Gongol.com Archives: March 2015
Twitter continues begging for users
Now with embeddable video
A skeptic reacts to Apple's coming smartwatch
How C-SPAN delivers noteworthy information without resorting to clickbait
Google Plus gets third boss in less than a year
Tech-related business is still a boys' club
Java now adds "bloatware" to Macintosh computers
They've been trying to force-feed Ask.com onto Windows computers for a long time already
You should have your own domain name, but keep official accounts for official business
If Hillary Clinton had given out her home mailing address instead of using her office as Secretary of State, that would have looked odd and unprofessional. Same thing applies to the decision to use a personal e-mail address rather than a state.gov account.
Apple is to join the Dow Jones Industrial Average
The DJIA is anachronistic and totally out of date. Why do we even bother to mention it ever?
CNN gets FAA approval to use drones for TV footage
Three crooks, one billion stolen e-mail addresses
Server farms are today's economic-development grand prize
It's also a growing signal of corporate extra-nationalism
A truly silly argument against self-piloted cars
A story in "Wired" points to extraordinary dash-cam videos as some kind of dismissive evidence against autonomous cars. Yes, the extraordinary happens, and there's no way to program a computer to anticipate a truck full of cows tipping over. But most accidents are not the faults of extraordinary circumstances, but of failure to deal with the routine. With 90 people dying every day on the roads of the US, you can't say there are 90 extreme events taking place. More likely, there are 89 perfectly ordinary events that go bad, and the leading cause of those events is human error.
Should the Secretary of State really be using a personal email address for diplomatic purposes?
No clear lane ahead for ride-sharing services in Nebraska
Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - March 7, 2015
$17 billion moves from stocks into bonds thus far in 2015
Stocks are at not-cheap prices right now, but long-term investing in bonds is a terrible idea under present conditions
Canadian man faces charges for refusing to turn over smartphone password
High-fee money managers ought to become an endangered species
What the candidates said at the Iowa Ag Summit
Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - March 8, 2015
Iraq/Syria terrorists are destroying ancient heritage sites
These are not civilized people, and civilization needs to defend itself from them
Don't believe forecasts promising big returns from publicly-subsidized hotel and entertainment projects
The forecasts are too easily skewed to deliver the results the client appears to want, and there's practically no accountability later on
A year later, no evidence that the crew deliberately crashed MH370
Putin admits being behind the Crimea takeover stunt
Let's not call it "coming clean" -- just admitting responsibility
Getting kids into engineering via robotics
Upcoming generations might find their inheritances surprisingly small
Daylight Saving Time is stupid and should be eliminated
China builds a 57-story skyscraper in 19 days
Prefabricated blocks are being fused together on-site
A strong dollar versus the euro means happy shopping for US companies
...as long as they can stomach buying companies with euro-denominated earnings that will be depressed for a while
Yahoo layoffs trickle down even to Omaha
A couple of dozen customer-service reps were cut in Omaha, as part of nationwide cuts that coincide with the company's 20th anniversary. The layoffs appear to be happening in a slow trickle.
The New York Times and Los Angeles Times are now digital-first publications
When the biggest newspapers in the country consider their print editions secondary to their electronic ones, the tide has definitely shifted
Horrible, awful, soulless trolls impersonate a victim of the Sandy Hook murders
Shutting down the scourge of cybertrolls is tough to do -- most only feed off the fight, and revel in showing off the skills that make them hard to stop. Unfortunately, about 1% of people are sociopathic, and it's hard to shut down their access to the Internet without abridging free-speech rights for everyone. That doesn't mean we shouldn't shun, ostracize, and block the creeps out of our worlds.
New York Times questions Google's future
Notes the analysis: "Growth in Google's primary business, search advertising, has flattened out at about 20 percent a year for the last few years." They also note the company really hasn't diversified its income beyond search advertising, despite herculean efforts and massive spending.
AccuWeather television channel displaces Weather Channel on Verizon FiOS
The AccuWeather service is stripped down to the bare essentials and is intended as a substitute for glancing at a smartphone screen. They're calling it "all weather, all the time". The Weather Channel's migration to lots of scripted programming may have made sense as a means of capturing long-form viewers, but it hurt the channel's reputation for meteorology.
Joe Maddon wants his Cubs to focus on the fundamentals
There's much to be excited about -- power hits are already showing up big-time in spring training -- but fundamentals, executed consistently, win championships.
The war between Uber and the taxis
Big companies own many of the nation's cab companies, so there's a concentrated cost to them if deregulation takes hold. Des Moines just adopted new regulations that will permit Uber to coexist alongside the incumbent taxi and limo services. The rules aren't quite laissez-faire, but they no longer protect rent-seeking by the cab companies. At first look, the regulations appear to strike a very sensible balance.
Computer modeling meets construction management to make bridge-analysis tool
Professors at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln are trying to get Federal authorities interested in their 3D modeling tool. Data is no good unless it turns into something actionable.
FCC releases its rules on "net neutrality"
Central to the new rules: No blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization. Those sound lovely in theory, but there's going to be trouble in the nuances. And the "no throttling" rule is going to cause serious heartburn as demand for bandwidth keeps increasing and supply fails to keep up.
Secretary Clinton's email-sorting process was a rudimentary search
No, nobody went through and hand-checked them. They just used a name and keyword search to go through 60,000 emails. Anyone who's had to find a lost email knows that's an impossibly inadequate way to ensure the Clinton team found everything that matters.
Microsoft may be having some luck with its push to cloud-computing services
Their challenge appears to be getting customers who start on the service to stick with it and really put it to good use. While on the surface it might appear that customers who pay but don't use are a dream source of cost-free revenue, the truth is that Microsoft and its competitors really want customers to get attached to the products, since the more they entrench their operations in a cloud service, the harder it becomes to leave.
Latest Patch Tuesday gave some users heartburn
Some of the updates seem to be causing hiccups on some computers, and some of those problems may be echoes of a previous attempt at the same patch. And the set of updates was a big one, with or without installation troubles.
Why everyone should know self-defense: Case study #18
Omaha man suffers injuries after trying to break up a fight among girls -- who then turned on him
Future earnings depend on the type of college degree, not the pedigree of the institution
Take that, overpriced snob schools
One-paragraph book review: "Thinking, Fast and Slow"
"Dot-com" addresses obsolete? Don't be preposterous.
Even with a broadening array of alternative top-level domains, it's a laughable conclusion...800 numbers are still far more recognizable than 888 or 877. Anything ".com" is more definitive than the alternative in any other TLD.
Vladimir Putin returns to the public view
10 days of radio silence sure looks suspicious
Multi-billion-dollar tech startups aren't "valued", they're speculated-upon
Iowa communities want more (Internet) fiber
How an Omaha company lost millions to social engineering
The surging value of the US dollar
Reversed slightly by the Federal Reserve's discussion this week, the surging value of the dollar has to have made it more appealing for Americans to look at buying European companies with large volumes of dollar-denominated earnings. In other words, Warren Buffett really must be shopping hard for European companies to buy. The buying power of the dollar is just too great to ignore right now.
Italy re-enters competition for silk fabrics
On a related note, one could learn much of what one needs to know about labor economics by studying the history of textile manufacturing in New England
Surveillance saves lives from loss to cancer
Apple's entry into Internet TV service
A profile of US household debt
Terrorist attack in Tunisia was carried out by Al Qaeda/ISIL
Two language checks: First, we shouldn't allow internal divisions among terrorist groups to determine what we call them. The group variously known as ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh is a splinter group of Al Qaeda, and we shouldn't dilute our attention to the hazard by diluting the name we apply to it. Second, we should reject the common phraseology "takes responsibility for" when talking about terror attacks. Civilized people "take responsibility". Barbarians just crave your fear.
Government is the leading employment sector in ten states and DC
Food for thought
Failure to care for sick veterans is a national shame
It's probably time for us to stop using the phrase "mental illness" (which tends to connote something negative that is to be avoided) and instead talk openly about "mental wellness" as something positive to which we ought to deliberately commit resources like money and attention. At a level that is probably subconscious, the terminology "mental illness" perpetuates the stigma we have unwisely attached to it. It becomes something unpleasant-sounding, so culturally we are inclined to avoid it. But if we were to talk about a positive commitment to mental wellness, it would probably help to open the public conversation such that we would think of it as an affirmative state of well-being which we as a culture should be committed to preserving (or creating, as the case may be) for everyone. We all exist in various states of mental wellness, and improving that state for every person is a positive, affirmative goal. It's much too easy to think of "mental illness" as something that someone else has -- it's impossible to reject the notion that we are all in some state of "mental wellness." And words do matter, particularly on sensitive topics. Making them less sensitive by bringing them out of the shadows is something worthwhile to consider.
Yemen fails into civil war
When the president has to flee an air raid on his residence, things are pretty messed up. And the deaths of scores of people at two mosques is another stomach-churning development.
US DOT infographic shows why it matters where you choose to live
The amount of lost time and added expense faced by people who choose to live in places where congestion and traffic are terrible really boggles the mind
One-time prosecutor apologizes for erroneous death-penalty conviction
Fortunately, the innocent convict has been freed -- after decades of wrongful incarceration
Apple thinks it can beat Google Glass at its own game
Facebook updates its "community standards"
Less will be allowed, ultimately, and that's probably unavoidable. Facebook has too much to lose from laissez-faire. But policing content that is offensive in some places but not in others is an exercise in being hated.
State Farm will test drones for inspecting storm damage
USDA to subsidize replacement of broadband connections
Facebook doesn't want to post your links anymore
They're aggressively trying to get news sources to publish directly on their platform
Twitter softly rolls out options to block offensive posts
The forced immediacy of everything on Twitter makes it hazardous turf for risk of offense
How much are 78 million customer records worth?
Depending on what a court decides in the Radio Shack bankruptcy case, possibly quite a lot. One might ask "Who cares?" about records on your battery and bulb purchases from ten years ago. But what if another company -- more prominent, or perhaps more effective at getting your personal data -- were to go belly-up? Nothing guarantees that Facebook or Google will last forever.
Legal contests begin over FCC "net neutrality" rules
More than half a decade ago, groups like the EFF warned of the risk of "regulatory capture" -- that an FCC with more power would become a tool of vested interests. There's also the risk of corrosive mission creep.
Fraud on Apple Pay
Ease of setup may make it too easy to use for theft. One analyst thinks an astonishing 6% of Apple Pay transactions use stolen credit cards.
Computer infection via favicon
The tiny icons that identify individual websites inside many browsers can be compromised
Don't feed the trolls
The Al Qaeda offshoot that's wrecking parts of Syria and Iraq has declared a threat against specific members of the US military. Some have responded to the threat with their own bombast. While we definitely shouldn't be cowed by despicable acts and sub-human behavior, it's also rarely good practice to feed Internet trolls.
A sign that money is too cheap
A 77-story apartment tower is being planned for Queens. 77 stories? That could only remotely happen under conditions of easy money. Too-easy money.
Health care goes online...but not without hiccups and headaches
Some health-related information is being put online due to government mandate; other information is going there just because that's where everything is going anyway. But for a variety of reasons, the security isn't what it could be, and that's putting us at risk of what the Washington Post calls "the year of the health care attack".
Who uses which social media?
Facebook is pretty balanced across all age groups, but Snapchat definitely is not
Twitter introduces "Periscope" for live video streams
Right on the heels of a rival application called Meerkat
Saudi Arabia won't say it's not building a nuclear weapon
Meanwhile, the United States is cooperating openly with Iraq and perhaps tacitly with Iran, to conduct airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh and Yemen is descending into civil war as Saudi Arabia enters the fray with airstrikes of its own.
"If you find it puzzling, your brain is working correctly."
Charlie Munger on today's interest rates
The Germanwings plane crash looks deliberate
Appropriately or not, a lot of the media speculation has turned to suggesting it was the result of depression. The facts still aren't known to us all, so speculation is inappropriate. But the subject itself is worth discussion: Nobody is embarrassed by "dental illness" -- most of us just go to the dentist as a matter of routine, and some people have more filings than others. Nobody wants cavities, but nobody avoids going in for regular cleanings because there isn't a pointless stigma about going to the dentist. The same philosophy should apply to mental wellness. Some people need prescriptions or therapy that others do not, but we should all go in for regular screenings and checkups. That would be a healthy standard for society to adopt, and it may be the only way to effectively de-stigmatize mental-health issues, which is a highly desirable social goal.
Where the Amazon distribution centers are
It's easy to see why the company turned in favor of Internet sales-tax collection; they already have a physical presence in so many states that it's hardly going to cost them more in administrative expenses -- but it might impose a burden on their competitors
The tornado-free parts of the United States, illustrated
Secretary Hillary Clinton's email dispute drags on
House Republicans say she deleted her entire e-mail server and that doing so could have compromised any investigation involving messages that were not officially turned over -- something like half of the messages supposedly received. The letter from her lawyer says "there are no firstname.lastname@example.org e-mails from Secretary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State on the server for any review." Regardless of what was legally required or not, nuking an old e-mail server after being asked for records that were on it is exactly the kind of thing someone would do if they were trying to hide something.
The majority of people don't pay exclusive attention to conference calls
Perhaps because they tend to be poorly-organized, poorly-run, and too long. Though Harvard Business Review's analysis also says 47% of people have gone to the bathroom while on conference calls. Just because we have the technology to "get everyone together to talk about things" doesn't mean it's the most efficient use of everyone's time.
Taylor Swift reserves www.taylorswift.porn
Probably not a bad idea from a reputational-control standpoint, and for $99, a low-risk proposition anyway. Though one wonders about the potential for the administrators of the new top-level domains (TLDs) to conduct some soft extortion against the famous and semi-famous.
Apple users in UK will get to sue Google for privacy breach
For a nine-month period in 2011/2012, Google appears to have gotten around privacy settings on the Safari browser. The company says it didn't even use the data, so no harm was done. A British court says that doesn't stop the users from suing. It's all a question of cookie tracking, which is basically how most customization and tracking on the Internet still get done. But when people say they don't want to be tracked, they really don't want to be tracked.
A lever-powered wheelchair
Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - March 27, 2015