Posted in Opinion, Tech

MoviePass – Red Flags Are Rising

Not too long ago MoviePass started a too good to be true plan. See one movie a day for $10 a month. The way it worked is they send you a MasterCard and you swipe it as your payment after you check into the movie. It took forever to get the card mailed to you, but once you had it the possibilities felt endless. The ability to see a movie on your own time then go see it again with a friend essentially for free was awesome. This not only increased the number of times I went to the theater from approximately once every three to four months to two to three times a month. Since I wasn’t paying for tickets, I found myself spending more money at the concession stands. There’s no doubt in my mind that this new subscription service was a benefit for both the movie theater and myself.

With ticket prices in my area ranging between $8.75 and $10.75 purchasing nor than one ticket in a month becomes a cost for MoviePass. MoviePass pays full price for tickets. When you check in, the cost of the ticket is transferred to your MoviePass MasterCard to use as your payment method. With people going as far as seeing a movie a day for the month to get the most out of their money, it became quickly obvious that MoviePass needed to start looking at changes in their process. This is where red flags started to show up.

Red flag number one – MoviePass introduces a change to pricing. New members would have to pay for a year up front. The monthly payment option went away. This really wasn’t that big of a deal in the beginning. Most people wouldn’t put a second thought to this since it is common practice for many subscription services.

Red flag number two – MoviePass starts a store for MoviePass merchandise. This was the typical stuff. T-shirts, hoodies, mugs, all carrying the MoviePass logo. This was a little outside of the typical business than MoviePass typically competes in. This did cause me to raise an eyebrow.

Red flag number three – MoviePass makes adjustments to what your subscription really means. MoviePass starts to limit the number of times you can go see a movie to one time.  This starts to become a big deal to me. I’m happy to go see a movie by myself  and then see it later with friends. This has an impact on my process and has me to start looking around at other options.

Red flag number four – MoviePass starts adding surging pricing for “popular movies” and “popular times”. The definition of these groups of words seem to be unclear, so i’ll define what I’ve found so far monitoring the situation. Popular movies – These seem to be any movie that hasn’t been out for a month or more that isn’t advertising through MoviePass. As for popular times, I originally thought essentially any time out side of typical work hours, but I’ve found that the middle of the day on Wednesday seems to qualify for popular times. This really felt like a final straw but I decided to feel out pricing. Initially I found that movies came with an extra fee of $2.55. This is a quarter of the subscription price so it would make me flinch at a ticket purchase but its not so bad. Over this weekend, surging prices have ranged from $3.50 to $6.00. This  comes to over half the subscription price. If I were to go see Teen Titans Go To The Movies, and that was the only movie I went to see this month, that ticket would cost me $16.00. With two kids, I don’t get to go see movies as often as I would like. This was part of the appeal of MoviePass. Going to a single movie essentially covered my cost.

Red flag number five – MoviePass stops processing payments. MoviePass has to borrow five million to cover expenses to get their services running again the next day. This appears to be the coming to the end for the too good to be true service.

With over three million subscribers, MoviePass should be able to leverage these numbers to broker cheaper ticket prices and possibly even offer location based advertisements. MoviePass seems dead set on avoiding raising prices on their base fees even though this seems to be one of the few ways they are going to actually be able to maintain this service.

moviepass and AMC.png

AMC has decided to step into the subscription theater movie market. AMC is offering 3 movies a week with the additional discounts of their stubs service for $20.00 a month. Unlike MoviePass, this is limited to just AMC theaters. Unlike MoviePass, AMC’s option allows for 3D and IMAX movies. MoviePass took to Twitter to make fun of this service, but with what’s going on today with MoviePass, a stable $20.00 vs a minimum $13.50 with easy potential to grow pass $20.00, AMC sounds like a much better option.

moviepass twitter AMC response

I can tell you that MoviePass’ access to my credit card isn’t long for this world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone should jump ship. What do you think? let me know in the comments below.

Posted in Opinion, Tech

The New TV

Congratulations everyone, we did it! We’ve managed to move TV from this horribly managed service that we have to buy from a select few options of providers to multiple options from multiple high profile providers.

In the middle of the revolution, we also found something new. The streaming giant Netflix decided to produce their own show. For most people, the subscription to Netflix already existed so this was just icing on the cake, but it did draw in additional subscribers to see what all their friends were talking about. Hulu quickly followed suit, creating their own original series attracting a lot of attention to the two streaming giants.

Following the success of this something new happened. CBS announced their new streaming service CBS All Access. This service offered subscribers access to current and back catalog episodes and shows. This service was different from what we saw from Hulu and Netflix. It only involved CBS programming where the prior had agreements with multiple networks. It also offered live streaming of your local CBS channel. This was met with a lot doubt due to the limited scope. What CBS did to counter this was also questionable at the time – they launched an original Star Trek series exclusively to the network. This turned out to be a no-brainer. Take your biggest asset, lock it behind a pay fence and profit.

Unfortunately, the world was watching. In the past year since the launch of CBS All Access both Disney and DC have announced their own streaming services. Disney has announced their unnamed streaming service which will launch in 2019 with the end of their agreement with Netflix for streaming their product. DC has announced DC Universe which will be a streaming service mixed with a comic book collection subscription service. Both are using the CBS playbook to anchor their service. Disney will be bringing back the Clone Wars animated series exclusively to their unnamed streaming service and DC has Doubled down on Dick Grayson bringing the new live action series Titans (based on the Teen Titans characters) and Young Justice season 3.

The migration of distribution feels like a double edged sword to me. On the one hand, this is really great for getting things we want but haven’t been able to convince networks that they should carry. I know there have been plenty of fans who wanted to see more of the Clone Wars series. As for Young Justice, I know personally there’s been a huge calling for the story to continue and a live action Teen Titans themed show feels like a no brainer. Unfortunately, I also realize that there’s going to be a $5.00 – $10.00 monthly ticket associated with each of these streaming services. Assuming Disney’s unnamed service falls in around the $8.00 per month area, you’re going to spend just shy of $40 a month to carry all of this programming and that is assuming you don’t pick up any of the commercial free options that are available – that brings it up to just shy of $50.

I can tell you with full faith and certainty that I’m going to subscribe to all of these services. I’m already subscribed to the ones that are available. I loved the exclusive Star Trek series and watching CBS shows without commercials makes it just a bit more relaxing. Hulu commercial free falls under the same category for me. I tend to not watch shows when they air so being able to quickly catch up feels really good. I am also the parent of a 3 year old who is enthralled with Disney products, so when they pull all their stuff and lock it behind a gate, I’ll be standing first in line to get my child in. As a self proclaimed comic character fanboy, I can tell you I have been waiting years for a subscription service to DC comics. The video streaming option is just icing on the cake for me.

In the end, all I can say is my poor bank account. Anyone else feel like they’re going to have  to sign over their paycheck for streaming services? Let me know in the comments.

Posted in Facebook, Guides

26 friends (More Facebook stuff)

Previously I saw a post while scrolling through my Facebook timeline speaking on the new algorithm Facebook is using to show friends posts in your timeline. While below is not the exact message I came across, it covers the idea well.

How to avoid hearing from the same 26 FB friends and nobody else:

Here is a post explaining why we don’t see all posts from our friends….

News feed recently shows only posts from the same few people, about 25, repeatedly the same, because facebook has a new algorithm.

Their system chooses the people to read Your post. However, I would like to choose for myself, Therefore, I ask you a favor: if you read this message leave me a quick comment, a “hello”, a sticker, whatever you want, so you will appear in my news feed.

Don’t just “Like”, Facebook requires a “Comment”. Even one word! Thanks!!!

Otherwise Facebook chooses who to show me and instead I don’t need facebook to choose my friends!

Do not hesitate to copy and paste on your wall so you can have more interaction with all your contacts and bypass the system. That’s why we don’t see all posts from our friends!

Normally I would quickly jump to telling people that this is another BS hoax floating across Facebook, but this one gets a slight exception. There is some truth to this, which makes it easier to pass on than other hoaxes.

The kernel of truth in this message is that Facebook is indeed using a new algorithm to determine what updates to display in your timeline. While it’s not limited to 25 or 26 individuals it might feel that way. Facebook is using the different types of posts your friends make as well as posts and comments you make to determine what posts have the best match for you. Think of it kind of like the Netflix rating system. They take movies and TV shows you’ve watched over the years and use that to create a percent rating of how well a movie or TV show matches to your liking. With that, simply commenting on a friends post with “hi” will not have the effect mentioned in the post will not increase your messages appearing in others news feeds.

With that sad news out of the way, There is a way to increase where things appear in your timeline.

The first of these, and arguably the most difficult of the two I will be presenting, is to increase your interaction with individuals. Configure Facebook to notify you when people you are interested in getting updates from post something. From there, interact with their posts. React with Like options and place comments on posts. While one comment here and there will not move the needle much, commenting and liking multiple things over a period of time will teach Facebook your interested in this person’s posts. I want to point out that we’re not talking about a comment of “hi” on 15 posts will get you where you want to be. Meaningful conversation is more affective.

The second is a lot simpler. On your Facebook page, click the menu button next to newsfeed and select preferences. From there select “Prioritize who to see first”. From here you can choose up to 30 people to see there posts first. Facebook will prioritize their posts despite how often you interact with the individual.

I hope this information helps and educates. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or concerns.

Posted in Guides

Facebook Friends

Trust. Its a very important thing between friends. It’s the glue that holds these things together. This hasn’t changed in hundreds, even thousands of years. What has changed over the same amount of time is how we communicate. For the longest of this, we have communicated through ink and parchment. Since that we have figured out how to send electrical pulses through copper wire resulting in communication tools such as the telegraph and telephone. From there we moved our communications from analog to digital and began communicating over the internet.

For each of these forms of communication, there has been a way to verify the source of the message. Wax seals, secret phrases, voice recognition, even facial recognition. For the same amount of time, people have been attempting to replicate these forms of authentication for their own purposes.

Today’s preferred method for family and friends to communicate over distance is Facebook. Like all the other methods of communication, there are people that want to intercept and replace communications for their own reasons and/or gains. These people will attempt to use your name on Facebook to use the trust between you and your friends to achieve whatever gains they think they can get.

  1. The first method commonly used is hacking your account. Generally this is done by you using  a simple password, or the same password across multiple accounts and one of those other sites were compromised. They then log into your account and share links for websites that are less than reputable.
  2. The second method is a little more sly. You’ll come across a story through Facebook. You’ll click on it to read the story with the sensational headline and it will ask you to essentially log in using Facebook. This is actually a Facebook application requesting permissions from you. One of these permissions is posting on your behalf. Whenever the offender feels like it, they can use their application to share a post via your account. If your friends do not know what to look for they can easily mistake this for a post that is genuinely from you. As mentioned before the trust is used to get your friends to click on links that under other circumstances they typically wouldn’t.
  3. The third method requires a little more time investment but doesn’t require any hacking or applications. In this scenario the person wanting to gain access to your friends trust simply creates a new account using your name and profile picture. These things along with your friends list are all publicly visible with no method on your behalf to change that. After they  have created the new account they simply go down the list requesting to be friends to build a clientele of sorts. Generally your friends assume or some reason that your friendship was disconnected or you’ve decided to move on to a new profile for some reason or another and accept. after all that is your name and profile picture.

There are methods for preventing these things from happening. I’ll be happy to share them with you.

  1. First and foremost, use a secure password. Your password should use letters (both capital and lower case), numbers and symbols. You should use at least 8 characters. The more the better but most websites have an upper limit between 16 and 32. Its best if this password is something that is hard to remember. For this reason you should most likely use some sort of password management software such as LastPass or 1Password. On top of this, you should use Two Factor Authentications (abbreviated 2FA). This allows you to use a one time password that typically is a random set of 6 numbers that changes every 20 seconds or so. Facebook has a built in authenticator app that you can use from a mobile device or another computer that you are already logged into. Personally I’m not a fan of this because if you are logged out of all your devices for some reason, you will not be able to access the authenticator. I personally use Authy as my authenticator. They have an Apple Watch app that allows me to retrieve my code from my wrist. I know this is incredibly geeky of me and I’m not going to even try to defend it because this website is mine and I can do what I want.
  2. The method for preventing this method from happing is pay attention to what permissions you hand out on Facebook. It’s generally best practice to not give any applications permissions to post on your behalf. Most of the time, there’s not a good reason to allow it. While I’m writing this the only application I can think of that has a legitimate reason to allow posting on your behalf permissions is Twitter. I’m sure there’s other reputable social media apps that I’m just not thinking about but you get the idea right?
  3. There’s not a lot that can really be done about this one. Its mostly your friends who have to fight this battle for you. The only thing you can really do is help your friends understand that you only have one account and will not be creating another. From there, its in your friends hands. When they see a new friends invitation from someone they’re already friends with, they should check their friends list to see if they are still friends with you (or whoever really). If they are, the account is obviously not the person they are pretending to be. If the person who is requesting friendship is not already in your friends list. there are two options here. They can add the friend and be very cautious about links and communications from the person, or they can verify the authenticity of the person by communicating with whoever the person is supposed to be via some other channel of communication (such as a phone call).

With millions of active users, Facebook is a gold mine for anyone with less than outstanding morals and time on their hands. Its completely up to you to protect your good name. People will be quick to blame you for their computer woes simply because your name was attached to something and they don’t know any better. Do your best not to let this happen to you.

Posted in Tech

I lost my wallet

Sometime Friday I lost my wallet. Most people would be in a fit over this, but because I have consistently lost my wallet since I changed to this new form factor, It didn’t really bother me. I figured it had just fallen out of my pants and got kicked under the bed or something. I didn’t really notice that it was missing until I went to pay for something Saturday. No big deal. Its at home, nothing to worry about. I get home Saturday night and look. I can not find it. I start to stress a little over this but I had just put my daughter and niece to sleep in my bed so I didn’t make a huge effort to search the room. I figure I’ll check tomorrow when the girls are up and it will be there and this is no big deal. Sunday morning rolls around and the girls are up and playing and I am tearing apart my bedroom trying to find my wallet with no luck. Eventually Sunday night my wife ends up finding it under the couch. All is good.

You might be reading this and wondering why I would bother to even write this article about this? The answer to this question is simple. The entire time that my wallet, which had my drivers license, debit card and credit cards, was missing, I was only mildly inconvenienced. Because of new technology, I was able to make the purchases I needed with only having to make slight adjustments to what would be my typical routine. Saturday night we had Pizza for dinner. Ordering it online was simple enough. Features in things such as Apple keychain and secure vaults in password application management software such as LastPass allow you to store credit card information. If you are so inclined, you can also allow the pizza company to retain your purchasing information to be used for later purchases. A little fault with ordering online is, it is not easy to do an “oh! and…”. We had forgot to get the drinks. This is the point where I was mildly inconvenienced. Normally I would just hop in the car and head down to Walmart, pick up some drinks and be on our merry way. Unfortunately Walmart does not see the value in contactless payment systems such as Android and Apple pay, So i went to Walgreen’s instead. Picked up the drinks we needed, waited in line. Picked up some red noses for the girls and checked out via my phone with no slowdown what so ever.

“But Shane!” I hear you start “You shouldn’t be driving without a license!” and I hear you my friend. Fortunately, the state had me covered there. Some time around 2015 Alabama decided to hand out digital copies of their drivers license. Currently I have a copy on my phone in my Apple Wallet.

Sunday while we were out and about handling things, we decided to visit everyone’s favorite fast food burger establishment, McDonald’s. My wife paid for dinner here. Where I come in is at the point we decided to buy an ice cream cone for our daughter. I go to the counter and order the cone, not even thinking once about the fact that i don’t have any of my cards. I open Apple Pay on my phone and tap the register, paying for my order and making me feel incredibly geeky in the process.

I know everyone’s mileage may vary, but for me, only having to redirect a visit (to a store that was about the same price and actually closer to my house), was not that big of a deal. I realize this calls for faith in technology where people are very reluctant to let anything near their debit and credit cards, but its a trade off for convenience. I’m not saying everyone should, or really even pushing anyone to try it. I just wanted to share my experience.

Posted in Guides

TruePeopleSearch.com

Ladies and gentlemen. Go to http://truepeoplesearch.comand type in your name and zip code then check out the results. Got a good look at it? Good. Surprised at how accurate this information is? Not so good. Want to get it off of there?

Go to https://www.truepeoplesearch.com/removaland start the process. Go head and take care of that. We will be more than happy to hang around until your done. Got your info off of that site? Great! Now I would like to take the time to tell you that you have essentially wasted your time. Yeah, I know thats not what you wanted to hear, and you may not even agree with me, but that doesn’t matter, you’re wrong. There are other sites that offer this exact same service (some for cost) with the same information. You could go to them and try to go through the same process but you would still be wasting your time. Why? because these are not the source of your problem. These are the end users of a huge marketplace that is personal information. Detailed information about an individual is just short of literally being a gold mine. With more detailed information about you as a person, companies can better focus their products for you.

When it comes to companies and your personal information, If your concerned about what they might do with it, you should definitely read the fine print. Companies that are giving things away just because you sign up for them should be your first hint that your data is being sold. Nothing is free in this world. Google is probably the first company you think of when it comes to this kind of work. If you lightly look around you’ll see them demonized for collecting your personal information. What if I told you that Google were actually the good guys as far as data collection is concerned? You might think of Google as the San Francisco 49ers (the actual guys from the 1940’s, not the football team). When it came to personal data being collected, they dug in quick, deep and huge waves, but instead of taking this information and selling it as other companies do today, they took this information and went to potential clients and said things like we have information on twenty thousand unique users who would be a great target for your ad. Would you like to pay to use our ad service? This made sure only the company you gave the information to (you know because they gave you free gmail and access to that mail) kept that information safe while they still made money off of it. Yes they made money off of it, but really, did you think they were hosting all of those mail servers out of the goodness of their hearts?

There are other companies who collect your data and sell it to other companies. Surprisingly, these companies are called Data Brokers. The greatest thing about these companies are how much affect hey can have on your life. Thee of the top 10 Data Brokers are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These names sound familiar? They should. These three companies are essentially what makes up your FICO credit score. Two more names that might come as a surprise to you are ValPak (these are the people who stuff the envelope full of coupons and mail them to you) and Readers Digest (yep, theres actually occasions where you pay someone to sell your data).

Fortunately there are people who think that this is plain wrong and are willing to help you out. The site StopDataMining.me has a page ( http://www.stopdatamining.me/opt-out-list/) for helping you to opt out of what are considered the top 50 companies that collect and/or sell your information.

Unfortunately there seems to be not enough people who know (or care?) that this is going on to push hard enough for the required changes to be made. This post is my mild attempt to educate the masses. I don’t expect it to go far, but I feel I have done my part.TruePeopleSearch.com

Posted in Opinion, Tech

Adobe Photoshop (CC) Vs Affinity Photo – A Quick and Dirty opinion

Most everyone knows Photoshop. Its he industry standard for photo manipulation. Prior to the introduction of AdobeCreative Cloud, it was a highly pirated piece of software. With the introduction of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography plan allows individuals to get Photoshop CC for the simple price of $10 a month. This is great compared to the hundreds that Photoshop CS6 would have cost you, but it also has the downfall that you will always be paying for the software as long as you want to continue to use it. This brings me to Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is another Photo manipulation software developed by Serif (http://www.serif.com)  Looking over some tutorial videos, I found that Affinity Photo offered majority of the editing option I was using in Photoshop. There were a few things I had issues with like changing the path of text, but it was not enough to have me doubt the ability of the application to replace Photoshop. Serif offers a 10 day trial of the software. Once I got to put my hands on the software, I was completely impressed. Affinity Photo has built in tutorials (links to videos and what not) on how to do some common things you would do in this type of software.  This software is a flat rate of $50.00 (Currently as of time of writing, 30% off).

With both of these products being exceptional for my needs, the only thing that was really tipping me towards affinity was the flat rate. Affinity costs more up front but  six months with Photoshop exceeds the cost. What really tipped the scales for me was Affinity Photo having an iPad app which used the same core engine. This means that I can migrate my work between my Mac and my iPad and have all the same editing options as the desktop software. This had an additional cost of $20.00 (Currently as of time of writing, 30% off), but even with the total collection at $70.00, since this was less than a year of Photoshop CC, it fully tipped the favor to Affinity.

I’d love to hear what you guys think. Leave a comment below telling me why you would pick one or the other.