ZVRS Acquires iDeafNews

ideafnews zvrs acquisitioniDeafNews has recently announced on 2/3/2016 the acquisition by ZVRS of iDeaf News.  iDeafNews issued a statement:

“Today, a historic partnership is announced between iDeafNews and ZVRS! Since 2010, iDeafNews has been the premier source for current news and topics about and for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. With this new relationship between ZVRS and iDeafNews, we are excited to bring even more empowered access to the community we serve!”

iDeafNews also released a video by iDeafNews founder, Seth Gerlis, announcing the acquisition along with ZVRS CEO Sherri Turpin.  That video is below.  In the video, Gerlis and Turpin are sitting next to each other, with an interpreter sitting behind Turpin.  At the start and end of the video, Turpin signs, while for the large majority of the video, she speaks verbally while relying on the interpreter behind her to sign for her.  Gerlis signs for the entire video.

Video Transcript

While this video announced the acquisition of iDeafNews, in the video, it was repeatedly stated that it was with the intention of supporting Seth Gerlis as a Deaf business owner of iDeafNews.  With respect to Turpin and Gerlis, the acquisition means ZVRS is now legally recognized as the de-facto owner of iDeafNews, with Seth Gerlis operating iDeafNews.  ZVRS is helmed by CEO Sherri Turpin, whom replaced Sean Belanger when he retired back in August 26, 2015.

'Z wants to be known in the community as supportive on many levels, and in particular, it's important to me to support a Deaf business owner.' Sherri Turpin, ZVRS CEO, during announcement of iDeafNews acquisition

CEO Profile

Turpin comes to ZVRS from EarthLink where she served as Channel Chief, leading a sales organization with a strong focus on marketing and brand recognition.

Turpin comes from a strong management background, with over 15+ years of experience in the telecommunications industry, specializing in Business Development, Sales, Marketing, Operations and Customer Experience.

Throughout her career, Turpin has been recognized for her leadership, by winning various awards and honors, one of these being the 2015 Circle of Excellence Award, presented by Channel Partners.

Source: ZVRS

Sherri Turpin

Turpin was appointed CEO (August 26, 2015) well after ZVRS was acquired by Kinderhook Industries on February 10, 2015.

When Turpin became CEO, Chris Wagner, a member of ZVRS’ Executive team, commented: “Sherri will bring a new perspective and energy to ZVRS. Her leadership and knowledge will move us to the next level, where our customers are the #1 priority.”

If you’re interested in seeing the press release by Kinderhook, it can be seen below.  Otherwise, feel free to skip the below information box.

KHI_LogoNew York, NY – Kinderhook Industries, LLC (“Kinderhook”) announced today the acquisition of CSDVRS, LLC (“CSDVRS” or the “Company”) from M/C Partners, Providence Equity Partners and Communication Service for the Deaf. CSDVRS is the first platform investment from Kinderhook Capital Fund IV, a private equity fund raised in 2014 with $500 million of limited partner capital. The transaction represents Kinderhook’s eighth healthcare platform investment and twenty-first transaction in the healthcare sector. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Headquartered in Clearwater, FL, CSDVRS operates two business segments, ZVRS (“Z-Video”) and Stratus Video Interpreting (“Stratus”), both of which leverage the Company’s expertise in video conferencing to provide interpretation services. Z-Video provides video relay services to the deaf and hard of hearing, allowing them to connect with hearing individuals over video telephones or similar devices such as iPads, via American Sign Language interpreters. Stratus provides video remote interpretation services to the healthcare, legal and enterprise markets – providing Limited English Proficiency individuals the ability to communicate in these settings with the assistance of interpreters via video conference on-demand.

Sean Belanger, CEO of CSDVRS, said, “We are excited about our partnership with Kinderhook. Our vision is to continue to provide world-class video translation services to the deaf and hard of hearing population in the U.S. and the necessary tools to let the world hear the voice of the deaf community. Kinderhook’s extensive healthcare experience will enable us to pursue our next stage of growth.”

“Sean and his management team have built Z-Video into a nationally recognized provider of video relay services,” said Chris Michalik, Managing Director at Kinderhook, “which enable deaf and hard of hearing individuals to communicate with hearing people worldwide. Further, Stratus’ market leading position, technology and best-in-class service provide a unique value proposition to the hospital and legal market. Stratus offers hospitals and courtrooms all the benefits of face-to-face translation services at a fraction of the cost of a full-time interpreter. Kinderhook is looking forward to partnering with accomplished industry veterans to continue to build a leading company in the healthcare information technology industry.”

Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal counsel to Kinderhook. Financing for the transaction was provided by GE Capital.

The CEO of Kinderhook Industries has no listed CEO, but has five managing directors listed, with Thomas Tuttle being listed first.  It is not clear which of those managing directors would be considered the executive director for Kinderhook Industries.  Searches on Google to determine if any of those directors or ZVRS CEO Turpin had any background with the deaf/hard of hearing community; those searches turned yielded nothing.  It appears all of the managing directors of Kinderhook Industries, and the CEO of ZVRS, are all hearing, and had no prior background in the deaf community prior to ZVRS.

tomtuttle robmichalik chrismichalik corcarruthers paulcifelli
Thomas Tuttle
Managing Director
Kinderhook Industries
Robert Michalik
Managing Director
Kinderhook Industries
Christian Michalik
Managing Director
Kinderhook Industries
Corwynne Carruthers
Managing Director
Kinderhook Industries
Paul Cifelli
Managing Director
Kinderhook Industries

ZVRS is not deaf-owned nor deaf-operated, the same can be said for their parent company, Kinderhook Industries.  So to be technical, iDeafNews is now no longer a Deaf-owned business; although it’s still deaf-operated.  While I’d have preferred ZVRS simply invest in them rather than acquire them outright, it at the very least is encouraging that it is still deaf-operated and I look forward to that continuing for some time to come.

Reactions from the community on Twitter has been mixed, with some seeing this as an awesome opportunity for greater access to deaf news:

While others shared concerns about potential bias influencing news coverages by iDeafNews:

Even competitors seem generally supportive of the move:

IMG_9343“[They had] an interesting angle of an interpreter in the back of the CEO. I’ve never seen an interpreter positioned like that. I’m happy for them, I hope iDeafNews continues to grow.”
– Alex Abenchuchan, deaf host of the Daily Moth, a competitor of iDeafNews

With organizations like CSD, Michigan Deaf Association, and colleges like RIT/NTID congratulating iDeafNews and ZVRS on the acquisition, and general excitement from consumers on Facebook, it appears to be clear most in the deaf sector see this as a good move.

As always, feel free to post comments below.  If you provide new information, I will be happy to update this post with the new information.  ZVRS/iDeafNews also shared a FAQ addressing commonly asked questions below for your reading pleasure.

ZVRS iDeafNews Acquistion FAQ

ZVRS / iDeafNews Frequently Asked Questions

How will this change the news stories iDeafNews shares?
Everything you enjoy about iDeafNews will not change, but there will be even greater access to the stories you want to see, and a greater variety of programs from different perspectives.

Will Seth Gerlis still anchor iDeafNews?
Yes! Seth is the heart and soul of iDeafNews.

What role will ZVRS have in how iDeafNews creates and shares stories?
ZVRS is proud to support a Deaf-owned organization and will only serve to provide resources and support to create the great videos and stories that iDeafNews viewers love to see.

How does ZVRS benefit from this partnership?
iDeafNews provides access to news, stories and issues relevant to the Deaf community. We want to broaden that access by investing in the community through iDeafNews.

How does iDeafNews benefit from this partnership?
The opportunities are endless for iDeafNews because of this relationship.  More stories, more access, more news!

What’s next?
You’re going to love it! We have lots of wonderful expanded news coverage, programs, and exciting stories coming soon.

If I have questions, who do I contact?
We would love to hear from you! Feel free to email us at: social@zvrs.com or reach out to us through social media.

About iDeafNews

ideafnewsiDeafNews provides live and pre-recorded video news via the Internet specifically oriented to the interests and education of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) people.  iDeafNews believes that through their news programs, deaf and hard of hearing people throughout the United States and, eventually, the world, enjoy and benefit from news pertinent to their lives as DHH people. Providing news gleaned from all over the world, which is related to DHH concerns and interests, is our focus and our mission.  Becoming and staying abreast of news that relates to the deaf community can help develop the informed, well-rounded person each aspires to be.

About ZVRS

zZVRS is a nationally recognized provider of VRS services that enable deaf and hard of hearing individuals to communicate with hearing people worldwide. Through its ZVRS business unit, the Company provides videophone hardware, software and accessories designed to enable a real-time video connection with certified ASL interpreters who relay conversations between parties. The Company’s Stratus business unit provides interpretation services to the healthcare, legal and enterprise markets – connecting clients with interpreters in over 180 spoken and signed languages on an on-demand basis.

About Kinderhook Industries

KHI_LogoFounded in 2003, Kinderhook is a private equity firm with over $1.25 billion of committed capital and an investment philosophy based on combining senior management and operating experience in a variety of industries with the financial and investment know-how of private equity professionals. Kinderhook primarily makes control investments in companies in which the firm can achieve significant financial, operational and growth improvements. The firm targets orphaned non-core subsidiaries of corporate parents, existing small capitalization public companies lacking institutional support and management-led recapitalizations of entrepreneur-owned companies. By providing access to capital, strategic advice and an extensive network of relationships, Kinderhook has a history of successfully building privately held firms in partnership with management.

Will Comcast data caps be a problem for the deaf? Probably.

Comcast-LogoWhen I read the article “Comcast data caps make life for deaf difficult” by Wes Williams (posted at MarketPlace.org on November 11, 2015), it caught my attention because of two reasons:

  • I’m deaf
  • I’m a Comcast customer

I decided to do some fact checking before forming an opinion on the matter. While I have not tried measuring how much data a typical VRS call would consume, I can rely on similar data. Skype recommends 1.5Mbps for both upload and download (for HD video).

Here’s the math part, if you’re comfortable with it, go ahead and keep reading. Otherwise, skip on past the math part.

Mbps is megabits per second. So I head on over to Google, type in “1.5 Mb * 60” to find out how much data is in a minute. Google replies saying 11.25 megabytes (MB). Great, now let’s find out how many per hour: “11.25 MB * 60” gives me 675 MB.

So one hour’s worth of a video conversation, using that metric, would be 675 megabytes (MB).

Now we know what one hour represents, let’s figure out how many hours one would have to chat over video before hitting Comcast’s data cap of 300 GB:

(300 GB) / (675 MB) = 444.45 hours worth of data

Now to figure out how many hours per day:  444.45 / 30 = 14.815, or about 15 hours a day

Assuming 30 days in a month, that’s roughly 15 hours worth of time chatting via videophone for every single day of the month before one would hit Comcast’s cap.  Based on that, nothing for us to worry about.  That is, unless you happen to be someone who seriously loves being on the videophone for every single waking hour of your day for every single day of the month.  In that case, I’m impressed.

Some would argue that’s assuming the ONLY data consumed is by videophone, that we also use the internet for email, streaming videos via Netflix/Hulu/etc, reading news, and so forth. Some would also argue that this math is assuming that there is only one person using the internet at a particular location.
Both very good points.

According to broadband solutions provider Sandvine, the average household consumes 52 GB per month of general data.

So if we deduct 52 GB from the 300 GB cap, that would mean one would only have 248 GB, or 367.41 hours worth – in other words, one would be able to use videoconferencing for up to 12.247 hours per day, even with standard data usage.

Of course, if one has quite a data-intensive household, the cap would still be of concern. But for the rest of the average households, including those within the deaf and hard of hearing community, I have serious doubts that this is worth breaking a sweat about.

However, the metrics are for THIS year. According to Sandvine, data consumption by the average household increased 120% from last year to now. If this same trend continues for the next five years, then the average household data consumption would be 312 GB – well violating Comcast’s 300 GB data cap. Not surprising, with the advances technology has been making lately. So for the next few years, Comcast’s data cap is fine. But Comcast would be well advised to ensure that the data cap remains scalable, so they can adjust it based on average household usage on an annual basis to ensure the cap remains reasonable for the majority of households. This would mean Comcast would need to continue to innovate and stay ahead of the curve to be able to sustain so much data consumption, but considering Comcast’s claims to be innovative, I think they’ll do just fine staying ahead, especially with other competitors eyeing Comcast’s enormous market share.

My conclusion? The article about Comcast’s cap hurting the deaf/hard of hearing community is not entirely accurate. The author of that article would be well advised to run the metrics before making such a claim that it is currently hurting the deaf/hard of hearing community at large. It isn’t hurting the community at this time. It will, but not quite yet.

Should the community urgently worry about this NOW? No. But should the community be concerned about this and work with Comcast as well as other internet providers to ensure the cap scales up as the years go by? Absolutely, because they’ll slam right into the cap if it doesn’t change in less than five years, especially if the trend Sandvine identified continues to hold – with those who rely on video relay services getting slammed with overage fees well before everyone else, and pay dearly out of their wallets for it.

If you’re curious as to how much data you consume per month, just check your bill, or you can make an estimate by doing your own math here: http://www.broadbandnow.org/resources/data-usage-calculator/

Explosion in Activity re: Airlines and Captioning

Picture of Nyle DiMarcoAmerican Airlines LogoThere has been a storm brewing on Twitter regarding in-flight captioning, with the latest bombshell being by Nyle DiMarco about American Airlines’ challenges in ensuring accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing community.  Nyle DiMarco is an American actor and model. He is the first and only deaf contestant to appear on America’s Next Top Model, a popular TV show.

American Airlines responded in three different tweets to Nyle.  Those tweets combined are below:

“We have a limited number of close captioned movies for customers with a hearing disability.  Currently, we do not show closed-captioned TV viewing as a standard feature.  The Fact that close-captioned writing on small screen may cover the monitors.”

Others in the deaf/hard of hearing community weighed in:

After many more others in the deaf/hard of hearing community weighed in, American Airlines followed up with this:

Communication Service of the Deaf (CSD, based in Austin, TX) decided to check to see where public opinion stood on the matter by posting a quick Twitter poll:

At the time of this post, 92 people voted in the CSD Twitter poll, with an overwhelming 95% in favor of airlines providing captions as a standard feature on all in-flight videos.

While dated, but very much relevant to this developing situation, U.S. Senator Harkin commented in the past saying “I have been trying for some time to get the airlines to provide closed captions on the movies on their airplanes. I can’t understand why they don’t do it. It doesn’t cost anything,” after the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to send the measure to the full of the floor Senate.

The group that lobbies for airlines in Washington told The Hill that the industry’s opposition to closed captioning in-flight movies was being overstated by Harkin.  “As onboard entertainment technology is rapidly changing, airlines will continue working collaboratively with DOT and all stakeholders to further enhance the travel experience for our customers,” Airlines for America spokesman Vaughn Jennings stated on the matter.

I saw several people stating they had cancelled their American Airlines ticket.  It’s a safe bet to say that this snafu is costing American Airlines a couple thousand dollars; a drop in the bucket to be sure in face of $1.9 billion dollars in profit from 2014, but if nothing else, money talks.  That’s not counting how many people who were considering buying tickets from American Airlines that ended up buying from a competitor thanks to the snafu.  There were even several who stated they would never buy from American Airlines — and most of those were not deaf/hard of hearing.  So clearly the effect from this is being felt not just within the deaf/hard of hearing community, it’s also being felt by general public.

This is on the foot of recently effective regulations by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which requires all airports to ensure all their televisions has closed captioning activated (not including TVs outside the facilities, such as airplanes).  Via Aberdeen:

In September of 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a notice of proposed rule making in Docket OST 2011-0182 titled, “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance (U.S. Airports).” The DOT issued this final rule to amend section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires accessibility in airport terminal facilities.

The ruling states:

“…airport operators will be required to enable or ensure high-contrast captioning at all times on televisions and other audio-visual displays capable of displaying captions located in any gate area, ticketing area, first-class or other passenger lounge provided by a U.S. or foreign carrier, or any common area of the terminal to which passengers have access.”

This will also apply to other audio-visual displays located in any space leased by a retailer or restaurant. Airport operators will now be obligated to ensure that the proprietor enables the captioning feature on their displays in a manner that satisfies this requirement.

Additionally, this ruling states that airports shall ensure the availability of mechanical lifts to provide level-entry boarding for passengers with mobility impairments flying on small commuter aircraft. Airport operators must also provide suitable facilities for service animals.

After 4 years, this ruling just went into effect yesterday, October 5, 2015, and will apply to airport facilities located in the United States that receive Federal financial support and service 10,000 or more annual passengers. They will have 30 days to fulfill these responsibilities.

There were well-intentioned but incorrect mentions by several for Nyle to contact either the U.S. Federal Communications Commission or the U.S. Department of Justice in regard to the inaccessibility by the airline, saying that this was a violation of either the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA).

The actual state of the matter is that failure to caption in-flight entertainment is not a violation of the ADA/CVAA.   Additionally, FCC and DOJ does not have jurisdiction over airlines — especially over planes & in-flight entertainment.  Jurisdiction for this actually lies within the Department of Transportation (DOT).  DOT’s version of the ADA would be the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

For violations or complaints regarding accessibility on airlines, especially when it comes to in-flight entertainment or any other accessibility issues on planes, people would be well advised to contact the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division.  Their contact information is below:

U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings
Aviation Consumer Protection Division
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Attn: C-75-D
Washington, DC 20590

United States

Phone: (202) 366-2220
TTY/Assistive Device: (202) 366-0511
Business Hours:
8:30am-5:00pm ET, M-F
Note from DOT:  
The complainant should provide:
  • His or her full name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, if any, and the name of the party who suffered the alleged discriminatory conduct, if other than the person submitting the complaint;
  • The name of the air carrier involved in the incident, as well as the date of the incident, the place where it occurred and the flight number(s) involved;
  • A detailed description of the incident that you believe constituted discriminatory action, including names of those involved (or a description of the individuals) and names of any witnesses; and
  • Any other information you believe might be helpful in supporting your complaint. Please send copies (not originals) of any pertinent documents you have relating to the incident (e.g., ticket, boarding passes, itinerary sheets, and correspondence to and from the carrier involved).

The implementation of Closed Captioning in in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems continues to be a major issue.  DOT is expected to weigh in on the matter after December 2015.

DeafNation Acquired by Language People

dnlogo_wploginlanguagepeople-logoYou read that right.  DeafNation, a company based in Austin, Texas, has been bought out by Language People.  I’m not sure as to when DeafNation was acquired, or for how much.  I do know that there was a trademark filing by Language People for the term ‘DeafNation’, which was filed back in March 2015.  So the company may have been acquired as early as March, if not earlier.

DeafNation World Expo is set to happen next year (July 5-8, 2016) at Las Vegas.  The acquistion has no impact on the event.  It is unclear at this time whether Language People will make an appearance at the event, or if Lisa Wrench, CEO of Language People, will be speaking or making an appearance at the event.

Joel Barish, CEO of DeafNation for the last 18 years, announced the acquisition in a video.  Based on the video, it appears Joel will continue to manage DeafNation as a division of Language People.  The video (along with the transcript) is below.

{{ Edit: Unfortunately, the video was taken down by DeafNation. Below transcript is directly from the video, and is accurate, however. }}


As you know DeafNation has increased awareness of issues facing the deaf community for over 12 years.  And because of you, we created the spark that lit the fire of change in schools, businesses, and local governments everywhere.  We now have a new vision, a bigger vision that will allow the Deaf Community to connect and communicate better than ever.  To connect the deaf community with all those around us.  To improve the communication of ideas and knowledge.  To create better awareness of the rights and needs of the Deaf.  In connecting and communicating we will create a template for social change.  To set this example and lead the way, we are proud to announce that DeafNation was recently acquired by Language People, a leader in the field of deaf services, as part of a bigger plan of determined focus and commitment to shape a brighter future.  Language People has developed a vision that fits with DeafNation’s vision for empowering the Deaf.  Working together in the same company we will set the example for positive change.  DeafNation will only get better.  Our reach will be wider, our influence stronger.  This joint effort will add more opportunity and services, influence social change, improve health care, government services, and increase social awareness.  Join us as we connect, communicate, and create a world of endless possibilities for the deaf community.

About Language People:

Founded in 1988, Language People (formerly Bay Area Translations, Inc.) provides interpreting (including American Sign Language) and translation services in California and across the United States.

Language People provides 24/7 interpreting services to hospitals, courts, and many private companies. Along with in-person interpretation, Language People is also a VRI provider. The company has designed its own platform that allows patients and doctors to remotely access, via video, an interpreter whenever necessary, without the need of arranging an appointment or waiting for an interpreter to arrive at the location. They provide accurate and timely interpreting and translating services in the areas of law, technology, medicine, business, government and other professional fields.

Their clients include federal, state and local government agencies, public and private companies, institutions and individuals.  Several of the Fortune 100 companies contract with Language People for interpreting/translation services.  Language People covers over 150 languages from Afrikaans to Zulu and American Sign Language.

Lisa Wrench is the CEO of Language People.  Language People provided this as Lisa’s bio:

For over 30 years, Lisa Wrench, CEO of Language People, has been involved in building successful companies that demonstrate the concept of Business for Social Good, which is the idea that you can run a successful company upon the ethics of honesty, service to others, and a commitment to excellence in all your business dealings. She envisions living in a society where there is equality, justice and opportunity for all individuals, and where we can all have dignity, the opportunity for meaningful work and can put our principles and integrity to work AT work.

Ms. Wrench is an author, inventor and has patents in Internet and Video Conferencing technology. Lisa works tirelessly to make Language People the best company in the Language Services area. Lisa cares personally about each Language People customer and employee. Additionally, she is personally committed to increasing opportunities and quality of life for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals. She delights in encouraging entrepreneurial individuals to grow to their fullest potential and see their dreams become reality. Away from work Lisa enjoys the wilderness and animals.

Lisa Wrench identifies herself as an “inventor patent author of internet technology and video conferencing software, video remote interpreting systems”.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAANZAAAAJGJiMTdjMzM5LTE1OTUtNGYzZi05YzQxLTEwZjliNjM5ZWE1ZQShe also states that she has “executive experience in Personnel Recruitment, Electronics, Software, Finance, Accounting, Personnel Management, Business Turn-around, Patent process, Contracts and Bid negotiations” and that she specializes in “services and projects of benefit to Deaf people. Marketing to cultural communities, Business mergers, acquisition, start-ups, turn-arounds, marketing, software development.”

Lisa Wrench has been CEO of Language People for 11 years. People has described her top skills being in start ups, interpreting and marketing. Her background includes graduate work towards obtaining a Ph.D. in psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. She has not yet obtained the Ph.D., her studies appear to have ended in 1991. Her graduate coursework included IQ testing, statistical studies, clinical practice, personality and psychobiology. She also has published NIMH grant research on children and emotions.

She also has a BS degree in psychology from Sonoma State University (obtained in 1989). Lisa is currently looking for opportunities to join a nonprofit board.  She is also a member of the Pacific & Southwest Regional Health Equity Council.

There was a post by Lisa on the internet that gave a peek into her personality:

“As the CEO of Language People Inc., a US-based company with patented technology systems in the field of Video Conferencing Technology for use in Sign Language Communication, medicine and other Customer Service applications, I applaud Tom Wheeler’s and the FCC’s commitment to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community. Throughout the end of 2015 and 2016, I believe America will see tremendous movement towards inclusion for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Americans. Mr. Wheeler’s announcement, the SBA and others’ commitment to begin communicating with the Deaf Community in their primary language – ASL – are indicators of a strong “sea change” that is sweeping America. As a country, we are ready to recognize the important part that the Deaf Community plays in our Diverse Culture. ”  -Lisa Wrench via Disqus & MultiChannel

Initial reactions by the general public has been mixed.  One person supported the move saying:

“I finally saw full vlog of Joel West Barish I don’t blame him. He is an entrepreneur who is at his prime and ready to retire and walk away. Kudos to Joel for making himself comfortable at retirement. Tell me how many Deaf investors with wealth willing to buy that business and keep it running? If I was in his shoes, I would do same thing. Gotta take care of myself and my family. I believe he wants to spend more time with his children whom he rarely sees these days. — Jay R. Gates

Another disagreed with the move, citing prior concerns raised in the past about Language People’s activities in “certifying businesses as ‘deaf-friendly'” by a smaller competitor, DeafFriendly:

“LP Connect, also known as the Language People, used the privilege to certify businesses as ‘deaf-friendly’ without our knowledge. DeafFriendly recently presented an open vlog letter to LP Connect to cease their certification program used to certify local businesses as ‘deaf-friendly’.” — Jessica M. Lang
UPDATE: LP Connect’s response on this issue can be seen here, along with DeafFriendly’s counter-response.

It is clear that Language People has some convincing to do when it comes to the deaf and hard of hearing community.  However, Lisa (Language People CEO) appears undaunted by the challenge in front of her based on a quote by her addressing the DeafNation acquisition: “Together we can all make America equal opportunity for the deaf this is the only the start of many wonderful things at the destination. Stay tuned!”

Google Trend re: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump in USA during past 90 days

Here’s an embed of a Google Trend done re: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump in USA during past 90 days. This measures interest in particular candidates. It appears Trump is leading so far (at the time of this post). Of course, there are other candidates, but those four are the ones I think has the most chances of winning, and incidentally, those four are also the most searched for on Google. The below chart is live, meaning if you check back in a month or more, this chart will reflect what changed in that time period. Good way to monitor how candidates are doing at the time.

Whether it’s relevant to determine who the next President of the United States is remains to be seen. TechCrunch seems to believe that it is a very good way to predict who wins the election.

Deaf? Speech clarity issues? Virtual personal assistants aren’t for you.

Not going to lie here. The increased reliance on Apple Siri, Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Alexa has gotten me concerned. It appears that technology is making another leap, and leaving the deaf community behind. They aren’t even compatible with those who don’t have good verbal clarity. The closest thing we have to sign language recognition is MotionSavvy, and they still have a long way to go.

The corporations should start making a serious investment in fuzzy speech recognition so those with below average speech clarity can still use their products, and also invest in sign language recognition so those who prefer sign language are able to make full use of their products.

Which anti-virus software should I use?

I reassess my recommendations annually to reflect where everything stands in regards to technology.  If you’d like to see recommendations in other areas, please do let me know.  As always, comments are welcome!

Malware Protection

I use Windows, and it already comes with its’ own anti-malware!
Most people usually don’t realize that Windows 8 and newer usually come with built-in malware protection (known as Windows Defender, formerly known as Microsoft Security Essentials), and nothing needs to be done to turn it on, as it is already activated.

But will it do its job? Basically. But you should know that in the past few years it has not ranked among the best according to two independent anti-virus testing organizations (av-test.org and av-comparatives.org).  You’d be well advised to find a stronger solution than depending on Windows Defender.

I use Mac OS/OS X, and it doesn’t need anti-malware!
That used to be true in the past; it was based on the “security through obscurity” principle.  Because a high percentage of people used Windows, and a very low percentage used OS X, hackers liked to target Windows much more.  This meant Apple was able to keep up with any malware and promptly patch the OS to protect against them.

But with OS X increasingly becoming popular with the population, it has resulted in hackers taking more interest in the OS, which means “security through obscurity” is no longer an option. You need an antivirus program on your Mac. That statement may cause some Apple users to shake their heads in disbelief, but with the amount of malware on the Internet today, you’ll need to accept this as reality.

“Apple’s OS X faced an increasing number of malicious attacks in the past year with antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab noting roughly 3.7 million infection attempts blocked by its software, the firm reports in its 2014 Security Bulletin.”  Source: The Telegraph

I used Tom’s Guide to determine which would be the best free anti-virus for OS X.

So what are your recommendations for this year?
Best free anti-virus for Windows: Panda
Best free anti-virus for Mac OS: Sophos
Best paid anti-virus for Windows and OS X: BitDefender

Experiencing malware issues on Windows?
First, create a restore point and label that as “Not Clean”, this way if something goes wrong while clearing out the malware, you can restore to that point.  If you already have anti-malware, uninstall it (since you got malware anyway, may be better of replacing it with above recommendations anyway).  Then I’d suggest installing MalwareBytes and one of the above recommended anti-virus software.  Run MalwareBytes first and clean out what you can with it.  It’s not an anti-virus software, but it does a pretty damn good job at identifying and removing potentially unwanted programs.  Once you’re done, go ahead with the anti-virus scan and clear out whatever it finds.

When you’ve done both, it doesn’t mean you’re in the free and clear.  Sometimes malware that are actively running are able to camouflage themselves and simply restore themselves when the anti-malware removes the copies it finds.  Reboot to safe mode, then run another MalwareBytes and anti-virus scan, clear out whatever it finds.  You should be more or less so in the clear after this, and can reboot back to normal Windows mode.

Once done, create a restore point and label it as “Clean” so you can restore your computer back to this point if you have any issues down the road.

What do you use at home?
Panda.  It’s free, lightweight, have minimal advertisements (much better compared to Avast!).  With a 92% prevention rate over Microsoft Defender’s 84%, it’s a decent free anti-virus software to use.  When you install it, it’ll ask to install their toolbar.  Uncheck that so it doesn’t install it. It isn’t needed.  They’ll also try to upsell you to their paid product which “covers wifi protection, firewall” — just click “Basic Protection” and you’re set.  Microsoft Windows and Mac OS both come with their own firewalls, and it’s already solid.  Wifi protection?  Just use your common sense, don’t connect to unknown wifi and you’ll be fine.  If you feel the need to pay, just use BitDefender.

One more thing, if you decide to go with Panda, you might decide you want to reduce advertisements.  To do this, open Panda (it should be running an icon in your bottom right corner in the system tray. If you don’t see it, just click the arrow and you’ll see it).  It’ll ask you for your email, click ‘select account later’.  You’ll see an icon with three lines in it (that’s their main menu), click on it, and click ‘Settings’. See where it says ‘Show Panda News’? Switch it to off.  Ahh, bliss.

You may also want to increase security by clicking Antivirus (also in ‘Settings’), scroll down to where it says ‘Scan Compressed Files’, and turn it on.  Takes longer to scan for malware, but worth it.

What do you use at work?
BitDefender.  Because it does its job effectively.  As I’m responsible for maintaining the infrastructure at work, it also means recommending, installing, and maintaining malware/security solutions for my company.  Because we handle sensitive data, a strong product was required.  Both organizations I mentioned earlier has rated BitDefender as the best, so BitDefender it is.

The runner up was Avast, especially since it’s free.  The constant popups and advertisements for their software got to me in the end, so I removed them.  The second runner up was Avira, but they slowed down my system considerably.

Apple’s Monthly Payment for Latest Gen iPhone: Worth It?

Apple recently announced that they will sell iPhones on installment plans. If you buy an iPhone 6S 16 GB, you’d end up paying an annual total of $388.92 to have the ability to upgrade annually.

Sounds like a sweet deal, right? Let’s do the math. Consider that you’re not keeping the phone, that you’re actually renting it from them. You’d have to give it back so you could get the next generation iPhone. There’s no selling it to get cash, then using it towards a new phone. Since you’re not the owner of the phone, it’s effectively a loss.

Let’s say you start out with $0 loss/gain. You decide to buy an iPhone via their installment plan. After one year, you lose $388.92, but continue to have the latest generation iPhone. At the end of another year, you lose yet another $388.92, but continue to have the latest generation iPhone. Let’s look at that as math:

$0 = Starting Balance, new iPhone
-$388.92 = End of year 1, new iPhone
-$388.92 = End of year 2, new iPhone
-$777.84 = Ending Balance

So after two years, you’ll have lost a net total of $777.84, but you’ll have always had a new phone.

Let’s look at if we had ignored their installment plan, and simply bought the phone outright, sold it at the end of year, then bought the new gen phone, rinse and repeat. Usually taking off $200 the retail price is a safe guess for how much you’ll get for the phone at the end of year.

$0 = Starting Balance
-$649 = New iPhone
+$449 = Sold phone, end of year 1
-$649 = New iPhone
+$449 = Sold phone, end of year 2
-$649 = New iPhone

So if you’re the kind of person who absolutely cannot wait, you’re avoiding a net loss of $271.16 if you sign up for Apple’s installment plan.

Of course, if you’re one of the lucky people who has been grandfathered in with a $200 two-year contract and keep renewing the contract without letting it lapse, and assuming you only get $250 for your iPhone (due to another year delay before selling), then you’re looking at this math:

$0 = Starting Balance
-$200 = New iPhone
+$250 = Sold phone, end of year 2
-$200 = New iPhone

So way I see it; if I go with Apple’s plan, I lose over $700. If I buy outright and sell annually so I can get the latest gen iPhone, I lose over $1,000. If I sit tight, and hold on like crazy to my current $200 biennial plan that I was grandfathered in, I make a profit of $50.

No brainer here, people. I’m fine with being patient, not losing money on hardware, and making a bit extra.

For those wondering why I keep saying “grandfathered in”, the carriers have nixed the biennial plan (probably due to their losing money on it!), and grandfathered those still on a biennial contract. Those still on it will lose that contract permanently if they let it lapse or switch to a different contract. Source: http://www.tomsguide.com/us/sprint-ends-contracts,news-21478.html

Of course, the entire math is assuming you got an iPhone 16 GB, and also doesn’t factor in AppleCare+. Why this may be relevant for you is because Apple’s installment plan does come with AppleCare+ included, which gives more value to their plan. If you’re entirely focused on risk mitigation, and want the latest generation iPhone on an annual basis, go with Apple’s plan. If you care about risk mitigation, but are fine with being patient (assuming you’ve been grandfathered in), stay with biennial contract and make sure to get AppleCare+. It’ll result in a loss rather than a profit, but it may be better to suffer a small loss than a larger loss if you end up damaging the iPhone after the one year warranty expires without AppleCare+.

For those wondering, I’m on a biennial contract, and usually spring for AppleCare+. I shop around with Apple, Gazelle, etc. to find the highest offer for my iPhone, sell it ASAP as soon as I’m up for renewal, and grab a new iPhone . My loss usually is very small (about $20).

For those wanting a comparison of Apple’s payment plan versus other carrier’s payment plans, Ars Technica did that. It can be read here: http://arstechnica.com/apple/2015/09/apples-iphone-upgrade-program-vs-the-big-four-carriers-payment-plans/

Got any tips as to how to best save money, get the latest gen iPhone, and still have AppleCare+? Even better, any suggestions on how to do all of that and STILL turn a profit? Share your tips below in the comments!

Disability Employment Alert: Section 508 Coordinator

Organization: U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Organization Type: Federal
Position: Section 508 Coordinator

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 is intended to eliminate barriers in information technology, open new opportunities for people with disabilities, and encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals.

The FCC’s Section 508 Coordinator will serve as the Electronic Information Technology Program Manager and technical advisor/authority to ensure compliance with Section 508 requirements. The Coordinator will evaluate and recommend accessibility policies and procedures on electronic and information technology, and ensure operational changes within FCC information technology systems that meet Section 508 requirements for accessibility by employees with disabilities and members of the public seeking access to Commission information.

Application Deadline: August 6, 2015

Link to the posting on USA Jobs: https://fcc.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/410885500