers, for example, then write a blog post with your thoughts and advice. Make sure you include a clear way for people to contact you (email, phone number, and a contact form) if they want to learn more or enlist your services, since your blog post might be their first introduction to you and your business.

Create location-specific content

Here's a great tip for accounting for location-based searches on your website: write unique content for every business location.

Search engines use "on-page" cues, like the words you write on your website, to determine if your page is what searchers are looking for. So, if you run a cafe in San Francisco, you need to include phrases like "best cafes in San Francisco" and key variations in the headings, sub-headings, and body copy of your website.

(Pro tip: Don't go overboard and start keyword stuffing, as that can lead to penalties and hurt your search engine rankings.)

Best alternatives to Skype 2019: paid and free - TechRadar

Best alternatives to Skype 2019: paid and free  TechRadar

Best alternatives to Skype 2019: paid and free - TechRadar

Best alternatives to Skype 2019: paid and free  TechRadar

How VoIP is Changing the Way Businesses Communicate - MarketScale Industries

How VoIP is Changing the Way Businesses Communicate - MarketScale Industries


How VoIP is Changing the Way Businesses Communicate - MarketScale Industries

Posted: 13 Nov 2019 02:43 AM PST

With the rapid evolution of digital technology, workplaces have seen seismic changes both to the systems they use and their day-to-day operations. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the field of telecommunications.

Over the past 20 years, Voice over IP (VoIP) has been gradually replacing the public switched telephone network (PSTN) as the voice communications infrastructure for businesses, their suppliers, and customers.

If your business isn't already using VoIP or you're looking for a viable telephone service, it's important to know how VoIP is changing the workplace. Let's take a look.

What is VoIP and how does it work?

VoIP technology uses a broadband internet connection to make a phone call, rather than using a traditional phone line. It allows you to make a call directly from a computer, an IP phone, or a traditional phone connected to a special adapter. 

When a call is placed, a VoIP service breaks the voice down into digital signals that travel across the internet as data – much in the same way an email does. On reaching their destination, signals are repackaged and the speaker's voice is heard by the receiver, in a way that sounds no different to a traditional telephone conversation.

This service can be delivered via a cloud-based system or via an onsite solution.

More businesses than ever are switching to VoIP and for some very good reasons.

(Perceived) Limitations of VoIP

Despite the obvious benefits, there are still factors making businesses reluctant to move to a VoIP service. But a lot of the reservations surrounding VoIP are based on historical experiences from when limitations in the technology inhibited its functionality.

Reservations regarding audio quality were a real concern when VoIP was in its infancy. Nothing quite matched up to the reliable sound produced by those much-trusted physical phone lines. 

VoIP was thought to be inferior and costly compared to existing telephone systems and was mainly used by tech hobbyists who were interested in novel ideas – your 'early adopters'.

With the broadband industry revolutionized, however, everything has changed. VoIP now has advanced technologies in place to provide perfect call quality.

As the current and evolving technology brings enhanced performance, easy installation and stress-free migration, the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks that VoIP may present.

VoIP also offers the foundations for a fully unified communications platform, which make businesses more communicative, collaborative, and free to focus on their company goals.

How can a business migrate to VoIP?

On-site VoIP

While VoIP is a no-brainer for many businesses in search of a viable telephone service, most established businesses will already house some sort of legacy phone system. 

This, however, is not a limitation for VoIP as there are several ways the service can be operated, allowing all businesses to get on board.

For those with a legacy system, one option is to deploy VoIP onsite. This means installing the software on company servers and keeping control of the system in-house.

A limitation of onsite service, however, is that it still heavily relies on both hardware and system maintenance, both of which present large and recurring costs that must be budgeted for.

Cloud-based solutions

The alternative to onsite VoIP installation is the use of a cloud-based platform, otherwise known as hosted VoIP or hosted PBX.

As the name would suggest, hosted VoIP is deployed outside of an organization. Rather than maintaining phone system software on a PBX in the office, businesses subscribe to another company's data centre to do this for them.

With increased mobility, cost reduction, less hardware, and ease of scalability, cloud-based VoIP is the game-changer of voice communications and it will only continue to improve.

Hybrid VoIP

For businesses with a legacy telephone system, and who might be considering an on-site VoIP service, there is the option to use the two together. This way, you benefit from the advantages of advanced VoIP technology and pave the way for increased use in the future.

Businesses can migrate to a hybrid telephone system where they use a VoIP cloud-based solution but make calls with their existing telephone hardware. This way, old systems can be repurposed but without the need to install in-house hardware or software. 

The Future of VoIP

With the 5G network entering the mainstream, ultrafast mobile internet will become even more affordable. This will see an increase in the use of mobile unified communication. Businesses will increasingly use app-based virtual numbers for calls, conferencing, and team meetings.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also going to transform customer experiences. Customers are accustomed to virtual assistants such as Amazon's Alexa in their daily lives. AI will continue to make call centers more efficient by quickly answering common questions and working on automated tasks in the background.

The day has finally come to say goodbye to the plain old telephone system – affectionately known as POTS. VoIP has well and truly changed the face of business communications, and watch this space – there's a lot more to come. 

Author bio: Sam O'Brien is the Senior Website Optimization & User Experience Manager for EMEA at RingCentral, a global UCaaS systems provider. Sam has a passion for innovation and loves exploring ways to collaborate more with dispersed teams. He has written for websites such as BambooHR and Vault.

Email: sam.obrien@ringcentral.com