Hello, Friday: Meet Starry Internet

We’ve been a little quiet on the Starry Internet front, but today you can get your first look at our deployment in Boston.

This week we took ReCode and Vox Media up on a roof of a building to see Starry Internet in action. Here’s what they found.

And, our CEO Chet Kanojia and CTO Joe Lipowski sat down with BusinessInsider for a ‘virtual’ tour of what it’s like to live with Starry Internet.

Our team has been working hard, day and night (literally). We’re incredibly proud of what’s been accomplished – but there is so much more ahead of us.

We’re building out Boston and other cities and want to hear directly from you. Tell us more or help us Starry.com/Internet.

And, we’re hiring! Come join the Starry team and help us build the future of broadband. Starry.com/careers.

Inside Starry: Meet Jen Webb, Director of Firmware Engineering

This year’s Grace Hopper Celebration may be over, but we’re keeping the party going by highlighting inspirational technologists here at Starry. We sat down with Jen Webb, our Director of Firmware Engineering and a 30-year veteran of the industry. Read on to hear everything from her thoughts on life at a startup to advice for students.

Can you briefly describe your career?
I’ve been in the industry since 1987. Early jobs in my career were all individual contributor roles, software engineering, despite having an Electrical Engineering degree (which typically is a path to hardware or RF work). I’ve worked for some very large companies and some super-small startups, and I’ve definitely found the startups most interesting. The breadth of things you get to work on and see developed, and the actual impact you can have in a small company is tremendous.

Which role did I like best? Aereo was fantastic, other than the final outcome. People loved the service. We were doing something new, different, and game-changing. Since the Aereo decision, virtually all broadcast and cable channels are available to stream online, which means you no longer have to be tied to your television. I like to think that Aereo had a lot to do with that, with moving the industry forward and providing people with more choice.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities at Starry?
My official title is Director of Firmware Engineering, but that’s kind of a misnomer. Most of my days are spent working with three teams: WiFi firmware, internet firmware, and QA. I make sure priorities are in order and other teams have what they need from mine (and vise versa), and help customer support resolve the more complex issues that people encounter.

What’s one of the most rewarding things about this job?
As you advance your career, the reward comes from seeing the people on your teams succeed. Getting releases or products out that customers enjoy and engage with, seeing the QA teams get traction and find issues that otherwise customers would find, watching younger engineers grow in their development and maturity – all those things are extremely rewarding. So I guess that’s success, in many different ways.

Who/what were some of your biggest influences for getting into engineering?
That’s kind of a funny thing. I had never heard of engineering when I was finishing high school and looking at colleges. None of the guidance counselors ever suggested engineering to me. They suggested that I become a teacher, math or sciences. There are many teachers in my family, and it is an admirable career, but I really didn’t feel that that was for me. My father wanted me to be a doctor, so I figured that was what I’d do. I went to Dartmouth for a year, focussing on pre-requisites and pre-med type classes and hated it. So I withdrew after a year.

A friend of my sister’s asked me why I didn’t look at engineering, since I was a math dork. I’d never heard of it before, but I looked into it and it looked good to me! So I enrolled at Northeastern in the electrical engineering program. I eventually made my way to UMass Amherst and got my EE degree. Engineering was the right spot; it had the right challenge level for me and I really found it a great area to work in. To me it’s like puzzle solving and I could do that all day long.

Was there a defining moment that put you on the path to where you are today? Any major turning points in your career?
I got an internship at Digital Equipment Corporation and I ended up writing software with the diagnostics team. I was hooked. It was definitely more “instant gratification” than hardware, which fits my patience level better. So I think that internship really changed the course of my career for the better.

Did you face any major setbacks or hurdles? How did you overcome them?
Setbacks, no. Hurdles, sure. Being a woman in any engineering discipline has its challenges. Electrical engineering was very male dominated and still is today. There were two other woman in the electrical engineering program when I was at UMass. There were no female professors. I had one professor call me into his office and demand to know what boy was helping me do well. When I told him there wasn’t one, he was angry and told me he would be proven right after the first exam. I got the second highest grade in the class on that exam. Still annoyed that I didn’t get the highest.

What advice would you offer aspiring engineers, especially those who are female, about being successful in this industry?
Find something that you love doing and do it. Don’t just get a degree and do what’s expected with it (unless you really like it); look for those things that you just can’t put down. That’s what you’re going to love doing day after day. For women, don’t be afraid of engineering even if it’s still male dominated; it is an awesome field full of all kinds of cool stuff to work on. Ignore the people who ask you why you’re doing it, who tell you you should be doing something else – they’re just afraid that you’ll be better at it than they are. Don’t get angry or upset when people say stupid, sexist things; just let it go and prove that you should be there because you are just as good or, more likely, better than they are. Also, go for startups! Women tend to stay away from startups because they’re more risk averse but don’t do that. Take a risk! Go beyond what you think is safe or expected - look for new challenges. It is a blast and it gives you great experience. You can make a contribution and have a great time doing it! You can also meet some seriously smart and fantastic people. Every startup I’ve been at has provided a path to the next one and they just keep getting better and better!

10 handy uses for ScreenTime.

It’s a happy Wednesday, indeed. ScreenTime 2.0 is officially live, and we couldn’t be more excited. To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of 10 ways ScreenTime parental controls can come in handy, based on actual beta-tester stories. Get a little inspiration below and enjoy!

ScreenTime can help:

  1. Get your son to fold his laundry in record time.

  2. Make sure everyone in your home who’s supposed to be sleeping is actually sleeping.

  3. Improve dinner conversation (sorry, the group chat’s not invited).

  4. Make sure distractions are history the night before the history midterm.

  5. Teach your kids to take breaks from Snapchat (one story a day will do).

  6. Delay you from binge watching another episode of Luke Cage.

  7. Make Monopoly way more fun during family game night.

  8. Prevent yourself from checking your work email at 3 a.m.

  9. Get the kids to play for a few hours… OUTSIDE.

  10. Customize a safer, better internet experience for your whole family.

These are just a few of the countless ways ScreenTime can make a difference in your home. Test out the new features for yourself and tell us when it’s come in handy most for you.

To learn more about ScreenTime or to get it for yourself, click here.

What’s New: ScreenTime just got better for parents

We launched ScreenTime because we wanted to help parents keep their kids safe online. With new and improved ScreenTime, you can easily filter content, pause the internet right from the Station, and create custom rules for blocking or limiting certain apps across all devices. Now you can have better control over your children’s internet access and what they can see and do online, and carve out more quality time for yourself and your family in the process.

Block the bad (and distracting) stuff.

We’ve made it easier than ever to protect your kids as they browse the internet. You can block specific sites, block adult and explicit content that definitely doesn’t belong on your kids’ devices, and use preset filters to block or limit use of many popular sites and apps, including Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and more. You can even activate Google SafeSearch™ and make sure they don’t see questionable content from YouTube.

Block content

Pause the internet

Easily manage your children’s devices and internet access, or go into digital detox mode whenever you need to by pausing the internet straight from Starry Station or the Starry app—all with a single tap. Once you’ve paused a specific device, it won’t be able to access the internet until it’s been unpaused via pin code on Starry Station, where you’ll be able to see all of your paused devices.

Station ambient screentime mode

Starry Station now automatically categorizes many of your connected devices and labels them with icons to make it easier to see what’s online and using the most data.

Station device view

Just tap on any device to Pause the Internet or toggle ScreenTime rules on or off.

Create custom rules

On the Starry app, you can choose from starter rules like Bedtime, Block Bad Content, Help Kids Focus, and The Great Outdoors, and it only takes a couple of taps to set. You can also create your own set of rules, including options to block devices at certain times of the day (Offline Hours), block explicit content (Safe Content), and block or limit certain apps all the time or at certain times (Limit Distractions). All you have to do is tap the rule and add devices. Easy.

App create rule view

We’re incredibly excited about this feature because it’s an accessible way to make the internet safer for kids—and less stressful for parents to boot.

What’s New: Introducing Notifications on Starry Station

The Starry team has been hard at work on product updates and new features for Starry Station. This week, we’re excited to announce that the first of these new features is here.

Starry Station makes powerful WiFi easy to use and understand by offering a window–the touchscreen–into your network and internet connection. It’s also the only router smart enough to identify issues with your devices or internet. With Notifications, we’re expanding the list of problems Starry Station is able to surface.

Notifications alert you to common WiFi and connectivity problems as they arise. They offer simple solutions to the problems you’re experiencing, right on the touchscreen. This removes the guesswork of trying to figure out what the problem is (we’re looking at you, blinking lights), and significantly cuts down troubleshooting time.

Learn more about the these Notifications and the problems they solve below.

Internet Outage

internet outage UI notification

Problem it solves: Your internet service is unreliable

Any time your internet is down, Starry Station tells you right away, so you won’t waste any time trying to figure it out. It also keeps a running total of the hours you lose service each month. So if you ever decide to have a chat with your ISP about the unreliable service you’re getting, you’ll have plenty to discuss.

DNS Issues

slow DNS UI notification

Problem it solves: Slow WiFi

There are few things as frustrating as slow WiFi. Starry Station now has the ability to identify one common culprit: slow DNS servers. The internet Domain Name System, or DNS, is kind of like the phonebook for the internet. Every web site and service you access has a unique identifier called an IP address. The domain name system exists to turn those numbers into memorable names like facebook.com and instagram.com.

If your DNS servers are slow your overall WiFi performance will suffer. Starry Station now detects slow DNS servers, and in most cases, can automatically switch you to better performing DNS servers. Simply tap the touchscreen to switch, and your problem is solved.

5GHz Recommendation

5ghz network UI notification

Problem it solves: Your performance could be better (you just don’t know it yet)

Starry Station comes standard with two networks: a 2.4/5GHz dual band network for whole-home coverage, and a separate 5GHz network for high-speed gaming and streaming. And it’s always looking for ways to improve your experience. With this latest release, Starry Station can now tell you which devices (like a 4K TV, for example) would perform even better on the dedicated 5GHz network. Now you’ll always know that you’re getting the best performance possible.

Cable Issue

cable unplugged UI notification

Problem it solves: Your internet suddenly stops working

When something goes wrong with your internet, it can feel impossible to interpret what those blinking lights are trying to tell you. But Starry Station’s touchscreen makes the problem (and solution) clear. It alerts you when a cable from either your router or modem is unplugged, and shows you exactly which which port to plug it back into.

These Notifications were designed to save you the time and frustration of troubleshooting. We believe this greater visibility and control is a big step toward making internet simpler and better for everyone. And we’ve got plenty of new, exciting updates to come.

Stay tuned to find out what we’re unveiling next.