Gongol.com Archives: 2016 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol


March 11, 2016

Computers and the Internet Does $9.25 a month really make broadband affordable?

That's the structure of a Federal program to subsidize Internet access for the poor and those who live in places with limited options for access. But $9.25 a month doesn't really cover the full cost of access, and it may be a moot point in many places where there really isn't a good service available at all. This is an important public issue because the people who are caught without reliable Internet access are and will increasingly be at a substantial economic disadvantage to those who have it. And the people who don't have access now are likely to already be fighting an uphill battle economically. There ought to be a debate about the best way for public policy to address the problem, but there should be no mistaking the fact that the "digital divide" presents a serious hazard, and one that is only likely to deepen if not addressed. This should not be a case of debating whether there is a problem, but of how public policy ought best to be used to address it. There may be very market-friendly ways of so doing, and there are definitely government-overbearing ways of so doing. The debate itself, though, needs to begin with acknowledging the problem and addressing it thoughtfully so that the permanent consequences aren't as costly as they will be if the problem is ignored.

Computers and the Internet What does India give up by rejecting Facebook's "Free Basics" service?

It may look like a victory for "net neutrality", but there's a strong case to be made that the worries people have about the approach actually resemble strongly the worries people once had about AOL -- and that the AOL worries crumbled easily on their own once people got a taste for Internet access

Computers and the Internet You can have a built-in ad-blocker on your Internet browser

But you have to be using Opera to get it. Opera is a very distant also-ran in the browser market, but this may raise their profile. The company claims it delivers pages around 40% faster than the competition once those ads are scooped out. One might wonder how website publishers are going to respond to this, given that it's the equivalent of building an automatic commercial-skipper into a television set.

Computers and the Internet FCC pushes for data privacy from ISPs

The agency is proposing that Internet service providers be limited in what records they can keep on what individuals do with their Internet access

The United States of America An online quiz shows that San Jose is "forgettable"

When asked to name America's largest cities, more people overlook San Jose than any other -- relative to the fact it's the 10th largest individual city (not metro) in the country and one of only ten to have more than a million residents. But San Jose seems to be eternally in the shadow of its neighbor San Francisco, which is in fact meaningfully smaller in population.

Threats and Hazards Strength is a bad thing in the hands of the unjust

Donald Trump's incapacity to acknowledge that the iron-fisted response by the Chinese government to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests is yet another sign that he has authoritarian instincts that belong nowhere near the White House. Ohio Governor John Kasich deserves credit for highlighting that problem.



March 10, 2016

Socialism Doesn't Work China is moving towards tracking every vehicle in Shenzhen

Tiptoeing towards totalitarianism: The argument now is that they want to track vehicles carrying hazardous waste and buses carrying kids. But how to stop it before they start tracking every car?

Science and Technology Apple says quitting apps on the iPhone doesn't really save battery life

Sooner or later, we'll have batteries that render the problem of battery life entirely moot

Business and Finance Intra-family lending saves many people from financial disaster

Just $1,000 exchanging hands between parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, aunts, and uncles appears to be what keeps a lot of people out of calamity

Computers and the Internet Microsoft releases more than a dozen updates for Patch Tuesday

Several critical. More than one requires a restart.

Computers and the Internet Skype puts group video calling on mobile devices

Android and iOS now, Windows 10 Mobile soon.

The United States of America Chicago Tribune Presidential endorsement: Rubio for the GOP and nobody for the Democrats

Their reluctant embrace of Senator Rubio is understandable. Governor Kasich is better-qualified, but his campaign organization itself doesn't look like it's built to win. Their case against the two Democrats for their "distance from economic reality" is positively dead-on.


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March 9, 2016

The United States of America "I wouldn't be good at doing what you need to do to get elected"

Bill Gates says he doesn't want to run for President. The fact he doesn't -- a fact that also applies to a lot of highly-qualified individuals we should like to see in high government office -- says something unflattering about the way we pick our leadership. If the process is faulty, then we're only lucky if it yields positive results.

Business and Finance Understanding populism

When something is good in general and on balance (like free trade) but injures certain specific parties (like people who lose their jobs to outsourcing), then we see the extraordinary need for leaders who can explain the benefits and enact the kinds of accomodative measures needed to help those injured parties adjust. We shouldn't hold back on things like free trade that, on balance, leave us vastly better off as a civilization. But when we don't do enough to capture the social benefits and funnel them to the parties who are hurt by it, then in the long run we're likely to face populist backlash (like Trumpism). To regress and give up the benefits of trade by turning to absurd policies like prohibitive import tariffs would be to set the whole of civilization back.

Business and Finance Japan debt now mostly at negative yields

The idea that the capital environment is so backwards that people willingly pay to put their savings someplace is hard to comprehend

Science and Technology Pebble drops prices by $50 on mid-range models

$150 for the color-screen edition, $200 for the fancier round design in color. That's well below $550 for the Apple Watch or $350 for the entry-level Apple Watch. Competition is a beautiful thing, and technology price disinflation is pretty astonishing.

News National Merit program for black high-school students is cancelled

Strange, considering how important educational achievement for minority students can be



March 8, 2016

Computers and the Internet Do cracked iPhones threaten everyone's security?

An Apple engineer says so

Business and Finance Chinese exports have fallen for eight straight months

A foreboding sign for the global economy

News A girl shouldn't have to pass as a boy to get an education

Still a long way to go for equality between males and females

The United States of America Eight states where "I" is the leading party

Perhaps a symptom that both parties have work to do to satisfy many voters. Just look, for instance, at the almost total absence of Democrats up the middle of the country. It's sparsely-populated territory, for sure, but shouldn't there be some appeal from both parties?

Threats and Hazards Scotland Yard assistant commissioner says UK is at risk of "an enormous and spectacular attack"

The ambitions of ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh and its long propaganda reach combine to create a risk for the West. There most likely will be attacks again in the future -- terrorism is a tactic, not an organization -- and when they occur, we will want competent leadership in charge of our government and those of our allies.



March 7, 2016

Business and Finance An objective evaluation of performance in real estate

It turns out that the shameless self-promotion of a 2016 Presidential candidate doesn't reflect actual performance.

Science and Technology Humanoid robots in the uncanny valley

Androids are coming, but they're going to look creepy for a while

The United States of America Michael Bloomberg decides against an independent run for President

Even despite the rising risk that Donald Trump will capture the Republican nomination, which would be a terrible thing for the party

Science and Technology Toyota develops device for blind users

Called "Project BLAID", it's worn around the neck and is supposed to give the wearer information about the surroundings that aren't available through a cane or a seeing-eye dog. Of course, better visualization and feedback to the user have some useful applications in developing safer cars, too.

Humor and Good News Iowa tourism ads show Napoleon discovering what he gave up

Seller's remorse?