So glad he can't fake it

My existential fear is that Mr. Trump will realize that all he has to do is "fake it" and lie, act the statesman, and say what he needs to say, and he will win this election. I fear he will realize that doing so won't cost him his base, as his base will welcome it and say, "you know he doesn't mean it, but the libs are making it so he has to say it, but I know he'll do what I want anyway."

So in that context, last night's debate was perfect. Let's have two more just like it.

If this guy ever got the façade skills that an intelligent narcissist has, he'd be deadly. Be thankful he doesn't.

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273 Hits

That's One Expensive Upgrade

You've heard of Sonos, yes? Whole-house audio, wireless and able to bridge pretty-much any source. It'll play my music library, stream Pandora, talk to Alexa (or Google), and even stream the same music in all rooms. The little boxes can do it over WiFi or ethernet and form their own mesh network as well. All in all, it's pretty slick and incredibly well done. Further, once you buy a device, you're done. There's no subscription cost for their service and upgrades.

Of course, this makes sense, seeing as the boxes are expensive. The "Connect," which is a passive audio source (meaning you need to plug the audio output into an amp, like your home theater system) runs over $450. The powered version (into which you can just connect speakers) is a couple hundred more, around $650. Then they have powered speaker versions for a couple hundred up to $500. And I've not even gotten into their home theater sound bars and subs, which can run, as a set, over a grand.

So you feel me on the cost.

Over the years, I've acquired three Connects, one Amp, and one "One," which is their powered speaker. All are first-gen units.

Now we get to the dilemma: Sonos has noted that these first-gen units are underpowered for modern times and they've given them end-of-life. They now have a v2 (called S2, whereas the older units are called S1) and say that new features and modern features will only come out on S2. S1 gets bugs and security patches, but that's it. Initially, they'd said they'd brick S1 (seriously!) but they walked that back when customers rightly revolted. But if you have any S1 devices in your home, you can't use S2.

There are three options: first, just stay on S1 and life goes on like it is now, but no new features. Second, buy some S2 units and split your home. S1 is one Sonos network and S2 is another. There are problems with this, but generally, you can do it. Or, third...

Upgrade everything to S2. To encourage this, Sonos is giving S1 users a 30% credit on any purchase of an S2 device that maps to an S1 that they already have. So in my case, I could buy three S2 "Connect" equivalents and one S2 "Amp" equivalent and get 30% off each. The offer is only per S1 device you already have. Sonos will take the old devices and recycle them for you if you want, or you can do it yourself. Or... as it appears, you can still use them. That's right, you could grow your system by double, split it (S1 and S2) and get 30% off of the S2 stack as a spiff.

Or, in my case, take my S1 Amp and put it in my travel trailer on its own network. Then I could upgrade the three Connect units into S2 units and give them away to friends. A friend who doesn't have Sonos would be thrilled at S1, as it's still pretty cool. The unit wouldn't be eligible for the discount, but it's usable, albeit with today's older feature set.

But that's 70% of $650 + $450 + $450 + $450. More than just casual chump change.

You can't fault Sonos for not being able to use 15 year-old tech in a modern way. On the other hand, that's one expensive upgrade!

If you give advice here, please be snarky, because I already know what I'm going to do ;)

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453 Hits

With Great Power...

Remember, you hold, in your pocket, a small device with the sum and total of all human knowledge within its reach.

PS: You use it to argue with people you don't know and look at pictures of cats, and that's on you. 

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1511 Hits

On Writing

NerdSmart is fully dusted off. The old placeholder content is still there, though, so now's the time to clear it out and put in real content.

Some might like this phase of web development most. I don't. I prefer to do the infrastructure work and let more creative people do the content part.

But I've tried paying people to write. Those who are inexpensive produce utter garbage. Those who command a reasonable rate flake. This isn't a generalization, it's a truism. I've had a few exceptions to this rule, and they know who they are. Otherwise, I have to say F-you, Jobu, I do it myself.

I had a huge piece of salmon for dinner. If I exit this food coma before bed time, I'll start. 

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1313 Hits

Political Thought for the Day

If you want religion in schools, be prepared for all religions to have their time on stage, including the case for no religion.

If you want social media to be liable for what people say, be prepared for them to decline such liability and refuse your account.

If you want the freedom to deny a gay couple a wedding cake, be prepared to be turned away if you're not wearing a mask.

Hypocrisy is never pretty.

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1537 Hits

Unintended Stress Testing

One thing to come of this pandemic is the unintended stress and integration tests being put to our systems, especially home automation. In my house, we have, by being home 24/7 for the past two weeks, put enough unexpected stress on our house that some very interesting failure modes are starting to make themselves known

It started when a couple of my smoke detectors started giving false alarms. This wasn't a case of low or dead batteries, and it tended to happen early in the morning. Some research indicated that the particular model I have tends to give false alarms when dirty. Sure enough, taking them down, the amount of dust was higher than usual. My only hypothesis is that everyone being home 24/7 and the house being mostly closed because of cool weather means more humidity. That could mean dust is "sticking" to things. So, time to clean all the detectors.

And our smart thermostats are completely confused. The concept of "home" and "away" is nonsensical to it now, and its learning logic doesn't appear to know how to cope. I've turned them to full manual and nailed them to the temperature we want. I'll reprogram them later and turn off learning entirely. There is no "house arrest" mode. There should be!

One stress test that we've all been part of has been the Internet and cell system - and it's notable that it's held up pretty well for the most part. Usage patters have changed considerably, but we're all still online. We're all trying to work from home and binge watch movies. Bandwidth usage has spiked - but nothing's fallen down. This is good news.

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2300 Hits

My New Book!

Fansplaining for Dummies - available wherever fine pedantism is sold. 

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2442 Hits

A Better Way To Fool (this year)

For April Fool this year, I was going to spin a tale of how I'd accepted a request to stand for election for Congress in 2022 and would be beginning my campaign immediately after this year's election. I think it would have been totally believable and fooled many of you.

Due to the current world situation, I clue you into my planned prank and then ensure you know that it would have been a prank and hope that you get a grin imagining how it might have played out.

April Fool is out of bounds this year - but humor still helps.

Unless you think it would have been a crappy Fool, in which case I still love you, but you're wrong ;)

(I encourage everyone to post what they would have done, in the bounds of good taste, but not actually pull the prank itself)

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2206 Hits

A New Model (with a danger)

Universal has chosen to release some moves direct to digital in this time of "shelter in place." For $20, you can get "The Hunt," a film that should be in the theaters, to watch at home for 48 hours. This is great, as we're all going to need entertainment and lots of it. And for $20, a family of four is seeing this film at a price much less than they'd pay in a first-run theater.

My only concern? Those who invite all the neighbors over to save even more money. Because that's not social distancing, is it?

Please think about this before you do such a thing. It could save your life or the life of an at-risk loved one. 

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2532 Hits

Meme Monday

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2566 Hits

On Second Thought...

Any other time, I'd see these ludicrously cheap fares to Tokyo as a reason to do a mileage run and enjoy a few days in a great city.

And then I realize why travel prices are falling through the floor and plan my next trip to Costco, instead.

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2644 Hits

Three Things Thursday: 7 November, 2019

Three things I learned from my lawyers...

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4834 Hits

F*ck It Friday: 1 November, 2019

I think I'm going to take a page out of President Bartlet's playbook. Fans of ​The West Wing​ will recall how he ended every meeting with a simple phrase...

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  4713 Hits
4713 Hits

It's So Hard to Move On

The worst part about training a new Pandora station is when a song comes on that you love, but is quite clearly not in the genre you're trying to curate. You have to thumb-down the song, but you also really would like to hear it.

#FirstWorldProblems 

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5007 Hits

Three Things Thursday: 31 October, 2019

We lost power on Saturday due to PG&E's idiotic need to shut power off when high winds pose a fire threat. We got it back late yesterday. For those unaware, this is simply because of mismanagement over the past decade by a for-profit utility. But hey, why get all political, right?

Three Things I'd Like Right Now:

1. A 12kw Generac house backup generator, since it looks like these week-long power outages, multiple times per year, are going to be the "new normal" for the next five to seven years, or so they say.

2. A week of stopped-time to catch up on my TODO list, reading, and dare I say a little television.

3. Delicious cake. Enough said. 

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4683 Hits

Coal's Demise

CNN reports America's largest coal miner just filed for bankruptcy, as expected.

So much for "Promises Made, Promises Kept," Mr. Trump. Coal is obsolete. There are so many reason to celebrate this fact. I don't even need to be pleased that you're bass-ackwards policy was a bad one and it's yet another nail in your coffin-like legacy.

Though it does kinda feel good to tick that box.

Now, if only we could put some money into broadcast power and room-temperature superconducting so that we can be even that much more efficient...

Musings from the Starbucks.

Power companies are ditching coal in favor of cleaner alternatives at a rapid pace. US power plants are expected to consume less coal next year than at any point since President Jimmy Carter was in the White House, according to government forecasts released earlier this month.

-- CNN
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4971 Hits

F-It Friday: 25 October, 2019

On Fridays, I'm so over it. This Friday, I'm done responding to memes I know are wrong. 

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  4435 Hits
4435 Hits

Three Things Thursday: October 24

One Insight

I travel a lot for work. Often, dinner is going to be at whatever the hotel offers, and a lot of the time, that's getting food at the bar. It continuously amazes me how much people will say, out loud, during a conversation in such a venue. A lot of the time it's office gossip, which is fascinating. Some of the stories would curl your hair, especially when the participants have had a few drinks. But sometimes the conversation is all work, and just paying attention turns me into a fly on the wall of the company meeting room. I know how projects are doing, which initiatives are getting traction and which aren't, what's likely to be canned, and who's on the up or down as far as promotions go. Potential mergers have been mentioned, with the people talking presuming that they're just sharing information with each other that they already know or should know. Now I know. Something to keep in mind if you travel, yourself (from either end of this dynamic).

One Hint

Speaking of traveling, I'm often asked what my number-one top travel tip is. I'll give it to you here as one Thing, but look for an expanded post on it in the future. The tip is this: stop thinking about leisure travel in terms of "here's when I'm going, and here's where I'm going, now how can I get the best deal?" That's a trap. The options, once you've locked yourself into a time and location are often very limited. Instead, invert the model. Make a list of places you'd be interested in going. Make a range of dates you could travel. Then start looking. Be flexible and look for sales to destinations or drops in prices when you can go a week before or a week after your first guess. Last year I wanted to get away for Thanksgiving, but chose to not fix my sights on any particular location. I looked at prices in the time range I was considering and ranked them based on both the price and the attractiveness of the destination. One morning, for whatever reason, Japan went on sale. I mean a big sale. I booked it then and there, and spent an incredible week in Japan for next to nothing.

One Bit of Humor

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4155 Hits

Corrupt News

President Trump just said that he's now going to start calling the "Fake News" the "Corrupt News." This is his new term.

I just registered corrupt.news

Happy Wednesday. ;)

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4480 Hits

Venn Parts 4: Sports

Just remember, everyone has their fandom!

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4237 Hits

Venn Parts 3: Bites

And, of course, if it bites itself and you die, that's voodoo.

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4706 Hits

Venn Parts 2

Donald Trump not human? Cut me a little slack on that one...

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4605 Hits

Venn Parts 1

Venn Parts 1

Who knew that sperm whales are the noisiest animal on Earth?

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4760 Hits

My Productivity Goes to Eleven

I'm often asked about my personal productivity strategies, and the number one tip that I like to give out is the benefit of making habits of the things that you find valuable. It is said that it takes 21 days for form a habit, and that one must be committed to establishing it. I could argue that if you can remember to do something for 21 days, you've already made it a habit. If the habit I want to create is eating delicious cake every day, I suspect I could do without help. When it's remembering to floss, on the other hand, I might forget if I'm in a hurry, or even blow it off. In this case, I find that checklists help.

My habits checklists on TodoistApplications like Todoist work for me, as they let me make a checklist of tasks and set them to repeat daily (or in some cases, on weekdays, weekends, or whatever schedule works for me). Initially, I had a single checklist, but I found this difficult to work with. Sometimes there are tasks that are expected on a given day but just aren't going to get done, often for very good reason. For example, one task I have is to make a daily journal entry about a particular topic. The problem is that the topic doesn't generate activity every day, so checking off this task when there is nothing to journal about is perfectly okay - but I get "credit" in the app for actually doing it. There is no way to mark it, as we'd say in the betting world, "no action."

My solution was to split out my list into two categories and then split those into two more. The two categories are health habits and all other habits. I treat health differently because many of the items are non-negotiable. Take my blood pressure medication, for example. That goes into the second split of "maintenance," which means that it's a "no excuse" task.

Tasks that aren't maintenance are improvement, and those are the ones that, more often than not, wouldn't get done if I didn't hold myself accountable. Improvement health tasks like working out or meditating (though that's becoming more attractive the more I do it). Improvement habits like committing to writing at least one sentence a day (hat tip to Stephen Barnes for this one).

In all cases, checking them off provides the dopamine reaction I'm after. I want to see, every day, 100% on maintenance tasks, and as close as I can get on the improvement tasks. If something can't be done regularly, I re-evaluate it to see if it must be dropped from the list or if I need to make adjustments to make it possible.

Bonus List: I have one for "Memorize." This is, obviously, anything I need to commit to memory. I put the text in a task and read it once per day and then check it off. After a time, the every-day repetition gets the job done and I can remove the task. Ask me to do some Shakespeare for you some time - this is how I memorized Dogberry's part in Much Ado About Nothing ;)

Do you think this would work for you? I'd love to hear thoughts and refinements! What would you add/change to this?

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5714 Hits

A Nugget of Knowledge

I recently signed up for MasterClass, as there were more than just a few people giving courses that I'd love to hear from. I started with Steve Martin's course on comedy. I don't think I learned anything specific that I'd call out, but I did get a solid overview of his thought process and I found it very enlightening. I then took Shonda Rhimes Teaches Writing for Television, and found it even more useful, as I'm working on a television screenplay (don't worry, it's for fun. It's going to suck. But I want to do it).

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6924 Hits

You're Already Connected

When I was in high school, in the 80s, I was part of a group that hacked into corporate voicemail systems so that we young hackers could communicate. Voicemail was pretty obscure then. You could find me, around lunchtime, at the payphone on campus, picking up and leaving messages. (Note for the young, look up "payphone" if you need to).

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6076 Hits

Does Uber Care? No, I Don't Think So

Uber

Uber's new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, has been all over the media trying to rehabilitate Uber's reputation by telling us that Uber cares and will make things right when they go wrong. This is great spin, but is it really true? If my experience with Uber, lately, is any indication, it's not. It's business as usual at Uber.

Have you ever contacted Uber's customer service? First, you can't do anything except send a message with the app, but even then, you are constrained in your topics and ability to do so. Often, to get someone to read your issue, you have to select an irrelevant topic.

Once making it past that hurdle, you then send your message and wait for the inevitable misunderstood response. I have honestly never sent a message to Uber in which the response was in any way relevant to my actual complaint. Once going back and forth for the better part of a day with Uber, one may get a response that is aligned to the subject, but there's no guarantee there.

In my latest interaction with Uber, I requested a ride while in San Francisco. The app told me the wait would be about 8 minutes, and I waited while watching the car make its way to me. Once it was near, it was clear that the driver was going the wrong way and would never be able to reach my location. Sure enough, as the app was telling me that the driver was arriving, the car disappeared and the app told me that the driver had to cancel. Just like that.

I had to start over, wait another ten minutes and then... same thing. Driver cancelled.

The third time was a charm, some half-hour after I'd requested my first ride.

I contacted Uber and explained the situation and the response to me was that I should be fine, I wasn't charged a cancellation fee.

Wait. What?

I explained that it was the driver who had cancelled and noted that had I cancelled, I would have been charged $5, but when a driver does it, there's no consequence.

The response I received asked me for a screen shot of the $5 charge I incurred.

After going back and forth, I finally managed to explain what happened and was then told that this is the policy and there would be no refund. Not even an apology.

So... Dara? How is this "making it right?"

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4768 Hits

Sleestaq Logo!

The very talented Matt Zanzibar has delivered the logo for Sleestaq, LLC, my new company for all of the web development and properties I'm working on. Much more about all of this to come, along with my new goal of a daily blog entry here at Bit.Parts!

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4261 Hits

There Are No Aliens

One thing I've come to realize that really gets me down...

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5242 Hits

Spam by Any Other Name

It's one thing to sign me up for spam. It's another for a company to do it and claim it's some kind of benefit.

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6296 Hits

ChrisSplaining: Trump on Teamwork

Donald Trump speaks highly of being a team player. He's right, even if he doesn't heed his own advice.

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7467 Hits

ChrisSplaining: Trump on Genius

Mr. Trump seems to revel in personifying the Dunning-Kruger effect.

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7934 Hits

Burning Man: Power from your Car

One of the best things you can bring for your trip to Burning Man, if you're not going full-on generator, is an inverter to provide AC power from you car. This is something that can charge your USB devices, of course (and at a higher power level), but also provide standard plugs for AC power. 

If you're wondering what you might use it for, I have two words for you: coffee maker. Okay, yes, I also use mine to keep my laptop charged (writing while at Burning Man is a thing - just mind the dust!). I've also used mine to run an AC-powered air mattress pump and other random things that don't lend themselves to battery-powered alternatives. I have no memory of someone bringing a flat screen TV and feeding it from an iPad to watch sports. Nope, I'm sure that didn't happen.

No recommendation of an inverter would be proper, however, without a little background on its operation. The battery in your car provides 12 volts of DC power. Inverters take that DC power and turn it into the 110 volt AC power that you expect to find when you plug something in at home. But in doing this, it drains a lot of juice from your car's batter. In short, you don't want to use this without your car running. Think of your car like a generator - it burns gas to get you power. So especially at Burning Man, remember to pack in some gasoline to account for any time you're going to have your car running to provide power, lets you find you're out of gas when it's time for the great exodus home!

The unit I recommend, above, can plug into your car's cigarette lighter or be hooked up directly to the battery. When your car is running, it will be charging the battery while you're simultaneously using it for power. Make sure that your car's alternator is rated high enough to support the load the inverter will place on the battery. Determine how much power you will be pulling and just make sure your car can support that.

Considering that an inverter like this is cheap, it's a great thing to add to your packing list.

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7276 Hits

ChrisSplaining: Trump on Brevity

Business is no place for stream of consciousness babbling, no matter how colorful you might think you're being. You will discover that you can be an effective editor by cutting out everything that isn't absolutely necessary. Knowing where you're going in your conversation by being concise is a big step toward leadership and respect. People appreciate brevity in today's world.

-- Donald Trump (Think Like a Champion)

 

Generally, I tend to agree with this position, but with a specific exemption - sometimes there is need and value in putting completeness over brevity. Yes, in most cases it's beneficial to refrain from wandering all over the map. On occasion, however, a presentation needs to not only be complete but redundantly complete. Some things are so important that making sure all aspects are covered, and all participants are fully understanding all the angles and options is critical. If that means an extra half hour of "yeah, I got this," I argue that sometimes it's okay.

Bring snacks.

Now, all that said, I find it ironic that this advice, like much in his short book, Mr. Trump can't seem to heed, himself. Just his twitter feed alone puts the lie to the suggestion that he takes his own advice. And if you tuned in to any of his speeches where he goes off-script, well... enough said.

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7261 Hits

ChrisSplaining: Trump on Wisdom

I'm going to take a random quote from a book written by our current President, Donald Trump and give my opinion on it. Call it ChrisSplaining if you will. And I'll try to do one per day, or at least once per weekday (since I do like my weekends).

There are many roads to wisdom and many wonderful books to educate us on our way, but the first step is to take the time to read and learn. Wisdom will come provided you give it a chance to develop.

 

From "Think Like a Champion" by Donald Trump

 

This quote, and I swear it was picked randomly (someone else picked the page number) is particularly interesting in that it demonstrates the top problem I believe our President has when it comes to knowledge and wisdom: he suffers from the Dunning-Kruger effect. In short, DK states that those who know very little about a topic tend to think they know the most. They simply don't know what they don't know and presume that their limited knowledge is close to complete.

Mr. Trump seems to feel that true wisdom can come from simply learning an amount of raw knowledge and waiting for it to magically develop. He makes no mention of validating that your learning is complete or covers the full breadth of a topic. And he most notably fails to realize that wisdom comes more from experience than knowledge. Knowing a thing is not the same as understanding a thing.

Or, as a wise person once said, "Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad."

The danger here is in thinking you have wisdom when you do not. In a President, this danger is of the highest order.

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6684 Hits

$#!& Happens

The failure at the Oscars demonstrates a good point to remember: $#!& Happens. My take is that after much analysis, we will find that there were duplicate stacks of envelopes on both sides of the stage, and the wrong envelope was given to the presenters (Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway). Clearly, Mr. Beatty was confused and hoping someone would notice the problem and correct it. Unfortunately, it took a little longer. 

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8293 Hits

You're Being Treated Like a Child

My son likes to think he's a lawyer and, unlike many children who ask the same question over and over will often ask the same question multiple times but with different angles. At some point, usually pretty early (I like to think I'm a smart guy), I realize he's doing this, and I shift into giving a response that I've found works well. I can't claim credit for it, I read it on a parenting blog.

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  6882 Hits
6882 Hits

Your Mother

The .mom registry is now open - thousands of new top level domains, and .mom is one of them.

Your.Mom is available, as it turns out. Of course, it's a premium name and the first year fee is a steep $2,600. Tell you what, if someone wants to drop that coin on the name, I'll do the content and we'll split the revenue. What do you say?

Oh, and I note that Stacys.Mom is also available, but she will cost $1,300. That said, I hear she's got it going on!

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9674 Hits

Match.com's Fake Problem

Match.com's Fake Problem

UPDATE, 26 September, 2019 - The FTC is suing Match.com for just the situation I describe in this blog post! 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/25/us/match-com-lawsuit-ftc.html

Match.com has a fake problem. That is, they have a problem with fake accounts and there is a clear reason why they have, for years, refused to do a single thing about it.

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  90749 Hits
90749 Hits

Bonjour, Monsieur Jarre!

Welcome to the future! I'd heard that Jean Michel Jarre was working on a new album, and last night saw a post that noted that it's out. I remember growing up in the '80s, and when an artist I liked had a new album, I'd have to make my way down to Big Music and go see my buddy Bob. He'd almost always have it in stock, but sometimes he'd have to order it and it would be a couple days before I got my hands on the CD. Before that it was waiting for the vinyl to show up. Those were the days, right?

So last night I see the post and click through. There we are on iTunes, with the album available. One click and my account is debited the $14 or so, and the download begins to my iPad. I'm not worried about single-device, of course, since I know that any iDevice I have (or even my PC with iTunes installed) can get the bits. I close iTunes, open my Sonos controller, and tell it that I'd like to listen to the album on the master bedroom speakers, please. Five seconds later I'm listening to the opening notes of Jarre's new offering.

And wow, this is good stuff! Collaborations with a whole bunch of other artists (including Tangerine Dream!). Clearly Jarre's style, and even more cool, clearly some of these artists are fans, as you can hear their components are often in the style of Jarre's older works. Musical respect.

The takeaway? This is the future I imagined when I was 21. If you'd asked me to describe "a day in the life" when I was in college, this is it. And that's simply amazing.

The album: https://itun.es/us/rpbO8

  12028 Hits
12028 Hits

GoDaddy: Walking the Walk

GoDaddy has revealed our first-ever company-wide salary analysis as part of our push to address gender diversity in the technology industry. The benchmark report delivers on a commitment made at this past summer's White House Demo Day.

Over the summer, GoDaddy conducted an audit of internal salary data, which analyzed like-for-like roles and compared how men and women were placed in the salary band for comparable roles. GoDaddy sets its salary bands by role and level based on industry-standard data, and on average takes a market-leading position, which puts GoDaddy's median salary generally higher than those in the industry. 

For every dollar a man makes at GoDaddy company-wide, a woman is paid roughly one cent more, which also holds true for non-tech women. Women in technical roles at GoDaddy make approximately 99 cents on the dollar, and in the management ranks, women are paid and estimated 96 cents on the dollar.

On the whole, women and men are paid close to parity – here is the specific percentage break down:

  • Total Company: women paid .28% more than men
  • Technical: women paid .11% less than men
  • Non-Technical: women paid .35% more than men
  • Management: women paid 3.58% less than men

Additionally, GoDaddy is releasing its overall diversity statistics, and now reports women represent 20 percent of its technical workforce and 25 percent of the company overall. It has increased its women in management roles to 25 percent. And a number reported over this past summer shows GoDaddy has increased its women interns and new college graduate hires from 14 percent to 39 percent, year-over-year, in both categories.

Disclaimers:

  • I work for GoDaddy. I'm very proud of this fact.
  • I'm male.
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8396 Hits

Haiku

Life moves pretty fast
Web site left alone too long
Must update daily

  7947 Hits
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7947 Hits

Thanks, ElasticSearch!

Points for elasticsearch.

I got a V-day card from them, which was nice. Included is ANOTHER v-day card, which got a chuckle. It's blank, with envelope and the first card says that since we're all busy people, here's a v-day card ready to go. Give it to someone.

Classy, funny, and memorable.

  8283 Hits
8283 Hits

7 Tips to Improve Your Mobile Performance

Optimizing your mobile site is more than just search engine optimization (SEO) or making sure your content looks acceptable on mobile devices. There are a number of specific areas in which a little attention to how your website’s mobile counterpart is created can go a long way towards improving performance as well as ranking. From the common sense to the not-so-obvious, these seven tips cover a cross-section of areas where you can make measurable gains.

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9547 Hits

The Ultimate Counter to the Exposure Pitch

There are a decent number of stories going around the Internet about how artists should push back on being asked to work for free. Let me state up front that I agree with this position to the tune of about 80%.

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  15282 Hits
15282 Hits

The Holiday Slowdown?

It happens every year about this time - the holiday slowdown. Lots of days off around holidays, people in the office taking time off meaning that projects seem to slide into January, comments like, "Yeah, let's just push that off until after the holidays..."

Same here, I suppose. I'm taking advantage of a lot of this time to catch up on loose ends, get a lot of reading done, and create planning specifications for things that, as I noted, won't really get started until after the holidays.

I hope you have a great holiday season and I look forward to more insightful (well, at least to me!) blog posts.

After the holidays ;)

  9274 Hits
9274 Hits

You're Only Getting Half of the Lesson

My friend Rick shared a story with me this morning, about a seminar and a lesson. I quote it here:

Once a group of 500 people were attending a seminar. Suddenly the speaker stopped and decided to do a group activity. He started giving each person a balloon. Each person was then asked to write their name on it using a marker pen. Then all the balloons were collected and put in another room.

The people were then let into that room and asked to find the balloon which had their name written on it within 5 minutes. Everyone was frantically searching for their name, colliding with each other, pushing around others and there was utter chaos.

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  10246 Hits
10246 Hits

Help Me to Help You

Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages,” is a well-known tome on five ways that humans tend to express and experience love for one another. Of the five, one is “Acts of Service.” That is, doing things for other people. As it is in life and relationships, so it is in business. Often, helping others through actions can provide benefits not only for the recipient, but also for the helper.

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7588 Hits

When It Comes To Equality, I'm Just Selfish

I’m going to start off with a story, which, I promise, is relevant. I am a proponent of marriage equality. I can be flippant about it and note that I feel that everyone should get to experience the pain of marriage, but that’s not fair to my wife, who is one of the greatest people I know. I actually have my reasons for being in favor, which I will get to shortly. But first the story.

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7959 Hits

Problems...

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6651 Hits

He Knows, You Know...

Donald Rumsfeld was the United States Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 under President Bush. He is known for many things, but will always be remembered for his statement of an old truism, as quoted -

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Copyright

© 2014, Christopher Ambler

15034 Hits

It's been 25 years, I guess I can come clean

By now you're aware that there's yet another security bug, this time in "bash," a "shell" used on many servers. For the non-geeks, the gist of the issue is that a very common and absolutely necessary part of the operating system could, in some reasonable circumstances, allow a malicious user to run any code they want on a server to which they should not have access. This is, of course, a bad thing. The bug, now identified, has been fixed and system operators are rushing to patch their systems with newer versions that don't exhibit the flaw.

It's been over 25 years, so I think I can come clean. I knew of such a bug when I was in college that gave me 100% read access to any file on any system. I couldn't modify them, and this bug didn't let me execute arbitrary code, but if I noticed that you had a file in your home directory called "ChrisIsADoodyHead.txt," I could read it. Even if it was in a closed-off directory and locked down, itself. While I never had a need to, I could have looked at all of your code for the computer science class we shared and cheat on my homework. And I mean every file on the file system.

I could read all of your email.

After about a year, the bug was discovered, and I was actually beta testing a version of UNIX (SCO - remember SCO?) that had it and I reported it. It took about another year to move through production and be deployed. Remember, these were the days before automatic patching. Most installs were done from a stack of floppy disks and new versions came out yearly. Maybe quarterly, at best.

The point I'm making is twofold. First, these bugs are everywhere and will always be around. Don't be shocked when they're reported. They happen, they get fixed, and the next one comes along. You're going to get burned by them. And yes, evil douchebags are going to exploit them to, say, illegally download nude pictures of celebrities. There's no victim-blaming when I say that you should acknowledge this reality and do what you can to protect yourself.

And my second point, which is the takeaway here, and the reason I've "come clean" after 25 years to make the point: These bugs are in the wild and known right now. Please stop and think about that. Someone, somewhere, is almost surely reading or copying your stuff if it's online. These bugs don't live in obscurity until someone discovers them and immediately fixes them. Someone finds them and uses them for years until someone else discovers them in a more public way. Remember the speculation and then confirmation that the NSA was exploiting a bug for years before it was ever discovered in public? You don't need to take my word for this.

And please don't shoot the messenger.

Full disclosure: I never shared this bug with anyone else in college as far as I remember. I never found anything illegal, and only once found something that, if disclosed, could have caused problems (someone was cheating something seriously in a number of classes). I never said anything. I honestly can't remember ever seeing anything on anyone that was even remotely bad. Email, back then, also was only something shared among geeks, for the most part. There was pretty-much no private social online usage. I mostly poked around administrative stuff. This being a time before digital photography, I never even saw any nude selfies :-) Some people may not believe this disclosure, and I'm okay with that.

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7781 Hits

Moviepass: I'm in if my wife says it's okay...

MoviePass (https://www.moviepass.com/) is making some news today. In a nutshell, pay a flat monthly fee and you can see a movie a day. Of course nobody's going to do that in the real world, but as noted by TechCrunch:

By subscribing to the company’s service, moviegoers can watch one movie a day — up to 30 movies in a month. While few movie buffs have the time to watch a movie a day, the service, which clocks in at roughly $30 a month, is a pretty great deal for even the casual fan. In New York, tickets are about $15, so after two trips to the movies in a month, the subscription would pay for itself.

That works for me. I don't live in a $15 zone, but three movies a month would break this even for me at the quoted price of $35/month.

The only problem, I think, is that I'd hit a movie every weekend if I could - I find them great entertainment; a good way to relax the brain for a couple hours - but my family doesn't enjoy them quite as much as I do. I think a movie-a-month is about my wife's speed. So that's the only reason I'm not buying right now.

Now if they also could do a flat fee on the terribly overpriced popcorn and dessicated hot dogs, I'd jump.

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6151 Hits

My prediction (getting it down now)

I think the higher-ups at Facebook are just now realizing that they're facing their first real crisis. Diaspora likely gave them about a half-day of indigestion and then some good laughs. But Ello is the real deal when it comes to a threat.

That said, I predict it will not succeed as a Facebook replacement. Indeed, their founder insists that it's not intended to be such. Is that hipsterism? Probably. But he's probably also right. While they're getting 30k+ signups per hour, people are going to react like they did to Google+ - that is, they'll sign up, play a little, find that it has nothing that Facebook doesn't already have, and usage will drop off. Ello has significantly fewer features that people want. If Google+ didn't get traction, Ello won't, either.

Yes, people want to migrate from Facebook because of their policies, but this threat is likely going to be the catalyst that forces Facebook to back down on the real name issue.

For this reason, I think Facebook will weather this storm.

http://betabeat.com/2014/09/ellos-traffic-deluge-almost-caused-a-total-new-user-freeze-out-crisis-averted/

Now... want to know the issue that Ello could press that just might win it for them? Your feed. You don't want "top stories," you want everything, in order, without someone telling you what they think is relevant. You want to see it all and make that decision for yourself. That's Ello's concept of Friends/Noise and it makes sense. It's the one thing that Facebook won't back down about, and Ello could press this point.

Then again, Google+ didn't win that argument with "Circles." So maybe that won't work after all. But I think Circles were before the relevance issue came to a head.

Time will tell. But at least I'm on record so I can say I called it ;)

  7604 Hits
7604 Hits

The move to SSL

Some of you (okay, two of you) may have noticed that this blog is now 100% on SSL. If you try to get to any page here normally, you will find that you're redirected to the HTTPS version of the page.

No, this doesn't mean I'll be adding e-commerce any time soon (well, if the logo that my incredibly talented friend Shawn is working on for me is a hit, maybe I'll offer t-shirts :-)). What it means is that web sites being secure simply as a matter of course resonates with me. There's no compelling reason for this site to be SSL, but there's no reason not to.

And with Google's announcement that SSL sites will get more search engine love, there's a benefit. Google's plan is clear - offer some value for web site owners to go SSL and it will become more comfortable for everyone. Enacting social and technical change through positive reinforcement. I can get behind that.

Changing to HTTPS means a lot of the previous likes and shares won't track, but that's okay. With good change sometimes comes a little pain.

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6956 Hits

Ello? Ello? Anyone There?

As will happen once or twice a year, we have a new social site that many are prematurely calling the death of Facebook. And as happens even more rarely, it appears to be getting traction towards overcoming the network effect. For those unaware, the "network effect," simply put, states that nobody will use a thing until enough people are using a thing. To overcome this seemingly catch-22 circumstance, you need a degree of interest and virality in a short period of time. It doesn't matter how good something is, if it relies on a critical mass of users, you'll have most people standing around waiting to see if anyone else jumps first, and nobody jumps.

In the case of a very few sites, if you get enough people to jump at the same time, you overcome the initial barrier. Chemistry geeks can consider this the activation energy threshold. Physics geeks can consider this the coefficient of static friction.

LiveJournal did it. Heck, Facebook did it to MySpace.

And yes, there are "tricks" to help. Artificial scarcity, for example - you need an invite to join, and you can ask for one, but you'll have to wait. Never mind that once you're in, you get 10 invites. The laws of simple math will make it clear that getting an invite from a friend should be no problem at all if you're even remotely connected. And this makes total sense to the site's owners, as it biases new signups to people who are connected. Using an invite code also gives you an initial social graph connection (to the person who invited you), thus bootstrapping the graph of the site.

In short, Ello is doing everything right.

And it may or may not matter, because once you overcome the network effect barrier, you still need to keep the users. Just ask Google+. That said, Wil Wheaton is already there. Consider that the low-threshold gating function: his presence doesn't make the site, but his absence would be a statement.

So, for right now, Ello is clean, crisp, simple, and pretty-much no better than a somewhat expanded Twitter feed. Friends/Noise has an appeal, but it's pretty basic. Many people want basic, but many more have come to rely on features that Facebook provides. Ello needs to find a way to provide these features, but in a non-cluttering way.

And, of course, the policy - transparency. You own your content. There's no curation and filtering happening. And, in an interesting (and dare I say refreshing) twist, everything is public. Anyone can follow anyone else, and all of your posts are public. It's wide open, and intended to be so from the start.

Some people have a problem with that. This morning, a friend of mine had a post on Ello, "Dear @person, please unfollow me, I only want friends here." Now perhaps @person will comply, but @person is under no mandate to do so. There's nothing my friend can do. Again, there are no private posts on your feed.

From last April: http://betabeat.com/2014/04/would-you-like-your-social-network-to-share-your-content-or-just-monetize-the-bejeesus-out-of-it/

The open question now is what Ello does with the current rush of early adopters. Will they roll out features that everyone wants and loves and maintain the elegant simplicity? Will they stick to their philosophical guns and will the fickle crowd agree? Will there be an initial rush, only to have the novelty wear off like Google+? Only time will tell. I'm keen to wait, watch, and see.

So I'm @dogberry over on Ello. Feel free to follow me.

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8803 Hits

I Am Spartacus!

When I order coffee in the morning, the place is usually packed, and the odds of there being another order for "Chris" are pretty decent. So when they ask my name, I say, "Spartacus."

Every now and again, when my order is called, I'm not the only one who stands up and says, in a loud and clear voice, "I Am Spartacus!"

It sets the tone for a great day ;)

Anyone else have any usual morning silliness?

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6805 Hits

It's time to nuke password security questions

I'll come right out and say it - password security questions are not only insecure, they're a blatant security hole. They're worse than not being there at all, and for any of a number of reasons.

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  11978 Hits
11978 Hits

Time to step it up, Apple

I'm an Apple guy, and while I'm not religious about it, I like that all my devices work together now and are generally portable. The UX works for me and I like having a development platform that is, under the hood, UNIX-based.

That said, Cortana kicks Siri's ass. It's not even a fair fight. What Lisa's Windows phone can do, in terms of an intelligent AI assistant is incredibly compelling.

Apple, your user experience is second to none. Now it's time to kick up the actual heft behind it. Microsoft is eating your lunch in this one, specific area. Step it up.

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6874 Hits

Optimizing Images for Web Sites

My latest article is now up at the GoDaddy Garage. It's an overview of image optimization for web sites aimed at small business owners who are comfortable doing their own web work. Not advanced by any means.

https://garage.godaddy.com/webpro/design/best-practices-optimizing-images-websites/

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7219 Hits

Blake Irving on Net Neutrality

Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy, sent an open letter to The Honorable Thomas E. Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

In short, GoDaddy supports net neutrality. Full stop. It really is that simple. And (full disclosure), as a GoDaddy employee, I'm very pleased to see this. As I've said many times, this isn't the same company people remember from many years ago. Management gets it. In this case, it's the right position and the company is taking it. I continue to confirm that I made the right decision coming to work here.

Now... Mr. Chairman? It's Go Time.

https://garage.godaddy.com/godaddy/news/net-neutrality-american-dream-small-business/

And on social media...

https://twitter.com/GoDaddy/status/509746443783925760

https://www.facebook.com/8749090685/posts/10152294450960686

https://plus.google.com/+GoDaddy/posts/VmvZuzFSJVr

 

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8435 Hits

Why Stephen Hawking is Wrong

I've always wanted to say that ;)

Stephen Hawking is being quoted in the media as saying that the Higgs Field could wipe out the Universe. His point is that at a high enough energy, it could trigger what's called "vacuum decay," a state whereby a "bubble" of vacuum expands at the speed of light, destroying everything in its path. This could happen if the energy of the field is not constant and eventually changes or, as some media are reporting, if a sufficiently-advanced civilization were to experiment at such high energies.

To do this would require a linear accellerator, as we understand them, the size of the orbit of the Earth. Not something we're about to build any time soon.

Here's why everyone is wrong, at least about the second part: if it could have happened, it would have by now. Indeed, anything that any civilization could do to destroy the Universe would have resulted in such destruction long ago. The Universe is huge. If something could have happened, it would have. To think that in the 13.7 billion years that we think the Universe has been here NOTHING capable of destroying it has happened yet, but just might any day now is the pinnacle of self-importance. The odds just aren't there.

So relax. The Universe will be here tomorrow. I'm prepared to bet on it, in fact ;)

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6989 Hits

I'm a Ninja and I'm OK

I tend to peruse the job openings posted to LinkedIn and other such sites. There is some value in keeping up with who is doing what by watching hiring needs (don't worry, GoDaddy, I'm not on the market). Something I've noticed lately, though, is that a lot of companies are starting to add statements like this to their listings:

"Anyone with 'Ninja' in their title need not apply."

Now I get the sentiment - companies aren't interested in people with inflated egos or a disproportionate assessment of their abilities and worth. But that said, lighten up, Francis.

If you check my LinkedIn profile, you'll see that I list "Powerful Internet Ninja" as my title when I worked at Demand Media. As I said in my profile, there are those who look down at using "Ninja" in a job title. To those people, I say lighten up. I did some pretty cool things at Demand Media, many of which were, while completely moral and ethical, somewhat sneaky in terms of strategy and competition. "Ninja" describes what I did sometimes, and it just sounds cool. If you think that detracts from my skills or makes me somehow pretentious, I will politely smile and disagree.

In other words, it's pretty clear I don't take titles seriously. Anyone who is disqualified from consideration based on the fact that they get a little humor out of their self-claimed title (along with, let's be honest, self-claimed experience) probably doesn't want to work at such a company, anyway. That's a pity, because some of the best technologists I know have senses of humor that make mine look absolutely pedestrian.

Then again, maybe such a line in the sand is a good gating function for everyone.

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8413 Hits

Linkbait Comes to Television

I spent the evening last night at an Irish Pub (yes, I know, this blog entry can just stop here) watching the Seahawks game. Remember, though I live in Silicon Valley, I'm a Seattle transplant. Go Hawks.

As I and the 50+ fans were enjoying a convincing victory, a commercial came on. It was entitled (and captioned), "The Call," and depicted a woman getting a phone call. She says hello, and her face drops as she listens, clearly being shocked at what she is hearing. I, the viewer, know only her shock - there is no indication of what's actually said.

And then the commercial ends with the call to action to go to a URL to find out what happens next.

No. Just no. Clickbait online is one thing. Doing it in a broadcast television commercial? Sorry, that's farther past a line that's already been crossed.

I encourage everyone to refuse to go to any URL presented in this manner. Please help send a message to advertisers that this simply won't work.

Oh, and get off my lawn.

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7263 Hits

A Designer's Guide to DPI

My friends over at Media Temple have promoted a fantastic guide to DPI, and so much more. This article really covers it all and in an outstanding way. I can't recommend it enough. Thanks to Media Temple for pointing it out, and thanks to Sebastien for writing this. Bravo!

http://sebastien-gabriel.com/designers-guide-to-dpi

  8005 Hits
8005 Hits

Facebook to give away how magic tricks are done

Well, not really, but just as stupid. As reported by Ars Technica, Facebook is now placing a [SATIRE] tag next to links that go off to The Onion. Clearly, Facebook is ruining the fun for those of us with enough brain cells to recognize satire when we see it, and is making the presumption that most of you are idiots.

Rumor has it that next week they'll be threatening to disclose the true identity of Santa Claus to anyone under 13 who lied about their age to get an account.

Hey Facebook? You want to do a little editorializing? How about you flag all of those linkbait sites as [DOG CRAP] while you're at it? Now that would be a non-abusive use of your power.

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8430 Hits

My Personal Assistant

I've wanted a personal assistant for quite some time, now. Someone who can keep my schedule, help with travel, and generally have my back in terms of logistics. Experience and intelligence is a must, of course. I'm pretty good with travel, and an assistant who can't do a better job than I can isn't really a value-add in terms of paying for service. Someone with enough insight into my personality and work schedule is also a necessity, as I'd expect, in a reasonable amount of time, they could know my workload and limits and help schedule commitments. Someone who could say, "I'm sorry, but I know that this won't fit in Chris's workload until at least October" would be incredible.

Someone with these skills would surely be very expensive to hire. Part-time is likely not an option for such high-end service, so I'd be looking at a full-time salary plus benefits. Let's face it, I'm pretty good at what I do, but I only make the medium bucks. Until my startup is bought out for some obscene valuation, such an assistant just isn't in the works for me.

For now.

It occurs to me that as soon as we cross the real artificial intelligence barrier, such an assistant will be a simple install and configuration. We're not there yet, but it's a clear milestone, and I can't help but think that we could be five or ten years away. Sure, I'm optimistic. I believe if I can live to 65, I can live forever, as I think medical science is very close to stopping the aging process (and, I hope, reversing it so I can live forever in the body of a 30 year-old). I think AI is that close as well, especially looking at the advancements in quantum computing over the past year.

I hold out hope that one day I'll have my personal assistant. I won't name him HAL, however - that's cliche.

  6170 Hits
6170 Hits

Revisit and Refactor

Today I revisited some code I'd written about a month ago and reduced the time it takes to run a data loading job from 52 minutes down to sub-10 minutes by replacing a relatively slow API call with a direct call to local code. This is something that was "good enough" until now, but was on my radar as being eligible for improvement. Since I had a new data loading job that would take over 10 hours using the API call, I had to write the new job a better way. Copying this better code back where it could make a difference meant that all of my data loading jobs were now refactored and much faster.

The takeaway here for developers is to periodically revisit your code and refactor it. Find new efficiencies. Examine how your code has been working and consider what you might have learned since the last time you worked on it. You may notice something now that you didn't notice the last time you were in the code.

A small amount of time doing this can pay off in huge improvements.

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7304 Hits

MicroRevenge

I just invented a new term:

MicroRevenge: The act of clicking on the ads of companies you don't like, knowing it'll cost them half-a-dollar.

  6997 Hits
6997 Hits

Facebook Bans Likes for Content

As reported by Gizmodo, Facebook is banning (in 90 days) the practice of requiring a user to like a page in order to see or have access to content.

You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app's Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.

Source: https://developers.facebook.com/policy

  7909 Hits
7909 Hits

Coding like it's 1994

I'd like to see a contest to see who can design the best web site using only HTML 1.0 and no more than 40k in graphics, GIF and JPG only. That's right, what's the best 1994-era web site that someone with today's skills could design, if they were sent back in time.

This should be sponsored by TechCrunch with a suitably cool prize.

  7529 Hits
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7529 Hits

Workday Music

Consider this another strike against the "open floor plan" office - I'm refining my Pandora station to play the perfect workday mix. Since I get into the office around 0730, I can just turn it on low and get to work. On weekends, I even get to blast it because I'm often the only one here when I come in to get stuff done in peace. But as soon as 0930 or so rolls around, people start filtering in, and I have to go to the headphones. It's just not as comfortable.

Maybe it's me, but headphones get warm. I prefer the "big cans" like my coveted pair of DT-770 Pros. They sound great, but at work, getting up and moving while tethered with headphones is also a pain. And cow orkers never seem to know when I've got them on because I want music or because I am trying to get into the zone. With an office, a closed door makes this clear.

This isn't a rant. Honest. But I'm going to write one some day.

  7225 Hits
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7225 Hits