Improvement?

Got sick of dealing with Chrome’s little quirks, so over the weekend I installed Firefox instead.

So far, so good.  I was able to transfer my bookmarks over without too much hassle (once I’d figured it out), and installed AdBlock (which annoyingly, requires three menu clicks to temporarily disable it on a specific website, as opposed to only one on Chrome;  but an ad-free existence is worth almost any inconvenience short of self-amputation).

That’s two conscious decouplings from the Evil Google Empire:  DuckDuck Go as a search engine instead of the awful Google Search, and now Firefox for Chrome.  Annoyingly, I can’t really do without Google Maps, because those fuckers have sunk their fangs deeply into almost all shopping sites, and anyway, Uber seems to require Google for their vehicle tracking — assuming, that is, that I can ever get back to driving for Uber.

One day soon I’ll go back to using a paper journal / diary instead of the foul Google Calendar.  Back when I was a Great Big Executive (in the Pre-Personal Computer Era), I used a tiny calendar to manage my entire life, and somehow I got by even though my daily life was littered with office appointments, birthdays, weekend plans, band practices / performances.  The best part of this practice, in retrospect, came from knowing that the details of my personal life were absolutely confidential and impervious to snooping from commercial interests, Chinese and Russian hackers, and bored, basement-dwelling neckbeards (who snoop just because they can).  I could also open up my diary without having adverts screaming at me and / or redirecting my attention (and often, dollars) to malevolent data strip-miners.

I long ago quit using any of the over-complicated MS Office products, of course, as the (free) Open Office suite gives me everything I need to run my life from a writing, mathematical and accounting perspective.

Oh, and one last thing:  if you feel the need to comment on this post, please refrain from making any sentences which include the word “Linux” because they will be deleted.  Just as I refuse to grow my own wheat to make bread, I refuse to use an operating system that requires knowledge of concepts like “kernels”;  and similarly, word processing is streets better than poring over type trays and composing sticks while having to think about kerning (no relation).

At some point, a complicated life gets simplified by invention and ingenuity, and then the invention and ingenuity start to take over whereupon life becomes complicated, once again.  All I’m trying to do is pull back a little, to simplify my life a tad and slow things down so I can get halfway through the day without going “WTF?” and tossing shit into the swimming pool.

And did I mention that all the area shooting ranges — my favorite panacea for dealing with irritability, confusion and rage — are still closed?

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.

Simplisme

I’ve enjoyed Natalie Solent’s writing over at the Samizdatian lair for well over a decade, and this latest one of hers is no disappointment.  The actual topic is some MEGO (my eyes glaze over) piece of political arcana called “Tactical Voting Websites” or some such rubbish, but it was her description of the ultimate microwave oven (seriously) which got me going — a microwave which she bought for her father, who didn’t want anything complicated or he wouldn’t use it.  Here are its technical specs:

It had two dials, How Hot and How Long.

Compare that to her own modern one which does everything (badly) and has features which she has never used, and that probably puts her in the company of just about, well, everyone in the world.

I would buy one of her father’s microwave ovens in a heartbeat, as long as it had one teeny-weeny additional feature:  the 30-second one-touch full-strength blaster — but I wouldn’t cry bitter tears if it didn’t.

You know what’s coming, don’t you?  Compare and contrast:

On the left:  useless shit that over-complicates your life and costs far too much, all while achieving pretty much the same result as the fine stuff on the right.

Don’t even get me started on cell phones.  As far as I’m concerned, mobile phones could have stopped right here in terms of design:

…while adding all the later system features we’ve come to know and love [eyecross].  (Am I the only one who needs about twenty minutes to send an intelligible 3-line text on an iPhone or Android phone?  Great Mercury’s blistered fingers:  do they design modern phones’ “keyboards” using a three-year-old girl’s fingertips as the model size?)

I’m not a Luddite, by any means.  I am an unabashed follower of Occam’s Razor, however, which in this context means that simple tasks can best be accomplished using non-complex tools — “best” being a combination of utility and cost.

Couple Bugs There

Let’s hear it for the Surveillance Society:

Privacy advocates used Amazon’s facial recognition to scan thousands of random faces around Capitol Hill in Washington DC to highlight the dangers of this technology’s surveillance capabilities.
While walking around, the team found the facial recognition successfully identified a congressman, but also claimed to spot Roy Orbison – an American singer who died in 1988.
The demonstration was a message to Congress to ban the technology, as there’s no law preventing people from scanning your face without your consent anytime you step out in public.

Hey, I’m pretty sure that ol’ Roy did a few regrettable things in his lifetime (bonked underage groupies, etc.) so now that the gummint has found evidence of his “existence”, they can do a little retroactive post-mortem prosecution.  I’ve seen worse.

What I wanted to see was that the software identified someone who was provably somewhere else at the time — so that in times to come when this bullshit is used by the cops to break an alibi, the evidence can get tossed out of court.

Luddism

It began, as so many of these things do, with the French, over two centuries ago.  Now we have this:

UK workers are sabotaging and assaulting workplace robots in an attempt to stop them taking their jobs, finds study.

But for some manual workers they have found their own ways of stopping the robots’ rise to world domination – by confusing them.

I predict that this is going to become more, not less common.

“But why, Kim,” you may ask, “is this happening at all?  Aren’t robots / A.I. / Smart Stuff going to be the Way Of The Future?

Here’s a hint:

The report also predicted 20 million people will have been replaced by the machines in the work place by 2030.

That’s just in Britishland.  And let’s not hear the tired old “buggy-whip maker” argument again.  With the trend which is taking place, robots and A.I. will soon have the capacity to take over jobs which may now seem intrinsically human, but aren’t, e.g.:

A backlash is not at all out of the question.