Gongol.com Archives: August 2015
August 7, 2015Russia hacks the Pentagon
Blogger killed in Bangladesh -- probably for advocating secularism
Firefox requires an urgent update
Officials in Illinois used personal e-mail addresses to avoid public scrutiny
Robots and interest rates
August 8, 2015Hotel group opposes Orbitz/Expedia merger
Chicago delays imposing "cloud tax"
Anti-corruption broadcaster shot in Brazil
A reminder of just how fragile self-government can be
Proliferation of new generic top level domains rolls on
Verizon and other phone providers phase out two-year contracts
August 9, 2015Delta is testing super-upgrades for frequent flyers
Not just an upgrade to first class, but to a private jet. They're trying to make better use of deadheading flights to reposition aircraft for full-price private passengers.
August 12, 2015International hacking ring stole info from press-release websites to trade on insider information
Hillary Clinton to turn over the infamous server hard drive
Plus a thumb drive containing backups of those disputed emails. A reminder to all of us: If you do serious business by email, you should make sure to deliberately keep a backup someplace safe. Have a strategy for security and backups; don't pull a Clinton.
Smartphones as the "Swiss Army knife" of the Millennial generation
Phones are used to do so many things that they are hard to do without
Kim Kardashian busted for endorsing pharmaceuticals on Instagram
Google's rearrangement as "Alphabet" doesn't make it a real conglomerate
But they are trying to be a digital conglomerate
August 13, 2015UK government claims 83% of the country has "super-fast" broadband access
By "super-fast", they mean 24 Mbps. The big challenge in the UK, as it is elsewhere, is delivering high speeds in rural areas.
FCC invites phone companies to workshop on figuring out how to stop telemarketing robocalls
An ambulance drone may be coming
Designed to get things like defibrilators to the scene faster than an ambulance on four wheels
Samsung plans to build the world's biggest hard drive
In the standard 2.5" package, it's supposed to hold 16 terabytes
"Sesame Street" isn't leaving PBS...but it'll air first on HBO
August 14, 2015Motorola Mobility to cut 25% of its Chicago workforce
The smartphone maker, spun off from the parent company, then sold to Google, then sold to Lenovo, is cutting 500 jobs in Chicago out of the about 2,000 it employs now. The rest of Lenovo is cutting back, too, and despite the Chicago cuts, the company supposedly wants Motorola to do more of the parent company's smartphone work.
Prankster goes after people angry about Target's gender-neutrality policy in the toy aisle
Samsung introduces new jumbo smartphones
The Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge Plus are both really big -- "phablet"-sized -- and carry huge price tags: $700 and $800, respectively. Especially as cell-phone service providers move away from the long-term-contract model, consumers may start to get more price-sensitive, and $700 is a really big ticket.
Verizon tests 10 Gbps Internet service
Their current FiOS network offerings hit 500 Mbps, which is really fast -- but this is 20 times faster, and the company thinks they could get up to 80 Gbps. Fiber optics make all the difference...now, it just has to become economically feasible for utilities to install that expensive fiber all the way to homes. Densely-populated places will have a huge advantage in getting it first.
Comcast plans a new streaming-video service
Tentatively called "Watchable", it's expected to carry a lot of content from online-only providers and deliver it straight to cable TV subscribers' homes. It reflects the surging demand for content to suit ever-more-specific audiences, and how threatening that is to cable television providers.
August 16, 2015One-paragraph book review: "Dangerous Pursuits: Mergers and acquisitions in the age of Wall Street"
USDA re-estimates crop sizes for the year
And the upward revision was enough to really shake the markets
Iowa barber gives haircuts to children in exchange for them reading stories to him
Knowledge transfer: UK troops help Ukrainian military
...and learn how to face the Russian military in the meantime
Apple puts TV service on hold
Negotiating distribution deals is turning out to be harder than expected
France threatens to open the border at Calais to send migrants to the UK
Using business jets to deliver scheduled flight service
Germany in the EU
The EU, founded more or less to keep Germany from getting belligerent again, now faces the problem of having a highly responsibe Germany that subsidizes bad economic behavior by others (who resent it)
A look inside Amazon.com's brutal workplace
Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 16, 2015
August 17, 2015Natural gas prices versus Chinese labor costs
The decline in the price of natural gas is making American electricity extra-cheap. Meanwhile, the cost of labor is rising in China. These factors mean that the overall cost of manufacturing in the United States is now within rounding error of that in China, and is likely to be in an advantageous positin within a couple of years.
Android Marshmallow is out for developers
The latest iteration of Google's operating system for mobile devices is ready for the last major step before public use
"Knowledge wins: Public library books are free"
A terrific war poster just as accurate today as a century ago
NLRB: "Stability" is the prevailing factor in blocking Northwestern football unionization
Of course university officials oppose unionization by their "student-athletes", but until that phrase ceases to be a pretty awful euphemism when applied to major college football programs, someone needs to continue agitating for a change of some sort. It doesn't have to be unionization, but it needs to be something.
The robotic lawn mower is finally coming to America
FCC finally approves an exemption for iRobot (makers of the Roomba) to use low-power radio signals to control the mowers. Honda already sells robotic mowers in the UK, so the technology isn't entirely new. Overall, the less time human beings spend on silly tasks like lawn mowing, the better.
August 18, 2015An example of anything but transparency
The State Department just "found" thousands of emails it said did not exist
Donald Trump as mild fascist
Or, at least, as a dying canary in the coal mine of a healthy civic society. See also "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis
Hackers release huge data dump of user information from AshleyMadison.com
The website catering to those who want to arrange extramarital affairs was targeted by a curiously moralistic kind of criminal
A tool for the compulsive over-sharer
A site called "My Social Book" will convert an individual's Facebook feed into a printed bok. Sure, it's appealing in a sense to have a personalized journal. But if you share enough on Facebook to fill an actual book, it's time to pump the brakes. Over-sharing on Facebook can lead to identity theft, among other serious personal hazards.
A bad sign for late-night television
If television stations are rebroadcasting old episodes of the Johnny Carson-era "Tonight Show", then someone really needs to work on talent development for today's broadcasters. Carson was a genius, no doubt -- but why hasn't anyone with comparable talent emerged in the 23 years since the show left the air?
One-paragraph book review: "America's Richest Families"
August 19, 2015Why you should even back up your cloud-based data
A freak incident wiped out some data stored on Google cloud servers
Good advice for showing concern for a hospitalized friend
ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh kills scholars. Enough said.
If your worldview is threatened by the advance of knowledge, then you have a problem.
The cost of not asking tough questions
Chuck Todd's interviews with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders on the August 16th episode of "Meet the Press" were about as penetrating as a cover story for the "Weekly Reader".
One-paragraph book review: "The Liar's Ball"
August 20, 2015Red-light camera company engaged in corruption
Former CEO pleads guilty to a $2 million deal
An argument for Google to buy Twitter
Computerized reconstruction of murder victim's face closes cold case
The value of a tool like that is hard to quantify, but psychologically huge
How to make the shrugging guy emoticon
Innumeracy is just as bad as illiteracy
Lots of important things, including in political life, depend on numbers. If a person (like a Presidential candidate) can't even come close to getting the numbers right, then that person is functionally innumerate. And that's a problem.
August 24, 2015Watch as the Chinese stock market enters a meltdown
50 North Korean subs have left their bases
China's government can't prop up the stock market any longer
The market is a natural force much bigger than our power to coerce it effectively in most big cases. Britain's stock market took a big hit, too. Tremendous buying opportunities exist in the stock market when people lose their minds like this.
The tools Hyundai touts behind its convoy of cars driving themselves
The self-driving car isn't going to arrive all at once, like Google has been preparing to offer. It's going to arrive iteratively -- step-by-step. Parking assistance and lane management tools beget still better things and more serious overrides of human behavior. As comfort levels increase with each step, humans will eventually cede control of the car altogether to the car itself, and thank God. We are the weak link in the chain.
Cop draws gun on man apparently just standing in his own yard
It's not that police officers are inherently bad or eager to power-trip, but some are -- and the consequences when they can't demonstrate adequate self-control are so grave that the rest of us need to be sure that real civilian oversight is taking place. We should also be recording and sharing evidence of misbehavior, because it matters.
August 25, 2015Selfies in the voting booth
On one hand, an expression of free speech. On the other, a risk to the secrecy of the ballot. Who can tell for sure that a photo of a completed ballot wasn't coerced?
Dish won't turn into a major cellphone carrier after all
The FCC has gotten in the way
Japan has so many people turning 100, it's busting the government's gift budget
Is the Chinese government really backing off intervention in the stock market?
NYSE Rule 48
How the stock exchange tries to put the brakes on an erratic market
August 26, 2015New orders for durable goods are down a lot from last year
This is a problem, especially because capital investment by businesses has also been lagging for quite a while -- and there's really just no way to escape the fact that you need things in order to make other things
Putting computers to work on behalf of education
Computers aren't a substitute for teachers -- they should be used as enhancements. But if there's an area in which we should be almost maniacally eager to improve quality, especially in ways that can reduce costs, then education surely must be it.
Theo Epstein is up for a contract extension in 2016
The Cubs had better show up with a blank check. His value to the franchise is incredible.
Angela Merkel reminds Germans: Migrants are people, too
Refugees trying to escape troubles south of Europe are really just doing what any rational person would try to do
Plagiarized national anthems
August 27, 2015Facebook claims a billion users per day
Instagram to permit portrait, landscape modes
Art is in the constraints. This does away with the biggest constraint of all on Instagram: The forced square. This will obviously please some people in the short run, but it really damages the appeal that made Instagram attractive from an artistic standpoint. Now it's just another dull way to share photos, like all the rest.
Burger King brilliantly proposes "McWhopper" in the name of Peace Day
Burger King: Looks clever and fun in their proposal. Looks engaged. Nothing to lose by tweaking your larger rival. McDonald's, on the other hand, looks sanctimonious in response. But rumor has it you shouldn't try building your own McWhopper.
The Federal Reserve looks at different exchange rates than Wall Street
Because the relative strength of the dollar affects our imports and exports, that affects the size of the economy. So it's not a trivial distinction what the Fed uses to establish how much inflation is occurring.
Not everyone named in the Ashley Madison hack was actually trying to cheat
Apparently, the company did nothing to verify addresses -- so people may have used the addresses of others in order to evade detection
August 28, 2015The face of refugees arriving right now in Europe
Let's not forget that millions -- literally millions -- of people are on the run in Syria. They're people, not wild animals.
Going to cash right now is a dumb financial move
But people are doing it in droves
11 years in prison for supporting ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh from America
Throw the book at them
Earthquakes are inevitable. Disasters are not.
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, a reminder: Natural disasters are inevitable. But prosperity and the discipline to use some of that surplus in order to prepare for the inevitable are two very good ways to resist suffering.
Consumer Reports is crazy for the Tesla Model S
Tesla got one very important thing right: They went upscale with their electric car, rather than trying to achieve mass appeal but at a cost $15,000 above the comparable non-electric cars.