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HTML5

Both Apple (in an essay by Steve Jobs) and Microsoft (from the general manager of IE) have put a stake in the ground — the future of the web is in HTML5 and Adobe Flash is nothing more than a transitional technology that had no place in the future… of course with that, Microsoft has also indicated the IE9 won’t be supported by Windows XP, so it too obviously will have no place (in their minds) in the future.

I would agree that Flash has no place in the future; of course, I felt it had no place in the past either… but the glut of mediocre web designers and the masses need for eye candy seemed to give Flash a leg up in the past, and my bet is will continue to keep it alive long into the future.

Additionally, my guess is Windows XP will do just fine — after all, you can run Operate, FireFox, Chrome, and Safari today on that platform, and all of those will likely continue to develop for and support Windows XP in the future.  All of those are far better browsers than IE is today, and I suspect that’s a pretty safe bet for tomorrow.

In fact, Chrome, Opera, and Safari all support HTML5 today (and score 100/100 in the ACID3 tests)…

Apple on HTML5

Microsoft on HTML5

Originally posted 2010-05-05 02:00:07.

Spending chill…

Obama may propose a discretionary spending freeze for three years.

Hopefully he’ll fully define what discretionary means; I remember the budget surplus (you know, “extra” money when the country had a trillion dollar debt) so I don’t make any assumptions what politicians in Washington mean by any term that they don’t have a clear track record using.

Of course, he’s already exempted the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs (sound like he’s playing to the political right) from the freezes.

I think it’s great to implement “new” ideas to reign in government spending — of course I’d like to see some the “old” ideas (you know — those campaign promises Obama made that got him elected) implemented.

In the back of my mind I see this a yet another failure looming for the Obama presidency.

Originally posted 2010-01-25 20:00:46.

Pearl Harbor Day

The attack on Pearl Harbor (called the Hawaii Operation or Operation Z by the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, and the Battle of Pearl Harbor by some Americans) was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941. The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from influencing the war that the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia, against Britain and the Netherlands, as well as the U.S. in the Philippines. The base was attacked by 353 Japanese aircraft in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers.  Four U.S. Navy battleships were sunk (two of which were raised and returned to service later in the war) and the four other battleships present were damaged. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed, 2,402 personnel were killed[9] and 1,282 were wounded. The power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not attacked. Japanese losses were light, with 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 65 servicemen killed or wounded. One Japanese sailor was captured.

The attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the United States entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. The following day ( December 8 ) the United States declared war on Japan. Domestic support for isolationism, which had been strong, disappeared. Clandestine support of Britain (for example the Neutrality Patrol) was replaced by active alliance and full participation in the European Theater. Subsequent operations by the U.S., as well as the Axis alliance, prompted Germany and Italy to declare war on the U.S. on December 11, which was reciprocated by the U.S. the same day.

Despite numerous historical precedents for unannounced military action, the lack of any formal warning by Japan, particularly while negotiations were still apparently ongoing, led to President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaiming December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy”.

Pearl Harbor Day on Wikipedia

Originally posted 2010-12-07 02:00:33.

How To Bid On eBay

Let me start by saying this isn’t eBay for dummies — you should familiarize yourself with the basic operation of the eBay web site through another resource.  What I hope to provide you with is a rational for how to bid successfully on eBay to enable you to purchase items at a fair price.

Let me start by prefixing all of this with the statement that what eBay has tried to do is create the feel of the type of auction commonly refereed to as an “Open Ascending-bid Auction”, also known as an “English Auction” — though they have modified it slightly to have a time limit rather than just go until their are no more bidders.  You can read many resources on auction types if you’re interested; there’s actually a body of game-theory that covers auctions for those so inclined.

Before we digress too far off topic…

First you need a little background on how eBay’s proxy bidding works, and an understanding that if everyone were to just enter in the actual price they were willing to pay when they first bid that would be all you’d need.

What happens on eBay when you enter a bid is fairly simple — eBay records the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for the item, and then will automatically bid as much as needed to satisfy the bid rules.

So if there are no bids, eBay will place a bid for you equal to the minimum bid set when the auction was created.  If there is already a bid, eBay will place a bid for you equal to the lesser of the maximum you set for your bid or the current amount plus the bid increment (which varies based on the current bid — it increases as the amount of the current bid increases).

If two people were to set the same maximum bid, the person who placed the bid first would be the one to have his bid recorded.

Like I said, if everyone just entered in what they were really willing to pay then that would be it, and when the auction closed the person who was willing to pay the most would win the auction.

But, that’s not how it really works out.

You see, people aren’t always honest (even with themselves), and people like to play games (even with themselves), and people always like to get a steal (or read that as great deal if you like)… and of course, people are emotional (so they get caught up on the splendor of the train ride — even when it’s clearly going to wreck).

So, what many people do is record a bid for the amount that they’d really like to get the item for — even though they are willing to pay (significantly) more.  That means that lots of people are continually upping their bid as they get outbid, and because they see other people “wanting” the item, they get caught up in a frenzy that they often loose control of… and end up paying more than they actually are comfortable with.

Remember, no one forces you to keep bidding — and no one forces you to watch the train you’re on slam head on into another (in fact, you’re free to jump off).

If you’re head is spinning — or you’re saying that I would never do that (many call that doing the back-stroke in that famous river in Egypt — d-Nile, or denial if you like) then you’re just an average Joe trying to win an auction on eBay.

I’m not here to slap anyone on their wrist; if you want entertainment, excitement, need to fill your copious amounts of free time, and don’t mind spending more than you’re comfortable with — by all means, keep getting caught up in the emotions of “winning” a bidding war; but if you’re just looking to get things you want/need at a reasonable price — read on.

How to bid on eBay…

You could use eBay exactly as it’s designed.  Just place an initial bid for exactly what you’re willing to pay for the item and be done with it.  Don’t watch the auction, don’t enter in any more bids… be content with your honesty (and do something more useful with your time).  But you’re not going to win very many auctions — in fact you’re probably just going to fuel the fire because of the interactions of eBay’s proxy bidding and people who have got caught up in the frenzy of bidding.

So how to bid on eBay successfully…

The answer is easy, you snipe.  Basically sniping the auction turns the English Auction into something more resembling a First-Price Sealed-Bid auction (at least from your view point).

Wait, what is a snipe?

Well, a snipe is a bid placed at the last moment.  Sniping basically allows you to place the bid you would have right away at the very end of the auction, giving other bidders no time to respond to your bid — and forcing the eBay proxy system to do it’s job without creating a frenzy of bid-and-re-bid.

There’s nothing wrong with sniping; in fact all you’re doing by sniping helping prevent other bidders from getting carried away with bidding.  It doesn’t make it any more likely that you’re going to get an item (if there are wild bidders — they may have driven the item up well beyond what you’re willing to pay long before the last few seconds of the auction).  And the number one thing it will do for you is prevent you from getting caught up in the bidding war and paying more for an item that you’re interested in.

You can bid by hand; just open up the auction; actually open up two copies of the auction, one to watch the count down clock, and in the other enter the maximum amount you’re willing to pay and click to the confirm dialog.  When the count down timer reaches under 10 seconds, submit your bid (you may need to submit earlier if you have a slow connection — and you may be able to time it to less than 10 seconds if you have a very fast connect — but remember as long as the amount of time left is less than the reaction time of a human being you’re not going to be fueling the frenzy).

Obviously sniping by hand is tedious and time consuming… so there’s automation to help you out.

JBidwatcher is a Java based tool that you can run on Windows, OS-X, or Linux desktop (or server) that will attempt to snipe auctions for you from your local machine.  Which means you need a stable internet connection and you computer has to be on and JBidwatcher has to be running.  It’s totally free, and works fairly well.

GIXEN.COM is a web based system.  It’s totally free, and works fairly well.  There is no limit to the number of auctions you can snipe; but there is a $6 per year upgrade that will give you redundant servers to place your bids (decreasing the chance of not getting you snipe in).

There are also a number of other systems that charge — perhaps they’re better, perhaps they’re not… but these two certainly work well enough for you to use to develop an understanding of how to effectively bid on eBay.

While I’m giving you the 4-1-1 on sniping, I should mention that there are two basic types of snipes — individual item snipes and group (also called multi) snipes.

In an individual item snipe it’s easy to understand — you enter a bid for the item in question and your bid is placed a specified number of seconds before the auction closes.  If you have the highest bid at the end you win, if you don’t you don’t — and it’s over and done.

In a group snipe you actually bid on a series of items (generally related — but I guess you might also use it for budget constraints).  You enter a separate bid for each item of interest in the group.  The sniping system will place your bid on the first item — if you win, it cancels all the remaining snipes in the group; if you don’t win, it goes on to the next item in the group.

With group snipes you have to be careful that there is sufficient time between the ending time of two auctions for items of interest for the sniping system to handle it (most systems will flag auctions that may be a problem and allow you to decide if you want to take the potential risk of winning both… obviously that’s a bigger deal than missing the second).

Also, most sniping systems let you have as many individual snipes or group snipes as you want (you have to be careful not to have the same item in an individual snipe and a group; or in multiple groups).

Also, most sniping systems will handle auctions that have multiple items available (in other words, it will place a bid for the amount and quantity — eBay’s proxy bid does most of the work).

Sniping might seem like it’s a lot of work; but actually it makes bidding easier in the long run, and more effective.

Remember, if you don’t win an auction sniping it’s not (generally) because the sniping system didn’t do it’s job — it’s simply because you weren’t willing to pay as much as someone else… in fact by sniping you’re increasing your chances of winning an auction at the price you’re willing to pay.


Let me remind everyone that I am not a fan of eBay / PayPal — I consider them companies of questionable ethics at best.



eBay Sniper

http://www.gixen.com/

eBay Sniper
http://www.jbidwatcher.com/

Originally posted 2010-10-08 02:00:32.

AT&T, the death of Netflix

On 2 May 2011 AT&T will implement usage surcharges for their high speed internet services.  DSL customer will have 150GB included with their package, and U-Verse customer will have 250 GB included with their package.

AT&T maintains that only 2% of their customers will be effected…

As I’ve said before, if only 2% of the customer are going to be effected, AT&T wouldn’t take any action —  it’s easy to see that AT&T is doing this because they feel this is a way to produce a larger revenue stream for a service they previously advertised and sold to be “unlimited” — so you can view this as nothing short of radically changing the service after the fact, and charging more for less (remember, AT&T just raised their rates).

The effect of this type of cap is that if you used your internet service to watch movies, you’d better be careful — you won’t even be able to watch one per day; you’ll have to worry about watching one HD movie every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I personally have always felt AT&T was a horrible company, and certainly from my view point it reenforces that view every day with actions like this.

 

Monthly Activity 150 GB 250 GB
Send/receive one page emails 10,000 emails

-and-

10,000 emails

-and-

Download/upload a medium resolution photo to social media site like Facebook 3,000 photos

-and-

4,000 photos

-and-

MP3 Songs downloaded 2,000 songs

-and-

3,000 songs

-and-

Stream a one-minute YouTube video (standard quality) 5,000 views

-and-

5,000 views

-and-

Watch hour-long TV Shows (high quality) 100 shows

-and –

200 shows

-and –

Stream full length movies (Standard Definition: SD; High Definition: HD) 20 SD or 10 HD movies 25 SD or 13 HD movies

Usage examples are estimates based on typical file sizes and/or duration of file transfer or streaming event.

http://www.att.com/internet-usage

Originally posted 2011-03-31 02:00:25.

Can You Hear Me Now?

And who else can hear me or can see my cellular phone records?

Verizon Wireless informed the Obama transition team, the US Secret Service, and law enforcement agencies that a number of Verizon employees had improperly and illegally accessed cellular phone records for a phone belonging to Barrack Obama.

The employees have been suspended without pay while the investigation is conducted.

So it’s great that a high profile individual like the president elect gets swift action from Verizon, but the question in my mind is why aren’t they just as quick to act when I call?

Over all I would say that Verizon’s customer service is better than most companies; but I don’t get this kind of attention when they screw up — and I dont’ recall seeing any clauses in my contract about getting a higher grade of customer service if elected to public office…

Originally posted 2008-11-21 18:00:44.

Barack Obama, The 44th President of the United States of America

I didn’t start out in the last election as an Obama fan, and I guess I’m still not a “fan” — I do have a great deal of respect for the man; he’s kept a very consistent stand on almost all the issues, he speaks well, he thinks through problems, and he surrounds himself with the best and the brightest (even when they may not be the closest aligned to him and his way of thinking).

But that’s not really the reason.  If you look at Obama, who he is, what his background is… and consider the American public — he shouldn’t have won the election by the margin he did (in fact, you could argue he shouldn’t have won).

The American people have reached a point where it’s clear they don’t want to continue down the same path; they don’t even want to be going the same direction — by reaching out to Obama they’re signaling their desire for change, major change.

My personal feeling is that the course of this country was irrevocably changed by FDR, but it wasn’t his band-aide approach to the problems that really turned the country around, it was WW2… but the “grand society” became well entrenched, and grew and morphed and consumed… but never really addressed the core problems with our society.

Obama appears to be willing to re-invent the “great society” and change it so that it addresses the fundamental needs of Americans, and provides them with programs that work, rather than programs that reward them for not working.

While I’m far from a Socialist, this country is far from a free-market capitalist society — we’re already fairly far down the road to socialist programs on a number of fronts — the problem being is that once you start down that road, you need to insure that you have controls and safety nets in place on all the roads, or those who are looking to take advantage of the system have outs (and let’s face it, the reason that pure Socialism doesn’t work is greed… and that’s really what you have to put checks and balances in place to moderate).

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with greed, it’s been a great motivator in our society; however, those that reap must sow — and those that make money at the expense of society must be ready to pay back for the damages they cause.

Also, Obama keeps reinforcing that we are part of a global community, so he seems to understand that we (America) can’t solve the problems of the world, nor can we even solve the problems of America without working with the rest of the world.

The biggest problem I see, is that Obama, like Hoover, takes over a country on the brink of economic and social failure — and the American people are not known for patience, consistency, or commitment…

I guess there’s a little optimist left in me that’s winning over the realist — I think he will be re-elected in four years, and he will begin to lay a new foundation to give our society a second chance, and break the historical stereotype of failed civilizations…

Originally posted 2009-01-20 12:00:07.

Linux BitTorrent Clients

I’ve been looking at bit torrent (BitTorrent) clients for Linux over the past few weeks — and to say there’s a huge number of candidates wouldn’t do justice to the number of choices a person has… but like so many things in life, quantity and quality are generally on perpendicular axises.

I set a fairly simple set of requirements for the client:

  • Open source
  • Stability
  • Simplicity
  • Configurability
  • Support protocol encryption (require it)
  • Light on resources
  • Ability to handle torrents via URLs

And I set some nice to haves:

  • Search integration
  • Daemon
  • IP black listing (though I use IPBlock, so this is only a nice to have for others)

So once again I set out to limit the field and do some real testing on Ubuntu 10.04LTS… and the ones I ended up really doing more than just kicking the tires are listed below (alphabetically).  Other failed because they didn’t meet my requirements, they were pieces of crap that should be expunged from the world (LOL), or I just didn’t like them enough to waste time and energy on them.  The links for each of the below are to Wikipedia; you can find links on there to the website for each client.  I installed all of the clients via the package manager on Ubuntu.

Deluge · Deluge is a fairly basic program, though has just about every setting configurable that you might want.  It does have a client / server model (use of it is optional); but a single instance of the daemon is unable to handle multiple users; but it does allow you to terminate your session and continue downloading, and it doesn’t seem to have any issue running multiple daemons (one for each user).   This client also offers a number of “plug ins” to provide a block list, a web ui, a schedule, etc — features most others just include as part of the base system.  I wanted to like this client more than I did; but in the end I can only call it acceptable.

KTorrent · KTorrent is a nicely done program, and it has just about every setting configurable that you might want.  Interestingly by default the queue manager is disabled, so it really doesn’t act much like any other bit torrent client I’ve ever used — but enabling it gives you the ability to download multiple torrent at once.  One short coming is you don’t seem to be able to limit the total number of downloads and uploads together — you can do them individually, but that means for trackers that limit your total active connections you could end up not using all of them.  I’ve also noted that this client seems to be a little “fat” and consume a significant amount of system resources (GUI in particular) when left running for extended periods.  I like this client; but there are better.

qBittorrent · qBittorrent is essentially a *nix clone of the Windows version of uTorrent (µTorrent); and it certainly does a good job mimicking it.  It seems to have all the features I wanted; and none of the downsides.  It has a web ui, a ip filter, etc.  It seems to be reasonably light on system resources and just works.  If I had to pick a standalone bit torrent client, this would probably be my recommendation.

TorrentFlux · TorrentFlux is actually a web ui for BitTornado.  There is a fork of the project called TorrentFlux-b4rt that looks like it will eventually offer more features (and support more bit torrent engines) but for the moment TorrentFlux appears to be much more stable.  It’s fairly basic, but has most all the features one might want.  While many of the others offer a web ui, I think this is probably one of the better “server” solutions for bit torrent clients.

Transmission · Transmission is a very simple bit torrent client; perhaps too simple.  It has all the settings you need, as well as a web ui.  It also has ports for just about every operating system (so if you only wanted to deal with one bit torrent client on multiple operating system this would be a good choice).  Transmission has a huge following; but personally I felt it just wasn’t quite what I wanted.

In the end, I guess I didn’t find a bit torrent client that I really liked… but I think TorrentFlux (or a re-incarnation of it) has good potential to be what I want; and I think qBittorrent is probably my favorite of the stand alone clients.  However, in saying that, let me underscore that every client on this list works, and works acceptably well — so I don’t think you’ll go wrong with any of them… and I’m sure that those with a religious conviction to one or the other will just not accept that their favorite client doesn’t top my list… but in fact, I’m holding the tops slots of my list open hoping I find something better.

NOTE: The use of torrents for downloading does not necessarily denotate that a user is breaking any laws.  That said, because many internet service providers will terminate a user that is using a torrent client, it is a good idea to require encrypted connections and use IP filtering software (with current black lists).

Originally posted 2010-08-16 02:00:55.

Comcast

Comcast consistently ranks in the top ten (almost always the top five) of companies with pathetic customer service in virtually every poll I’ve seen (they probably even do poorly in polls they sponsor LOL).

I received a unsolicited commercial email from a Comcast business customer; and I did exactly what I should do — report it to the abuse contact published in the ARIN database, and send them a plain text copy of the entire email message — including full headers (adding the word SPAM to the subject).

I got back an automated message that said I needed to provide them the headers of the email message and a link to a page that really didn’t have any useful information.

I resent the message; including all the tags that were mentioned on the page (including the one for harassment, since that was the closest thing that fit)… and I got back a message from “Fred CSAtech55” referencing case ID NA0000014230535; who tells me if I want to follow up as “Harrassment” (that’s his spelling, not mine) that I should “call Comcast Security Assurance (CSA) at 888-565-4329”; but if I want to follow it up as spam I should “then choose the opt out option that the email provides”.

I guess, poor Fred not only can’t spell, but doesn’t understand that the LAST thing you do from an unsolicited email from a company that you’ve never dealt with (and have no reason to trust) is click on one of their links.

Maybe if Comcast hired people who could spell they might get out of the top ten worst companies for customer service.  Even better, if they hired people with a clue, they might actually be able to provide reasonable customer support and be no where near the top ten worst.

Oh, and if you’re thinking that they only provide poor service when you’re not a customer — WRONG, I can tell you story after story about how pathetic their service was in San Francisco; and how much better AT&T’s service was (that should truly be scary, when a company with service as poor as AT&T can have far superior service).

Originally posted 2010-03-31 02:30:37.

Un-Freshpair

I’m probably not the most typical shopper in the world… when I decide to buy something it’s generally because there’s a sale and when I shop — I buy enough to last awhile.

Today I was going to take advantage of the FRIENDS13 25% off your entire purchase on Freshpair.com (I was actually thinking about setting up an affiliate account — in the past I’ve made several $200-ish orders and I figure the small kickback and coupons they offer might actually save me money in the future)…

But after adding 21 items to my cart ($216 after the 25% promotion) I read a few reviews and I decided that one of the items I was considering purchasing I just wasn’t going to be happy with, so I went to remove it… simple enough, you either change the quantity to zero or you hit the delete link, right???

Well, no — not on Freshpair.com … it doesn’t seem to work.

So I called customer dis-service… and while they answered the phone quickly and I spoke to a real person without having to go through an automated attendant (normally I’d have praise that as incredible customer service).

I was connected to a man who was to put it politely was snippy — which of course didn’t sit well with me.  While I started the conversation polite, business-like, and courteous (as I would always do when I was calling the first time for customer service), the call quickly went down hill… apparently the “solution” is empty out your cart, clear your cookies, and start over… oh, and if you’re wondering — it’s a known problem (and it’s been a known problem for sometime).

Well, I ask to speak with his supervisor… he told me he was the supervisor, that everyone else had gone home (at 3:50 pm EDT on a Thursday… hmm — my guess is he’s the only customer service person there or he outright lied).

Even more pissed I asked to speak to Matthew the president of the company (I’d seen the very nice thank-you notes included in each of my previous shipments… and I decide to see how far I got).

Well, Matthew was apologetic  but was very quick to tell me that the technical issues of fixing removing items from a cart where people what more than a handful of items just wasn’t a priority for them, that it would require too much effort.

Like I remarked to him… it must be nice to have so many customers you don’t need to worry about customers who want to spend a lot of money with you…

So, I decide I wanted to help them…

I tried to place a separate order for each and every item (free shipping why not punish them by maximizing their shipping cost, after all, they can’t handle large order, so give them the smallest orders possible).  Eleven orders (I cut back on the items) most right at or under $10 each… on a different credit card, and each appears to have been authorized fine (I actually called Chase to check on the three placed on Chase issued cards), but the orders were canceled — no email was sent indicating the order was canceled, and once again when I called their (pathetic) customer service I was told, they couldn’t determine why the orders where canceled, just re-order (lol — like I haven’t heard that before).

Well I guess the only solution is to take my business elsewhere… enough of my time has been wasted on Freshpair.com.

And I encourage everyone else to consider taking their business to a company that actually wants to provide not only competitive prices but good customer service… and that would not be Freshpair.com…

Originally posted 2013-05-02 15:00:52.