Blog Index for 2019

The use of Facebook advertising knows no bounds of decency

(April 29, 2019) Mothers Day is coming up and therefore the Merchants of Gifts are out in force trying to get us to spend money on gushy thingies for our Mothers. And yes, our Mothers sure put up with a lot to get us to where we are, and deserve all our thanks. However this advertisement that popped up in my Facebook news stream is more than intrusive, and it demonstrates the lengths to which some advertisers will go to sell things.

Intermediate result fixing mobile usability problems after Google enforced mobile-friendly web design as a search ranking factor

(April 14, 2019) Last week I saw an ominous drop in traffic on one of my sites that was related to Google starting to enforce mobile-friendly web design on the site. Google has long warned it would start looking at mobile-responsiveness and use it as a ranking factor in search results. My site wasn't too bad in this regard, but some of the pages were outright horrible on mobile devices. Not all pages, only some. I've spent most of the last week working on the issues, and have an intermediate result to show.

How to disable Intel ME - the hidden computer inside your computer that might be a secret backdoor

(April 11, 2019) Hidden inside Intel CPU's is a whole other computer system, the Intel Management Engine, or Intel ME, that watches over the computer. It is running an embedded Minix operating system, and has massive privileges over everything running inside the computers. Some fear this hidden computer is a hidden backdoor inside Intel CPU's. This video claims to show how to disable the Intel ME computer, but the process is absolutely not for the faint of heart.

Re-uploading creative commons videos to YouTube is risky idea that might make you money

(April 8, 2019) A trending topic on YouTube currently is videos describing how to make a ton of money on YouTube without even shooting any videos. It's a gimmick in which one finds videos that are Creative Commons, which in theory allows free reuse of the video because that's the purpose of the Creative Commons License. What one is to do is download Creative Commons videos, then either make a compilation video, or simply re-upload the entire video, claiming the videos are Creative Commons and it's all okay. In theory this is sound, but in practice there are problems.

Google starting to enforce mobile-friendly web design as a search ranking factor

(April 5, 2019) This week the traffic to one of my sites is exhibiting a steep traffic fall-off. For years it has had a solid 1000 visitors per day, or so, and at the beginning of March the traffic started to slowly diminish, then on Wednesday April 3 the traffic fell off steeply. Usually this site has a fall-off on the weekends, so this particular change is ominous. In the Google Webmasters tools is a clue - that at the beginning of March there is suddenly many reports of mobile usability issues. The two are likely connected as Google has long warned of a plan to downgrade sites that are not mobile friendly.

Sen. Warren seeking to break up Apple, after calling for Facebook/Amazon/et/al breakup

(March 11, 2019) Last week Sen. Warren (and Presidential hopeful) called for the breakup of three Tech Giants, Facebook, Amazon and Google. Warren noted that each has an outsized amount of power, and are dominating market areas, and are stifling competition. In an interview over the weekend Warren added Apple to the list of targets.

Google Adsense shows ad leading to site Google knows is bad/dangerous - WTF?

(March 9, 2019) I just clicked on a Google Adsense ad - the ad text made me curious - and immediately shown a WARNING screen of a "Deceptive Site Ahead" that might install malware etc. It is nice that Chrome is there ready to shout "Warning! Warning! Danger Bill Robinson!" But -- I got to that screen by clicking an ad hosted by Google Adsense. Doesn't one hand of Google know that the other hand of Google has said that site is dangerous? Why doesn't Google block advertising that leads to dangerous sites?

Sen. Warren seeking to break up Facebook/Amazon/et/al just like previous generation broke up Ma Bell (AT&T)

(March 8, 2019) Today Sen. Elizabeth posted a manifesto saying Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc, are too big, monopolistic, have too much control over commerce and society, and therefore the government needs to step in and break them up. Cue howls of protests from Libertarians, I suppose?

Apple quietly fixes MacBook Pro 'Flexgate' design flaw -- leaving owners of 2015-2017 MBP's hanging

(March 7, 2019) Apple's quest for ever-thinner-lighter computers led Apple Engineers to a design flaw in recent MacBook Pro models. The flaw caused the display to stop working reliably after a few months of use, in that one would open the laptop lid and the display would be fine until opened "too wide" at which point the display would shut off. In other cases the display had a theater-lighting effect. Yesterday it is reported from several sources that Apple has fixed this problem in the 2018 MacBook Pro model year, but is not even admitting to the problem in 2015-2017 models..

Facebook promises 'A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking'

(March 7, 2019) Everyone should be worried about their privacy while using Facebook. Facebook is selling information it collects from us to advertisers, and has routinely allowed organizations of all stripes to collect an astonishing amount of data through the Facebook API. The evidence is piling up, and the users are looking for alternative social networks. If enough of us are spooked by Facebook's actions there might be a mass exodus to someplace else. I hear MeWe is a nice place with great policies. In that context, Facebook posted today an outline for improving privacy on Facebook.

Example YouTube advertising revenue decline -- but YouTube huckster ignores adpocalypse

(February 24, 2019) With the cries of YouTube Adpocalypse, let's take a look at one YouTube Creator's advertising revenue. This comes from yet another "Make Money Online" video stressing the potential of uploading videos to YouTube. As "proof of income" the guy shows his 2018 revenue, and completely skips over the huge revenue drop starting in mid-2018

Scotty at Strange Parts opens the door into how YouTube Creators build their business

(February 24, 2019) With news of a new YouTube Adpocalypse, it's a good idea to consider what a YouTube creator goes through to build their presence in the world. Today, Scotty at Strange Parts, whose videos have appeared on TechSparx several times, posted a video talking about his plans to develop the Strange Parts channel into a proper information production business. The Strange Parts channel started with what might have been a flash in the pan, showing how to build an iPhone 6 from spare parts, but Scotty has developed a vision of exploring the world of companies building the parts that go into the products we buy in stores. To implement that vision he has transitioned from a solo-enterprise to having employees, and in this video we are told a large part of the story.

New YouTube Adpocalypse, where YouTube videos demonitized by offensive comments

(February 23, 2019) We've had previous cries of YouTube Adpocalypse's where YouTube "content creators" are complaining about declining advertising revenue. There was even an event in April 2018 where an upset YouTuber went to YouTube headquarters with a gun and started shooting. The new variant has YouTube taking action on videos, demonitizing, based on the comments made below the videos.

How to convert audio cassette tapes to MP3, reclaiming your space

(February 16, 2019) Many of us, especially from the 90's and earlier, have a pile of cassette tapes taking up space. On the one hand big business wants us to keep buying stuff, but we end up needing a bigger house to store all the stuff and we fritter our lives away. Folks like Marie Kondo teach minimizing possessions, keeping life simple, reducing clutter, etc. That includes all those cassette tapes taking up space. In the 2010's almost 2020's surely it is better to digitize audio cassette tapes and then responsibly dispose of the physical object. But the question is what's the best way to convert audio cassettes to a digital format like MP3 files?

Amazon investing in Rivian, electric truck maker, and otherwise moving to own the delivery process

(February 16, 2019) A few days ago it was announced Amazon is leading a round of investment into Rivian, a maker of electric trucks. Since Amazon is not into auto manufacturing, that's a puzzler, until you remember that Amazon is working to own more of the delivery system. According to the attached video, Amazon has a quickly growing fleet of airplanes and is starting to take over long-haul delivery tasks that had previously been performed by FedEx, UPS and the US Postal Service. Further, Amazon has bought a large fleet of delivery trucks, and is experimenting with delivery robots. In light of all that, taking an ownership stake in Rivian means that in a couple years Amazon can reduce fuel costs, and if they are autonomous-drive trucks their employee cost could fall.

How to report problems to Facebook, such as Facebook refusing to take action on fake advertising

(February 1, 2019) In my previous posting I documented an outright fake advertisement found on Facebook, my attempt to report this as a fake advertisement, and Facebook's refusal to take action. The same advertisement was posted by two separate Facebook pages, each containing postings with Cyrillic text, fitting the pattern of Russian interference. Therefore it's necessary to get some attention at Facebook, not just an automated review system. The problem is that Facebook doesn't have a public email address to use.

Facebook ignoring reported advertisement containing outright lies

(February 1, 2019) Fake news, and fake advertising, is plaguing us. How can we know the truth when we're surrounded by so many fake claims. The President of the USA is making decisions about the USA based on false news, his "gut hunches" that are plainly wrong. Facebook has been under fire for being a big avenue for being a major conduit for distributing fake news. Russia, and others, have set up an infrastructure to create and distribute fake news items, sometimes paying for advertising to help goose their distribution. Facebook claims to be addressing the problem, and has created a way to report postings containing fake information. In this case today Facebook refused to take action on an advertisement that is outright false, posted by a Facebook Page that is likely a Russian Fake News outlet.

Apple MacBook Pro design flaw, dubbed Flexgate, makes display prematurely fail

(January 26, 2019) Apple's quest seems to be ever-thinner-lighter computers, which is nice for those of us carrying computers around, but makes Apple introduce design defects. A couple years ago it was learned one could bend the iPhone in half because it was too thin. Now we've learned that recent MacBook Pro displays can prematurely fail, directly because of Apple's quest to make it incredibly thin. There are two related problems -- In some MacBook Pro's, the display shows an effect like stage lighting (The Stage Light Effect), and in others the display simply shuts off.

Apple convinces us we are at fault for Apple's failings

(January 26, 2019) Apple sells us a utopia experience. We do not worry about viruses and whole host of problems that Windows users face. We have a simple built-in backup system with which it's very easy to migrate our files from machine to machine, compared to the nightmare of doing this on Windows. Does that mean the Apple Experience is absolute perfection? Nope, Apple is making lots of mistakes. Should Apple's customers just take it without complaint? Nope, Apple will keep up the same problems unless we hold their feet to the fire.

The death of news outlets has been a long time coming - not just business models

(January 24, 2019) Today layoffs at several prominent news organizations caused the news industry to cry wolf about business models and how the Internet was a big threat to the traditional news organization business model. In the thick of this debate came Jeremy Littau with a series of twitter postings explaining his take on what really happening. According to Littau the issue started in the 1980's with a consolidation of news organizations and hedge fund managers starting to strip newspapers of value.

Chris Hayes: Online news business is in crisis due to lack of a viable business model

(January 24, 2019) Chris Hayes, a news presenter at MSNBC, asks a poignant question about whether there is a business model for online "digital news"? That is a troubling question since he is a prominent employee at a well regarded online-only news organization. And it is a crisis, as he says, because with the Internet as it stands we must have valuable high integrity news outlets that are also viable businesses, or we will lose the free and open society we enjoy.

Google Ads manipulates Google search results

(January 22, 2019) The advertising alongside Google search results is a necessary evil that helps Google stay in business, so that Google can provide the excellent services it offers to us all. At least, that's how Google wants us to see those advertisements. Google's own training material seems to make it clear that Google wishes to downplay organic search results, in other words the natural results we should be seeing, in favor of the advertising results. Advertisements are based largely on the advertisers willingness to pay, not the relevance of the ad, and therefore the real search results are pushed down the page.