Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - April 19, 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.
Quote of the week
"The only definition by which America's best days are behind it is on a purely relative basis. That is, in 1946, when we made up about six percent of humanity, but we dominated everything. But America's way better today than it's ever been." - Bill Gates
OopsThe juror is excused
Chief Justice John Roberts got called for jury duty. Unsurprisingly, he wasn't selected. It's a good thing; he's used to decisions involving nine votes, not twelve.
Tin-Foil Hat AwardForgetting what China did with the Beijing Olympics might allow them to get the 2022 Games, too
A million people in Beijing had their homes demolished to make way for the games
Yay CapitalismYou can't pick channels one-by-one yet
But Verizon is reportedly planning 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.
Dispatch from the flying-car futureJapanese bullet train hits 366 mph in test run
It's a magnetic-levitation train, so friction losses are at a minimum. They're reportedly going for 372 mph next week.
A new political definition
I'm not crazy about using the term "libertarian" anymore, because it just ends up trapped against some of the crazier definitions of that ideology. I've never been comfortable with the term "tea party", because it has no clear definition and thus no real accountability. I think the best self-definition is "government minimalist" -- that government should be as minimized as possible, but no more so.
This weekStarting 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.
We ran out of time to say...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.
Again, "net neutrality" isn't the panacaea some make it out to be
Facebook is trying to get people to use Internet.org in developing countries with slow Internet access. The related app offers free services from a selected list, stripped-down so that they use minimal data. But now some Indian companies are rebelling, arguing that the app favors a small number of options, which in effect is like offering preferential access to some services over others. Their protest is made on the basis that preferential access is contrary to the idea of "net neutrality", and thus ought to be rejected. So are people better off without access at all, or with access to a limited number of services for free? Will a competitive market fill the vacuum without a kick-start like Internet.org? Don't overlook the fact that Facebook's level of market saturation in the rich world is such that they can't really grow at high speeds unless they get access to the world's less-Internet-connected populations.
Russian cybercriminals try getting to the White House via goofball YouTube interviewers
Presumably under the assumption that those who got close enough to the White House to interview the President may also be close enough to interact with people who have sensitive computer accounts. Just another example of social-engineering attacks on the rise.
Where to find shale oil and gas
Half a million people are trying to escape Libya for Europe
Not all of them are good people (any group of 500,000 probably contains about 5,000 sociopaths), but most are perfectly innocent and just trying to do the best they can for their families. Doing something reasonable to accommodate those trying to escape awful conditions is a burden for the civilized world, but also a moral obligation. Imagine having the misfortune of being born into a culture now being attacked by ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh.
Shale oil production expected to drop by 57,000 barrels in May
If the EIA's forecast is correct, that would be the first month-over-month decrease in production since 2013. Prices are in the tank, and there's a glut of oil in storage waiting for refinement, so nobody should be surprised that the well owners are cutting back on production.
Estonian president asks for some NATO troops
He's worried that his country -- with a population about the same size as Nebraska's -- wouldn't stand a chance if Russia tries to invade. And Russia's been doing plenty to make the Baltic states nervous -- including flying too close to American airplanes in the region.
April is Iowa's "Distracted Driving Awareness Month"
Too much focus is put on the specific problem of texting-while-driving, at the expense of attention to the broader issue of distracted driving. Some people can't handle a ham sandwich while driving, and it's a mistake to focus our laws specifically on a particular technology or item (like cell phones), rather than on the broader problem of driving with limited concentration.
French company sells anti-drone drone
They claim it can track down the person controlling a suspicious drone within a decent-sized radius in about a minute. Drones have enormous potential for both personal and commercial use, ranging from amusing videography to valuable surveillance over crops and sensitive facilities. But the problem is that they're really too small to show up on conventional radar, and thus they can't really be tracked by large-scale methods...thus, they are also very difficult to defend against. It may simply be that the only way to fight fire is with fire (or drones, in this case). The technology can't be held back forever, so we have to figure out how to accommodate it and how to protect ourselves against the bad.
"Graduating engineers would rather work for high-tech startups and near big cities"
Hiring isn't just about money. It's also about things like the agglomeration effect -- that people want to be near fertile sources of other opportunities, in case what they're starting with doesn't work out