Amazon’s Kindle Is Too Complicated and Greedy

Kindle instructs customers: “From the left panel on the Home screen, tap Books, Newsstand, or Audiobooks, or tap the icon from the app grid or carousel to view specific content in your Kindle Library. Tap a title to download it to your phone. Note: Content already downloaded to your phone will have a checkmark on it.”  This is TOTALLY USELESS!!!  Per my wife: Instead, tap on the upper left-hand corner, then tap on the three lines there.

Then, if you want to buy the book, Amazon’s software gets in the way again. HOW STUPID!!!  My wife is a very capable iPad user but even she can’t outwit Amazon’s dopey setup.

Launch the Kindle app on your iPhone or iPad. Tap Library to see all of the e-books in your Amazon library. Tap the book you wish to download onto your device. When it’s finished downloading (it will have a checkmark next to it), tap the book to open it.

We wanted to purchase the Kindle book “None of My Business” by P.J. O’Rourke, but instead, Amazon sold us a vocal version. Huh??!! And we wanted to purchase the Kindle book “Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy Book 1)” but instead Amazon sent us (Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy Book 2)”.

It took us considerable time on the phone with Amazon’s Customer Service to straighten out these messes and get refunds. Shame on Amazon!

Chinese Have Different Notions About Truth and Ethics: Part 3 – Government

Thus far, the current economic cold war between the United States and China is like a children’s’ snowball fight. If it were adults fighting, one would think they would have learned from the previous cold war. At least the U.S., with a relatively recent history of gunfighting, should know how to avoid shooting itself in the foot, as it seems to be doing these days with President Trump’s threat of banning the WeChat app, which is likely to hurt sales in China by companies such as Apple, Ford, and Walt Disney. And Trump’s forcing Chinese companies listed on American stock exchanges to comply with American accounting rules could trigger hacking of the November 3 presidential election. And last, but not least, is the continuing hijinks of Huawei and corralling of it by the USA.

Password Security IS a Laughing Matter

Anyone who has opened an account has run the gantlet of questions that are used in the event of entering its password incorrectly. (We deplore the use of passwords so when we are forced to create them we use some variation of “dumb idea” or “dongle” (a dongle is a small device able to be connected to and used with a computer, especially to allow access to wireless broadband or use of protected software).) In our case, we have had to provide the answers to such questions as “Who was your favorite elementary school teacher?”, “What was the model of your first car?”, or “What was your mother’s maiden name?” Most recently we had to provide several answers to such arcane questions that we laughed. Fortunately, this is such a widespread nuisance that it has resulted in some humorous suggestions.

Have You Ever Been Attacked by a Product’s Packaging?

It happens so often that it even has a name: “Wrap Rage”. But it isn’t funny. And the main culprit is plastic, which is frequently so strong that it requires a sharp knife and a lot of muscle. Sometimes the packaging is even stronger than the product inside. This situation is perfect for a visit to an emergency room, which these days likely is full of victims of the coronavirus. Frequently the culprit is clamshell packaging, which may be fine for protecting the product inside, but equally fine for injuring the purchaser.

Can Facebook or Other Social Media Reduce Your Productivity?

We have never had a Facebook account, because we perceived it as a time-waster, fun for people who didn’t have day jobs and accepted the occasional scandals and the fact that their memberships had made Mark Zuckerberg outrageously wealthy. But more recently people have realized not only how much time they had wasted but also how depressed they were and how many impulse purchases it had caused. Although some people want to make sure they don’t miss out of what’s happening, and others actually use Facebook as part of their job, on balance people agree that Facebook does reduce their productivity. And a 2015 survey of people who have to make decisions found that 86% of them believe that social media are not useful. Social media companies like Facebook are a poor substitute for personal meetings.  Zoom and similar alternatives are better for taking care of people that are not present.

Secure vs. Unsecure Websites

Most people likely ignore the “Http” or “Https” prefix to a website’s name. But if the information they are entering or working with is confidential, they want to avoid websites with the “Http” prefix. In 2017 Google started pressuring website owners to encrypt communication between the user and the website. The Chrome browser is making it increasingly obvious whether or not a site is secure.

Microsoft Goof of the Month: NSA Discovers Major Security Flaw in Windows 10

In our earlier days we wrote the software. We, or one or more colleagues, tested it in a variety of ways to make sure that it did what we thought it should do. As time passed the software became more complicated, and the penalties of mistakes increased, so the testing had to become more complicated. In addition, an increasing number of malevolent hackers emerged, necessitating increasingly draconian measures to key them at bay. Even then, the size and complexity of code these days make it very difficult to cover all the possibilities. Fortunately there is a government body, the US National Security Agency, that was doing its mission appropriately.

We’ve Done Our Passwords All Wrong

Passwords are one of our favorite villains. We have long advocated the use of hardware dongles. And Apple, among others, have created various technologies that scan fingers or faces. Most recently, shipments of their iPhone X are being delayed because of problems with critical components (cutely named Romeo and Juliet). There is even a novel by Scott Allan Morrison, “Terms of Use”, in which the hero invents a way to scan an eyeball.

But the conventional wisdom, originally spelled out by NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) to make them complicated (and thus virtually impossible to remember) has been replaced by NIST itself. Now, long but simple phrases that are meaningful to the user are advised, because they are easy to remember but hard for hackers to break.

Crowdsourcing Companies Likely Can’t Boost YouTube Views. Can Proxy Servers?

The old adage “If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is”. That is, it’s NOT true. Crowdsourcing companies promise a lot more than they can deliver. Our previous post proved to be way too optimistic when we tried to get a couple of those companies to actually deliver those views. What we found was that some proxy servers MIGHT do so.

However, it seems that proxy servers are as much of a bag of snakes as crowdsourcing entities. We noted during our experiments with crowdsourcing companies that some of them proposed to use proxy servers, or actually did so, but they apparently did not succeed in adding more than a handful of views. That apparently was because YouTube is too clever, and they disqualified most of the views for a variety of reasons. For example, if the crowdsource operative used a proxy server located in a country other than his/her own (which they could tell if the visiting IP was from one country in one time zone but the time of the computer to which the IP was attached was set to a different time zone), YouTube disqualified those views.

The other challenge is that most proxy server folks want to be paid in Bitcoin. While you can use dollars or credit cards or gift cards at sites like Paxful, they can be pretty expensive.

The bottom line is that many owners of YouTube channels may find it too expensive and time-consuming to boost their view counts via crowdsourcing or proxy servers.

The Argy-Bargy About H-1B Visas is All About Dollars … At Tech Companies AND Universities

We at Technology Bloopers are not big fans of President Trump, but his administration’s putting pressure on tech companies’ hiring software engineers from India and China to replace Americans does seem to be consonant with his pre-election promises.

But apparently it is even worse than that. We heard a couple of days ago about one local company that not only hired a bunch of Indian H1B visa-holders, fired their American staff, and replaced them with these imported folks … after they were trained by the Americans. And this noxious practice has apparently been going on for some time, according to the Stateline folks at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Three months of coder school is not much training compared with that of the better-trained—often in American universities—and more-experienced visa-holders. But why are these American universities welcoming these foreign students? It’s because those students come bearing big funds for their education. (At state universities, it is simply that the international students must pay the same (higher) prices as out-of-state American students.) We have heard that among some of these students it is said that PhD stands for “Parents have Dough”. Interestingly, those international students are more prone to cheat on their exams. Hmmm … does that mean that their future code will be less trustworthy than that of Americans?

We wonder why the big Silicon Valley tech companies have not done a better job on their own of training software engineers. Couldn’t they be hiring “junior” software engineers from the coder schools and boosting their capabilities with on-the-job training. We suspect one reason is that it is more expensive to do that than to hire foreign help. And more time-consuming. And another reason may be that they didn’t do a good job of forecasting their growth and concomitant demand for those software engineers. Maybe the current visa flap will motivate them.

But it may not be the fault of these companies. Americans may too lazy, or too afraid to be “uncool”, to study STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) courses so there is not enough local talent to fill the needs of Silicon Valley. Graduates with strong STEM knowledge are polar opposites to “art history majors” , a term used derogatorily to connote enjoyable-but-low-paying jobs.