Reputation Management

Reputation Management is the process of manipulating social media systems to present yourself or your product in a different light. For most of us, Reputation Management is as simple as climbing through the internet and deleting previous posts you’ve made and cleaning up your online image. For developers, however, it extends to the products you make. Here’s one example of how Chinese developers are manipulating the app market.

So, next time you see a program that’s 5 star 1 million download good, yet when you install it, it’s craptapolistic, well, now you know how such a crappy app got such a good review and download count.

Ignorant Gits And Pedestrians: A Solution For Our Ongoing Car-On-Pedestrian Violence

Another day, another pedestrian being run over in the city of Denver. Again, the perp decides she’s gonna run from the consequences of her actions, forgetting that in today’s world, it’s all to easy to catch her.

As a pedestrian and bicyclist, this of course worries me. Getting hit while on a bicycle is a real problem, and I’ve had assholes cut me off, blow stop signs, and so on. So, I see this article this morning, before they caught her, and I’m like, “here we go again.” Then the article is updated as the perp got caught.

Vehicular Homicide (the hit victim died).
Leaving the scene of an accident.

All things she must answer for. If it’s proven she did leave the scene of an accident, I’d love to see this punishment enacted, and enacted against anyone who hits someone then flees. Here’s to her, standing on the corner of Colefax Avenue and Fox Street, holding up a sign that reads, “Hi. I’m the assholish git that hit someone at this intersection and then fled the consequences of their action. Don’t leave the scene of an accident, because if you do, you’ll be the next assholish git holding this sign.” Let’s bring on the public humiliation for this…see if that stops it.

Subjecting myself to a stupid video, so you don’t have to.

Hi, everyone. How about a little analysis of this video.

First, what is it? It’s a piece of work done by a wireless consortium representing the likes of AT&T and Verizon to cloud up the issue about the recently released proposal to leverage Title II to undo some bad behavior by wireless companies.

Let’s examine the claims point by point.

Point 1: Next Gen Networks are ‘Totally at risk.’ 

At risk, how? The video never goes into details. The claim is made, and not substantiated, that the wireless providers would just walk away from their 4G infrastructure and investments in wireless spectrum. No details are given on how, or even why, such a thing would happen. We, here in the IT industry, have a phrase and acronym for this. Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. FUD. Microsoft is old hat at FUD, and I’ve grown very adept at recognizing it. FUD on, guys. FUD on.

Point 2: You’ll pay more in taxes. 

72 dollars more, according to the suave announcer. And note they’ve got a black lady to talk to. And she’s TOTALLY not a paid shill…I mean, she didn’t have a shocked look before he told her. But what? What’s this? Is this a lie? Why, yes it is. In fact, the FCC has clearly stated that no new taxes will be required, due to a law exempting internet service from taxation.

Point 3: Free access to music/other data is going away.

Hmm. So if I don’t pay anything, I can connect to my favorite music service? No, I have to buy an internet plan? Here’s what the shill video didn’t tell you. T-Mobile (the best of the bunch) gives you 5GBs of data every month for your monthly service plan. Most sources of data consume that bit bucket, and when it’s all gone, your service is degraded to dialup speeds. However, a few ‘preferred partners’ can deliver you data that doesn’t count against that cap. It’s not getting free data. It’s being exempted from a restriction on your paid use of your service.

AT&T and Verizon are worse in this regard. They give you less data (1 to 2GB) and instead of limiting your speed charge you extra for overages.

Title II will eliminate this ‘perk’, by stating that all data must be treated equal. 5GB is 5GB, and 20Mbps is 20Mbps. You can’t exempt services you like (your services, services that pay you extra) from the limits, which is equivalent to imposing onerous limits on services you don’t like (say, Hulu or Netflix…).

CTIA supports an open internet.

They do? Then they should support net neutrality, which states that, to an ISP, data is data, and you can use your bits the way you want to. If they give you a 5GB bucket every month, then let you use that 5GB any way you want — to listen to your choice of music provider, watch your choice of video, download your choice of data, and use your preferred connection method to the internet (this means, use your phone as a gateway for your laptop if you so choose). But they don’t support this. What they support is an Orwellian turn on ‘Open Internet’, if you will, a ‘Free Internet’, where they are free to suck you for your last penny, force you into services of their choosing, and pick winners in the internet that support their goals. Title II is a threat to that vision, so they’ll throw out FUD, and outright lies, to stop it.

HoloLens, what Google Glass SHOULD have been…

So, recently, Microsoft unveiled a whole slew of new technologies. Windows 10 was there, as expected. So were Spartan (a web browser to replace Internet Explorer) and Cortana, which was to be integrated heavily with Spartan (Microsoft, I see what you did there….). There was also talk about XBox Live integration into Windows 10, which I am surprised took this long. But the thing that had people stop and go ‘Woah!’ was Microsoft’s entry into the Augmented Reality battle.

HoloLens. It’s a set of over-sized shades, including enough computer smarts to drive an Augmented Reality interface built into the shades. You can see a full augmented reality view, theoretically across your field of view, with the AR glasses also letting you see the world easily. The glasses look like something you would expect to be north of $500 (unlike Google Glass which does not show its $1500 price tag _at all_). The feature set has left the handful of people to actually demo the things awestruck, and phrases like “We live in the fucking future!” get bandied around quite easily around this thing.

We do live on the cusp of the future. The year 2000 was supposed to be the beginning of the future age, and yet, it just felt like 1999 and 2001 after it (at least before September of 2001). But thanks to serious advances in computer technology from the early 2000s to now, we’re packing computers in our pockets that make the machines we used a short 15 years ago look positively primitive — I was using a dual Celeron 450 system when Y2K passed, which was the typical desktop system including large white tower. Today, 2048GB of RAM, 16GB of ‘Hard Drive’ (plus a 32GB ‘CDROM’) and a full 1080p AMOLED display lives in a device that sits in my pocket. And thanks to that device and the technology it made possible, Microsoft has designed a true Augmented Reality, Wearable Virtual Interface.

Google? What Microsoft wants this to be is what Glass should have been. Specifically, Glass should NOT have been a $1500 (at least 3x to expensive, if not more!) tiny viewscreen with an obtrusive camera slapped on the side, and not enough battery to run any of it for a decent amount of time. We’ll see if HoloLens lives up to the hype, but for now? Google, you should be on your way back to the drawing board, or at least on your way to Washington to negotiate licensing with Microsoft to borrow their patents.

Putting the lie to Tax Freedom Day

So, I’m working on my taxes for last year, and I remembered a funny quote thrown around by Conservatives. “You work until such and such a day to pay your taxes!” In this case, it’s mid to late April. Hmm…the numbers don’t seem to add up. Let’s look closer.

My income last year was $44,000, give or take. This is a nice sum for someone who hadn’t been given much of a chance before in the economy. My taxes on that $44,000 include: $2725 in federal taxes, $1200 in state taxes, and a horrible back breaking amount of $66 in local taxes. I don’t know about that, that $66 will kill the bank. I don’t pay Social Security tax because I’m enrolled in a different government backed pension, PERA (six of one, half dozen of another, and not only do I not contribute to SSI, I also cannot count this income as part of my SSI benefit).

I earned, on average, $3696  a month. My Federal taxes for this year are paid off, my state taxes will be payed off by the beginning of next month, and I will pay my local taxes off in less than a day (oh, the pain). PERA does add an extra $3509, but this number not only will push me only out to March for paying my taxes off, it also ensures that I have money when I am too old to work (assuming that happens), and pays those who are collecting retirement right now, which is a pretty good use.

Early March? I’m being told by this site that I still have to work a month and a half more to finish my taxes? What gives?

Simple. The richer you are, the more your income can support paying taxes. Someone who earns $1,000,000 a year can live ten of my lives and then some and still have enough room in his budget to ‘work to June’ to pay his taxes. Before I started working here, my jobs, which paid $7 to $10 an hour, would require me to work to June just to pay for my housing for the year! Food would take me into September. Between taxes, bills, and other stuff, I’d be into next year before my budget was closed.

Now, I work until March to pay off all my taxes. It’s late June before housing is paid off (which covers many of the other bills). I actually have July through December for fun stuff….imagine that. How long would David Koch have to work to pay for an apartment like what I live in? Probably just long enough to write a check. Imagine that.

I do agree that taxes have some room for discussion. But people who insist that taxes are too high and we work until late April to pay them off are being disingenuous. You don’t. The rich people are just bitter they can’t keep more of their money.

Try it with your tax returns. Does it hold true for you as well?

Privacy Protections in the 21st Century

The current rage is about a new handheld radar scanner used by police to ascertain whether a space is occupied or not. Here’s some interesting thoughts.

Police tech is going to advance. This much is certain. What needs to advance with it is the politics and the legal system. Aulhohandheld RADAR is a valid tool for the police, and its use should be allowed in certain controlled circumstances. Specifically, it should only be used when there is suspicion that a crime is being or has been committed, and this suspicion should pass muster with a judge, who will look at the facts and determine if the requirement has been met. Interestingly enough, there is already a process for this, called ‘getting a Warrant’.

Before computers and smartphones and this handheld RADAR scanner, police would catch bad guys by old-fashioned detective work — have a gumshoe tail the bad guy, look for informants, search the bad guy’s mail, and even break down the bad guy’s door and seize everything that wasn’t nailed down and a few things that were as evidence in a trial against the bad guy. The check against the cops’ power was that if they didn’t dot their i’s and cross their t’s in the investigation, the evidence used would be dismissed, even if the perp was guilty and should be in the clink. This concept is commonly called the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree.

Bad guys need catching, definitely, and cops do a sometimes thankless job. But we’ve gotten away from this core concept that evidence obtained illegally is inadmissible in court. Stingrays? Cops need to be reminded that tracking a suspected criminal is tracking a suspected criminal, whether you have a wireless device acting as the wiretap, or if it’s a physical thing. To get access to the phone, you need to go to the judge and get a warrant. Peering through a wall is the same as peering through a window. Both require permission from a judge. Even putting a GPS tracker on someone’s car should be done under the watchful eyes of the judicial branch, as should obtaining any sort of information like Onstar or ODBC data.

Increasing technology can do much to protect us. It can also create a dystopian hell, so it is incumbent upon us to use best judgement, and rely on principles that have kept us a free people for over 200 years.

The One Year Anniversary of Hire

Well, I’ve worked for the State of Colorado for one year now. So far, I’ve had the following lasting impacts on the State of Colorado.

Virtualizing and Upgrading the Scanning System for UI Scanning for the State of Colorado and Upgrading Workstations to Windows 7.

Before I arrived, Unemployment Insurance Scanning Operations was run off an ancient Windows 2000 physical machine, and two slightly less ancient Server 2003 virtual machines. These had been slated for an upgrade all the way back in 2012, and several attempts were made before I began working to do the virtualization process. Several things worked against us. The workstations were Windows XP workstations that had been tweaked configured in different ways. Some had DLLs registered on the server. Others had DLLs registered locally on the machine. The software was built in the Pre-XP era of ‘write to anywhere on the filesystem,’ ‘don’t care about security,’ and ’64 bit? That’s science fiction!’ They first tried to virtualize it using Server 2008 R2, which was 64 bit. When that didn’t work, they then tried to virtualize it on Server 2008 32 bit, and had had an attempted migration the month before I started. Again, it failed, and they were at wits end.

With me being hired, they had someone else to approach it. My background in Server Administration helped immensely here. I quickly located the problem (DLLs not being registered, and began constructing a new scan server. When it became clear that the workstations were risks of their own, the Windows 7 migration that was planned was moved up, and integrated with the Server 2008 install.

The task was grueling. It took from Early April of 2014, when I first began to grasp the system, through Memorial Day when we realized that the migration needed to be a complete replacement including Windows 7 workstations, until early October to finally get the system in place and acceptable to the Scanning Division. Even today, I’m still working hard to continue stomping out the few remaining issues with this system.

Not that I’m working alone on this. Colleagues in Deskside Services and Server Operations are essential for me to make this happen. Don Slack at Deskside is doing more than his fair share to track down a workstation issue, and Jerry Anderson has been very encouraging and supportive in allowing me to take the lead on tweaking the server and all the services that run on that server. Without their help, and the help of their managers, I’d not be where I am today.

Like my much less planned Novell Netware to Windows 2000 Server adventure back in the day, I have left a permanent mark on an organization, that may well survive far beyond me (but hopefully will poof this March when they finally upgrade the software itself!). I’m going to add that feather to my cap, going forward.

This isn’t the only thing I’ve done over the year. I’ve also done some much less glamorous coding work on Colorado’s SIDES application, assisted fellow coworkers in their tasks, helped do documentation work, and supported the citizens and divisions of Colorado with my skills. But that one task is the highlight of 2014. Now for 2015 and the challenges ahead.