Monday, January 30, 2012

When clicking an ad isn't enough...

As if it's not bad enough that certain Facebook pages require "liking" the page to see anything, now certain Facebook advertisers are not letting you view their web sites without first "joining" their e-mail list. For instance, the "bearded beanie" - I clicked the ad, and was greeted with a page that says something like, " features daily specials... join today!" I was intrigued enough to want to click the ad, but now, in order to see anything on their web site, I have to provide an e-mail address (so they can spam me all day long and, I presume, sell my e-mail address to other spammers). Really? I click your ad and I can't see the stuff or buy from you unless I give you my e-mail address? (And this isn't the first "advertiser" I've seen that requires you "sign up" in order to even browse their site.)

Sort of like the various news sites that have news videos, but when you click the video, you can't actually watch it unless you sit through a 15-second ad video first. What? This is getting ridiculous. And say you take the time to watch the 15-second ad because you really want to see the video you clicked (which was on their home page, and they have on-page advertising all over the screen elsewhere, too, both on the original page with the video link and on the page you're on now), and then there's a "related video" shown on the page after your video concludes, and you click on that one... guess what? You have to watch another ad video before you can watch the next video on their web site.

And what about the internet pages that, when you go to visit them, display a full-page ad in place of whatever it is you wanted to see, with a "click to skip this ad" link somewhere on the page? Really? You want me to view someone else's ad instead of your page?

I'm sorry... internet "advertising" is getting ridiculous. Not only that, but your various ads are actually costing me... as well as the internet community. That "extra page" is a bunch of overhead (bandwidth) that is wasted, overhead that I have to pay for either in time or perhaps in money. For example, if I'm out & about and surfing the web on my phone, or with my MiFi from Verizon (I don't have a MiFi, but a lot of people I know do), I'm getting "charged" for every Megabyte. Yes, I have 5GB included with my monthly access fee (5GB is the basic MiFi package), but that correlates to a specific $/MB, and once I've used up the 5GB (or whatever my limit is) I get charged per MB. So now I'm paying for you to advertise to me. That just seems wrong somehow.

Now, go click my ads over on the right hand side of the page and make me some money! :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

American Intelligence?

I was at a Burger King tonight (out of town), wearing my i3 shirt (I work at i3, or Integration Innovation, Inc.). The cashier asked, "So, what's i3?"

I replied, "Integration Innovation, Inc."

Cashier: "That's interesting."

Me: "The group I'm in writes software for the military."

Cashier: "Doubly interesting."

While I'm waiting on my food, the cashier then calls me over. "So, maybe you can help me with this... do you have a keygen for Windows Ultimate? Mine got corrupted and doesn't work now." (For those who are wondering, a "keygen" is an illegal piece of software that creates activation keys for another piece of software; in this case, the guy was wanting to use a keygen to create activation keys for Windows Ultimate, instead of having to buy Windows.)

I said I did not and asked the guy what he used his computer for. "Going online," he replied. I suggested that he should try Linux. "No linux, it doesn't work, and it's too hard to use," he replied. "Oh, I also sometimes fix other people's computers. Say, do you have the linux CD that resets Windows passwords?" (Note: that actually can be useful, when used appropriately, such as when there is a generic office computer that is used for giving presentations that no one can remember the password to.)

"No, I have one at home, but not with me." I then try to explain how Linux has improved significantly, and supports a lot of new hardware and is a lot easier to use than before, and also how he can download a password reset image.

The guy then starts talking about how he is unable to download it, something's wrong with his computer. I suggest perhaps he can try a Linux live CD to see if that will let him download the password reset image. He then goes on to tell me how he thinks it's not his computer but rather his network connection, that he's using his neighbor's wifi...

OK, dude. I tell you, "I write software (professionally) for the military." You then proceed to 1) ask if I have a key generator for Windows; 2) tell me you're leeching your neighbor's wifi (which, if you don't already know, is illegal). I'm guessing you're not in the "advanced" classes in school, huh? :)

*note: his name is on the receipt, along with the time of the order; fortunately for him, I'm not a good person, in the vein of, "All it takes for evil to to triumph is for good people to do nothing." I'm going to do nothing related to this incident. Hopefully I've planted a seed of Linux and he will turn to the open source community for his no-cost computing needs instead of to the hacker community. As to his stealing his neighbor's internet, well, let this be a lesson to you: put a password on your router, or lock it down by MAC address if you prefer. Just don't let someone else use your wifi without your permission.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ain't technology grand?

I just loaded the Alabama Driver's Manual on my just-turned-15 son's Nook Color. Ain't technology grand? (And I'm telling you all about it via a web log, or blog, as I sit on my back patio, typing away on a tiny little keyboard on a handheld computer known as a smart phone.) I recall having to go get a physical copy of the driver's manual from the DMV's brick and mortar building when I was ready to study for my learner's permit. And I recall the "early days" of e-mail, or "electronic mail," as I was in school (college) in Worcester, MA, and connected my computer (via a 9600 baud modem over a phone line, which tied up the phone in my dorm room and would get interrupted if someone called unless you dialed *70, to turn off call waiting, before dialing out) to a local "Bulletin Board System" (or "BBS") and could then e-mail my aunt at UAB in Birmingham, which she would receive within a day or so.

And my youngest sons are watching "old episodes" (things we'd used to call "reruns") of Malcolm In the Middle (funny show, if perhaps inappropriate humor at times) "on demand" streaming from Netflix, where for $10/month you can have many shows or movies available on demand, waiting on you, instead of having to drive to the store to rent them, or plan your life around an HBO schedule, or wait until next week when the next episode airs on TV.

As a matter of fact, I currently work from home, connected to all my colleagues, scatered from Panama City to Huntsville to Texas to somewhere in Colorado, and we have regular weekly meetings that I attend on my computer, and the software I work on is hosted across the bay in Mobile, while I work on multiple virtual computers hosted on my laptop.

Ain't technology grand?

Potentially Sticky Post...

Preface: I'm not going to try to explicitly sway the opinions of any readers. I'm just sharing some links that I found interesting this morning; I'm not even going to comment on them (at least not yet), just putting some info out for your perusal. Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments (and I may offer my own there as well).

An interesting video about the NDAA. Note: I am not suggesting that I endorse anything in the video, just sharing some information I found interesting. I definitely am not endorsing the incorrect grammar in the titling screens, such as "it's" when it should be "its"... :)

And an interesting article about the NDAA as well (a journalist is putting together a lawsuit against Obama regarding the NDAA; the article is worth reading for the additional background information it provides).

And, did you know that Obama, having taken the oath to "defend and support" the constitution, apparently considers it "fundamentally flawed" (also noted in the first video)?

Like I said, I'm not trying to push my thoughts on you; just offering some information, something to jog your curiosity, make you go research it for yourself, come to your own conclusions, and decide what (if anything) you're going to do about it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Savings with an F150?

Have you seen the new F150 commercial, the one that talks about cutting back on family vacations and cell phone minutes to save money because gas prices are so high and "you still have to work," and then suggests you save by cutting back on gas by buying a new F150? How about we do some math on that.

Let's consider you have, say, a 2006 F150, and you go buy a new 2011 F150 with the 3.7L V6 (which gets 23 MPG highway). Per the epa ratings, let's look at the new vs the not so new,  here. Per that chart, you'd save anywhere from $500-1,000 per year in fuel costs (assuming "regular" gas, not E85, which gets significantly worse fuel mileage). Or, in other words, somewhere between $42 and $84 per month. But that's not the whole story.

Consider what you'll get for trade in on your 2006 F150 toward the new one. KBB shows trade-in value of an 06 F150 Super Cab XLT with 6.5' bed a bit under 10k (w/ 76k miles on it, good condition, and "usual" options and drivetrain). KBB shows a "fair purchase price" of the 2011 F150 Super Cab V6 with 6.5' bed as $28677. Subtract 10k and you're facing a trade difference of over $18.5k (and that assumes you have no outstanding balance owed on your current truck). Without interest, at 84-month financing (or 7 years), that's a bit over $220/month, or between $180 and $140 per month more than you're saving in fuel. Looks like you'll be cutting back even more on family vacations and cell phone minutes if you follow Ford's recommended savings plan!

In fact, if you can get a 10k trade on your current truck against the new F150, your current truck would have to get an average of around 0 MPG in order to break even with the new truck payment. You'd actually have to be getting negative MPG to save anything! Now, if you can get something near your current truck payment, then, yes, you'd perhaps save some money. Then again, this doesn't take into account any increased insurance premiums or reduced maintenance (if your current truck is old enough that maintenance costs are significantly increased vs a new truck). So, can we now sue Ford for false advertising? I really don't see how a new F150 can really save you any money.

Now, if you can "work" with it, a 2011 Ford Ranger with a four-cylinder and manual transmission would save you another $500/year in fuel costs (I'll leave it to the reader to do the math to find the break-even and savings points with the Ranger; if interested, the KBB "fair purchase price" on the Super Cab Ranger XLT with 4cyl is $20,480, note that all prices are based on my home zip code of 36507).

Truth in advertising? I think not.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ampersand slash ("& /")

I admit, I'm guilty of this, but when did "slash" become a substitute for ampersand (or "and" when spelt out)? Or for "or" or for "I can't decide which of these two words I want to use so I'll put them both and put a slash between them"? (And how'd you like the start of that last sentence? "or" and "for" for the first five words; three letters used twelve times in five words!) This is becoming more and more common/frequent (see?). Are we, as a literary nation, becoming:

  1. more efficient - using fewer characters in expressing "and" or "or" (then again, wouldn't it be more efficient to just pick one of the words and omit the other word and the ampersand/and/or/slash altogether? especially in a tweet, where you're limited to 140 characters, saving the two spaces around the "&" seems to pale in comparison to saving the spaces, the slash, and the characters of the second word)
  2. lazier - putting the slash instead of the whole and/or/ampersand thing (then again, laziness would tend toward omitting one of the word choices, too, wouldn't it?)
  3. less decisive - perhaps the "/" is seen more as a "I can't really decide which word I want to use, so I'll give you options, pick the one you like the best (then again, why do you need the slash in this case? wouldn't the "and" or the "or" or the "&" be just as good?)
  4. too "techy" - I mean, hey, there are "//" in web addresses and stuff, so why don't we start putting some "/" in our text, too?
This is, I think, just another step in the degradation of the English language (see my other related posts). Then again, is written communication itself becoming a thing of the past? Think about it (warning: another numbered list is coming!):
  1. text to speech and speech to text are quickly becoming commonplace; modern cell phones have the processing power to handle both tasks in a fairly quick manner, and are fairly accurate about it, too.
  2. neuroscience is advancing (how quickly? I don't really know, but this site has some interesting information about it); how long will it be before brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) replace input/output devices (note: input/output, or I/O, is an accepted term, and has been around a while), such as keyboards and screens? Instead of pulling your phone out of your pocket, you'll be thinking about who you want to call, then you're "thinking" with them if/when - sorry, if and when - he/she answers. (OK, not sure about the he/she; should it be "s/he"? should it be "he or she"? should I just use the masculine "he" as a reference to a singular entity regardless of gender?)
Science and grammar - hand in hand, or is the one defeating the other?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Samsung Stratosphere and Verizon.

Battery remaining: 65%. Time on battery: 10 hours. Yes, I'm pleased with the battery life on the Stratosphere (especially compared to the MyTouch 3g slide i had on T-Mobile previously, which typically wouldn't last even 15 hours). I'm also pleased with the Verizon coverage, which is why we quit T-Mobile (or will quit them this week). I think my wife is happier with her Android phone (a Pantech Breakout) than she was with the Nokia E73; happier than she thought she'd be with a touch screen phone, too. So, happy mobile technology here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pageviews and Phones and Payments, oh My!

Interesting: my Lapse... Brain Dead blog has 10,236 page views, while my Not-tional Geographic blog has 3,203 pageviews (per Blogger's statistics). Yet Lapse has 428 posts to Not-tional's 7. That leads to a per-post pageview average of 23.9 for Lapse and 457.6 for Not-tional. And this despite 7 followers of Lapse and only 1 of Not-tional, and Not-tional hasn't been updated since 2008 (May of that year, specifically). I guess I have better quality on Not-tional (and obviously higher quantity of crap over here), huh?

I must say, I think I'm happy with my new phone, a Samsung Stratosphere (on Verizon). We'd intended to go to the T-Mobile store (on New Year's Eve day) to add a 5th line to our plan (we get our kids phones when they turn 15, which my third child turns this January) and replace my wife's phone (hers had quit charging), and decided to drop by the Verizon store just to see what they could offer, as T-Mobile's service is pretty lousy in our area. I hadn't expected much, as the few times I've priced Verizon online it was pretty expensive (T-Mobile is still the value-leader, and in places where it works - Birmingham, Atlanta, etc., it's pretty good).

Enter Angelica. (Well, enter us into the Eastern Shore Verizon store in Spanish Fort, where Angelica was already.) I explained what we were doing, and she said, "Let's see what we can do." She then looked to see if my company had any agreement with Verizon for a discount (which they didn't), and then asked if I was retired military. "Not retired, but I was in the military previously." She asked if I had a veteran's card, I said, no, she asked about a DD-214, which I do have (that's the military discharge form). "Oh, we can get you a 15% discount off your base plan rate with that!" Kept going, and she managed some discounts on the phones themselves through her manager (although we're waiting for some mail-in-rebates, too). Very pleasant, and very helpful; if you're in south Alabama, I'd highly recommend her if you're in the market for a new phone or cellular service! She even drove across the bay to Tillman's Corner to pick up the phone I wanted that they didn't have in stock in the Eastern Shore store, and then back, called and met us at the store, and worked past their closing time on New Year's Eve to get my phone set up and configured.

Anyway, to the phone... while, no, it's not the latest & greatest (I was tempted by both the Motorola Droid Razr- super thin- and the Samsung Nexus S- Ice Cream Sandwich, and if that doesn't make sense to you- it's Android 4.0, the latest- you probably don't are much about the technical details of the phones anyway, or maybe you're an iPhone person), and the hardware specs aren't particularly dazzling these days (single-core, 1GHz processor, for instance). However, it has a nice display, and a good slide-out QWERTY keyboard (with a dedicated row of number keys), something the super-phones don't offer (yet, anyway; maybe in a couple of years when I have an upgrade available there will be a Droid Razr QWERTY with ICS). But it's much better than the HTC/T-Mobile MyTouch 3g Slide that it replaces (for instance, Words with Friends actually runs decently on the Stratosphere), and has room for apps (unlike the MyTouch, which nearly has "storage space low" with nothing more than the stock HTC firmware). The battery life even seems good- I unplugged it yesterday afternoon and it ran for well over 24 hours before getting to the "critical battery alert" a little while ago. And, yes, I used it - some phone calls, emails, lots of Words with Friends. Of course, I may still want to get one of the extended batteries (and their ugly covers) at some point.

I got the younger boys each a Nook Color (refurbished, from Barnes & Noble via eBay) for Christmas, and also got some covers for them off eBay. However, the covers didn't fit - they were about 1/2" too short (that is, they were for the Amazon Kindle Fire or the Blackberry Playbook, but not the Nook Color). I double-checked the eBay listing, and it definitely claimed compatibility with the Nook Color (technically the Nook Tablet, but it's the same form factor). So I contacted the seller, and they offered to refund the purchase price, and asked that I return the items. In retrospect, I should have just kept them and relisted them on eBay myself, as the return shipping cost pretty much wiped out the refund (yes, the seller is out his "free shipping" cost, but I'm out as much, and it's his fault due to the incorrect listing). Ah, well, next time, I guess.

So, anyone need some T-Mobile phones? I will have some for sale very shortly!