Hashtag Trending October 19th – Amazon goes big on Microsoft. The IRS to provide free online tax preparation. AT&T tries to derail Starlink’s testing of cell phones to satellite.

Amazon goes big on – Microsoft 365.  

The IRS in the US may provide free online tax preparation. 

AT&T  tries to derail Starlink’s testing of cell phones that can make calls directly through a satellite. 

And from the X files.

Would you pay to have a Twitter account?Plus the CIA’s Twitter account has a huge leak and you can’t blame Elon – or can you?

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These and more top tech stories on Hashtag Trending

I’m your host Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada and Tech News Day in the US.

SpaceX is gearing up to initiate a satellite test for its Starlink cellular service later this year. However, AT&T and the Rural Wireless Association are attempting to halt this effort. While SpaceX’s primary application to provide the service is still under FCC review, the company recently filed a “special temporary authority (STA)” application to test a second-generation Starlink satellite by December 1. 

This satellite aims to connect unmodified cellular phones directly to SpaceX’s Gen2 satellites. AT&T and the Rural Wireless Association have raised regulatory concerns with the FCC, questioning the test’s technical details and potential interference with other carriers. 

AT&T suggests that SpaceX should obtain an experimental license for the test. In response, SpaceX has urged the FCC to provide  swift approval of its STA, dismissing the claims as baseless.

Sources: PC Mag 

Elon Musk’s social media platform, X (previously known as Twitter), is piloting a subscription model that will charge new users a $1 annual fee. This initiative will be introduced in New Zealand and the Philippines. Users who opt to pay this fee will gain the ability to post content, reply to posts, repost, and quote other users. 

Those who decide against paying will be restricted to “read only” actions, which include reading posts, watching videos, and following accounts. There’s speculation that if this model is expanded to other regions or to existing users, it might impact the platform’s revenue, which has traditionally been driven by advertising. Will the introduction of even a nominal fee potentially deter users from joining or remaining on the platform?  

Twitter is already bleeding users. 

A year after its acquisition, X (formerly Twitter) is reportedly experiencing a decline in traffic and monthly active users, contradicting chief executive officer (CEO) Linda Yaccarino’s earlier claims of peak usage. 

Data from market intelligence firm Similarweb indicates a 14 per cent global website traffic drop year-over-year in September, with U.S. traffic decreasing by 19 per cent. Mobile usage in the U.S. also saw a 17.8 per cent decline. Other countries, including the U.K., France, Germany, and Australia, reported similar downturns. Despite these figures, Elon Musk’s profile page on X witnessed a 96 per cent surge in traffic year-over-year. The report suggests that X’s decline is part of a broader trend, with web traffic to the top 100 social networks also decreasing, except for TikTok. But X’s significance in the news ecosystem has also diminished, with outlets like The New York Times receiving less traffic from the platform.  

So will a subscription fee help or hurt X. We’ll find out.

Sources: Tech Crunch // Axios

A cyber-security researcher, Kevin McSheehan, took advantage of a flaw on the CIA’s official Twitter account, redirecting a channel meant for recruiting informants to his own Telegram channel. The CIA’s account on X (previously known as Twitter) displayed a link to a Telegram channel for potential informants. However, due to a glitch in how X displays certain links, the full web address was truncated, leading to an unused Telegram username. McSheehan quickly registered this username, ensuring that anyone clicking the link would be directed to his channel, where he warned them against sharing sensitive information. McSheehan expressed his surprise that the CIA had overlooked such an error. The CIA has since corrected the mistake but did not comment on the incident.

Sources: BBC 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced its plans to pilot a free tax filing service, named Direct File, in 2024. This initiative will be available to a select group of taxpayers in up to 13 states. Direct File aims to challenge paid tax preparation services like TurboTax and H&R Block, which have historically opposed free and straightforward tax filing solutions. 

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel stated that this move is a significant advancement in offering taxpayers a new, free option for filing their returns directly with the IRS. The service, funded by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, is described as a “mobile-friendly, interview-based service” available in both English and Spanish. It targets individuals with simpler tax situations. The pilot program will help the IRS evaluate the feasibility and challenges of the Direct File option.

Seem really forward thinking? If you follow the weekend edition you will find out that Estonia, with a population of a little over a million people, has been able to do this for years. And if you follow rumours, you’ll know that the Canadian government had an offering like this but somehow it never saw the light of day. 


Sources: Tech Crunch 

Here’s a couple of Windows stories that caught my eye today.

Despite rumors suggesting that Windows 12 might adopt a subscription-based model, it has been clarified that this is not the case. The confusion arose from code strings in Windows 11 previews related to the “IoT Enterprise Subscription,” which is unrelated to the main Windows OS. 

Microsoft has not officially announced Windows 12, but speculations hint at a 2024 release with a focus on AI and cloud capabilities, potentially rivaling Google’s Chrome OS. The company has never introduced a subscription-based model for its client Windows versions in the past. Despite the rumors, one thing is clear: Windows 12 will not be subscription-based.

Sources: Windows Latest 

Amazon is reportedly investing heavily in Microsoft’s 365 productivity suite, securing over a million licenses. The deal is estimated to be worth more than $1 billion over a span of five years.

This move aligns Amazon with the majority of Fortune 500 companies that utilize Microsoft’s productivity tools. Historically, Amazon has utilized on-premises versions of Microsoft Office, but this shift indicates a transition to the cloud-based suite. Starting as early as November, Amazon plans to deploy Microsoft 365 licenses for both corporate employees and frontline workers, with a comprehensive migration anticipated for the following year.

Some Amazon employees might prefer Microsoft’s offerings over Amazon’s native apps, such as Amazon WorkMail and WorkDocs. Both Microsoft and Amazon refrained from commenting on the speculation.

So I read this and said to myself – a million licenses? How many people work at Amazon.  Apparently, according to my Google search – over a million and a half people. 


Sources: The Register 

Today is “national spreadsheet day.”  Who makes this stuff up?  For me, spreadsheets have been amazing and dangerous. 

I got my first spreadsheet on a 5 ¼ in floppy disk by mail. It was called Supercalc. I also got the operating system, called CPM. I installed it on our office word processing system in the middle of the night and it blew my mind. 

I played with one of the first spreadsheets all night. 

Then at about 5 in the morning, I had to go home but I didn’t know how to uninstall the operating system that I’d loaded to our MICOM word processing system.  

They had to bring in a service person the next day to try to figure out what had gone wrong.  

So in honour of national spreadsheet day, here’s a story that I picked up this week. 

The Anaesthetic National Recruitment Office (ANRO) mistakenly informed all candidates for positions in Wales that they were “unappointable,” even though some had achieved top interview scores. 

The error was traced back to a complex use of Excel spreadsheets, where a ranking column was wrongly transferred, leading to incorrect scoring. 

The issue affected all 400 candidates. 

Almost biblical isn’t it?  The last were made first and the first made last – all by a simple spreadsheet error.

What’s the biggest spreadsheet disaster YOU have lived through?  Send it to me at [email protected] or just go to itworldcanada.com/podcasts, look for the show notes, click on the thumbs up or down and leave your comment with your spreadsheet story. I’ll figure out some sort of prize for the best entry and I won’t identify you.

Sources: The Register 

That’s the top tech news stories for today. For more fast reads on top stories, check us out at TechNewsDay.com or ITWorldCanada.com on the homepage. 

Hashtag Trending goes to air 5 days a week with a special weekend interview show we call “the Weekend Edition.”

You can get us anywhere you get audio podcasts and there is a copy of the show notes at itworldcanada.com/podcasts 

I’m your host, Jim Love – have a Thrilling Thursday.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Jim Love
Jim Love
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO and Chief Digital Officer of IT World Canada - Canada's leader in ICT publishing and digital marketing.

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