Brian J.: Amazon Prophet

In my post earlier this year about Amazon Prime trying to go all-digital instead of being free shipping, I said:

But undoubtedly Amazon will offer ship-to-store for free someday, just like every other retailer does now (and did in 1990).

How ridiculous you might have thought it sounded. Amazon does not have physical stores!

But it’s December now, kids. Now we have Amazon Go:

Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. We created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. With our Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout. (No, seriously.)

Although, don’t forget, IBM predicted Amazon Go years ago:

It’s a NEW Feature

I’ve started to see this in my Twitter sidebar:

Funny, I thought there was a way to control what tweets I saw.

But that’s before Twitter decided what I really want to see is a stream of promoted tweets, items I might have missed out of chronological order, a list of people I might want to follow because Twitter thinks I should, and Tweets that people I follow liked.

I’ve thinned my Twitter usage a bunch. Partly because things have taken a political turn that I don’t enjoy and partly because Twitter keeps upping the noise ratio to the signal.

iPhones without Headphones: A Long View

And some of you think that Tim Cook is not an innovator!

Full disclosure: I hold some Apple stock, but half of what I once did. When the value of the stock doubled, I sold half, right at its peak because I wondered if the aura of Steve Jobs was much of the brand. It might well have been, but my remaining holdings are all house money now. Once in a while, I make a wise investment decision, unlike then I bought National Lampoon Media Partners, IPIX, or Salon New Media, or when I didn’t dump my SIRI immediately when they signed Howard Stern. Ah, well, live and live. I never learn.

And If You Append _nomap To Your Street Address, Google Won’t Rifle Through Your Mailbox

Google Announces “_nomap” WiFi Opt-out Option, Wants Other Location Providers To Go Along:

As promised, Google has announced a way for WiFi router owners to stop Google from including them in the company’s location database.

The opt-out requires a change in the name of the wireless network (the SSID) to include _nomap at the end of the name. In other words, if your wireless network is named “McGeehome,” you’d need to rename that to “McGeehome_nomap.” (And frankly, I’d prefer you use your own last name while you’re at it.)

Google is thoughtfully allowing you to change your internal naming of your personal property to keep Google from using it for its own data collection and profit.

Because your property and information belongs to Google unless you explicitly say it does not. Even if you don’t use Google. Because anything Google can dig up, it can use.

(Link via tweet.)

An Ounce of Feline Prevention

Google working on super-fast ‘quantum’ computer chip

Google said it is working on a super-fast “quantum” computer chip as part a vision to one day have machines think like humans.

Friends, we have the algorithm for a fail-safe prevention of a Skynet scenario right there: If we make the computers think like humans, we’ll be safe.

For example, if the computers think, after reaching a certain level of sophistication, they should simply use the network to share cat pictures and staged, marketing-driven ‘viral’ videos with each other instead of doing something useful like annihilating mankind. As a bonus, computers would more completely overwhelm the network doing these things at the speed of quantum, and they’ll knock themselves out.

I hope someone is checking this into GitHub right now for the good of mankind.

(Link seen in the Ace of Spades HQ sidebar.)

An Unannounced Boycott?

Firefox falters, falls to record low in overall browser share:

Firefox’s user share on all platforms — desktop and mobile — has plunged in the last two months as its desktop browser continued to bleed and its attempt to capture users on smartphones failed to move the needle, new data shows.

Huh. Can you think of anything that might have happened about two months ago that might have angered a large number of its users and caused them to change browsers?

Firefox blocked image

Correlation is not causation, but a sudden shift might not come just from the release of the iPhone 5S.

You Will Never Again Experience MfBJN The Way It Was Intended

Firefox 23 nixes support for outdated blink HTML tag:

Mozilla announced on Tuesday that Firefox 23, the latest version of its browser, will not support the HTML tag blink.

I’ve used that tag for years, off and on, on this blog. I’ll be sad to see it go.

Frankly, it’s just a case of the cool designers finally promulgating their disdain for a particular tag. Heaven forfend the hipsters start thinking that italics look weird.

(Link via VodkaPundit.)

A Small Worldview, Exposed

Dustbury linked to another one of those technology articles written in the hip, modern style that indicates an arch with-it fellow shaking his head at the backwardness of others.

The piece is entitled 12 obsolete technologies Americans still use. Mostly, it’s about the author of the piece ticking off items that he does not use any more. Hence, they are obsolete to him. They include:

  • Dial-up Internet
    In the rural areas of the country, which is most of the country but very little of the country where technology writers live, you have two choices, and it’s not fiber or copper or DSL or cable. You get to choose between dial-up, which is slow but inexpensive, and satellite, which is more expensive, slightly faster, and sometimes spotty. So, yes, many people still use it. Because it makes sense, and it probably suits their needs.
    Yes, I know, cellular offers a more technically challenging and sometime viable solution, but it’s not available in all areas either. Have you ever seen the little marker on your smart phone that says data is unavailable in an area? I have.
     
  • Dot matrix printers
    The author himself mentions multi-part forms, and that’s a no-brainer for me. The author must not have worked in an environment where this makes sense.
     
  • Landline phones
    It might make some fiscal sense for me to give up our residential landline phone, but the telephone works when the power goes out, brothers and sisters. In the event of a disaster, it might be your link to the world when your Internet and your cell phone chargers are unavailable. I’ll cling to it until such time as the phone company takes it away from me.
     
  • VHS and cassette tapes
    The author talks about the cloud and downloading music, but I’ve had enough hard drive failures and have seen enough services shuttered that I wouldn’t trust the Internet with my data anyhow. Besides, you can rip them to bits if you must, and you’ll find them very cheap at garage sales. So instead of ‘renting’ a movie for $2.99 or downloading a whole song for a buck, you can find whole albums for a quarter and movies you can watch over and over for a buck.
     
  • CRT TVs
    Confession: I just removed our last television with a picture tube. Not because it was not working, but because we dropped a dish box and now it was more important to hook in a DVD player and VCR (to play obsolete VHS tapes!). Also, I had an extra television I’d used as a computer monitor for a while. Otherwise, I would still have it. You know why? It still worked.

    If you hit any number of yard sales or thrift stores, you’ll find any number of old console televisions from the 1960s, complete with picture tubes, flickering some broadcast television. And you know what? They still work. Compare that to the longevity of other types of televisions. No contest, hey?
     

Oh, I could go on, but it frankly boils down to this: The ‘obsolete’ things still work. Vinyl records, cassettes, televisions, fax machines, the whole lot of them still fulfill a function and still work, so yes, people will still use them.

It’s easy to have the disposable attitude, I reckon, if you’re young and have not accumulated a number of things that work (which might never happen to today’s young, I reckon. Wait, instead of repeating ‘I reckon,’ I mean ‘by crackey.’). Or if you’re someone who trades in a phone every two years or a car every three. It’s a new mindset, one that most people outside the tech industry don’t share.

Facebook as Official Communications Channel

Perhaps you’ve seen the video of the concealed carry motorist in Ohio who tried to inform the police officers that he was carrying a concealed weapon, only to be interrupted each time by the tough cop until such time when the weapon was discovered, whereupon the officer threatens him with bodily injury and death. I’ll tuck the video under the fold.

Courtesy of a Hot Air update, I see the police department has issued a statement on its Facebook page:

I want to assure our citizens that the behavior, as demonstrated in this video, is wholly unacceptable and in complete contradiction to the professional standards we demand of our officers. As such, appropriate steps were placed in motion as dictated by our standards, policies and contractual obligations….

I have to ask you, do you take postings on social network sites from official government entities as the truth? As an official in a government entity, do you think this really is the forum for official statements?

I dunno. Since it’s so easy to hack or spoof the social network sites, I don’t it’s a good idea. But I’m an old man. NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!

Continue reading “Facebook as Official Communications Channel”

As If Thousands of Technohipsters Suddenly Cried Out In Terror At Once And Were Suddenly Silenced

How do you like it, technohipsters? WaPo: DOJ preparing antitrust probe for Apple, among others:

Apple, Google, Yahoo! and Genentech are subjects of a fresh antitrust investigation surrounding hiring and recruiting practices among companies in the tech industry, according to Washington Post staff writer Cecilia Kang.

“By agreeing not to hire away top talent, the companies could be stifling competition and trying to maintain their market power unfairly,” antitrust experts said in the article. Hiring and recruiting can sometimes be a touchy affair, as Apple found out late last year when trying to hire Mark Papermaster. The investigation may suggest some kind of written agreement among large tech firms to not hire away each other’s top talent.

Your cherished icons are businesses, and your cherished administration has determined they are evil.

An Idea Whose Time Hasn’t Yet Come, And Probably Never Will

Behold the mighty Fugoo:

Soon that “networked home” (once the stuff of animation and science fiction) could become a reality: This summer a group of personal computer veterans will start selling Fugoo, a brick-size box that will plug into specially outfitted home appliances and connect them to the Internet — and one another — via broadband wireless systems.

You know, that sort of thing has been available for several years–if not a decade–through the Smart Home catalog.

How does the latest and the greatest work?

Here’s how it works: Each Fugoo box is loaded with a Via Technologies processor and the Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) operating system. It retails for $99. When a box is installed, appliances that have been outfitted especially for Fugoo are then able to talk to one another over a Wi-Fi network. The appliances can also retrieve information from the Internet, so your alarm clock could also tell you the weather, for example, or provide a traffic report. Once appliances are connected to the Internet, you can do all sorts of cool things: use a smartphone to remotely program the coffeemaker to have a fresh pot waiting for you when you get home from work, say.

The devil, you say! An alarm clock that can provide weather and traffic reports! Probably even specifically tailored to your local region through a complex proprietary algorithm. Wow! That’s so much more advanced than the $10 alarm radio I got as a Christmas present 20 years ago and continue to use today. And a coffee machine that automatically makes coffee. Wild!

The problem, though:

Before that can happen, though, Fugoo will need to cajole appliance makers and software developers alike to produce products that work with the Fugoo box, in much the same way Intel had to persuade the computer industry to embed Wi-Fi chips in laptops.

The company hopes that in the future, device manufacturers will simply build Fugoo capability into their products the same way that, say, your car might have a docking station for your iPod.

Do cars have iPod docks? I’ve seen the alternative input jacks, but not proprietary things like iPod docks.

Every couple of years, some company chases this pipe dream and gets some press coverage. But, really, do you want to hook your home appliances up to the Internet and its attendant hackers? I do not, and I don’t see any value in using a smart phone to check if my laundry is done.

Apple Is Mandatory

Class lectures? There’s an app for that: Journalism school to require iPod use:

Kayla Miller isn’t sure why she would need an iPhone or an iPod Touch in her courses at the University of Missouri, but she likes the idea of the school requiring students to have them.

“I don’t really see a need for them, but I think it’s cool,” she said.

After all, Miller, 19, said, if the devices are required — as they will be for all incoming journalism majors starting in the fall — many parents will feel like they have to buy them for their teens. Even though she’ll be a sophomore next year and won’t be required to have one, Miller said she might urge her parents to buy her one for her journalism courses, anyway.

The MU School of Journalism is requiring that all incoming freshmen have iPhones or iPod Touch devices to “help students adjust to freshmen year,” Associate Dean Brian Brooks said. “It also would allow them to record lectures and review it. Many schools are doing it now, and it seemed like a great idea to us.”

See, while you’re looking at Halliburton and Blackwater, the corporations favored by the cool and the hep are becoming mandatory.

And the worst part is the well-conditioned student who is in favor of compulsory iPods even though she doesn’t see the need for it. She just accepts that the authorities are compelling students for the better.

I’m not saying I fear for the future of this country, because that might imply I think this country has a future. Instead, here are real estate listings for Sandpoint, Idaho. Good luck.

(Hat tip to gimlet.)

Irony That’s Lost On A Technical Recruiter

Classic Craigslist job listing: VAX VMS/COBOL (St. Louis):

We are a Fortune 1000 company with 60,000 employees globally and 2.5 billion dollars in revenue. We provide software solutions and business consulting to global corporations, using some of the world most sophisticated and advanced technologies.

. . . .

Work Experience requirements:

Minimum 5 years programming experience on VAX/ALPHA Machines

Minimum 3 years experience with COBOL/OPEN VMS

Must have hands-on experience in Datatrieve, CMS, COBOL, DCL, RMS and DecForms

Experience with usage of System Service and Run-Time Library Functions on Open VMS

Yeah, the technical recruiter did not even know these things don’t go together.

Point/Counterpoint, Unintentionally

ComputerWorld runs two stories this week which illustrate a point/counterpoint, albeit unintentionally.

First, an editorial shrieking about how not having electronic medical records is dangerous:

The medical data that might have saved me several hours of terror sat unused. It was unavailable to doctors outside of Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Keene clinic, except by mail or fax. And even if the clinic could transmit my records, Charlotte Regional Medical Center’s systems were incapable of receiving them. According to its records department, the hospital still uses paper-based processes for its medical records.

On the other hand, here’s a frightening story about online medical records:

University of Miami officials last week acknowledged that six backup tapes from its medical school that contained more than 2 million medical records was stolen in March from a van that was transporting the data to an off-site facility.

Perhaps someone in the know weighs the chances of a faulty diagnosis against the chances of the data being stolen and determined the risk of theft is greater. Perhaps not.

But that’s a consideration to make, ainna?

Wait! Facebook Will Change Everything!

I suppose that Web 2.0 will change everything in this instance:

Time may be running out for lawmakers hoping to pass a controversial civil union bill this year, but supporters are getting some untraditional help to boost interest: a “Facebook” army of more than 8,000 supporters.

This is meaningful because it supports the narrative and preferred mindset of the journalist. I mean, it’s 8,000 names on an Internet bulletin board or Internet petition.