Posted Sunday morning 25 September 2016
Editorial Article and Special Report
by Jim Lantern
Power Switch doesn’t turn it Off – Cox Communications HDTV Cable Box – Death of Privacy
A few months ago, Cox Communications for cable TV forced all customers to switch to their new “all digital” service.
I first got cable TV on 1 August 1981 (when I was age 25), which happened to be the first broadcast day for MTV- Music Television. It required a cable TV box. The cable line came in, went to the box, connected to the TV set on channel 3 or 4. Then channel selection was a physical dial on the cable box. There was only one basic cable TV deal – number of basic cable TV channels – I don’t remember how many now but not many. Extra for HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime for movies. That was Wichita cable in Wichita Kansas. It was bought out by Multimedia cablevision, which was bought out by Cox Communications. More channels, higher cost, worse service. Cox did away with the need for the boxes as new “cable ready” TVs were sold.
Now Cox has returned to the box. The cheap deal for minimum number of channels uses a tiny “mini-box” between the TV and the line from the wall. No controls on it.
I have the Economy TV package deal, which gets me most of the channels I like for a reasonable price. However, the box is bizarre. It’s the size of an old VCR. HDTV cable box Explorer 8240HDC by Scientific America, using “Powered by Rovi Passport Guide DVR 3.7” (on screen) as it is “booted” like an old desktop personal computer. In fact, it has a hard drive in it that “chatters” loudly like those in some of the old personal desktop computers like the one I bought in 2002. There were times when the noise from the hard drive (as well as the fan) became so loud during the night that it awakened me, interfered with my sleep. One time the computer sounded active, so I got up and turned on the monitor – to discover a Windows Update in progress. I really hate those. All they do is turn SNAFU into FUBAR. I’ve likewise been awakened by active hard drive sound coming from the HDTV box, but I’ve not discovered the cause. I can guess. Probably has to do with sending data to Cox to be sold to advertisers, data for what I watched on TV during the past 24 hours, such as for TV ratings. That’s okay with me, if that is all it is, but the sound of it became so irritating I had to turn it off . . . tried to.
The “Power” push-button on the front of the HDTV box is a lie. I’d expect it to turn off the box. It does not. Instead, it only cuts off the connection from the box to the TV. The box remains on. The hard drive remains active (and the fan inside to keep it cooled is loud). Irritating. So, at first, I simply unplugged the box from the wall electrical outlet. Then I bought a switch box – power line from wall to the switch box, a main power switch, 5 individual power switches (buttons) for 5 outlets on the back I can plug 5 different things into. Easier to turn it off that way – cut the power to the HDTV box by simply pushing a button on the power box. Gives me extra safety for power surges, too. But even with the power cut to the HDTV box, is it really off? No. It has an internal battery for power failures.
I bought an HP Notebook. I got the Cox Broadband “Essential” service, with a wireless modem. Comparable to Wi-Fi. The cable line from the wall to a splitter, 3-way, one to the HDTV box for my 13-inch TV, one to the HDTV box for my 26-inch TV, and one to the wireless modem for my HP Notebook. If I get a notebook in the future with an Ethernet port, then I can connect it via Ethernet cable to the modem.
The HP Notebook has a power-down switch, which does not completely cut the power like the off switch on the old desktop computer I had a few years ago. Likewise, unplugging the power cord does not totally cut it off. It has a battery in it good for 8 hours. To completely stop access to the HP Notebook, I’d have to remove the battery. The kind I bought, the battery can’t be removed or replaced.
The modem has no off switch. It has bright flashing lights on it, and in it. It makes loud clicking sounds – not noticeable during the day but easily heard at night when I’m trying to sleep. Normal sounds don’t bother me. I can sleep through a thunderstorm. It’s the odd sounds that get my attention. I plugged it into the power box so I can turn it off at night. No. It has a battery in it. With the power cut to it from the wall, it began to click and flash. I wondered WTF. I checked my HP Notebook. Windows Update. Windows 10 wanted to upgrade. I hate Windows. I hate Windows Updates. I used to be able to control them with scheduling options, but Microsoft had done away with that option, so I get them when they want to give them, and then get pestered with alerts when an update fails for whatever reason – expecting me to fix it. Now, during the night, I have the cable line disconnected at the splitter to cut off the Cox connection to the two TVs and to my HP Notebook.
The HP Notebook has a camera. I’ve covered it up. The microphone is a different problem. Like the camera, the microphone can be turned off in settings, and privacy settings should prevent outsiders from accessing the camera and microphone. Should. Then there’s Google. Not just Microsoft. Perhaps others of the vulture culture. I was one day conversing with a visitor, and we were near the HP Notebook and my 13-inch TV. The HP Notebook came with the Microsoft Edge Browser. What a mess. I switched to the Google Chrome Browser. I wish I had bought an Acer Chromebook, like the one I had before, with the Google Chrome Operating System on it. Anyway, the subject of the conversation then came up in Google Ads catered to my interests. I already knew it was being done with gmail, and from websites I visit, but I didn’t expect microphone access. I should have known better.
A year ago, when I was in Wichita for a month, I got a free Kansas Lifeline cell phone. A hour after activating it, I was walking down a sidewalk having a conversation with another person walking next to me. My new cell phone rang. I’d not yet given the phone number to anyone. Who was calling? ID and number blocked. It wasn’t a call, anyway. It was Voicemail. Two voice mails. Recorded messages. I played both. Recordings, 30 seconds each, of the conversation I was having with the other person as we walked down the sidewalk – and in the background of the recording I could hear the sound of the wind and the sound of us walking. Apparently, someone wanted me to know the phone is being monitored, used as a listening device, and very likely as a tracking device. I later found out the local police sponsored the phones for low-income and no-income welfare people, for whom police stats indicate are most likely to engage in crimes. Police spying on poor people. I fixed that problem with a hammer, and then bought a normal cell phone. It’s like the NSA using cell phones to spy on Americans. A computer is used to listen to millions of phones. When the computer detects a key word spoken, it is then red-flagged for a live person to review the conversation.
Cox is constantly pestering me via email and ads in US Mail to get their phone service as a “bundle” package deal with cable TV and Internet I already have. Also, their home security service with live audio and visual monitoring. Not even if hell freezes over.
Thanks to Big Brother government, and Big Business, personal privacy in America no longer exist, and it likewise marks the death of personal security – to be secure from Big Brother and Big Business. Those who claim to protect us have instead become an enemy – treating us like enemies.
Off is no longer Off. The false “Power” button is a variation of Orwellian Doublespeak.
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