Monday, August 09, 2021

Where did you run to in Lockdown

so i quit all my normal clubs

For me, the digital world has often inhabited a subliminal space around the real world. That's because it's a construct of what is essentially our physical world but with vastly different constraints. Constraints that are easy to ignore and are often ignored and grotesquely twisted by users of our digital worlds. So when lockdown pretty much jailed everyone who did not open the door into the digital, I could always see the "construct" of the digital space for what it is, a lie. But everyone was online now, to communicate, to share, and to work and to socialise, you have to open that door into the slightly twisted, but the only world that remains.



It started with the uncanny valley of zoom meetings. People compose books on the shelves behind them on camera and aim the camera just so. People use backgrounds and then the camera portrays the other party up close, really close, just 50 cm away from you. That inside your comfort zone visually, and the mind boggles. So we all try different online meeting solutions and mix up the online meeting screen with backgrounds and so on, to try and make it feel less personal-space invasion-like, less home privacy invasion-like and try get on with it. But apart from the way the camera lens lies and the fact that only 2 people in the meeting can speak at a time, (which is a really dumb problem.) There is the drift into doing everything digitally, which is of course meaningless. You cannot feed someone digitally, or even less check that they really have taken their daily meds. You cannot help them get to the bathroom (there is a famous discussion on how the simple stranger entering a place asking for directions to the bathroom is in fact a bigger introduction to deeper communication, but that's part of the pain.) Yes, lacking physical touch, but for me, digital has always been fake.

Digital will always be fake, it conveys very low trust, and is unable to transport any goods or provide really useful services, and still cannot make tea. And for those who could not work remotely the "imposter" and fake of my cushy life made me trip out on guilt early on. I had a security of my little personal zone, a luxury, which very few had, many were jobless. For someone who abhors luxury, this was very hard to process.

So I ran away.

Why?

Well because it's a complete waste of time and effort. Mental effort which has now been frustrated for some people who don't normally hold it together anyway. There was no point in going to online club meetings; meetings where you cannot give someone a lift back home afterwards; meetings where you cannot have a side conversation and meet for coffee afterwards (some exceptions exist). Meetings devoid of cookies, and meeting with no beer involved. Nobody seemed to care that this was a problem, which for me further eroded trust in the people meeting because everyone else was happy to forego one of the things I really felt was key to me. I have always felt I trusted the smart people I admire who built the communities and ran meetings. Lockdown undermined that trust. All the clever people had no answers. I quit a number of clubs, some clubs I quit frivolously, others more out of general overload. Generally nobody cares about the "person" in a digital club.

Overload

An Olympic athlete pulled out of one of her events this last week, she was not confident she could focus and complete the slightly dangerous techniques. Too much at once, in fact some clubs I abandoned were abandoned just because my bandwidth dried up. Not only do I not pay attention to postal paper mail anymore, I don't pay attention to spammers like YouTube who spam me with totally pointless content, making me feel even more isolated by the "actor" on a soap box with a fake smile that their "algorithm" forces into the foreground. Just let me be quiet, let me go back to basics, and let me do physical things, things that really do matter. This lockdown reset has prompted a lot of us to take up hobbies in cooking, crafting, gardening and more. It has even forced a lot of us to start cycling more, walking more, and make some better life choices. some of these good habits which I hope people decide to keep after this all blows over, and blow over it will. Lockdown has cut down air travel, which might be good for the re-calibration of our waste culture too.

I read this week about a few people recalling vivid dreams they have which are like the Truman Show, being in a fake world where everyone else is really a robot, and you are the only human left alive. A feeling of being continuously observed, but not in a move star kind of way observed. Guinea pig kind of observed. I used to have these thoughts once, and lockdown has triggered them again, but making me feel liked a trapped or jailed mouse. I often wonder if pets feel like they are jailed. I'm a cat lover myself, so sometimes I just wish I was a cat. Okay, forget that cat reincarnation idea, it's not that appealing unless you are a cat in a good home anyway.

Casualty

The casualties are many, and I'm not yet ready to take responsibility for ones I've created, sorry, just, sorry if this is you, find someone who is responsible to blame please.

Blame

As someone who struggles to follow even a basic math formula, I was never going to be the one who solves this blame thing. However my faith in smart people to make good choice dissolved in early 2019. A lack of honesty and even a desire to have prevented this are my foremost reasons for miss-trust of the system and of my betters. I can see how some anti-vaxers use this same line of argument against the establishment of medical professionals. It's however blindingly clear, just how weak willed politicians are, to address the real causes by minimising encroachment on wildlife and minimising climate change which is the leading cause of the encroachment problem. I'm sure that's not the only thing we would do if we could wind back time to November 2019, but now that it seems a lifetime away, it's too late. The fact that clever people give up too easily worries me. That weakness underlies a lot of anti-vax argument, which sadly is illogical.

Return

So, sadly I'll not be coming back soon. I'll come back when I'm allowed to sing and dance indoors without a mask, when I'm allowed to grab cookies from the same jar as everyone else, and without individual wrappers on foods. I'll be back when I can do physical things that make a difference, like buying you a beer, or giving you a lift. I'll be back when the people have dispensed with the bullshit and have stopped playing. Playing is fine, but just not when it's at someone else expense.

I know that nobody will ever read this, but that's fine, it's digital, so it's fake anyway.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Every time I see an advert, a puppy dies

Ads, advert or advertisement? If the contractions introduced over time were not hint enough. Please tell me I'm not the only human who has spent the last 20 years teaching myself to ignore advertisements. It used to be that television adverts were entertaining back in the 80's. Billboards and newspaper advertisements glossy magazines with great artwork were setting the standard gradually higher and higher. Culminating in an entire book worth of advertising of homes, that you can buy every Sunday at the newsagent. Yes, there used to be a time when adverts targeting specific people would actually be all in one specific place.

Mutually Assured Destruction, simply by having a bigger banner Ad.

1. MAD

Digital changed all of that, advertisers can now follow you around and target you. Companies have always had more money that sense when it comes to advertising spend. That's because brand awareness and influencing peoples buying habits, is big big money. Brand loyalty is such big money that companies prostitute themselves to the advert companies, who happily ask for more money in order to promote their client above all the competitors. Creating a MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) cycle which sees ever more bizarre advertisement spending in order to emerge on top. Being seen becomes so important that brand awareness surveys and number of impressions become a metric to chase after, yet another lie to pile onto the ill in that industry. To the consumer, advertisements become a bombardment, which frankly comes across as increasingly desperate, and often insensitive.

The impact of advertisements on customer in many ways however is harder to ignore. An impact that goes beyond a datacenter carbon footprint, a datacenter built just to store gigabytes of data about you to target you. Because targeted adverts are coming under pressure with new privacy controls possibly coming to Apple. Apple are bizarrely not a player in the advertising game, even though their entire raison d'etre is about image, and suddenly Google and their free portable-device OS don't look so stupid anymore. I get that Apple are all about what will make them more money, so pandering to privacy is a song they have sung for a while, and will continue to sing new cover versions of. I can respect that, someone who sticks to their guns and gives me a service, worth the money I fork over to them. If only I did not have other problems with Apple, I would be mucking in down at the Macintosh farm instantly. but I digress, because privacy and the impact AI has on it is key, even if fans of the platforms cannot see that.

2. Privacy

So, lets get back to this anonymous user problem. Apple use a special "advertiser id" generated for each device, that allows you some privacy, because an advertiser gets a unique ID for you, but that ID is not tied to "you"... which is complete bullshit as a concept. But for now I'll let it stand.

The vast majority of us have nothing to loose by being tracked, until... Well let's understand privacy better here. Privacy is about protecting the vulnerable as well as about preventing identity theft. And you will be surprised at how many vulnerable people are online. Activists online who are tracked by state actors are just the very tip of this iceberg. "State level" actors are powerful enough to drop tracker pixels into social networks, and sniff metadata directly off the wire to find and start profiling the contacts of anyone the activist connects with. Apple's clever little "ID" can do nothing to protect these people, because the privacy metadata at risk is your links, to other people. And even if those people are anonymous, someone with enough metadata will quickly map your habits and location using ML. The only defense against being tracked is to change your identity regularly, or to use ML itself to randomly make you appear to behave differently or randomly. Humans are creatures of habit through their timing and their connections (sites they visit). Internet activists are more vulnerable than we think. Advertising has created a huge industry to enable tracking people, often for the wrong reasons. Don't even start me on the very very bad health biases that advertisers willfully create.

I'm not even going to start on how advertising trackers get misused to sell health related items to you, another landfill contributor. If you start visiting baby websites while trying to have a baby, and then your wife has a miscarriage, they keep on bombing you with misery for years without ceasing. I'm not even going to describe the trivial effort to research buying one toilet seat of the correct size, then going to buy a replacement toilet seat in a real store. For the next month I got toilet seat adverts, even though I only have 1 toilet in my house. What a waste. The other day I bought a special kind of bolt online, I never buy any similar finds of things, but just that one experience saw my stream flooded with all manner of metallurgical products. Products I could often not even identify, and less likely even ever buy. The waste is dangerous, but the creepy thing is that this data, me buying a bolt, asking a friend a bolt related question allowed the advertisers to link me with my friends. Soon we all see the same bolt adverts. I kid you not. Imagine if I was researching a sexual health related product, something very private? Suddenly my friends will know.

The thing that pisses me off most about this is that this has a huge impact not, on men.

So you think you are anonymous out there, let me tell you a story about a big games console company. They had a huge problem, their console could not advertise new games to users because not only did the console not really know who the gamers friends really really were. But they had no way of knowing how to push relevant adverts to a gamer and their friends, because the console had no web social network linkup. And we all know that the web and most especially the mobile platform gets the most "conversions", or actual purchases. On our mobiles, a device we carry everywhere and has our attention 24/7, the console game publisher had no way to touch it's users. So the console company went to a cloud company and agreed to combine basic user metadata with whatever data their own website tracking could provide. Suddenly using ML alone, an algorithm if you like, was able to use terabytes of metadata, not about the users, but about their activity alone. And successfully build customer journey patterns that now save the console company millions in advert budget. Watch this landscape. It's about to change.

3. Waste

The ad industry is a huge waster, not just in terms of the MAD stacking and compounding problem, but because a lot of us cannot resist adverts. I've gotten into the habit of hating adverts and on a platform I block advertisers when possible, set preferences and enable trackers as often as I can to prevent adverts that are really more a waste of my time and a waste of money for the person placing them. Advertisers may want to start paying me, there's actually a browser that tries to do that, but that's another topic altogether. Adverts waste my bandwidth, which I pay for, and they just assume is free. Adverts waste my time. By lacking any kind of real targeting adverts force me to wait longer for pages to load and get in the way of me doing the things I love. Basically imagine you are about to kiss a beautiful girl, and a guy wizzes up on a bike and suddenly offers to sell you a condom. You buy one, she runs off anyway at this point, so you toss it into the landfill. 

Image showing the "Golden Girls" Maude not being rude.

Most commonly advertised products are the cheapest products and hence more likely to be impulse purchases, that get binned. Advertisers are often wasting their time because I've not bought a single product off of an advert, ever. I know this because I only buy items off of a researched wishlist which I keep in various ways. It's not hard to prevent landfill.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Bebo Inspired (sic)

 What the heck is Bebo? I mean, like what was it?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-55908193

Right now people are closing their Facebook accounts and Whatsapp accounts in droves, this happened about 5 years ago, but this year looks more like a single solid departing wave for many. I am perplexed by this, and so I'm writing now to clear up my thinking and also to poke fun at the fearmongers.

Exodus

My biggest fear with the social media exoduses that things like Parler which got killed off by AWS creates, merely cause new networks like the Bebo re-imagined service will undoubtedly bring the same broken services in the same way the google youtube algorithm would show you content to drag viewers in and thus was automatically showing them more and more extreme content just to see advert revenue. The fact that humans have failed to develop an allergic reaction to digital advertising and it's blatant waste culture distresses me. But even more distressing is the possibility that network fragmentation may split people farther apart. What am I talking about? Stuff nobody wants to talk about to be honest, but primarily the failure to inoculate against advert revenue is behind the Facebook screw-up. Because people don't want to pay for services, and even if we did, providers can make more money off of our data than they would off of a subscription. Even a Youtube ad-free subscription has very little take-up. The service probably costs more to run in that model to be fair. Why? I'm definitely no buying add-free youtube, not unless it comes with a fully add-free experience on the other platforms that touch it. It's a bit pointless. Like swimming in the goldfish bowl that is the internet. My big underlying fear is that the polarization that these social networks drive and thrive on is only now becoming evident and it's too late to stop a freight train that has been running down the track for decades. I have very little faith in the internet repairing itself. I keep seeing people on Twitter who think otherwise, and that old men cannot fix this thing, and that our youth will re-imagine the internet. Clearly the rose tinted spectacle wearers are prepared to wait for as long as their followers keep on promoting their bubble.

You could not make this up

As if 2020 was not an amazing yet humbling year, we not have 2021, it's over now for captain Tom. It's the movie script you could never write. I'm thinking of chucking out the TV set and youtube today, I keep seeing adverts for Netflix and other pointless entertainment services, sure I watch some non-broadcast TV, but not enough to warrant paying for Amazon Prime, the kids watch it for the most part, but if someone stole my TV, and blocked youtube.com on my internet, I would not cry. Just the captain Tom movie alone would be like the titanic movie that I have never seen and never will see, depressingly kitch.

And all because a spineless Prime minister could not be bothered to lock down the UK, and to actually stop all air travel in February when we all knew what was coming already. Your prevarication mister Johnson Sir, is costing 1000 lives per day, equivalent to about 5 lockerbie bombings every day. Chew on that one.



Sunday, May 24, 2020

Lockdown loo

How to sort out a loose toilet seat, if you have one of those concealed models. Ours was loose and wiggling about after > a year of usage.
My google skills are terrible, because a search for how to install one like this turned up no useful results. In fact it wasted a lot of time. So I'm sharing my experience repairing a soft-close model. The newer soft-close models are not covered in a lot of the tutorials in the same way the concealed bolts is glossed over too.
For the entire job, you will need a tape measure if you have bought a new toilet seat, something I almost did in desperation. You don't need a saw; many guides want you to just cut the bolts. You will need some penetrating oil and a flat head screwdriver. The cross-head driver was specific to the bolts on mine, your may vary.
Lastly, if doing a replacement, there is a nail, you will need a thin poking thing for getting the various plastic shims out.

1. Grab some soapy water in a spray bottle, and wipe down the working area well with disposable wipes. As seen in the right on top photo, use a sharp object to get the two plastic stoppers out. These will let you shift things back and forth now. It's a good time to add some penetrating oil into the areas we want to get into later.

2. Use the flat screwdriver to pop the chrome screw covers up. You will need to wiggle things around at this stage.
3. Now get to the screws and undo them a few turns to get more freedom. At this point give the throne a second good cleaning with the squirting bottle of soapy water. Using gloves is not necessary if you wash your hands well after, and the loss of agility gloves add is not worth it.

4. I dissembled and cleaned out the soft close mechanism at this point. It's rather fiddly to do, but if all you want to do is tighten the bolts, you can do so now, pop the plastic stoppers in again, and be done. NOTE! Do not over tighten the bolts, if you chip or crack the toilet, you will need to call out a professional. A straight-arm twist with no elbow action is enough.

New seat, if you are ordering a new seat, measure the distance between the bolt hole centres. also measure the pan depth (not height), we have a short pan for an smaller space, and seats that are shorter are not that common at all.

5. If you are still reading, you are where I went, installing the new bolts.
The nuts on the old bolts as installed by the plumber will fall off into the void. I ordered a set which come with an unusual rubber flange on the nut which actually stops the nut falling down. A plastic guide was also supplied, I binned that.

6. Gently push the new bolts into the holes.
Next up, we re-assemble, I'll share a few pictures that show the soft-close mechanism innards more clearly so that it might make it easier to take them apart (or put them together.) Remember, do NOT OVER TIGHTEN, or you may crack the porcelain.



Over here we can see the final assembly step. you want to rotate the bolting plate and covers in such a way that it becomes convenient to tighten them in the right final seat position. Depending on the distance between the pan and the cistern, that might be from behind, or, from the front.
Before tightening up, test the seat position (not by using, test by opening and closing it dummy) and check the alignment of the seat. Also go and stand a few feet back and check that it looks like it's aligned correctly over the toilet bowl.

Use a straight arm, and no "elbow grease" when tightening the bolts, and then use the flat head screwdriver to manoeuvre or force the screw covers back into place. Lastly, wash hands well, use a nailbrush as well, and rinse and apply hand cream. If you did the process correctly, buy are an amateur like me, it may have taken an hour and at least one tea break and multiple hand washes. Which means your hands will be quite dried out from all the soap action.

Viola!
I'm sharing this how-to mainly because Google was not showing me anyone taking you through these steps to repair a loose concealed bolt toilet seat. I personally abhor the hundreds of DIY sites that post facile descriptions of a DIY task that only works if you use the exact same materials and suppliers or even in the case of electrical how-to's, live in the same country. I have actually left nasty correction remarks about bad electrical how-to-instructions on some sites, in an attempt to warn of future visitors from creating a fire hazard or worse. The web is full of bad tutorial websites that pay non professionals to upload stock photos of DIY jobs they never did in order to generate advert revenue.

Anyway, that's enough of my "I hate the crap on the people waste time posting internet", my crapper is now fixed!

Friday, March 27, 2020

What to sell in a thunderstorm

I have been putting off writing about this topic for some time now, probably for too long.
The current context for most of us is coronavirus and working from home. A sudden reliance on remote working tools and the internet has been surprising. Surprising mainly in that the tools work better than we imagined they would under strain. I work at a company that provides such a tool. I tend to never write about my workplace online much. I mean you can google it and find my CV online and find out for yourself. But we all sign non defamatory clauses in one way or another, and to be fair, I've never worked for long at any company that I did not like or thought any evil of at all. but, my point, is that to blow the trumpet requires timing.
This is the corporate logo, as it looked about 3 years ago. Before I joined a great team. I'm going to share a communique from a guy who is amongst the best bosses I have ever had, on the topic of marketing your product at what feels like the worst possible time.




Somebody said this week “There’s a thunderstorm and we’re selling umbrellas!”. What does that mean for how we show up in sales conversations or marketing media? How do we be empathic and sensitive to the gravity of the situation, but at the same time take the opportunity to seize the moment? If we want to be part of a movement that effects positive change within the world, the time is now. If we want to make a name for ourselves, the time is now. If we want to differentiate ourselves, the time is now. Ethos and empathy can be differentiating.
Anyway, there you have it, I think RealVNC and their new Connect product have a winner solution. It's the most secure and simultaneously simple to set up remote desktop access tool. No VPN, just use our cloud, and add a 2FA token of the favourite type, and get back to business.

My input in all of this? Well I love working here, as I have in every job I have held down. I feel that since I am a Test lead on this, while, I'm not able to support you on the product, I can vouch for it's quality.

Give our sales team a ring, you get a free demo (home user mode.) And you can carry on using the demo mode alongside the extra corporate subscription once you sign on. https://www.realvnc.com/en/connect/home/ <== Link to the hard-to-find free account setup page.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Dump cake recipe Advertisement free

Mainly because the internet is full of broken recipe sites that start with a story about fairies or want you firstborn child's identity.  
  1. Dump 2 cans of fruit into the bottom of a 9×13 pan.
  2. Dump the cake mix on top of the fruit.
  3. Add thin sliced of butter over top of the cake mix.
  4. Bake @ 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 40 minutes  or until golden brown.
Interested, okay, here come the ingredients and pics.

This is a template, change it up or down, remember the idea is not to do any real work, and keep the liquid in there, since the liquid is what makes these stop drying out.

    1 (21 ounce) can cherry pie filling
    1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
    1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
    1 cup margarine, melted
    1 cup flaked coconut
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts
My variation is to swap the melted margarine (a time consumer) with 1/2 a block of butter, just chop into slices of grease and lay on top ; and sub the nuttytoppings with chocolate chip buttons.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Writting product reviews

Why write product reviews? Part 1.
Well because whenever you uniquely pass a Turing test, you proves it's not just a bot leaving a review. Amazon have a huge problem with this for example, and I'm not sure they are even remotely capable of preventing paid reviews, there advertising AI sux eggs, so they cannot possibly remove fake reviews. So now you know why I leave reviews, AI is getting better and better at it every day, reviews that include a photo of the item are even harder to fake, so up your game a bit on your next review. I'll leave a link to some bot accounts to look at below for later.

How I score

I like the 1-5 scoring system, its granular enough to not take too long and easy enough to use for decision making. I have a different grade for software and for hardware, and I prefer to leave reviews in big batches in order to get some normalization going.

Software scores

Apps on the google store/Android and on other platforms get
1 star if they just fail to run, or are making false claims
2 stars if they have big issues, and don't get un-installed within the 1st 20 minutes
3 stars if they are pretty cool, but not something I am interested in, un-install after a few days
4 stars if they have minor issues, but stay installed for a few days, (5 stars if un-installed because job is done)
5 stars if I keep the app in my likes list, or engage and use it occasionally over a period.

How to earn 1 star for an app:
Crash out-of-box; offer free money (which is a barefaced lie) or run some other kind of money making scam; portray women as objects, or attempt to steal data or money. Or just plain be a mickey-mouse app which took 10 minutes to create.
How to earn 2 stars for an app:
Crash more than twice. I forgive out-of-box crashes if an app works on 2nd or 3rd try, I am a software tester after all, so crashes do excite me, I will try again. If the app runs, but still does not float my boat, its 2 stars.
How to earn 3 stars as an app:
I am not always your target market, I give 3 stars for something that other people might like, but is just not for me.
How to earn 4 stars for an app:
I have to like some aspect of your app, it needs to be an app that I can tell other people to try out. I will un-install your app for now, but I will install it again later if I ever need an app that does function X. It's not a bad app, it's just not permanently installed. If your app is a bit crappy, but you give me good support this will raise you from a 3 to a 4 star app, or even a 5 star.
How to earn 5 stars for an app or game:
Some one-off or single use apps get un-installed, but do get 5 stars. Mostly the 5 star apps will be apps I actually buy. Half of the free apps I use do not get 5 stars, something in the way adverts get pushed at me for the most hilarious products mean that free apps are a bit hobbled in my rating system. Charge me 5 dollars for the app and get 5 stars is my economy, if you want loyalty get a dog I say.


I'd like to see a world where reviews count for more than dumb adverts, adverts can be manipulated by anyone, but reviews from people that I actually know in real life are the same old currency they used to be. If you want reviews from real people who connect with real people, build on a well connected review platform of some kind that connects real customers with real vendors.

(Promised earlier, list of mostly bot accounts , which will leave you "likes" on medium.com and boost your SEO . Even though medium.com is strictly not about promotions... NOT)