Posts tagged ‘2021’


Time to abandon Meizu Music: 8.2 is a lemon

21.04.2021

That didn’t last long. Within a day, this was what Meizu Music showed:

   The songs, all 1,229 of them that I had fed in manually, are still there, and they still play, but the question remains: for how long? If they don’t show—I told you computing devices were forgetful—then how long before the program fails to play them at all? Not only were the songs gone, the few MP3 files that were on the phone’s RAM (from dynamic wallpapers and recordings) don’t show, either!
   I really didn’t want to chance it but you just have to conclude that Meizu has released a lemon, and if in a year they still can’t get it right, then it’s time to abandon it.
   I could go with Migu Music but I wanted something with the functionality of the old Meizu Music. After trying several apps, I’ve settled on an advertising-supported Muzio Player. It’s not perfect—the cover artwork doesn’t show for everything, and updating it manually for an album doesn’t see it shared with the individual tracks within—but it does the job for the most part. And, like every other app I trialled, it picks up the music on the SD card.
   Since I keep phones for some time—the old M2 Note is repaired—it’s going to be a long time before I’d contemplate a replacement for the M6 Note. But when I do I doubt it’ll be another Meizu. After being a cheerleader for the brand in the late 2010s, they’ve really fallen behind in customer service and, how, software development. Whomever else is willing to go the Google-free route is going to get my vote.

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Posted in China, design, technology | No Comments »


Facebook whistleblower gets fired; and a workaround for Meizu Music’s inability to find your SD card

19.04.2021

This is a pretty typical story: find fault with Big Tech, try to alert the appropriate people in the firm, get fired.
   Julia Carrie Wong’s excellent article for The Guardian shows a data scientist, Sophie Zhang, find blatant attempts by governments to abuse Facebook’s platform, misleading their own people, in multiple countries. Of course Facebook denies it, but once again it’s backed up by a lot of evidence from Zhang, and we know Facebook lies. Endlessly.
   Facebook claims it has taken down over ‘100 networks of coordinated inauthentic behavior,’ but I repeat again: if a regular Joe like me can find thousands of bots really easily, and report some with Facebook doing next to nothing about them, then 100 networks is an incredibly tiny number in a sea of hundreds of millions of users. Indeed, 100 networks is tiny considering Facebook itself has claimed to have taken down milliards of bots.
   And people like me and Holly Jahangiri, who found a massive number of bots that followed the Russian misinformation techniques, have been identifying these since 2014, if not before.
   Zhang reveals how likes from pages are inflating various posts—forget the bots I’ve been talking about, people have manufactured full pages on the site.
   She uncovered one in Honduras, and then:

The next day, she filed an escalation within Facebook’s task management system to alert the threat intelligence team to a network of fake accounts supporting a political leader in Albania. In August [2019], she discovered and filed escalations for suspicious networks in Azerbaijan, Mexico, Argentina and Italy. Throughout the autumn and winter she added networks in the Philippines, Afghanistan, South Korea, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, Tunisia, Turkey, Taiwan, Paraguay, El Salvador, India, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Ukraine, Poland and Mongolia.

   Facebook was inconsistent with what it did, and its own self-interest interfered with it taking action. In other words, Facebook is harmful to democracy, and not just in the US which has received most of the occidental news coverage. On Azerbaijan, Zhang wrote in a memo:

Although we conclusively tied this network to elements of the government in early February, and have compiled extensive evidence of its violating nature, the effective decision was made not to prioritize it, effectively turning a blind eye.

   She was ultimately fired for her trouble, Facebook saying she wasn’t doing the job she had been hired for.
   So if you are going to work for Big Tech, leave your conscience at the door. That blood on your hands, just ignore it. Red’s such a fetching colour when it’s not on a balance sheet.

Little Tech can be troublesome, too. Last year, Meizu updated its Music app after a few years of letting it languish (a familiar theme with this firm), and it was a real lemon. It wouldn’t pick up anything on my SD card, at the location the old Music app itself saved the files. When I could still access the Meizu (English-language) forum, I managed to post a comment about it. Only today did I realize someone had responded, with the same issue.
   I can read enough Chinese to get the phone to do a search for local music files, and the only things it could pick up are what’s on the phone RAM itself, not the card. There’s no way to point to custom locations such as a card (even though there is a custom search, but it applies to the phone only).


Above: Meizu Music will only find music on the phone’s RAM—in this case sound files that come with the dynamic wallpaper and a couple of meeting recordings I made.

   Eventually I restored the old app through the settings, and all was well. It would occasionally forget the album cover art and I’d have to relink it (who says computers remember things?), but, by and large, Music 8.0.10 did what was expected of it.
   Until this last week. The phone insisted on upgrading to 8.2.12, another half-baked version that could never locate any SD card music.
   Sure I could just move the entire directory of 1,229 songs to the phone, but I wondered why I should.
   Restoring the app would work only for a few hours (during which I would try to relink the album cover art, ultimately to no avail). Blocking the new version the app store did nothing; blocking the entire app from updating did nothing. Blocking network access to the Music app did nothing. Essentially, the phone had a mind of its own. If anyone tells you that computing devices follow human instructions, slap them.


Above: I asked the app store to ignore all updates for Meizu Music. The phone will ignore this and do what it wants, downloading the update and installing it without any human intervention.

   I had a couple of options. The first was to make Migu Music the default—and I had used that for a while before I discovered I could restore the Music app. It’s passable, and it does everything it should, though I missed the cover art.
   The other was to find a way to make Music 8.2.12 work.
   There is one way. Play every one of the 1,229 songs one by one to have Music recognize their existence.
   Using ES File Explorer, you head to the SD card, and click on each song. It asks which app you’d like to open it. Choose Music. Repeat 1,228 times.


Above: I finally got there after doing something 1,229 times. As a non-tech person I know of no way to automate this easily. I can think of a few but developing the script is beyond my knowledge.

   Whoever said computing devices would save you time is having you on. They may have once, but there are so many systems where things are far more complicated in 2021 than they were in 2011.
   You may be asking: doesn’t ES let you select multiple files, even folders? Of course it does, but when you then ask it to play them, it ignores the fact you’ve chosen Music and plays them in its own music player.
   And even after you’ve shown Music that there are files in an SD card directory, it won’t pick up its existence.
   It’s at odds with Meizu’s Video app, which, even after many updates, will find files anywhere on your phone.
   For a music player with the same version (8) it’s vastly different, and, indeed, inferior to what has come before.
   How’s the player? Well, it connects to the car, which is where I use it. But so many features which made it appealing before are gone. Editing a song’s information is gone. Half the album cover art is unlinked (including albums legitimately downloaded through the old Meizu music service), and there’s no way of relinking it. European accented characters are mistaken for the old Big 5 Chinese character set.
   The only plus side is that some songs that I had downloaded years ago with their titles in Big 5, as opposed to Unicode, now display correctly. That accounts for a few songs (fewer than 10) of the 1,229.
   I know Meizu will do nowt, as its customer service continues to plummet. I may still file something on its Chinese BBS (the western one is inaccessible and, from what I can tell, no longer maintained by anyone from their staff), but it’s highly unlikely I’ll be brand-loyal. It’s yet another example of a newer program being far, far worse, by any objective measure, than its predecessor, giving credence to the theory that some software developers are clueless, have no idea how their apps work, have no idea how people use their apps, or are downright incompetent. It’s a shame, as Meizu’s other default and system apps are generally good.
   In the future, I’m sure someone else in China will be happy to sell me a non-Google phone when it’s time to replace this one.

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Posted in China, design, internet, media, politics, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


Autocade reaches 23 million page views—and it’s more satisfying than Twitter

07.04.2021


Above: The Levdeo (or Letin) i3, not exactly the ideal model with which to commemorate another Autocade milestone.

Autocade will cross the 23 million page view mark today, so we’re keeping fairly consistent with netting a million every three months, a pattern that we’ve seen since the end of 2019.
   Just to keep my record-keeping straight:

March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months for 20th million)
October 2020: 21,000,000 (three months for 21st million)
January 2021: 22,000,000 (three months for 22nd million)
April 2021: 23,000,000 (three months for 23rd million)

   I see on my 22 millionth page view post I mentioned there were 4,379 entries. It hasn’t increased that much since: the site is on 4,423. I notice the pace does slow a bit once the year kicks off in earnest: it’s the Christmas break that sees me spending a bit more time on the website.
   Who knows? I may spend more on it again as I’m tiring of the tribalism of Twitter, and, most recently, being tarred with the same brush as someone I follow, even though I follow people I don’t always agree with—including people with offensive views.
   On April 4, I wrote there:

Earlier today @QueenOliviaStR and I were tagged into a lengthy thread, to which I don’t think I have the right of response to the writer.
   First up, I salute her. Secondly, she may disagree with how I use Twitter but I still support her. Thirdly, she should rightly do what she needs to in order to feel safe.
   I don’t wish to single out any account but if you go through my following list, there are people on there whose views many Kiwis would disagree with.
   Some were good people who fell down rabbit holes, and some I’ve never agreed with from the start. So why do I follow them?
   As I Tweeted last week, I object to being in a social media bubble. I think it’s unhealthy, and the cause of a lot of societal angst. It’s why generally I dislike Big Tech as this is by design.
   Secondly, if I shut myself off to opposing views, even abhorrent ones, how do I know what arguments they are using in order to counter them if the opportunity arises?
   I would disagree that I am amicable with these accounts but I do agree to interacting with some of them on the bases that we originally found.
   Ian, who is long gone from Twitter after falling down the COVID conspiracy rabbit hole, was a known anti-war Tweeter. I didn’t unfollow him but I disagreed with where his thoughts were going.
   The person who tagged us today didn’t want to be exposed to certain views and that’s fair. But remember, that person she didn’t like will also be exposed to her views through me.
   I’ll let you into something that might shock you: for a few years, when the debate began, I wasn’t supportive of marriage equality, despite having many queer friends. It was more over semantics than their rights, but still, it isn’t a view I hold today.
   If this happened in social media land, I might have held on those views, but luckily I adopted the policy I do today: see what people are saying. And eventually I was convinced by people who wrote about their situations that my view was misinformed.
   And while my following an account is not an endorsement of its views, by and large I follow more people with whom I agree—which means the positive arguments that these people make could be seen by those who disagree with them.
   People should do what is right for them but I still hold that bubbling and disengagement are dangerous, and create a group who double-down on their views. Peace!

   Maybe it’s a generational thing: that some of us believe in the free flow of information, because that was the internet we joined. One that was more meritorious, and one where we felt we were more united with others.
   We see what the contrary does. And those examples are recent and severe: we’ve seen it with the US elections, with Myanmar, with COVID-19.
   This isn’t a dig at the person who took exception to my being connected to someone, and yes, even engaged them (though being ‘amicable’ is simply having good manners to everyone), because if those offensive views targeted me I wouldn’t want to see them. And it is a poor design decision of Twitter to still show that person in one’s Tweets if they have already blocked them, just because a mutual person follows them.
   It is a commentary, however, on wider trends where social media and Google have created people who double-down on their views, or opened up the rabbit hole for them to fall into—and keep them there.
   It did use to be called social networking, where we made connections, supposedly for mutual benefit, maybe even the benefit of humanity, but now it’s commonly social media, because we don’t seem to really network with anyone else while we post about ourselves.
   Unlike Alice, people don’t necessarily return from Wonderland.
   My faith—which I don’t always bring up because one risks being tarred with the evangelical homophobic stereotypes that come with it in mainstream media and elsewhere—tells me that everyone can be redeemed, even those who hold abhorrent views.
   It’s why I didn’t have a problem when Bill Clinton planned to see Kim Jong Il or when Donald Trump did see Kim Jong Un, because engagement is better than isolation. Unlike the US media, I don’t change a view depending on the occupant of the Oval Office.
   I’ve also seen some people who post awful things do incredibly kind things outside of the sphere of social media.
   Which then makes you think that social media just aren’t worth your time—something I had already concluded with Facebook, and, despite following mostly people I do agree with, including a lot of automotive enthusiasts, I am feeling more and more about Twitter. Instead of the open forum it once was, you are being judged on whom you follow, based on isolated and rare incidents.
   I don’t know if it’s generational or whether we’ve developed through technology people who prefer tribalism over openness.
   Sometimes you feel you should just leave them to it and get on with your own stuff—and for every Tweet I once sent, maybe I should get on to some old emails and tidy that inbox instead. Or put up one of the less interesting models on Autocade. Not Instagramming much—I think I was off it for nearly a month before I decided to post a couple of things on Easter Eve—has been another step in the right direction, instead of poking around on a tiny keyboard beamed up to you from a 5½-inch black mirror.
   The computer, after all, is a tool for us, and we should never lose sight of that. Let’s see if I can stick with it, and use Mastodon, which still feels more open, as my core social medium for posting.

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Posted in cars, culture, interests, internet, media, technology | No Comments »


April 2021 gallery

05.04.2021

Here are April 2021’s images. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
Tania Dawson promotes Somèrfield Hair Care, sourced from Instagram.
   Austrian model Katharina Mazepa for Dreamstate Muse magazine, shared on her Instagram. This was an image that was removed from a PG blog at NewTumbl last year—apparently this was considered ‘nudity’ and rated M.
   AMC promotes the Gremlin, the US’s first subcompact car. More on the Gremlin at Autocade; 1970 advertisement via Twitter.
   Volkswagen 1302S photographed in June 2018, one of the images I’ve submitted to Unsplash for downloading. I did have the owner’s permission to shoot his car.
   St Gerard’s Church and Monastery atop Mt Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand, photographed by me and also submitted to Unsplash.
   Facebook group bots: someone else was so used to seeing bot activity on Facebook, they made a meme about it.
   Holden Commodore Evoke Ute, an example of ‘base model brilliance’. More at Autocade.
   Morris Marina ad via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Innocenti Mini 90 and 120 via the Car Factoids on Twitter.

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Posted in cars, China, design, gallery, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, UK, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


What Vodafone’s Super Wifi is really like in practice

04.04.2021

While I saw Vodafone’s Super Wifi commercials, I never thought to act on them, since (mistakenly) I thought it was something to do with cellphones. Might have been the gadgets they used in the commercial.
   But, after talking to Raghu, their sales’ rep in Pune, a city outside of Mumbai that I know well, he convinced me to upgrade not just my cellular plan (which was from 2012 when a gig of data were a lot) but the home internet to Super Wifi.
   This is really a layperson’s post as there isn’t much online about it, at least not from a New Zealand perspective.
   The set-up consists of the Vodafone Ultra Hub (a modem that I was already familiar with, since I had mine since 2018), and two TP-Link Deco X20 units, which are for all-home wifi. The idea is that they transmit the wifi signal over the house. They’re equipped for wifi 6, which really just tells you the speed—and not 6G was I was told on the phone (a minor slip).
   I knew about mesh wifi units since a friend had already told me how she and her partner used them in their home.
   We’re in a 290 m² home so I had a suspicion that the two units would be insufficient, but Vodafone’s protocol is to begin with two.
   The Ultra Hub is identical to the old one—the copyright notice on the box says 2017—so I’ll be returning it. The two Deco units plug in, one to the Ultra Hub, the other in another part of the house. The theory is that they communicate between each other.
   I downloaded the TP-Link app first before plugging in the Deco units—in fact I had them the day before—and I was fortunate that it could be found at a public APK site, since I do not have Google, and, God willing, never will, on any cellphone of mine.
   It’s a remarkably easy to use app, fortunately, with a Speedtest built in.
   I’ve always had problems at one end of the house where I have a desktop PC that’s not wifi-enabled, and putting in a PCI-E adapter wouldn’t work due to space restrictions inside the case. My only option to pick up wifi would be a USB 3 adapter, which coincidentally was also made by TP-Link (it’s the Archer T9UH).
   I disliked the D-Link Powerlink units, which, despite the manufacturer’s claims, lost 90 per cent of their speed between the two points. The signal at the modem end would come in at speeds of between 700 and 1,000 Mbit/s, but 40 to 90 Mbit/s at the other end was commonplace. The 1 Gbyte promised by all the marketing was a fantasy.
   The previous owner of this house also used Powerlink units, but at different points.
   Computer geeks still tell me these are good and I suspect they could work well in smaller homes or ones with newer wiring.
   For context, using the old Saturn fibre cable that I had installed in 1999 at the old house, I would easily see over 300 Mbit/s via a cat 5 ethernet cable. Having to live with speeds between a ninth and a third of that in a house with Chorus fibre was tough going, and life proved too busy to get an extra internal cable installed.
   I was glad to see the tail end of those powerline units as I was promised that 600 Mbit/s was going to be possible at the end of the house with the mesh.
   It wasn’t. In fact, the second unit failed to pick up the first, and I was forced to bring it closer to the first in another room.
   Speedtest’s first result was 106 Mbit/s down and 58 Mbit/s up, which was an improvement, but not a good one, and far short of the promised levels.
   The TP-Link app had a Speedtest result of over 916 Mbit/s no matter where I went. I didn’t realize that it was giving me the results at the point of entry on the first Deco unit.

   Therefore, it should show a higher number. When I realized this, I began running Speedtests via speedtest.net, and was disappointed to see, even at the first unit via wifi, results in the 120 Mbit/s region.
   I called tech support. The first person didn’t know much, but I explained that Raghu had promised two additional mesh units should my experience not be up to expectation. She said she was only authorized to send one. I decided to take it. She was also authorized to give me unlimited phone data for seven days in case I needed to use the cell as a hotspot.
   I called again later and got to speak with a tech, Paul, who had the units at his home, and could tell me more.
   First, the X20s have two LAN ports on the back. I had read somewhere that these were for the modem-to-unit link exclusively. It turns out that was wrong. You can plug in an ethernet cable and run it straight into your computer—rendering my purchase of the TP-Link Archer adapter redundant. Secondly, I should employ a wifi test if I really wanted to see what was going on: I should plug in a device via ethernet into the Deco unit.
   The results were then markedly different: between 600 and 700 Mbit/s from the first unit, but still low numbers with the second.
   The third unit arrived and this helped somewhat, with 300-plus Mbit/s in a ground floor room when connected via ethernet.
   In the meantime, I had got back in touch with Raghu and suggested that a fourth unit might do the trick, and get me at least back to the speeds I had in the late 2010s. Interestingly, he was only authorized to send two, which meant I would be in possession of five such units, all of which I had to pay the courier charges for.
   Units four and five arrived. The fourth unit went into the upstairs office and I had a 3 m ethernet cable running from it, on the floor, to the PC. The speeds were still poor: 178 Mbit/s down, 175 Mbit/s up.
   One thing TP-Link’s app does not tell you, at least not in diagrammatic form, is how the Deco units are all connected. I discovered through the web interface (tplinkdeco.net in a browser, using the password that you signed up to the app with) that the office one was stretching to get its signal from the first one—and not the other two in the house.
   This Reddit page told me what I needed to know: you reboot the unit that you want reconnecting elsewhere. I did that, and it found the third unit in the “den” (as we call it) and speeds went up to between 200 and 270 Mbit/s both down and up.

   I’m still dealing with speeds lower than what I had in 2018 using a 1999 cable but getting into the 200s is a far sight better than being in the double digits. If I have any serious downloading to do, there’s always the option of the laptop and a direct connection from the Ultra Hub, where I can work away at 700–900 Mbit/s.
   I’ll continue to tinker since the laptop managed to get over 300 Mbit/s during the tests, and I believe that that was down to the location of the office Deco unit. However, I’m hampered by the 3 m ethernet cable and I’m going to need 5 m, possibly (no one sells a 4 m). Possibly going to a cat 7 cable might do the trick there, too.
   So there you have it, a real-world trial of Vodafone New Zealand’s Super Wifi. Not as great as promised but less of a let-down than what powerline modems do in real life. And yes, you can hook ethernet cables from the units to your computer.

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Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Despite being blatantly obvious, Facebook does nothing about thousands-strong bot nets

01.04.2021

We already know that Facebook does nothing if you want to use scripts to join groups, even if the scripts all give roughly the same answers. Apparently that’s not enough to trigger the systems at this company that’s worth almost a billion dollars (that’s a proper billion, or what the Americans call a trillion). Unless, of course, they want these bot accounts on there to continue lying about reach, or run some other sort of scam.
   But what about brand-new accounts that are clearly bots, that write nonsensical things that bots are programmed to do, and which friend other bots? These are bot nets, the sort I saw all the time when I used Facebook regularly. The nights in 2014 when I spotted over 200 bot accounts? A lot of them were in these nets, and I made it a mission to report them, since they tended to exist in groups of a few dozen, maybe a hundred at most.
   Last night I saw nets of thousands. Imagine a new account that’s friended thousands of other new accounts, all using a series of names, and all pretending to work for a limited number of workplaces. Surely these are obviously bots, and Facebook’s systems would detect them? I mean, if you’ve been on Facebook for even six months you’d know that these patterns existed, let alone 17 years.
   Um, no.
   I’ve been reporting a whole bunch of these bots and Facebook’s reaction is to tell me, as they do with bot accounts running group-joining scripts, that no community standards have been violated.



   Normally I would see a dozen or so bot accounts each time I pop in (and my friends who moderate on there tell me they can see many per minute). Even as an irregular user it means I see more bots than humans, but now that I’ve seen over 4,000 (just go to one of these bots’ friends’ lists and take a sufficiently large sample) that Facebook allows, then come on, you can’t tell me that this site is still worth giving your money to.
   In 2014 I called seeing 277 bots in one night an ‘epidemic’, on the basis that if a regular Joe like me could, then how many were really on there? Now I see 4,000 in one night. These two have over 4,000 and 3,000, with some overlap:


   And in 2014, I could report them, and some would actually be deleted. Others would need repeated reports. In 2021, none are deleted, based on the ones I reported.
   Therefore, Facebook’s systems neither detect bots nor do a thing about them when a user blatantly points them out.
   And given that this company is worth over US$800 milliard, then you know they exist with their blessing—at the least with their inaction. Because US$800 milliard buys a lot of technology, but apparently not enough to deal with bots or misinformation.
   The scammers know this and the con artists know this. Governments know this. This is a danger zone for consumers, yet the last few years still weren’t sufficient for most western governments to act. It makes you wonder just what it’ll take to wake people up, since folks don’t even seem to mind giving their money to a company that has such a poor track record and no independent certification of its metrics. Would shame work? ‘You dumbass, you gave money to them?!’ Surely this now makes it more obvious than ever just what a terrible waste of money Facebook is?

PS.: Here’s another new account with what appears to be 4,326 bot friends (based on a reasonable sample).—JY

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


I can finally identify with the main character in a New Zealand TV show

31.03.2021

While I care much more about when John Simm will grace our screens again (pun intended), it was hard to avoid the reality TV that gets beamed into our living rooms during prime-time. There is the disgusting Married at First Sight Australia, where I am speechless with shock that fellow Scots alumnus John Aiken appears to dispense mansplaining without conscience, but, on the other channel, the far more pleasant The Bachelor New Zealand, where, finally, for the first time on our airwaves, I see a Kiwi male that I can identify with. Apart from the times when I appeared on telly (I realize that this sentence sounds wanky, but if you can’t identify with yourself, then there’s something wrong).
   While Zac the lifeguard from a few years ago seemed like a lovely chap, he was in many ways the usual stereotype: sporty, unfazed, carefree, white, with a great smile. Moses Mackay is cultured, worldly, considered, respectful, humble, well dressed, and, surprisingly for this show, wasn’t quick to snog every contestant. It was also nice to see a bachelor who’s a person of colour on our screens for a change. He grew up poor and that’s not an unfamiliar story to many of us. He’s comfortable talking about his relationship with God. Heck, he even croons for a living.
   I’m no Matt Monro but I’ve serenaded my partner—just get us at the James Cook when the elderly gent is banging out tunes by Michel Legrand, or, as I call him, Big Mike, on the lobby piano. And yes, for some of us, this is perfectly normal. Just ask Moses.
   For all of us fellas who wanted to see an example of a cultured Kiwi gentleman on our screens—and as the fêted star, not the comic relief—our wishes were finally granted.
   I’ve no idea whom he picked, although I knew one of the contestants who didn’t make it—New Zealand is that small. I could say the same about Zac’s season as well. I’m sure not knowing the outcome also puts me in a minority. But I wish him well.

I’m reminded of my friend Frankie Stevens, since I mentioned Matt Monro above. I once did the same to Frankie and he said something along the lines of, ‘I was touring with Matt. We were in Spain, and he’d come in the morning with a glass of whisky.’ Another time I mentioned John Barry. ‘I worked with Johnny and Don Black. On The Dove. I sang the theme tune but Gregory Peck wanted someone else.’
   For my overseas readers: you don’t usually have these conversations in Aotearoa with a guy who’s not only met your musical heroes, but worked with them. All I could do was show I had the theme on my phone.
   With apologies to Lyn Paul, but Frankie would have been great (and indeed better) singing the theme to The Dove.

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Computing in 2021: Gmail’s advertorial spammers, Facebook bots, and Twitter fatigue

25.03.2021

I’m not entirely sure I need to block out the email addresses here since they’re likely to be burner Gmail accounts, but I’ll give these spammers the courtesy they don’t deserve.
   As shown below, they’ve been coming for over a year; there’s a chance I may have even received them in 2019.




The text of the latest reads:

Hello,

I hope you’re well!
   I am currently working with a number of clients in placing guest blogs/sponsored articles on high-quality sites, such as yours. I recently came across your site and, after having a quick read through some of your more recent posts and articles, I think it’d be a great fit for some of the sorts of content campaigns that we frequently work on.
   I work with a range of clients across different areas such as fashion, lifestyle, home decor, legal, travel plus loads more. Would you be interested in working together on one of our future/upcoming content campaigns?
   Looking forward to hopefully working on a campaign together soon!

   First up, I already know they never visited since the latest refers to Lucire as a ‘blog’ in its subject line. Just because you run Wordpress doesn’t mean it’s a blog.
   A more crazy one recently actually requested we publish something at lucire.net, which is a brochureware site with no posts on it—so I don’t think they are even hunting specifically for Wordpress-driven sites. Anything will do.
   Last year, I replied to one of them, thinking they could be a legit enquiry for advertorial. It went nowhere, since, as far as I know, they were just after backlinks, and not prepared to pay what a commercial advertorial purchaser would.
   I wouldn’t have been any the wiser if they didn’t keep repeating the messages, and it seems that during the last few weeks they’ve shifted into high gear. And when you know they’re spam, the innocent experience that you had in 2020 suddenly becomes a supreme waste of time.
   I know, all the signs are there: they run Gmail accounts and there are no signature files or details of what company they represent. Gmail, to me, has plenty of spammers, and it is not the service used by professionals. (When 200 people can share the same email address, why would you?) But there was that charitable side of me wondering if the first one was just someone who had shifted to working from home and trying to make a buck. I didn’t really think, since I’m not of this mind myself, that it was spam and that I was a mark.
   I now have common phrases from the spams fed in to my filters so these will just go into the trash folder. I’m posting this in case others have received these spams, and wish to do the same.

Here’s a recent Tweet of mine. Not altogether an accurate one, but when I wrote it I genuinely believed Facebook claimed it had 2 milliard users.

   As Don Marti says, the fact Facebook even has to claim this tells us they are fighting a losing battle.
   On one of the groups I administer there, I’d say over 99 per cent of the members’ queue are bots. Here’s a typical screen in botland, I mean, Facebook:

   These are common patterns and I see them all the time; they all use a variety of responses but they all come out of the same program. ‘I will seriously abide!’, ‘Yes bro’ and ‘OK bro’ are pretty common, and there are others.
   The thing is, I’ve seen these for years, reported each one as a fake account (since there is no option for ‘they are using automated software’), and in 99 per cent of cases (no exaggeration; in fact I may be underestimating), Facebook tells me there is no violation of their terms of service.

   This can mean only one of two things: Facebook is too stupid to realize that an account that feeds the same things into group questionnaires constantly is a bot or running some sort of software that is not permitted under its own terms; or these accounts exist with Facebook’s blessing.
   In the queues, legitimate humans are being outnumbered by over 99 to 1, and if this is a representative sample of Facebook’s current user base (I’m betting I see more accounts than the average person), then hardly anyone is on site any more. I wouldn’t know, I only check client pages and this queue for the most part.
   But if you wish to waste your money advertising to bots on the Facebook platform, then be my guest. Zuckerberg and co. are already getting enough money for doing nothing useful.

I wonder if I’m getting more Twitter fatigue after 14 years. I have built up a fun network there, especially of car people that I made a point of following over the last couple of years. But the cellphone keyboard is such a fidgety, impractical and slow device, I’ve found myself starting to respond, even writing the first few words of a Tweet, then giving up. This has had wonders on my email inbox as the number of messages drops. I’m getting through stuff.
   Fortunately for Twitter, Jack Dorsey hasn’t come across as big a dick as the Facebook and Google people, and the man has been doing some good with his money, like donating US$1 milliard to COVID-19 research. Yes, Twitter still has some major problems, especially when it comes to censorship, but when someone says, ‘I can afford to give that away because I’d still be a rich bastard with the US$2 milliard I have left,’ it’s actually a contrast to Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. Unlike the latter, he also hasn’t been publicly lying and calling us ‘dumb f***s’.
   Even so, more often than not I now find myself stopping. Is Tweeting that really worth it? Who cares? So I have a different opinion to that person. I don’t need a global audience for it. If I feel strongly enough, and have the time, there’s always long-form blogging.

Finally, here’s a page explaining just why Google is corrupt.

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It’s not hard writing clear terms and conditions

25.03.2021

We’ve had a ‘Highlights’ section in our T&Cs for a while, but today I thought I’d take another look at them. Without reading them again, I drafted these:

• We don’t know anything about you unless you tell us.
• When you do tell us stuff (like signing up with your email address) we store that offline, not on the cloud.
• When you comment on our sites, we don’t see your IP address.
• The businesses we work with might get data on you without us knowing because we’ve used their programs. But we’ve tried to work with companies in countries with stricter data laws, e.g. our feedback forms are with Aida in Germany.
• We have ads on our sites, and they might pick up info about you. We recommend you opt out of ad networks setting cookies on your system through Aboutads.info and related services.

   The law degree kicks in and I wasn’t quite able to replace the existing ones, but hopefully the final highlights suffice (links removed here, but they are on the page):

• We don’t know anything about you unless you tell us.
• When you tell us stuff (like signing up with your email address) we ultimately store that offline, not on the cloud.
• When you comment on our sites, we don’t see your IP address.
• We don’t have a Google Analytics account so we don’t collect stuff on our sites for that.
• However, the businesses we work with might get data on you without us knowing because we’ve used their programs or plug-ins. We’ve tried to work with companies in countries with stricter data laws, e.g. our feedback forms are with Aida in Germany.
• We have ads on some of our sites, and they might pick up info about you (e.g. through cookies). They don’t share this info with us. We recommend you opt out of ad networks setting cookies on your system (for example, click here, here or here). We also recommend you opt out of Google Analytics tracking you.
• More details are below.

   While there are more bollocks below these on the page, covering our arses in various situations, including historical ones, fundamentally the above is what we follow.
   We used to have a record of IP addresses and we never did a thing with them, and when our servers were rejigged in 2013, we stopped collecting them. I’m sure some plug-ins on the sites know what they are, and they’re bound to be in the logs, but no one here has the time to look at them. I don’t think anyone’s peered that those logs (save for debugging) for over two decades.
   Anyone who’s read this blog knows why I don’t have a Google Analytics account, and long may it remain that way. I seem to recall finding a way to make sure I could never access that part of the Google Dashboard when I was granted access to Medinge’s analytics. We’ve none of our own.
   I do know what pages are popular on the sites but that’s from aggregated data. And frankly, that’s all I need to know.
   It’s really how I expect to be treated by others and it’s not that hard to do this online. Who needs complicated T&Cs which even the company can’t follow? Strip away the jargon, and both you and we win.

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March 2021 gallery

05.03.2021


 

All galleries can be seen through the ‘Gallery’ link in the header, or click here (especially if you’re on a mobile device). I append to this entry through the month.

Sources
Ford Taunus by Otosan, 1992: more at Autocade.
   Tipalet advertisement, sourced from Twitter. Based on what my parents told me, this wouldn’t have appealed even then!
   Fiat Ritmo Diesel, Tweeted by Darragh McKenna.
   Emory University letter, Tweeted by Haïtian Creative.
   The Jaguar XJ-S was first marketed as the S-type in the US—more at this Tweet from the Car Factoids. More on the XJ-S here on Autocade.
   Bree Kleintop models Diff Charitable Eyewear, shared on Instagram.
   Alisia Ludwig photographed by Peter Müller, from Instagram.
   The Daily Campus, February 19, 2021, and Metropolitan Police newspaper quote, sourced from Twitter.
   Ford Cortina Mk II 1600E two-door, one of 2,563 made for export only. Source: the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Alisia Ludwig photographed by Weniamin Schmidt, shared on Instagram.
   Ford Cortina Mk II 1600E advertisement, sourced from Twitter.
   Morris 2200 HL advertisement: more on the car at Autocade.
   More on the Dodge Charger L-body at Autocade.
   More on the Samsung XM3, also at Autocade.

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