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ExtraBITS for 10 August 2015

Verizon is dropping smartphone subsidies and contracts, a university IT department literally took 36 iMac boxes for a spin, the author of “The Martian” explains how his Comcast email was hacked, and Apple has dismissed rumors that it will become a cellular carrier.

Verizon Dropping Contracts, Subsidies, and Family Plans -- On 13 August 2015, Verizon Wireless will radically change the way it sells mobile phones and cellular service. Contracts, subsidies, and family plans are being eliminated for anyone not on an existing contract. Instead, customers will pay the full price of their phones, with an installment plan available to spread out the cost. It will cost $30 per month for unlimited talk and text, plus 1 GB of data, with an additional $20 “access fee” for connecting a smartphone or $10 for a tablet. Other plans include 3 GB of data for $45, 6 GB for $60, and 12 GB for $80.

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Reinventing the (iMac) Wheel -- Thanks to Khoi Vinh for this link to a video from George Fox University’s IT department, which combined 36 iMac boxes into a giant wheel and then took it for a spin around campus. Big fun.

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How “The Martian” Author’s Comcast Email Was Hacked -- In a Facebook post, Andy Weir, author of “The Martian” (which we highly recommend reading!), explained how a hacker took control of his Comcast email address. The simple, yet disturbing answer is the hacker called Comcast customer service to gain access. When Weir called to regain control of his email account, all he had to provide was his street address and the last four digits of his Social Security number. Weir has now flagged his account so that any password changes require a call to Comcast’s security department and a special code. The moral of the story, wrote Weir, is: “No amount of password complexity or multi-factor authentication will protect you from bad company policies at your provider.”

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Apple Denies Plans to Become a Cellular Carrier -- In a rare move, Apple has refuted rumors that it will offer its own cellular service as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Business Insider had reported that Apple was testing an MVNO service in the United States and was also planning to bring it to Europe.

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