Recycle “Anything with a Plug” at InterConnection’s Free 2015 eCycle Event

InterConnection and CenturyLink are hosting a major, City-wide electronics, free recycling event at CenturyLink Field’s North Parking Lot, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. this Saturday April 11th. InterConnection’s 2015 eCycle Event will give the community a chance to recycle any used electronics they have free of charge. People can recycle personal devices like cell phones and laptops, household items such as TVs and stereos as well as kitchen appliances both large and small. Anything with a plug will be accepted.  More info here.

CenturyLink broadband update, April 14, 6 p.m.

At the April 14 meeting of the City’s Technology Advisory Board, CenturyLink will be providing an update on their broadband and gigabit service buildout. Mary Taylor, State and Local Government Director, and Robert Larsen, Director of Local Network Planning will be presenting. The meeting will be held at 6 pm in the 27th floor conference room, Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 Fifth Ave. Click here for more information about CTAB .

Cable Code Updates Impact Competition and Customer Service

Seattle cable TV customers might be interested to know that the City recently updated its Cable Code. On April 27th, there will be a workshop for building managers who may be asked to sign cable contracts (more below). Many people don’t even know Seattle has a ‘Cable Code’, but it is the part of Seattle Municipal Code (Section 21.60) that sets rules for cable TV companies operating in the City.  The Cable Code includes an entire section dedicated to consumer protection issues; called the Cable Customer Bill of Rights.

The Cable Code was long overdue for an update; 63 percent of it was over 36 years old – written in 1976.  That’s when TVs still had dials, TV remote controls weren’t commonly available, and when the first VHS home video cassette recorder was introduced.  It’s also when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a new rule requiring all new cable systems to have 20 channels.  A lot has changed in cable TV technology and regulation since 1976.

While most of the Code updates were to fix outdated information and processes and ensure consistency with current federal cable law, there were a few more substantial changes. These changes focused on helping promote a more competition-friendly environment, while enhancing cable customer protections.

Promoting More Cable Competition

Increasing the competitive environment for cable service was done by eliminating the old structure of Cable Franchise Districts (see map here: http://clerk.seattle.gov/~ordpics/114546a.gif) which divided the City into large, irregular sections. The Districts were the results of cable company evolution in the City, with original smaller companies operating in certain areas being bought by larger companies, slowly creating five (5) very large franchise areas.  By eliminating the Cable Districts, a cable operator (new or existing) can now apply to build-out and serve smaller segments of the City, making it more likely a company might make that investment.  Along with these new, more flexible build out requirements, cable operators are required to make a commitment to serving lower income areas to ensure the benefits of having cable competition also reaches these areas.

Enhanced Cable Customer Protections

More cable competition could positively impact customer service in the future, but updates to the Cable Customer Bill of Rights (CCBOR) provisions can help individual customers now. Originally enacted in 1999, the CCBOR provides Seattleites with enhanced consumer protections and is meant to encourage cable operators to consistently provide good service to customers, or to compensate customers when they don’t. The recent CBBOR changes offer three key improvements:

  1. Cable companies using interactive voice response (IVR) systems are required to give you the option to speak to a live customer service agent within 3 minutes of your call being answered by the IVR. If you select to speak with a live customer service agent, that agent is required to answer the call within 30 seconds of your being transferred to them. These rules apply during normal business hours, which are Mon-Fri, 9:00 a.m. -7:00 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (see SMC 21.60.820.B.4)
  2. Cable companies, upon your request, are required to send you a written statement detailing the estimated cost of the service, repair, or installation you are asking about before delivery of the service or before any work is performed. (see SMC 21.60.820.E.5)
  3. The amount of minimum compensation a cable operator is required to provide a cable TV customer when the company fails to comply with Seattle’s customer service standards has increased from an average of $5.00 to $20.00. A table listing all of Seattle’s cable customer service standards, and the minimum compensation for violations of the standards, is available under SMC 21.60.850. Because these are unique to Seattle and customer service agents are usually not located in the Seattle area, customers need to know your rights under the CCBOR and request compensation for any violation.

Owners of Multi-Family Dwelling Buildings

It’s a smart business practice for both building owners and cable operators to have clear written agreements on the conditions of providing access and cable services to the building. Coming to these agreements can be complicated. The City has added language to the Cable Code to ensure building owners and cable companies are clear on their rights when it comes to exclusive service and right-of entry aspects of agreements for cable service. This includes language that says cable operators can no longer require a long-term exclusive agreement as a condition of service.

To help building owners and managers understand their rights and this new Code language, the City is holding a free seminar later this month (Monday, April 27th at 6:30pm at Seattle Pacific University).  To register to attend, email the Office of at Office of Cable and Broadband cableoffice@seattle.gov or call (206) 684-5957.

These Cable Code changes were approved by the City Council and signed by Mayor Murray the week of March 23, 2015, and go into effect on April 27, 2015.  If you have questions about the Code changes or need help resolving an issue with your cable company, contact Seattle’s Office of Cable and Broadband at (206) 684-8498 or cableoffice@seattle.gov. You can also visit their website to file a comment or to find other useful cable related information at www.seattle.gov/cable.

Free WiFi at Seattle Center

Image showing big boost in Seattle Center wifi

The new “white space” wi-fi brings a big boost to Seattle Center.

Mayor Murray unveiled a new free WiFi service at Seattle Center. The service, which serves tens of thousands of people simultaneously, was developed in partnership with Microsoft.

“This is another step forward in our work to seek out public-private partnerships to improve Internet access in Seattle,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “More than 12 million people visit Seattle Center each year, and now they will enjoy fast, free broadband on their devices. This pilot program tests new technology that we may be able to deploy to other neighborhoods in the city.”

The installation is a pilot program for Microsoft’s work on using white space technology, a portion of TV signals that travels longer distances and penetrates better than wifi frequencies.

See more here.

Here’s the video of the launch where Microsoft staff also explain the technology used:

Live Town Hall: Privacy Politics – April 22nd

Are we losing control of our digital privacy? While surveillance and information technologies have developed rapidly, privacy laws have not kept pace. City of Seattle leaders are pursuing a new privacy initiative that could impact everything from 9-1-1 calls to utility bills to recordings from police-worn body cameras. Host Brian Callanan moderates a live, televised community forum at Town Hall with privacy advocates, government, public-safety and technology leaders. Bring your questions, concerns, and comments!

Go here to register.

Panelists
Bruce Harrell, Seattle City Council
Tracy Ann Kosa, Seattle Privacy Coalition, Privacy Advisory Committee member
Mike Wagers, COO, Seattle Police Department
Nourisha Wells, Chair, Citizens Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board

The Emmy-award winning Seattle Speaks series is presented in partnership with Seattle CityClub and Town Hall.

Details:
Wednesday April 22nd, 2015
Doors: 6 p.m. | Program: 7 p.m.
Town Hall Seattle

Hack the Commute App Results

We are still recovering from our fantastic weekend hacking together at Moz. Ticketing information for the April 29 Championship Round will be available shortly, but in the meantime, we want to showcase the work of our teams!

Check out the live apps and Github repos below. Where possible, descriptions are taken directly from teams’ Github repos. You can also find recaps of the event in the Puget Sound Business Journal, Crosscut, NextCity, and The Urbanist. Many photos are online, thanks to Code for Seattle’s Seth Vincent (Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3) and official event photographer Michael Maine.

If you are inspired by what these teams built and want to help keep these projects going, we encourage you to reach out! A large number of our participants are on Twitter.  You can find them easily by checking out our feed or searching for #hackthecommute.

Runners up and more information may be found here.

TOP THREE
These teams will move on to the Championship Round on April 29.

Hackcessible
Live demo
Screenshots and repo
Team: Allie Deford, Nicholas Bolten, Reagan Middlebrook, Veronika Sipeeva

This app is developed to help people who use wheelchairs plan their routes in Seattle, taking into account their specific accessibility needs. It can be used as an extention to OneBusAway application or as a separate tool. Today, the app allows users to check the terrain around the bus stop for accessibility issues, report obstacles and verify information contribued by other users. The future goal is to allow users to search for an accesible route based on their preferences.

Slugg
Screenshots and repo
Team: Ash Bhoopathy, Andrew Charkin, Michael Charkin
Informal. On-demand. Trusted. The best way to find friendly colleagues to commute with.
This app is designed for iOS.

WorkOrbit (produced by Geohackers for Good)
Screenshots and repo
Team: Allan Yeung, Adrienne Kerr, Andy Barr, Darren Mills
We aim to help new residents of Seattle find the right neighborhood with an experience that encourages informed transit choices.

 

Performing a technology assessment of your nonprofit

When assessing your technology you should think about five major areas:

  • INFRASTRUCTURE

What computer and network style will you use:  normal ones are peer to peer and client server both can be part or all cloud based.  Will your main data be local or in the cloud?  What access to your data does your organization need? Think of storage space, speed of access, and whether multi-location access is needed.  Do you have a technology plan? If so, it should also talk about replacing or upgrading equipment as well.  What are the pros and cons to the hardware needs that you have decided on?

  • Business Software Needs

What enterprise systems will you need, such as office suites or special applications for your organization, how do you access the software? On what platforms can the software be run? Does your infrastructure support these platforms?

  • Organization Issues

Just because you have a great technology does not mean you will get everyone to use it.  Set goals for usage so that everyone knows how serious it is to use of the technology. Develop a policy and procedures for the usage of all of your technology.  A good rule is if you plug it in or it uses batteries then it is technology and you have a plan for it.

  • Website and Social Media

Some people believe that this should be under marketing, which is mostly true, but you still need to think about security along with several other aspects of them both.  Making sure both the website and social media components talk to each other as well as other platforms, can be technical.  Make sure there are roles and responsibilities assigned for every aspect of your online presence.  You should have a training plan and anyone who posts should understand the organization mission.

  • Risk management and security

Most organizations under-invest in this area. You don’t want to be the organization that has to pay millions to fix a data leak or have your reputation tarnished.  Always ensure that you have a malware system installed (Antivirus/Spyware) on each client machine.  People ask which one out there is best. This can vary with your needs but you want a company that is responsive.  Most new viruses are found because something got attacked or infected.  You should have a backup/disaster recovery plan in place. It is not good enough to just have your data in two places. You must know how you would retrieve it in a disaster.  Are you dealing with personal information such as social security numbers or medical records?  Always use complex passwords. For front facing access to your network, such as websites, limit administrative access to them.  Patch and update on a regular basis, this will help you stay secure.

In each of the categories you must always think about the price and budget.  Evaluating your technology plan on a yearly basis helps you to see that it still is in alignment with your organizational needs.

Identifying Hoaxes and Urban Legends

Chain letters are familiar to anyone with an email account, whether they are sent by strangers or well-intentioned friends or family members. Try to verify the information before following any instructions or passing the message along.

Why are chain letters a problem?

The most serious problem is from chain letters that mask viruses or other malicious activity. But even the ones that seem harmless may have negative repercussions if you forward them:

  • they consume bandwidth or space within the recipient’s inbox
  • you force people you know to waste time sifting through the messages and possibly taking time to verify the information
  • you are spreading hype and, often, unnecessary fear and paranoia
What are some types of chain letters?

There are two main types of chain letters:

  • Hoaxes – Hoaxes attempt to trick or defraud users. A hoax could be malicious, instructing users to delete a file necessary to the operating system by claiming it is a virus. It could also be a scam that convinces users to send money or personal information. Phishing attacks could fall into this category (see Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks for more information).
  • Urban legends – Urban legends are designed to be redistributed and usually warn users of a threat or claim to be notifying them of important or urgent information. Another common form are the emails that promise users monetary rewards for forwarding the message or suggest that they are signing something that will be submitted to a particular group. Urban legends usually have no negative effect aside from wasted bandwidth and time.
How can you tell if the email is a hoax or urban legend?

Some messages are more suspicious than others, but be especially cautious if the message has any of the characteristics listed below. These characteristics are just guidelines—not every hoax or urban legend has these attributes, and some legitimate messages may have some of these characteristics:

  • it suggests tragic consequences for not performing some action
  • it promises money or gift certificates for performing some action
  • it offers instructions or attachments claiming to protect you from a virus that is undetected by anti-virus software
  • it claims it’s not a hoax
  • there are multiple spelling or grammatical errors, or the logic is contradictory
  • there is a statement urging you to forward the message
  • it has already been forwarded multiple times (evident from the trail of email headers in the body of the message)

If you want to check the validity of an email, there are some websites that provide information about hoaxes and urban legends:

Authors

Mindi McDowell and Allen Householder, http://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/st04-009