Saturday, December 19, 2015

Clickbait, Social Media, and You

Clickbait tickles your curiosity with some wild and crazy idea, and invites you to click to find out the "whole" story.

Seems innocent enough, right?? Except, it isn't

When you share clickbait and encourage your friends and connections on social media to explore that deceptive site, you're in effect becoming a mouthpiece for the owner of that content. 

Facebook will be banning all posts expressing religious beliefs? Seems legit. Bill Gates will give you $5,000 just for sharing a photo? Sure. Obama rebuked by a former Navy SEAL? Right. One thing many of these have in common, you might notice, is that you're invited to click on a link which takes you to someone's website, or Facebook page associated with a website which invites you to visit.

Once there, mission accomplished as far as the website owner is concerned. 

They have lured you in, and in doing so, subjected you to a barrage of ads, ads which make them money. Your visit to a site set up with various advertising means money for them. Your sharing that clickbait with your social media connections means even more money, especially if that content goes viral. Given that you've lent your credibility to it by sharing it with people you know, that is entirely too possible.

Do yourself, and your social media connections, a favor. Search before you share. Use due diligence and check your facts, because what someone else tells you is truth may turn out to be utter crap designed solely to spread lies and make that someone advertising revenue.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

It Appears You're Using Advertisements, Click Here to Learn More

We now live in an age where informed consumers can increasingly control their digital environment.

In the area of entertainment, which includes movies and TV, we can choose to pay cable or satellite companies a hefty monthly fee for the "privilege" of dozens or even hundreds of channels we might never watch. Inevitably bundled with this pile of privilege in the case of non-premium channels is advertising. LOTS of advertising.  Much the same applies to the internet.

When I browse the web, given the choice, I would with very few exceptions choose to opt out of seeing any advertising whatsoever in any way, shape, or form. I tend to be specific about what I'm looking for, and anything outside of that is generally just clutter.

Occasionally, websites will throw up a message like the one below when they detect that I have ad blocking software (in my case most recently, uBlock for desktop browsing, and for my Apple-using friends, the iOS app Purify):

Contrary to this, I'm well aware of the consequences of using ad blocking. These include:
  • Ensuring my serenity by eliminating the possibility of being drawn away from what I really want from this website by at best vaguely relevant advertising.
  • Saving my bandwidth (which, in this era of greedy ISPs with their data cap overage fees, is particularly important).
  • Getting exactly what I want out of my experience, on my own terms and no one else's.

Serenity is important to me; advertising is not, at all. Yet advertisers and their ilk try desperately to lure as many eyeballs as possible to their wares. 

Bandwidth is something I pay for, not advertisers, not website owners. They seem to assume they have a right to freeload and vomit their ads onto my internet, and believe that their advertising has even one iota of importance in comparison to what I arrived at their site to view. They are quite mistaken.

What I want often differs with what I get on sites that are rife with advertising. Facilitated by demographics obtained overtly or covertly through my interactions with social media and elsewhere, advertising appears in an attempt to cater to me based on my age, ethnicity, profession, and innumerable other personal attributes. I eagerly block all of these as I come across them on any site whose content I care to explore further.

If I find your site useful, provide a link with a reputable, non-PayPal site and I will happily consider donating. If you want to advertise things that are closely relevant to the content of yours I'm browsing in the first place, that's actually fine with me. If you passively advertise with non-intrusive hyperlinks, I'll happily leave them be.

BUT, intrude on my serenity, whittle away the bandwidth I pay for, and try to derail the experience I want to achieve, and I will block, blacklist, and if necessary make a fuss to the FCC or whomever will listen, and inform the purchasers of said advertising that you've not only wasted their money, you've brought a bit of disfavor upon their brand by choosing such advertising so poorly.In short, SHUT UP, Leslie!

That logo on Leslie's shirt seems just a wee bit familiar...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Kermode and Mayo on Wheat

Check out Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's YouTube channel for some funny and insightful (albeit British) movie reviews.


Friday, November 13, 2015

The Wicker Man from Atlantis

A photoshop thread on the SomethingAwful forums started a theme on film and TV crossovers. Remembering an infamous RiffTrax of the 2006 remake of 1973 classic, The Wicker Man, this one starring Nicolas Cage of all people, and a long gone TV series Man from Atlantis with Patrick Duffy, this seemed a natural choice.

A clever goon mentioned Nic might've had an unfortunate incident in the confines of his suit, so I simply couldn't resist replying...


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Adopting the Southern Blue Flag Iris

The Southern Blue Flag Iris is one of the prettiest flowering aquatic plants out there.

Growing and cultivating it can be a challenge. If you happen to be an apartment dweller without, say, a convenient backyard pond handy, you might wonder how to grow a nice specimen of this largely aquatic plant, especially if you don't happen to have a convenient partly-sunny swamp handy.

All you really need, though, is a bucket.

My wife and I happened to be on the way to Cedar Key, Florida, when we happened upon a Blue Flag Iris on the roadside which someone had carelessly discarded. Undeterred, we rescued this hapless plant and took it home, whereupon we then stuck it in a bucket of plain old city water in an effort to mimic its preferred habitat. 

Sadly, the plant seemed to yearn for more. It seemed to want to swampy, muddy, murky waters of its home. To help it thrive, we decided to give it that kind of existence.

First step involved dumping some local soil into the aforementioned bucket, then filling it until the mud was submerged by a couple of inches of water. Then, we planted the Iris. Given that we live in the U.S. state of Florida, the mosquito is a clear danger. It simply doesn't fly to enable those tiny (or, in some cases, disconcertingly large vampires) to procreate in conveniently neglected buckets of water.

Fortunately, a solution exists in the form of Mosquito Bits.

Simply sprinkle some of this stuff into your backyard bucket or pond periodically according to the directions. The chemical released will neutralize mosquito larvae, an insect Failure to Launch, if you will. 

Now, the plant appears to have rebounded with a couple of clusters of 6+ inch blade-like leaves, and the plant's hosts have no need to worry about a mosquito invasion. At least, not until the mosquitoes evolve a means to procreate in spite of our best efforts.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fisher Wallace Stimulator

I recently asked my doctor to authorize my purchase of a Fisher Wallace stimulator device, produced by Fisher Wallace Laboratories

The idea is that the device generates "a gentle electrical pulse at a patented frequency that stimulates the brain to produce serotonin and other neurochemicals required for healthy mood and sleep." Some of the back story related to this device goes as far back as the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center.
"Company cofounder, addictionologist Dr. Martin Wallace, discovered LISS Cranial Stimulator in late 2001, when trying to cope with the deep depression which he suffered after spending eight hours trapped in a building at Ground Zero on 9/11. He successfully treated his depression with the stimulator after other therapies failed."

It comes with a couple of velcro-fastening elastic bands (one for the head, the other for the back or elsewhere), dry sponge electrodes, two AA batteries, a zippered carrying case, and of course instructions. About $700 later, I received it and have been using it for a couple of weeks now. I suffer from clinical depression, so my goals in using this device included improving my overall mood, and decreasing the need for prescription medication. Other suggested uses include dealing with chronic pain and insomnia.

Thus far, my results seem promising!

For me, depression can come upon me like a shadow, usually prompted by internal ideation or external events or a combination. One recent example came in the form of a glumly cloudy, rainy day, which tends to put me in a gloomy mood and leads me to brood on things I really shouldn't be brooding upon, and from that point on other events and memories from my past and in my present dogpile and might lead to a relatively major depressive episode.

The instructions recommend using this device once or twice daily (upon activation the device turns off automatically in 20 minutes). To begin with, I decided to try using the device just at the verge, just as depressing thoughts began creeping into the forefront of my mind. 

My first experience was intriguing and rather euphoric. I found myself trying to suppress a giddy urge to grin, and if I closed my eyes I noticed a distinctive pulsing of whitish light from either side of my field of vision. Since that first time, I've used the device about half a dozen times, usually once in the morning or afternoon, then again in the evening shortly before bed. 

The only side-effect thus far seems to be that if I happen to use the device just before bed, I tend to stay awake for an hour or few and might read a book for a while before finally feeling sleepy enough to turn in. This is one of the device's documented possible side effects, so I plan to simply use the device earlier in the evening rather than later.

I found that in any case where depressing thoughts reared their ugly head, engaging the device seemed to derail these thoughts, in a way like how a railroad switch diverts a train from one track and one destination to another. Instead of drifting toward brooding on whatever happened to be bothering me, I found myself unfazed by the usual negativity and eager to pursue other activities.

Whereas the medication I take (sertraline, the generic version of Zoloft, an SSRI) at worst significantly suppresses my affect and at best keeps me on an even keel emotionally, the Fisher Wallace stimulator seems to be able to actively intervene and gently redirect my train of thought to another track to a different destination in my mind. This is definitely a good thing; whereas otherwise I might be relatively helpless to thoughts that would overshadow my happiness and motivation, the device seems to counteract those thoughts and stimulate neurochemistry in my brain which favors healthier thought.

Overall, I'm pleased so far. Now let's see whether my health insurance will be willing to reimburse at least some of the out-of-pocket cost!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 Kia Sedona LX Review

Recently I had the opportunity to drive a rented 2015 Kia Sedona LX.

Following a car accident where my existing minivan was rear-ended and subsequently declared totaled by my insurance provider, I rented a comparable minivan from Enterprise. Having driven it for over 2 weeks now, I have a fairly good feel for the vehicle.

With the LX, the minivan came with power everything, Microsoft UVO infotainment and navigation system are included, but otherwise not the complete range of possibilities offered by Kia for this model (heated / cooled, seats and cupholders, for example, were not present).

I'm 5 feet 7 inches tall, and my legs are a bit short, and this seemed to be problematic with the Sedona. Even with the powered driver's seat moved fully forward, my feet could just barely reach the pedals. This wouldn't be a big deal if not for the fact that with the seat so far forward, each time I got in the top of the door frame threatened to knock me in the skull unless I contorted my torso awkwardly.

Aside from an annoying creaking noise coming from the rear, ride noise was minimal. Given that the Florida summer is arriving, the front and rear AC were sufficient. The 3.3 L V6 engine and accompanying 6-speed automatic transmission were nicely peppy and responsive. The braking was excellent, and upon glancing at a Consumer Reports review of this model, it appeared to be among the best as far as braking goes for minivans. However, one gripe with the ride is that it's a bit brutally stiff. It reminded me of the last time I'd driven a pickup, and even over fairly minimal potholes the suspension was unforgiving. Handling is a bit ponderous, given the 19-inch wheels and somewhat unrefined steering.

The infotainment system is definitely a plus for the Sedona. Navigation is straightforward and simple, and the backup camera is a nice touch. Those of you who use a USB flash drive for your music might be annoyed occasionally, though, as perhaps every 1 out of 3 attempts or so my USB stick chock full of MP3s would need to be reinserted after starting the vehicle after failing to detect the device.

Kia, in typical Korean automaker style, has tried valiantly to copy the success of, say, the Toyota Sienna, and although it comes close, it isn't quite there. I think you'd be better off buying a prior year top-of-the-line minivan by Toyota or even Dodge rather than plunking down some $30K+ for this model.

#Kia #minivan #2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mars Won

"We made it, guys! We've arrived on Mars!"

Trekking to the Mars One habitation facility...

"Let's see... ok, guys, it's a few kilometers away. Breathe easy and let's move."

Meanwhile, at Mars One headquarters back on Earth, budget shortfalls are apparent.

"Hey guys! I see it, look, it's the habitation facility!
Mmm hmm, tasty oxygen, fresh-frozen rations, here we come!"


"What. The. FUCK."

"It looks like Woodstock, only without the chicks, weed, and beer."

"We are SO fucked right now."

"Well... let's scrounge for oxygen and supplies. Surely there must be some up here...?!"

Meanwhile, at the Mars One launch gala in Las Vegas...
"Enjoy the ride, suckers!"

#MarsOne #FAIL #RedPlanet #Mars

Friday, February 20, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Logitech k400 Wireless Touch Keyboard Review

As many "smart TV" owners know, "typing" with your TV remote control can be a hassle at best, a pain at worst. Fortunately, there are alternatives when you want to access your TV like you would a PC. 

One is a smartphone app, such as this unofficial one for use with Samsung TVs. Another, especially handy if you don't use a smartphone, is the Logitech k400 keyboard.

Logitech k400 Keyboard

The keyboard has smallish keys and is nearly full-size, but may be a bit irritating for those with fat fingers. The package includes a small transceiver which plugs into a free USB port on your smart TV, as well as a USB range extender smaller than many USB flash drives. 

Samsung, manufacturer of my particular smart TV, "...does not guarantee compatibility with all devices..." (source), but freely list their very own keyboard as wholly compatible, which is convenient for them. However, at least for my Samsung UN46EH5300, this particular keyboard worked out of the box for me.

The keyboard itself uses two AA batteries, and the transceiver runs off the TV's USB power. For your Samsung TV, a button with a right-mouse-button icon will, assuming you're viewing a TV channel, pop up a menu which lets you open Samsung's trademark on-screen menu. From there you can open YouTube and various other online services, and thereafter type URLs in as desired.

So far, my only complaint is that as far as Samsung's built-in web browser goes, you're stuck with ads (which might otherwise be blocked on your PC with the AdBlock Plus browser add-on or other means), and the browser itself for the few sessions I've opened with it so far has frequently crashed.

This does not impugn my impression of the Logitech k400 itself, though; it seems to do exactly what I expect it to do, enable both keyboard and mouse control of my smart TV.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Videos Added To Serviio Do Not Appear In Library

Recently my DLNA setup based on Serviio version running under Windows 7 inexplicably started to not recognize newly-added videos. When attempting to browse them via my Samsung smart TV, the latest entries did not appear.

Serviio console, showing status and devices configured for streaming.

I hadn't dramatically changed the file and folder structure from which Serviio streams recently, nor had I made any huge changes to the configuration of Serviio nor my server. Finally though I found a solution which seems to have done the trick. It involved simply configuring Windows' file and folder permissions and file sharing permissions to allow the Everyone group to have read access.

Modifying Windows file and folder permissions to enable Everyone to have read access.

Modifying advanced file sharing permissions to give Everyone read access.

Some users in the Serviio forum suggested giving the PC's local system account read access to one's video repository. I tried this, but after restarting the server and the TV, the situation remained the same. I later discovered a blog post which clarifies the difference between Everyone and other authenticated accounts in Windows:
The Everyone group includes all members of the Authenticated Users group as well as the built-in Guest account, and several other built-in security accounts like SERVICE, LOCAL_SERVICE, NETWORK_SERVICE, and others.

The "local system account" I'd read about in my research on Serviio's forums might not be the same one I gave read access to, so I tried simply giving the Everyone group read permissions, and upon forcing Serviio to refresh its database of videos, it began churning through them and finally resulted in them being visible again via the TV.

One drawback to doing this is that anyone else on my LAN would be able to access my video collection, given that the folder is now openly shared to essentially "everyone". I might need to ramp up the frequency with which I routinely change up my WiFi passphrase, but in the end this is no big deal.