The Truth About Broadband Speeds

Entrenched broadband providers sell their connection speeds using “up to” marketing tactics. Good luck determining if you’re actually getting those upload/download speeds — and don’t bother looking to the FCC for help.

By Bill Snyder on Mon, March 22, 2010


Suppose you went to the supermarket to buy a pound of steak for dinner and when you got home you noticed that the package seemed very light. So you went back and complained to the manager, only to be told that the label says “up to 1 pound,” and you’re stuck with it.

You’d be furious, of course. But that seemingly ridiculous stratagem is used every day by broadband providers across the country. Don’t believe me? Check your agreement. In my case, AT&T tells me that I’m entitled to upload speeds of “up to” 3 Mbps and download speeds of “up to” 384 kbps. What do I have? Download speeds that average about 15 percent slower depending on the time of day, and upload speeds that are more or less as promised.

You can do the math as well I can. A big file, such as a backup or a photo album that takes 120 minutes to download at 3 Mbps, takes an extra 17 minutes at 2.5 Mbps, my actual download speed.

OK, so maybe that’s not the biggest deal in the world, but why should I burn up an extra 17 minutes when I thought I was paying to avoid that? And as I found out, I’m lucky. Many consumers get just 50 percent of the speed they thought they purchased.

Read Bill Snyder’s full article at

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Adobe Gives Guidance on Shutting Off Embedded Executes

Posted by:  Larry Seltzer

Adobe has issued a blog entry to instruct users and administrators on mitigation techniques for the ability to execute embedded executable code with user consent. That capability, reported recently by researcher Didier Stevens, is turned on by default in Acrobat and Reader, as well as other PDF client software.

Users should go to Edit-Preferences, choose the Trust Manager on the left, then on the right uncheck the box indicated in the screen capture below.

The image and full article are at

Sneaky Fees: Hidden Charges Add Up for Tech Users

Regulatory fees. Handling fees. Convenience fees. Whatever vendors call them, more of these small charges continue to pile up on mobile phone and broadband bills, as well as on everyday online purchases. It’s adding up to aggravation for many customers.

By Bill Snyder on Mon, April 05, 2010

CIO — Helen Mickiewicz, a sharp-eyed T-Mobile customer in San Carlos, Calif., noticed something odd on her mobile phone bill earlier this year: A charge for $6.05 for something called a “regulatory fee.” Curious, Mickiewicz read the fine print and found that T-Mobile levies the fee to compensate itself for collecting government-mandated taxes and fees related to her service.

Be clear: the $6.05 is not a tax. “T-Mobile is charging me $6.05 a month to collect taxes and fees of $4.30 a month. That’s like Macy’s (M) charging me for collecting sales tax on something I bought,” she told me.

That’s what I call a sneaky fee. More and more companies, from airlines and cell phone providers to computer makers and cable TV providers, are separating all sorts of little charges from the basic cost of the service, in an effort to look cheaper than the competition. In many cases, the charges are so small you might not notice them. But they add up.

Read the full article at

First Look: Avira 10 treads water

April 6, 2010 2:44 PM PDT

by Seth Rosenblatt

The popular antivirus suite Avira AntiVir Free updated to version 10, but there’s surprisingly little new here. Users will get a faster, simpler installation and a refreshed skin, but feature-wise the latest from Avira merely holds its own rather than pushing ahead.

That’s not to say that Avira isn’t one of the best free antivirus apps out there, because it is. It remains easy to use, with a robust selection of preset scans, and it continues to fare well in efficacy tests. Don’t take our word for it, though: watch this First Look video and tell us what you think in the comments below.

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