Wise Guys on WHO Radio - April 18, 2015
Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.
In the news this week
EU complaint about Google and antitrust violations
The European Commission says Google has abused its power by putting its shopping results above those of organic search results. They're also pursuing Google over the dominance of the Android operating system on mobile phones. If you ever wondered why Google seems eager to get into some far-fetched things, it's because they know that if this case were to succeed, it could severely crimp their profits from search-related advertising...which is the company's dominant source of income. Google's public response to the case includes examples of things Google has tried that are laggards in their markets (like Google Travel) and an argument that people spend most of their time on apps rather than search engines when using smartphones. The EU case may be frivolous, but some of Google's retorts are spurious.
You can't pick channels one-by-one yet
But Verizon is reportedly plannin to offer genre-based "channel packs" that would let subscribers bundle channels in groups that they're willing to pay for. Disney protests, as it would, since channel bundling is a huge deal to the companies that own the channels.
Google, find my phone
If you're logged into a Google account, have the Google app loaded on your phone, and have location access turned on, typing "find my phone" into the search bar will trigger a location process that shows the phone on a map and can also be used to ring the phone, in case you've lost it somewhere. Of course, location data can be a battery-killer and a potential security hazard, so caveat emptor. In a bench test, the results were close (giving a search radius of about an acre, with the phone actually about 100' outside the perimeter shown, on a claimed accuracy of 30 meters.
Starting April 21st, Google wants websites to be mobile-friendly
Those that don't automatically convert to make things easier to use on mobile phones will be penalized on the search engine. About a quarter to a third of searching is now done from mobile phones, so it's no surprise that they've decided to accommodate...but the rules for making sites mobile-friendly are inconsistent, and the tools can be prohibitively expensive. Form matters, yes, but so does content. There are millions of legacy pages on the Internet that simply aren't going to be converted to any mobile-friendly design, and that's going to end up causing some good content to get buried.
Researchers can pick out a troll with 80% accuracy in just five posts
It turns out that groups (including discussion groups online) develop their own internal linquistic styles, and those who are out to pick a stupid fight tend to rebel against the community style. That makes them surprisingly easy to pick out by an algorithm -- but moderation is still probably best handled by a human being.
The case for airplanes without pilots
Rogue or suicidal pilots are an extreme rarity, but fatigue, distractions, and other crew resource management problems are the predominant causes of crashes (70% in the 1970s; probably a similar frequency today). Take human error out of the equation (perhaps by using computers to do most of the flying, with a human in the cockpit as a decider-of-last-resort), and we may all be a lot safer.
Iran is ramping up cyberattacks
Cyberwarfare is a tremendous tool for asymmetric warfare -- it doesn't cost much to conduct, but it can cause your opponent to expend unfathomable resources in defense
EU goes after Google for anti-trust violations
Google really needs to figure out if it wants to try to cement itself as the online equivalent of a regulated public utility or whether it wants to fight these battles forever -- or at least until someone else eclipses them
Identity theft related to online tax filings "has just exploded"
It's probably a cost of doing business generally, but people also do things that put themselves at unnecessary risk. Sharing too much personal information on social media is one such error.
Nokia is buying Bell Labs
Bell Labs, previously a branch of the AT&T telephone monopoly, became part of the spinoff Lucent Technologies, which merged with Alcatel of France in the early 2000s, and the combined Alcatel-Lucent is now being merged into Nokia. Nokia, notably, sold its consumer-phone business to Microsoft back in April 2014. Microsoft has continued to sell the former Nokia line now under the "Microsoft Lumia" name, though the legacy "Nokia" name survives as well. (Of note: They had some fun on April Fool's Day, teasing the launch of MS-DOS Mobile.) Regardless, the acquisition of Bell Labs, among the many other parts of Alcatel-Lucent, is intended to enhance Nokia's sharpened niche in network backend technology, "location-based technology", and high-end research and development. It's been a bold change of course for the company that at one time was the dominant handset maker.
Every once in a while, nuke everything in your browser -- cookies, passwords, settings, etc. It may cause a slight nuisance for a day or two as you re-set permissions for things like cookies, but it's well worth "blowing the dust out" to make sure that insecurities haven't snuck past your defenses.
Street-smart social media
Twitter is using a new landing page, which is clearly an attempt to draw in users who don't have accounts. Their old way was basically a giant roadblock to the uninitiated; the new approach at least lets people sample a bit of what's out there without having to go through the entire signup process first. Long overdue.
You ought to follow...
You can't always be within range of a radio station like WHO that promises to break in without delay in case of severe weather. So you ought to follow @nwsseveretstorm and @nwstornado for severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings everywhere in the country. When you're out of town, especially, these two accounts can come in handy. Yes, it's true that the cell phone companies are working with the National Weather Service to deliver automatic alerts to phones based upon your location, but these "Wireless Emergency Alerts" only include tsunamis, tornadoes, extreme winds, hurricanes, typhoons, flash floods, and dust storms. Nothing about severe thunderstorms there -- nor anything that might help you as you're traveling down the highway, moving quickly from one weather zone into another.Tweets by @NWSSevereTstorm
Tweets by @NWStornado