Archive for the ‘vague interests’ Category
I’m a loyal customer to the brands I choose
Presented for your approval. to you dear reader. These two seemingly benign mobile phone pics were taken from a nameless, faceless supermarket store chain (I will withhold their name for now).
I have shopped at this store regularly since around 2005 or so and since at least 2006 have shopped there once every two weeks spending anywhere from $50-$100 (not much compared to big families I’m sure). But what ticks me off is that no matter how refined the Inventory and Tracking systems are for any regional grocery store chain, and no matter how much I use my ‘loyalty’ surveillance card for that particular regional grocery store, they still seem to be stuck in the 20th Century. I say that as I have observed the following bad habits time after time, and not just with one regional grocery store but with the top two store chains where I live. Neither one, no matter how much data they collect can seem to keep carrying some items I purchase once every two weeks. Or maybe less frequently than that depending on the product. For instance look at the two photos presented at the top of the webpage. On the left you see what I would describe conservatively as the ‘oddball’ or ‘old-fashioned’ specialty laundry supply shelf. In this regional grocery store, that’s on the very top shelf where it’s less convenient to reach up and haul down a 5 pound box of some kind of laundry product. All the ‘average’ mass market stuff is at waist level or on the bottom where it can easily be slid onto the shopping cart’s bottom cargo shelf (so it’s already a struggle to get to this stuff). The product I like to purchase is the Calgon water softener. Why you ask? Well let me first turn back the clock to the 1970s and this old TV commercial:
As a kid I didn’t do laundry. My Mom would do all the washing and folding up until I was in my later teens. That’s when I had a few experiences washing and folding myself (and occasionally fixing the washing machine too!). I never once in that time really thought about fabric softener or any of those additives market to the heads of households. Whether it was for fragrance or softness or any of those other qualities I didn’t really care once I left home. I just wanted the soap to dissolved completely, do it’s job and rinse completely out of the clothes. Over time the soap/detergent issue came up time and again where a load of laundry would be fouled with undissolved detergent granules that just wouldn’t rinse clean. Which is EXACTLY the opposite of what a clothes washer is supposed to do. At the very least, a clothes washer should do no harm, and not make your clothes dirtier by leaving this sugar like residue clinging tenaciously to your jeans and shirts. But I digress, what I’ve always wanted was a measure of insurance that I wouldn’t suffer from undissolved detergent. The surest way towards that is using really hot water at the initial stage or using a chemical like Calgon to help all the detergent mix into the water. And that’s the refinement I eventually developed all on my own living by myself, doing my own laundry. It took years to get to this point.
So the day that I eventually caved into buying Calgon (I don’t remember when it was exactly but I did it some years before I got married), I stuck with it. My grocery store had no problem keeping that product in stock along with such other oddities as 20 Mule Team Borax and Color Safe Clorox bleach (in the blue box). You can see both of them in the pictures above. The other store I visit also keeps a handy supply of Fel’s Naptha and Downy Flakes as well for the people who crave the old-fashioned products that aren’t designed to ‘Do-it-All’. In fact I think I’ve even seen little blue bottles of ‘Bluing Agent’ to get white dress shirts extra white too. I fully understand the connection, nay emotional tie some seniors and very valuable store customers might have to their favorite brand name cleaner. I too count myself among their ranks.
However, now you can imagine my surprise when I discovered for the first time in 9 years or more that my grocery store has suddenly run out of Calgon. Worse yet as the ‘Before’ picture shows, it’s GONE. No shelf label, no space set aside. It would have been located roughly in that gap between the two Oxy-Clean bottles near the middle (one with green cap, one with yellow). That’s where the Calgon had been sitting for literally 9 years at that store. But I paused and I thought I might become and old man and complain bitterly that, ‘they keep moving things in this store, I can’t find anything’. In fact I did a hardcore search up and down and on successive visits, never once seeing the Calgon return. So I gave up. I stopped using it because I couldn’t find it anywhere else. Months pass, almost 5 months in fact. Out of the blue I decided once more to look and see if they ever got anymore Calgon boxes. I had not looked in that long because it showed no sign of ever returning. I even had looked at buying it by the case online through Amazon (minimum 10 boxes per case at roughly $5.20 per box=$52.00 plus shipping). When I looked this time however, I found it!
Calgon had magically re-appeared not in the same spot, but at least near it’s friend 20 Mule Team Borax on the top shelf as always. There it was, and not just one box. I counted at least 7 boxes in total so someone must have purchased at least 3 boxes out of the case they put on the shelf. Whew! I thought, how lucky am I that whatever oversight, misstep or mistake was made it is now rectified. But it wasn’t enough for me, to just be happy and let this go. I have had more than one of these episodes occur at both the grocery stores I visit. Let me tell you another story about a loyal shopper in search of a brand name product that suddenly vanishes altogether.
My favorite gum, Trident Xtra Care (in any flavor whatsoever, I’m not picky)
Trident Xtra Care gum, I’ve seen it come and go. And now I can’t find it anywhere even after a small glimmer of hope at a national drug store chain. I’ve been buying it every week from two different supermarkets. And yet, no love in return. I had hope when one of the supermarkets it started carrying it after dropping it for a while. Now even the drugstore where I had found a stash of gum has now dropped it too.
Hershey’s Extra Dark is not the same as Hershey’s Special Dark. They are in different leagues, worlds apart from one another.
Special Dark as you recall from your trick-or-treating days is the Bit-0-honey of the Hershey’s Mini Assortment bag. It was like black licorice, blech! It wasn’t all that special, but more bitter than anything else. I despise Hershey Special Dark. However it’s cousin Hershey Extra Dark is different. It’s a 60% Cocoa dream and smoother than any Cadbury, Ghirardelli or Scharffen-Berger. It is the most inexpensive choice save for Cadbury but Cadbury Dark is a dead ringer for Hershey Special Dark and just as objectionable from a taste standpoint. However as I have been pointing out, my favorite product apparently is too difficult for the local grocery stores to keep in stock. I have to go for weeks without a decent chocolate bar usually ending in me buying a Cadbury Special Dark which as I have said is no different than Hershey Special Dark. The best way for me describe it is like eating Nestle bittersweet chocolate morsels (somewhat bitter but WAY too much sugar and 0% cocoa butter).
I guess I should be thankful I make enough money to buy these items regularly. I am so lucky, how lucky I am to have the ability to earn money and have spare time to write about these minor annoyances. It’s true. But at the same time I am achingly curious over the decisions that drive what stores choose to stock and those they let lapse through a fiscal quarter and fiscal year. Is it all a big mistake or is it absolutely necessary to meet your quarterly sales targets? So one customer (namely ME) is inconvenienced and is unlikely to say or do anything about their favorite product going missing without explanation. But this is where I’m drawing the line and asking why, especially give the technology underlying the whole product mix and stocking practices at any retailer. Those guys know what they are doing and I’m an unhappy customer. I am writing this as a way of identifying the damage in the network and will have to begin routing around just like the Internet. Goodbye Supermarket brick and mortar store, hello Amazon dot Com.
Check out the video of the Lecture. Dr. Fossum attempts to address the societal and privacy implications of his invention the CMOS sensor. You don’t find too many scientists willing to engage in this type of presentation. And he brings the thorny issues early in the presentation so that he doesn’t run out of time to cover them by sticking them at the end.
Also interesting in this video is Dr. Fossum’s story about how he was assigned the task of improving the reliability of CCDs (charged coupled devices) that were being sent into space. Defects in the sensor could occur when a highly energetic particle entered the sensor and created a defect in the sensor itself (ruing the ability to read out data accurately from the chip). The CCD works by collecting a sample than moving it one step at a time out to the edge of the chip, where it then gets amplified and read, and recorded. So if a defect occurs, the buckets moving a particular row or column of pixels will hit the defect and alter the reading or stop it from reading altogether.
Dr. Fossum was able to get around this by building an amplifier into each pixel. This was achieved, hanks to the scaling down of micro-electronics available in silicon semi-conductors and Moore’s Law. A double-benefit of using CMOS semiconductors for the sensor is you can add all kinds of OTHER electronic circuits on the same chip as the sensor, so things get really interesting because you can integrate them on the silicon (bring up performance, bringing down costs). As Dr. Fossum says, “basically we can integrate so many things, we can create a full camera on a chip. All you do is add power, and out comes an image,…”
Also liked this quote, “The force of marketing is greater than the force of engineering…”
Lastly, he covers his research of quanta-image sensor (QIS) which sounds pretty interesting too.
As I review and improve the elmcity hubs in selected cities, I am again reminded of William Gibson's wonderful aphorism: "The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed." Yesterday we saw that the future of community calendars hasn't yet arrived at the University of Michigan. But today I was delighted to see that it has arrived, in a big way, for the Ann Arbor public schools.
The number of U.S. government requests for data on Google users for use in criminal investigations rose 29 percent in the last six months, according to data released by the search giant Monday.
Not good news in imho. The reason being is the mission creep and abuses that come with absolute power in the form of a National Security Letter. The other part of the equation is Google’s business model runs opposite to the idea of protecting people’s information. If you disagree, I ask that you read this blog post from Christopher Soghoian, where he details just what exactly it is Google does when it keeps all your data unencrypted in its data centers. In order to sell AdWords and serve advertisements to you, Google needs to keep everything open and unencrypted. At the same time they aren’t too casual in their stewardship of your data, but they do respond to law enforcement requests for customer data. To quote Seghoian at the end of his blog entry:
“The end result is that law enforcement agencies can, and regularly do request user data from the company — requests that would lead to nothing if the company put user security and privacy first.”
And that indeed is the moral of the story. Which leaves everyone asking what’s the alternative? Earlier in the same story the blame is placed square on the end-user for not protecting themselves. Encryption tools for email and personal documents have been around for a long time. And often there are commercial products available to help accomplish some level of privacy even for so-called Cloud hosted data. But the friction point is always going to be the level of familiarity, ease of use and cost of the product before it is as widely used and adopted as Webmail has been since the advent of desktop email clients like Eudora.
So if you really have concerns, take action, don’t wait for Google to act to defend your rights. Encrypt your email, your documents and make Google one bit less culpable for any law enforcement requests that may or may not include your personal data.
- Google Reports Surge in Government Requests for User Data (blogs.wsj.com)
- Government requests to Google for information on users has spiked. (ritcyberselfdefense.wordpress.com)
- Pioneering Campus CIOs Say Necessity Drives Shift to Cloud – Campus Technology (carpetbomberz.com)
This past June, fellow High Tech History writer Gil Press wrote an entry in recognition of International Business Machines' centennial. In the interim, I came across a documentary created by noted filmmaker Errol Morris for IBM that draws on the experiences of, among others, the corporation's former technicians and executives to tell a thirty-minute story of some of IBM's more notable achievements in computing over the last one hundred years.
I'm a bit puzzled by his remark that
Duval being a computer scientist strongly believes in the power of data and the revelations it holds.
Actually, I am not sure what would be the alternative to 'believing in data' - not believing in data?
Pioneering Campus CIOs Say Necessity Drives Shift to Cloud By David Raths 10/25/11
A recent survey of campus IT leaders suggested that most colleges and universities are still gun shy about cloud computing. Yet if attendance at conference meetings is any gauge, there is widespread curiosity about the experience of early adopters.
The number of U.S. government requests for data on Google users for use in criminal investigations rose 29 percent in the last six months, according to data released by the search giant Monday. By Ryan Singel October 25, 2011 | 11:07 am
I think the old adage about Greeks Bearing Gifts applies here, or should I say geeks bearing gifts?! Cloud computing as it applies to desktop productivity apps is a double-edged sword as it is commonly practiced in Higher Ed. What was once seen as a major outsourcing/cost-savings dumping Student email off to willing companies like Google is now seen as the ‘wave of the future’ where desktops give way to mobile devices and Web apps slowly evolve into just apps, independent of the websites where they actually run. However beware dear reader as those contracts you sign and the myriad terms of your Service Level Agreement are hammered out, rules can change. And by that I mean, the rule regarding simple things like, National Security Letters sent by the FBI to Google Inc. for the email of an individual you have outsourced your Student Email services to. I ask here to anyone who is reading, does Google under the terms of its contracts with a Higher Ed I.T. unit have to notify anyone that they are sending 6 months or more of GMail messages to the FBI to read at their leisure?
I’m reminded somewhat of the bad old days under Napster, where Higher Ed eventually started to receive mass quantities of DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) notices about infringing music files being shared over their data networks. In cases like that, each school could set its own policy. Some were very neutral asking for proof of the infringement, and in some cases ignoring the request because the point of origin was not the copyright holder but a 3rd party clearance group who spammed every University on behalf of the Recording Industry (RIAA). The beauty of the democracy and law for DMCA requests meant each institution could now decide how best to pursue the matter and do so at their own discretion. Not so with government requests for electronic data, oh no. For a national security letter, the University doesn’t even have to notify the individual that their data is being shared to the FBI. Nor can the tell anyone, it’s a complete, air-tight gag order placed on the service provider whomever they may be (Library, Student Records, or University I.T.) Whither the case of the outsourced University I.T. then?
In the haste to save money the SLAs Universities across the U.S. have made with big name providers like Google have made everyone subject to the rules governing that provider. Google is not an institution of Higher Ed. They are for profit, a U.S. corporation subject to all the laws governing any company chartered in the U.S. And they unlike Higher Ed do not have the interest, much less the luxury of responding to National Security letters in their own way, or at their own discretion. In fact, they don’t have to tell anyone what their actually policy as such is that’s private only for their top level officers and their Legal Dept. to know. So in the mad rush to create the omnipresent future of ‘Cloud Computing’ one must ask themselves, are we really only making the surveillance by Government easier? Are we really understanding what we give up when we decide to adopt applications/data hosted in the Cloud? Sure, yes, privacy as then CEO of Sun Microsystems Scott McNeely once boasted is ‘You have zero privacy anyway, get over it‘. But do we really understand the full implication of what this means?
I dare say it’s the folks focusing on the bottom line who are signing away our rights without us ever getting a say. And while I understand that even non-profit Higher Ed is run like a business, they are the last folks who should be participating in this construction of the Data Cloud Surveillance State we find ourselves in now. If we cannot choose for ourselves, what then do we have left for ourselves? Our thoughts? Our feelings? Sorry no, those too are now housed in the cloud by the likes of Facebook Timeline lifesteaming. Now everyone knows everything and you have surrendered it all just for the sake of catching up with some old College and High School friends. That’s too high a price to pay I think. So, to the degree possible I am unwilling to just let this ‘freedom’ ebb through a process of adopting this new App or that new platform. The new New Thing maybe cool, but there’s a whole lotta string attached.
No. 7. John Ambrose Fleming: Sir John Ambrose Fleming is the inventor of the first vacuum tube. His engineering feat is known as the precursor to electronics — even though the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated his patent.
Until I read this list, I didn’t know who invented the vacuum tube. I did however understand the incredible importance of the vacuum tube though. Especially as it applied to the early computer industry. After that the transistor took over. But oh that early time of designing circuits and working on logic! Without any of those historical antecedents we would not have the computers of today. The necessity of switching voltages from high to low is the only way to mimic the registers in an adding machine, spinning, counting off one digit at a time. Wiring those tubes up into circuits and creating logic with them was the next big leap in intuition.
Without the vacuum tube there would be no electrical engineering, no electronics industry and no devices like wireless telegraphs, wireless radio, etc. Everything hinged on this invention. So cheers to John Ambrose Fleming and the vaccuum tube. Being able to apply some kind of useful purpose to what would have been thought of as a laboratory curiosity, a magic toy to manipulate cathode rays. But somehow Fleming was able to see an application of this technology to a useful end and the rest they say is history.
- DIY Vacuum Tube (makezine.com)
- Handmade Vacuum Tubes (childhoodall.blogspot.com)
- McIntosh Teaches Its 50-Year-Old Tube Amp a Few New Tricks [Desired] (gizmodo.com)
On the surface, RSS seems great for those of us who want to keep up on everything happening on the Internet—and I mean everything. As for me, I use RSS regularly at five minute intervals for pretty much the entire time Im awake. I use RSS for both work and personal reasons—it helps me keep tabs on practically every tech site that matters in order to ensure that Im never missing anything, plus it lets me make sure Im on top of my friends and families lives via their blogs. If not for RSS, I could never keep up on anything. Or would I?
There seems to be an RSS backlash going on, starting this past Spring when a notable article came out pointing out how low the adoption rate has been. Web 2.0 seemed to be the era of more tailored, easily discovered reading content, sharing of said reading material, commenting on it and starting up conversations. Now the vast social networking phenomenon has been usurped by the gated community of Social Networking websites. You’re a member of this, that or the other new up and coming website whose features and interface blow the competition out of the water. Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, all come and go. But underneath it all, there’s the mighty RSS feed, sitting out there waiting to be subscribed to a lowly XML document with updated listings generated each time a new article gets published through a website’s content management system. There’s no obligation implied whatsoever, only the promise like Digital Video Recorders (or TiVO if you prefer) that there’s something new, you know where to find it to watch it later, and if you don’t watch it, you erase it.
In Jacqui Chen’s article she equates RSS to Email, an inbox needing to be cleared. But I ask Ms. Chen and others arguing along the same lines, do you feel obligated to watch every program captured on your DVR? It’s not the same is it. It’s different. I don’t read articles or headlines like email messages. I’ve gotten very accustomed to the ebb and flow of the blog-spammy white paper regurgitating ‘tech news’ websites. I know when 40 articles get dumped wholesale into their RSS feed that they completely misunderstand the value of their RSS feed. And so I treat them with the same level of misunderstanding and wipeout whole swaths of their clock-like dumps. Literally these outfits like C|net, NYTimes, Gawker, Kotaku, etc. will hold onto their content and dump it like huge water tank out into the RSS feed. Why not just do it piecemeal, as things are edited, researched, fact-checked, and released put them into the RSS feed. My reader will catch it when it appears, and who knows I might actually read it, as opposed to have to sift a list of 20 articles that appeared magically at 9:30AM EST.
The problem you see is not in RSS, it’s in the feeds and how they the publishers abuse and disregard the power of the feed. Holding stuff back to dump it all at once is the Old World publishing model, it’s a form of an ‘edition’. Well the printing press doesn’t need to be kept busy running a ‘batch’ of articles until the next batch comes through. And that’s what the RSS feed publishers don’t understand. Piecemeal is way more suited to the New World of publishing, you don’t need to keep the press operators busy doing a whole section of a paper anymore, so don’t hold your articles back in order to dump a huge quantity all at once. This is a River, a River of News and I for one would prefer a constant trickle than a 4 times a day torrent. This is something the Old World Web 2.0 publishers ‘STILL’ do not understand. One can only hope at the next Revolution (say Web 3.0) the publishers finally get it, and let the River of News flow once and for all time.
Also read this response to the orignal Ars Technica article: Sane RSS usage – Marco.org (September 4, 2011)