October 3, 2018

Tim Cook on China, Privacy, and Alex Jones in New VICE Interview

The topics included China, the reasoning behind blocking Alex Jones–world renowned conspiracy theorist and hate monger–and more. You can watch the full interview below.


Wi-Fi Now Has Version Numbers, and Wi-Fi 6 Comes Out Next Year

From Jacob Kastrenakes at The Verge:

In the past, Wi-Fi versions were identified by a letter or a pair of letters that referred to a wireless standard. The current version is 802.11ac, but before that, we had 802.11n, 802.11g, 802.11a, and 802.11b. It was not comprehensible, so the Wi-Fi Alliance — the group that stewards the implementation of Wi-Fi — is changing it.

All of those convoluted codenames are being changed. So instead of the current Wi-Fi being called 802.11ac, it’ll be called Wi-Fi 5 (because it’s the fifth version). It’ll probably make more sense this way, starting with the first version of Wi-Fi, 802.11b:

Wi-Fi 1: 802.11b (1999)
Wi-Fi 2: 802.11a (1999)
Wi-Fi 3: 802.11g (2003)
Wi-Fi 4: 802.11n (2009)
Wi-Fi 5: 802.11ac (2014)

The next version, efficiently dubbed Wi-Fi 6, represents the new 802.11ax standard. For the average consumer, this means very little. I imagine some were able to glean improvement just by the increasing letters (and quantity of letters) but most didn’t care. Now, it’s obvious, version 6 is better than version 5 which is better than version 4, etc. 

This new descriptive system is likely to make its way to just about everything that has Wi-Fi capability with the caveat that not all companies will adopt it at the same time. It is a no-brainer and definitely a welcome improvement. 

October 2, 2018

Amazon is Raising Their Minimum Wage to $15/hour

From Amazon:

Amazon today announced it is increasing its minimum wage to $15 for all full-time, part-time, temporary (including those hired by agencies), and seasonal employees across the U.S.—effective November 1. The new Amazon $15 minimum wage will benefit more than 250,000 Amazon employees, as well as over 100,000 seasonal employees who will be hired at Amazon sites across the country this holiday.

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder and CEO. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”

Amazon’s public policy team will also begin advocating for an increase in the federal minimum wage.

The last sentence gave me a chuckle. The only way they’ll be able to do that is state-by-state, and they’ll for sure have a hard time in the reddest of states. The current administration isn’t likely to ever raise the minimum wage. If they had their way, they’d eliminate it altogether.

Overall, this is great news from a company that was paying on average just $7.25/hour. For those who are already making $15/hour, they are set to see an increase, as well. Many folks are set to see a doubling of their paychecks and I can imagine that’ll be a welcome sight.

If only they made it easier for part-time workers to receive benefits. 

October 1, 2018

Elon Musk Settles with the SEC

Felix Salmon at Axios:

Hours before signing a settlement to pay the SEC $10 million and step down as chairman of Tesla for two years, Musk changed his mind, precipitating an SEC lawsuit and the destruction of more than $7 billion in wealth as Tesla stock promptly plunged on Friday. So then Musk unchanged his mind, agreeing to pay a $20 million fine and step down as chairman for three years.

So he was going to play the ego card and “stand up” to the SEC, saw how dumb it would be, and promptly caved. If he had settled on Thursday, he would have paid less and been back as chairman sooner, but I’m sure no one explained that to him.

As Salmon so aptly puts it, Musk didn’t have much of a choice from the perspective of wanting to raise new money in the future. No one would be interested in giving Tesla cash while they’re tied up in an SEC lawsuit. Such a set of circumstances would ring the death knell for the car maker. 

While my prediction wasn’t entirely accurate, I was correct on two points: he settled with the SEC and nothing largely happened to him. He’s still CEO. Whether we’ll forget this ever happened… I can imagine the regular consume will. Only time will tell if the debt markets and future investors do. (We know Tesla diehards will absolutely forget… hell, it’s already fake news to them, I’d imagine). 

September 29, 2018

Tim Berners-Lee’s Successor to The Internet

I hadn’t planned on posting anything of substance, today, but I came across this fresh post from Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the modern Internet as we know it, and director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and knew immediately I had to share it. He’s sharing news about his latest project, a successor to the Internet as it stands in its current form. I’ll let him explain it:

I’ve always believed the web is for everyone. That’s why I and others fight fiercely to protect it. The changes we’ve managed to bring have created a better and more connected world. But for all the good we’ve achieved, the web has evolved into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas.

Today, I believe we’ve reached a critical tipping point, and that powerful change for the better is possible — and necessary.

This is why I have, over recent years, been working with a few people at MIT and elsewhere to develop Solid, an open-source project to restore the power and agency of individuals on the web.

Solid changes the current model where users have to hand over personal data to digital giants in exchange for perceived value. As we’ve all discovered, this hasn’t been in our best interests. Solid is how we evolve the web in order to restore balance — by giving every one of us complete control over data, personal or not, in a revolutionary way.

The goal, to summarize those four paragraphs, is to create a more decentralized Internet where ones data isn’t kept hostage by a service provider. The owner of data is the individual and it’s up to you to allow services to access it.

On the surface, this sounds like nothing more than the next decentralized fad. I almost started laughing when I read the article because I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to put in the time to set this up for themselves when easier alternatives already exist.

Let me explain.

Stride defines a way for an individual to set up a “pod” that contains their data. These pods can be hosted in a variety of different places, provided the hosting provider supports it. If you’re more technically inclined, you’re likely to host your pod on your own.

On the surface, that all sounds great, but there are a few fundamental problems to this:

  1. What is there to stop a hosting provider from wanting to monetize this pod of data? Say Google started offering this service… you can imagine they’d go nuts trying to figure out a way to get ads in your face that have something to do with the data of yours they’re keeping. And at this point, how is this any different than the current scenario? Ok, so mainstream providers are out.
  2. Smaller joints could just as well provide pod hosting support. How are you going to vet them, and make sure they don’t go fuck it up? Are you comfortable trusting any random name to host what would eventually become a treasure trove of personal data, photos, emails, etc? Maybe that’s not a great idea, either.
  3. Ok, so host it yourself. That’s hilarious. No one’s going to want to do that, except for the nerd super-minority.

So we have some issues. Adoption is either difficult or looks closely like the current situation. There’s a snowball’s chance in hell that mainstream providers people will actually recognize will agree to let ones data travel to and fro off their servers. I don’t describing a web host, really, but that’s a term that would make a lot of folks’ eyes glaze over.

Not to mention the security implications. What Tim is proposing is a giant cache of everything a hacker would get so excited over, they’d need to change their pants. There isn’t any obvious explanations as to how this new standard would be secured.

One of the advertised benefits of Solid POD is the owner controls who can interact with the data therein. This is ripe for abuse, just as android apps can ask for permission (on older OSes) to touch anything and everything and there’s not a damned thing you, the user, can do about it.

As far as using it for identity is concerned, I would not be surprised if this goes so far as to be a form of identification on the Internet or financial transactions. See my “a hacker’s dream” comment from earlier.

A Solid POD server is Node.js-based so react to that information as you will.

My goal in picking this apart is that these things would be talked about, clarified, discussed. I love the idea of this type of information exchange. I would likely be the kind of person to host my own POD server for my family, but I can’t imagine many would be in that boat.

One of the biggest hurdles above all else will be overcoming the challenge of “how is this better/easier” than what I do, now? If it even remotely smells of more complication, people will drop the idea like a bad habit. If no one they know is doing it, they’ll pretend it doesn’t exist. The key is finding a way to establish mainstream support. The Internet as we know it now had a lot of these same challenges but with one major difference… there wasn’t an already mainstream high tech way of sharing information, cat photos, videos, memes, status updates, and the like, in real time with everyone someone cared about in an instant.

Solid has a massive uphill battle and I look forward to seeing how it progresses. If it can’t tackle the mainstream problem, though, Solid will end up relegating itself to yet another nerd corner of the Internet and eventually die out. Someone might even tweet abodut it.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography