Tech News

Google Launches Project Fi, Germany Embraces AdBlock Plus, & More… [Tech News Digest]

Dave Parrack 23-04-2015

Google Project Fi, AdBlock Plus in Germany, Facebook IDs callers, Apple Watch gets fashionable, Tidal discovers Indie, and J.J. Abrams kicks off the Twizzler Challenge.


Google’s Project Fi Lands on Nexus 6

Google is launching its own mobile network exclusively for Nexus 6 owners. Project Fi, which is currently in an invite-only beta, sees the company “work in close partnership with leading carriers, hardware makers, and all of you to push the boundaries of what’s possible.”

Unlike most other mobile networks, Google is offering users the chance to only pay for the data they actually use 8 Useful Tips to Reduce Mobile Data Usage and Save Money Want to get the most out of your mobile data plan? These apps and tricks can help you squeeze out every last megabyte. Read More each month. Project Fi costs $20-per-month for “all the basics (talk, text, Wi-Fi tethering, and international coverage in 120+ countries),” with an additional $10 for every GB of data you use. And if you don’t use what you have paid for the difference gets refunded in full.

Project Fi works by “intelligently connecting you to the fastest available network at your location whether it’s Wi-Fi or one of our two partner LTE networks (T-Mobile and Sprint).” Which should, in theory, help you maintain a better connection wherever you are.

You can sign up for an invite to this MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) as long as you’re resident in the United States and own a Nexus 6 Motorola Nexus 6 Review and Giveaway The latest entry in the Nexus devices comes with a $650 price tag, along with outstanding specs, the latest version of Android and touchless controls – but does the ginormous phablet size warrant a purchase? Read More . However, Google is only promising a small number of invites every week, so your chances of getting selected remain slim at this stage.

German Court OKs Use of AdBlock Plus

A German court has declared that people are legally entitled to use AdBlock Plus to block online advertising, regardless of how much harm this is doing to publishers. The judgement was in response to two German newspapers, Die Zeit and Handelsblatt, taking AdBlock Plus to court claiming its anti-competitive and threatening their businesses.


In the aftermath of the case, the people behind AdBlock Plus heralded their triumph in a self-congratulatory blog post. Meanwhile, the publishers who brought the case issued a statement saying, “We are still convinced that AdBlock Plus is an illegal and anti-competitive practice.”

I am obviously biased on this one, because my whole livelihood is reliant on people seeing ads. But there is a deeper issue at play here, because if everyone installed AdBlock Plus then the websites they love would all wither and die AdBlock, NoScript & Ghostery - The Trifecta Of Evil Over the past few months, I've been contacted by a good number of readers who have had problems downloading our guides, or why they can't see the login buttons or comments not loading; and in... Read More . So if you do use an ad-blocker, please whitelist MakeUseOf Please Whitelist MakeUseOf In Adblock: A Plea From a Former Adblock Filter Developer It’s no secret that we’re not huge fans of Adblock here at MakeUseOf. But we know that some of you won’t let go of Adblock until it’s pried out of your cold, dead hands. If... Read More . We would appreciate it immensely.

Facebook Says Hello to Caller ID App

Facebook has launched Hello, a new app designed to bring the simple act of making and receiving phone calls into the 21st century. The primary function of Hello is to offer users a way of identifying incoming calls Four Free Caller Identification Apps That Will Annoy Your Telemarketers Using one of these caller ID apps, you can easily block telemarketers and know who's calling you before you answer. Read More , which it does by sourcing information from Facebook.

Hello also offers a synced phonebook, free VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) calls, a smart search bar, and the option to block nuisance calls. Hello is only available on Android due to Apple’s insistence that apps don’t interfere with phone calls, and is currently only available in the U.S., Brazil, and Nigeria.


Apple Watch Is a Fashion Accessory

Apple is offering the Apple Watch for sale through a number of high-end fashion boutiques, thus proving the theory that this gadget is a case of style over substance. While you won’t be able to purchase an Apple Watch at an Apple Store Google Extends XP Support, uTorrent Dumps Bitcoin Miner, & More... [Tech News Digest] Google supports XP, uTorrent stops mining, Apple Watch is unavailable, switch from Spotify to Tidal, play the net neutrality game, and enjoy the new Star Wars trailer. Read More this weekend, you will be able to purchase one at selected fashion boutiques.

The boutiques in question are Maxfield in L.A., Colette in Paris, The Corner in Berlin, 10 Corso Como in Milan, and Dover Street Market in the UK and Japan. All of which will have their own separate stock of Apple Watches for hipsters to buy. But not Beyoncé, because she’s special Facebook Favors Friends Feeds, Tweaking Twitter Tackles Trolls, & More... [Tech News Digest] Facebook changes things up, Twitter tackles the trolls, YouTube stops working, Vine shares the love, celebrity Apple Watches, and the Age of Ultron trailer recreated in LEGO. Read More .

Tidal Discovery Helps Indie Artists

Jay Z must have heard us, and the hundreds of other media outlets, condemning Tidal as a complete non-starter Why Jay Z's Tidal Music Streaming Service is Doomed to Fail Jay Z recently relaunched Tidal, the music streaming service he acquired for $56 million. Tidal has 99 problems, and the pitch is one. Read More when it comes to disrupting the music streaming scene. Hence, the service he recently relaunched is seeking to make it easier for independent artists to get involved with his rich-person revolution.

Discussing a new element of Tidal called Discovery, Tidal CIO Vania Schlogel told Smashd [Broken URL Removed], “When it comes to the distribution of music, I want to get to a point where there are no blockades for artists in order to be able to easily do that for themselves. The end game [is] that we want everyone to be able to self-upload their own music and then track it very intuitively through this artist dashboard.” Which all sounds very democratic and liberating.


Unfortunately, one watch of that launch video and my feelings towards Tidal switch back to being wholly negative. Still, there’s always time for Jay Z to turn things around. After all, everybody hated Apple When Did Apple Become Popular? A Brief History of the Rise of Apple How did Apple start and when did Apple become popular? We answer these questions and more in a brief history of Apple. Read More for a good few years in the 1980s and 1990s.

Chewbacca Does the Twizzler Challenge

And finally, J.J. Abrams and Chewbacca are two of the first “celebrities” to complete the Twizzler Challenge in order to raise awareness of autism. The Twizzler Challenge is the brainchild of New York Collaborates for Autism, and could become this year’s Ice Bucket Challenge.

I’m not sure I ever wanted to see Abrams almost kissing Chewie, but then the fact they’re even an item means there’s a new Star Wars film on the way. Everything is right with the world. Except that, as a man with a beard, this makes me realize how unpleasant it must be for my girlfriend to kiss me. [H/T The Verge]

Your Views on Today’s Tech News

Are you tempted to buy a Nexus 6 in order to use Project Fi? Do you use AdBlock Plus despite the harm it’s doing to your favorite websites? Will you be taking part in the Twizzler Challenge?


Let us know your thoughts on the Tech News of the day by posting to the comments section below. Because a healthy discussion is always welcome.

Related topics: Apple Watch, Facebook, Google, Google Nexus, Indie Music, Online Advertising, Star Wars.

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  1. Govertz
    April 25, 2015 at 9:24 am

    "Their right to advertise ends at my modem". No way, you have the rights, not to visit the sites in question, you have the rights to click away from these sites, and seek your information elsewhere.
    The right to advertise belongs to the site owner, he/she has the right to seek compensation for the workload and economy of running the website. And the rights to block visitors, who are using adblockers.
    If you could pay for an ad free experience, would you do that?

    "Are the rights of one individual/group more important than those of another???" I think you should answer your own question.

  2. Govertz
    April 24, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    I'm not defending the ads, especially not the obnoxious kind. I'm defending the website owners rights and reasons for advertising.

    • dragonmouth
      April 24, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      "I’m defending the website owners rights and reasons for advertising."
      Their right to advertise ends at my modem. Smokers have the constitutional right to smoke but I have the right to breath clean air, so their right ends at the tip of their cigarette/cigar/pipe.

      Are the rights of one individual/group more important than those of another???

    • Blacksmith
      April 25, 2015 at 1:16 am

      Dragonmouth, 'I have the right to breathe clean air'. Forget smokers Sunshine, if you fly, drive or use public transport you have given up your right to fresh air.

  3. Jeff
    April 24, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    I feel a need to comment on your extreme dislike for adblock. I am no web developer, or understand all the mechanics of web advertising. However, I do work in ITS supporting Engineering (CAD) software. My exposure to this issue is an understanding of just how personal tracking has become. In the 1990s a cookie may tell you that I kept returning to your site. But I was anonymous in those days. now big data - google, fb, yahoo, wants to know exactly who I am. Some of us older people still value our privacy. enough so that I forego any of the convenience offered by a google app. I run ghostery, and DNT on my browsers. I use Browzer when I really want to be sure I am not being tracked. I have history set to delete on exit and keep 0 days history. In some cases I see 20-30 beacons, trackers and widgets being applied to a site. Often this happens in places you least expect it. How can I tell what tracker is basic, and which one really digs in and steals as much personal data as possible? Try starting a fake account on the government's own healthcare (Obamacare) site. I have done this with DNT running. At the point you are about to commit that which is your most personal data for health insurance (Mandatory healthcare - remember?) you find FB and google right there. What right does facebook have to be there? Before you comment that they are not passing data let me just tell you that you or I do not know for sure. It is their revenue stream that need this - the more data the better. I have had the very bad experience that my with 401K plan with Transamerica had google trackers when logging into my personal account data. I reported this to my company. They and Transamerica found the data was indeed going into Google's own servers. Supposedly it was corrected and the data deleted. this was my address, SS#, family info. Pretty much all my most personal data. So how much trust do I place in your supposedly benign trackers? What I find most interesting is I have never seen an add that entices me to want to buy any product on any web page I land on. I can only guess I am unique in that. I purchase with way more thought & research than knee jerk response to web advertisements.

  4. korylus
    April 24, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Re: Adblock Plus

    I think there should be a standard of web advertising introduced whereby if your website measureables -- loading speed, readability, resource usage etc. -- are below a certain standard as a result of ads, then your site is legally fair game for any adblock program.

    On the other hand, if your site passes these standards, then adblock plus etc. must add your site to their whitelist and are legally obliged to do so.

    Saying that websites should adapt to adblocking or die is no more reasonable than saying that all TV channels should be forced to go ad free. There must be room for multiple business models -- if some websites can thrive without ads that's great, but others need them.

    • dragonmouth
      April 24, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      "Saying that websites should adapt to adblocking or die"
      I think you misinterpreted my statement. Removing the reason for AdBlock is also adapting. However, if a site insists on in-your-face ads that do not allow uninterrupted use then if it dies because of AdBlock, it is good riddance.

      If you are interested in the stock market, visit InvestorPlace site. That site cannot be viewed without AdBlock because the ads pop-up, pop-under, pop-over, blank out the text you are reading, overlay the text. You dismiss one ad, another one is displayed in a couple of seconds. No matter how vital/interesting the information provided by the site is, because of the way it displays ads, it should die.

    • korylus
      April 24, 2015 at 10:55 pm

      I fully concur that we need to be rid of the sort of advertising on InvestorPlace, but I think the problem is that sites like that are ruining things for sites that are advertising in acceptable and less intrusive ways. A huge proportion of internet users -- myself included -- now have adblocking turned on all the time and this punishes sites who advertise less intrusively.

      What I suggest is that there should be an 'intrusiveness' scale for how advertising is used on sites and if a site's score is below the threshold of intrusiveness, then adblocking plugins should be legally obliged to remove them from the default blocking list.

      Do you think that sounds like a good strategy to encourage responsible advertising?

  5. Computer Wizard
    April 24, 2015 at 11:16 am

    But the ads do not have to be so obnoxious that they DETRACT from the experience of visiting the site, which most are getting to these days. THAT is my primary objection to ads, they have gotten totally out of hand...

  6. Govertz
    April 24, 2015 at 10:24 am

    I don't like ads, but I'm not blocking them.
    It's true a website is a guest on the users computer, but it's as an invited guest, no one forced the user to visit the website.
    If you want the information on a website, and the website is showing ads, then the ads is the price you have to pay for reading that information.
    If you don't like ads, then you have to find websites with the information you seek, without ads.
    There's so much work involved in running a website, there has to be some kind of reward for that work, else there wouldn't be so many quality websites for users to visit.

    • dragonmouth
      April 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      If your "invited" guest brought fleas, lice or other vermin into your house, you would not invite him or make sure to delouse him before admitting him.

      Nobody, except the malware purveyors, has any philosophical objections with PC owners running anti-malware apps. The only difference between obnoxious ads and malware is that obnoxious ads do not destroy the PC although ransom ware comes close.

  7. Computer Wizard
    April 24, 2015 at 2:16 am

    People block ads because they are annoying, and try to take over your screen. If ads were back to simple banner ads that do not flash, blink, float all over and make your visit to a site totally frustrating, then people wouldn't have to resort to blocking them. Also, some sites do NOT check to see who is advertising and the bad guys know this, thus malware spreads... Didn't this happen to Yahoo a while back? :-)

    • Grogknurd
      April 24, 2015 at 3:04 am

      Have to agree with Computer Wizard.
      Content providers [like too many people today] are so self absorbed they have forgotten that they are a ~guest~ on every computer users time and resources.
      When you abuse your guest-privilege by using annoying forms of advertising you can expect those who have the sense not to be victimized by overly aggressive [and boorish] tactics to take appropriate actions to limit your privileges on their hardware.
      When you pay for, install, and maintain the hardware that the user is allowing you guest-right on then, and only then, will you as a content provider have any right to demand certain behaviour on the part of the user.
      Until then, act like an adult and use adult forms of advertising instead of using abusive and, quite frankly juvenile, tactics in the attempt to sell advertising space/time on your website[s].

  8. Rhonda Lea Kirk Fries
    April 24, 2015 at 1:33 am

    Perhaps you should try the unobtrusive ad model. I don't use AdBlock, btw; I use AdGuard, which also allows unobtrusive advertising.

    I whitelisted the site, only to discover it clogs up my browser. Worse the page won't fully load. And my whitelist doesn't do you a lot of good because Flash is set as click-to-run. I actually checked the two Flash placeholders on this page--Best Buy. Very nice. I won't be allowing Flash again.

    I'll never understand why advertisers think bombarding potential customers is an attractive business practice. Nor does it make any sense to me that a tech website thinks I will continue to use it if I'm seeing ads like "New Rule in " with a photo of two young women handcuffed in the back of a police car. When I click on that ad, I will learn that the site to which it is linked is selling car insurance. How enticing.

    And then there was the ad for PC Cleaner PLUS (scareware) at which comes complete with a warning from WOT that the site has a poor reputation. Really? Do you let anyone buy advertising space?

    I support a tech website through Patreon, and I also allow that site's ads, even though I've been offered an account to suppress the ads. The reason I do both is that the site has never allowed the unconscionable type of advertising that MakeUseOf does.

    If you fix your site, no one will need to use their ad blocker here. Until then, it's unsafe to use MakeUseOf without one. As someone who remembers a time when the internet was entirely ad free and the green-card lawyers were pariahs, I'm not willing to tolerate this. There are far too many sites offering the same information, and users can afford to be choosy.

    • Martin
      April 24, 2015 at 8:46 am

      Perfectly said

    • dragonmouth
      April 24, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      "Do you let anyone buy advertising space?"
      As long as they pay, MUO does not discriminate.

    • Perry Bruns
      April 26, 2015 at 3:05 am

      I agree with you 100 percent, Rhonda, and also add that rich media ads are bandwidth hogs. Granted, I have a semi-unlimited mobile plan, but after 10 GB, the carrier throttles my data rate to 128 kbps. That means if I hit a bunch of sites on my mobile phone that uses a lot of advertising, I might edge close to that rate unless I watch my usage carefully.

      Plus, on a small screen, some mobile sites are so badly larded up with ads that they're basically useless. For that matter, I think any advertiser who still puts modal popups onto their sites, and any company who sells that advertiser space, should be shut down and fined not less than $1,000 per pageview until they stop.

      I don't have a problem with ad-supported media. I do have a problem with media outlets and advertisers who don't understand the frustrations of the end user. And yes, while your mobile site isn't terrible, your constant moaning about ad blockers means that you're guilty of it, MUO.

  9. John Williams
    April 24, 2015 at 12:43 am

    Surely all current Apple products are a case of "style over function"? There is not a single unique feature of any Apple product that can not be found on products costing two thirds less than "i" devices.

    Now a true fashionista can go buy an iWatch in a jewellry store. Without the advice from an iStore Genius they may not be told it requires an iPhone to work.

    I can't wait for the first paparazzi photo of a wealthy but clueless cleb wearing a gold, top end iWatch and using a Galaxy S6 ....

    • dragonmouth
      April 24, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      "There is not a single unique feature of any Apple product that can not be found on products costing two thirds less than “i” devices."
      Yes, there is. Snob appeal. :-)

  10. Double
    April 24, 2015 at 12:15 am

    Does Google fi mean that you have to pay for data you download form your own wifi?

  11. dougo13
    April 23, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    Independent telephone system and Shaw's closed ecosystem means this will not be available in my area of Canada, so "Ho hum!"

  12. dragonmouth
    April 23, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    "Google is launching its own mobile network exclusively for Nexus 6 owners. Project Fi"
    I wonder how long that is going to last considering Google's history of loosing interest in many of their projects.

    "German Court OKs Use of AdBlock Plus"
    If I have a business, there is no guarantee that the customers will patronize it. It is up to me to devise a business plan that will make my business attractive. I do not shanghai customers off the street and I do not take people to court for refusing to be my customers. Forcing site visitors to view ads is tantamount to shanghaiing customers off the street.

    "websites they love would all wither and die"
    Business Darwinism at work. Adapt or die.

    "Facebook Says Hello to Caller ID App"
    Does Hello exempt phone calls from Nigeria from being blocked? :-)

    • Alfonzo Garboon
      April 24, 2015 at 12:03 am


      It's "losing interest," unless the interest is tied to a post and you're taking the rope loose.

      You analogy of shanghaiing people off the street doesn't hold. It's more like you have a coffee house you've equipped with comfortable chairs and tables, and then paid for nice air conditioning and heating and WiFi. If I come in VOLUNTARILY, sit for a while, and use my laptop or tablet on the WiFi you are paying to provide, you would probably think it would be nice if I would spend money on your coffee, bagels, donuts, and whatever you sell. If you create a website or pay to have one created and pay for the equipment and the bandwidth, and I view it, you might think it would be nice if I viewed the ads to help pay the bills.

      The place my response breaks down is if you're willing and able to furnish me the services at no charge, out of the kindness of your heart. In that case, not viewing the ads that make you money seems reasonable.