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Technology

Google antitrust suit… does it matter?

I use DuckDuckGo for search most of the time, Dropbox for my cloud storage, and I’ve recently moved to Microsoft Edge for my web browser. There are choices out there if you’re willing to look and switch.

I also use Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Photos, Google Maps, and an Android phone. But I use them because I prefer them to Apple’s offering. As much as possible I maintain my personal data in such a way that would facilitate my moving platforms should something more desirable pop up.

But, two major players in technology seems to be the equilibrium. AT&T or Verizon in cell service. Windows or Mac for computers. Android or iOS for phones and portable devices. It would be great if there was a third player in the phone market because Android just isn’t doing it for me anymore. Apple is a non-starter because of the enormous lock-in when you start to use their devices.

Google search started sucking years ago. When they started incorporating your Google account and your location into the searches they stopped giving more generalized results. The idea was to push you towards results in which company’s purchased ads. Once I noticed the results were not as relevant to my search I started using Bing. But, Bing was terrible for a general web search. It was good for photo and video search however and I do use Bing for that over any other search engine.

DuckDuckGo has been my go to search engine now for at least the last few years. They don’t use anything from me personally to give me search results so there is no filter bubble effect. I just get the raw search and I can more easily find what I’m looking for.

The Chrome browser has been a dog for a long time now. It’s become what it originally replaced, Microsoft Internet Explorer. Chrome is now a bloated heavy browser that isn’t fast and takes up huge amounts of resources. I moved to the Brave browser for a time and then to Firefox but found them both to be unpolished. When Microsoft rejiggered their browser and built one off Chromium (the same engine Chrome is based on) I gave it a try and found it to be very pleasant and fast. It’s missing a couple of minor things but by and large it is a great lightweight web browser.

People can get off of Google if they want. You just have to be open to new things. You should always think of data as your own and use services that prioritize that. You should also use the belt and suspenders approach to your personal media. Photos, videos, and music are no good to you locked into one service or company. Not only is it difficult to stop using those services but it is difficult to get your data out when you have terabytes sitting on some cloud server somewhere.

Hard disks are cheap. Get a desktop computer and keep a copy of all your stuff there. That way when you want to move you are free to do what you want. You don’t need the government using their heavy hand when you can take actions on your own.

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Technology Uncategorized

Here’s what Twitter doesn’t want you to see

Click below for the New York Post

The Hunter Biden e-mail story

Categories
Thoughts

What killed Michael Brown?

In light of everything that has happened in 2020 I hope this movie will shed more light on what has happened to race relations in our country.

Categories
Technology

Apple just eviscerated the competition

I predict there will be no Pixel 6. What is the point? Google obviously is bored with being in the phone hardware business and has chosen to not compete.

Just a few years ago Google and the Pixel line of phones were superior in photography and did so at a reasonable price. Now, they’ve pushed out the Pixel 5, a ho-hum attempt at best, which really doesn’t improve upon anything previous in the line of phones. The improvements are so minor that they should have just stopped at the Pixel 4.

Apple, in the meantime, just announced the iPhone 12 line with a knock it out of the park still photography and video camera system. If it lives up to what they described yesterday it will rival most of the entry level mirrorless dedicated cameras. There’s no need for me to go into all the details. Just watch their announcement video.

And if there was any doubt, no, I will not be buying an iPhone. The cost of getting stuck in their ecosystem is not worth my conversion to their platform. But, if I was a professional videographer or photographer there is not question it would be my phone of choice.

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Technology

Pixel phones have jumped the shark

Google has released a phone that seems to increasingly be designed by committee in some misguided effort to hit some sweet spot of a middle of the road consumer. The new phone uses an old chip that is a non-starter and the camera is no longer top of the heap. I skipped the Pixel 4 because it was over priced and the design was a bit of a disaster.

I have a Pixel 3 and while it still works it is getting a little long in the tooth. It was the last decent Phone that Google released. Even though the Pixel 3 was over priced the specs and the quality of the device still competed with other flagship devices.

I would like to get a new phone because I upgraded to Android 11 and performance on the Pixel 3 is beginning to suffer. It crashes a little more than before, apps freeze a little more than before, and from time to time there is a noticeable lag when using apps.

Why do I bother upgrading the OS? Mainly to stay up to date with security. There haven’t been any new features in Android over the past several iterations that have changed the way I use the phone or improved the experience. In fact, they’ve removed some features that I used all the time. The one that sticks out the most is burst mode in the camera app. I used it all the time but Google removed it in a camera update to Android 10 because it is trying to copy the iPhone’s Live Photos. If I wanted that feature I would have bought an iPhone.

Where do I go from here? Samsung? They’re flagship is over priced and if I move to a mid-range device the camera is not as good as what I have now. Apple? God no. I refuse to get trapped in their ecosystem. It’s like quicksand that once you get in you can’t get out. Do I stay with my Pixel 3? Probably for as long as it works but I’m not sure how useable it’s going to be in the coming months as software updates continue to cause the phone to lag.

Here’s what I want. And, it’s what I believe most Pixel users want.

  • A great camera
    • High resolution front facing camera
    • Wide angle lens in addition to the main lens on the back
    • Good video
    • Option to use external microphones
  • A fast processor
    • Apps run better
    • Can be used more as a portable computer
    • Future proofs for at least 2 years
  • A finger print reader on the back or under the glass
    • You can unlock your phone without looking at it
    • Faster and less annoying than face unlock
  • A modern design (small bezels and a hole punch rather than chins to support cameras and speakers

That’s it. The rest is gravy. The phone and messaging functions are secondary.

Categories
Thoughts

New York Times preys on American ignorance on business and tax law

The New York Times’ is misleading the public on President Trump’s tax returns because the editors know most Americans know nothing about how business works and how tax law works. If you have ever owned a business or was at least in control of a business you would know that everything the NYT is “exposing” is normal course of business and there really isn’t anything you can truly glean about Trump’s true wealth from what they are showing.

The share of all tax returns subject to an audit declined by 46 percent from 2010 to 2018, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Astonishingly, the decline was even steeper for millionaires — the audit rate fell 61 percent over the same period.

Hmmm… wasn’t Barack Obama President in 2010??
The New York Times

What I’d like to see is an audit of the NYT, it’s editors, as well as President Trump. Let’s see who is taking advantage of the tax code the best!

Everyone should be trying to pay as little in taxes as possible and using every part of the tax law to their advantage. To do anything less is stupid.

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Thoughts

The user friendly guide to the Electoral College and the U.S. Constitution

Yesterday I posted about a movie you shouldn’t watch. Today I’m posting about a movie that is a must watch. So little of this is taught in school. You learn how a bill becomes a law, you learn the three branches of government, and you get a rudimentary education about factions and the Electoral College. This movie in just a little over an hour teaches you why the U.S. Constitution is the most elegant document that created the greatest system of government in the history of the world. This is not hyperbole.

The founders of the United States were students of government and of history. They designed our government to be purposely slow and deliberate. They never wanted a direct democracy and put up roadblocks (our famous checks and balances) for everything government does so that it would be less intrusive on the individual. If there were changes to laws or to the Constitution they wanted it to be hard so compromise would have to be reached.

The Democrats have been screaming about abolishing the Electoral College and going to a straight popular vote. This video will explain, in easy to understand terms, how such an action would be harmful to every minority group that exists in this country. They point out how easily a candidate will be able to win by simply getting the majority of votes in the cities of Boston, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. We’re not talking the states. Just the cities.

Without the Electoral College candidates will not only be able to skip most of the rural parts of the largest states but also skip most of the states across the nation. No longer will they have to seek out the votes of a wide variety of people and cater to a wide variety of interests. The video also points out how easy it would be for a candidate to avoid campaigning for African American votes or Hispanic votes. Since the White population is still larger it would be possible to win the election with out a significant portion of any minority voter. With the Electoral College candidates cannot ignore the African American or Hispanic voter because those voters can sway an election in a state where they are a larger percentage of the state’s population versus and even smaller minority on a national level.

The further we go away from the original system the more at risk our republic becomes. Take this recent battle that’s brewing over the Supreme Court. If we followed the Constitution more we would not have to worry about the ideology of any particular justice. They would be following the laws as created by Congress and signed by the President. But, Congress now is no longer interested in taking up controversial issues such as abortion. They’re always more worried about the next election and passing blame on the other side. If they just passed a law formally legalizing or abolishing abortion then the justices would have little choice but to respect the will of the people. But now, it’s left to vague interpretations as to how much control a person has over their body and when does life actually begin. This is not the way. We have unelected judges making law out of thin air.

Let’s not abolish the Electoral College. Let’s also stop with the movement for states to pledge their electors to whatever candidate wins the national popular vote. It’s called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and it is subversive to the Constitution and could lead to the destruction of our republic. The idiots in the states of New Mexico, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont have already agreed to this compact. They have few electoral votes and are essentially cutting their own power in the country should this scheme come to fruition.

Watch the video and share it. We need to protect our system of government as designed as it is the last protection of true liberty on the face of the Earth.

Categories
Technology Thoughts

The Social Dilemma: An anti-capitalist propaganda piece

The first thing you need to know is the film, “The Social Dilemma” is NOT a documentary. It is a dramatized film with an agenda that is against a free an open Internet and is against capitalism. It blames the big tech companies for all the social ills of today when in reality it is public education over the last 30 years that has primed the pump to confuse and polarize people.

The film talks about AI and machine learning as if they are magic potions that can make people do what the tech companies want them to do. This is the biggest bunch of crap I’ve ever heard. Anyone that uses Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, or any other service by a tech company where the service is free receives that service because the company sells advertising. The most truthful part of the film is when they accurately inform that users of the free services are themselves the product being sold. The service they use is a by-product of the company’s ability to sell ads. It’s how they stay in business.

Let’s consider these ads. I’m a user of Gmail, Instagram, Facebook (in a limited sense), and Twitter. I use each service for different reasons. I know each service sends me ads. How is that different from broadcast television or radio? Those services also feed me ads and in exchange they provide me entertainment or information programs that I like to watch. The only difference is that the tech companies are supposed to send me targeted advertising for things they know I would want to buy.

How are they supposed to know what I want? Through “big data.” Supposedly all the tech companies know more about me than maybe I know myself. They should know that I’m writing this review of the crappy film that is targeting them for regulation and taxation. I don’t know what ads I’ll get that reflect that. Back to my point. If they have so much data about me and are supposed to know how to manipulate me to buy what they are selling why are the ads so bad?

Why is it that YouTube’s recommendation engine only serves up videos of the exact same content, many times videos that I’ve already watched, instead of being smart and looking at the totality of what I watch and try to figure out new content that might catch my eye. They’re horrible at it. Most of the time I find new content through human recommendation on videos, news programs, podcasts, or articles I read rather than anything from the YouTube algorithm.

Look at Amazon. They are still constantly telling me to buy something I just finished ordering. Why would I want to buy it again when I literally just placed the order. How in the world is that effective?

Facebook and Instagram push ads that I don’t even remember. I see the ads on Instagram but they are clearly marked “sponsored” and are quite easy to ignore. On Facebook my brain automatically filters out the ads because I don’t recall seeing them at all. The only things I recall Facebook pushing at me is propaganda surrounding voting. I wish they’d stop telling me to register to vote. Doesn’t their advanced AI know that I’m already registered?

The film tries to scare you into thinking people are being easily manipulated by AI, machine learning, and advertising algorithms when in my opinion the problem is the education system and how it no longer teaches kids how to read, write, do math, and critically think about things. Instead they are propaganda factories to get young people not old enough to decide much of anything for themselves to become activists in some social utopian cause. When they get older and find out the world doesn’t work as they were taught there is a cognitive dissonance that takes place and they lash out like children.

Other than being anti-capitalist and pro government regulation of the Internet I’m not sure what else this film is trying to accomplish. It certainly didn’t enlighten me on the evils of social media. Maybe I’m not as susceptible as the rest of you because I’m anti-social by nature? Who knows.

In any case, that film is junk. Don’t watch it.

Categories
Thoughts

Stay safe and stay home

This is just a test call time to stay home. Stay safe and stay home.

Listen to the voicemail message I received 3 times over the last 2 days. The calls came from a number that is spoofing my area code and prefix. What is the purpose of this baloney? Has anyone else received these?

For some strange reason now I feel compelled to stay safe and stay home!

Categories
Thoughts

Goodbye Chicago

It kinda hurts writing that headline. But, it’s true. I’m leaving Chicago for what I hope are greener pastures. I have mixed emotions about it but also feel the change is long overdue.

The tldr version of everything below is that I’m tired of Illinois’ multiple levels of corrupt government (here and here are the latest examples) and their out of control spending. People here scream for change but vote the same people into office time and time again. The people of Chicago and Illinois used to be salt of the Earth moderate Midwestern people. Now we’re a tax happy, SJW safe space, that has no tolerance for people that don’t think as they do. Since my vote won’t count to change anything the only thing I have left is to vote with my feet. At least any money going forward will not go to bankrupt governments.

The house where I grew up circa 2006. Before it was demolished for a strip mall.

No matter where I go when people ask me where I’m from I proudly say Chicago. Even in Europe where many people don’t know exactly where Chicago is I would still say it so I could explain the Midwest. Well, no more. I’m not that proud anymore. Where I’m going may end up not being any better. But, at least I’ll enjoy a lower cost of living.

I was born in Chicago in the mid 1960s and grew up in the Logan Square neighborhood. I lived there until I turned 18. Got married, moved to the suburbs, bought a house, had children, and lived a pretty good life. For 32 years I’ve lived in the same location. A location I love. Over those decades I paid my taxes and voted. I voted for people who I thought would keep the state in good shape. I voted for some Democrats but mostly Republicans. But as Chicago seized more and more control over the state each year things became progressively worse.

This is the parking lot behind my house in Chicago. It used to be our playground. Every sport except basketball. There were no rims here. This pic is from 2006 before a strip mall was put in.

Over the years I watched the places of my past get torn down and replaced by strip malls, fru fru coffee shops, and condo complexes. The people also changed. Gone were the gritty city types and in moved the hipsters. I thought the yuppies were bad back in the day but they were nothing compared to these hipsters. They turned Chicago neighborhoods, that had character into any other neighborhood in the country. It was sort of like being in a theme park where all the rides are the same. Brooklyn, Austin, San Francisco, and Chicago. It is getting difficult to tell things apart.

Pizza from Lou Malnati’s. Sadly they just opened a take out location walking distance from my house. One of the many things I’ll miss for sure.
Maybe the last real Chicago Mayor of Chicago.
He had tons of flaws and is partly responsible for the current fiscal mess (maybe even mostly) but at least he was of Chicago.

The State of Illinois was always in need of Chicago. It has always been the economic powerhouse of the state. But, Chicago still had to compromise with the people downstate. Chicago didn’t always get its way. Power in state government became concentrated with politicians from Chicago. So much so we are the point now in Illinois where Chicago runs everything. How else do you think J.B. Pritzker became our governor?

Our illustrious billionaire governor. Governor Fat Blagojevich.

This Democrat billionaire outspent the Republican billionaire by labeling him a right-wing extremist in lock-step with Donald Trump. Anyone that has ever taken a good look at Bruce Rauner can’t possibly see a right-wing extremist in lock step with Trump. If anything Rauner was a light weight Republican. He didn’t have the stones, on a daily basis, to call out the crooks currently running the state. How else do we end up with a governor that abused the property tax system to save $330,000.00 on a property he owns. None of the regular people get this kind of break.

The State of Illinois has been run by one political party. There are no dissenting voices. Only rubber stamps. There is a looming public employee pension debt of around $150 billion for the state. The local governments inside Cook County, the county in which I live, also have a public employee pension debt of around $150 billion. I guess those teachers’ strikes kind of add up over the decades don’t they (and somehow see themselves as non-essential during COVID-19). There have been lame attempts to try to fix the problem. None work because the numbskulls put public employee pensions in the state’s constitution. Every time laws are passed to fix things the laws get over turned at the state Supreme Court.

The public scream for things to change. But they continue to vote the same people into office. What is happening now is a push to increase the income tax rate for the state. Well, the proposal is a graduated tax but in the proposal the General Assembly will be able to raise the rates without any further voter input. And if you think they won’t raise them I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. After the Year of COVID-19 other taxes and fees will have to increase because God forbid the government start cutting their expenses.

Where I’m moving the property taxes are 1/3 what I pay in Illinois and the house is larger, newer, and with more land. My house in Illinois is worth a little over twice what I paid back in 1988. But my property taxes have increased 350% during that time! 350%!!!!

Chicago used to be the city of big shoulders. Now its the city of narrow minds. The State of Illinois used to be a moderate middle of the road Midwestern state. Now it’s a far left social justice warrior “safe space.”

I love my house. I love the location. I especially love a good Chicago winter. But I no longer like the people or the politics. I can’t stand insufferable busy bodies who live by the mantra, “better safe than sorry.” That is no way to live.

Yes, I’m leaving Chicago and Illinois, but honestly, the city and state left me decades ago. I won’t let the state’s crushing debt hit me on the way out.

Goodbye Chicago.

My humble abode for the last 32 years