(October 3, 2019) Did your YouTube home page recently switch to a horrible mode with large thumbnails that look like they're designed for old people with weak eyes? You probably didn't accidentally change a setting. Instead, YouTube (like any large web property) is always experimenting with user interface tweaks, and you probably got selected to be a test subject. In fact, you actually have been selected for an experiment, and you cannot "opt out" of that experiment according to a YouTube engineer. If you're like me, you hate this new design and are looking for an escape.
(December 1, 2019) Do you have files stashed on a computer at home but you're halfway around the world? In theory the Internet is equally usable by all of us, but in practice it's a little different. We're told we can only store our data on servers owned by other people, and cannot do so on our own server. In actual practice it is fairly easy to access computers on your home network, and the first step is associating a domain name with your home network.
(August 8, 2019) On an iPhone XR, XS, XS Max, after replacing the battery a warning is shown warning the battery might be no good and should be serviced. Maybe Apple is being a good vendor and warning us of a possibly bad battery? Instead it seems Apple is trying to lock out independent repair shops from replacing batteries.
(August 11, 2019) Those of us who write software tutorials explaining how to use this or that software tool, we need to demonstrate using the software. I tend to create a static bit of text showing what I did and maybe the output. But there's something different about an animated display showing the commands as they were typed by a human. In this post we'll go over two ways to generate animated GIF's showing commands typed in a terminal window.
(July 12, 2019) Apple recently released updates to the MacBook Pro, and as expected repairability took a back seat. The team at iFixit did a teardown and found a bunch of repairability problems, awarding the machine with a 2 out of 10 repairability score. Yes it's possible to take the machine apart, but most of the parts are soldered on and basically non-replaceable except by uber-experts.
(July 11, 2019) Scanning film negatives using a DSLR does not require using a tripod. It's possible to repurpose some items from Home Depot to build a stand along with a macro lens on a regular DSLR. The process also does not require special software, just a preset in Lightroom.
(July 10, 2019) Some of us still shoot with film, and lots of us have old film lying around that we want to scan to digital. There are labs who will scan film to digital files, and there are bulky scanners that do the same. But neither work well in the field. This method requires a regular tripod, a film holder, and some software.
(July 1, 2019) The web has long been a place where anyone can launch a website, and thereby have their own soapbox from which to speak the message singing from their heart. But it has become harder and harder over the years for the small scale website to continue reaching an audience. The major gatekeepers on spreading our message have become Facebook, Google, and similar sites, and those gatekeepers are increasingly favoring major outlets owned by the major media conglomerates.
(July 12, 2019) Can you make free electricity out of thin wire just by wrapping a couple spark plugs with wire, then passing a magnet nearby? Probably not. I can't for the life of me see why this would do anything. But it would be simple enough to replicate this effect if it is real.
(July 3, 2019) Feeling angry about something and letting off steam on Twitter? According to US Federal Prosecutors, twitter posts and presumably facebook et al are interstate communications. If that posting can be interpreted as a threat or other illegal communication, you have therefore used interstate communications to transmit a threat - which is a federal felony.
(July 13, 2019) Out of the box Apple has used proprietary SSD's in its MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models for several years. As a proprietary SSD it meant any upgrade meant paying Apple's price for SSD's rather than the market price. This probably served Apple's bottom line, and who cares if the customers are screwed. This one adapter gives owners of such machines access to normal M.2 form factor SSD's.
(August 5, 2019) Apple cannot be happy about the Hackintosh community. These people are using Mac OS X, that Apple provides for free, but on hardware that Apple does not manufacture. Obviously Apple's Mac OS X is "free" as a way to incentivize sales of Apple computers. So far Apple's attempts to kill off Hackintoshing have failed, because the Hackintoshers have ingenious worked around everything Apple has done to stop them. But the T2 Security Chip may mean the end of the road.
(August 4, 2019) Apple claims the T2 security chip does all kinds of wonderful things for personal security. It ensures that only a secure authorized operating system can boot the computer, preventing errant KEXT's from creating gaping security holes, for example. And, the T2 chip shuts off the internal microphone to prevent eavesdropping. But if the T2 chip dies the computer is completely unrepairable.
(August 7, 2019) In both the Brexit campaign, the 2016 USA Presidential election, and other elections since, misinformation channeled through Facebook had a huge effect that we cannot measure because of the nature of Facebook. The news stream we're shown is custom generated for us, and nobody has a record of what was shown because the news stream disappears as soon as it's displayed. How can anyone validate claims whether Facebook was an accessory to election fraud?
(August 24, 2019) An earlier post summarized a discovery by a fellow in China (Justin Ashford) that Apple was purposely displaying a scary warning message if someone replaced the battery in an iPhone XR, or XS. In this post we summarize some deeper information he presents to iFixit.
(June 13, 2019) The latest exploration of iPadOS 13 capabilities is how well it works as a proper desktop user experience. That is, what if we connect it to an external display, external mouse, and external keyboard, along with a couple portable disk drives? Bottom line is it all works, beckoning the possibility that iPad's can be used for more of what we currently do on regular laptop computers.
(June 15, 2019) If, like me, you watched Matrix a few dozen times at least, you're interested in all the symbolism. This video goes way into the details of the first movie of the three. There is lots of details, some of which were new to me.
(June 29, 2019) According to tech journalists that track this sort of thing, Apple registered seven new laptop product models in the Eurasian Economic Commission database. Of course there is no official news about what this means, but there are some guesses. Those include the long-rumored conversion to ARM-based Mac desktop computers. So lets talk about ARM based Mac desktops.
(June 2, 2019) For years I've only owned Apple equipment. This started around 2000, I knew the Mac OS X Public Beta was around the corner so I bought a Powerbook and lived with OS 9 for a few months until the OS X Public Beta came out. Apple promised Unix with a Pretty Face, that also supported Java, and that hit enough buttons for me that I wanted in. Since then I've owned Powerbooks, Mac Mini's, and MacBook Pro's, plus a couple iPads and iPods, and I'm on my third iPhone. But it's been five years or more since I bought anything direct from Apple, and I doubt I ever will buy anything again direct from Apple. I buy good quality equipment originally made by Apple, I use Apple's operating systems and software, all at a fraction of what Apple charges because I am not paying the Apple Premium.
(June 11, 2019) After the Chernobyl disaster, the Russian government ordered a large zone of land to be abandoned. Even today several thousand square kilometers have been abandoned. While folks generally do not live in the area, it is possible to travel through the area. This video is a British guy taking a tour of Pripyat, the closest city to the Chernobyl power plant. As might be expected after a city is abandoned, the remaining buildings are not in good condition, and wildlife has taken over.
(June 5, 2019) This project shows building a backyard shed that is also a sizeable workshop where all the tools and lighting is off-grid solar powered. One big time-saver is buying a shed from Tuff-Shed, because they send out a team who will install the shed in a few hours. Beyond that solar panels were installed on the roof, the inside was painted and a custom workbench installed and a nice shelving system installed.
(July 3, 2019) Alexa is a nice service from Amazon, being a box where you can ask questions and request that Amazon (or partners) perform services. That's a nice application of voice recognition and artificial intelligence. We get a voice activatable information robot that can perform our bidding. You might not remember asking Alexa to start the charging station on your car, but it turns out that Alexa records every query or command it services.
(July 10, 2019) YouTube's algorithm to select content you're likely to watch is amazing, and very useful. It's easy to just head to the YouTube home page, and voila there's a bunch of recommended content some of which is surely of interest. Google is investing a lot of money in AI algorithms to drive content recommendation on YouTube, and YouTube's popularity is largely driven by those recommendations. But it's possible to rabbit-hole into specific content areas, and then suddenly the entire body of information you see is within that topic bubble, and it tends to affect ones thinking.
(July 4, 2019) Apple has a long history of laptop design mistakes, for example the display cable that breaks necessitating an expensive repair job. The Butterfly keyboard was one of those mistakes, that Apple fans have long complained about. News is that Apple is introducing a new keyboard design, and clues point to a wildly different sort of keyboard involving flexible glass. Think Different!
(July 2, 2019) Since 2015 it seems that Apple has careened from one major hardware flaw to another major hardware flaw in the MacBook Pro line. Either it's a horrible keyboard design, or a ribbon cable that breaks rendering the display useless and requiring an expensive repair, or various other hardware flaws. The attached video is from a prominent expert at repairing broken Apple hardware, and gives more details than you want to know about Apple's failure at designing reliable laptop computers. I think he goes overboard in this video, but the information is spot on with technically deep explanation of why one should avoid the newer MacBook machines.
(July 15, 2019) The attached video should hit home for anyone who's worked a corporate job for a significant time. It sure hit home for me, having been laid off several times and my passion crushed into nothingness by the corporate needs. What is the sound of one man standing up to take his power into his hands?
(July 2, 2019) The Dell XPS 15 9570 laptop makes a good Hackintosh, according to the attached video. It even supports touch screen on Mac OS X - a feature I've wanted since the mid 2000's. We do know that Dell computers tend to be big and heavy, and this is a 15" Dell, so it's probably the opposite of the thin sleekness we covet from Apple. But hey the video makes it look like a good choice.
(July 2, 2019) Google has a history of failure in social networking. Google+ was killed recently, and before that Google killed Orkut and Buzz. Instead Google is very good at developing tools and utilities. Should Google refocus on social networks? Or should Google continue down its path?
(July 1, 2019) In April I noticed a sudden drop-off in traffic to one of my sites which was coupled with a Google notification that the site in question had mobile responsiveness issues. After a couple months of work the mobile responsiveness issues have been fixed to Google's satisfaction, but traffic to the site has not rebounded. The site is full of very important content that I believe could make a positive difference in the world, and my goal is getting the traffic to return.
(July 8, 2019) It seems that Google is hijacking organic search results, and instead preferencing its own properties. While we can wail and moan and wave our hands about how the design of the Google search result page is preferencing Google's properties, there's nothing like real data. Like some graphs collected by Sparktoro showing clearly a slow trend to squeeze out organic search results in preference to Google's properties.
(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.
(May 28, 2019) For a couple years my laptop had its fans running at high speed. I didn't think much about it, until I started looking at the health of the SSD. According to the SSD status app, the SSD was suffering from heat. After finding an app to report CPU temperature, I was alarmed to see it routinely above 80 degrees C. That's really bad. Cleaning the output vents helped, as did decreasing some background tasks. But checking the heatsink grease, a.k.a. thermal paste, and applying new grease, has made a huge difference.
(May 26, 2019) In Tokyo a product was found, LED's that can receive power wirelessly. The LED's are meant to be put into robot statues -- think the Japanese Manga Robots -- so the robot can light up without needing batteries or wires. That led Scotty from Strange Parts to explore how it was done, and in general how to do wireless power transmission.
(June 11, 2019) Apple finally released a proper modular Mac Pro computer, again. The new Mac Pro has a design reminiscent of both the 2009-2012 Mac Pro and the old G4 Mac Cube. It is extremely customizable, easy to open up and fiddle with the interior, and the maximum specs are way beyond belief. But, the price is putting people off in a big way, especially the price for the corresponding monitor. The chorus of naysayers are, however, wrong, and are clearly not the intended market for the new Mac Pro.
(June 29, 2019) Reportedly Apple is planning to switch Mac's to ARM processors sooner or later. More power to Apple, it is their platform and they can surely make whatever decision they like. With the announcement of iPadOS 13 it looks like Apple wants to blur the iPad experience with capabilities currently relegated to desktops and laptops. It looks very cool so far, but as a software developer I need a command line and a bunch of other stuff. And, I have several serious issues to raise that will make the job of writing software harder on a non-x86 CPU laptop.
(June 11, 2019) The USSR did not publicly disclose the Chernobyl accident until Sweden detected a large increase in radioactivity. The BBC put together this excellent news program within a couple days of the USSR admitting to the accident. This report shows the alarm people had at the time. As one of the interviewees pointed out, for radiation to be detectable 700+ miles away in Sweden, there must have been a considerable release at the Chernobyl site. But it's also clear the people speaking in the report were making best guesses because there was no solid concrete information available at the time this report was made. The last thing said in this report is especially telling -- the speaker guesses that the reactor which exploded is a boiling water reactor, a design that's popular around the world. He goes on to say that even for a reactor with a containment building -- the Chernobyl reactor had no containment building -- the economic consequences of a major meltdown accident would be enormous. The Fukushima nuclear disaster of a few years ago proves that point, as the Japanese Government is spending major megabucks cleaning up the site, and they have a 40 year project ahead of them completing that cleanup. There are whole new technologies that must be develop to do the cleanup. And in the meantime there is an exclusion zone of a hundred of square miles or more in Japan.
(June 11, 2019) The cleanup operation at Chernobyl attempted to use "robots" to cleanup highly radioactive debris, to spare humans from the task. Humans with experience working around radioactive debris were valuable, and had to be preserved for as long as possible. But in the area of the worst radioactive debris, where extremely radioactive graphite had fallen from the core of the reactor, the robots failed to work. Humans had to go in themselves, wearing the most primitive of protective suits, and working for shifts lasting all of two minutes. It took 3828 men to accomplish the task.
(June 11, 2019) This interview, in Russian with English subtitles, allows one of the key people responsible at Chernobyl to explain what happened before, during, and after the Chernobyl explosion and subsequent disaster.
(June 29, 2019) There are lots of eyewitness accounts about the Chernobyl accident available online, but they're written in Ukrainian or Russian. Unless you know the key phrases in Russian for the Chernobyl accident, Google won't show you these accounts. This Ukrainian YouTuber who is also fluent in Russian and knows English found these accounts, and summarizes them for us. The video is also full of authentic pictures from the Chernobyl reactor both before, during and after the Chernobyl accident.
(June 11, 2019) With the recent HBO TV program, Chernobyl, we're interested in why the Chernobyl reactor exploded. The TV program did a fairly good job but this video goes deep into the weeds of how nuclear physics works.
(June 11, 2019) RT News, a so-called news arm of the Russian Government, published this video describing the Chernobyl reactor explosion and the response. They showed original film and interviews with the original people. Therefore the program looks to be a truthful story about the Chernobyl disaster. However we are talking about RT News and it is possible this is propaganda.
(June 17, 2019) Recently HBO aired a mini-series about the Chernobyl disaster, and Russian news media has reacted badly to this. The video names a bunch of problems named in Russian news media about the Chernobyl mini-series. It is suggested the news media is reacting badly because first that most of it is controlled by the Russian Government, and secondly because the mini-series undermines decades of work by Russia to give themselves a good image. The HBO Chernobyl series showed the ugly side of the USSR regime.
(June 12, 2019) While the area around the Chernobyl disaster site is an exclusion zone, it is possible to book a trip into that area. Besides the broken reactors, there is a large area which used to be occupied by humans. There are old houses and old apartment buildings and old schools and everything else that went with humans living in a town somewhere. The sense this video-maker takes away is what would a post-apocalyptic world look like?
(June 17, 2019) Every few months I come across a new YouTube video complaining about how hard it is today to earn a living through making YouTube videos. I feel for those making the complaint, but I also remember my struggles in what I call Digital Serfdom. YouTube is just one of many web sites over the years offering us the chance to post content to the site, and the site owner will direct a stream of revenue our way. The complaints made by these modern YouTubers are nothing new.
(June 2, 2019) Why should commercially made power banks be so expensive and so small? This DIY powerbank can be built by anyone at a fraction of the price of commercially made power banks. This unit can power not just USB devices, but 120 volt AC devices, it charges over USB or USB-C, and contains voltage displays. This plan reuses a lot of commercially made components. What makes it work is some highly customized 3D-printed parts from which the case is built.
(June 16, 2019) This video shows a DIY project to build a wind generator using an old electric bicycle hub motor. While the design has a couple flaws - such as how to avoid twisting the power cord around the mast - the result was able to provide power to run this guys entire house.
(June 17, 2019) For months a chorus of YouTube creators have complained about the adpocalypse and how demonetization is drying up YouTube revenue for many. A new video claims "everyone" is leaving YouTube, and to prove the point glues together snippets from a dozen or two YouTube creators complaining about the changing climate on YouTube. Many are complaining about a lack of control, and how YouTube is supposedly applying one standard to individual YouTube creators and a completely different standard to big name media channels. While there are clear indications that YouTube is shifting focus towards big media players, the individual YouTube creators should never have put themselves in the position of depending 100% on Google's largesse.
(June 28, 2019) Are Apple products only for high end customers who can pay premium prices? Apple is surely chasing after such people, with high prices and pristinely designed software and hardware. To folks that can't afford those prices, it can feel like being pushed out of a special clique by the snobs who are inside the clique. There are two approaches to avoiding the premium price while being able to use Apple hardware and software. There's the approach I take, and the approach shown in the attached video.
(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.
(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?
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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?
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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