TechMan Texts: Tech giants try to ‘cut the cord’

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Computer and Internet companies have been looking hungrily at cable industry profits for a while, and there have been two recent forays into the fields by tech giants.

Amazon last week announced Amazon Fire TV for $99. The device — competing with Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and others — allows you to play content from Amazon’s own studios and programming that is free for 20 million Amazon Prime subscribers ($99 a year). Other Fire content will come from deals with Hulu and Netflix; Fire TV also can be used to play games with a $40 controller.

Amazon wants to sell you the box, but more importantly wants to get its content on your TV.

Tech Talk: Amazon getting into the TV biz

The PG's Ced Kurtz and Laura Malt Schneiderman focus on on Amazon and Google as the corporations jockey for position in the business of television. (Video by Melissa Tkach; 4/7/2014)

Meanwhile, reports that Google is developing Android TV. "Android TV is an entertainment interface, not a computing platform," writes Google. "It’s all about finding and enjoying content with the least amount of friction."

It is unclear whether Google will just license the software to other hardware makers or will bring out its own box.

All of this activity is aimed at people who want to watch video from the Internet, in some cases "cutting the cord" or canceling cable service. Netflix is the king in this field, but it gets more competitors all the time.

TechMan has been working at night recently and his FIOS on-demand is on the fritz, so he has had to turn to the Web for his television. Between the network websites, Hulu, HBO Go and Netflix, there has been plenty to watch.

Lightning-fast Wi-Fi: A recent vote by the FCC will mean that your Internet video will be smoother. The vote opened up spectrum at the lower end of the 5-GHz band, one of two bands of spectrum used for Wi-Fi, according to the Houston Chronicle. The move potentially makes room for faster Wi-Fi known as Gigabit Wi-Fi. The move will also help with overcrowding on that band. It's unclear how soon the new spectrum will go into use and whether new hardware will be required.

It takes a kid: Five-year-old Kristoffer Von Hassel of San Diego discovered a major security hole in Microsoft/​s Xbox One accounts. The boy was trying to get into his father's account but did not have the password. After one failed attempt he typed in only spaces and gained entry to the account. After patching the flaw, Microsoft rewarded the boy with four Xbox One games, $50, a year’s subscription to Xbox Live and acknowledgment as a March 2014 Microsoft security researcher, according to Ars Technica.

Go left, young man: UPS company engineers using GPS found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents, says By altering routes, UPS said it has saved 10 million gallons of gas and reduced emissions by the equivalent of taking 5,300 cars off the road for a year.

Cheap 3-D: 3-D printer prices are dropping to a level that could appeal to home users, reports A handful of 3-D printers priced at less than $500 were shown at the Inside 3D Printing trade show last week in New York. They can print small objects in limited colors, but prices of more advanced home 3-D printers are dropping as well. 

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