Gongol.com Archives: 2016 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol


March 31, 2016

Business and Finance Foxconn buys Sharp for a lot less than originally offered

Their original bid was 489 billion yen -- and the actual sale price is about 100 billion yen less than that. That's not the direction these negotiations usually go. Japanese news reports reveal a whole lot of resentment at Sharp over the outcome. The buyer is Taiwan's Hon Hai (better known as Foxconn).

Science and Technology Tesla releases the Model 3

An electric car with a price tag starting in the mid-$30,000 range

News Why is violence still surging in Chicago?

A great city with a huge problem

News Two attorneys say they were kicked out of a bar for being black

They happen to be attorneys for the ACLU, so that's not likely to end well for the bar

Agriculture Iowa farmland values fell by 9% last year

That's a huge decline, largely tied to the drop in commodity prices. Lower prices mean less cash flow, and when the outputs don't justify the cost of the capital (here, that capital is land), the market price of the capital is bound to fall.

Science and Technology Scientific literacy made fun

A deceptively simple and addictive game called Guess the Correlation reveals just how bad we human beings are at recognizing statistical correlation -- even when it's right in front of us


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March 30, 2016

Threats and Hazards What kind of unconscionable evil attacks a park full of families?

And where is the shame that should shadow the fact that 69 people have been killed in a terrorist bombing -- but because it happened in Pakistan, it isn't making the same kind of headlines as an equivalent attack in a city in Europe?

Business and Finance IDS Center, Minnesota's tallest building, goes up for sale

It's been in current hands for just three years. This is "trader" capitalism. While not immoral or unethical, per se, it isn't the same as constructive or productive capitalism that depends upon transforming things of lower value into things of higher value. It's also not the same thing as proprietor capitalism, in which a person proudly owns his or her business for what it creates. Again, this doesn't make trader capitalism evil or wrong -- but we need to be very careful about celebrating the cowboy antics of trader capitalism. Trader capitalism tends to be a zero-sum game, or close to it. The other forms are decidedly non-zero-sum: They deliberately turn out something better at the end than what was put in.

Business and Finance Trade has diffuse benefits and concentrated costs

Thus we all can think of a town that has lost a factory to "outsourcing" -- but many people would find it hard to quantify how much trade benefits them personally. This tempers how people understand trade, since it means we overweight the costs and underweight the benefits -- even though the benefits overall far outweigh the costs. Sensitivity to those concentrated costs is important, though: If we benefit at-large, then we need to tax at-large as well in order to help the people who are directly hurt by the effects of trade.

Threats and Hazards On defeating ISIS/ISIL/QSIS/Daesh

Niall Ferguson says it's best viewed as a true network and best opposed as such

Computers and the Internet Instagram adds longer videos

The site that built its reputation on still pictures now says "you'll soon have the flexibility to tell your story in up to 60 seconds of video". That doesn't quite make it YouTube, but it's a change of position.



March 29, 2016

Computers and the Internet Iowa City hospital gets hit by privacy-invasion virus

Hospital databases are natural targets for the depth and scale of the data they collect. It's been reported that 15,000 patients have been notified about the Iowa City attack alone -- that's the population of a small town.

Computers and the Internet "Petya" ransomware scrambles entire contents of a computer's hard drive

How to protect yourself? Don't open attachments from people you don't know. Use webmail services instead of putting an e-mail client on your desktop. Run antivirus software. Keep your computer at the lowest level of access allowed (in other words, don't log in as an administrator unless necessary). And keep backups of your data -- update the backups frequently and keep more than one backup approach in use (in other words, go ahead and use a cloud backup, but use a portable hard drive as a backup-backup).

Aviation News Alphabet and Facebook run into red tape with high-altitude Internet

Both companies are testing projects to deliver Internet access from very high altitudes -- above normal commercial air traffic. But they're running into complicated rules on the way there, as well as some hassles with the lack of clarity about the rules that apply to air traffic at such high altitudes. Also, there's the sticky issue of flying across borders.

Science and Technology Forbes says Amazon is America's "most reputable company"

Netflix, Intel, Sony, and Samsung also make the top ten list. That likely says something not necessarily about technology-oriented companies being inherently more reputable than others, but about how high levels of consumer scrutiny and very low barriers to customer switching helps to keep these companies on their toes.

News Girl uses text-to-911 service to report drunk driver: Her father

This is exactly the kind of thing that technology should be doing: Creating new ways for people to be responsible for their own safety, even when circumstances might not otherwise permit it. Imagine the bravery required to turn in your father as he's driving drunk with you in the car. It's hard to imagine it happening via a voice call, but a text message provides a safe alternative. The value in technologies like this isn't how often they're used -- it's in whether they allow people to call for help in circumstances when they might not otherwise have the choice. If that's a non-zero number, then it's certainly worth further examination.


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March 28, 2016

Threats and Hazards US unintentionally funds opposing sides in Syria

Syria is only one of many highly complex situations on the world stage right now -- and anyone who tries to argue that they have simple answers or a monopoly on the solutions is a reckless bozo.

Computers and the Internet Marine Corps establishes cyberwarfare group

How do you say "Oorah!" in binary code? It's still unclear whether it makes more sense for each branch of the military to have its own cyberwarfare operations, or whether we should seriously consider spinning up a dedicated branch, agency, or corps dedicated to the purpose. The comparable case is probably the Coast Guard, which has a definite mission serving a specific type of territory, but which also executes its role well within the nation's borders -- something that the Army, for instance, isn't supposed to due because of the posse comitatus rule. But because cyberwarfare is often about criminal behavior rather than nation-states bearing arms against one another, cyberwarfare often (but not always) is better described as an act of law enforcement rather than martial defense. Of course, this is the kind of debate that should be dominating the Presidential race, but it's not. Not by a long shot.

Business and Finance "Zombie houses" are hurting valuations in some communities

The problem of unoccupied, un-maintained houses that start to deteriorate and "bring down the neighborhood" is a serious issue, since so many people have large shares of their net worth tied up in their housing stock.

Computers and the Internet FBI breaks into controversial iPhone

They didn't need Apple to corrupt its own security after all. Now, will the FBI tell Apple how they did it so that Apple can fix the problem?

Computers and the Internet Startup is taking pre-orders for $119 laptop-dock for smartphones

They'll provide the keyboard and a 14" screen in a laptop-like unit. Users will provide the smartphone that will act as the "brains".