Alternative

Over at Insty’s place, there’s a post linking to a thing about the Marxists and the military, also containing the story of Gurgle censoring a blogger by hiding his site when you search for an article he wrote (specifically:  “Under Obama, there came to be a cancer in the Pentagon” with the addition of his website: “site:bookwormroom.com” in the search string.

Under Gurgle, nada.  Using DuckDuckGo, however:

Yup, it’s #1.

I don’t think I’ve used Gurgle for over two years, for just this reason.

Fair Warning

Via Insty. I see the following announcement:

Mercedes-Benz and Nvidia are going to build a new software-defined computing architecture for automated vehicles based on the Nvidia DRIVE platform that will be installed across the fleet of next-generation Mercedes-Benz vehicles, starting in 2024.
“The entire fleet, every car from the entry A-classes to the S-classes, will have the highest-performance Nvidia AI supercomputer on board.”
Shapiro said that each of these new Mercedes vehicles will come with the full surround sensor suite installed and then, similar to how Tesla does things today, it will be up to owners to decide if they want to activate features, either when they purchase the car or after the fact with an over-the-air update. “There will be different business models, subscription service possibilities or one-time fees or things like that, depending on the region, that potentially turns the car into a fully upgradable, perpetually upgradable device, and there potentially could be be a Mercedes App Store,” he said.

Emphasis mine because Mercedes, being German, will make that particular feature disappear just as Porsche decided that drivers shouldn’t be allowed to change gears manually in their (Porsche’s) precious little Nazi pocket rockets.

My take on the above, therefore, rewords their announcement thus:

If you’re going to buy a Mercedes, buy one before the 2024 model year comes to market. 

Me being me, I’d rather buy a still-older (but rebuilt) Mercedes, like this one (for about the same end-price of a comparably-sized new Merc):

 

…or even this Mercedes (which has had all the rebuilding done — see the pic gallery):

No silly tech doodads that cause your car to stop because some sub-system software failed, or because some AI algorithm decided that you’d done enough driving for the day, or that would require the entire IT Department at Daimler-Benz to fix it.

Just good, honest driving pleasure in a car with proven reliability.  What Mercedes used to be renowned for.

My simple belief is this:  we wouldn’t accept this kind of software built into our guns, so why should we allow it in our cars?

Morons

Several years ago, I had lying around the house some of those “bullet-hole” decals:

…which, for no reason at all, I affixed to the lid of my then-laptop (as I recall, a Gateway), to set it apart from the half-dozen other laptops in the house.  All was well, and I forgot all about them until one day I called on a longtime client, and when I opened up the laptop, he chuckled and said, “Another satisfied Microsoft customer.”  Statement, not a question.

I told you all that so I could tell you this.

I set up my shiny new HP laptop, transferred all the files and data over, and it all went off without too much fuss other than the Thunderbird email setup, but even that was just a small annoyance.

Next was to set up all the hardware.  As I never use a touchpad, only a wireless Logitech rollerball, I went to disable the touchpad — because as we all know, when you type on a laptop, your hand will often brush over the active pad, which moves the cursor all over the place or, more annoyingly, you may hit the “Enter” or “right-click” button by accident, with the expected dolorous outcomes.  This is a simple job:  you find the hardware under Options, and click the “Disable” button.  I say this in the present tense, but if fact, it should be in the past tense because — and here’s the executive summary — with the latest version of Windows 10, you cannot disable the touchpad.  There is NO “Disable” button.  Oh, you can (sorta) disable it, but every time you reboot, it comes back to life.  And guess what?  If you uninstall it, it gets reinstalled when rebooting, too.

So off I went to Microsoft’s “troubleshooting” web page to see if I was just being a moron or otherwise dense.   I wasn’t.

There were TWELVE PAGES of questions on the topic, for both Synaptics and Elan touchpads, and the executive summary is that, in characteristic fashion, Microsoft’s “upgrades” have somehow just fucked this most simple of tasks in the ass.  (Ever tried changing your Windows background to black with Win10?  You can’t do that either.)

And the irritation from the users was, in a word, volcanic as fix after fix was tried, and found wanting.  Even if you go in and physically delete the touchpad drivers, they’ll be reinstalled automatically either in the upgrade process, or (once again) upon rebooting.  The fucking application cannot be killed.

One guy actually ended up going to a geek store and had them uncouple the internal connections so that the touchpad could never work again but, as he admitted, if his mouse ever crashed, he’d be stuck with essentially a brick.  (Nobody knows how to use a keyboard to get around Windows anymore, and I think that some of the workarounds have actually disappeared over the years.)

What a goat rodeo.

So… what did I do?  I did what a couple of users suggested.  Here’s a pic of my new laptop:

And here’s the modified laptop:

Yes, Gentle Readers:  I stuck a piece of cardboard over the touchpad.  High-tech solution, n’est- ce pas?

One of these days, the bullet-holes in my laptop may not be decals.

Snooping Bastards

Longtime Readers know that I detest the way tech companies strip-mine our personal information so they can sell it off to various other companies.  Here’s one take on it:

Over the weekend, The New York Times ran a frightening story about a small company named Clearview AI that can identify the person in a picture someone uploads to its service. The New York Times said Clearview AI has more than 3 billion images “scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites” and that more than 600 law enforcement agencies have started using it.
The report raises some really valid concerns about our privacy: If a picture of you exists somewhere online, and you participate in a protest or a rally, then it’s plausible law enforcement could upload a picture of you at the rally, run it through the Clearview system and easily find out who you are.

But fear not:

Facebook has a setting that can recognize your face so that you’re automatically suggested as a tag in pictures and video that your friends upload. (It won’t work if a stranger uploads your picture.) It’s not available for everyone, including people under 18. Facebook has been rolling it out in stages, and says it’s turned off by default, but I’ve had it for a while and have no recollection of how or when I turned it on.

  • Open Facebook.com in your web browser.
  • Tap the down arrow on the top right of the page.
  • Choose Settings.
  • Pick Face Recognition from the left side.  If you don’t see it, your account might not have the feature.
  • Next to “Do you want Facebook to be able to recognize you in photos and videos?” select No.

When you do that, Facebook says it will “delete your face recognition template” so you’re no longer recognized.

And if you honestly believe that your “face recognition template” has now actually been deleted, I have some snake oil to sell you, guaranteed to make you live forever, you witless simpleton.

I don’t trust any of these fucking bastards.

Past Perfect

Right up front, I’m going to admit that I know diddly squat about farming — I can’t tell a cornfield from a minefield, nor a rake from a pitchfork — but at the same time, I think I understand what’s going on here.

Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days — and it’s not because they’re antiques.
Cost-conscious farmers are looking for bargains, and tractors from that era are well-built and totally functional, and aren’t as complicated or expensive to repair as more recent models that run on sophisticated software.
“It’s a trend that’s been building. It’s been interesting in the last couple years, which have been difficult for ag, to see the trend accelerate,” said Greg Peterson, the founder of Machinery Pete, a farm equipment data company in Rochester with a website and TV show.
“There’s an affinity factor if you grew up around these tractors, but it goes way beyond that,” Peterson said. “These things, they’re basically bulletproof. You can put 15,000 hours on it and if something breaks you can just replace it.”

But why, you may ask, are farmers rejecting the New ‘N Improved Tractors, which come with all sorts of Gadgets And Software, Guaranteed To Make Life Easier For Farmers?

The other big draw of the older tractors is their lack of complex technology. Farmers prefer to fix what they can on the spot, or take it to their mechanic and not have to spend tens of thousands of dollars.
“The newer machines, any time something breaks, you’ve got to have a computer to fix it,” Stock said.
There are some good things about the software in newer machines, said Peterson. The dealer will get a warning if something is about to break and can contact the farmer ahead of time to nip the problem in the bud. But if something does break, the farmer is powerless, stuck in the field waiting for a service truck from the dealership to come out to their farm and charge up to $150 per hour for labor.

In other words, tractors are becoming like today’s passenger cars:  crammed with all sorts of shit that sound oh-so wonderful when listed under “Safety”, “Convenience” or “Efficiency”, but which have little actual utility and simply serve to drive the price of the fucking machine into the stratosphere faster than one of Elon Musk’s rockets, while making them more prone to failure  — because as any fule know, as complexity increases, Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) shortens exponentially.

Wrenching the topic into an area which I know better than farming (and cars, for that matter):  it’s the same reason I prefer a simple AK-47 to a tricked-out AR-15.  The AR is finicky, has all manner of geegaws that can break and render the thing useless, whereas you can drive a truck over an AK and it will still continue to send bullets downrange into an 8″ kill zone.

So to all those farmers who prefer 1970s-era technology over 2019 technology in their tractors, I am very much a kindred spirit, because I prefer simple 1947 rifle technology over most of what has happened to semi-auto rifles since 2000.

And just as they’d rather spend $50,000 on an old, fixable warhorse than $150,000 on some prima donna luxo-trax made by Rolls Royce/IBM, I’d rather take the money I save on an AK and spend it on ammo.

Fuck this modern bullshit.  Fuck it all to hell.