Archive for the ‘internet’ category


Is there a type that works from home more easily?

27.03.2020

Olivia St Redfern has featured yours truly in her lockdown day 2, part 1 podcast, so I decided to record another response.
   It brings to mind something Steve McQueen once said. ‘I’m not an actor. I’m a reactor.’ As in, he could react to a line from another actor.
   Anyone who has seen McQueen in a film, certainly anything post-Blob, would dispute that—the king of cool was an excellent actor. But for now, as someone who had avoided doing a podcast for two decades, I “react” to Olivia’s episodes, and recorded a response on Anchor:

   At some point I might do an entry independently but considering the first has only had one listen (out of hundreds who might read a blog post of mine), then there’s not a huge incentive! (Update: that episode has doubled its audience to two.)
   History tells us that it took a while for Melrose Place to be seen as more than a 90210 spin-off, for instance. And Joey never managed it post-Friends.
   This second one does make one point about working from home. As mentioned before, I’ve been doing this since 1987, so the only difference with the lockdown (and the days leading up to it) is that I don’t feel as “special”. But I also know that not everyone is enjoying their work arrangements, such as this British QC:

   I posted my 12 tips for working from home, but when chatting to Amanda today, there might be a bit more to it than that. Maybe there’s something about one’s personality that makes working from home easier.
   While I have things to do each day, I don’t make lists. I’m more substantive than procedural. In the daytime, I try to answer emails or see to urgent stuff. I almost never do accounts at night: that’s another daytime pursuit. I know to reserve time to do those but I don’t religiously set it to 2 p.m., for instance. The beauty of working from home is flexibility, so why re-create a regimented schedule?
   At night I tend to do more creative things, e.g. design and art direction. My work day is extended because I enjoy my work.
   My advice to those making the shift is to do away with the lists. Know the direction and get things done as the inspiration hits you. It’s meant to be calmer than the bustle of office life.

People should find exponential growth an easy concept to grasp, at least those of us of a certain age. Heather Locklear taught all of us with Fabergé shampoo.

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Responding to Leisure Lounge

26.03.2020

During the 2011 ‘snowpocalypse’, my friend, the drag queen Olivia St Redfern, produced a series of streamed video programmes called Leisure Lounge. If I recall correctly, the intent was to give people, who had not experienced snow in our city (it’s a once-in-70-year event), some light entertainment. I called in as ‘Charlie’ (with apologies to John Forsythe) with the catchphrase, ‘Good morning, Angels.’ We didn’t have a ton of viewers—they were in the double digits—but those who did watch were loyal.
   Now we’re in a national lockdown for ‘coronapocalypse’, Olivia’s started again with Leisure Lounge, but this time as a podcast, where you can follow her progress each day. It’s quite fun to share the experience, and she welcomes responses. However, I found the Anchor recording method terrible (it messed up a five-minute response I sent to her yesterday), so I redid it for her today. You’ll need to listen to the second episode for context, and, if it’s of any interest, here is my reply.

   After all that, I may as well continue doing the odd podcast as well—something I had the opportunity to do 20 years ago. Better late than never.

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Posted in culture, humour, interests, internet, New Zealand, Wellington | 1 Comment »


The FT covers lawsuit alleging Facebook knew about inflated metrics

21.03.2020

I’ll be interested to read the judgement, should it get to that point: Facebook is being sued over allegedly inflating its audience numbers, and COO Sheryl Sandberg and financial officer David Wehner are also named.
   The plaintiff alleges that Facebook has known this for years. The suit dates from 2018 but there are new filings from the lawsuit.
   I’ve blogged on related topics for the majority of the previous decade, and in 2014 I said that Facebook had a bot ‘epidemic’.
   Finally another publication has caught on this, namely the Financial Times. The FT notes something that I did on this blog in 2017: ‘In some cases, the number cited for potential audience size in certain US states and demographics was actually larger than the population size as recorded in census figures, it claimed.’ Its own 2019 investigation found discrepancies in the Facebook Ads’ Manager tool.
   The complaint also says that Facebook had not removed fake and duplicate accounts. Lately I’ve found some obvious fake accounts, and reported them, only for Facebook to tell me that there’s nothing wrong with them. On Instagram, I have hundreds, possibly thousands, of accounts that I reported but remain current. Based on my user experience, the plaintiff is absolutely correct.
   Facebook only solves problems it puts its mind to, and all seem to be bolstering its bottom line. This is something it could have solved, and since it’s plagued the site for the good part of a decade, and it continues to, then you have to conclude that there’s no desire to. And of course there isn’t: the more fakes there are, the more page owners have to pay to reach real people.
   Over a decade ago, I know that it cost a small business a decent chunk of money to get an independent audit (from memory, we were looking at around NZ$6,000). Facebook doesn’t have this excuse, and that tells me it doesn’t want you to know how its ads actually perform.
   As I said many times: if a regular person like me can find a maximum of 277 fakes or bots in a single night, then how many are there? I’m surprised that not more of the mainstream media are talking about this, given that in 2018 Facebook posted an income of US$22,100 million on US$55,800 million of revenue, 98·5 per cent of which came from advertising. Is this one of the biggest cons out there? Here’s hoping the lawsuit will reveal something. Few seem to care about Facebook’s lies and erosion of their privacy, but maybe they might start caring when they realize they’ve been fleeced.

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Twelve things I do to keep balanced while working from home

17.03.2020

When I was 13, my father became self-employed after being made redundant at his work. By choice, my mother did the same when I was in my early 20s. They both loved the lifestyle and I imagine it was inevitable I would do the same in my career, beginning at a time when I was still studying.
   As some who self-isolate because of the coronavirus pandemic say that their mental health is affected, I thought I’d share how I’ve been based at home for over three decades.

1. For those working, make sure it’s not just one project. There’s nothing more wearing that having just one thing to work on the entire day. I always have a few projects on the go, and make sure I switch between them. The second project should be a lighter one or be of less importance. Even if it’s not work, make sure it’s something that gives you a bit of variety.

2. Make sure you have a decent work set-up. I find it important to have a monitor where I can read things clearly. Also I set mine on a mode that restricts blue light. If you’re working at home, it’s not a bad idea to have comfortable settings on a screen. If your monitor doesn’t have a native mode to restrict blue light, there’s always F.lux, which is an excellent tool to make screens more comfortable.
   If you’re used to standard keyboards and mice, that’s great, but for me, I have to ensure my keyboard is either at around 400 mm in width or less, and my mouse has to be larger than the standard size since I have big hands. Ergonomics are important.

3. Find that spot. Find a comfortable space to base yourself with plenty of natural light and ventilation. At-home pet cats and dogs do it, take their lead.

4. Stretch. Again, the cats and dogs do it. Get out of that chair every now and then and make sure you don’t get too stiff working from your desk. Exercise if you wish to.

5. If you relax to white noise or find it comforting, there are places that can help. One friend of mine loves his podcasts, and others might like music, but I enjoy having the sound of web video. And if it’s interesting, you can always stop to watch it. One site I recently recommended is Thought Maybe, which has plenty of useful documentaries, including Adam Curtis’s ones. These give an insight into how parts of the world work, and you might even get some theories on just what landed us in this situation in 2020.
   When Aotearoa had two network TV channels, I dreamed of a time when I could have overseas stations accessible at my fingertips. That reality is now here with plenty of news channels online. If that’s too much doom and gloom, I’m sure there are others that you can tune into to have running in the background. Radio.net has a lot of genres of music.

6. Find that hobby. No point waiting till you retire. Was there something you always wanted to learn about but thought you’d never have time? I recommend Skillshare, which has lots of online courses on different subjects. You learn at your pace so you can delve into the course whenever you want, say once a day as a treat.

7. I do some social media but generally I limit myself. Because social media are antisocial, and they’re designed to suck up your time to make their owners rich (they look at how much attention they capture and sell that to advertisers), there’s no point doing something draining if you’ve got some good stuff to do in (1). However, they might be cathartic if you want to have some human contact or express your feelings. Personally, I prefer to blog, which was my catharsis in the mid-2000s, and which I find just as good today. It’s a pity the old Vox isn’t around these days as there’s much to be said for a long-form blogging network.
   Sarb Johal started the #StayatHomeEnts hashtag on Twitter where Tweeters have been putting up some advice on what we each do to keep entertained. I just had a scroll down and they’re really good!

8. Many of us have this technology to chat to others, let’s use it. We’re luckier in 2020 that there’s Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. I had thought that if we didn’t have social media, we’d be finding this an ideal opportunity to connect with others around the planet and learning about other cultures. I remember in the early days of the web how fascinating it was to chat to people in chatrooms from places I had never visited. I realize these days there are some weirdos out there, who have spoiled the experience for the great majority. But I’m sure there are some safe places, and if they’re not around, see what friends are in the same boat and form your own virtual networks. Importantly, don’t restrict yourselves to your own country.

9. Don’t veg: do something creative. For those of us with a creative bent, draw, write, photograph, play a musical instrument—something to de-stress. I can’t get through a day without doing one creative thing.

10. Anything in the house that you said you’d always do? Now’s your chance to do it, and hopefully you’ve got your tools and equipment at home already.

11. If you’re in a relationship, don’t get on top of each other—have your own spaces. Having said that, seeing my partner helps as I used to go into town a few times a week for meetings; because I see her each day, that need to meet up with colleagues to get out of your own headspace isn’t as strong.

12. Take plenty of breaks. You’d probably have to anyway, in order to cook (since you’re not heading out to a café) so structure in times to do this. It soon becomes second nature. Don’t plough through till well after your lunchtime or dinnertime: get a healthy routine. Remember that self-isolation means you can still go for walks, just not into crowded places or with someone. When we self-isolated in January over an unrelated bug, my partner and I headed to a local park that wasn’t busy during the day and we were the only ones there.

   Normally I would have a small amount of meetings during the week but as I get older, they’re actually fewer in number, so I can cope with not having them.
   Do you have any extra tips? Put them in the comments and let’s see if we can build on this together.

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Posted in culture, interests, internet, New Zealand, technology, TV | 1 Comment »


Don’t rely on an algorithm to choose your brand ambassadors

14.03.2020

Here’s a cautionary tale found by Lucire travel editor Stanley Moss. His words: ‘Photographer Dmitry Kostyukov recently experienced a rich dialogue with an algorithm belonging to a Scandinavian swimwear company. He’d been auto-mistaken for a Y chromosome, and digitally invited to become a brand ambassador. Dmitry accepted, and received the sample suit of his choice, an influencer name and instructions on how to photograph himself wearing the product. This exposes one facet of what advertising has become, commodified advocacy. Following is the text of his statement about the project, filled with reminders of what today constitutes the new paradigm of product promotion. Caveat emptor.
   In other words, don’t leave your marketing in the hands of a program. I haven’t followed up with Bright Swimwear, but I hope they’ll run with it, not just to show that they are ‘progressive’, but to admit that there are limits to how algorithms can handle your brand. (They haven’t yet.)
   If the world desires more humanistic branding, and people don’t want to feel like just a number, then brands should be more personal. Automation is all right when you need to reach a mass audience with the same message, but cultivating personal relationships with your brand ambassadors would be a must if you desire authenticity. Otherwise, you just don’t know the values of those promoting your brand.
   Fortunately, I took it in good humour just as Dmitry did and ran the story in Lucire, and you can reach your own conclusions about the wisdom of algorithms in marketing, particularly in brand ambassadorship.

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I prefer the 99 per cent who don’t rely on Google

10.03.2020


Almost three screens of apps, none of which require Google.

I had a good discussion on Twitter today with Peter Lambrechtsen, and if you want to have a peek, it’s here. He’s a really decent guy who makes some good points. But it does annoy me that my partner, whose phone is a stock standard one, with all the Google and Vodafone spyware, cannot run Über, either, and that it wasted half an hour of her life yesterday. Between us we’ve lost 90 minutes because of programs in two days that don’t do what they say on the tin.
   I have several theories about this, and one of Peter’s suggestions was to get a new phone—which is actually quite reasonable given what he knows about it, though not realistic for everyone.
   Theory 1: the people who make these apps just have the latest gear, and to hell with anyone who owns a phone from 2017. (Silicon Valley is woke? Not with this attitude.)
   Theory 2: the apps just aren’t tested.
   Theory 3: the apps are developed by people who have little idea about how non-tech people use things.
   We got on to rooting phones and how some apps detect this, and won’t function as a result.
   I’d never have rooted mine if there wasn’t an easy manufacturer’s method of doing so, and if I could easily remove Google from it (services, search, Gmail, YouTube, Play, etc.). Nor would I have touched it had Meizu allowed us to install the Chinese operating system on to a western phone.
   I wager that over 99 per cent of Android apps do not need Google services—I run plenty without any problems—but there’s less than 1 per cent that do, including Zoomy and Snapchat. I live without both, and, in fact, as the 2020s begin, I find less and less utility from a cellphone. So much for these devices somehow taking over our lives. You get to a point where they just aren’t interesting.
   So why does the 1 per cent become so wedded to Google?
   You’d think that app developers would believe in consumer choice and could see the writing on the wall. A generation ago, Microsoft’s bundling of Internet Explorer got them into hot water. More recently, the EU fined Google for violating their monopoly laws. People are waking up to the fact that Google is wielding monopoly power and it’s bad for society. Why contribute to it, when the other 99 per cent don’t?
   If I build a website, I don’t say that you need to have used something else to browse it: there’s an agreed set of standards.
   And I bet it’s the same for Android development, which is why there are now superior Chinese app stores, filled with stuff that doesn’t need Google.
   We prefer open standards, thank you.
   While these tech players are at it, let us choose whether we want Google’s spyware on our phones—and if we don’t, let us banish it to hell without rooting them. (Next time, I’m just going to have to ask friends visiting China—whenever that will be—to get me my next phone, if I haven’t moved back to land lines by then. Just makes life easier.)

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Reconnecting Facebook on IFTTT

10.03.2020

A few days ago, Facebook became disconnected with my IFTTT applet, which takes the Tweets made on the Lucire account (which themselves are fed through another service) and reposts them to Lucire’s Facebook page, so that none of us have to visit either.
   IFTTT is good enough to send an email to tell you things are broken, but all their ‘Fix it’ links that you get taken to do not remedy the problem. You’ll just get IFTTT’s ‘There was an error during check process.’
   After an hour, which actually necessitated my visiting that horrid Facebook site to see if there was anything there (there isn’t), I found the solution. This is from my reply on Reddit to someone asking something similar, when they got stuck (it seems with both Twitter and Facebook). Italics added other than the one in the last sentence.

Head to https://ifttt.com/settings
Go to Linked accounts
Click on Link your account

This should show what you need to link, in my case, Facebook—I clicked on that, it took me to a verification page on Facebook, I allowed it. Twitter will be the same, and I think you’ll have to select Twitter as well.

Then head to https://ifttt.com/my_services
Select My Services
Choose Facebook pages
Go to Settings
Select Edit your account info

This will take you to https://ifttt.com/channels/facebook_pages/post_activation#_=_ and the page will ask: ‘Which Facebook page would you like to use with IFTTT?’ Select the one you want, then click Update.

For Twitter, I imagine you would have to go to the My Services page again and choose the Twitter account you want to connect, and tinker with the settings.

Then if you head back to your list of applets, run the check again, and it should work.

   I’ll leave this here for anyone else who might come across this problem. It may well be me, since this is the third time I’ve had to do it in the last few months, once because I tried to delete my Facebook account and this was holding me back.

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Autocade turns 12

07.03.2020

Autocade turns 12 today, as it’s now March 8 here in New Zealand. From zero models to 4,093 (the Hyundai Avante XD is the latest); and as I write this sentence, it’s netted 18,683,611 page views. Just four years ago this month, it had only managed eight million.
   Just this week, I added two public notes of thanks to Carfolio, with whom we’ve done a bit of an information swap, on the site. Admittedly that swap has been in our favour. The first fruits of that were four Toyota models. It shows that we motorheads have been able to find each other and work on a spirit of cooperation, to make the web more informative and useful.
   It’s a far cry from those early days when the site got its first few models; it took four months to get to 500. The timing wasn’t great, considering the Global Financial Crisis was beginning to happen around us, and more people were being sucked in to Facebook. As a hobby, I carried on, because it was a satisfying use of my time.
   I’ll leave a stats’ breakdown when we get to 19 million views, and no doubt I’ll do another post when we get to 4,100 models.
   Stuart Cowley, who shot the first Autocade video with me fronting it, has a few more up his sleeve that he’ll edit in due course. I’m open to seeing what the future will bring for the brand.
   Having one independent web publication that’s survived 22 years and counting, and another that’s now 12, is perhaps quite rare these days.
   Since I began writing this post, Autocade has gained another 73 page views.
   I’m grateful for all the support out there—thank you for all your views, feedback, generosity, information, and your shared love of cars.

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Posted in business, cars, internet, media, publishing | 1 Comment »


Directwrite isn’t the culprit

03.03.2020

That was confusing. Yesterday’s blog post was representative of my thinking: given that certain people were upset when Chromium took away the Directwrite toggle in 2016, and type rendering on Chromium-based Vivaldi deteriorated significantly for me with v. 2.10 (it turns out v. 2.9 was the turning-point), then did Chromium only switch fully to Directwrite for me earlier this year? Luckily I wrote a caveat: ‘There’s a possibility that what I saw from 2017 actually was Directwrite, and whatever they’re using now is yet another technology that no one has made any note of.’
   Snowie2000, one of the developers of MacType, suggested I try Cent Browser, arguably the only Chromium browser that still has a Directwrite toggle: you could still disable it in favour of GDI.
   Cent Browser by default is marginally better than what I was seeing on Edge, Vivaldi 2.10 and others, but once I turned Directwrite off, I saw a very different display, with far heavier type.

Cent Browser, Directwrite switched off

Cent Browser, default

Edge

   It wasn’t what I expected to see, and without taking issue with those who support GDI rendering in Chromium, it lacked fidelity (at least for me) with what the type looked like in print. I can see clearly why it has its adherents: it is superior to the default. But, in other words, what I experienced on Vivaldi between 2007 and January 2020 was using Directwrite, and whatever is going on now is using something else, or ignoring other settings on my PC.
   Yesterday I theorized that if the change happened between Chromium 77 and 78, then I should see that in the source browser. I installed a v. 77 from the repository. As you know, these are stand-alone and can run without a full installation. What I saw was the inferior rendering, so the “switch” didn’t happen then. It may have happened, as I was told on the Vivaldi forums, with Chromium 69, something I am yet to confirm.
   Therefore, whatever Chromium is doing isn’t something that’s been documented, to my knowledge, except for here. And Opera and Opera GX, if they are based on Chromium 79, seem not to be afflicted by this bug. Or they are interacting with other programs I have in order to keep the type rendering faithful, with decent hinting and contrast.
   The question is: what is causing the far inferior type display on Chromium today?

PS.: Trials on Chromium 68 and 69—they’re the same (i.e. poor type display). This may have gone on for quite some time.—JY


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Has Directwrite arrived on my Chromium-based browsers four years after everyone else?

03.03.2020

After considerable searching, the bug that I reported to Vivaldi, and which they cannot reproduce, appears to be one that the general public encountered back in 2016, when Chromium took away the option to disable its Directwrite rendering. I don’t know why I’ve only encountered it in 2020, and as far as I can tell, my experience is unique.
   It’s a good position to be in—not unlike being one of two people (that I know of) who could upload videos of over one minute to Instagram without using IGTV—though it’s a mystery why things have worked properly for me and no one else.
   When I switched to Vivaldi in 2017, I noticed how the type rendering was superior compared with Firefox, and it was only in January this year when it became far inferior for me. Looking at the threads opened on type rendering and Chromium, and the screenshots posted with them, most experienced something like this in 2016—a year before I had adopted Vivaldi. If my PC worked as theirs did, then I doubt I would have been talking about Vivaldi’s superior display.
   There’s a possibility that what I saw from 2017 actually was Directwrite, and whatever they’re using now is yet another technology that no one has made any note of.
   I’ve posted in the Vivaldi and MacType forums where this has been discussed, as my set-up could provide the clue on why things have worked for me and not others. Could it be my font substitutions, or the changes I’ve made to the default display types in Windows? Or the fact that I still have some Postscript fonts installed from the old days? Or something so simple as my plug-ins?
   Tonight I removed Vivaldi 2.11 and went to 2.6. I know 2.5 rendered type properly—Bembo on the Lucire website looks like Bembo in print—so I wondered if I could narrow down the precise version where Vivaldi began to fail on this front. (As explained earlier, after 2.5, no automatic updates came, and I jumped from 2.5 to 2.10.)
   It was 2.9 where the bug began, namely when Vivaldi moved from a Chromium 77 base to a 78 one. This is different to what Ayespy, a moderator on the Vivaldi forums, experienced: version 69 was when they noted a shift. Yet Opera GX, which works fine, has a browser ID that claims it’s Chrome/79.0.3945.130 (though I realize they can put whatever they like here). Brave, Chrome and Edge look awful.
   We can conclude that not all Chromium browsers are created equally (goes without saying) but I understand that the rendering isn’t something that each company (Vivaldi, Opera, etc.) has fiddled with. Therefore, something I’m doing is allowing me to have better results on Opera, Opera GX and Vivaldi versions up to 2.8 inclusive.

Vivaldi 2.8

Opera GX

Firefox Developer Edition 74.0b9

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