Wednesday, March 06, 2019

The false narrative about “fake news”

As reported by the Washington Post:
Teen who defied anti-vax mom says she got false information from one source: Facebook

This is a false premise. Fake news DOES NOT influence people. It helps them preach to a choir or reinforce beliefs. If she was or is “antivax” - she already had proclivity to do so.

Besides, the math doesn’t add up. If this kid saying this is 18 and Facebook has only been around since 2006, with the majority of users coming aboard from 2008-2010, her mother certainly didn’t get this opinion from Facebook or social media. 

While I do believe you can be misled with a compelling argument, it’s rare that anyone who agrees with a premise has changed their mind on a topic BECAUSE of someone else’s assertion.

Stop promoting the false narrative that fake news changes opinion.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Why you shouldn’t buy LED headlights for your car ..

Unlike other light replacements on your car, LED low beam headlights use more energy due to cooling fans - which are prone to failure. Failure of a cooling fan in an LED headlight can cause overheating - resulting in severe damage to your car. 

LEDs are blinding to other drivers. The light produced by LED headlights may help you see better down the road but in most implementations - blind oncoming traffic and pedestrians. 

LEDs have a strobing effect on camera, in photos, & while wearing some high end polarized sunglasses / eyeglasses.

Upgrading your turn signal, brake, and other lighting in your car is a good decision as the smaller lights use less energy and don’t require cooling. In the case of “system support & safety lighting” - the brighter light LEDs put out is better.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Why did the SCION brand fail? Or How bout a more intelligent question ... Why did the SCION iQ fail?

As an owner of a SCION iQ, I’ve been asked often why I think the Scion brand and the iQ were discontinued.

I think there are two main reasons the SCION brand failed:

1) Toyota spent way too much marketing the SCION brand to a demographic that doesn’t have money 18-30. The largest segment of this demographic buys either a used "point A to point B car" or has a hand me down from family. The wealthier segment of this demographic typically doesn't go for "off brands" which is what the SCION brand was considered. A lot of people I've spoken to didn't even know Toyota made SCIONs or considered it the opposite of Lexus - as a budget brand.

2) SCION was a pricey brand (not really budget priced like intended) with a "no haggle" pricing model called "Pure Price". GM's Saturn brand failed at the concept of “no haggle pricing". It was surprising to see Toyota analyze the Saturn data and continue to think that it might work for them. 

In the US, even if there really isn't much price reduction at all from an artificial "base price" - Americans are typically bargain seekers. No haggle pricing as a model doesn't work. I suppose the irony of my saying this is that I bought my used Scion iQ from a large USED dealer that has "no haggle pricing". I do have to admit, it pained me every second I was in the dealership signing papers.


With an eight digit cost ad campaign, these sales barely broke Scion even and definitely made dealers unhappy having to take up floorand lot space:

As for the iQ specifically?

The typical answer is that it was “a shift towards SUVs & Crossovers” but I personally don't think that played a factor at all.

Actual SCION iQ advertisement.
Many thought the iQ was a “smart car” and therefore silly and underpowered by perception. Buyers gave little attention to mostly positive reviews about zippy performance, amazing non-hybrid gas mileage, higher up seating than a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, and very favorable crash test results. Many perceived the iQ as "impossible to be safe in such a tiny car". Marketing was cutesy rather than informative.
Marketing worldwide for the iQ was mostly fluffy ~ without substance. Elaborate budgets on advertising hurt the iQ’s margins as much as the lack of substance. 

An example: 

Filming of a very elaborate Toyota iQ advertisement that never aired in Japan:

If you'd like to follow my  comprehensive "all things iQ" discussion on Twitter, please go to: 

Friday, September 21, 2018

What angle should a pinball table be?

Side-to-side tilt should be level, or 0°

6.5 - 7° is recommended for the front-to-back tilt of a pinball table

You may use a range of 6° -9° slant, but even a ½° more than 6.5° increases ball momentum by 2” per second!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Technology In Education: Undermining Every Bit & Byte Of Reason

This school year, my daughter's private school, decided to utilize a new laptop program centered around ChromeBook laptops made by Dell. Most public schools in South Carolina have embraced this program over the last few years. The main sales pitch is that deployment doesn't require the use of "IT professionals" and that a tech savvy teacher with little networking knowledge can manage the tech fleet easily - all while staying in close contact with the students for homework help, reminders, and parent information.
"Charles Schwab (a Chrome Enterprise customer) rolled out more than 1,000 Chromebooks in less than 2 months using Chrome Enterprise Management. Everything worked right out of the box without the need to bring in IT to install any software or manually customize settings on each device."
- from Google Partner Agosto, Debunking the 5 Most Common Chromebook Myths
The internet, as searched by Google, maker of the Chromebook and ChromeOS underpinnings, is littered with shill articles as the top results praising the Chromebook's merits. Of course it does! And, when schools and school districts are searching for less expensive, easier to manage solutions for tech in their schools - what search engine do they use? I'd venture to say, "Google".

Not using a knowledgeable and talented IT professional to fix and maintain your network and security of information is tantamount to saying a trained school resource officer is unneeded to protect the physical security of the children. Think about that each time you see a school resource officer.

If you're familiar with ChromeBook hardware, these are very plasticy, flimsy terminals that run Google's operating system called ChromeOS. ChromeOS is based off of the Chrome browser - a competitor to Microsoft's Internet Explorer/Edge browser, Apple's Safari, and Mozilla's Firefox.

As a 25 year networking and IT professional, I have never recommended anything outside of Apple hardware for security reasons. Apple's Safari browser for computers and phones is very secure as well. But, different needs call for different uses of hardware. I also understand usage preferences. If one of my customers needed to use Windows, I recommended the FireFox web browser. For continuity, I recommend Firefox usage on Apple products as well. However, in nearly every case that a Chrome browser was installed on any of the various hardware I've serviced in the last 10 years since the Chrome browser first came into being - there have been major security concerns with malware, adware, and spyware. It seemed none were caught by common use viral protection.

Then, there's an issue of privacy ...
A Missouri couple asserted that the Springfield Public School System is accessing their personal accounts and storing their private information on the system's Google Drive without their permission - including voice assistant commands from all household members
Also, from, Why the NSA loves Google's ChromeBook
"Furthermore, the Chromebook is everything a government watchman could want—even without Google Apps data and Gmail, it could give those with network monitoring capabilities a way to pinpoint the location of a credential-holder.

Chromebook plus a government-forged Google certificate equals a man-in-the-middle attack against the SSL security of Google's services—and a way for the government to read all of your e-mails and documents as they pass back and forth through an Internet choke point to and from your browser.

None of this is necessarily Google's fault. But it's a weakness of the browser as platform—by pushing nearly all the computing resources for applications, besides presentation, back up into the cloud, the Chromebook model creates a one-stop shop for attackers or observers to inject themselves into your computing world. ... Chromebook is unique in its tethering to a single set of cloud services over web protocols. When used with the best practices for web security, the Chromebook is secure against most direct attacks on the local hardware and the Chrome browser, but its dependence on a web-based backend where US courts have already ruled there's less of an expectation of privacy is something no amount of end-point security is going to fix."
From Daring Fireball
Google can make all the positive claims it wants about security of Chrome, ChromeOS, and ChromeBook hardware, but be careful about their argument that privacy and security are not intertwined. Security goes hand in hand with privacy. Google is first and foremost a marketing company. Google collects data. Google sells data. They market their services as free. Remember the saying about free lunch? (if not, Google it ...) Google sells to the highest bidder, the lowest bidder, and even shares some data freely - personal data - with marketing partners and "researchers" to learn how to market to you even more. Our children aren't just being sold out to the lowest bidder for theirs AND OUR adult information - but being sold out to almost anyone that asks - above board or unscrupulous.

Google executive Eric Schmidt, said in 2010 that Google’s job was to “get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”  ← that’s a very creepy thing to say.

The ChromeBook, ChromeOS, and Android OS and hardware is in and of itself - one giant data collection experiment - perpetrated by by the biggest behemoth in advertising history. It's also one giant social engineering experiment with one goal; push progressive ideology and politics.

Dennis Prager claims in an ongoing legal battle with Google owned YOUtube, which has a near monopoly on video sharing services:
"The plaintiff, Prager University, said YouTube’s “animus” toward its “political identity and viewpoint” led it to curb access to videos, including through its “Restricted Mode” setting, on such topics as abortion, gun rights, Islam and terrorism, despite its stated promise of neutrality"

- Reuters
Recently, a video leaked showing Google employees upset over the 2016 Presidential Election results. The video also indicated that employees felt they may not have manipulated results and algorithms enough to push for Clinton's victory over Trump.
"In the hour-long video, execs including co-founder Sergey Brin, as well as Google CEO Sundar Pichai, chief financial officer Ruth Porat and top lawyer Kent Walker, respond to the election with somber tones and calls for employees not to let the results divide them.
"Myself as an immigrant and a refugee, I certainly find the selection deeply offensive and I know many of you do too," Brin, Alphabet's president, says near the outset of the meeting. "I think it's a very stressful time and conflicts with many of our values." ... Later in the video, CFO Porat admits to being a Hillary Clinton supporter."
- CNBC, Leaked video shows Google's leaders responding in dismay at an all-hands meeting after the 2016 presidential election.
Finally, we come to how I believe ChromeBooks undermine parental authority and control. Over the past few weeks, I have been observing my daugther's Chromebook network activity - logged - as it runs through my router. We found her in her bedroom late, on a school night, chatting with a friend through the school advocated chat program that I am unable to block or manage in any way whatsoever. It further concerns me that while the school may have filters and firewalls galore to block unwanted content - such as porn, R-rated content, etc - I cannot reasonably or easily have all those restrictions for her. While I'm working on blocking certain content from her specific IP address and to and from (and through) my home router, it isn't reasonable to think the average parent is going to take these steps or have the know how to do it.

A little backstory, we do not afford our 6th grade daughter a cellphone or chat access on any device in our home - including games. A joint parenting concern is that her age and maturity are not appropriate at this time to utilize chat responsibly, but more importantly; safely. Furthermore, as a parent, I consider the use of technology as entertainment a privilege outside of school work, a job, or family use. In the modern day, that means that punishment for chores that aren't done or inappropriate actions or behaviors, is loss of technology access. I cannot take away my daughter's Chromebook. I cannot manage it's network access, I cannot limit email or chat access. I have to make her dock it (while she is not at school) in the living room and use it in the living room.

As of yesterday, I have a new concern. (A concern I had not considered.) My daughter knows I have a few passions; tech, music, and writing. She called me over to show me how she goes to Youtube, copies the URL for a music video, then goes to a website where the audio from the video is converted into a downloadable MP3 to store in a music player on her ChromeBook. So, now I had to be the buzzkill and explain that I download music from iTunes and pay for it and that I'd be happy to get her gift cards to pay for music if she wants. I had to explain to her that artists deserve compensation for their work - giving the example of "if you created something to sell, would you want someone getting it for free?" Sigh. The young me loved her even more for showing me that. It reminded me of myself, standing next to the radio with my finger on the tape record button - those were the days. The adult me me reads stories about how people are selectively made examples of by Youtube and the recording industry - with bankrupting fines and embarrassment. I have personally seen clients get fined thousands for using unlicensed software.
"Streaming and ripping site like YouTube-MP3 are the latest targets for record labels which are keen to do everything possible to crack down on copyright infringement and piracy." 
~ Beta News
What is the solution?

Keep these devices at schools where they can be manged by networking professionals. Let the parents provide AND MANAGE  their own technology in their homes. It is an unreasonable argument in this day and age to say you can't afford basic technology - nor is it any business of the school to determine what a family can afford. I consider it socialism to determine that all kids must be equal - so says your school. There is public library access. Internet access has become as much of a utility necessity as phone access - in many circumstances - internet access has replaced phone access. But again, its not the school's business what you make a priority. Your child, or you as a parent have the right to desire and acquire what is best for your child.

But in the end, are these laptops really even helping at all?
Research by scientists at Michigan State University suggests that laptops do not enhance classroom learning, and in fact students would be better off leaving their laptops in the dorm during class. Although computer use during class may create the illusion of enhanced engagement with course content, it more often reflects engagement with social media, YouTube videos, instant messaging, and other nonacademic content. This self-inflicted distraction comes at a cost, as students are spending up to one-third of valuable (and costly) class time zoned out, and the longer they are online the more their grades tend to suffer.
This entire article was written by someone with a 25 year networking background. At the end of the day, I see education costs going up. The new cost of education is telling our children that cyber security and personal privacy don't matter.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

TPMS Sensors ...

Get better fuel efficiency and a cool gauge with a Tire Pressure Monitor System ...

For the past month I’ve been testing this device as a way to maximize my fuel efficiency. Keeping your tires inflated is critical to good gas mileage. I over-inflate because I don’t need great traction. I get decent traction already due to the short wheel base my car - a Scion iQ.

Inner rim valve stem monitors can only alert you if the tire is changing pressure constantly (meaning you are 5psi or more off spec)

The valve cap style measures actual psi to the ½ psi measurement.

The best price can be found on eBay for about $50 shipped.

Retail and Amazon is $80 + shipping.

My research indicates that this particular setup, four tire stem caps and a car 12V cigarette plug called “Carchet” is the best setup with the most reliable readings.

These have a special tool (that comes in the package) required to take them off.

You also must have the reader/display - as these won’t work with any other system - for added security.

[UPDATE] 8/20/18 ... I have since moved to using an aftermarket car stereo attachment known as the iDataLink Maestro. This device attaches to certain modern double din car stereos and displays data coming from your OBDII port. Part of that data was tire pressure monitoring and tire temperature amongst other gauges like speed, RPM, and fuel economy. I still like the Carchet solution but prefer this integrated interface more because I know it's 100% accurate.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Visiting The Ark Encounter & Why You Need To Encounter It As Well

In early July 2018, my family went to Kentucky, to see The Ark Encounter; a full size, precise biblical dimension recreation of Noah's Ark.

Inside, there is an extensive exhibit detailing the plausibility of Noah's journey - from why it happened to how it happened.

The Ark Encounter is an extension of Ken Ham's Answers In Genesis ministry which also includes the nearby Creation Museum.

As with the Creation Museum , I was most interested in going to see The Ark because of criticism from atheists on social media.

Small aside relating to this; I am perplexed at how unhappy those that criticize the Answers In Genesis outreach are. My personal belief is that  AIG is a great ministry that adds credence to faith. In this review, I will try to put aside any bias and review the The Ark Encounter objectively.

Once you've seen it, you have to admit that it's a site to see. If you are a believer, it's some of your favorite childhood Bible passages come to life - no longer a cartoon drawing, a silly song, or playset. As an adult, we, in modern times have had the chance to see depictions in film and on TV, but truly, this iteration is inspired. But, even as a non-believer, you must give Answers In Genesis at least some credit for the building, the beautiful grounds keeping & landscaping, and even the presentation of materials and experience. The entire area is maintained with cleanliness and order. It's truly beautiful.

As a believer in the unerring words of the Bible, it was an inspiration of my faith to visit The Ark Encounter. The thing that critics seem to be missing is - well - faith - which is what the Bible passages about Noah are about - longstanding faith in God. If you lack faith in the message of the Bible - which is salvation - then you will likely miss the full experience of visiting.

By Answers In Genesis estimates, upwards of 2.2 million guests have visited since the opening of The Ark Encounter - more this year than its opening year. On average, the park receives 5000-7500 visitors per day. When I went, on July 4 (The US Independence Day  Holiday), I would estimate there was somewhere in the mid-range of that daily attendance figure. My mother-in-law, who was making her second trip with our family states that when she visited the previous fall - it was shoulder to shoulder all day and that 7500 may be a low estimate of the people that were there.

When you read about The Ark Encounter on social media, or see youtube videos with atheists visiting to poke fun - you have to take into perspective several things.

1) The park was designed to accommodate large church groups visiting. Parking, line cues, and ticketing are all designed to move large groups through efficiently. These areas seem blank or unused on average days.

2) The estimates for park attendance by atheist websites and by critical commentary don't consider any factual information. At current levels - a fair estimation of attendance is 1.2-1.5 million visitors per year.

The surrounding area doesn't have near the capacity for the amount of visitors coming through the park, thus, limiting to a small degree, attendance. Nearby Cincinnati (40 miles) is not a cheap area to stay. Nearby Lexington, Kentucky also isn't on the economical end to stay. Not considering my discounts achieved - the 10 members of my family spent $1000.00 on two nights hotel stay at the Cincinnati Airport area in a Hampton Inn. Outside the park, we spent an additional $600.00 on meals (The Hebron Grille is a must try). During the trip, we visited a local Walmart and spent $130.00. Between the 10 members of our family, we spent greater than $400.00 in the gift shop of  The Ark Encounter. In 48 hours, I think it would be fair to say, our family, considering all expenses, had greater than a $2500.00 economic impact on the Kentucky tourism business.

3) As evidenced above, the economic impact of The Ark Encounter cannot be understated. If my estimations are clear, on property revenue is close to $100.00 per person - with some being much higher and some being about a minimum of $70.00 per person spent at the park in one day. All 10 members of our family ate at The Ark Encounter restaurant called Emzara's Kitchen (which was arguably one of the best buffets I've ever had the pleasure of eating at). Extrapolation of these numbers would indicate the The Ark Encounter has pulled in well over $200 million in revenue. With cost estimates at $100 million to build, and most businesses losing money their first 5 years, I'd say the experience is doing quite well.

Getting to see the Museum Of The Bible exhibit was a definite bonus and gave my family extra inspiration to travel to Washington DC next summer to see it.

Some cons of my experience:

- This isn't a completely inexpensive thing to do. Worth it? I'd say, "yes". And I'd even contend that it's a better alternative to the tourist traps of beaches or other theme parks.

- I was a bit disheartened by the exhibit containing a criticism of children's books and toys based on the story of Noah. The point of the exhibit was to say that teaching children in this manner was making the story of Noah into a fairy tale. I think this part of the exhibit is misguided and shouldn't have passed board approval. There's a very high likelihood that those creators and authors were Christian and worked hard to bring their creations to younger audiences to expose them to biblical teachings in a relatable way. I think you could even argue that revenue received by the creators of Children's material has been tithed to churches and other ministries.

- I was not that pleased with the parking fees. Non English speaking visitors seemed confused and remembering to get "an exit ticket" was cumbersome and annoying. I've since learned that parking fees were added mostly to pay bills associated with Freedom From Religion Foundation litigation and associated greed from the local town of Williamstown.

Whether you are a believer or not, no picture or vivid description from a friend or family member, and no article or brochure you read can put the size - outside or inside - into perspective. Even without the story being real to you, it's inspiring just to see the outside. I highly recommend a visit.

For another review, please read:

* My social media posts have inspired several of my friends to visit with their families, including the photograher of the photos included. All of my photos included family so I reached out to friend and photographer Marie Barton to share hers.