HDTV in Los Angeles

I haven’t written about my HDTV experience since moving to Southern California in 2012. After a year with cable TV, the value proposition wasn’t there and I dropped the TV. Now that I’m a cord-cutter for the second time around, here is my take on HDTV in Los Angeles.

In one word – SELECTION!

I went back to my old favorite HDTV antenna which is the Terk HDTVa. Once I connected the antenna and placed it on a shelf, the fun really begins. Upon the initial scan, I had 150 channels. About 10% of them were duplicates and I noticed the duplicates were shopping channels such as HSN and QVC.

Asian programming is king here. LA 18 has 10 channels of Asian programming. Most of the other stations have some form of Asian programming. My two current favorites are NHK World on 28.4 and Arirang on 44.5. There is a Filipino-American channel on 31.3 but this channel runs mostly Net25 shows from the Philippines.

KCET is the ex-PBS affiliate. Now, KLCS is the primary PBS affiliate in Southern California although I can pick up the PBS SoCal station too. Some of the sub-channels are very good.

Nostalgia channels are big here too. NBC 4 has COZI-TV, KTLA 5.2 has Antenna TV, and KDOC 56.3 has MeTV. RTV is on 8.1 but I can’t pick it up here in Orange County.

Going from the #2 most diverse HDTV market to #1 was very easy. I look forward to searching for more channels as they become available.

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Updates on KitKat and the Note 3

A week has passed since the KitKat upgrade and the Verizon Galaxy Note 3 is going strong. I have researched a few items, tested a few others, and here are the results.

iBolt dock – works the same as on Android 4.2. The associations are still the same and the iBolt dock app still functions. No real changes between 4.2 and 4.4.2.

ISIS App – During the upgrade whatever was stored (think ssh handshake and keys) must have been deleted. After the upgrade, I had to log back into the app with the username and password. Once that happened, I was able to use the app. Today, I was finally able to use the ISIS tap-to-pay function and it worked. Apparently, upon the first purchase there is a key exchange between the app and the secure element in the SIM card. Then the purchase went through. This exchange took about 6 to 10 seconds to complete from placing the phone on the card terminal and the familiar beep when the information gets to the terminal. Now that I made my first purchase, I should be able to use the ISIS app like before.

Financial Apps – please check them after you upgrade (especially ISIS) and any app using a pattern instead of username and password to authenticate. Be careful because 4.4.2 will erase some information from apps and keep other information. Please keep this in mind.

Emergency Alerts – new app which controls the Emergency Alerts. Under 4.2, the Emergency Alerts settings were under the main settings app. Now, the alert settings are under their own app. The app icon is a solid red triangle with a yellow exclamation point in the middle.

Be careful with the upgrade. Also, make sure to use a good password manager on your phone. It will come in handy when setting up the apps after the upgrade.

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Some more fun with KitKat and the Note 3

So far, the Note 3 is liking KitKat. After rebooting the phone once after the update everything appears to run faster. I did have to update a few apps from the Play store but other than that the phone is running very well.

The split screen window does not exhibit any issues. All of the apps are running faster. I don’t have games loaded on the phone so I can’t gauge the gaming performance of the phone. Also, I haven’t seen any problems playing videos from YouTube or other sites.

I still have to test the compatibility with my iBolt dock. I noticed some issues with the Note 3 versus the S3 and I know there may be some differences between the different Android software versions. Once I get the phone on the dock I’ll see what happens.

There is no noticeable issue with the Bluetooth either. I need to see how it works with a modern radio. My experience with the Note 3 and the Microsoft Sync on a Ford Taurus was very good. I’ll try the syncing on a newer Ford vehicle and see if there are any changes. One of the concerns I have is with the new Fusion and the Sony radio. I would like to see if there are any significant differences between KitKat and 4.2 concerning the Ford radios.

Overall, the Android 4.4.2 update from Verizon has worked very well. I expect another update in the next six months to address other small issues which crop up from time to time. When I picked up the Note 3 in November 2013, there were two software updates before KitKat. I expect another two updates before Christmas.

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Sears is closing in Laguna Hills

The local Sears store in Laguna Hills (as part of Laguna Hills Mall) will close in July. The mall will be refurbished into an outdoor mall plaza.

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Verizon Galaxy Note 3 and Android KitKat

This afternoon, my phone rebooted and when it came back, there was a notice of a software update. Could it be KitKat has arrived for the Galaxy Note 3 on Verizon? The phone completed the update in 15 minutes.

Here are the initial differences:

  • Verizon Splash screen changed from black Verizon logo on white background to white Verizon logo on red background. Every time the phone reboots Verizon lets you know who’s Big Red!
  • Battery symbol changes from green to black and white. This is also true for the 4GLTE and WiFi indicators
  • Voice Mail app is updated and you now have the option to participate in Basic Visual Voice mail.

It looks like most of the apps are still in place. However, I do expect to remove the AppOps app as it is no longer useful on KitKat.

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Retail Dead Pool – Coldwater Creek

I’m starting a new category for postings which concern retailers that are going out of business. This morning, it was announced that Coldwater Creek filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection according to this story. Going-out-of-business sales start in May.

What happened to Coldwater Creek? There are two things which stick out. First, the store skewed towards women 35 and older. Second, the prices were too expensive while better and lower cost options existed. In other words, the market changed and Coldwater Creek could not keep up.

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Windows 8.1 Update 1

I read a lot of press concerning this update and the issues experienced by some regarding this update. Mine went off without a hitch although it took about 20 minutes to download the update.

What I like about this update is that the apps will appear in their own windows. While they show up as full-screen, there is a little ‘X’ in the upper right-hand corner to dismiss the app. This is a big improvement over Windows 8 and the original Windows 8.1. There is also a way to minimize the app. So if you’re using the Netflix app and need to minimize, you can do that too.

My thinking is that enough people with laptops and touchscreens will be somewhat satisfied by the update. Laptops and desktops will be used to create content while tablets will be used to consume content. Much to Microsoft’s chagrin, I don’t think the Start menu will go away because too many people are used to it.

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Security Breaches

Is it just me or do there seem to be a lot of card breaches today? I didn’t start seeing them until 2008. How do these things happen?

Here are a few reasons:

  • Insecure wireless networks in a business. I know of an incident where individuals performed a drive-by attack on an insecure wireless network. Then they accessed the local server storing credit card information. Once the information was taken, blank credit cards were used to make purchases and transfer money via Western Union.
  • Poor network security. Some other breaches happen because of stolen credentials (December 2013 Target breach). Others are due to holes in infrastructure. Sometimes a incorrectly configured firewall or Internet-facing device can lead an attacker to get the information.
  • Skimming attacks. Usually these happen at restaurants and gas stations. All that is needed is the skimmer to read the information and a duplicate card can be made via the magnetic stripe.
  • Physical access to cash register / POS terminal. Here, a device is attached to a certain place on the cash register or terminal to skim information. This is a variant of the skimming attack. Six individuals went into a Nordstrom store in Aventura, Florida, and placed a skimming device on the back of a cash register. (I wonder why I am now seeing iPod Touch devices with sleeves attached which read bar codes and take credit cards.)

It seems that the main types of attacks can be eliminated via the chip and pin used in Europe. I have already seen a bunch of card terminals with the provisions for chip and pin technology. Some terminals also have the contact less terminal where a contact less card or a cell phone can initiate the transaction. These later ones use the Google Wallet app or the ISIS Mobile app to mimic a contact less card.

We need three methods to counteract the fraud associated with the magnetic strip cards. First, businesses have to quit storing credit card information on a server. Yes, it sure is convenient for the customer but I think the upcoming liability shift in 2015 to the merchant will be a definite possibility. Second, the chip and pin or chip and signature has to be in widespread use. Again, the upcoming liability shift will force the issue. Third, we need a way to have a chip and pin terminal for Internet purchases which will allow the website to receive the necessary approval code for the purchase.

The upcoming liability shift in 2015 will affect US consumers for a long time. While I think we will get there by 2020, enough retailers will have to change over by 2015 for the magnetic card fraud to shrink. Will there be ways to circumvent EMV? Only time will tell.

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UAW voted down at VW Chattanooga

February 7, 2014, is another signpost leading to the end of unions in the US. On this day, workers at the Volkswagen Chattanooga (TN) plant voted down union representation by the UAW 53% to 47%. Fox News and The Hill report the results.

Unionizing this plant was important for the UAW because all of the new automobile plants in America were built in the South. BMW (South Carolina), Mercedes-Benz (Alabama), Nissan (Tennessee), Kia (West Point, Georgia), Hyundai (Montgomery, Alabama), Subaru, and Toyota (San Antonio, Texas) all have operations in right-to-work states. While Ford and GM make cars in Canada and Mexico, all of the new plants are foreign makes.

What is in common with all of these plants is that these are foreign car manufacturers, all located in the South, and the people want jobs. Unions by their very nature limit the labor market thus forcing higher labor prices. Could this be a reason why these foreign makes chose the South instead of using skilled workers in other states like Michigan? In this case, VW gave the plant UAW representation on a silver platter. The workers may have seen what happened in places like Detroit (and a billboard featuring an abandoned Packard plant) and did not want that to happen in their home.

In Germany and Japan, company-sponsored unions exist. Unlike American unions where an adversarial atmosphere is normal, company-sponsored unions actively work with management to solve business issues. The problem is that company-sponsored unions are illegal in America. VW wanted to create a worker’s council similar to the worker’s councils Volkswagen has in Germany. The only way this could be accomplished was via union representation. Now that union representation was voted down, the worker’s council can’t be formed.

Unions like UAW need to grow their membership. Unfortunately, the new growth the UAW needs is in places where unions have been restrained. In right-to-work states, collective bargaining is outlawed. Therefore, unions have a diminished capacity and cannot strike in right-to-work states. When employers are encouraged to employ individuals in an “at-will” arrangement, the unions cannot bully employers for higher wages and benefits.

Now that the UAW was voted down in Tennessee, the union has two choices. The first choice is to try an unionize another Southern plant. I don’t think this will happen based on the Volkswagen vote. The UAW will be up against unfriendly political forces with the objective of preserving hard-won jobs from the foreign auto manufacturers. The second and more likely choice is to give up on unionizing a Southern automobile plant. Since a lot of resources were expended by the UAW and there was no return on investment because of the vote, the UAW will have to stay in its current places and not expand into the Southern states. Pursuing a “southern strategy” will consume UAW resources needed by its existing membership and will guarantee a quicker demise.

Other unions may look at the vote and see a glimmer of hope. However, a lot of workers at the auto plants saw the UAW as a possible interloper and a reason jobs could be lost. History seldom repeats but it often rhymes. Now, unions will stay in their current strongholds of the Northeast, Midwest, and the rust belt. Unions may not have the resources to expand into Dixie, Texas, or the West.

I knew after 1975 unions would start fading into the sunset. I didn’t think I would see this happen this year.

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Duncan the Cat

I received word that Duncan the Cat passed away last week. He was 9 years old which is young for an indoor cat.

Here is Duncan’s Christmas Bag where Duncan plays with a bag at Christmas.

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