Technology, Philosophy, & Sometimes Both

Thoughts on the World by Jack Umano

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Music DRM – I thought that was gone!

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musical_noteEveryone thinks Google’s music service offers music that has no DRM.  But, apparently not.

DRM is the software that stops you from sharing the files with other people.  It forces you to identify who you are before being allowed to use the file.

I simply wanted to buy a piece of music for me and family members to listen to.  You know – people in my household.  Like, if I bought a CD, we could each listen to it.  I specifically went to Google Play to buy it because I was told their music has no DRM.  I thought we could each put the songs on our phones.  But, when trying to upload the music to another family members Google Play Music account, I get a message telling me I cannot because the song was,

song was purchased with another google play account

What?  So, there actually is DRM built in to prevent me from sharing the file.  Maybe I should go back to (ugh) iTunes.  At least with iTunes, I could plug in multiple devices and have everyone in my family access the same music.

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Written by Jack Umano

January 7, 2014 at 8:40 am

Posted in Technology

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Will my Computer Work Outside the US?

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Voltage-SwitchCAREFUL –  There’s a gotcha!

I thought my Dell computer would work overseas.  I looked at the sticker on the bottom of the computer.  It said the computer could handle voltages of 100V to 240V.  Great – so it should work.

But, when I plugged it in to a 220V socket… BOOM!  -literally.  There was a giant pop like a firecracker when I plugged it in.  My power supply was fried and my hard drive was ruined.

It turns out, there is a little itty bitty switch on the back of the computer near where the power cord connects to the computer.  This little switch changes the power supply to accept either 110V or 220V.  If it’s on the wrong setting, your computer blows up.

Shouldn’t this be more common knowledge?  Shouldn’t this be something one doesn’t have to learn by experience?  Not all computers have this.  Why did no-one tell me to look.

One little switch and I wouldn’t have to

  • buy a new computer.
  • pay someone to try to recover my data.
  • spend hours downloading backups of data that was unrecoverable.
  • hunt for my old software disks and hope I still have the activation codes.

Yes, as a responsible computer user, I was prepared for a computer failure.  But, that one little switch sent me into recovery mode for a week.

Oh Dell.  Why couldn’t you have put in one of those power supplies that switches automatically instead of having a manual switch.

Written by Jack Umano

February 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Technology

Another Privacy Policy and Terms Travesty

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Everyone knows that Ticketmaster has a virtual monopoly at many venues and they abuse it by overcharging for service fees.  It’s something we put up with.  So I guess it should be no surprise that they have jumped on the bandwagon of abusing the public by jamming policies and terms down our throats.

When ordering tickets online, each step of the way, you have a timer on the web page counting down the seconds that you have to put in your information.  You get 2.5 minutes or you’ll lose your tickets.  There is barely enough time to type in all your information and read the content on the page.  Then while you’re at it, you must agree to the ticketmaster privacy policy and terms of use .  These are very long legal documents that a lawyer should review for an hour.  But, you have to agree to this in your remaining 30 seconds or else these tickets will be lost to you and sold to someone else.

Don’t kid yourself.  You are signing legal documents that matter.  Here is an example:  By signing them, I have agreed in part 2 that I

“will not: Transmit any content or information that is … defamatory … or otherwise objectionable”

So merely by me writing this blog post, they could possibly sue me – saying this is defamatory and objectionable.

By agreeing to these, you are forced to waive rights that you would normally have in courts.  If you ever get caught by one of these from Ticketmaster or some other company, I would suggest contacting the Electronic Frontier Foundation as they work to defend people in high tech civil liberties cases.

Written by Jack Umano

April 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Technology

Opt Out doesn’t solve Privacy Problems

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I will never go to Walt Disney World again.  Nor Disneyland.

I’m always told, “If you don’t like the privacy invasion, you don’t have to use this service.”  This is true with search engines and social media sites that track every possible thing they can about you.  “You don’t HAVE to use Facebook. So, if their disregard for your privacy bugs you don’t use it.”

Opt out of using every online service that tracks you?  It’s as if the only three tire makers in the world decided to put GPS tracking devices in the tires.  Hey you can opt out by not using our tires.  Then what? – make your own?  Only bike and walk?

So, now I can’t go to Disney parks either.  They fingerprint everyone at the door thereby treating everyone like a criminal.  Of course, you don’t find this out until you are standing at the door with paid ticket in hand.  You may have bought the ticket, but you can’t come in unless they fingerprint you first.

You’ll hear tons about how you shouldn’t bother caring and that this battle is already lost.  That’s a myth perpetuated by the big companies who own (or are tied to) the big media companies.  “Don’t worry about it” – said the spider to the fly.

Okay. The big media companies are not going to eat you like a fly.  But, they certainly have no interest in protecting your privacy.  And if you’re still wondering why this is important, see my previous post on why privacy matters.

Written by Jack Umano

April 10, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Technology

YMCA Screws You Just Because They Can

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Ok. I have had just about enough of this:

“Please allow approximately ten (10) days for this change to take effect”

It’s the 21st century folks.  When I sign up for something, your company can instantly make a membership for me.  Instantly, you can take my payment.  You send me an email within 30 seconds.  There is no way it takes 10 days to take me off your email distribution list.   Ok, I can delete a few more emails that you’ll send this week.

But, this example takes the cake:

At the YMCA, if you want to cancel your membership, it takes THIRTY DAYS for them to cancel it!   Oh, and by the way, they will be charging you one more time for an extra month before you are removed from their system.  This is simply them screwing you because they can.  And since you are leaving, they don’t need you to be a happy customer anymore.   I guess when they say, “strengthening community is our cause”, they mean “strengthening the YMCA community by maximizing the YMCA profit.”

Written by Jack Umano

February 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Technology

Ice Cream Sandwich working well on Nexus S

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I have gotten the Ice Cream Sandwich update on my Nexus S that I use with T-Mobile.  I have had it for more than a week and it’s going very well.  Here are my main observations:

  • It’s faster – This is the main improvement.  Everything is snappier.  It responds to virtual buttons quickly and software starts up quickly.
  • It looks nice.  I didn’t have any complaints with the old Gingerbread look.  But, I like this a little more.  Also, the look is more in-line with the tablet experience (we have a Motorola Xoom Android tablet).
  • The apps that are updated for the new OS are … just that: updated.  Good thing.  I haven’t had any problems with any apps on Ice Cream Sandwich.
  • Google Plus crashes a lot – This is the main drawback.  The Google Plus app doesn’t crash when I am trying to use it.  But, I often get a popup notice that “Unfortunately, Google Plus has stopped” while I’m doing something else.  I guess it was running in the background but I don’t know why it constantly needs to tell me that it has stopped.

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Written by Jack Umano

January 6, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Technology

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Web Browser attitudes Toward User Controls

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The browser makers seem to have very different attitudes toward user controls.  Here’s an example:

The Mozilla company has no interest in monetizing your user information.  So, the Firefox browser gives you a reasonably easy way to find the controls for cookies.  Just go to Tools > Options > Privacy.

But Google definitely wants to track you and profit from knowing everything about you.  Chrome puts  their cookie settings behind an unexplained “wrench” icon > Then go past “basics” and “personal stuff” (both of which would be reasonable places to find cookies’ settings) and click on the mysterious and intimidating “under the hood”.  The implication in that name is “don’t mess around with this unless you really know what you’re doing.”

Ok, now you’ve found the settings for cookies.  Let’s look at what the browser let’s you do:

The attitude I get from the Firefox browser is, “You want control of your cookies?  Great. Here’s a list of what they are.  Do what you want to each one.”   Firefox gives you a button to show the entire list of cookies.  You can see who is setting them and delete the ones you don’t like.

The Chrome attitude is, “If you have to have control of cookies, then FINE!  Here’s a button to delete all cookies.  Happy?”  There seems to be no way to view what cookies are set.  Just a “clear browsing data” button that doesn’t let you select which site’s cookies you’re deleting.  This discourages you from deleting cookies since you will lose cookies from sites that you like and want to allow cookies.

I like Chrome for a lot of things.  But, I’m going to keep using two browsers for now.

Written by Jack Umano

November 12, 2011 at 4:44 am

Posted in Technology