Category: computers

Just Talkin’ Here

| August 4, 2014 | 1 Reply
Just Talkin’ Here

One of the more congenial things about FaceBook is that while flaming (and trolling and all such related hate-baiting tactics) still happens, users aren’t locked into the thread where it occurs. With multiple conversations going on all the time among many different arrangements of “friends” it is not a problem requiring something like a nuclear option to deal with. 

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Goodbye to Net Neutrality

| April 26, 2014 | Reply

This is yet another blatant broken promise by Obama. He promised that he would be a champion of net neutrality, yet picked a Commissioner who sold out consumers and innovators in order to enrich telecoms. Tim Wu explains at the New Yorker:

The new rule gives broadband providers what they’ve wanted for about a decade now: the right to speed up some traffic and degrade others. (With broadband, there is no such thing as accelerating some traffic without degrading other traffic.) We take it for granted that bloggers, start-ups, or nonprofits on an open Internet reach their audiences roughly the same way as everyone else. Now they won’t. They’ll be behind in the queue, watching as companies that can pay tolls to the cable companies speed ahead. The motivation is not complicated. The broadband carriers want to make more money for doing what they already do. Never mind that American carriers already charge some of the world’s highest prices, around sixty dollars or more per month for broadband, a service that costs less than five dollars to provide. To put it mildly, the cable and telephone companies don’t need more money.

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Telephone scam – Man claimed he is from Microsoft and needs to fix my computer

| March 11, 2014 | 5 Replies

Five minutes ago, I received a phone call from a man who claims to be “David Johnson” who said he’s working from Microsoft. He had an accent that I was unable to identify, but I assumed he was from India. His phone number showed up on my cell phone as “212-414-155″ (that’s right – — it’s missing a digit). He told me that MY computer has been throwing out error messages that are being received by the Microsoft Server, and that we need to fix the problem. I led him on a bit. He said to hit the control key plus r, and that this is the beginning of the fix.

I asked for his phone number. He wouldn’t give it. He repeatedly said that he’s working with Microsoft, not FOR Microsoft. He wouldn’t give me his supervisor’s name. I repeatedly asked for his PHONE NUMBER so I could call him back (I wanted it to report him to Microsoft). He wouldn’t give it. I offered to add Microsoft to the call, and he got evasive.

My assumption is that he was trying to have me give him access to my computer by installing monitoring software. I eventually called him a “criminal,” and told him he was despicable, then ended the call. I recorded most of the conversation. Beware . . . . I’m including a link from Microsoft regarding phone scams.

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Net Neutrality explained

| January 16, 2014 | Reply

At Public Citizen, Andrew D. Selbst explains the importance of Net Neutrality:

Common carrier regulations are a century-old concept that has been applied to telecom services from its early days. The concept originates from travel: If you are a bus operator, you must allow anyone with a ticket to board and ride. Applied to telephones, common carrier obligations are the reason that your phone company cannot first listen to your conversations, and then when you discuss switching carriers or call a competitor to sign up, kill your connection or make it so full of static that you cannot hear. If the idea of a telephone company doing that seem preposterous, it is only because common carrier obligations on telephones are so ingrained into our expectations. In terms of the internet, net neutrality simply requires that the ISPs treat each bit of data identically, and send it where it needs to go at the same rate of speed, regardless of its source (subject to legitimate network management concerns). Net neutrality merely regulates the “paved road,” and not the “cars,” in the old metaphor of the “information superhighway.” We would not expect the operators of the road to choose speeds that a car can travel, depending on where it comes from or who is in it.

Without net neutrality rules there is nothing stopping ISPs from simply blocking websites and media they don’t like because the websites and media compete with their offerings or haven’t specifically paid them off. This is not just a scary hypothetical. AT&T recently released a plan called “Sponsored Data” that works as follows: AT&T has already set an artificial data cap on its consumers (itself a policy design solely to extract the most profit out of them). Now, AT&T will allow a provider, like Netflix, pay them for the privilege to reach the user without affecting the user’s cap. Thus, other competing sites become comparatively more expensive since they will run through the user’s data limit. To take another example, Comcast and Time Warner both have online TV services, which allow customers to watch cable programming on their computers or mobile devices. The cable companies’ online TV services don’t count as data under their artificial caps either, so that the home-grown online TV service is preferable to Netflix, a competitor. Then as cable prices get ever higher, the ISPs can point to all the “free” new online TV services they’re offering as justification for higher prices.

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On the life of Aaron Swartz

| February 25, 2013 | Reply

This is an in-depth profile of Aaron Swartz by The New Republic. I’m not sure I would agree with the conclusion of the article, but it’s a sympathetic review of many of Aaron’s accomplishments.

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Free Internet for all

| February 4, 2013 | 1 Reply

Shall we vote for our phone companies’ profit margins or for Internet access for all, resulting in true growth? The answer should be obvious to anyone who is not a phone company. The Washington Post reports:

The federal government wants to create super WiFi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month. The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission has rattled the $178 billion wireless industry, which has launched a fierce lobbying effort to persuade policymakers to reconsider the idea, analysts say. That has been countered by an equally intense campaign from Google, Microsoft and other tech giants who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor. . . . . “We want our policy to be more end-user-centric and not carrier-centric. That’s where there is a difference in opinion” with carriers and their partners, said a senior FCC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposal is still being considered by the five-member panel.

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Having more fun with photos using Lightroom 4

| December 3, 2012 | 3 Replies

Yesterday, my 14 year old daughter JuJu and I spent the entire day at Studio 314 in Midtown St. Louis learning Adobe Lightroom 4. I’d been using Picasa for organizing my photos, and Picasa/Photoshop for processing. Lightroom is an incredible package –it allows you to quickly sort through your photos and also to “develop” them using sophisticated controls that allow for individual tweaks and batch processing. It’s a professional tool, and even after a day of studying it and most of a day (today) continuing to study it and use it on my own, I only think I’ve tapped into 50% of what the program can do. Not that knowing the controls is being proficient at using the program either. I’m sure that I’ll be picking up lots of tips and efficiencies over the next six months or so (there are tons of Youtubes and other videos offering instruction in Lightroom). What I’ve already noticed is that I’m turned some mediocre shots into decent shots and I’ve turned many decent shots into impressive images. Lightroom offers far more flexibility than the free photo organizing and processing programs out there, such as Picasa and iPhoto. Lightroom 4 is only about $100, so it’s well in range of amateur photographers like me.

Today I spent a couple hours at the St. Louis Zoo capturing images, so that I could have something interesting to process in Lightroom 4. I’ll paste a couple of my photos below, but also offer a gallery (you can get to the gallery by clicking on the title of this post if you don’t see it). I invite you to click on the photos below to see them in much better detail.

So far, so good. I’m definitely going to incorporate Lightroom into my workflow.

[These images were taken a Canon S95 and a Sony HX10V, two modest priced cameras, nothing fancy].

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FCC complicit in trying to give big corporate media more outlets

| November 24, 2012 | Reply

From Free Press:

Word is that Murdoch now covets the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune — the bankrupt-but-still-dominant newspapers (and websites) in the second- and third-largest media markets, where Murdoch already owns TV stations.

Under current media ownership limits, he can’t buy them. It’s illegal … unless the Federal Communications Commission changes the rules. But according to numerous reports, that’s exactly what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski plans to do. He’s circulating an order at the FCC to lift the longstanding ban on one company owning both daily newspapers and TV stations in any of the 20 largest media markets. And he wants to wrap up this massive giveaway just in time for the holidays.

If these changes go through, Murdoch could own the Los Angeles Times, two TV stations and up to eight radio stations in L.A. alone. And he’s not the only potential beneficiary: These changes could mean more channels for Comcast-NBC, more deals for Disney and more stations for Sinclair. For anyone who actually cares about media diversity and democracy, the gutting of media ownership limits will be a complete disaster.

As indicated in this article, we’ve been through all of this before. The idea that we need increased media concentration was battered down from many angles because it was a terrible idea. Now the charge is being led by an Obama appointee, Julius Genachowski. Here is more information regarding the over-concentrated media ownership in the United States. Here is yet more detailed information from Free Press.

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Pulling things together

| September 10, 2012 | Reply

I often think of Steven Covey’s reminder to take time to “sharpen the saw.”

Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes on exercise for physical renewal, prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to the society for spiritual renewal.

I’ve been feeling quite “stretched” over the past year, trying to accommodate duties to family, job and community, in addition to writing and trying to recharge, which I best do by taking time to play music. The problem is that by trying to attend to all of these aspects of my life, I don’t attend to any of the adequately, or so it seems. On top of that, the issues that I want to write about tend to be complex, or that is the way I tend to see them. Therefore, most of the writing I try to do begs for serious research and time-consuming writing. Looking back over the past year, at least as a general rule, I see that I haven’t adequately taken the time to write about the topics that interest me in way that adds much of value to the conversation.Too much of my blogging consist of citing to trackbacks while making an observation or two.

In the meantime, I have various growing outlines with many dozens of topics that I’m contemplating and developing. I’m excited about some of these ideas because I have some original approaches to some of them. I’d love to write about them, and I will. But I find that I’m not able to deal with them well, at least until now. I often made the judgment that it’s better to not write at all on many topics rather than to throw words around sloppily. The bottom line is that I’ve been writing somewhat less than I have in the past, despite my dream of writing more and doing it better.

This time “away” has been good for me. My mind seems more focused, at least to me inside my own head. This is the essence of Covey’s admonition to “sharpen the saw.” I feel more at peace when I am more selective, despite my unrealistic urge to live multiple simultaneous lives pursuing everything that interests me.

I think I’m about to get into a better writing spot soon, thanks to this new approach of being more selective. I’m definitely not “burned out.” I’m quite interested in writing better and adding something worthy to all of the world-wide chatter. My hope for this blog is found in the About Page: “This blog will focus on using current events as a springboard to higher-level discussions about human animals and the human condition.” This is where I need to focus–not on the day to day events, but on merely noting these fascinating (and oftentimes distressful) occurrences and using them as fodder for making deeper sense of the world.

Part of my optimism for more better writing stems from the completion of an enormously distracting task. My aging home computer had been slowing gradually and then dramatically due to mal-ware and likely other technical issues. I’ve probably spend 40 hours over the past 3 months trying to make my PC fast again, and I recently gave up. I bought a new PC, and just spent another 12 hours transferring data to the new drive as well as installing and validating the many programs I use. As of today, that task is done–everything is humming. To given an example of how bad things got, MSWord now opens in about a second. Last week, it took about 3-5 minutes to open. I used 4 virus/malware/spyware removal programs. I defragged and diagnosed my drive. I cleaned out unneeded software. I failed to figure out how to remove the damned Babylon malway, despite many approaches. The slow speed and perhaps viruses screwed up my software to my scanner, which led to a 6 hour diversion (fixed when I bought the new computer and reinstalled the software. My data has always been safe, in that I have multiple levels of backup in multiple locations.

As to my old PC, I wiped it’s memory clean, and put to use in a bedroom, where it still runs unimpressively yet adequately.

With these technical problems behind me and my new focus, I’m looking forward to doing some serious writing in the coming days, and making some new videos in the coming months.

I’m hoping that, from now on, my hours sitting in front of my computer will be spent writing rather than tweaking and fixing.

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