Who Needs A Facsimile?

Full-Sized Commodore 64 Remake ‘The C64’ Now Available for Preorder.

After all, I already have five:

as well as a Commodore 128 that I received from blogger Triticale, the rye and wheat guy, may he rest in peace:

So, actually….

I might need one as I haven’t lit one of them up in a couple of years, and as modern televisions and monitors make the video connections tricky, and as old 1541 floppy drives are notoriously dicey….

(Link via Vodkapundit on Instapundit.)

A New Amazon Dirty Trick Bug

I’ve noticed a couple of times over the last couple of weeks that, when I order something, the items remain in the cart. So if I was not paying attention, I might order the same thing again.

Such as these four CDs that I ordered the other day:

You see, I already ordered them.

Today, I decided to order a guitar strap online since I have two guitars in my office, but only one strap, and I forgot to pick one up when taking a baritone into the local music shop for repair.

So I added one to my cart, and:

As I said, I’ve seen this behavior before, and I’ve been fortunate enough to not mistakenly order the same thing twice, but come on. I’m just cynical enough to think, “Bugs resulting in more revenue get addressed last” even though I don’t quite believe it. Not quite.

Not Exactly Small Businesses

Airbnb was like a family, until the layoffs started:

On May 5, after almost two months of working alone in his San Francisco apartment, Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, cried into his video camera.

It was a Tuesday, not that it mattered because the days had blurred together, and Chesky was addressing thousands of his employees. Looking into his webcam, he read from a script that he had written to tell them that the coronavirus had crushed the travel industry, including their home rental startup. Divisions would have to be cut and workers laid off.

“I have a deep feeling of love for all of you,” Chesky said, his voice cracking. “What we are about is belonging, and at the center of belonging is love.” Within a few hours, 1,900 employees — a quarter of Airbnb’s workforce — were told they were out. [Emphasis added.]

LinkedIn cuts 960 jobs as pandemic puts the brakes on corporate hiring

Microsoft’s professional networking site LinkedIn said on Tuesday it would cut about 960 jobs, or 6% of its global workforce, as the coronavirus pandemic is having a sustained impact on demand for its recruitment products. [Emphasis added.]

Wow, those are some huge tech companies. I can’t imagine how it would take that many people to do a tech company, but then again, I’m not a millionaire or billionaire, so it’s clear that the tech companies I’ve worked for never were that, erm, successful.

GoogleBit Tries To Upgrade Its Product: Me

So I’ve had a FitBit for a couple years, and I was dismayed when Google bought it last year.

The time has come for Google to upgrade its product, which is apparently me.

Previously, the FitBit would track my routes on bike rides and runs when I set it to track my location only when using the FitBit to, you know, track my route.

However, a new update has changed that as well as bollixing the historical data (the route on the run above is actually two miles running out of Sequiota Park).

Now, I can only track my route if I authorize Google to track my movement every minute of the day:

If I run around the perimeter of Nogglestead, which is a third of a mile with at least intermittent connection to my wireless network, I get information about the run including heart rates and pace as well as a handy map that shows me exactly what part of my yard’s perimeter is in wireless range:

If I have not opted to share my location at all times with Google, I get stuff calculated from the stride length and not much more:

No map, no heart rate graph, no pace information.

This could be a bug of some sort.

But I think it’s more likely a reason to get an Apple Watch or a Garmin. Or go back to wearing my old Timex.

AI Rorschach Test

So I’ve been writing my grandmother letters every week or so during The Lockdown as she has mentioned on occasion (the occasions being whenever we talk) that she likes my letters (previously sent at Christmas time and when the boys’ spring pictures come out). I’ve added some pictures to the letters, embedding the digital images right in the letter instead of printing them separately because there’s no need for her to have them aside from the letters, and if they fade in a couple of years, no one will care about my letters to Nana.

But as I’ve added the images, I see that Microsoft Word has had some ALT text to the images for some damn reason, as though Nana is going to have a screen reader read the printed letter to her. Who knows? Microsoft knows best, and it obscures the settings to turn its new (aka within the last fifteen years’ worth of) Microsoft Office stupidity if you even can.

So we get Artificial Intelligence Rorschach tests. Tell me, Microsoft AI, what do you see here with a picture of three fools in the pool in the middle of April, when the water is still cold?

Yes, clearly that is a bench sitting in the water. I suppose I should be happy it did not think that was three Loch Ness Monsters doing something out of the Kama Sutra, which to be honest, I might have seen were it a black and white blot of similar shapes.

Okay, so I tell Nana about snake flashcards I made and the snake in the garden that inspired it. So here’s a picture I stole from the Missouri Department of Conservation Web site of the prairie ring-necked snake.

Oh wise oracle of Azure, what do youit see?

A cat lying on the ground indeed.

You know, these answers are so far off, I wonder two things:

One, why is Microsoft even bothering to expose this nonsense to users when it is so very clearly not right at all?

Or, second, why does the artificial intelligence want us to think it is stupid? What is its real goal here?

Cue Up The Walter Murphy

I’ve created a couple extra Facebook accounts to use in my software testing for signing up or logging in via Facebook, which leads to a lot of suggestions that indicate that Facebook knows what I’m doing.

Or at least excuses to listen to the Walter Murphy Band.

As I have mentioned, I own A Fifth of Beethoven on both CD and vinyl. So clearly I do not need much excuse to cue it up.

A Quiz I Passed, If You Ask Me

In Memoriam: Technology That Died in 2019.

I won’t reproduce the entire list of, what, 67 “technologies” that appear in the listicle. I will, however, point out that I have only used three of them (Adobe Shockwave, Google+, and iTunes on the Macintosh). I have heard of a couple more of them, but most of the others are companies or offerings I’ve never even heard of.

Which I count as a win, as it might mean that I focus on the important things in life, which are in meatspace, or that I am not a young Internet content creator who feels the need to come up with an extensive list of obscure things for $25.

Instead, I’m an old Internet content creator who feels the need to comment on such listicles for free.

(Link via Instapundit.)

The Heart of Facebook Darkness

Like Ann Althouse, I’ve been seeing prompts by Facebook to join various groups on its site.

Which is weird; I am on a couple for my martial arts school and run one (The Legion of Metal Friends). So it’s not as though I’m unfamiliar with the concept. However, I’m not actively looking to increase my engagement with the intrusive behemoth at this time, thanks.

Which is weird, because Facebook recently killed a large group:

Recently, Facebook deleted without warning or explanation the Banting7DayMealPlan user group. The group has 1.65 million users who post testimonials and other information regarding the efficacy of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. While the site has subsequently been reinstated (also without warning or explanation), Facebook’s action should give any serious person reason to pause, especially those of us engaged in activities contrary to prevailing opinion.

So I’ve fixed one of their Group come-ons for them:

Of course, I’m just incensed that Facebook reminded me of my recent anniversary a day late. Thanks, Facebook. I can make that mistake on my own.

You Can Probably Guess The Answer

So I’m in the process of transitioning computers, which means I have to again set my Web browser to stop bothering me when every last Web site wants to send me notifications.

This is a simple config change, but I did a quick Web search to ensure I set the correct preference name to false.

The Web search led me to a Reddit topic:

Which was obscured by Reddit prompting me about its notifications.

Note to self: It’s dom.webnotifications.enabled.

Also, let it be noted that when previewing this post, I had the impulse to click Not Now on the above picture out of recently acquired habit.

We All Know The Ultimate Goal

How the Army plans to use Microsoft’s high-tech HoloLens goggles on the battlefield:

The Army recently invited CNBC to see how it will use specially modified Microsoft HoloLens 2 headsets. They’re part of a $480 million defense contract won by the company. The military wouldn’t say how much its version costs, but the consumer one costs $3,500.

We all know why the army is going with Microsoft here.

They want Halo Spartans.

(Link via VodkaPundit at Instapundit.)

Clearly, Twitter Knows What’s Best For Me

I used to tweet every day. I set up a Twitter account a long time ago, not long after a fellow I worked with recommended it because I would set my Yahoo! Messenger status to clever things throughout the day, and he said that Twitter was a way to do that where the clever things would persist.

So I used it to post ‘clever’ things about the work day and quality assurance and to chit chat with other testers.

But a couple of years ago, both my Twitter feed and Twitter started to change. Twitter decided to make its Notifications screen not a mention of tweets to you and retweets of your tweets, but also unrelated and trivial things, like noting that people you follow followed someone or liked the tweet of someone, and it started to make recommendations for you. We’ll get to that in a moment.

I also found that the tweets on the feed were becoming mostly political. In the embryonic stage of the #MeToo moment, the women testers on my feed started talking about the gender disparity in tech, and soon that overran my feed since men either agreed or moved on. Once that started, and perhaps somewhere at or after 2012, the formerly tech-specific people I followed were all-politics most-of-the-time. Twitter wasn’t fun any more.

I still log in once every couple of months to see if I’ve missed and Direct Messages (I have not; the last DM I have is from former reader and commenter John Farrier, and that’s from years ago).

When I logged in yesterday, all of the above culminated in this “recommendation:”

Clearly, Twitter is not sharing data with Facebook, where the political leanings silo puts me to the right of the Birchers.

So, does Twitter recommend this particular vocal representative to me because:

  • A lot of people I follow follow her?
  • A lot of people I follow are left wing, so I must be left wing, too, so here’s someone else who is left wing?
  • The congressional representative or some shadowy dark money enterprise paid Twitter to suggest her a lot?
  • Twitter, the company, the organization, the entity, wants me to follow her?

Given the opacity of Big Tech and its algorithms, it could be any of them.

Creepily Accurate

So Facebook has built an animation for me that shows just how few photos I’ve shared on Facebook this year, and I cannot help but note that one of the images is peeking through a keyhole:

You know, if I were reviewing this, I would have said, “Isn’t that what our users are afraid of?”

Obsolete Technology Quiz; Or, “What’s In Brian J.’s Closet?”

Via Ace of Spades HQ’s overnight thread, we get this story: Obsolete technologies that will baffle modern children – in pictures.

You know what that looks like to me? A quiz about what things Brian J. still has lying around the house.

So I’ll bold the things I still have and will italicise the things that I had at one point because, hey, there are multiple text styles.

  • Floppy disk (I have both 5.25″ and 3.5″)
  • Sony Walkman
  • Rotary phone (I still have an old timey wall-mount phone with a cord)
  • Typewriter (I think I’m down to one old electric typewriter these days)
  • Stand alone camera (Many)
  • Atari 2600 (Also many)
  • Nintendo Game Boy (it’s on the wall, but some Game Boy Advances are in the closet)
  • Betamax (I might have had one pass through my possession in the old eBay-selling days, but I can’t be sure–I did have some Betamax cassettes though)
  • VHS tapes (which are on the shelves with the DVDs)
  • Cathode Ray Tube Monitor (Although at this point, I am down to a boxed Commodore monitor)
  • Slide projector (I don’t have one, but I do have a little slide viewer and a bunch of old slides)
  • Game cartridges (for many systems from the aforementioned Atari 2600 to the depicted N64)
  • Walkie talkies (my children have one or more sets, or at least one of one or more sets)
  • Pagers (Never had one, but carried one, briefly, when I was ‘on call’ as a technical writer for the Y2K remediation effort)
  • Polaroid instant camera (Got one for selling Olympic, but I have since divested myself of the one or more I’ve owned)
  • Answering machine (Not tape-based, but I still have the one that my mother bought me in 1997 so she could leave me messages in my new apartment)
  • Sony MiniDisc Player (Although I suspect there’s a Sony DiscMan around here somewhere)
  • Camcorder (Maybe I had one pass through my hands; I don’t know what happened to my mother’s old one)
  • Edison Gold and Stock Ticker
  • Fax machine (although I can send faxes with my all-in-one printer, it’s been a year or so since the last stand-alone fax machine passed through Nogglestead as my mother-in-law got rid of one by giving it to me to use or donate–I donated it)
  • BBC Micro (Never heard of it, but now I want one)

Jeez, I am only 11/21.

I can do better.

Also, note that my children do know many of these old technologies as a result.

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.