June 24, 2024

Britons Question Whether Detention of Reporter’s Partner Was Terror-Related

David Michael Miranda, a Brazilian citizen and the partner of the American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Brazil, was held Sunday at London’s Heathrow Airport for nine hours, the maximum allowed by law, before being released without charge.

“They were threatening me all the time and saying I would be put in jail if I didn’t co-operate,” Mr. Miranda said Tuesday in an interview with The Guardian newspaper, where Mr. Greenwald is a columnist. “They treated me like I was a criminal or someone about to attack the U.K.”

On its Web site, The Guardian said the interview was the first since Mr. Miranda returned to his home in Rio de Janeiro on Monday. “It was exhausting and frustrating, but I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” Mr. Miranda said. Speaking separately on Monday, he said that all of his electronic equipment, including his laptop computer and cellphone, had been confiscated. In the interview, he added that he was not allowed to call his partner, who is a qualified lawyer in the United States, nor was he given an interpreter, despite being promised one because he felt uncomfortable speaking in a second language.

“I was in a different country with different laws, in a room with seven agents coming and going who kept asking me questions. I thought anything could happen. I thought I might be detained for a very long time,” he said.

Mr. Miranda was traveling from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro. In Berlin, he had met with Laura Poitras, an American filmmaker who has worked with Mr. Greenwald on the Snowden leaks about secret American and British surveillance programs that they argue violate individual rights and liberties.

The Guardian newspaper, where Mr. Greenwald is a columnist, reported that it had paid for Mr. Miranda’s flights but that he was not an employee of the paper. “As Glenn Greenwald’s partner, he often assists him in his work,” The Guardian said in statement. “We would normally reimburse the expenses of someone aiding a reporter in such circumstances.”

In an e-mail Monday to The Associated Press, Mr. Greenwald said that he needed material from Ms. Poitras for articles he was working on related to the N.S.A., and that he had things she needed. “David, since he was in Berlin, helped with that exchange,” Mr. Greenwald wrote.

Keith Vaz, an opposition Labour Party legislator who is chairman of Parliament’s Home Affairs select committee, said he had written to the head of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, which has jurisdiction in the matter, to ask for clarification of what he called an extraordinary case.

“What needs to happen pretty rapidly is, we need to establish the full facts,” he told the BBC. “Now you have a complaint from Mr. Greenwald and the Brazilian government — they indeed have said they are concerned at the use of terrorism legislation for something that does not appear to relate to terrorism. So it needs to be clarified, and clarified quickly.”

The editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, disclosed on Monday that the British government had sent officials from Government Communications Headquarters, which is known as GCHQ and is the British version of the National Security Agency, to the newspaper’s offices in London to destroy computers containing documents leaked by Mr. Snowden. Mr. Rusbridger said that he had protested that the same information was available elsewhere, but that the officials had insisted on proceeding.

“And so one of the more bizarre moments in The Guardian’s long history occurred — with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in The Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents,” he wrote, adding, “We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London.”

Charlie Savage contributed reporting from Washington.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/world/europe/britons-question-whether-detention-of-reporters-partner-was-terror-related.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

F.C.C. Nominee Favors Competition Over Regulation

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Communications Commission told a Senate committee on Tuesday that his top priorities, if he is confirmed, would be consumer protection, increasing competition and providing sufficient predictability so companies know what rulings to expect.

The nominee, Tom Wheeler, told the Senate Commerce Committee that the F.C.C.’s support of competition was especially important given Americans’ heavy dependence on communications networks in education, public safety and consumer services.

He said that his experience as a telecommunications executive and as the leader of lobbying groups for the cable television and cellphone industries had convinced him that the agency needs to promote competition over regulation.

“Competition is a power unto itself that must be encouraged,” he said. “Competitive markets produce better outcomes than regulated or uncompetitive markets.”

Mr. Wheeler backed away, however, from his comments in 2011 on his blog. In the post, he said the F.C.C. might have expanded its authority over wireless companies if it had approved the merger of ATT and T-Mobile by imposing conditions that could later be applied to all wireless companies.

In response to questions, Mr. Wheeler said that any merger review must consider the facts before the commission and not deal with theoretical questions of the sort he raised in the blog post.

“In a hypothetical musing, it is possible to do that,” Mr. Wheeler said. But in a merger review, he added, “I am guided by precedent, the statute and the facts before me.”

Most of the other questions posed to Mr. Wheeler were friendly, and several Republican senators expressed confidence that he would be confirmed by inviting him to visit their states once he took office.

Mr. Wheeler also said that his experience as a lobbyist would not prejudice him in regulating the industries he formerly championed. “I was an advocate for specific points of view, and I hope I was a pretty good advocate,” Mr. Wheeler said. “If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, my client will be the American public, and I hope I can be as effective an advocate for them as humanly possible.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Wheeler also said it was his experience in the wireless and cable industries — which, he acknowledged, are much changed today from when he worked for them — rather than as a regulator that provides his primary strengths.

As chief executive of what is now the National Cable and Telecommunications Association in the 1980s, “I fought against the F.C.C.’s rules limiting cable’s ability to compete with new video services,” Mr. Wheeler said. “I worked for the ability of competitors to bring services into the home.”

Similarly, Mr. Wheeler said that his tenure in the 1990s as head of the cellular phone trade group now known as CTIA-The Wireless Association, was one in which start-up and rapidly growing cellphone competitors were at the forefront of wholesale changes in communications.

“During my tenure, that competition was expanded by the auctions of 1994, wireless was increasingly used in place of wire line, and wireless data turned the phone into a pocket computer,” Mr. Wheeler said.

“All of these developments brought with them new policy challenges,” he added, challenges that are no smaller now as wireless becomes the primary method of broadband and voice communication for millions of Americans.

Mr. Wheeler also promised to look into the favorite topics of most of the lawmakers on the committee. Those topics include continuing the E-Rate program, which provides subsidies for broadband connections at schools and libraries; raising revenue from the spectrum incentive auctions to help finance a public service communications network; and figuring out how to address consumer frustration over disputes between broadcasters and cable providers that often leave cable subscribers with blackouts of certain channels.

Mr. Wheeler also addressed television decency standards, something that the F.C.C. has wrestled with for decades. He said the bully pulpit might have more influence than any regulations the agency could write.

“I do believe it is possible to call upon our better angels with some leadership,” Mr. Wheeler said. He recalled that the “vast wasteland” speech of Newton N. Minow, the former F.C.C. chairman, “caught people’s attention.” He added: “Maybe it’s time to do the same type of thing today.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/19/business/fcc-nominee-points-to-his-lobbying-experience.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Google Profit Exceeds Expectations

When Google announced its fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday, investors were watching closely for positive signals of Google’s progress in the evolution to a mobile world.

There was some evidence that Google was making progress on a crucial challenge: a decrease in the price that advertisers pay Google each time someone clicks on an ad, known as cost per click. The trend has been driven by the increasing use of Google on mobile devices — where advertisers largely pay less for ads — at the expense of the desktop computer.

On Tuesday, Google said the price per click rose 2 percent from the previous quarter, though it was still 6 percent lower than in the year-ago quarter, making it the fifth consecutive quarter of year-over-year decline.

The earnings report was greeted warmly by investors in after-hours trading, though analysts emphasized that the results were mixed. The company exceeded their expectations on profit, but disappointed on revenue. That was at least in part because analysts are still figuring out how to account for Motorola Mobility, the struggling cellphone maker that Google acquired last year.

Larry Page, Google’s chief executive and co-founder, was optimistic in a statement.

“In today’s multi-screen world we face tremendous opportunities as a technology company focused on user benefit,” he said. “It’s an incredibly exciting time to be at Google.”

The company reported fourth-quarter revenue of $14.42 billion, an increase of 36 percent over the year-ago quarter. Net revenue, which excludes payments to the company’s advertising partners, was $11.34 billion, up from $8.13 billion.

Net income rose 13 percent to $10.65 a share.

The fourth quarter is generally Google’s brightest because it makes much of its money on retail ads that run during the holiday shopping season. Analysts had expected revenue of $10.47 a share, on revenue of $12.3 billion. Google warned last week that analysts’ expectations were off target because Google sold Motorola’s set-top box division during the quarter so it did not include it in the quarterly results. Still, even including that division of Motorola, Google’s revenue would have missed expectations.

Shares of Google, which fell slightly during the day, were up 4 percent in after-hours trading. “This is supposed to be Google’s quarter to shine, the December quarter, and we’re going to have it all mucked up by Motorola,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners.

This holiday season was the first that Google charged e-commerce companies to be included in its comparison shopping engine, and these so-called product listing ads contributed to its bottom line.

“Q4 retail is absolutely crucial for Google’s earnings,” said Sid Shah, director of business analytics at Adobe, which handles $2 billion in annual advertising spending. “Despite talk about retail having a weak season, Google’s product listing ad program has taken off quite successfully.”

Nonetheless, Google’s mobile challenge overhung even its usual holiday shopping sparkle. Consumers are increasingly shopping on phones and tablets, yet Google and other companies have not yet figured out how best to profit from mobile users.

“You would expect Google to be a key player benefiting from mobile, but that hasn’t played out in the last year,” said Jordan Rohan, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus.

One problem is that advertisers pay about half as much for an ad on a mobile device, in part because they are not yet sure how effective mobile ads can be.

Another challenge for Google is that consumers increasingly use apps, like Yelp or Kayak, to search on mobile devices instead of using Google. Even when consumers use Google for mobile searches, they are often doing so on Apple devices like iPhones, for which Google has to pay Apple a fee.

This shift is happening as Google’s biggest, most lucrative business — desktop search — is slowing. The share of clicks on Google results that happen on desktop computers has fallen to 73 percent from 77 percent in the last six months, while the share of clicks on tablets and smartphones has increased to 27 percent from 23 percent, according to data from Adobe.

Meanwhile, Google has a new competitor in search: Facebook, which last week introduced a new form of personalized social search on the site.

Google has also recently become a maker of mobile devices, both by acquiring Motorola and by producing the line of Nexus devices with manufacturer partners. In the fourth quarter, Google sold about 1.5 million Nexus phones and tablets, not including those sold by other retailers, according to estimates from JPMorgan.

In the fourth quarter, a weight was lifted from Google when the Federal Trade Commission closed its antitrust investigation of Google’s search practices. But it remains under investigation in Europe, where the outcome is expected to be harsher.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/technology/google-profit-exceeds-expectations.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

As Shoppers Hop From Tablet to PC to Phone, Retailers Try to Adapt

“I do use the iPad to browse sites,” Mr. O’Neil said, but when it comes time to close the deal, he finds it easier to do on a computer.

Many online retailers had visions of holiday shoppers lounging beneath the Christmas tree with their mobile devices in hand, making purchases. The average order size on tablets, particularly iPads, tends to be bigger than on PCs. So they poured money and marketing into mobile Web sites and apps with rich images and, they thought, easy checkout.

But while visits to e-commerce sites and apps on tablets and phones have nearly doubled since last year, consumers like Mr. O’Neil are more frequently using multiple devices to shop. In many cases, they are more comfortable making the final purchase on a computer, with its bigger screen and keyboard. So retailers are trying to figure out how to appeal to a shopper who may use a cellphone to research products, a tablet to browse the options and a computer to buy.

“I’ve been yelling at customers for two years, saying, ‘Mobile, mobile, mobile,’ ” said Jason Spero, director of mobile sales and strategy at Google. “But the funny thing is, now we’re going to say: ‘Don’t put mobile in a silo. It’s also about the desktop.’ ”

The challenges are daunting, though. It is technically difficult to track consumers as they hop from phone to computer to tablet and back again. This means customers who, say, fill shopping carts on their tablets have to do all the work again on their PCs or other devices. The biggest obstacle, retailers say, is that the tools used to track shoppers on computers — cookies, or bundles of data stored in Web browsers — don’t transfer across devices.

Instead, retailers are figuring out how to sync the experience in other ways, like prompting shoppers to log in on each device. And being able to track people across devices gives retailers more insight into how they shop.

The retailers’ efforts are backed by research. While one-quarter of the visits to e-commerce sites occur on mobile devices, only around 15 percent of purchases do, according to data from I.B.M. According to Google, 85 percent of online shoppers start searching on one device — most often a mobile phone — and make a purchase on another.

At eBags, customers are shopping on their tablets in the evening and returning on their work computers the next day. But eBags has not yet synced the shoppers across devices, so customers must build their shopping carts from scratch if they switch devices.

“That is a blind spot with a lot of sites,” said Peter Cobb, co-founder of eBags. “It is a requirement moving forward.”

At eBay, one-third of purchases involve mobile devices at some point in the transaction process, even if the final purchase is made on a computer.

At eBay, once shoppers log in on a device, they do not need to log in again. Their information, like shipping and credit card details and saved items, syncs across all their devices. If an eBay shopper is interested in a certain handbag, and saves that search on a computer, eBay will send alerts to her cellphone when a new handbag arrives or an auction is about to end.

“They might discover an item on a phone or tablet, do a saved-search push alert later on some other screen and eventually close on the Web site,” said Steve Yankovich, who runs eBay Mobile. “People are buying and shopping and consuming potentially every waking moment of the day.”

ModCloth, an e-commerce site for women’s clothes, said that while a quarter of its visits come from mobile devices, people are not yet buying there in the same proportion, though they are becoming more comfortable with checking out on those devices.

“She’s visiting us more on the phone, but she’s actually transacting somewhere else,” said Sarah Rose, vice president of product at ModCloth.

For example, a shopper will skim through new arrivals on her phone while on the bus and add items to her wish list, then visit that evening on her tablet to make a purchase, she said.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/22/technology/as-shoppers-hop-from-tablet-to-pc-to-phone-retailers-try-to-adapt.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Huawei to Open Research Center in Finland

PARIS — Huawei Technologies, a Chinese maker of telecommunications equipment, said on Monday that it planned to open a research and development center in Helsinki next year, accelerating its investments in Europe, where its business is expanding rapidly.

The move illustrates a trans-Atlantic difference in attitudes toward Huawei. The company has been largely shut out of the United States market for network gear because of Congressional concerns about possible security threats — fears the company insists are unfounded.

While Huawei has faced difficulties in some European markets, like France, it has done better elsewhere. Huawei employs more than 7,000 people in the region, and it says that total could double in the next three to five years. Huawei already has a research center in Italy and is studying the possibility of opening one in Spain. It also recently announced a $2 billion investment in Britain.

The planned center in Helsinki, involving an investment of 70 million euros, or about $90 million, will work on smartphone development, including features like user interfaces and power management, the company said. When the center opens next year, it will employ 30 people, but this could grow to 100 over the next five years, the company said.

The announcement is a plus for the Finnish technology industry, which has been suffering from the woes at Nokia. The company was once the world’s biggest cellphone maker, but its market share has fallen sharply in recent years.

“The open and innovative environment in Finland,” Huawei said, “is an ideal place for Huawei to strengthen our global R. D. capabilities for devices, creating opportunities for both Huawei and the Finnish telecommunications industry.”

Huawei has been known mostly for its network equipment, but the company is pushing to make a name for itself with its handsets.

Mobile devices accounted for 22 percent of its revenue last year, an increase of 37 percent. That compares with growth of 12 percent for the overall business.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/technology/huawei-to-open-research-center-in-finland.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Using Twitter to Promote the Fall TV Season

The CW’s electronic insert in Entertainment Weekly. The CW’s electronic insert in Entertainment Weekly.

Lots of people are accustomed to watching television while simultaneously posting updates to Twitter or Facebook or looking up information online, or what is known in media circles as “the second screen experience.” But why watch two screens when you can start with one?

To showcase its new fall season, the CW network will use Twitter as a platform to preview the season premiere of the show “Emily Owens, M.D.” To promote the show, CW will include an insert in the Oct. 5 issue of Entertainment Weekly that will feature what is essentially a small cellphone screen that will wirelessly display a short video showing stars of new CW shows and then a live Twitter feed of the network’s account, @CW_Network.

Rick Haskins, CW’s executive vice president for marketing and digital projects, said the screen would feature the six most recent posts to the network’s Twitter handle. An in-house social media team managing the feed will delete only messages that include profanity or other unacceptable language, he said. And if someone posts saying they don’t like the show or the network?

“To me that’s what starts the dialogue,” Mr. Haskins said. “We will not editorialize that out. We no longer own our brand. The consumer owns the brand and the more people that embrace that and entertain it, the stronger the brand is going to be with their audience.”

Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter’s vice president for brand strategy, said more television networks were considering using the platform to introduce content before it runs on television. On Friday, Fox used Twitter to preview the season premiere of “Raising Hope.” Seeing something on Twitter, Mr. Lunenfeld said, actually helps the chances of people flipping on the television to watch.

“I think we saw a lot of that activity during the Olympics this year,” he said. “People are seeing things unfold on Twitter, engaging with it and then tuning in to watch it happening.”

Alan Cohen, the chief executive of OMD, the media planning and buying agency that is a unit of the Omnicom Media Group, part of the Omnicom Group, and the agency that worked on producing the insert, said marketing new television shows was increasingly difficult because of the amount of content available to viewers. Mr. Cohen said the agency was focused on “reinventing print” by combining multimedia elements like the Twitter feed.

“Now people need a little push to know what to watch because there’s so much television,” he said. “We believe that print is one of the vehicles where you want to get people to notice.”

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/using-twitter-to-promote-the-fall-tv-season/?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re the Boss Blog: The Frustrations of Trying to Connect On the Go

Tech Support

What small-business owners need to know about technology.

Not so long ago, I could handle being without an Internet connection as long as I could check e-mail and do bare-bones browsing on my cellphone. But now that I keep moving more and more of what I do to the cloud, from accounting to scheduling to collaborating to storing books and documents, I find myself practically incapacitated when I’m cut off from a laptop connection.

In the last year it looked as if the growing availability of free public WiFi connections would save me from having to shell out for a pricey cellular data connection for my laptop — my communications bill is plenty high, thanks, plus those connections are often dicey when you most need them on the road. Starbucks and McDonald’s offer free connections practically anywhere in the world, and other restaurants, cafes and shops are joining in fast. Even better, big airports and many trains, subways and buses are offering free WiFi — and I’m a big fan of public transportation. Most hotels offer free connections, too — although, irritatingly, higher-priced hotels still tend to charge for the privilege.

But the trend to free WiFi has proved too good to be true. These days, I find most free public connections to be barely usable. I recently took Amtrak’s Acela train round-trip between Boston and New York, and in spite of Amtrak’s promotion of the free WiFi on the train, the connection remained so slow for the entire trip that I wasn’t able to do anything useful with it.

Most of the time I couldn’t get any pages to load, and when they did load, it happened so slowly that I never felt the least bit productive. It was worse than useless — if I had known the connection would be so bad, I would have made sure to have plenty to read and would have at least done more relaxing. Instead, I found myself constantly fidgeting with the connection to try to get it to work, falsely encouraged by an occasional burst of success.

The low point was when I tried to buy a ticket on an airline site, and the page timed out trying to load in the middle of the flight-selection process. I got it to slowly reload, thinking I was saving myself the trouble of having to find the same flights, and sure enough the purchase went through. Except it was for the wrong ticket. In reloading the page, I later realized, the site ignored my previous flight choices and just checked off the top option on the page.

I encountered the same sort of worse-than-useless connections in the train station, on the regional train I took a week later, and on the commuter rail train that I took to and from the Amtrak station. And I don’t mean to pick on trains — it’s the same story now at airports and many cafes and shops, too. And it’s not just me. I notice people all around me having the same frustrations. Starbucks still tends to have decent connections — which is probably the main reason it’s nearly impossible to get a seat there these days. That leaves McDonald’s as the last bastion of widely available, free, reliable connections, though most of us don’t relish the idea of spending quality time there.

Our growing need to stay online is the crux of the problem. When companies and public agencies realized a few years ago that they could create good will and customer traffic by offering free WiFi, they offered enough capacity to meet demand. But demand is skyrocketing, thanks to growing reliance on the cloud, and especially to music- and video-streaming services. Worldwide data traffic is up to a billion gigabytes a month, according to networking giant Cisco Systems. That’s about 8 terabytes a second — or 8 million megabytes a second, if you still like to think small, or well more than a quarter of a billion typically sized documents per second. And get this: Cisco estimates demand is growing at a rate of about 40 percent a year.

Let’s hope providers of public WiFi invest in the better connections needed to provide usable service, now and into the future. But I’m not holding my breath. I’ve already bitten the bullet and added “tethering” to my cellphone plan, which means my phone can act as a mobile WiFi hotspot. On my unlimited-data plan, that’s an additional $15 a month, which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t often provide connections that are only marginally better than the lousy ones otherwise available (and, yes, I have a new, state-of-the-art phone on a 4G network).

If tethering isn’t an option on your phone, you can buy a USB cellular modem that gives you a data connection via one of the cellular carriers. These usually run around $50, plus about $40 a month for a data plan — though again, depending on your carrier and where you are, they don’t always provide fast, reliable connections when you need them most. At least more airlines are offering WiFi on flights, typically at a cost of about $15 a day. I haven’t had much of a chance to play with these yet, and I’m curious to know how good the connections are. Anyone?

I think the bottom line is that those of us who aren’t chained to an office need to be prepared to be connectionless some of the time. To me, that means I’ve avoided going whole hog into the cloud — I still rely on conventional office-type software rather than on cloud-based programs like Google Docs, for example, even though I’d love to switch. One positive trend is the availability of cloud-based tools that keep working when you lose your connection, albeit in more limited form. Google’s Calendar and Gmail services sort of minimally work offline now, and even its Docs service at least lets you look at documents offline. And Zoho offers various cloud-based productivity tools that in some cases are fairly functional offline. Microsoft, meanwhile, offers cloud-based tools that integrate reasonably well with its Office products.

Nevertheless, I now always keep my new Amazon Kindle Fire with me, and make sure it’s loaded with books, documents and videos to help me kill time during those frustrating periods offline. Once in a while I even manage to relax.

You can follow David H. Freedman on Twitter and on Facebook.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=79368e13515813e1b603095f8b0dd8ed

Bucks Blog: Monday Reading: What To Do After A Mortgage Rejection

October 17

Monday Reading: What To Do After A Mortgage Rejection

What to do after a mortgage rejection, Caribbean resorts battle seaweed, cellphone customers to get notice of excess use and other consumer-focused news from The New York Times.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=265f03d034b8dafbc1448c6e41036ab3

Seven Tech Trade-Offs Worth Making

The easy answer is “both.” But the reality is that most of us are usually dealing with a finite amount of money to spend, and that means making trade-offs. We want to get the most bang for our buck, not to be lured into paying for features and options that are not worth the money.

Below is some guidance about what is worth paying for, and what can be left unchecked on the options list.

PAY FOR PC MEMORY, NOT SPEED When buying and configuring a new computer, companies often give the option of upgrading the processor and adding more memory, or RAM. If it is an either/or proposition, go for the RAM. Processors are usually fast enough for most people; it is the RAM that can be the bottleneck.

Here’s a side note on RAM: Do not buy it from your manufacturer; RAM purchased from online retailers is just as good and considerably cheaper. Check out retailers like Crucial (for Windows machines) and Smalldog (for Macs). Each will tell you what kind of RAM you need for your machine, and they often sell it for more than half off the manufacturer’s retail price.

PAY FOR MESSAGING, NOT MINUTES Admittedly, this advice for cellphones applies best to a certain type of user — one who has a Monday to Friday, 9-to-5 office job. If this describes you, you are probably not using your cellphone all that much on weekdays. That leaves you with nights and weekends, when minutes are free. Look at your last bill and see how many minutes you actually used. You may be surprised to find that you are using many fewer minutes than you are paying for.

And what mobile carriers charge for individual text messages is ridiculous. If you have no bundled plan, each text sent or received can cost you as much as 20 cents. For an extra $5 or $10 a month, you can get hundreds or even thousands of texts included in your package. It is a far better price than going à la carte.

PAY FOR COMPONENTS, NOT CABLES Buy the finest displays, speakers and components you can afford for your media center. Be dazzled by a crisp, bright display. Feel as if you are in the middle of the action with the most powerful surround-sound systems. But when a salesperson starts pushing the A/V cables for $1,000 (this price is not an exaggeration; such cables exist), walk away.

Many connections today (H.D.M.I., optical audio) are digital, which means there is little to no signal degradation along the length of the cable. Small exceptions can be made if you are connecting components across long distances — say, more than 25 feet. Even with analog connections, it is highly likely that you will not be able to hear the difference between a cheap cable and an expensive one.

PAY FOR SENSOR SIZE, NOT MEGAPIXELS David Pogue, who writes the State of the Art column for The Times, has made this the camera shopper’s rallying cry for years. But it bears repeating because the industry still promotes one now-useless specification and obfuscates a far more important one. Just know this: Almost all cameras have enough megapixels now; it is the size of the image sensor that largely determines the quality of an image. Sensor size is confusing, because manufacturers use different formats. In response to ’a blog post from Mr. Pogue, someone created sensor-size.com, a site that converts sensor measurements for an easy comparison.

PAY FOR SPEED, NOT CHANNELS For Internet access, most cable operators offer tiers of service, usually a broadband version of coach, business class and first class. The top tier is usually more than most people will ever need, but the base package may groan under the weight of heavy video streaming. Better to move up a tier, which should add about $10 to your monthly bill.

That way, you can cancel most of your movie channels and go with services like Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant. Their costs are considerably less — either pay-per-video or less than $10 a month — than what you pay for Cinemax, TMC, Starz, Encore and other movie channels. (You may want to keep HBO or Showtime if you like those channels’ original programming — those shows will probably not be available anywhere else for a while.)

If you have a recent TV or Blu-ray player, you may already have access to Netflix and the other providers as built-in “widgets” that will connect through your home’s Internet connection. If not, $99 will get you an Apple TV or you can get a Roku box, which starts at $59; both will connect to streaming services. Over the course of a year, the cost of the hardware and services will be far less than the monthly fees you were paying the cable company.

PAY FOR APPLECARE, NOT MOBILEME Apparently, Apple makes some products that people really like. But Mobile Me, the company’s suite of cloud-based services, does not have the same draw. Maybe it is because most of what Mobile Me can do is available free from other companies. Web e-mail? Gmail. Photo storage? Flickr. Cloud storage? Dropbox. There used to be one killer app on MobileMe — Find My iPhone. But now that is available for free to all iPhone users, so that is one less reason to pay $99 a year for the service.

But saving on MobileMe frees up some cash for something more valuable, and that’s AppleCare, Apple’s extended hardware coverage and phone support. If you buy an Apple product without AppleCare, you get 90 days of free phone support and one year of hardware coverage (note that accidents like spills, drops and other mishaps are never covered, only malfunctioning equipment). If something goes wrong after that, you must pay for any phone support or repair work, and the prices are high — from $30 to $50. But purchase AppleCare (which costs from $29 for an Apple TV to $349 for larger MacBook Pros) and you get three years of phone support and repair coverage.

While other tech companies offer similar plans, most are to be avoided, as calling them for help often results in, “Did you try restarting your computer?” Apple’s techs are helpful and persistent and, since the company makes both the operating system and the hardware, they have the added benefit of actually knowing what they are talking about.

PAY FOR TV SIZE, NOT REFRESH RATE As Matt Buchanan pointed out in a still-useful post on Gizmodo.com a year and a half ago, every television manufacturer has a sweet spot when it comes to price and size. Going to 50 inches from 42, Mr. Buchanan explains, may cost you $200, but going 54 inches from 50 could cost $400 more, so 50 inches is where you would get the most for your dollar. Every manufacturer has its own sweet spot, so it pays to look at the lineup and see where it is.

But one thing you do not have to spend much time looking up is a television’s refresh rate, measured in hertz. That tells you how many times per second the TV refreshes the image on its display. A 60 Hz television refreshes its image 60 times a second; a 120 Hz does it 120 times a second. Many — if not most — TVs now have a refresh rate of 120 Hz, and more expensive models are faster than that, refreshing the image 240 times per second. And while twice as fast is theoretically better, your eyes would be hard pressed to tell the difference. That is not a tradeoff, that is a ripoff.

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