Why you shouldn’t get your news from Facebook

Yes, this article has a sensational title, saying that you shouldn’t get your news from Facebook.  You’d have to be a fool to believe the opinions of your former classmates, or worse, the views of people you don’t even know, or still worse, to believe advertisements or apparent news stories on a site like Facebook.  The point of this article, though, is that by not editing its content, or, at least making sure that the advertisements and posts on its site aren’t destructive, Facebook has set itself up for government intervention.  It is sad, really, because Facebook’s users should damn well know better that the advertisements and posts can be garbage, biased, or false.  But, who said most voters are smart?

Just like when sell side analysts were blamed for the Internet stock craze in the 1990’s, mom and pop investors should have known better to listen to these analysts spouting their views to the media – views, by the way, they didn’t pay for – but they didn’t.  Then the government intervened, threatening investment banks to change their ways.  And over time, much as a result of this debacle, budgets for sell side research has been decimated.

Companies have to do a good job of making sure they don’t hurt the public, regardless of the rules currently in place.  When people get hurt, the public look back on the actions of companies and lay judgement on past actions.  I take heart in the idea that some companies are quite moral.  Take for example, when just before the Great Recession of 2008, Mr. Ford, then then CEO of Ford, made the decision to no longer create gas-guzzling Expeditions and embarked on a program to make aluminum-based frames for the most popular truck in the US – the F150 – to save on fuel costs.  I look back at this as a very moral – and smart move.  And when the recession hit, demand for Ford products were slightly higher than for Chrysler and Chevy products, and Ford didn’t need a bailout like General Motors and didn’t have to get acquired like Chrysler.  History judges.

Back to Facebook, it is now clear that the Russian Federation posted stories to Facebook in a likely successful attempt to change the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election.  Consider that there are spies all around the world, using old style methods of information gathering and influence peddling. It should be no secret that each country intends to learn about their allies and enemies and pursue covert activities to influence events to improve that country’s plight.

Remember how upset Germany was with the US when the Snowden information revealed that US was tapping phone calls made by German PM Angela Merkel?  She and other German authorities were very upset with the US and took diplomatic actions and put into place information privacy laws that would subtly change the influence US companies would have in Germany – and therefore the European Union.  This has had a chilling effect on US interests in Europe.

I think it would be reasonable to expect the US to penalize Russia for its influencing of the US 2016 election.  But how?

  • The US Government can ask nicely.  That won’t work, so long as the US continues to attempt to influence policies of other countries.
  • The US can put up electronic barriers between Russia and the US.  That won’t work because of the structure of the Internet today.  To change the Internet’s architecture would be detrimental to US interests.
  • The US could require US-based news agencies – and social media – to police their content.  That will backfire and would almost certainly change the advertising industry and potentially infringe on free speech.

Or, the US can rely on self-policing by the social media giants themselves.  Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and all the others had better hurry up and fix this.

Difference between 1156 and 1167 auto bulbs – know this and save $6!!!

I have an old 1991 Toyota pickup.  Love this reliable truck.  The left rear brake light stopped working and needed replacement.  I of course went to amazon.com because I like prime shipping and wanted the light as soon as possible without having to drive to the local auto parts store.  I typed in the search bar: “rear brake light 1991 toyota pickup” and quickly ordered a Phillips Long Lasting 1156 bulb.  I checked to see if this fit the 1991 using the Amazon garage feature, and it said “this product fits these positions in your 1991 Toyota Pickup: *rear  *front.”

The 1156 bulb arrived promptly two days later and I went to install it – Oh no, it wasn’t the right one!!!  I needed the one with two electrical connectors on the bottom (1157), not just one (1156).

Here is the difference between a 1157 (click on the rockauto.com link for a typical 1157) and a 1156 bulb (see picture below):

Philips 1156LL bulb
Philips 1156LL bulb

Well, I just ordered a Phillips 1157 LL from Amazon and it’ll get here in a couple days. This is the one I should have gotten!


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My experience in upgrading to Google WiFi

I recently upgraded my home network to Google Wifi system (set of 3) and have had a positive experience. My previous setup was an Apple Airport Extreme with one Netgear 2.4 Ghz extender and a two TP Link extenders. In trying to decipher why the performance improved, I reviewed several aspects of the old network and compare them to the new network.  Two major things improved:  improved use of 5 Ghz spectrum (which has far more channels than 2.4 Ghz to chose from) and better reach.

According to market research companies like 650 Group, Consumer Mesh WLAN is taking share from the older technology like Consumer Routers.

Old Network.

Router: Apple Airport Exteme, which is a 802.11ac Wave 1 consumer router.  This has a very nice user interface for my iPhone 6.  However, if you click on the link for the Airport, you’ll see that this is a refurbished unit.  That’s because Apple exited the WiFi router market in November 2016.

Extender: TP-Link N300 Wi-Fi range Extender (Tl-WA855RE), which is a very affordable device, which I purchased for $14.99.  I see it sells for $22.99 today, though.  This device is a 802.11n device, operating only at 2.4 Ghz.  For me, I found it relatively easy to set up.

Extender: TP-Link AC750 (RE2000), which sells for $24.99 today.  I bought it earlier in 2017 for $29.99.  This product didn’t seem to have as good a range as the N300 above.

Netgear WN2500RP Dual Band, which sells for $39.99 today.  I bought this a long time ago and cannot remember when.

Generally, this network had about 15-18 devices on it at any given time, including a Tivo that used an 802.11g adapter, a chromecast, an Apple TV, an Amazon stick, several iPhones (like 4-5), a Moto Android, several ooma phone adapters (3 in total), two iPads, 2 Windows machines, a Mac desktop, a Macbook Pro, a chromebook, two Arlo Pros (these cameras are the best I’ve ever had, and they had 30 day battery life), and for my Husky mutt dog, a Whistle 3 (recommended for finding your dog when he/she runs away).

The old system would experience frequent outages when everyone would come home. Basically, the devices furthest from the main router would experience outages frequently.  Over time, this got worse and worse as my family would use more and more video.  Also, for a variety of reasons, I had three different SSIDs, which meant devices on the move would have to reconnect – this is awful because devices don’t always connect as soon as they should and then you cannot communicate to the network.

New system.

So, I bought the Google WiFi 3 pack for $279.99.  This was more affordable than more well known hardware brands like Netgear, Linksys, as well as the innovator in this market, eero.  Frankly, I would have trusted any of these four brands, but the Google price was more than $100 less, so I went for it.

Installation was very, very easy and consisted of downloading an IOS app, scanning a QR code, plugging in the first device, cycling my cable modem and waiting a bit.  Then I plugged in the other two devices, and they just worked.  The app shows very useful usage statistics, like what frequency each device is operating on (2.4 or 5 Ghz), what total network bandwidth (up and downstream) is being used, how much bandwidth each device is using.  Additionally, the software can tell you if each of the routers is placed too far away.  Basically, this is a well thought out system that works much better than my old router + extender network.  It allows me to operate 18-20 devices constantly with no interruptions so far.  I’m very pleased.

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New FCC policymaker speaks

Ajit Pai is the new US FCC Chairman.  He spoke at the Mobile World Congress show in late February 2017 and made comments that set him apart from his predecessor.

He argued that the FCC will be pragmatic and pursue policies that accelerate broadband deployment.  Short-term, we do think that the new chairman’s stance will encourage capital spending by US communications providers.  Longer-term, it is unclear – especially in light of the fact that FCC chairs don’t last forever because they are political appointees of the President.  Pai is Trump’s appointee.

He was asked about his stance on consolidation in the US telecommunications market and said he cannot give a blanket statement about how the FCC will view M&A; instead he said each deal is reviewed uniquely and the FCC will take in mind what is expected to happen at that time.  We expect this new chairman will be more permissive of M&A, however.