Weekly Tech Views – July 23, 2016 (Sort of)

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Okay, I took a vacation this week, which means today you get the Weekly Tech Vacation Blog. Not a blog post about my vacation, the details of which require a security clearance well above your pay grade, but a post which requires no additional work on my part than typing this intro.

As this also marks a year since I started this little venture, why don’t we flash back to July of last year and Issue #1, when the world was innocent and the stories focused on spunky startups like Apple, Facebook, Logitech and Comcast…

On DTNS, you hear in-depth, reasoned discussion of the day’s most interesting tech stories from Tom Merritt and his esteemed guests. You get research, insight, and analysis.

Now, finally, there’s equal time for the other side.

That’s right, this is your stop for shallow, reckless rambling on a selection of those same stories. Welcome to the Weekly Tech Views Blog, where, at times, up to 12% of what you read could be factual. No, WTVB doesn’t roll off the tongue like DTNS; frankly, it sounds like the call letters for a 5,000 watt radio station in Tateville, Kentucky (WTVB – We’re Tateville’s Best!). If I gave it some more thought, I could probably come up with something better. But, as you’ll discover should you decide to read on, “more thought” is not my highest priority.

 

For the Week of July 13 – 17, 2015 – And, as a premiere issue bonus, some of the previous week as well. Huzzah.

 

Like Shakespeare Said, A G910 Orion Spark Mechanical Gaming Keyboard By Any Other Name…
For much of their product line, Logitech is changing the name to Logi, which is huge news, in that it provides new, exciting territory to be explored by those who love to debate the pronunciation of GIF.

You Say Vulnerable, We Say Quirky
Facebook’s head of security called for Adobe to place an end-of-life date for Flash. An Adobe representative reportedly responded by saying Flash is still extremely functional, a valued and vital part of our internet lives, and how about you guys at Facebook just worry about why the sea lion photos my wife posted from the zoo keep getting tagged as me?

If You Decide You Don’t Want The Game, Just Talk To Three Customer Service Reps For 45 Minutes To Delete It
Comcast is starting a streaming game service with Electronic Arts. How enjoyable an experience this will be–using phones or tablets as controllers–is up in the air, but what is certain is that I would pay significant money to watch Comcast customers Twitch stream Cable Crush Saga, where points are awarded for lining up matching customer service reps. Get five in a row and their headsets tighten until their heads explode, at which point they are replaced by Tier 2 reps. There are infinite levels, and you do not, of course, ever win this game.

Break Out The Face Paint
A Saudi computer–the Shaheen II–entered the Top 500 Supercomputer list at #7, the first time a Middle East computer has been in the top ten. If you stop to think about this, one point in particular really jumps out at you: THERE’S A TOP 500 SUPERCOMPUTER LIST! This list has apparently existed for twenty-two years, and this is the first I’m hearing about it? Is the Associated Press involved? A committee of former supercomputer programmers? Have I been missing playoffs, bowl games… The International Supercomputing Conference Championship Game Sponsored by Tostitos (“Tostitos–Not silicon-germanium, but still a great chip.”)?

I have heard ZERO listeners call in to radio shows complaining about the Cray Titan XK7 Opteron 6274 being ranked ahead of the IBM Sequoia BlueGene/Q Power BQC, claiming that the Titan’s narrow half a petaflop win was definitely a result of an easier number-crunching schedule.

This Just In…
A study claims that Twitter and Facebook are used as news sources by 63% of their users. I’m inclined to buy that, but then I remember that I know people who consider “one of the girls who sang the Nicki Minaj song on Ellen just had a birthday” as news.

I Hope There’s A Deal On Carpal Tunnel Braces
Amazon celebrated their 20th anniversary with Prime Day, a day they claimed would have more discounts than Black Friday. I assume this means customers were able to relive the treasured Black Friday tradition of–for the rare worthwhile item–starting to click their mouse three minutes before the scheduled sale start time so that when the precise second strikes, they may, if the gods are smiling on them, be informed that the item has sold out but they have been granted a coveted spot on the Wait List. Certainly, like waiting for a lottery drawing, half the fun is the exciting anticipation, the “what-if?”, the dreams you dream while your constantly clicking finger cramps and gnarls like that of a fairy tale witch.

And I Can Now Name Every American Girl Doll
One feature of the wrist-worn Kickstarter product Doppel is to keep you focused at times you might be inclined to doze off–boring meetings, dinner with your spouse’s friends, an opera–by issuing rapid taps to your arm. This could replace the less-portable device many of us have–the CINDY (Constantly Interrupting Niece Disturbing You). CINDY is typically triggered after Thanksgiving dinner, moments after you position yourself on a recliner in front of the Cowboys blowout. As your eyes begin to close and sleep threatens, CINDY—with no need for prior programming!– initiates an insistent tapping on your arm. If this fails to rouse you, audio prompts are activated: “Hey, guess what?… Hey guess what?…Hey, Uncle Mike, guess what?” I have not fallen asleep at a family gathering in six years.

I’m Going As The Start Button
Microsoft will be throwing Windows 10 launch parties in thirteen major cities around the world, so expect Harry Potter book release-levels of excitement–parents letting their kids stay up late to be one of the first to claim an OS-wielding USB drive from the stacks piled high on folding tables, spirited discussions of which new desktop themes will be available, and of course everyone will be dressed as their favorite Microsoft icon, presumably 99% CEO Satya Nadellas, and, off in a corner, drinking fruit punch, a subdued handful of Clippies. Refreshments will be provided, and in keeping with the spirit of the new mandatory Windows updates, attendees will eat a slice of pizza whether they want it or not.

With Special Musical Guest “Nancy In Accounts Payable’s Kid” On The Clarinet
And finally, Apple announced the new iPod Touch this week at an event featuring appearances by Pete from PR and a Whole Foods veggie tray.

 

There you have it. One down. Back next week with more of… this.

(And I say it’s pronounced “lodgy.”)

Looking for more 2015 ridiculousness? I guess you could go back and read the rest of the blogs on this site, but why not get them collected in a convenient Kindle format for just $.99 in The Internet is Like a Snowblower (And 200 Other Things I Got Wrong About Tech This Year)? That’s what I’d do. Here’s a handy clickable sentence to make it easy for you.

The Internet is Like a Snowblower: (And 200 Other Things I Got Wrong About Tech This Year) by [Range, Mike]

Back with new stuff next week. Now back to vacation, where… okay, I’ll tell you–I’m appearing at Comic Con! Stupid autocorrect–I’m peering at Comic Con. On the Roku app. So I probably didn’t need to spend quite so much time on my Ghostbusters Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man cosplay.

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

Creative Commons License
Weekly Tech Views by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

DTNS 2816 – Can Yahoo Me Now?

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comIt looks Yahoo’s sale is almost over. Iyaz Akhtar and Tom Merritt trace the history, what is being sold and how it might fit into Verizon.

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Continue reading DTNS 2816 – Can Yahoo Me Now?

Daily Tech Headlines – July 22, 2016

DTH_CoverArt_1500x1500Nvidia’s 4th big video card in two months, Google improves comics, Facebook soars in the air.

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Show Notes
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DTNS 2815 – The Skype Train is leaving you behind

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comMicrosoft’s leaving behind older Skype install as it transitions off P2P and some folks are mad. When is a company allowed to ditch an old platform? Chris Ashley and Tom Merritt discuss.

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A special thanks to all our supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

If you are willing to support the show or give as little as 5 cents a day on Patreon. Thank you!

Big thanks to Dan Lueders for the headlines music and Martin Bell for the opening theme!

Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

Thanks to our mods, Kylde, TomGehrke, sebgonz and scottierowland on the subreddit

Show Notes
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Continue reading DTNS 2815 – The Skype Train is leaving you behind

Daily Tech Headlines – July 21, 2016

DTH_CoverArt_1500x1500Firefox says no to Flash, Tinder just wants to be friends, and VCRs go the way of Betamax.

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A special thanks to all our supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

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Big thanks to Dan Lueders for the theme music.

Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

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Show Notes
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DTNS 2814 – John Deere Hackt0rz

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comFarmers in Nebraska fight for the right to repair their own tractors. Dealers use copyright law to stop them from using the software on their vehicles. Scott Johnson and Tom Merritt discuss.

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A special thanks to all our supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

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Big thanks to Dan Lueders for the headlines music and Martin Bell for the opening theme!

Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

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Daily Tech Headlines – July 20, 2016

DTH_CoverArt_1500x1500
Twitter bans more users, Microsoft’s cloud boost revenues, and Pokémon Go stimulates battery sales.

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A special thanks to all our supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

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DTNS 2813 – Playing Whack-A-Troll

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comOnline harassment is not new, so why haven’t we learned how to deal with it better? Patrick Beja and Tom Merritt discuss.

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Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

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Show Notes
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Continue reading DTNS 2813 – Playing Whack-A-Troll

Daily Tech Headlines – July 19, 2016

DTH_CoverArt_1500x1500Netflix meets earnings but not subscribers, iTunes fixes Apple Music, and Mercedes drives to Haarlem.

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A special thanks to all our supporters–without you, none of this would be possible.

If you are willing to support the show or give as little as 5 cents a day on Patreon. Thank you!

Big thanks to Dan Lueders for the theme music.

Big thanks to Mustafa A. from thepolarcat.com for the logo!

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Show Notes
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Your Private Driver: The Five-Star Experience

(This is a weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. Look for it every Monday after the live show, right here ondailytechnewsshow.com.)

Most people are aware by now that a rating system exists for both drivers and passengers when using the Uber and Lyft platforms. However, the details of how those ratings work appear to be a mystery to many of those same people. I frequently see questions on Reddit and Facebook from riders asking why their rating dropped or how they can get it higher. As a driver, a.k.a. one who doles out those passenger ratings and talks to other drivers about the same topic, there’s no fail-safe answer–but there are certain consistencies that can be cobbled together into some general rating-boosting advice.

Before we get to that though, I want to tell you that passenger ratings don’t really matter. The only difference between a 3.5 and a 4.9 is bragging rights. Some drivers in busy markets may pass on a passenger that doesn’t have a rating above some arbitrary threshold, but there will always be three more who won’t care and will pick you up anyway. Uber and Lyft don’t even deactivate riders for low ratings; I’ve seen riders with ratings as low as 1.7 before. That being said, if you just want a nice, high number anyway, read on.

Tip your driver. I’m putting this first because if you leave a tip, you can pretty much ignore everything else I type today. Seriously, most drivers will automatically five-star a tipper regardless of anything else. On the flip side, an increasing minority of drivers will only hand out five-star ratings to people who tip, meaning that you could be a model passenger otherwise and still end up with a four. If you’re really serious about keeping a high or perfect rating, tipping your driver is as close to a guaranteed method as you can get.

Be where you say you’re gonna be. Thanks to some questionable UI choices by the app developers, it’s annoyingly easy to send your driver to a place that’s three blocks, three miles, or even three continents away from where you actually are. The best way to avoid fat-fingering the pin to the wrong location is by typing it in manually. You don’t have to know the exact address, typing the name of the business, bar, or club you’re in will work as well. Oh, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t request to be picked up in a place that automobiles can’t actually get to.

Be on time. You have an almost exact ETA of when your driver will arrive, there’s no reason they should be kept waiting for more than a minute or so. Keep a driver waiting more than five minutes and they may leave without you, and you’ll be charged a cancellation fee.

No eating, drinking, and especially no smoking. At least ask the driver first, but don’t be surprised if they say no. Strong scents are difficult to get out of a car and they can spoil the experience for the next rider.

Those are the important tips, along with generally not being a horrible human being. If you want to see how you’re doing with your rating progress… that can be a little bit of a pain. Lyft won’t directly tell you your passenger rating, but they’ll give you a happy notification or text message every time a driver gives you five stars. Uber hides this info deep in the app menus; Selecting Help from the main menu, then Account and Payment > Account Settings and Ratings > I’d like to know my rating > SUBMIT.

Uber sample rating

Presenting my qualifications to be writing this stuff.

Well, that’s all I have to say about passenger ratings, what about driver ratings? Sure you all know that you can (and probably should) rate your driver after every trip. However, where passenger ratings have no real consequence, drivers can actually deactivated if their rating falls below a certain threshold, usually around 4.6 (this number can vary depending on the market). This means that any rating that’s not five-stars is basically a vote of no confidence.

Still, if a driver is unsafe behind the wheel, has a smelly or unusually dirty car, or just talks too much, a four-star rating is not inappropriate. It’s a way of letting him or her know that they need to improve (and you should definitely leave feedback to that extent). Ratings of three stars and lower should be reserved for drivers who really have no business behind the wheel. Try not to use ratings as revenge; a driver opting to not take you through the McDonalds drive thru or break traffic laws because you’re late for work is not a valid reason for a low rating.

Sekani Wright is an experienced Uber driver working in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If you have any questions you would like answered for this column, you can contact him at djsekani at gmail dot com, or on twitter and reddit at the username djsekani. Have a safe trip!

On your side.