TIME Regulation

FCC Spectrum Auction Raises Over $30 Billion in Battle for Airwaves

FCC’s first spectrum auction in six years raised three times more than expected

Companies have bid more than $30 billion to get a slice of the mid-range frequency spectrum auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission last week.

The FCC offered what is called AWS-3 frequencies, which are a mid-range spectrum similar to those controlled by Dish Networks. Auction 97, as it’s called, kicked off Nov. 13. It’s one of the first to offer that type of frequency and one of the biggest sales of new frequencies since 2008.

Pre-sale estimates put the value of the airwaves at $10.1 billion, but interest from companies pushed the bidding well over that value. The final and winners won’t be revealed until the auction ends and the FCC awards certain frequencies.

Certain airwaves are more valuable than others. A New York City block of frequencies sold for a reported $1.19 billion.

The spectrum is a valuable commodity because it allows wireless companies to add more capacity for cellular data and other wireless services. New frequencies, which may only be bought through an FCC auction, have been in short supply until now and companies are battling to get a slice to be able to increase their services and speed.

Dish, America Movil, T-Mobile US and AT&T are all said to be participating in the bidding.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME How-To

8 Netflix Tricks You Just Can’t Live Without

US Online Streaming Giant Netflix : Illustration
In this photo illustration the Netflix logo is seen on September 19, 2014 in Paris, France. Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images

Find out how to hide the embarrassing stuff you've been streaming

One of the main reasons Netflix is so popular is because of its simplicity. It’s painfully easy to queue up a movie on your laptop, video game console or mobile device and start watching in mere seconds. But that simplicity means there are a lot of features to Netflix that the average customer may not be using.

Here, we’ve rounded up some useful tips to help you get the most out of Netflix:

See What Movies Are Coming and Going

Netflix’s lineup of movies and TV shows is constantly changing as the company gains and loses licensing rights for different content. It’s difficult to get a full picture of the Netflix library from within the app itself, but a variety of third-party websites can help. Sites like Instant Watcher and What’s New On Netflix offer a daily rundown of new releases on the streaming service. Finding out when movies are going to be removed is a little trickier, because Netflix has purposefully obscured that information. However, the site Now Streaming updates regularly with lists of movies that will soon be going offline.

Get Better Search Options

Search options on Netflix are fairly limited, which can make it hard to ferret out quality movies from the service’s vast amount of content. Sites like Instant Watcher let you filter options by parameters such as year released as well as rating on Netflix and Rotten Tomatoes. And if your favorite movie isn’t on Netflix right now, you can use Can I Stream It or WhereToWatch to find out where else a film might be available to stream legally online.

Use Your Phone As a Remote

On the PlayStation 3, customers can use their phone or tablet to control Netflix instead of a video game controller. First, make sure your mobile device and your PS3 are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Then boot up the Netflix app on both devices, and your phone or tablet can be used to control the movie playing on the big screen — this also works if you’re watching Netflix via a Google Chromecast.

Get Smarter Recommendations

Netflix prides itself on its algorithms that are supposed to serve up content you’ll love that you didn’t even know you wanted. But the process only works if you feed the company a lot of info about what you enjoy. Rate movies regularly to get more precise recommendations, and don’t forget to fill out your taste preferences in your account settings. You can access the taste preferences list by selecting the “Your Account” option on the Web-based version of Netflix.

Change Subtitles

Tired of Netflix’s signature yellow subtitles? You can choose among eight different text colors as well as a background color to place behind the text. The font and text size can also be adjusted. The options are available in the “Your Account” settings on the Web version of Netflix.

Eliminate Buffering

There’s no bigger buzzkill during a riveting movie than being hit with a buffering screen. Netflix has a hidden menu to help you banish buffering. Press Shift + Alt + Left Click (or Shift + Option + Click on a Mac) while streaming a show to bring up a diagnostic screen. Click “Screen Manager,” then select the “Manual” checkbox to alter the stream’s bit rate. A lower number will lower the image quality of the program but will also allow you to watch on a slower connection without constant hiccups. When the buffering screen hits video game consoles and other living room streaming devices, try inputing the code Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Up, Up, Up, Up on the controller or remote to deactivate Netflix, then reboot it.

Make Profiles for Multiple Users

When you’re sharing your Netflix account with multiple friends and family members, the service’s recommendation algorithm can get pretty muddled. Separate the Law and Order fans from the documentary junkies by setting up separate profiles. You can have five in total and each will get its own viewing history and tailored recommendations. Create new profiles using the “Manage Profiles” option in the settings menu on Netflix.com.

Erase Your Viewing History

You gave into your base desires and binged on Bridezillas for five hours one rainy Sunday afternoon. It’s OK—no one ever has to know. Netflix will let you see a log of your vieiwng history and wipe specific items from the record books across all devices. Simply go to the “Your Account” option in the settings menu, click “Viewing Activity” and click the X on any shows you want to erase. Then you can go on watching trashy reality TV with impunity.

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TIME apps

The 5 Best Apps for Dominating Black Friday With Your iPhone

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s U.K. Asda Supermarket Entices Shoppers With Black Friday Deals
Customers push loaded shopping carts through crowded aisles as they look for bargains during a Black Friday discount sale inside an Asda supermarket in Wembley, London, U.K., on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Find the best deals—and parking—with these great shopping apps

With the advent of online shopping, if you think great, in-store Black Friday deals are a thing of the past, think again. According to a study by Accenture, 66% of respondents said they planned to chase down the shopping holiday’s one-day sales in 2014, up 11% over last year. And while hunting for great deals, 24% of them will be armed with smartphones to sniff out the best deals.

Don’t get outsmarted by these thrifty, tech-savvy shoppers. Before you hit the malls, make a plan and load your iPhone with these five great shopping apps:

Black Friday by SlickDeals
Ever wonder how to become as frugal as the misers on Extreme Couponing? Check out Slickdeals.net and find out. This forum, frequented by penny-wise shoppers worldwide, is a great place to find discounts on items on your shopping list. But in addition to its website and app, Slickdeals launches its Black Friday app once every year full of leaked newspaper circulars, all the deals at featured stores, and other great discounts that are voted on by its loyal users. The app is a huge time-saver, as you’re able to quickly discern between excellent bargains and overpriced items by relying on the experience and expertise of these fervent, year-long penny-pinchers.

Black Friday by SlickDeals is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Coupons.com
It’s understandable if you overlooked this one in the App Store, because the name doesn’t evoke cutting-edge tech. But with loyalty card linking abilities and Passbook-integrated coupons, it’s one of the smartest ways to get instant discounts with a smartphone. With both online and in-store offers, grocery and retail deals, and GPS-enabled notifications, the app uses every smart tool at its disposal to save you money. And it’s linked to some very big, popular brands like Toys R Us, JCPenny, and Dick’s Sporting Goods, so you really can’t afford not to download it.

Coupons.com is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Chameleon
As most Black Friday survivors will admit, the key to a successful shopping experience is getting in and out as quickly as possible. Chameleon makes this possible by telling you the aisle and inventory status of items on your shopping list. It only works at participating businesses, but with big box partners like Best Buy, K-Mart and Target, they are the exact places where you’ll need help on Black Friday. Just open the app when you’re in the store and search for the items you need. The app also doubles as a price scanner and can collect reward points redeemable for gift cards. Of course, “Alex from Target” could also help you find your items, but good luck finding him amidst the Black Friday mobs.

Chameleon is available for free on the App Store.

ParkWhiz
I’m going to throw this out there at the beginning: ParkWhiz feels wrong. An app that allows users to reserve and pay for other people’s private parking spots, this sneaky little life-saver should be on every urban shopper’s phone come holiday road rage time. Like Uber, only for parking spots, ParkWhiz lets parking garage and individual spot owners rent out their spaces when they’re not being used, giving frantic shoppers a place to stow their vehicles. Once you’ve reserved and paid for your spot, a QR code is displayed on your phone’s screen, which you can scan to get access at the lot. It feels like you’re stealing someone’s spot. (only you’re actually paying.) But there is something even more wrong than that: driving around for hours and finding no parking spots at all.

ParkWhiz is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

RedLaser
See that Candy Crush machine in your kid’s hands? It’s actually a high-powered supercomputer that can mash the Internet to find you the best prices on everything in your shopping cart. (everything except for your child, that is.) RedLaser uses your smartphone’s camera to scan the barcode on an item and show you its price everywhere you can buy it, whether that’s online or next door. A shopping tactic called “showrooming,” retailers cringe when they see customers do this. But don’t feel guilty— web-savvy stores have price-matching policies that will gladly take your money in exchange for the product. In fact, maybe you should reward their business acumen by loading one of their loyalty cards into RedLaser — the app can also keep track of that information for you, too.

RedLaser is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

TIME technology

New Drone Rules May Require Commercial Flyers to Have License

Attendees Visit The Commercial UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Show
An exhibitor adjusts a Sony Corp. digital camera mounted to a drone, developed by Flairics GmbH and Co., as it hangs on display during the Commercial UAV show in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg / Getty Images

Rules will require pilots to get licensed

The Federal Aviation Administration is set to restrict use of drones to within 400 feet of the ground and forbid flights beyond the eyesight of the operator, according to a new report, rules far less permissive than what companies like Amazon had hoped for.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources familiar with the highly anticipated ruling, reports that drone operators will be expected to obtain a pilot license, which traditionally require hours of flight training.

The rules will allow drones to be used in filmmaking, construction and farming, among other industries.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

TIME Charity

Apple Launches Two-Week RED Campaign to Help Fight HIV/AIDS

A red ribbon is put on the sleeves of a man by his friend to show support for people living with HIV during a program to raise awareness about AIDS on World AIDS Day in Kathmandu
A red ribbon is put on the sleeves of a man by his friend to show support for people living with HIV during a program to raise awareness about AIDS on World AIDS Day in Kathmandu on Dec. 1, 2013 Navesh Chitrakar—Reuters

The fundraiser will run from Nov. 28 to Dec. 7

Apple is teaming up with the charity RED to launch a two-week campaign across its app, retail and online stores to raise money to help fight HIV/AIDS and has recruited 25 top appmakers to help.

All proceeds will be donated to the Global Fund to be used in providing antiretroviral drugs and treatment to those suffering from AIDS, USA Today reports.

“We’ve been involved with RED from the beginning and have raised $75 million, but we were convinced there was an opportunity to get people to rediscover this cause,” said Apple’s senior vice president of software and services, Eddy Cue.

The appmakers taking part in the campaign have modified parts of their products to include new RED-themed features. For example, customers who buy Clash of Clans can unlock RED gems and those playing FIFA 15 Ultimate Team can complete in a RED tournament.

Apple’s campaign will run from Nov. 28 to Dec. 7, and customers who purchase one of the 25 apps during the two weeks will see all of their money for the app donated to the charity. The money spent on any upgrades will also go to fight HIV/AIDS.

[USA Today]

TIME Video Games

Microsoft’s Black Friday Xbox One Deals Will Blow You Away

Visitors At The Eurogamer Expo 2013 For Gamers
A logo sits on an Xbox One games controller during the Eurogamer Expo 2013 in London, U.K., on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. Matthew Lloyd—Bloomberg / Getty Images

The Xbox One is about to get $50 cheaper

Microsoft is slashing the price of its Xbox One gaming console by $50 price and offering further discounts for select game titles for the Black Friday holiday weekend.

The Xbox One will retail for $349 at participating retail stores — or, for gamers who don’t care to be trampled under a Black Friday stampede, the console can be had at Microsoft’s online store.

A package deal that includes a Kinect and one free game from the popular Assassin’s Creed series will start at $449.

Further Xbox-related markdwons will be unveiled on Microsoft’s website as soon as this giant doomsday clock counts down to zero.

 

TIME Security

New Malware Is a ‘Highly Complex’ Stealth Security Threat

Laptop, speed typing, screen glowing in the dark
Dimitri Otis—Getty Images

A new piece of malware called Regin is spying on people across industries. Why? Researchers aren’t exactly sure

The cyber security firm Symantec on Sunday revealed that a malicious new piece of software is collecting information on individuals, companies, and government entities without their knowledge.

The malware, called Regin, is considered to be a mass surveillance and data collection tool (sometimes referred to as “spyware”). Its purpose and origin is still unclear, Symantec said, but researchers believe that the program is the work of a nation-state.

“We believe Regin is used primarily for espionage,” said Liam O’Murchu, a security researcher at Symantec. “We see both companies and individuals targeted. The ultimate goal is to listen in on phone calls or something like that. [Regin’s operators] target individuals and spread the attack to find whatever it is they’re looking for. All of these things together make us think that a government wrote it.”

Symantec said Regin (pronounced “re-gen,” as in “regenerate”) monitors its targets with a rarely-seen level of sophistication. Internet service providers and telecommunications companies make up the bulk of the those that are initially infected, researchers said. Regin then targets individuals of interest—in the hospitality, energy, research, and airline industries, among others—that are served by those ISPs. Regin’s operators continue to use infected companies as a springboard to gain access to more individuals. Once they gain access, they can remotely control a person’s keyboard, monitor Internet activity, and recover deleted files.

More than half of observed attacks have targeted Russia and Saudi Arabia, Symantec said. The rest are scattered across Europe, Central America, Africa, and Asia. The initial infection can come from a wide variety of sources, such as copies of popular websites or web browsers and USB drives that have been plugged into contaminated systems.

Regin has five attack stages. It begins with an initial “drop,” also called a Trojan horse (or “backdoor”) breach, that allows it to exploit a security vulnerability while avoiding detection. The first stage deploys what is called a loader, which prepares and executes the next stage; the second stage does the same to complicate detection. The third and fourth stages, called kernels, build a framework for the fifth and final stage, called the payload. That’s when it can wrest control of a computer or leap to a new victim.

Each stage prepares and executes the next, rather than deploy from a common framework. It’s similar in concept to Russian nesting dolls. Regin’s distributed structure makes it difficult for cyber security researchers to identify it without capturing information about all five stages.

The malware is made up of a system of customizable modules so that it may collect the information it needs across a number of different victims. For example, one Regin attack might capture a password from a hotel clerk’s computer while another attack may obtain remote control of another computer’s keyboard for purposes unknown. Each module is customized for one task or system, making detection and prevention of a comprehensive Regin attack difficult.

“One of the problems we have with analyzing is we don’t have all the components,” O’Murchu said. “You only get the modules set on that [particular] victim. But we know there are far more modules than what we have here. We don’t have enough information to understand. On top of that, it’s coded in a very advanced way to leave a small footprint. Anything they leave behind is encrypted. Each part is dependent on having all the parts.”

This kind of operational complexity is typically reserved for a state or a state-sponsored actor, Symantec said. Only a handful of malware programs to date have demonstrated such sophistication. In 2012, the Flamer malware used the same modular system to hit targets in the West Bank of Palestine, Hungary, Iran, and Lebanon, among other countries. Regin’s multi-stage attack pattern operates similarly to the Duqu malware and its descendent Stuxnet, the malware responsible for the disruption of Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010. O’Murchu said Regin is part of a disquieting trend of government-written and government-enacted malware.

“We often say that Stuxnet opened Pandora’s box,” O’Murchu says. “Whether that is because we know what to look for now or because there has been a genuine increase since Stuxnet is up for debate, but what we can say is that yes, we now know about a lot more scary government malware than before. It is far more pervasive, it is embedded in more organizations than we have ever seen, it is more organized than ever, and it is more capable than ever. I would say there has been an explosion in government related malware, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.”

What makes Regin different is who it attacks. Instead of going only after high-worth targets, Regin attacks many different targets in an attempt to piece together contextual information. Of the 9% of Regin attacks in the hospitality industry, 4% targeted low-level computers, presumably for this information.

“The average person needs to be aware,” O’Murchu says. “A lot of the infections are not the final target. They are third parties providing some extra information to get to a final target. Lot of people think, ‘I don’t have anything of importance, why would anyone get on my computer?’ Ordinary people who may not think they’re targets in fact are.”

TIME Transportation

Taxi App CEO: Uber Is an ‘A–Hole’

136011080
View of taxi board Thomas Bonfert—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Rakesh Mathur wants to help cab drivers disrupt the disruptors

As Uber weathered a storm of bad publicity this week, a relatively small competitor put a new CEO at the helm. Rakesh Mathur is a serial company-founder who worked at Amazon after it bought his e-commerce startup Junglee. He’s now running Flywheel, an e-hailing app that everyday taxi drivers can use to pick up smartphone users and fight back against the disruptors.

Flywheel is in a mere three cities, compared to Uber’s 220 worldwide. And while the company just announced $12 million in funding, Uber is raising rounds by the billion. TIME spoke to Mathur about privacy, the pros and cons of Uber’s creative destruction and how the company plans to take over America despite the competition.

TIME: In a recent email, one of your company representatives described Flywheel as the “non-a–hole” alternative to Uber. Can you comment on that positioning?

Mathur: I think the last couple of days have been pretty shocking, right? Where you’re not just being told, “Hey, I know how to violate your privacy. I do that all the time. But I’m even worse than the [National Security Agency]. I’m going to take that information and do bad things to you.” I think a–hole is probably a mild word. And the fact that across the organization they feel so open using things like their God View, where you can see anybody who rides in an Uber car. Every driver that drives for Uber is tainted.

These transportation startups generally have the ability to know where their drivers are and where customers are needing to be picked up. What is your policy at Flywheel about who has access to that information and when?

It exists for some complaint or something that we’re solving, like disputing a fare. Certainly we can collect all the data on trends, so we know where demands are peaking and so forth . . . No one should have access to this information. It shouldn’t be called out. It should be available to solve consumer-initiated complaints. I don’t think monitoring individual information about people’s individual rides is something that is anybody’s right to know.

How do you see Lyft as a competitor that is different from Uber?

Their corporate philosophy projects as a lot kinder, gentler. Lyft is every bit as fierce a competitor.

Do you see Uber as a more direct competitor, more similar to a taxi service than Lyft, where riders are invited to sit in the front seat and chat?

We don’t need to obsess about Uber and Lyft beyond a certain point. Our primary job right now is to get into this huge supply that is available to us. And that’s going to keep us busy for a few years, making sure we are in all the cabs in America. I would liken worrying too much about Uber and Lyft to driving by looking in the rearview mirror.

What are your plans for expansion?

There’s so much inbound interest right now from markets all over the country. We’re going through them and figuring out which of the fleets in which markets give us critical mass. There’s also a lot of interest from software service providers within the taxi industry. So we’ve got our plate full.

Where do you think you’ll go next?

We’re in San Francisco. We have toeholds in Seattle and Los Angeles. And in the next three-to-six months, we should be in many of the bigger cities in the United States.

Are we talking another three cities? Another dozen?

More like another dozen than another three.

I know you said you try to keep Uber in the rearview mirror, but how do you compete with a service that is raising funds a billion dollars at a time?

In terms of capital, I’ve built multiple companies. In the past 20 years, I’ve sold six companies. I’ve got pretty deep connections in the venture, finance and angel world. With any luck, we’re going to raise all the capital we need. The other part is that if I had $100 million right now and I felt compelled to spend it, I could make some terrible mistakes that I haven’t thought through. And it’s very hard to scale back.

You have a lot of advantages in leveraging the already-existing taxi industry. No surge pricing. Allies in some transportation authorities. You may have an easier time getting legal access to airports. What do you see as your key advantage?

Taxi companies offer a more safe and knowledgeable environment. Safe, as in taxi drivers, for all the insults that are hurled at them, have to go through fingerprinting and checks against national databases, including the FBI’s. The standard Uber or Lyft driver is, maybe, slightly more checked out than the general population. I’m fiercely concerned about how unsafe the unregulated part of the industry is. And in many to most instances, you’re dealing with people who know their city very well if you’re dealing with a taxi. . . . It’s a regulated industry with a huge supply. We don’t have to recruit supply. It’s a more stable model.

What do you see as your disadvantage in the market?

At an overall level, the regulatory system is a dual-edged sword . . . We’re on the right side of the law everywhere. That said, we don’t feel that it would make any sense to come up with rules to govern how we price, how we behave, et cetera. To the extent that regulators want to try to regulate us, that would be a bad thing.

How do you plan, as a new CEO, to do things differently at the company?

My main charter is scaling, to make sure that the technology that worked in San Francisco is applicable and scales, all while eliminating things like ridestacking [when drivers accept a ride through the app and then pick up a street hail], more integration with other systems inside the cab, making it much more bullet-proof and delightful for the consumer. The other part of it is dealing with the ecosystem in a very aggressive way and making sure our deployment into all the cabs in America goes as fast as possible.

Before they had this new competition, were taxi companies too lax in customer service?

Absolutely. Uber has been a godsend for the taxi industry. They’re starting to realize who they serve, the person who gets into the taxi. The service levels have gone up. The importance of hailing from a smartphone has been recognized. I think they’ve also unified the taxi industry. It’s been good for the taxi industry. Uber and Lyft have delivered very valuable service to everybody, despite the fact that one of them seems to be a company that only has sharp elbows.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

TIME Companies

Amazon Wants to Book Your Next Hotel

The Amazon logo is seen on a podium duri
The Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York, September 28, 2011. EMMANUEL DUNAND—AFP/Getty Images

Amazon could potentially combine hotel booking information with product offerings

A new feature is reportedly coming to Amazon: hotel booking.

The online retailer, hardware maker, publisher and video distributor is adding a service called Amazon Travel to its litany of businesses, according to a report from travel industry news site Skift.

Amazon Travel will feature a curated selection of hotels within a few hours’ drive from New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. The hotels will load their room types, availability and pricing information onto Amazon and pay the company a 15% commission, Skift reports. Hoteliers would receive their payments for the room from Amazon, and could negotiate a lower commission.

One advantage for Amazon is that it could combine information about a traveler’s hotel plans with other product offerings, depending on the trip.

Skift reports that the service will likely go live January 1.

[Skift]

TIME Companies

European Parliament Wants to Break Up Google

Signage is displayed outside the Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, California, on Oct. 13, 2010.
Signage is displayed outside the Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, California, on Oct. 13, 2010. Bloomberg/Getty Images

European Parliament reportedly set to call for a break-up of the tech giant’s search engine from some of its other commercial businesses

Officials want the tech giant to unbundle its search engine from some of its other commercial business, according to a report.

Concerned over Google’s growing influence, the European Parliament is reportedly set to call for a break-up of the tech giant’s search engine from some of its other commercial businesses, according to the Financial Times.

Politicians are pushing the European Commission to limit Google’s reach either by passing new legislation or through its antitrust investigation into the company, which the EU recently reopened. A draft of a parliament motion that FT viewed argues that “unbundling [of] search engines from other commercial services” could be one appropriate path to curbing the Internet company’s dominance.

The expected recommendation, which FT says is backed by the parliament’s Socialist and European People’s Party political groups, would represent the most extreme action proposed to date by European regulators concerned over how much control American companies have over the Internet.

A vote on the recommendation is expected early next week, FT reports.

A Google spokesman declined to comment.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

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