Friday, January 27, 2017

Gabbing about the Capricious Cupertino Walled Garden of Apple

GAB CEO Andrew Torba on Apple App Vetting



Gab is a new micoblogging site which was started in the summer of 2016 as conservative voices experienced cyber-censorship about content from social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter.  Gab wants to create a cyber community which users can speak freely and exercise their own judgment to filter content. 

Gab started with a beta platform geared towards personal computers.  However, since the growth in social media is associated with mobile internet applications, Gab has sought to get approval from Apple to have their app approved to be available in Apple app store.

Because Gab encourages members to #SpeakFreely, they do not want to censor content created by Gab users, as long it conforms to US law and the Constitution regarding obscenity and pornography.  In rare instances, the Gab platform would allow for legal pornography as long as it was tagged #NSFW (not safe for work).  But this loophole created the first objection for the Apple App Review team.  To resolve this, Gab linked their EULA agreement, albeit outside of the app.  The allowed for the second rejection, which was easily abated. 

What has raised eyebrows is the tardy and hypocritical third rejection by the app team. Ordinarily, apps are evaluated within 24 hours.  For Gab's third app submission, it took 17 days. In addition, it was rejected on the grounds that "We found references to religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or other targeted groups that could be offensive to many users."



So Gab is supposed to play nanny to user epithets and ideas which an aggrieved internet denizen could find offensive.  But Gab allows its users to filter out content which they do not want to see, but the powers that be in Cupertino do not want their i-Phone/i-Pad users to be scandalized by material in Gab (which they could filter out themselves).  

Is the same stringent Cupertino standard applied to Madonna's post Women's March musings?  

Wonder why?  Is Twitter going to have their app taken away for the rude ravings of an aged Material Girl who creates controversy on social media to seem contemporary?

Gab CEO Andrew Torba wonders if the third rejection of Gab's app was timed to coincide with President Trump's first full day in office and was meant to sent a message.  Torba asserted

"This clear double standard against us is potentially politically motivated and clearly targeted. When you actively search for something on a user generated website, chances are you're going to find what you are looking for."



Progressives sought to kill Gab by claiming that it was only for the alt-right and that it lacked diversity, which fails when one considers that Gabs leadership team is comprised of an American Christian, a Turkish Muslim Kurd and an Indian Hindu.  Since the slimming was unsuccessful, it seems that progressive companies are seeking to deny Gab from tools to grow their user base by any means necessary.

With the shadow-blocking and capricious shunnings by big social media, those who want to share opinions which challenge the standard assumptions of progressive elites, they may look to social media alternatives such as Gab.  Alas, Apple continues to make access restricted inside the walled garden

Monday, January 23, 2017

President Trump to Name Net Neutrality Critic Ajit Pai as FCC Chair

[N.B. This article was originally published February 10, 2015 on DistrictofCalamity.com ]


Ajit Pai, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, has become outspoken in his objections to the political imposition of Net Neutrality by what is supposed to be an independent Federal commission.




Commissioner Pai noted that: “It’s no wonder that net neutrality proponents are already bragging that it will turn the FCC into the “Department of the Internet. For that reason, if you like dealing with the IRS, you are going to love the President’s plan." 

Many progressives have rallied around the concept of Net Neutrality thinking that it is hurting corporations and encouraging competition.  What Commissioner Pai points out is that applying Title II regulation to the internet, which was designed for railroads and Ma Bell, will stifle competition and favor behemoth businesses because of the regulatory burdens.

Congressional critics such as Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) have likened Net Neutrality as being Obamacare for the Internet, regulations sold to lower prices and improve delivery but which in reality do the opposite while making Uncle Sam the undisputed middle man.

Another alarming feature of such broad regulation by the FCC is the relative obscurity in which the rules are being cobbled together.  President Obama pressured the FCC in November 2014 about Net Neutrality.  Chairman Tom Wheeler, who had been a big Obama fundraiser, is complying but promises to make some changes in Title II to make it better.  Oh, so a regulatory schemata which was drawn up in 14 can be tweaked to apply to the internet age.  Right. FCC Commissioner Mike O'Reilly warned the public about the dangers of forbearance as applied to Title II Common Carriers. 

There is the larger issue, however, about whether Congress ceded its legislative mantle to the FCC to strictly regulate the internet. If we hold fast to living in a constitutional democratic Republic, shouldn't our elected representatives, not bureaucrats who are unaccountable to the people (or for that matter Men in Black) be crafting such momentous law?

UPDATE 01/23/2017  President Trump is poised to name Ajit Pai as Chairman of the FCC, replacing Democrat activist FCC Chair Tom Wheeler.  Pai has been a critic of the Commission's impetus to impose net neutrality and thereby expand the FCC's role into regulating the Internet. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Feel the Bern, Vidiot



Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist-VT) decisively won the Wisconsin Democrat Primary.  To claim victory in the land of Cheeseheads, the 74 year old Senator chose to have a bunch of young people in back of him on the dais.

During Sanders speech in Laramie, Wyoming, the candidate chose to rail against young people who are too busy with their video games.   At the same time, there was some vidiot around Sanders who was making faces on Snapchat or another video based social media.



video


In Sander's optimistic opinion, young people are idealistic thus progressives.  But Sander's chide about young people too busy with their video games may also reveal how there is a youthful expectation of little effort and high return.  There is also the cognitive dissonance of idealistic young 99%-ers advocating for socialism during Occupy Wall Street movement while camped out in the District of Calamity's Farragut Square or Manhattan's Zuccotti Park on their shiny new Apple i-Phones.

The question is what is the better future in which we should believe?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Re-Kindling Appreciation for Amazon's E-Book Reader



Recently, I took a trip to a quiet rural retreat where there was no television, WiFi was non-existent and internet was iffy on my cellular phone. In times past, if one quickly finished reading the books brought on a rainy weekend, it would be time to bide time by polishing doorknobs. Instead, I was able to reach for my Kindle e-ink reader and the literary world was at my fingertips.


I have reveled over Kindles since they initially came on the market.  This travel saga rekindled my appreciation for the Amazon's extraordinary e-book reader. In fact, my household is so fond of our Kindles that each of them is named.  For example, my first Kindle was dubbed  Isadore (named after the patron saint of libraries).  

While I now own several Kindles, I brought my beloved Kindle 2 Keyboard on the get-away. The Kindle 2  series had two types of Whispernet (the complimentary Amazon 3G series).  Fortunately, “Striker” was on the AT&T network, where I was getting five bars of coverage.  So I downloaded a number of samples and tried to choose my next title.  Several of the sample books displayed no more than the table of contents. A couple of sample choices included some of the preface and the first chapter. By surveying the samples, I could narrow down my choice. In fact, reading the samples eliminated titles from a couple of favorite authors based upon style and content.  

When I made my pick, I was able to buy the book and download it in one click and read away. I was excited about a couple of key passages so I highlighted the notes and shared them via Facebook and Twitter through the Whispernet 3G connection.

Although I finished a good chunk of the new book, but my eyes were closing while my mind was still active.  Fortunately, this generation of Kindles still had the text to speech option and built in speaker so a synthetic voice could read me to sleep.   The next morning, my traveling companion who is a techno-luddite seem amazed that I bought and read another book even in this remote retreat.

The Kindle came in handy as I purused other books because of the built in dictionary. The Kindle 2 has a keyboard which is OK for short notetaking, but one should not expect to pen the great American novel on it, and transferring the files can be challenging.

The feature that I treasure from this version of the Kindle E-reader is the “Experimental” internet browser.  Later versions of the Kindle e-reader restricted internet access to the Kindle Store and Wikipedia.  The Kindle 2 allowed for some web surfing of text based websites.  This was a God send for a news junkie like me. 

One new glitch from “Striker” is that it would not display Wikipedia listings neither from the experimental browser nor the automated Wikipedia search.  As the weekend progressed, I was disappointed as I had grown accustomed to spot checking facts and could not do so easily with this Kindle.  Perhaps on a related note, this Kindle was not recognizing the Kininstant bookmark shortener.

“Striker” is my third Kindle e-reader, as two had to be replaced because of screen problems thru Amazon’s unconditional return policy (at the time) for Kindles. The design was a marked improvement over the large cheese wedge Kindle 1. That being said, the unit did have a replaceable battery and allowed SD card storage. But the only difference that “Striker” had over my first K2 was that it was on the AT&T  Whispernet  which could get international 3G as opposed to just the Sprint CDMA Whispernet in the USA.

Alas, “Striker” was showing its age, as the Lithium Polymer battery could only hold a charge for several hours and then would immediately drain out. Perhaps this was due to battery memory as well as a battery which needed to be replaced.  I have considered acquiring a Kindle replacement battery for around $25 but I worry about doing the installation myself and bricking it.  Unfortunately, computer repair shops don’t want to take on the challenge of installation either.

Most people would be inclined just to get a new device, as surely Amazon has developed the latest and greatest e-reader.  But a Thrifty Techie realizes that it ain’t necessarily so. The Kindle Voyager and Kindle Paperwhite models (7th & 6th Generations) do have lit screens for night reading and extended battery life.  The Kindles has have  some new features like Vocabulary Builder and X-Ray title summaries.  Alas, when Amazon giveth, it has also taken away.  No longer do e-readers have speakers or headphone jacks, so text to speech is out of the question (it is available on the Kindle Fire models though).  If you pay $50 more, a Voyage or Paperwhite can have 3G capabilities, but that it now restricted to the Kindle Store and Wikipedia.  Amazon also sells an 8 Gig Kindle Fire tablet for $49 (which has text to speech) but the color backlit screen can cause eye fatigue for prolonged reading stints and may be tough the see reading outside. From a Thrifty-Techie’s perspective, newer isn’t necessarily better.   

I was resigned to make do with what I had, but an imminent Amazon Kindle software update forced my hand. As I was prepping my vintage e-readers for the mandatory download, I noticed that “Herbie 2", a Kindle Keyboard 3rd Gen (with WiFi) that I inherited from an inlaw was showing dead pixels.  These e-reader screens can be quite sensitive to pressure.  Herbie 1 had to be replaced when a teacup poodle sat on it. All but the top of the screen displayed correctly, but it would be maddening to use it as an e-reader.

  
After some investigation on E-bay, I found an upgraded used Kindle Keyboard 3rd Gen with WiFi and 3G for $32 with shipping.  This means that it would have text to speech, the ungoverned experimental browser with about 4 gig of storage (enough for 3500 books). This design does not have a touch screen, which I consider is an advantage on a dedicated e-reader, so as not having fingerprints on the screen.  The downsides are that it does not come with a power cord (but I already have several).  Another variable is the condition of the battery. 


Although I will probably have to manually do the software update, it seems like it is worth the trade off. So I am happy to include another Kindle into the Thrifty-Techie family.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Geek Gaffes Mar #RandLive

Rand Paul on Livestream

One of the most precipitous declines in the race for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination has been Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).  Last year, the libertarian leaning Senator Paul was considered to be a top contender.  But Paul’s campaign has faded to the point of where he may not have the 2.5% support to qualify for the big stage for the third GOP debate required by CNBC.

Senator Paul wanted to do something different to attract attention, generate enthusiasm among young voters and distinguish himself.  So the Paul campaign arranged for the candidate to LiveStream a day in the life.  This was a thrifty way to shine a spotlight on the candidate, leverage new media to political advantage and reinforce his brand of being a different kind of Republican.

Well, timing is everything. Tuesday October 13th was the date chosen for #RandLive.  From the superstitious side of things, the Spanish consider Martes el trece to be a day of bad luck (akin to America’s Friday the 13th).  On the more calculating side, that was the day of the first Democrat Debate so Rand was scheduling a stunt that would not draw a whole lot of attention.

Perhaps it was lucky that #RandLive did not get much time in the spotlight.  Senator Paul was scheduled to visit five college campus events in Iowa that day.  But technical difficulties interfered with much of the livestreaming, so diehard Rand-ians were left staring at a test pattern for much of the day.  These cyber glitches were unfortunate but not unforgivable as it is challenging to introduce new technology into the field of national political campaigns.

What was more egregious was Senator Paul’s unscripted answers to Google questions.  The third most popular question was “Are you still campaigning Senator Paul?”.  The freshman Senator from Kentucky gave a sarcastic and supercilious unscripted answer.



So much for appealing to the youth vote when you denounce the platform itself.  Moreover, calling it “dumbassed” shows that it was a feign and not really reflecting the candidate’s true disposition.

Other hopefuls used social media on that day to varying effects.  Both former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and Donald Trump live-tweeted during the Democrat Debate.  It looked like “the Huckster” slinged up cornpone and canned ham in his replies, while “the Donald” delivered authentic raw meat which underlined his attributes.

While it is questionable if hyping a “Truman Show” for a candidate is wise, it does show innovation.  But if you are on camera 24/7, one slight slip up can ruin years of work. In the film “The Truman Show” (1998), people found that they liked watching Truman because he was natural and likable.   Senator Paul has developed a reputation for being prickly in uncomfortable interviews.  It is telling that Senator Paul noted that you can’t edit that out when it’s being livestreamed.



The tag line from The Truman Show was “How's It Going to End?”.  This may well be the same question that staffers for Rand Paul’s Presidential campaign may be asking.   




Perhaps Senator Paul can take a cue from Truman Burbank. 



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Contrasting Social Media Counterprogramming Strategies for the Democrat Debate



The Democrats held their first Primary "Debate" (more of a candidate forum) at a Las Vegas casino. Most political pundits expected a snoozefest which lays a foundation to a Primary Coronation.

So that Republicans did not totally cede the news cycle to a progressive politics lovefest, a couple of Republican aspirants to the Oval Office took to Twitter to counter-program by chiming in on the process. It was a cheap way to gain attention and get the message out, going over the heads of the established media through the new media.

Donald Trump made headlines with his announcement that he would live tweet the event.  Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) also wanted to get in on the action.  The latter leader's sharing seems to epitomize his campaign thus far--  cornpone slung just to win attention.

Take some of the @GovMikeHuckabee tweets--




They seemed like stale standbys to get some yucks. But unlike Huckabee's two debate performances when he dished out canned ham, it seems that the self nicknamed "Duck Hunter" did actually seem to watch the Democrat Debate.




That being said, Huckabee tried to be funny rather than to score points with his big campaign themes. 


In contrast, Donald Trump tried to steal the spotlight by starting with his star-appeal schtick thru @realDonaldTrump tweets--



Trump used social media to leverage his message by retweeting others who echoed or enhanced his memes and campaign messaging, whereas Huckabee basically used Twitter as a platform to share his pre-scripted one liners.




However, it looked like Donald Trump was genuinely reacting to the debate.  His social media responses reinforced his campaign messages on immigration, Washington is broken, helping Veterans and Hillary's hypocrisy.

One indication that Trump was not totally rehearsed in his responses is a short missive "Good move by Bernie S." that has no reference point, hash tags or even Twitter handles.  Presumably, this was when Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist-VT) said: "Enough with the emails already!".

On the one hand, Trump generated excitement with his social media participation in the Democrat Debates with authenticity, branding and passively marketing his message. On the other hand, Huckabee served up more cornpone which were groaners to political pundits but did little to advance his own message via social media.

With the revised qualifications for the CNBC debate, this might be one of the last servings of cornpone and canned ham from the Huckster.