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.
We have used a Philips Norelco electric shaver that we had bought at Costco off and on for years. (When we didn’t use it, we shaved with various one/two/three/four-blade models, which gave closer shaves. But the convenience and absence of cuts of an electric razor, especially when traveling, makes it practical.) Like any cutting tool, it needs to be sharpened or have its cutting surfaces replaced. Philips Norelco recommends that the shaving heads be replaced every year at the cost of $30. If you search Amazon with a “Norelco-replacement-heads” phrase, you get a plethora of products with a wide range of prices ($14-70), many of them without packaging. The same situation exists for a wide range of products sold by Amazon. Fortunately, there are some companies that are fighting back.
We keep seeing reports these days showing that the United States has more deaths from the CoronaVirus than any other country. We wondered if this is correct. The USA does not have the largest population; both China and India have 4-6 times as many people.
And the USA prides itself on the quality of health care. One part of the answer is that the data collection—both methodology and accuracy–varies from country to country. Another part is that the predicting models differ from country to country. And, of course, there are always political issues that could affect the answers.
This isn’t the first time that Facebook has been involved in important political machinations. But this time the people were deathly sick, and were being misled as to the nature of the cause of it and guided to take useless medications. Fortunately, guardian NewsGuardTech detected this misinformation and publicized it. Curiously, this situation has provided Mark Zuckerberg an opportunity to be the good guy because he took thoughtful actions early.
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.
The Internet and the Worldwide Web have arguably changed the path of history. And they have made companies like Google into mega successes. But those companies have also caused much consternation among their millions of users. Why? Apparently they don’t bother to check with many (or any!) of those users to see how logical and self-evident their websites and associated tools are for their target audiences. Examples abound, and we will be posting some of the more egregious. But the Internet giants could have been even more successful, and keep website visitors on their sites longer (where they would be exposed to more advertisements) if their user interfaces were less opaque. The goal is usability, which is not rocket science. Two of most used tools are the Chrome browser and YouTube, which we will discuss in separate posts.
Skyrocketing house prices and apartment rents, long and slow commutes, overcrowded schools, etc. not only dramatically diminish peoples’ quality of life but can choke off economic growth in places like Silicon Valley. (And Silicon Valley is not unique; e.g., Boston has a similar problem.) What can be done about it? We need to think bigger, in terms of geography. Every sizable city or cluster of nearby cities has some form of LOCAL regional economic development authority. But those authorities are sub-optimizing. We believe that what is needed is a nationwide advisory council AND a change in thinking by large companies. Germany is a good example of what is possible. We can understand to some extent the economies of scale of microchip manufacturers for examples, but it especially baffles us that technology giants like Facebook, Google, Oracle, eBay, and LinkedIn, which are principally software companies, insist on building mega-campuses in Silicon Valley. Seems to us that—using their own technology and realizing that software can be written anyplace—they could do large portions in regional centers. Even Apple, who farms out much of their manufacturing to Chinese companies like Foxconn, very likely would benefit if their employees spent more time working and less time commuting to their new giant building (which will almost certainly exacerbate the already horrendous traffic jams in that area).
There are lots of other attractive cities in western states with a critical mass of local services and attractions that would welcome an influx of well-paid, well-educated employees: for example, Austin, TX; Denver, CO; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR, Los Angeles, CA; San Diego, CA; Sacramento, CA; and Phoenix, AZ. Similarly for eastern states.
We hate to tell you we told you so, but … we told you so (see our post of July 3, 2014). Investors were initially stampeded by the sex appeal and attitude of the surfer dudes who were taking exciting videos of their surfing exploits, but now their motto may have changed from “eat camera” to “eat crow”. Or, to segue to another mixed metaphor, this one-trick pony may have done its one trick already, and all the early adopters have already adopted. We wonder how many earlier buyers are actually continuing to use the GoPro, and how many newer buyers are putting up with the flawed documentation, steep learning curve, and difficulties of using the product to take videos and still pictures they are proud to post or to show their friends.
And what about competition? The GoPro Hero4 Silver costs $400. The Garmin Virb line has models for $200-400. But the $100 Polaroid Cube may be fine for the rest of us. Or the $76 SJCAM SJ4000. Or the $64 entry-level Yi model from Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi (not as many features as the GoPro Hero4 Silver but some interesting ones such as selfie stick support).
Although Americans’ confidence in most major U.S. institutions remains below historical levels for most institutions, two institutions are notable for rating higher than their historial levels, the military at 72% and small business at 67% (as measured by the sum of respondents who said “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence), according to the June 2-7, 2014 Gallup Poll. Big business is a woeful 14th on the list and is rated at a meager 14%.
We at Technology Bloopers find the recent spate of acquisitions and mergers within both the technology sector (e.g., Western Digital and SanDisk, and Lam and KLA-Tencor) and other sectors (e.g., Walgreens and Rite Aid, and AB Imbev and SAB Miller) distressing, if only because “Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely”. And its first cousin agglomeration is not much better.
Do beer drinkers really want a world of boring lagers or one of tasty craft beers? Or do diners really want their meals increasingly dominated by garish and uninteresting gigantic chain restaurants (big business) serving below-average variety, taste, and healthiness of food or a world of eating with lots of tasteful (in both décor and food) provided by smaller, independent businesses with the owners on site? We didn’t think so.
“The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away” is a truly flexible and useful concept. We can replace “Lord” by such notions as “Technology” or “Internet” or “Mobile Devices” or a whole host of other products and services. And those products and services can be used to teach us, to inform us, to entertain us, etc. How valuable they are depends on the objectives of the individual or group in question. We’d guess that a large fraction of the folks who read the New York Times either work pretty hard or respect others who do work pretty hard. On the other hand those who spend a lot of time looking at or posting to Tumblr probably are at the other end of the spectrum, as Tumblr itself serves up such suggestions as “5 ways to waste the rest of the day” (by the way, you can find lots of OTHER folks using that phrase when you surf) and counsels its members that “work can wait”, presumably while you read or write posts on Tumblr.
To put this in perspective we took a look at how Americans spent their day in 2014, thanks to some detailed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of the 24.00 hours in a day, we spend 10.75 hours taking care of basic needs (sleeping, other personal care, and eating and drinking), 3.59 hours working or doing work-related activities, a meager 0.42 hours being educated (a low average because the majority of Americans are not enrolled in educational institutions), a whopping 5.30 hours on leisure and sports (which includes 2.82 hours watching television), and a modest 0.14 hours communicating (telephone, email, and snailmail).
But even the most casual observer would likely object to the low communicating figure from the BLS because everywhere you look people are peering into their smartphones. One study found that smartphone users spend two hours each day using those devices. And what are they doing with those phones? It depends on whose statistics you believe, but it is interesting to note that it’s not all entertainment. And it is even more interesting to realize that a smartphone enables its user to seamlessly shift between work-related and personal activities, so they aren’t all just wasting the rest of the day a la Tumblr. Whew, the American economy may not be in danger!