Author Archives: Peter Nowak

Samsung talks up the sweet spots of curved TVs


Flat-panel televisions? Those are so 2012. At least that’s the impression some major manufacturers are giving off as a raft of new curved screens make their way into electronics stores.

Sony, LG and Samsung are all now pushing TVs with slightly curved screens that supposedly provide a better picture and are more immersive, similar to their larger movie theatre cousins.

Skepticism that this is just another marketing gimmick is high, though, with the jury out on whether curves actually do anything to improve the television-watching experience.

Samsung was showing off its curved TV lineup at an event in Toronto this week, so I talked to Jeff Ingram, training manager for the company, about some of those doubts. Here’s that conversation:

What’s the value proposition on the curved TV?

What consumers are getting with curved is palpable. Back in the days when you bought 1080p, you needed a Blu-ray disc, broadcasting was limited. At least with curve, when you’re lifting the TV out of the box there’s something there. There’s an excitement and a sense of luxury from something that’s very unique. Design is a big part of it. It’s an investment that you want to show your friends, relatives and neighbours. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in samsung, television


CEA head Gary Shapiro on NSA, net neutrality

shapiroGary Shapiro is an opinionated individual. But then again, as the president and chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Association – a powerful lobby group that represents more than 2,000 technology companies operating in the United States, including Samsung, Microsoft and Apple – he’s supposed to be.

Besides researching industry trends and reporting back on them to its members, the CEA also advocates their views to legislators and regulators. It’s a difficult job given the varying and sometimes conflicting viewpoints of its diverse membership.

Still, members are sometimes united on key policy issues that affect them all, which is something Shapiro speaks about handily. Chief among these concerns right now is the U.S. government’s ongoing abuse of surveillance technology, and its requirements of technology companies to supply information on their customers.

Read the rest of this entry »


The internet’s fate is being decided right now

"Rarrrr! Hulk want net neutrality!"

“Rarrrr! Hulk want net neutrality!” (Image courtesy Marvel)

There probably isn’t anything more exciting to watch right now for tech nerds than the situation regarding net neutrality that’s unfolding in both the United States and Canada. In the space of a week, it has gone from a fomenting revolt to a full-out war, especially down south.

Following last week’s letter from 150 technology companies, Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler backed down somewhat on his original proposal to allow internet providers to institute so-called paid prioritization of traffic, or the effective creation of a fast lane for online companies willing to pay extra.

Feeling the heat from big tech firms including Google, Amazon and Microsoft, not to mention some of his fellow commissioners, Wheeler instead suggested that the FCC might want to consider reclassifying internet provision so that it qualifies as a telecommunications service, which could then be subject to regulations.

Read the rest of this entry »


Hey Twitter, how about broadcasting unfollows?

earplugsWho’d have thought a simple mute button could capture the zeitgeist of the times so well? Twitter’s new feature, unveiled Monday, really does capture the passive-aggressive nature of social media.

As product manager Paul Rosania explained in a blog post, “Mute gives you even more control over the content you see on Twitter by letting you remove a user’s content from key parts of your Twitter experience.” With a click of a mouse button or a tap of a screen, you can banish messages from that annoying person who tweets too much or who engages in long conversations with others that you’d rather not have to listen in on.

The muted person, however, doesn’t know they’ve been silenced on your timeline and they keep seeing all of your tweets, retweets and so on. You can always unmute them as well, should you ever want to.

It’s basically like unfollowing someone without actually going the distance, and indeed Facebook has had this sort of function for some time. Third-party Twitter tools such as Tweetdeck also allow for timeline management that can effectively silence users. Twitter is now just making it even easier.

But why mute someone when you can - and possibly should - simply unfollow them instead? Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Twitter


Unveiling my new website:!

alphabeatic-launchIt’s hard to believe it’s been more than five years since I first started blogging. What began as a simple promotional vehicle for my first book morphed about three years ago into a broader repository for whatever I was working on, thinking about, or even eating. has at times been a sketchpad, a journal and even a pulpit from which I’ve tried to explore and comment on the ways in which technology affects culture, and vice-versa.

In that vein, I’m very pleased to announce the latest evolution of this journey:! It’s a new website that builds on what I’ve been doing and that will hopefully go in directions even I’m not expecting.

You’ll notice AlphaBeatic looks more like a news or magazine website than it does a blog, and that’s on purpose. I’ve long been feeling the limitations of simple blogging platforms - first Blogger and then the web-hosted version of WordPress - which is why I’ve now switched to the full version of WordPress. I’m still learning the tools as I go, but I’m pleased so far with its advanced capabilities, flexibility and customization. I’m now able to present my work in what I think is a much more navigable and attractive manner.

Speaking of which… the name. With a new look and direction, I thought it was the perfect time for some new branding. While writing is certainly what I do, I’ve also been thinking recently that the “words” in WordsByNowak is limiting. There are many ways to tell stories in the modern internet era - video, photos, audio podcasts and so on - and I’d like to be open to that. I’m looking forward to trying some of these other methods out soon.

Similarly, I thought the “Nowak” in WordsByNowak was also limiting. With a different brand and some plans for revenue generation, AlphaBeatic may some day open up to other contributors. Stay tuned on that front.

The name itself requires some explanation. AlphaBeatic is literally the result of months of brainstorming; an obvious play on the word “alphabetic,” which simply refers to using an alphabetical system, it has several possible side meanings.

To a journalist, a “beat” is an area or topic of interest, expertise or specialty. Combined with “alpha,” the first letter in the Greek alphabet that can also mean “prime” or “primary,” it’s a way of signalling my hopes for the site - that it becomes a prime destination for anyone interested in the tech-culture beat.

“Alpha” is also a technology term that means a particular piece of software is feature complete and ready for testing, which is an analogy I quite like for what I’m doing. Of course, a beat is also something you can dance to, and dancing is fun, which will be an important element of the site. And lastly, as anyone who has ever tried to think of a business name and especially tried to find a domain name for it, was available, which made it very attractive.

I’ll be cross-publishing blog posts here on and for the next few weeks, after which I’ll transition fully over to the new site and eventually point this address there permanently. Please change your bookmarks and feeds as appropriate, and I’ll see you on the other side!


Posted by on May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


The reality of wireless bills in one simple chart

Further to my post yesterday about whether wireless bills have gone down… I got an email from Geoff White, counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, that hit the nail more closely on the head than the new report from J.D. Power has.

While that survey suggests that consumers are suffering from mass delusion, some simple reality checking shows that’s hardly the case. Here is PIAC’s comparison of basic smartphone plans from one of the big carriers from August 2012 and March 2014:


It’s true that subscribers are now getting more voice minutes, a faster network and a shorter amortization period on their subsidized phone (two years rather than three), but is that worth the big hike when the matching rise in the consumer price index over the same time was only 1.24 per cent?

As PIAC puts it: “In just two years the basic entry point into smartphone ownership (and with a bare minimum of data) has increased 46 per cent. This and similar price increases cannot be seen as positive for anyone except the service providers themselves.”

Unfortunately, that’s far closer to the reality consumers are experiencing than J.D. Power’s findings.

*PIAC’s data appears to have had an error in the overage calculation. The original chart above listed the pricing as “same” but has since been amended to indicate overage cost more in 2014.


Posted by on May 9, 2014 in mobile, telecommunications


No, wireless bills aren’t actually going down

cell-phone-billSo wireless bills are going down? Wha? How’s that possible?

Canadians are paying an average of $76 per month if on a two-year contract or $81 if on a three-year agreement which, according to a new report from J.D. Power, means “on average, monthly bills for wireless service have dropped by $7 for customers in Canada, helping to improve overall satisfaction.” Much of this is thanks to the CRTC’s Wireless Code of Conduct that took effect in December, which capped roaming fees and eliminated three-year contracts, the report says.

The results seem to disagree with what has actually been going on. Firstly, the big carriers all raised their fees last summer ahead of the Wireless Code’s arrival, then hiked them again starting in January, and now they’re starting to raise them again by chipping away at the discount customers get for supplying their own devices. Even Bay Street analysts agree that regular price increases are resuming now that the competitive threat of new entrants such as Wind and Mobilicity has subsided.

So what gives, J.D. Power?

“It’s a reported monthly spend,” said Adrian Chung, the report’s author, in an interview. “It certainly isn’t the ARPU (average revenue per user) number that the carriers will indicate in their financials.” Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 8, 2014 in mobile, telecommunications


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