You Can Now Get Amazon Alexa on ANY Android Phone

Richard Goodwin

22/01/2018 – 9:28am

If you’re using an Android phone, you can now use Amazon’s Alexa assistant on your phone

Amazon has now made Alexa available to ALL Android phones via the official Amazon Alexa app, which you can now pick up inside the Google Play Store.
Previously, the Amazon Alexa app could only be used to interact with Amazon Echo/Dot products. A recent update had changed all that, however, making the Alexa app a fully fledged personal assistant – just like Google Assistant.
In order for the app to work properly, the app needs to be open. This is unfortunately just a reality of Alexa not being hard-wired into Android’s source code. It’s an app and it works like an app, which means when the app is closed Alexa will not respond.
Alexa is slowly starting to appear inside a few non-Amazon products. Huawei’s Mate 9 phone was the first Android phone to ship with Alexa and I expect we’ll see plenty more phones ship with her in the future, as more and more brands strive to get away from Google’s grip.
The updated Alexa App for Android will land in a few days, so keep your eyes peeled for it. Once the updated app is official, either download the app or update your existing one, and you’re away, running Alexa on your Android phone.
What Can Amazon Alexa Do?
Glad you asked! here’s a breakdown of just a few of things Alexa can do:
With the Alexa App, you can call and message Amazon Echo device owners and anyone else with the Alexa App on their phones. When you’re away from home, use the app to make a quick call or send a message to your family’s Echo. Use Drop In to instantly connect with your devices for a call. For example, you can drop in to let the family know it’s time for dinner or check in on the baby’s nursery.
For Alexa device owners, the free Amazon Alexa App is a companion to your Alexa device for setup, remote control, and enhanced features. Alexa is always ready to play your favourite music, provide weather and news updates, answer questions, create lists, and much more. Alexa’s brain is in the cloud, so she continually learns and adds more functionality over time. The more you use Alexa, the more she adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.
Interactions with devices with Alexa are automatically mirrored visually on your Amazon Alexa App, providing more information as you want it. The Amazon Alexa App lets you easily manage your alarms, music, shopping lists, and more — wherever you are.

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Is Apple planning to kill the original iPhone X?

X axed?

When Tim Cook revealed the iPhone X at the September Apple event, he described it as “the future of the smartphone”. In the purely literal sense, that was true, in that it was released two months later – but in the more figurative, its legacy looks considerably less peachy. A source with a long history of successfully predicting Apple’s movements has predicted that the iPhone X will be killed off in the summer – the first Apple-flavoured handset to die after a generation since the iPhone 5C.
While most flagship Apple handsets live on to become the cheaper model the following year, it looks like the iPhone X will not get this gentle retirement. The source, via Appleert_main_wide_image/public/2018/01/is_apple_planning_to_kill_the_original_iphone_x_-_2.jpg?itok=BSlpviaM” alt=””/>

To be clear, the iPhone X’s legacy is still likely to endure, even if the phone itself doesn’t. Kuo believes that Apple is due to announce three new smartphones in September, including a 5.8in second-generation iPhone X, a 6.5in iPhone X Plus and a 6.1in follow-up to the iPhone SE complete with Face ID. That would be quite a turnaround, given the original SE was designed to be more compact for smaller pockets.
Kuo forecasts that Apple is due a modest 5% growth in the first half of the year, but is optimistic this will rise to 10% when the 2018 models are released – chiefly because he believes the rumoured devices will appeal more to Chinese tastes. If this is indeed the case, the original iPhone X will be gone, but definitely not forgotten – at least by the Apple accounts department.

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Is Apple planning to kill the original iPhone X?

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Monster Hunter World Street Fighter Crossover Shown in New Trailer

The Monster Hunter series is no stranger to nonsensical collaborations, with previous partners including the likes of Sonic and The Legend of Zelda. It looks like Monster Hunter World will keep this tradition alive and well, as Capcom has just announced that both Ryu and Sakura from the Street Fighter series will be joining in on the monster hunting action. While watching Ryu perform a Haidoken before switching to a minigun may not exactly be canon to Street Fighter lore, one can’t deny it packs plenty of entertainment value.

Gamers who wish to collect the free armor will have to complete a related quest, with PS4 gamers who have Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition save data getting the first opportunity in a few weeks’ time. A quest titled “Down the Dark, Muddy Path” will appear, and its completion will net gamers SFV Tickets. Taking those items and some required materials to a smithy will then net players the Ryu armor set. Xbox One gamers and PS4 users who don’t have Street Fighter V save data will be able to access the quest at a later date, with a similar process for unlocking Sakura’s armor entering the rotation sometime after that.
Gamers can take a look at the official collaboration trailer below:

As if watching Ryu use a minigun to take down a dragon isn’t enough, gamers will also be able to purchase both Hadoken and Shoryuken gestures for $3.99 each. Players will also be able to unlock a Street Fighter-related guild card and stamp set for free, and a few extra achievements/trophies will be included with the update as well. It’s worth noting that the Ryu and Sakura armor sets must be equipped as one piece, which means players won’t be able to mix and match items like Ryu’s gloves with more traditional armor.

The collaboration goes both ways, too: Monster Hunter content was announced for Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition several days ago, before it was known that Ryu and Sakura would also trek to the other intellectual property. In Street Fighter, alternate costumes are coming for Ken (Rathalos), R. Mike (Zinogre), and Ibuki (Kirin). The costumes will be available in alternating months and will force players through four week-long changes in order to unlock each outfit.
Monster Hunter World is available now for PS4 and Xbox One. A PC release is planned for late 2018.

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16 Things I Learned While Using Tilt-shift Lenses

You may have seen our recent reviews of Canon’s three new tilt-shift lenses, the EF 50mm f/2.8L Macro, EF 90mm f/2.8L Macro and the EF 135mm f/4L Macro.
Tilt shift lenses are often favoured by architectural photographers, since one of their primary uses is to correct for converging verticals. However, since these lenses offer longer focal lengths than those traditionally employed by architecture shooters, they have a different target audience. Announced towards the end of 2017, these lenses are particularly aimed at food, product, and portrait photographers.
I have used a lot of cameras and a lot of lenses over the past ten years that I’ve been working in the photographic industry, but my experience with tilt-shift lenses was relatively limited up until a few weeks ago. I had used Nikon’s 45mm PC-E Micro-Nikkor f/2.8D ED lens briefly, but I was excited to get the chance to learn more about the intricacies of these complicated lenses by reviewing Canon’s new offerings.
At the end of my time with them, I have some images which are different from those I’d usually shoot, that I’m pleased with. I won’t claim to be a complete expert in using them, but I thought I’d share a few things I learned during the process – let us know if you’ve got any tips for shooting with tilt-shift lenses in the comments box below!

1. You need a lot of patience

If you spend most of your photographic life working with autofocus lenses, suddenly stepping back into manual focus is quite the shock to the system. Add manual focus to the fact that there are a few dozen combinations of tilt, shift and rotate that can affect your overall image – you’re going to need some serious time getting to know a tilt shift lens. Once you’ve put in that hard work, the rewards are huge, but it’s a bit of an uphill slog to get there.
2. It forces you to slow down
With manual focus, and all that lovely tilting and shifting action to consider, these are not lenses for quick, off the cuff shots. Instead, it forces you to stop and think about your photography in a more considered way than you might ordinarily. And that’s no bad thing, spending a little extra time thinking about composition, what you do and don’t want in focus and how to achieve that can lead to more interesting results.
3. People will be very interested in what you’re using
If you’re out and about with a tilt shift lens, be prepared for the odd unusual look or stare – while fellow photographers who might normally just give you a knowing glance will likely come over for a long chat.
4. You need a tripod
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of tripods. They’re cumbersome, awkward and stop me from moving around as much as I want to. But with a tilt shift lens you just have to accept that they’re pretty much a necessity – and they certainly help with point 2 as well. If you do want to forego the tripod (such as when shooting portraits), be prepared to take a few additional shots for safety. Which leads me to my next point…

5. They’re fantastic for portraits
Most people will think of tilt shift lenses for architectural scenes, or for landscapes, but they’re actually great for portraits. Especially so with these three focal lengths, some of my favourite pictures that I took with the lenses were during a portrait session. It wasn’t easy, and the results were sometimes unexpected, but they’re certainly very different from most of the other portraits I’ve ever taken.
6. Portrait sitters aren’t sure you’re actually photographing them
During my portrait session with Eric (pictured), he commented that he thought I was photographing something almost in the complete opposite direction to where he was standing. It changed the way he stood, which way he looked and how he held himself.
7. It also elevates your food photography
These lenses are aimed at food and product photographers, but it was only when I came to use them for some food shoots that I fully realised their value. I’d read plenty of articles about tilt shift lenses were ideal for this genre, but I’d always been pretty happy with what my standard macro lens could achieve. With the tilt shifts, I love the way you can alter the plane of focus, for example using it to get two desserts in focus while throwing either side out of focus. If I was a professional food photographer, I’d probably be tempted to add all three of these lenses to my kit bag.
8. Live View is your new best friend
When I’m using a DSLR, it’s pretty rare that I’ll engage Live View. Generally it’s a lot slower than shooting through the viewfinder, plus I tend to prefer composing in this way. However, when you’re shooting manual focus and trying to see how the various tilt, shift and rotate combinations will affect your photo, Live View is what you need to use. Zooming in 5x or 10x to achieve critical pin sharp focus is a necessity when using the lenses for food and product photography.

9. Unpredictability (or inexperience) is part of the charm
As already mentioned, it takes a long time to learn precisely how to use these lenses to get exactly the look you want. That said though, while you’re learning, you might find you accidentally stumble on some absolute winners – just try your best to remember that combination for the next time you want to recreate it.
10. It’s about so much more than miniature scenes for landscapes
Although these lenses have longer focal lengths than the average landscape photographer is looking to use, they can come in handy for the odd scene (especially the 50mm f/2.8L). But it’s about so much more than creating the cliche miniature scene – sure that’s fun for about five minutes – but once you get that out of your system, you begin to see what else you can do with them. Maximising depth of field, keeping something sharp from front to back, while still using a relatively wide aperture – all something which can produce excellent landscape shots.
11. They’re not just for architectural photographers
You usually hear “tilt shift lenses” in the same sentence with “architectural photographers”, but photographers who shoot all sorts of different genres should seriously give them a thought. They’re also great for landscape photographers, portrait photographers, wedding photographers, product photographers and possibly even more.
12. You can use them as normal lenses if you want to
Lugging about lots of different lenses can literally be a pain in the neck. But you can also use each of these lenses as standard prime lenses too (albeit manual focus only). This saves you space in your bag if, for example, you only have room for one 135mm lens, or even, if you only have room for one high-end 50mm lens.

13. Yes they’re expensive, but they’re not a rip-off
Many people hear the £2500 price tag per lens and assume that these lenses are overpriced. Nobody’s denying that they’re expensive, but when you consider not only the optical quality of these lenses, but also the surprising versatility, then it starts to look a little more like value for money. Still, I don’t think I’ll be shelling out the £7500 to add all three to my kit bag just yet…
14. They’re addictive
Once you start to get the hang of using a tilt-shift lens, you’ll probably find you want to use it for every subject! Food, portraits, landscapes, still lifes, dogs… all things I used the tilt shift for, and all things I thought looked great while using them. After a while I started to wonder if I really needed any of the other lenses I would normally use…
15. It would be the perfect lens to rent
As I’ve already mentioned, these lenses are by no means cheap. Investing in all three is beyond my means, and probably many others too. That’s where rental services come in – get hold of one (or all three) of these for a few days for a specific shoot, then return them – it’d also be a good way to stop yourself from overusing them for every shot…
16. I want one
The biggest thing I learned after spending a few weeks with these beauties is that, actually, I really want one. I’d never really given them much thought before, assuming they were niche products that I couldn’t really afford and didn’t have much use for. It’s still true that they’re out of my price range for now, but I now see that I could use them for so many different shoots. Food and portraits are two of my favourite subjects, and I could see me getting a lot of use out of, in particular the 50mm or the 90mm lens. I better start saving now…

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Amazon Kindle vs Paperwhite vs Voyage vs Oasis: What’s the best e-reader in the UK in 2018?

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In the beginning, buying an e-reader was a simple job. There were two models: the Wi-Fi Kindle and the 3G one, and they were effectively identical aside from offering different levels of connectivity. These days, however, the choice of Kindles is far more complicated, with four separate models available at four very different prices.
The cheapest Kindle is the touchscreen model, first introduced in 2016, and that costs from £60, while the most expensive model is the Kindle Oasis with 3G, which will set you back £330. The Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Voyage sit in between those and there are multiple different options for each model as well.
If you’re confused as to which Kindle to go for, we’ve helped you make the decision by comparing the three e-readers below.
Amazon Kindle vs Paperwhite vs Voyage vs Oasis: Common features
All of Amazon’s Kindle e-readers share a handful of core features. Each one has access to the same Amazon store for books, which is great because it’s massive and offers a huge array of reasonably priced books and magazines.
Unlike other e-readers, they’re not set up to buy books from elsewhere, so all Kindle users can only buy books from Amazon. Thankfully, Amazon still has the best range of titles and very competitive pricing.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can also access the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which lets you borrow one book a month from a catalogue of 600,000 ebooks.
There’s also the new Prime Reading service, which gives access to a range of free ebooks, magazine and short form material. It’s not just cheap, self-published stuff here, either – on the list of books are Man Booker Prize shortlisted titles and premium magazines such as Total Film and Wallpaper.
Every Kindle supports Amazon’s Family Library, which lets you share your eBooks with other members of your household. Essentially, this lets you join two accounts together, so you can read each other’s books, plus you can add up to four child accounts to the pair of adults.
And Amazon is always improving the user experience across its devices as well. One recent update, improved the interface on all its Kindle devices, adding the new Bookerly font, which has been designed specifically for legibility on eReaders, the new typesetting engine for a more book-like appearance onscreen, and a streamlined interface with easier access to the settings you need. You can also share books and excerpts with friends on social media.
With that covered, let’s move on to the models in the current range.
The budget Kindle – from £60 on Amazon

The budget Kindle costs £60 or £70 if you want it without lockscreen adverts (or, as Amazon describes them, ‘special offers’). The standard Kindle has a 6in touchscreen, a 1GHz processor and 4GB of storage, which is ample space to store thousands of books. Battery life will also be similar at around two weeks per charge if you read for an hour a day.
That said, if you bought a Kindle in the last three years and are tempted to upgrade, then the new Kindle isn’t worth the cash. The screen isn’t much better than the older models and it doesn’t feel as nicely made as them either. If you’re looking for an upgrade, then look below.
Read our full review of the budget Kindle
The Kindle Paperwhite – from £110 on Amazon
Amazon Kindle vs Paperwhite: The Paperwhite has a clearer display, optional 3G connectivity, and a lit display

The current Kindle Paperwhite is the 2015 model. It’s essentially identical to its predecessor, with a lit display for reading in any lighting conditions, but has a sharper screen with 300 pixels per inch. This is the same display as the Kindle Voyage (see below), which narrows the ground between the two models significantly. It’s currently available in Wi-Fi at just £110 or £120 if you want it without lockscreen adverts, or with 3G (£170 or £180) so you can buy books anywhere in the world without needing to find a Wi-Fi network.
The high-resolution screen is a huge boon, providing crisper text which is far more pleasing to the eye. The Paperwhite does pay a price for rendering this extra detail, with a reduced battery life of six weeks, rather than eight on the previous model. The only thing the Paperwhite is still missing is an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the screen lighting to match. It may not be the top model, with the Voyage below taking that spot, but this is the Kindle that most people should buy, with everything you need at a great price.
Read our full review of the Kindle Paperwhite
The Kindle Voyage – from £170 on Amazon
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite vs Voyage: The Voyage is thinner, lighter, has PagePress buttons, and an ambient light sensor

Amazon’s Kindle Voyage was the top model until the Oasis, below. The Wi-Fi only model costs £170 with the 3G version a whopping £230. So what do you get for the extra cash? As with the budget Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite, the Voyage also has a 6in touchscreen display, but since the Paperwhite 2015 upgrade, its 300 pixels per inch is matched by the cheaper model. It is thinner and lighter than other Kindle models, but only just. You can turn pages by using the touchscreen or by squeezing the ‘PagePress’ buttons on the side.
It also has 4GB of storage and similar battery life as the Kindle Paperwhite. Amazon claims both can last for six weeks on a single charge based on half an hour of reading with wireless off and the screen lighting set to 10.
Our favourite feature is that the light finally has an ambient light sensor, so it adjusts automatically to the lighting conditions. We were amazed at how much difference this made, especially as we rarely bothered to tweak the Paperwhite’s screen light manually except when reading in pitch black. If you read eBooks both at night and during the day, then the Voyage is a great buy, but there’s really nothing wrong with the cheaper Paperwhite.
Read our full review of the Kindle Voyage
The Kindle Oasis – from £270 on Amazon
Amazon Kindle Voyage vs Oasis: The Oasis has better battery life, and page turn buttons

Key features over Kindle Voyage: Extra battery life, page turn buttons
The Kindle Oasis is Amazon’s first truly luxurious eReader, with a hefty £270 price to match, or an alarming £330 for the 3G version. It comes complete with a leather-fronted case, but that still makes it twice the price of a similarly-equipped Kindle Paperwhite. Amazingly though, it’s worth the extra cash if you’re a keen reader. It’s far lighter than any other Kindle at just 131g without its magnetic snap-on case, feeling practically weightless in use. The internal battery lasts only a few weeks, similar to the other models, but the included case boosts its battery life by up to two months.
The screen has the same 300 pixels per inch as the Paperwhite and Voyage, and is front lit but has more LEDs, resulting in crisper, more consistent lighting. It’s beautifully designed and lovely to use, both with and without the cover. Amazon has brought back page turn buttons with the Oasis, so you don’t have to touch the screen except when navigating menus. Sadly, the ambient screen light sensor hasn’t made it across from the Voyage, but you do get an orientation sensor, so you can switch between reading left- or right-handed in an instant. It’s the best eReader ever and the one to buy if you can stretch to the price.
Read our full review of the Kindle Oasis
Amazon Kindle vs Paperwhite vs Voyage vs Oasis: Specs
Below, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of all Kindle models currently on sale.

Kindle Paperwhite
Kindle Voyage
Kindle Oasis

Starting price
From £60
From £110
From £170
From £270

Screen size

Built-in light
Yes + Adaptive front light

Page turns
Touchscreen + PagePress
Touchscreen + Page turn buttons

Pixel density

Available colours
Black, White
Black, White

Included cover
Included (Black, Walnut or Merlot)

Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + free 3G
Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + free 3G
Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + free 3G

Battery life
Weeks on a single charge
Weeks on a single charge
Weeks on a single charge
Months on a single charge

160 x 115 x 9.1mm
169 x 117 x 9.1mm
162 x 115 x 7.6mm
143 x 122 x 3.4-8.5mm

Wi-Fi: 205gWi-Fi + 3G: 217g
Wi-Fi: 180gWi-Fi + 3G: 188g
Wi-Fi: 131/238gWi-Fi + 3G: 133/240gWeight without cover / with cover

Alongside the choice of Black or White, Amazon also offers the regular Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite in two variants: ‘With Special Offers’ and ‘Without Special Offers’. The special offers are adverts Amazon pushes through your device’s lockscreen. If you prefer to remove the adverts, you can do so by paying an extra £10.
The Kindle Paperwhite, Voyage and Oasis also come in a ‘Free 3G’ model, adding an additional £60 to the overall cost of the device. The 3G model of the Kindles comes with no monthly fees or additional costs. Amazon covers the 3G connectivity, giving you the ability to download content to your Kindle almost anywhere in the world. You can see Amazon’s full 3G coverage map here.
Which Kindle should you buy?
The new budget Kindle is good value for people buying an eReader for the first time, but a pointless purchase for people considering upgrading from any old Kindle. The Kindle Paperwhite is great value, has an excellent touchscreen and light and is the best upgrade option for people with old Kindle models. It’s also our top pick even for those new to eReaders.
The Kindle Voyage is a refined version of the Paperwhite and now looks a little too expensive given the slight differences. The Kindle Oasis, finally, is for those who use their Kindle a lot. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s a genuine pleasure to use and own and it’s the Kindle to buy if you want the very, very best.

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5 cool apps you have to try this week

Here at AndroidPIT, we’re constantly seeing new and exciting apps on the Play Store. We’ve tried several new and updated apps this week and picked our favorites. Here are the ones we think you absolutely must try, including ProtonVPN, Hidden Folks and more!

ProtonMail, the famous encrypted email service provider, recently came out with its own VPN for PCs and it’s now available on Android. Best of all, you can use it for free if you don’t want to pay for premium access to servers in more countries or for use on multiple devices. Get it on the Play Store today and begin getting all the benefits of a reliable VPN, like increased privacy and access to content blocked in your country, without hassle or high costs.

Sign up, select a plan, pick a server and go! / © AndroidPIT

Get it now from the Play Store. 
Amazon Alexa
Amazon has updated its Alexa app for Android to add voice command functionality, after it had already done so with the Music and Shopping apps. Now it can try to keep up with Google Assistant on the platform, with some limitations, of course. It’s not totally hands-free. You can’t activate it by just saying ‘Alexa’, as the app must be open on the screen for it to work. You can use Skills and ask Alexa for the usual information by voice, like weather and calendar updates, and it will respond to you just like using an Echo device, plus it can display the information visually.

Give Alexa access to your microphone, then give commands and receive answers! / © AndroidPIT

Get it now from the Play Store.
Hidden Folks
Imagine if Where’s Waldo was an interactive puzzle touch game, that’s Hidden Folks. It is one of the best mobile games of the past year, and it’s made its way to the Play Store finally. While it costs $3.99, it’s worth every penny because you’ll have hours of fun in the over 20 hand-drawn, interactive areas finding over 190 targets. The attention to detail in the game is incredible, including all the sound effects.

Get it now from the Play Store. 
Google Maps Go and Beta
Google Maps Go came out a month ago, and now it’s got a new Play Store Beta for those who want to get the latest features first. For those who haven’t heard about the app, it’s a light version of the original Google Maps app which uses less memory and less data. If you’ve got an unreliable Internet connection or a phone that doesn’t have the best specs, it’s a great option. Though there are some things you can’t do with it, like get turn-by-turn GPS navigation. The app isn’t compatible with many devices though, so you’ll probably have to access it via Chrome with this link.

If your device isn’t compatible, just view the app via Chrome at the above link. / © AndroidPIT

Get the app now from the Play Store, or sign up for the Beta.
Skyline – Live Wallpaper With Global 3D Terrain
Skyline is an app which can make an interactive map of any location into a wallpaper, like a Pixel Live Wallpaper but for any phone. It uses aerial and satellite 3D terrain images, and it can detect your current location via GPS or you can enter a custom location and crop the final result. The wallpaper will shift around as you swipe between home screens or rotate your phone around, and if you have Android 8.1, the color of your phone’s menus will change to match. It’s only $1.99 on the Play Store.

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The FCC looks back on a disastrous year through rose-tinted glasses

From the furore engulfing the FCC this last year you might think that the agency had accomplished little but appalling privacy advocates and dancing for its patrons, the telecoms. But as is so often the case in government, much was done to little fanfare, only to be overshadowed by more controversial items.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has released a list of “accomplishments,” such as they are, which serves to remind us of the many thankless items taking up the bulk of the agency’s time (and requiring a great deal of hard work by its many employees), but also of the malign agenda that has unfolded continuously since the election.
With such a dire-sounding introduction, I should be fair and note that the Chairman’s stated priority of closing the broadband divide has been pursued with some vigor.
The first items listed in Pai’s report (indeed among the first passed) are the Mobility and Connect America funds, which will disburse hundreds of millions (eventually billions) with the specific goal of establishing high-speed wireless coverage and fixed broadband in underserved areas. $170 million is already earmarked for upstate New York.
This earnest action is countered by several things. Most recently, we’ve learned that the Broadband Deployment Action Committee, ostensibly a wide-ranging mix of folks assembled for that eponymous purpose, is so dominated by telecoms and consequently ineffective that the mayor of San Jose left it in disgust.
“It has become abundantly clear that despite the good intentions of several participants, the industry-heavy makeup of BDAC will simply relegate the body to being a vehicle for advancing the interests of the telecommunications industry over those of the public,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
Broadband deployment also narrowly avoided a major setback in the proposal that mobile data service should count as being served with broadband, for the purposes of finding out who has sufficient connectivity and who doesn’t. Of course, this proposal was incredibly illogical and would have led to, for instance, inner city neighborhoods served by LTE but expensive to deploy decent fixed broadband to, being classified as adequately served. Fortunately this ill-advised idea was rejected after months of public outcry.
And of course there’s the push to trim the corners off the Lifeline program, which helps the poor and isolated to pay for mobile service and internet. No one wants fraud, which the program deals with as a consequence of its scale and multitude of subcontractors, but the changes to the program “will do little more than consign too many communities to the wrong side of the digital divide,” as Commissioner Rosenworcel put it.

Commissioner Rosenworcel at her confirmation hearing.

To continue down the Chairman’s list, an effort to expand telemedicine infrastructure noted by Pai is of course laudable, as connectivity is growing to be more critical in effective and accessible treatment.
But while we can applaud the program itself, it’s hard to forget that telemedicine was treated disingenuously in the net neutrality debate; proponents of the repeal argued that net neutrality would somehow interfere with medical data transfer by putting it on the same level, internet architecture-wise, as cat videos. This easily disproven FUD was characteristic of the misleading nature of many other arguments.
Pai boasts of his 20 trips relating to broadband deployment, and of course it’s good to have boots on the ground when it comes to local issues like this. But as the dissenting Commissioners pointed out at the vote in December, he made exactly zero of these trips to ask ordinary people what they thought of the proposal to eliminate net neutrality. A town hall or two might have been a sobering experience, and might have even improved people’s ideas of the new rule.
Puzzlingly, Pai also happily recalls that he: “Ended a 2016 investigation into wireless carriers’ free-data offerings. These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace.”
For one thing, who would congratulate the agency for abandoning an investigation (one of several, by the way) that is its duty to perform? Especially when the plans in question have been deliberately misrepresented? The popularity of the plans is hardly relevant, considering they are opt-out, not opt-in. Many consumers likely don’t know they’re even using one. Not only that, but these zero-rating practices sound innocuous but are basically paid prioritization lite.
The decision to roll back 2015’s net neutrality rules gets a prominent mention, of course, with the usual talking points. We’ve covered this particular disaster at length.
Under the heading “protecting consumers,” Pai mentions some effective measures taken against robocalls and misleading billing — something millions of people nationwide experience regularly.
Curiously, the FCC-Congress joint effort to throw a powerful set of new privacy regulations into the trash didn’t make the Chairman’s list. Perhaps he forgot about that one.
Americans with disabilities were not forgotten, and efforts were made to improve regulations relating to hearing aids and promote the quality and availability of video relay services used primarily by the deaf, as well as video-described content for the blind. But little attention was given to the ongoing ugliness around prison calling and the rackets established around that lucrative business.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017

Notably, all these were all priorities of Commissioner Clyburn (above), who offered the following statement when I asked her for her own opinion on the first year of this administration’s FCC:

During the first year of this Administration, I was pleased that the Chairman moved forward with several of my priorities including Mobility Fund Phase II, Connect2Health and increasing the amount of video described program available to those who are blind or visually impaired. At the same time, make no mistake, the FCC majority under the leadership of this Chairman, has given the green light to more than a dozen actions that are a direct attack on consumers and small businesses, including repealing net neutrality, dismantling broadband privacy protections and eliminating key media ownership rules. It is these anti-consumer actions that are most telling of the direction this agency is headed.

The Chairman is proud to have established a rule whereby items to be voted on are made available to the public three weeks before that vote. This is definitely an improvement, though it can lead to misunderstandings when edits are made during and after that time.
But increased transparency on this level looks trivial next to the choice to obscure far more important things, like the nature of the cyberattack suffered during the Restoring Internet Freedom comment period, or the preponderance of fake comments filed. Fortunately, Congress and nearly two dozen attorney generals are on the case. And again, transparency is something best experienced in person, which when it came to the net neutrality rule, was something its proposers avoided.
Pai makes much of the FCC’s response to the ongoing widespread outage of connectivity in Puerto Rico following an unusually intense hurricane season. And indeed, it did eventually visit the island and set aside $77 million — for carriers — to help restore service there and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
But few would say that the FCC has been successful or even met its duties. I’ve spoken with recovery personnel and people working to reestablish communication there, and they had mostly given up hope of timely federal assistance. The President’s many gaffes and diplomatic missteps aside, the FCC’s response left much to be desired, with over half the population still disconnected several weeks after the disaster.

With infrastructure fixes slow to come, some PR residents turned to mesh networks

This can’t be put entirely on the FCC’s plate, of course, but it seems disingenuous to highlight a too little, too late response as an “accomplishment.”
Meanwhile, the agency courted major cable and broadband providers with a series of decisions that are masqueraded here as “modernizing outdated regulations.”
In a time of unprecedented consolidation of media properties and the many obvious and subtle risks that brings, the FCC has decided that it should relax rules governing ownership of multiple news properties and the extent of a media company’s national reach. As usual, the rule’s age is cited and Pai finds it has “outlived its usefulness.” Commissioner Rosenworcel disagrees rather vehemently:
Instead of engaging in thoughtful reform—which we should do—this agency sets its most basic values on fire.  They are gone.  As a result of this decision, wherever you live the FCC is giving the green light for a single company to own the newspaper and multiple television and radio stations in your community.  I am hard pressed to see any commitment to diversity, localism, or competition in that result.
It’s gotten to the point where members of Congress are plainly asking whether the FCC is working to specifically benefit a single major media company, Sinclair, at great cost to locally owned media and of course consumers.
This article is by no means a complete list of what the FCC has done, both well and poorly, in good faith and bad, during the last year. I mean to illustrate that the year has been one where many small accomplishments were indeed recorded — but not only were more major efforts and trends anti-consumer, but the public’s faith in the agency has been eroded substantially.
Before 2015, few Americans knew much about the FCC or considered it as having much of an effect on their daily lives (though it did even then). But net neutrality put it on the map in a big way — and a good way, except of course among allies of the telecommunications industry.
In 2017 the FCC reduced that presence to a blight, with millions of Americans feeling ignored or actively worked against, and an agency once known for quietly fulfilling its purpose transformed into a stalking-horse for partisan and corporate interests.

Featured Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images

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2018 Senior Bowl roster: Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen lead big list of NFL prospects

NFL scouts will be well represented at college football’s biggest All-Star Game.
For an NFL team at the top of the 2018 NFL draft, there is only one game left to pay attention to this winter — and it’s not the Super Bowl. Scouts and executives alike will be focused on the 2018 Senior Bowl thanks to a lineup of star prospects like Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Da’Shawn Hand.
This year’s crop of quarterbacks is Saturday’s headliner in Mobile, Ala. Mayfield, the Heisman winner, was watched closely throughout the week of practice as teams try to judge whether his prodigious playmaking will translate from the Big 12 to the NFL. Despite speculation that he wouldn’t play Saturday, .
Allen has even more questions to answer — while his 6’5 frame and big arm have made him a favorite among draft prognosticators, his 16-11 record at Wyoming and inability to perform against Power 5 competition raise doubt about his ability to lead a franchise.

Washington State’s Luke Falk was at practice all week, but he withdrew from the Senior Bowl to attend the funeral of teammate Tyler Hilinski.
Other familiar passers Nebraska’s Tanner Lee and Virginia’s Kurt Benkert used this week to try to state their cases as potential draftees as well.
Saturday’s game will also provide an opportunity for some smaller-school standouts to prove they belong. UTSA pass rusher Marcus Davenport has been projected as a mid-first-round pick, but a strong performance against the nation’s top blockers could be his ticket into the top 10. Cornerbacks like Dubuque’s Michael Joseph and Weber State’s Taron Johnson will look to prove they have the strength and athleticism to hang with a higher level of competition.
And then there are the proven stars who have to show they’re more than just top-tier NCAA athletes. San Diego State tailback Rashaad Penny led the FBS in rushing yards this season and will try to show scouts he’s just as dangerous as Saquon Barkley or Derrius Guice. Other standouts like Troy Fumagalli, Harrison Phillips, James Washington, and Dewey Jarvis will look to have a similarly productive day.
North Team
Coaching staff: Denver Broncos
Josh Allen, Wyoming
Luke Falk, Washington State (withdrew)
Tanner Lee, Nebraska
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Running backs
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Dimitri Flowers (FB), Oklahoma
Jaylen Samuels, NC State
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Wide receivers
Braxton Berrios, Miami
Michael Gallup, Colorado State
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
Allen Lazard, Iowa State
Jaleel Scott, New Mexico State
Justin Watson, Penn
Cedrick Wilson, Boise State
Tight ends
Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
Mike Gesicki, Penn State
Durham Smythe, Notre Dame
Offensive linemen
Mason Cole (C), Michigan
Tyrell Crosby (OT), Oregon
Jamil Demby (OT), Maine
Will Hernandez (OG), UTEP
Cole Madison (OT), Washington State
Brian O’Neill (OT), Pittsburgh
Scott Quessenberry (C), UCLA
Wyatt Teller (OG), Virginia Tech
Brett Toth (OT), Army
Sean Welsh (OG), Iowa
Defensive linemen
B.J. Hill (DT), NC State
Jalyn Holmes (DE), Ohio State
Justin Jones (DT), NC State
Tyquan Lewis (DE), Ohio State
Bilal Nichols (DT), Delaware
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (DE), Oklahoma
Harrison Phillips (DT), Stanford
Ja’Whaun Bentley (OLB), Purdue
Nick DeLuca (ILB), North Dakota State
Garrett Dooley (OLB), Wisconsin
Dewey Jarvis (OLB), Brown
Mike McCray (ILB), Michigan
Myles Pierce (ILB), The Citadel
Kemoko Turay (OLB), Rutgers
Fred Warner (OLB), BYU
Defensive backs
Marcus Allen (S), Penn State
Christian Campbell (CB), Penn State
Secdrick Cooper (S), Louisiana Tech
Duke Dawson (CB), Florida
Trayvon Henderson (S), Hawaii
JaMarcus King (CB), South Carolina
Taron Johnson (CB), Weber State
Michael Joseph (CB), Dubuque
Armani Watts (S), Texas A&M
Kyzir White (S), West Virginia
Isaac Yiadom (CB), Boston College
Michael Badgley (K), Miami
Tanner Carew (LS), Oregon
Johnny Townsend (P), Florida
Coaching staff: Houston Texans
Kurt Benkert, Virginia
Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
Brandon Silvers, Troy
Mike White, Western Kentucky
Running backs
Nick Bawden (FB), San Diego State
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Ito Smith, Southern Mississippi
Darrel Williams, LSU
Wide receivers
Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State
D.J. Chark, LSU
J’Mon Moore, Missouri
Byron Pringle, Kansas State
Tre’Quan Smith, UCF
James Washington, Oklahoma State
Tight ends
Jordan Akins, UCF
Ian Thomas, Indiana
Deon Yelder, Western Kentucky
Offensive linemen
Bradley Bozeman (C), Alabama
Alex Cappa (OT), Humboldt State
Austin Corbett (C), Nevada
Austin Golson (C), Auburn
Colby Gossett (OG), Appalachian State
Taylor Hearn (OG), Clemson
Joseph Noteboom (OT), TCU
Brandon Parker (OT), North Carolina A&T
Skyler Phillips (OG), Idaho State
Isaiah Wynn (OG), Georgia
Defensive linemen
Andrew Brown (DT), Virginia
Kylie Fitts (DE), Utah
Poona Ford (DT), Texas
Marcus Davenport (DE), UTSA
Greg Gilmore (DT), LSU
Da’Shawn Hand (DE), Alabama
Christian LaCouture (DT), LSU
Oren Burks, Vanderbilt
Shaquem Griffin (OLB), UCF
Marquis Haynes (OLB), Ole Miss
Darius Leonard (ILB), South Carolina State
Uchenna Nwosu (OLB), USC
Dorian O’Daniel (ILB), Clemson
Tre’ Williams (ILB), Auburn
Defensive backs
Nate Andrews (S), Florida State
Quin Blanding (S), Virginia
Danny Johnson (CB), Southern
Kameron Kelly (CB), San Diego State
Tray Matthews (S), Auburn
Siran Neal (CB), Jacksonville State
Jeremy Reaves (S), South Alabama
M.J. Stewart (CB), North Carolina
Chandon Sullivan (CB), Georgia State
D’Montre Wade (CB), Murray State
Levi Wallace (CB), Alabama
Daniel Carlson (K), Auburn
Ike Powell (LS), Auburn
JK Scott (P), Alabama

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Clockwatch: FA Cup fourth round and Real Madrid v Valencia – live | Football

10.18am EST10:18

Wolves lead 1-0 at Portman Road. Ivan Cavaleiro kickstarts the move, before Barry Douglas tees up Matt Doherty who heads home. Elsewhere, in the FA Cup, Millwall are in front at home to Rochdale. And Hull are ahead against Nottingham Forest, courtesy of Jarrod Bowen.


10.10am EST10:10

GOAL! Wigan Athletic 1-0 West Ham United (Grigg, 7)

Will Grigg’s on Fire! Nananananana …


10.09am EST10:09

James Maddison has scored an absolutely superb goal for Norwich City at Brentford. He nutmegs Woods before bending the ball into the top corner from 30 yards for ninth of the season. No wonder Moyes likes him:


10.08am EST10:08

A couple of early goals elsewhere: Swindon lead Crewe, thanks to Marc Richards while Barnet, bottom of League Two, are in front at Cheltenham Town. Bristol Rovers, meanwhile, trail Doncaster in League One.


10.05am EST10:05

GOAL! Southampton 1-0 Watford (Stephens, 4)

The first FA Cup goal of this afternoon klaxon. The Saints defender turns the ball home on his 24th birthday, after Shane Long’s shot was saved.

LeBron James and DeShawn Stevenson’s 5-year beef involved Destiny’s Child, Jay-Z, and Soulja Boy

For an all-time great NBA player, LeBron James has remarkably few enemies. He’s as competitive as anyone, but perhaps not as prone to pettiness and vindictiveness as some comparable legends. If you want to maintain a real beef with LeBron, you’re going to have to put in a lot of work. DeShawn Stevenson did that.
Throughout the 2000s, Stevenson was a solid, but not-quite-star level wing player for some quality teams. He was also a bit of a character — as famous for his antics on-court and off as he was for his play. At some point when he was with the Wizards, Stevenson caught wind of something nasty LeBron had said about him, and didn’t let it go. At the first available opportunity — a game-winner LeBron missed over him toward the end of the 2007-08 season — Stevenson lashed out, calling him overrated. James saw that and responded by saying the insult was like if Soulja Boy called Jay-Z overrated.
And from there things… just… spiraled. Before long, there was a heated Cavaliers-Wizards playoff series, an actual feud involving both Soulja Boy and Jay-Z, fake Facebook posts, and more. Watch the video above for the full, very weird DeShawn Stevenson-LeBron James beef history.
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