We become disappointed whenever we receive Google’s monthly Snapshots, and suspect that the large majority of website developers feel the same way. In December 2017 our server statistics showed nearly 100 times as many visitors as Google Analytics did, and in January 2018 they showed 60 times as many visitors as Google Analytics did.
We at Technology Bloopers are tired of being ripped off and we’re not going to take it anymore! We were paying Comcast a total of $86 per month for our home office business account and a whopping $156 per month for our TV. To add insult to injury, the user interface for selecting movies was not only hard to use but contained annoying videos unrelated to our searching for movies. Fortunately, this interface had annoyed us to the breaking point (and our aging DLP chip in our rear-projection TV set had lost a lot of its tiny “fingers”, looking increasingly like a starry night all the time) so that we had very recently contracted with a home theater installer who understood the pricing structure of Comcast. He arranged a deal with a total cost per month of about $60, compared to the former total of $242.
This club is pretty exclusive today, with American members including mainly Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Netflix. They are so big that to grow significantly they have to look for other big markets (like cloud computing or self-driving cars or Hollywood-type movies) to enter, and most of those big markets are already occupied by other club members or non-member already-large specialists. What are the bloopers here? A classical one would be monopoly/oligopoly pricing and/or restraint of trade. But perhaps more important might be the opportunities lost by a failure to allocate capital to creating useful NEW-AND-DIFFERENT products and services.
Continued massive growth by the giant high-tech companies in Silicon Valley brings with it commensurate demand for trained software engineers (as well as housing shortages and high prices, traffic jams, and other problems). The U.S. doesn’t produce enough STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) trained people, so the tech companies are forced to cast a wider net by hiring foreigners, using the mechanism of H-1B visas. Many of these H-1B hires are from India, and of those many are provided by well-compensated outsourcing firms such as Infosys, Tech Mahindra, and WiPro.
The situation in 2018 is similar to the one in 2017, with the important difference that now President Trump is now involved. He does things in strange and wonderful ways, and the America First plank in his election platform may bode ill to the H-1B visa program. Plus, he is at odds with the leaders of the giant high-tech companies. So anything can happen.
While the H-1B visa program may enable well-educated (especially in technology) individuals to enter the U.S. and earn considerably more than they could in their native countries, some of them are dissatisfied with the layers of bureaucracy that prevent them from advancing. However, there are two outstanding exceptions to this (both natives of India), namely Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (who joined Microsoft in 1992 and became its CEO in 2014) and Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai (who joined Google in 2004 and became its CEO in 2015 when its now-parent Alphabet Inc. was created).
The good news today is that Amazon will NOT locate its second headquarters (with up to 50,000 people) in the Bay area. So San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo will get his wish. This is a welcome change from past practices by Silicon Valley cities, when city councils have welcomed large, tax-paying companies despite the downsides of their new presence.
While there may well be a need for more effective ways to conduct financial transactions than the ones that have been used during the past decades, it is not clear that Bitcoin and similar “cryptocurrencies” are better alternatives.
The creation of these cryptocurrencies by running super-supercomputers is an illogical idea for starters, a bad joke dreamed up by super-geeks. Worse, this process wastes energy and damages the environment. Bitcoin “miners” seem to be accurately named because they behave like coal miners, and the coal-burning electrical generation needed to produce Bitcoins et al causes global warming and harms humans and other living organisms. Even the amounts of paper and energy being used just to report on Bitcoins are enormous. Our own collection of newspaper clippings and computer file that were the background of this post far exceeded those for any other post we have written. And we puzzled over what historical event or literature provided the best model. Was it the Dutch tulip craze in the 1630s? Or The Emperor’s New Clothes of 1837? Or something else?
Watching the action suggests that most of the people who are engaged in buying and selling Bitcoin and the like have a gambling addition, and can only hope that mere mortals don’t get too carried away with the excitement … which is amplified by today’s reporting in newspapers and TV.
The disaster caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico from the winds and rains was bad enough but the hurricane’s damage continues to wreak havoc among its residents because there is still no electrical power, and thus no electric lights, refrigeration, and myriad other things humans require to survive and prosper. But malevolent hackers could wreck the power grid of much larger and populous nations, including the USA. They proved this in early 2016 in the Ukraine.
But even without a malevolent action by North Korea, just a system overload, such as the one experienced in India in July 2012, could take a whole country’s power grid down. We can hope that the United States and its allies have taken or are taking measures to prevent such outages. However, the U.S. power grid is far from perfect.
Mark Twain’s 1897 quote had it right: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” One possible Truth in the current fracas involving Russians, Trump’s campaign team for the 2016 presidential election, and social network companies including Facebook, Google, and Twitter is that this is an early example of wars that are fought by hackers and the Internet rather than soldiers and guns. Numerous semi-fiction books could be written or movies created about this craziness. One possible plot is that the Russians knew how unusual (AKA weird) Donald Trump is, and preferred him to Hillary Clinton as president because they could exploit that unusualness (AKA weirdness). A bunch of congresspeople are calling for regulation of these giant Internet-based companies. So are the media, who are far more regulated than Facebook, Google, and Twitter. These are crazy times, and the Russians and other enemy nations must be enjoying all the gyrations that the US is going through.
Even more dangerous to individuals, America, and the whole world, are the loopholes in the processes at internet giants like Facebook and Google. Technology is evolving faster than it can be controlled by either man or machine. And since these companies make most of their money by selling ads, exciting events—whether or not correctly reported on—boost their revenues and profits.
Beyond such “fake news”, which can be distributed widely and quickly, the very content of the ads can be hurtful. Facebook and Google (including YouTube) apparently accepted a considerable number of ads from Russia supporting Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. Since those ads were paid for, which is how those companies make money, they were motivated to accept them. Apparently only in retrospect did they investigate, after which they reported on what happened, but Facebook, at least, didn’t tell the whole story.
Fortunately for those not interested in lawsuits, and want some things to do now to avoid the hassle of having officials search their devices at airports, there are some measures that may be helpful. For some months passengers from eight majority-Muslim countries had to put their laptop computers and tablets in their checked luggage, so presumably anyone could do this, and include their cellphones as well. (Yes, we realize that for many people, especially millenials, their cellphones are their Gods. But checked luggage rarely goes missing these days, so this may be the lesser of evils.)