Apple Card

Twelve and a half years after Steve Jobs borrows technology already in use by Palm and Handspring to create the iPhone, Apple has today invented the credit card. Now, some will say, “wait a minute, credit cards have been around for decades.” But that would be incorrect. There has never been a credit card made of titanium before! An actual metal card, not plastic.

TechLeadWhy the Apple Card is pure garbage – Aug 21, 2019

I’m kidding. It really is garbage, as the video above goes into. In fact, cashback cards in general are garbage, something he doesn’t go into. Cashback is a gimmick. The card issuers count on you charging things and then forgetting to pay the cards off each month. They don’t make money unless you pay them interest for carrying a balance from month to month.

The solution to the credit problem is not to have any credit cards. Use cards tied to your bank accounts, issued by your bank or credit union (I try to only use credit unions myself) and only use credit when absolutely necessary. Then pay back the entire amount as fast as possible in order to reduce your own costs. If you have to have a card to do certain kinds of transactions, have one card to do those transactions with and then pay that card off before the issuer can charge you for the carry-over balance.

60% of reward cards holders don’t pay off their balances each month. That statistic troubles personal finance experts, because credit card interest rates are at a 25-year high.

NPR

It would really be nice to have enough money (as the youtuber above clearly has) to be able to resist the urge to put essentials on credit. To go on a spending spree and not have to worry about doing without essentials later. If you cannot afford to buy essentials, you cannot afford to have that temptation lying around. Cut up the cards and never look back.

The concept of customers paying different merchants using the same card was expanded in 1950 by Ralph Schneider and Frank McNamara, founders of Diners Club, to consolidate multiple cards. The Diners Club, which was created partially through a merger with Dine and Sign, produced the first “general purpose” charge card and required the entire bill to be paid with each statement. That was followed by Carte Blanche and in 1958 by American Express which created a worldwide credit card network (although these were initially charge cards that later acquired credit card features).

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The US government has taken to issuing charge cards to people who qualify for benefits these days. I’m not sure what I think of this development other than that it is a way to get funds into the hands of the unbanked, a serious problem in poverty stricken areas. And as long as the card only works up to the point where the benefits end, that shouldn’t be a problem. What would be a problem is the government issuing cards that could then be used to tie more poor people to debt that they will never be able to pay off. That would be a problem.

So, there you have it. Apple creates the charge card in 2019, about 150 years after the idea is first proposed in speculative fiction, and about 60 years after the first general charge card is introduced into the consuming population. Just in case you thought Steve Jobs was full of himself when he claimed to create the smartphone. Apple creates Paypal for Apple, joining the leagues of credit card issuers that are only a benefit to the wealthy who can pay their cards off regularly. Charge cards which are just another cross for the poor to be hung on, unless those poor are lucky enough to qualify for government benefits. In which case, track your balance! (the one solid word of financial advice offered in the video) But, you know, shiney new overpriced technology. We’re all excited to see it. Can’t you tell?

A h/t is due to the Economist Radio episode Money talks: From bad to wurst-Germany’s economy shrinks where I first heard of this latest offering from Apple.

Sneaker Netting the Vote

“There was a drive that was left out from the D’Iberville Civic Center,” Newman’s campaign manager Holly Gibbes said. “Those numbers were never counted. (Harrison County Circuit Clerk) Connie Ladner‘s office produced that thumb drive today and added it in.

“The thumb drive and all the affidavits, absentees and what could be counted is what put Dixie up by one vote.”

Gibbes said there are still three affidavit votes that have yet to be certified. Those three voters have 96 hours to bring their photo IDs to Ladner’s office in the Gulfport courthouse. Those individuals and their votes are only known by Ladner.

Sun Herald, Lost thumb drive changes Coast Senate race.

I’ve never understood why we do anything we do the way we do it. Everytime some moron gets caught doing stupid stuff like this people start chanting Paper ballots! Paper ballots! I get that paper ballots are more reliable and provide an alternative when an initial count goes awry. A paper trail comes in handy when you screw up counting the votes the first time, like the officials clearly have screwed the count up for this race in Mississippi, this time. They’re going to need paper ballots to recount now. Hope they have them. But how about we don’t screw up the vote the first time, when we go to vote in the future? Why don’t we start with that?

Yes, the current crop of electronic voting machines are questionable in accuracy and are pretty much just black boxes filled with proprietary software authored by the lowest bidder in a government contract executed more than twenty years ago. I’ll grant that they are shabby and their ability to count accurately is questionable. But even given all of that, why on Earth would you a) put electronic voting records on a thumb drive, EVER and b) why would the entity entrusted with counting those ballots ever accept votes that were passed on that way? We make all this crap way, way harder than it has to be.

There is encryption software out there now that could keep your identity as a voter private, but at the same time tell third parties who your vote was for. There is blockchain bookkeeping to keep all of those individual ballots together and properly tabulated. But instead of using the technology we have available to us now, we are sneaker-netting the ballots on thumb drives? Why bother to count at all if that’s the level of security we’re relying on? Heads he’s elected, tails she is sounds just about as effective. A lot cheaper, too.

Yes, paper ballots are preferable to that kind of crap, but why are we doing things that way in the first place? We start the election on this or that day, we hold the ballots open with every person able to verify their ballot is still present and correct until the day when the voting is supposed to end, and then we hold the election ‘open’ until the count is done AND everyone has verified their vote was in the count.

Thumbdrives? Thumbdrives. (shakes head in disgust) I need a drink.

Facebook

Mississippi passed a voter ID law 2014. That law require voters to show state approved photo identification at the polls. If you show up to vote without a “proper” ID, you can still vote, but you have to return to the district voting office within 96 hours and show your ID. If you don’t, your vote doesn’t count.

So, they’ve got a law to certify voters, but not one for … thumb drives.

Stonekettle Station

Push Notifications

I have turned off all push alerts. My email doesn’t push. My Twitter doesn’t push. No Insta push.

Sam Sanders

Three minutes from the end of The Democratic Field, Trump And Eyes Toward 2020: An All-Politics Mid-Year Special self-care tips for journalists and news junkies.

As do I. Well, email pushes, but only for things I want to read. I’m not sure why more people don’t do this. On android when the notification comes up, if you don’t want to see it, just hold your finger on it until the notification expands then turn the switch to off. Done. No more frustrations except the ones you ask for.

50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

Listening to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe #732, they briefly got into the fact that they would be releasing that episode on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Having spent several hours on that day listening to podcasts about the historic occasion, I was jarred into putting an entry on the blog that mentions what is hands down the best podcast about the moon landings that I’ve run across so far.

It’s Thirteen Minutes to the Moon from the BBC, one of several podcast moments that I shared in the newsletter for Sunday. If you only listen to one podcast about the moon landing in your life, listen to this one.

Stitcher – BBC’s 13 Minutes to the Moon

BBC’s artwork for the program. Beautiful design.

As for the other things in the newsletter apropo to the event, wehackthemoon.com was just a cool website. It was mentioned in one of the early episodes of Thirteen Minutes to the Moon. The one about software, I’m pretty sure. All kinds of interactive stuff to do there and the only way to experience it is to click on the link and go there. The Texas Standard stories are pretty self-explanatory. Then there was this film that was advertised far and wide right before the anniversary,

Trailer: Chasing the MoonBluray

I’m looking forward to getting a chance to watch that movie. Since I couldn’t do more than link the trailer, I didn’t even bother to include it in the newsletter that day. It was already getting more exposure through podcast advertising than I could ever give it by sharing the trailer.

…and that’s the way it is.

Walter Cronkite

Nuzzel’s internal functions are shielded from archival for some reason. The Wayback Machine returns an error when I try to save the newsletter to the archive. I’ll just cut and paste the text of the damn thing here, that way there won’t be an emotional outburst when I go back to find the thing and it’s gone here in a few years.

Notre-Dame came far closer to collapsing than people knew. This is how it was saved.
The New York Times – Elian Peltier – Jul 16, 8:27 PMPARIS — The employee monitoring the smoke alarm panel at Notre-Dame cathedral was just three days on the job when the red warning light flashed on the evening of April 15: “Feu.” Fire. It was 6:18 on a Monday, the week before…More info…

BBC World Service – 13 Minutes to the Moon
BBC How the first moon landing was saved. The full story of the people who made Apollo 11 happen and prevented it from going badly wrong. Theme music by Hans Zimmer. Added, go to My Music to see full list. ranthony I’ve been sitting on this podcast until the 50th anniversary day rolled around. That was Saturday. Pretty interesting podcast so far. I’m up to episode 5.

Hack the Moon
Hack the Moon – Jan 27’One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ But it almost didn’t happen. Apollo 11 was the mission that enabled… Full Story Astronaut Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 11 mission, visited the MIT Instrumentation Lab…More info…

Why Apollo 11 Wouldn’t Have Happened Without Lyndon Johnson
Texas Standard – Michael Marks – Jul 19, 8:14 AMOn Oct. 4, 1957, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, and his wife Lady Bird, were entertaining friends at their ranch in the Texas Hill Country. The Johnsons often took after-dinner walks – a habit they developed after he had a heart…More info…

How Space Exploration Provided A New Career Path For Women
Texas Standard – Alexandra Hart – Jul 19, 8:55 AMParish Hirasaki was not planning on being a scientist. At least, not when she first got to Duke University. “I was sent off to college to find a husband,” Hirasaki says. “And to get a teaching degree so if god forbid anything…More info…

Spam Comments

I get a ton of spam comments. Tons of ’em every day, far more spam than any blog ever gets in the way of legitimate feedback, ever, and this is probably true of everyone who runs a blog anywhere on the internet. Most of the spam is advertising. Every drug that you can name is being spammed daily on every blog on the internet. Multiple “free sex” advertisements, far more advertized sex than I could have engaged in even when I was seventeen and could go all day long at it.

As I’m going through the comments today that my spam filtering service has set aside for me, I’ve noticed a new trend among the flood of viagra and things to do with viagra advertisements. Fake coded transmissions. No I’m not shitting you on this. Codes for SkyKing, Mr.s (sp) Fister, Alex9 and Dreamwalker telling them do not delete this! I took more than average pleasure in punching the delete permanently button. I just thought I’d pass that on.

Daily Beef: Where is my Phone?

When I bought my latest phone and paired it with my Aftershokz bluetooth headset, a bone-conduction headset that allows me to hear sounds my ears no longer pick up, the nearly pure Android OS on the phone worked beautifully. Now that I had a phone that was something near current in technology, I discovered that the tech allowed me to do things that I had never thought to try doing before.

Things like telling my phone to find itself for me. It’s a bluetooth headset, it is securely linked to the phone, all you have to do is trigger the voice dialer on the headset and ask the headset “where is my phone?” then the helpful Google assistant speaks again and offers to ring the phone for you. Or rather, it did until sometime in the last few weeks.

The brain fog that is a side-effect of Meniere’s symptoms leaves me pretty much a basket case for days at a time. I spend a lot of time looking for things that I’ve set down somewhere, but I can’t remember where. As I’m standing there looking for my phone I remember I can ask the headset to find the phone for me. So I ask the question. This is the response I got.

An app? Why the fuck should I download an app? Why would Google seperate out the functions that were available right from the headset, and put them in an app? When I finally found the phone, conveniently located exactly where I last left it, I downloaded the app and then tried to use it to find my device. The app helpfully told me that the phone was in my hand. Well, duh. There was no function at all within the app to allow it to do the thing I used to do by triggering voice dial on the headset. Or as I said to Google in my feedback,

This app is fucking useless. If I had two phones, maybe not. But now when I ask Google “where is my phone” it unhelpfully directs me to get this app rather than offering to ring my phone as it has done for me for the last couple of years. Why in the hell would you take that functionality out of the OS? Now I have to own two phones or use a desktop computer to access the device connected to my Bluetooth headset? Why in the hell should I have to do that, when the two devices are securely connected?

Feedback that Google promptly deleted, probably because I violated their feedback standards by cursing at them. What do they expect when they break shit that works? It’s not like this is the first time. I doubt that it will be the last time, either.

For the last week Android has unhelpfully directed me to download this useless app, the app that only tells me when the phone is in my hand, the app that cannot possibly locate the phone’s precise location using current technology even if I had two phones so that when I lose one I can find it with the other, that app was what Google wanted me to go use. Until today. Today, on a whim, I asked the headset “where is my phone” and it responded “I can ring your Motorola phone for you. Would you like me to do that?” as if the last week of hopeless irritation had been a bad dream. I nearly cheered, but instead just told the voice “no”, which it quite typically didn’t understand and unhelpfully informed me that it could only ring the last two phones I had, to which I responded with what it could go do with itself for all its troubles…

…but at least that one useful function has been restored. I would prefer not to lose the phone in the first place, but at least I haven’t driven down the road with my phone sitting on top of my car. Driving along wondering where I had put the thing but confident it was in the car since my audio kept playing on the bluetooth connection. At least I’m not that forgetful. Yet. Who does that? Did someone do that? How would I know?

The Amazon/Ubik Conundrum

I was aghast to discover that I had missed a Philip K. Dick novel the other day. I had shared an image on Facebook that discussed the dangers of pissing off a redhead (or ginger. This image.) something I do every day with the Wife, especially when I point out that her temper proves she is a ginger. That woman can punch hard when she thinks she’s being insulted. However, I’ve seen the carpet a few times in our thirty years of marriage. She’s a ginger. The sun lightens the hair on her head, as it does for most strawberry blondes. But the long-running argument between Red and I wasn’t the subject I wanted to discuss here. Missing from the image was one of my favorite examples of redheads that you really don’t want to piss off, and that is the potentially causality destroying character from the movie Prince of Darkness.

You Are Receiving This Broadcast As A Dream | Prince of Darkness (1987)

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

The Mourning Bride, by William Congreve

…and she was pretty pissed at the end of that film. With good reason. So anyway, another friend and fan of the ginger set said that the clip reminded him of the novel Ubik by Philip K. Dick. Having never read the book I felt I had to remedy my lack of knowledge and went directly to Amazon.com to see if the book was available on Audible. Then I could read the book and find out what it was that he thought was similar between the book and the movie.

Ever since I started getting vertigo I’ve had a problem with the repetitive back and forth motion of the eyes while reading making me tired and dizzy and potentially bringing on vertigo, So I get books on audio now. I listen to so many books that it pays off to have an Audible account. Aside from having a regular supply of books to have read to me, if I feel like I want to access the text of the book I can get whispersync from Amazon to synchronize between the audiobook and the Kindle book, and that makes the experience a win-win for me no matter how I want to learn something new.

This was one of those instances where I was tempted to get both the Kindle book and the audiobook, especially since the page on Amazon offered me the Kindle book for $3.62 as shown in the header image for this article. Less than four bucks more and I could have the book to read for myself if I felt like reading it! So I bought the book and downloaded both versions to my phone. Then I noticed something odd. The Kindle book was not in English, it was in Romansh. I don’t even know what region of the world Romansh is spoken in, much less speak it myself.

Well, that’s weird. The Ubik page on Amazon’s website is written in English and it doesn’t say anything about the other versions of the book that are listed as being in other languages. Feel free to click the link under the image and see for yourself. There is no way to find the English Kindle book short of looking specifically for the book as a Kindle book and that book is not $3.62 it’s $9.99 (free with kindleunlimited! Another fucking subscription service. Just what I need.) more than twice the price of the Kindle book I was first offered. I know what this is, even though I’ve not seen it too many times before. This is false advertising, and I’ve been taken in by it.

So I started the refund on the Kindle book in a language I can’t read and opened a chat dialog with someone at Amazon so that I could resolve the problem of being sold something that I didn’t want. What I wanted was the book in English, the language the book was originally written in, and I wanted it at the advertised price on the Ubik page on Amazon. I mean, it takes less work to port over the exact type script of the original work than it does to pay someone to translate the book into another language, edit, copyedit, format, etc. the new manuscript into another language. Why was the Kindle book twice the price?

Well, I know why the Kindle book was twice the price, as does every person who deals with the frustration of getting any book in this day and age. Amazon and Apple and just about every other digital book publisher rigs the prices of books through contractual obligations at artificially high prices where they can get away with them, and then offers bargain prices where they cannot gouge the unsuspecting customer. And after an hour or so of arguing with the representative in the Amazon chat service, they conceded I had a legitimate complaint but that they were not contractually able to offer the digital books at the same prices that they offer them at in other countries and for other languages. However, I could get a credit for the difference in price between the two books, and that was the best that they could do for me. So I took the only route available to me and accepted the credit offer. Not that it really made me happy.


Today on Facebook I was offered a memory I may have missed from June 11th, 2018. Hey, it’s been a year and four days since the Amazon/Ubik conundrum. I’ve listened to/read the book now. More than once. I know why the dream sequence reminded my friend of that book. The one unresolved conundrum here is that the webpage for Ubik on Amazon still takes you to the Romansh Kindle version even when you type “Ubik” in a fresh instance on the Amazon store. Even though I returned that book and bought the English version for a final price of $3.62 when the store credit was applied. Even though I helpfully reiterated the potential legal liability that Amazon was opening itself up to by putting a price and no stated language waiver on the combined Ubik page that you land on when you type in Ubik on their home screen.

One whole year later, still not fixed. I saved the chat session logs. I saved the page images. It’s a simple thing to reassemble the entire conundrum, so I figured I’d do that. I mean, I’ve given them a year to fix their programming and they still haven’t done it. I wonder how many Kindle books there are out there that are offered at a lower price in a language other than English, versions that are offered on landing pages when you go looking for a book by its title? Books that are not the books that the shopper is looking for, even though they are tempted to buy the books for the lower price stated, later to have to go through the exact same process I have had to go through? There’s a class action lawsuit in there somewhere for the savvy lawyer to take advantage of. Just send my children the finders fee twenty years from now when the lawsuit settles, would you?


“To clarify, most of the ‘not on service’ shows are available for purchase on Amazon, but are not included with a Prime Video membership,” the analysts wrote. “So, consumers are confusing the streaming service for the Amazon video store.”

Even worse, the firm suggests that “it may be Amazon’s strategy to use Prime Video as a barker channel to upsell consumers to rent or buy the titles they want to see.”

InIn other words, the interface could very well be intentionally set up to prey upon your impulses at exactly the moment when you are most vulnerable. Let’s face it—how else are you going to save this pitiful Saturday night?

Fast Company – Amazon Prime Video is confusing its customers with bait-and-switch tactics, survey shows

Adobe Will Not Sue You, But They Still Suck as a Corporation.

In a controversial move, Adobe pivoted away from the standard software model to the cloud-based subscription model in 2013, resulting in notably higher revenues (and higher prices for customers). Dolby’s lawsuit accused Adobe of copyright violations related to how the licensing costs Adobe paid to Dolby would be calculated under this new model.

VICE

The Wife is a guest author for this post. It seems she has a problem with this article I shared recently.


I have friends and family who read VICE frequently and believe it to be authentic and authoritative. I haven’t been so sure on that point. After reading the referenced article I think I know where to place VICE and its reporting. It is just another online tabloid. Sensationalist titles like this one with no basis in the facts of the story make VICE look more like an online scandal sheet than a reliable news source.

Mr. Bode didn’t even get his story right. Adobe’s letter was specifically directed to versions of the old Flash CC (the Creative Cloud version of Adobe Animate) specifically, versions that were using an add-in software product written by a third party. For whatever reason, Adobe is no longer utilizing software from that company so they are warning users that the software can no longer be licensed and that they should update to the newer CC versions of the Flash/Animate software as the license agreement they signed requires.

I looked deeper into this story and subject because I have pre-Creative Cloud versions of Photoshop and the full Adobe suite from the mid 2000’s. I was concerned that maybe my versions of the software were going to be the subject of the suit in question. But no, Adobe will not sue me for using pre-Creative Cloud software and is only sending out a warning to the users of the specific Adobe Flash/Animate software which is already under litigation by a third party. Those people could be subject to suit by someone if they continue using the now unlicensed software that they installed and have not updated.

I am providing feedback to VICE in this fashion because Vice doesn’t appear to have a means of providing feedback directly to the writers or to the managers of the website, a nearly unforgivable oversight on the part of your web programmers in this day and age.

No I’m not an Adobe fan. I think their Creative Cloud model of charging end users a monthly fee for software, software that is constantly updated and essentially never out of beta testing is a seriously stupid way of writing business software.

However the VICE article is inflammatory and highly misleading. The one ray of sunshine in the entire article is the screenshot of the notice that was sent to licensees by Adobe. Yes, Adobe has the obligation to let the licensees know that they could be subject to suit by someone if they continue using that software professionally. I was sent this same article by several clients and friends who were concerned that they or I might be sued for using Photoshop as the title of the article suggests.

This is why the click-through licensing so common in today’s corporate software world is like the iceberg lying in wait for the Titanic. It’s smooth sailing until the corporation decides they have to fix something, and the users are left out in the cold without a lifeboat. Read the CC licenses folks, you are obligated to update Adobe CC software when new patches come out. That is your responsibility, not Adobes. It says so right there in black and white. The software may contain tools written for them by third parties and that by not updating you could run into license issues. They are only obligated to let you know when something expires, which is what the example letter does.

Again. Adobe will not sue you for using an old version of Photoshop. That is just, I hate to say it, fake news. Mr. Bode or his editors used the name Photoshop because Photoshop is a program that everyone knows, and Adobe Animate is not. Sensationalist headlines garner more clicks, and that’s all that tabloid reporting wants. More attention.

Long Live CS4 and CS6! Yes, I use the CC but I hate it (loathe it) when they update and at the same time break parts that I need to use. Without warning my video files no longer work because this or that codec is missing in the latest update of CC, and I have to go scramble and find the codec that I need so I can finish a project. It is beyond frustrating. However, I can pop in my copy of CS4 or CS6, and it works exactly the same way every time. The same way it has worked since I bought those versions of Adobe software a decade and more ago.

If you don’t want to have to update, don’t buy into Creative Cloud licensing. If you do buy in, adhere to your licensing requirements so that you can avoid being sued. It really is one way or the other.

Authenticators

The Microsoft authenticator asks to use the Microsoft authenticator to sign in. There is no joke here, but if there were, that would be the punchline. While setting up the Microsoft authenticator on my Android phone, the authenticator demanded I use the authenticator that I was setting up to authenticate my identity. To be fair, the Google authenticator would have done the same thing if I had added my Microsoft account to it instead of setting up the Microsoft authenticator, but that isn’t where this article started. It started with Microsoft software insisting I turn myself inside out in order to find my own skin.

This is a lot like using your Google voice phone number as part of your two-step verification process. You can’t two-step verify if your second verification is behind a firewall that requires the second step to penetrate. There is a workaround for the Google voice number problem, however there is no way to authenticate the authenticators unless you have two phones with one phone already authenticated. This is because you can’t get the Microsoft authenticator on a Windows desktop installation (Google? Mozilla? The ball is in your court.) It is only available for Android and iPhone.

I’m stuck in this predicament because I was trying to troubleshoot software issues on my Motorola phone. I’ve recently become addicted to Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem, but it crashes all the time. All the time as in about four screen changes to the next crash, crashes all the time. Maddeningly frequent. In an effort to see what was causing the problem I reset the phone to factory specs and then preformatted the SD card as part of the phone’s internal memory, a step I had neglected to perform previously, then activated applications until I started noticing the crash issue again. The cause of the crashes? My malware protection application appears to interfere with the wifi calls within the game program, and I’m not about to turn off my anti-malware application. So no fix on that score, but the phone does appear to function more predictably for other programs, so worth the trouble of going back and setting it up properly.

Or at least I thought that way until starting to reactivate some of the less frequently used Android applications. The Facebook and Twitter apps tw0-step verification worked just fine. Annoying but doable because I hadn’t switched them to using an external authenticator (luckily) If I had made an authenticator my second step to log in, then I would have immediately discovered this problem when I tried to log into those applications. The Steam mobile application is almost that bad. It at least gives you an option for hey dumbass this is the authenticator in question. Deauthorize it. I only used the Microsoft authenticator for Microsoft, and today I notice that I’m not signed into Bing.

Why do you need to be signed into Bing?

I’m glad you asked that question. Pull up a chair, it’s a long story. Today’s Windows spotlight image was of a very beautiful series of fields in Japan, but this is also the day when Microsoft doesn’t link the spotlight image as part of the splash screen display, a clickable link that allows you to look for versions of the specific image shown. Allows you to look for versions of the image that can be shared, or allows you to research the location as an educational effort or a possible travel destination. Bing is where the links on the splash screen go to, and I wondered if logging into Bing might give me different search results.

So I tried logging into Bing. Bing promptly demanded that I approve the Microsoft login from my authenticator app. I open the app on my phone, it doesn’t know it’s the authenticator for my phone and my Microsoft account. The authenticator wants me to authenticate on the authenticator that is being authenticated. Now the loop is complete. But it isn’t just Microsoft’s loop, it is Google’s authenticator loop as well. This would have been a problem if (will be a problem when) I discover that I used the authenticator for another program (fingers crossed) I’m not sure what good a mobile authenticator is if I have to go through this much trouble just to get them to work properly.

My Blizzard authenticator is a fob that I’ve managed not to lose for ten years. It still works ten years later and as long as I don’t lose it (fingers crossed) it’ll safeguard my Blizzard account without causing me to turn myself inside out trying to troubleshoot the problem. More than can be said for mobile authenticators.

If you lose your mobile device or (like me) reset your device to factory specs and reinstall all your apps from the Google backup you will have to re-authorize all your authenticators (at least, all of them that I’ve run across so far) If you use the Google authenticator for your Google account as part of your two-step verification, you will lose the ability to open your Google account. More importantly, you will lose access to any other account that relies on it as part of its two-step verification process. This is also true of the Microsoft authenticator.

So, how do you avoid the authenticator loop? Well, Microsoft allows you to remove the authenticator from your Microsoft account after you log into it with a browser. You will have to remember your password and be able to get a second verification by email or SMS if you have two-step verification set up. You can then follow the process for installing the authenticator again as if it was a new installation. You can also use the Google authenticator and add your Microsoft account to that authenticator if you like.

The authenticator is the second application whose data I have had to restore externally, the other one was my medical ID program containing personal data that I hadn’t saved anywhere else. Luckily I had shared the data directly with several physicians, professionals who happily gave me my own data back after I realized I had lost my only copy (now backed up externally) there is no way to transfer the authenticator security tokens to a new phone as of this writing. I’m just glad I never relied on the Google authenticator for my Google account. If you have done this, here is how you turn two-step verification back off. You’ll notice that the first thing you have to do is gain access to your Google account. So if you’ve already lost access to your account, you have my sympathy. I wish I had answers for you.

So what have we learned here? Well, I’ve discovering that mobile authenticators are almost more trouble than they are worth, and that’s three things I learned from resetting my phone to factory specs. I guess it was worth the trouble after all. Still wish I could get that game to stop crashing.

GIGO is a Thing, or Why Freedom of Speech Isn’t Free

In computer sciencegarbage in, garbage out (GIGO) describes the concept that flawed, or nonsense input data produces nonsense output or “garbage”.

The principle also applies more generally to all analysis and logic, in that arguments are unsound if their premises are flawed.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As a libertarian I used to believe some pretty crazy things. I believed that a dollar was something you worked for, for one. A dollar is a debt instrument that every business in the United States is required to accept as payment. It is not a measure of hours worked or effort expended. You don’t work for dollars, you have to have dollars to pay for the things you need or want. You trade effort or hours for dollars if you are a working stiff in the modern age. If you have dollars you make the dollars work for you to create more dollars. This is a subtle but important distinction, one that anyone who desires excessive wealth should take to heart.

Similarly I believed, and most libertarians still believe, that freedom of speech meant you had to listen to every idea equally. Give every idea equal weight. This crazy notion is not limited to just fringe political groups, it has been embraced by a very large portion of conservatives and Republicans, and even American liberals don’t understand some of the finer points of what the first amendment, freedom of speech, means.

The problem with continuing to listen to bad ideas is that each successive generation receives those ideas as if they are all of equal value. This position is obviously false. Some ideas are incorrect. The world is not flat, it is visibly curved to any observer who cares to study the subject. The Earth, her moon, the other planets and their moons, etc. all move in mathematically predictable ways around the sun. We do not have to prove to each successive generation of human beings that the Earth is not the center of the universe. We need simply show how we know the Earth is round, the sun the center of a solar system, for them to grasp the math involved with these correct observations. These are factually demonstrable truths that do not have to be viewed equally with the Ptolemaic system, requiring each successive generation of human beings to determine which finding is the correct one. Learn a little math, do a few observations, yep, that confirms the heliocentric model. Onto the next thing we have to learn.

Not all truths are as obvious as the basic findings of astronomy, and even those findings are not universally embraced by all modern humans. There are a few disturbed people out there who still think the world is flat, and we don’t let those people run NASA for a reason. That reason? Because their denial of science disqualifies them from leading a scientific agency. They fail the test of expertise, another demonstrable truth.

There are things that experts know that the layman does not. I know things about CAD systems and architectural detailing that would bore the pants off of anyone who isn’t enamored of building systems and the illustration of same. That expertise qualified me to hold a high-paying job in the architectural field once upon a time. It had real value; and expertise, all expertise, is demonstrated through that value. If you plant lima beans for a living, and you do it successfully for long enough, you become an expert on lima beans. But that doesn’t make you an expert on rocket ships.

Which brings us to another truth. Expertise is limited in scope, and the farther outside your expertise you venture, the more likely you are to be wrong in your beliefs. This is the Dunning-Kruger effect in a nutshell. Everyone believes they know more about subjects that they are not experts in than they actually do. This is why a brain surgeon isn’t a good candidate to run a poverty program. The fact that Ben Carson successfully navigated a hierarchy as complicated as working in a hospital presents is probably the only reason he still has his cabinet position. He knows how to keep his mouth shut when he needs to. When he has a job to do and isn’t campaigning. He knows the value of expertise and he doesn’t visibly contradict the experts around him who know things about the department of Housing and Urban Development.

When the Republican party formed back in 1854, the value of expertise was understood. With little else to distract the population in the way of entertainment, politicians and pundits would debate for hours in front of huge crowds, working and reworking the issues of the day. Abraham Lincoln was an expert at navigating the treacherous terrain to be found between openly advocating for the abolition of slavery, and allowing slavery to encroach into the Northern states that hated slaves and slavery for what it did to the lives of average men. Hated slavery for the degrading poverty and dearth of industry in the South that slavery imposed on the economy of the South. The Lincoln-Douglas debates featured his abilities to master the subject, a success that eventually snagged him the nomination of the Republican party and through their growing influence, the presidency of the United States.

He then expertly managed to conduct the the office of the presidency, successfully, while maintaining a war with half of the original republic, and at the same time engineering the largest change in civil society, the abolition of slavery, that the United States had seen in its short 75 years of existence. Had he survived his time in office, had he not been felled by Southern hands and succeeded by a Southern sympathizer, many of the problems that we wrestle with today would never have manifested in the first place. That was the master politician that Abraham Lincoln was. That was the kind of organization that the Republican party was when it was progressive and liberal and on the right side of history.

From Lincoln to the Orange Hate-Monkey in 150 years.  That is what the Republican party gained from not understanding that there were real, actual truths underneath all the political posturing. That science and expertise have real, demonstrable value. GIGO or Garbage In, Garbage Out has taken its toll on the GOP and rendered it the political organ of a would-be fascist. A would-be fascist whose political supporters want to enact a racial cleansing on the United States. The party that ended slavery has become the party of the inheritors of slavery’s stolen wealth. The irony is almost rich enough to laugh at, if the fate of the world didn’t hang in the balance, and it does currently hang in the balance.

It hangs in the balance because Vladimir Putin did work to get Donald Trump elected as president. He worked to get Britain to embrace Brexit, and his troll farm is still actively attempting to subvert political processes in the United States and all across the world. He is seeking inroads to power wherever he can find them, and right now the internet is his tool of choice. All information on the internet is now suspect. Nothing can be taken for granted. Every platform, every system, every piece of information technology can now be possibly subverted by criminal actors attempting undermine the great advances that have been made in the world, and they are doing this with the technology we, the West, invented.

On the Media Everything Is Fake January 11, 2019

On Thursday, President Trump flew down to McAllen, Texas to push his pro-wall, anti-immigrant narrative. This week, On the Media examines how the community tells a more welcoming story about the border — and a dogged presidential fact-checker joins us to pick apart the Oval Office address. Plus, how some progressives used Russian election interference tactics against a right-wing senate campaign. Also, is everything online fake? 

On the Media Everything Is Fake January 11, 2019

Make no mistake, we have made great strides toward improving equality across the world. In between the war profiteering and other boondoggles embarked on by the powers that be in Washington DC, the technology we created has moved out of the United States and improved the lives of people everywhere. So much so that poverty in the world is the lowest that it has been at any point so far in history. But the spreading of information and equality through technological systems has opened the doors for misinformation and distraction to be spread in the same way, through the same mechanisms.

Political bias, racial bias, religious bias. All these things still exist, and all these things are corruptions of the truth. They are weaknesses that the power-hungry can exploit in order to gain more power. That is what Vladimir Putin has done in Russia by re-establishing the Russian Orthodox church. He gives ethnic Russians a thing to believe in now that the dictatorships that liberated the Russian people from Czarist rule have fallen. He foments friction at the edges of his political empire, his fake republic, and exploits the resulting distrust by seizing land belonging to neighboring nations, by re-asserting old Soviet alliances. His neighbors fear him, which is what he wants, and his old foes are confused, fighting among themselves. All by his design.

The first thing we need to do, if we want to oppose this new criminal oligarchy founded by Vladimir Putin and embodied in his paid-for stooge in the White House, is to know who it is we are fighting, why we are fighting them and how we intend to win this fight. The first casualty of this information war has to be the ability to promote falsities as truths. If we can’t even determine what is true and what is false, then we have already lost the war.

Garbage In, Garbage Out. If we believe what we are told by others with no need to verify what is true, we are sheep lead to slaughter. Subjectivity is the enemy. The people we are fighting are liars. Charlatans. Confidence artists. People who say things we want to believe but which are not demonstrably true.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

Many people cite this quote, few understand it. To be eternally vigilant is to practice due diligence as often as required when it comes to the things you believe as well as the things you are told. What is due diligence? Caveat Emptor. The two states of mind are interchangeable. Healthy caution and skepticism. If you want to be at liberty, if you want to maintain liberty, then you must be skeptical of all things that are not immediately apparent.

As an example. Freedom of speech is not free. You cannot say whatever springs to your mind and expect to suffer no consequences. This is what most people think freedom of speech means. Speech without consequences. All speech has a cost, in that you may be held accountable for the results of the words you speak. This is why you are punished for causing a panic by yelling fire! when there is no fire. It is not the speech that is punished, it is the result of the speech. The cause of the harm was speech if anyone was harmed in the resultant panic. No harm, no foul, as the adage goes.

But how do you assess harm? Is all harm readily apparent? If you are not harmed by a person’s speech, but your neighbor is, should you care? What if your neighbor is a different race? A different religion? A member of a different political party? Insert Niemöller’s law here.

That way lies death. So harm, even delayed, indirect harm, should be guarded against. And that, dear reader, is the quandary. As I noted on my last article about Alex Jones, deplatforming is not censoring a person’s speech. All these people claiming they have been censored by social media have their own websites. They have just as much access to consumers as any other individual in the system has. They simply do not have a megaphone through which to spread their lies. We are fighting an information war here, and the first thing that has to go is information which is demonstrably false.

Kicking ethics violators off of Twitter and Facebook is not censoring them, it is applying objective rules to subjective life. This is necessarily a messy business, but then bad people do exist. Bad ideas do exist. Stupid people do exist, and they don’t know the difference between a good idea and a bad idea. This requires things like rules of order (Robert’s Rules) parliamentary procedures, etcetera. Objective ethical standards have to be in place and they have to be enforced so that ideas can be properly tested and debated. You cannot call for harming another person and not expect the platform from which you speak to be taken away. That is simply good information hygiene. Any platform which doesn’t distinguish between good (correct) and bad (incorrect) information is a platform which is doomed to be dominated by the most ruthless, because it is the ruthless people who have no boundaries. Ruthless people do not worry about harming others to get their way. Lies. Fraud. These are but tools in the hands of the ruthless. Does deplatforming cause them harm? Only if they subjectively deem that their lies bring them power. In that case they don’t need a platform, they need a therapist.

Any platform created to be all inclusive (Spreely.com, Minds.com, etcetera) will be dominated by the most hateful. There is no way to avoid this scenario if you do not set hard ethical lines which cannot be crossed. I hope these platform providers enjoy taking orders from fascists. Fascists that will tell them what and how to think; which is what fascists do and why fascists (like Nazis) shouldn’t be given a platform in the first place. It is a quandary, but it isn’t an unsolvable problem.

I’m still on Facebook, for now. They at least acknowledge the existence of incorrect information and harmful social interaction. I’m not happy with providing a platform for ideas designed to kill me. I won’t spend time on a social platform that allows them space to spread their lies. Consequently those who voice views about political purity, religious purity, racial purity, promote the lie that life is a zero sum game that requires I harm others to win, these kinds of people and beliefs are not welcome anywhere that I am expected to be. I would ban these people myself. I do block and report these people when I’m given the tools to do so.

Authority might be necessary, but authority need not lead to authoritarianism. The difference between allowing Donald Trump to take office because existing mechanisms put him in position to assume that office, and not allowing Caudillo Trump to violate the law in the name of his whims or his stormtrumper’s whims is exactly how that ethical hair is split.

Wikipedia – First Amendment to the US Constitution