Tuesday, October 30, 2012

YouTube's blatant ripoff problem

I heard recently about YouTube blocking a popular cat video because the soundtrack infringed on someone's copyright. On Aug. 6, 2012, videos of the Mars landing from NASA were blocked because a newspaper chain claimed that it owned the copyright to the taxpayer-funded videos. Even though YouTube blocks videos that maybe it shouldn't, there still appears to be a problem with popular videos being blatantly copied. Here is an example I ran across today.

I wanted to watch the "Banned iPad mini Promo" video, written by John Elerick, which is a funny spoof on a real Apple video for the iPad mini. So I did a search on YouTube, and below are screen captures of the first 11 results of that search. The first result, with 364,000+ views, is the correct, original video. The fourth result, by Natobus, is also original. The second, third, fifth, sixth, tenth and eleventh results (six copies!) are blatant ripoffs of the first entry. The eighth result is a copy of the first result with Chinese subtitles which at least adds something to the original. The ninth result is an original explanation of how Natobus made the fourth result.

Okay, I'm a good citizen, so I wanted to help Mr. Elerick and YouTube eliminate these blatant ripoffs. No dice. Since I'm not the copyright holder, there is no way for me to complain. It's Mr. Elerick's job to play Whac-a-Mole® and try to eliminate the ripoffs. (For some reason, Chrome wouldn't even let me post a comment. Let's ignore that for now.)

But what if the license on the original version allows them to make copies? The license on the original video says "Standard YouTube License." The best thing I could find for a standard license is the general Terms of Service. The terms say, in section 5B, "You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content." [emphasis added] To me it appears that the copies violate the YouTube Terms of Service unless the copiers received written permission from Mr. Elerick.

YouTube has a blatant ripoff problem.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Senior System Analyst wants to become a consultant

A LinkedIn user wonders about converting from a full-time employee to a independent contractor and is not sure about the billing rate he should use. He also wants to know about taxes and insurance. Here is my response:

My rule of thumb is that your starting hourly rate is your annual salary divided by 1,000. For example, if your annual salary is $80,000 then your hourly consulting rate would be $80 per hour to be equivalent. The big catch are the middlemen and they may bill you out at a rate they set and then pay you 50% to 90% of the proceeds. Note that many companies try to pay you less as a contractor than the equivalent employee would make. You shouldn't let yourself get suckered into this. However, you may have to take a pay cut to get established.

You will need to figure the taxes, insurance, etc. yourself or with your accountant. If you can't do this, you should not go out on your own. Many contractors are covered by their spouse's insurance because health insurance by itself can run $750 to $1,000 per month. But consider that, beginning in 2014, you may need to either provide your own insurance through your company or pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act.

You should definitely line up an accountant before you go out on your own, not after. The accountant (I recommend a certified public accountant [CPA]) will help you decide the form of your business (C corporation, S corporation, LLC, etc.). Note that many companies will not contract with you unless you are a corporation or LLC this will help protect them from an IRS determination that you are an employee. The important thing is to this part correctly up front and not to wait until April 14 to think about this.

One of the requirements to be an independent contractor is that you pay yourself a salary and file all of the various employment tax returns required. In Ohio, you must keep track of your pay by municipality and file city and possibly school district tax returns for every city that you work in. Currently, I am filing in four cities and one Indiana county. My rule of thumb for your salary is about 50% of net billings.

With any client, you should offer to provide your own computer, typically a laptop. Having your own tools separates the independent contractors from the employees. The client may prefer you use their computer but at least you made the offer. Many times, I set up a separate virtual machine on my laptop for a client with their settings and policies.

Finally, get a copy of the "20 factors" and read them. The technical term for this is IRS Revenue Ruling 87-41 but this has been updated since then and it's not clear that the IRS even uses them in that form. The point here is that if your client is requiring you to be at work at a specific time and leave at a specific time, you may be considered an employee and not a contractor.

You may think that I'm trying to dissuade you from going out on your own. Au contraire. Although many contractors in the computer business have left due to the recession, some contractors have more job security than the people on staff. I was at a company once and heard that the staff was being cut by 10%. I went to my contact and said I felt bad that I was being kept on while others were being let go. He said, "You don't understand. They're paid out of the expense budget and you're paid out of the capital budget. There's a big difference." As it turned out, none of the IT people were laid off after all.

Let me know (through comments or direct email) if you have any questions.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mars chocolates to the rescue!

On Oct. 4, I bought a bag of m&m's with peanuts from the United Dairy Farmers store #138 at 5540 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield OH 45014. Nothing unusual for me except that this was the first time I had bought this particular candy at this store. The first m&m was okay, but the second tasted stale. It was fairly clear that most of the few m&m's that I ate were stale. The date code was 101, so I looked this up on the Internet and found that the m&m's in this bag were manufactured the first week of 2011, almost two years earlier. The good news: I didn't get sick from the stale peanuts.

At this point, I had two choices: Complain to UDF or to Mars. The sad thing is that UDF is not the company it used to be. Staffing at many stores is being cut below the minimum I would expect. They just built a beautiful new store in Norwood (4344 Smith Road, Norwood OH 45212) but neglected to include public restrooms. (When I'm traveling and stop for gas, I usually need to use the restroom. Don't try that at a UDF.)

My concern was that if I called UDF, nothing would happen. So I called Mars using the toll-free number on the back of the bag and talked to a nice person who checked the date code and agreed that that bag should not have been on the shelf and that she would take care of the situation. The next week, I received the well-written letter and coupons in the mail.

Two weeks later, I found myself back in UDF store #138 so I thought I would check the m&m's with peanuts on the shelf. The date code was now 220 (manufactured May 13 to May 19, 2012), which is well within the shelf life of this product.

I would like to thank Mars for being so courteous to me on the phone and sending me the great letter. The coupons are a unexpected bonus.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Eight people in Norwood, Ohio talk about politics

The Wall Street Journal wanted to talk to a diverse group of voters about the election, the economy and other topics. They started with Ohio, a swing state, then picked Hamilton County, a swing county, then drilled down to the City of Norwood, the second largest city in the county (after Cincinnati) and ended up picking my block in Norwood. Neil King, Jr. interviewed eight of us from four families and wrote a story for today's edition of the WSJ, "Fearful Ohio Voters Careen Between Competing Camps" (subscription required; pictures by Andrew Spear).

In 1968 Andy Warhol said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." I'm going to enjoy my 15 minutes and then get back to work.

Apple doesn't apologize after all

This post was updated on Nov. 2. Click here for the revised post.

We have a problem with the technical press in the United States: They're like a herd of sheep. One of the sheep will bleat out something that sounds reasonable and the most of the rest of the sheep will repeat and amplify the bleating. You need to understand that a lot of what pretends to be journalism in this country is just click bait: An attempt to get you lured in to read a story so that the publisher can make money on advertising.

One recent example is the kerfuffle over Maps in Apple's iOS 6. The technical press went wild but many users, including me, don't care. In addition, one source, not realizing that the new Maps requires a fraction of the data of the old Maps, falsely claimed that Apple users had almost stopped using the new Maps.

We have another case today. Search Google news for "Apple apology" and you will get almost 40,000 results. Many headlines are like this one from the Los Angeles Times: "Apple loses appeal, has to buy ads in Britain to apologize to Samsung."

So, today, Apple issued its statement to comply with the court order, and there's no apology to it. In fact, it is almost the opposite, including a quote from the judge that the Samsung devices are "not as cool" as the Apple ones.

Will the sheep admit they made a mistake? Don't count on it.

The trick here are to distinguish the sheepherders from the sheep. There are a few blogs that can separate the bleats from the facts. I will post later about these blogs.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vote Yes on Ohio Issue 2

This map showing Congressional districts was drawn by politicians. Can citizens do a better job? Of course they can. Vote Yes on Ohio Issue 2; I did.

Twin Towers selling six paintings through Sotheby's

When my wife and I toured Twin Towers in Feb. 2012, we were impressed with the art gallery housing classical paintings. It turns out that six of those paintings are fairly valuable and are being auctioned by Sotheby's on Nov. 8.

The most valuable of the paintings is "LA BRANCHE DE CERISIER (THE CHERRY BRANCH)" which is expected to fetch $1.5 to $2 million.

(Sotheby's issued a press release on Sept. 18 about the sale but, for some reason, it's not with the other press releases on their website. I have asked them for help with this.)

Although the sale will raise money for Twin Towers, it will hopefully also get these paintings into a museum environment with the proper controls for their preservation. And the paintings won't really disappear from Twin Towers; they will be replaced by high-quality reproductions.

More details as I get them...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

IBM i Programming Manuals V7R1

International Business Machines Corporation has a lot of information to index and so it's not surprising that folks get lost trying to get basic documentation. Here's my guide to a starting set of manuals for ILE RPG programming. This page is tailored to IBM i 7.1 (also known as V7R1M0); I will develop pages for other versions of the operating system as time permits.

Note that these links will display or download the manuals in PDF format. (Depending on your browser, you may have to right click and select "Save As..." to save the manual.) I suggest that you do so and use them from your computer hard drive. In some cases, IBM includes the manuals in HTML format and I leave it as an exercise to the reader to find those.

All of these manuals are written in American English. Supposedly, there are versions written in other languages but I couldn't find them quickly. Let me know if this is a problem for you and I will see what I can do.

ILE RPG Reference 7.1 [PDF] This is a reference manual; it describes the language but really doesn't tell you how to use it.

ILE RPG Programmer's Guide 7.1 [PDF] This manual explains how to do things with ILE RPG.

Of course, you will need to work with files. For database files, there are four manuals:

Database SQL Reference 7.1 [PDF]

Database SQL Programming 7.1 [PDF]

Database Programming 7.1 [PDF]

DDS for Physical and Logical Files 6.1 [PDF]

You can use either SQL or DDS to define your files and their characteristics. They are somewhat interchangeable.

For display files, use DDS for Display Files 6.1 [PDF].

For printer files, use DDS for Printer Files 6.1 [PDF].

Next, you're going to need to code Command Language (CL) programs for your ILE RPG programs. The manual for that is CL Overview and Concepts 7.1 [PDF].

Finally, there's the Integrated Language Environment part of ILE RPG. (ILE reminded me of the linkage editors we had in the 1970s so I jokingly refer to it as "Integrated Linkage Editor.") You can write useful programs without knowing a thing about ILE. But, when you're ready, you'll want to look at ILE Concepts 7.1 [PDF].

While researching this blog entry, I did find a master list of version 7.1 manuals. Go to the IBM Infocenter at this link and click on "PDF files and manuals".


Monday, October 22, 2012

Do you really think Romney has changed?

To my women, gay and lesbian friends,

If you think Mitt Romney has changed his stripes and think you could vote for him now, think again. Here's what a Romney administration would do:

● Work to overturn Roe vs. Wade and make all abortion, including cases of rape, incest and the possibility of the mother dying, illegal. Remember, if the mother has problems during birth, her life is expendable but the fetus's is not.

● Work to make contraception harder for women to obtain. Employers will be able to craft their healthcare plans so that contraception is not covered. However, Viagra will still be covered in full.

● Reduce or eliminate free and reduced fee healthcare to women. Planned Parenthood will be defunded; will another organization step up to provide the healthcare that PP does now?

● If a couple can't have a child naturally, the Roman Catholic church will push to have certain successful fertility treatments, such as in-vitro fertilization, banned. Also, surrogate parenthood will be banned.

● Gays and lesbians will not be allowed to adopt, either as single parents or as couples. Gay marriage? Forget about it.

Don't be fooled by the new, centrist Romney. He is now at odds with his own campaign and the Republican Party. If he is elected, will he go back to "hard conservative" Romney? Can you take that chance?


Bruce Hobbs

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Getting a better knowledge of ILE RPG

I'm willing to answer questions occasionally. The question today is "How can I develop my programming skills and get a better knowledge of RPG IV?"

First, get and read "The Modern RPG IV Language" by Robert Cozzi, Jr. (the link takes you Barnes & Noble; the Nook version is less expensive). A confession: I haven't read this book but I like what I've heard about it.

Second, download the "WDS RPG Language Reference" (SC09-2508) and "WDS RPG Programmer's Guide" (SC09-2507) from IBM (select the appropriate version based on the version of IBM i you're using). I'm going to post a guide to IBM manuals soon but, until then, start with the IBM i and System i Information Center and you should be able to find them. (Note that the current country is at the top and you can change it if you wish.) The Language Reference is the authoritative manual for everything you want to know about RPG IV (also know as ILE RPG) but it doesn't try to tell you how to do something. The Programmer's Guide is more of guide of how to do things. Update Oct. 23, 2012: I have written a blog entry on the programming manuals you need for version 7.1.

Third, you should use an interactive (non-green-screen) editor for your programming. The choices are too complicated to go into here. In addition, I recommend that all new programs be written in free format.

Fourth, understand that writing code is not all there is to programming. You must understand file operations against the database and how locking works (both of records and objects). And you will need to be able to figure out how best to write the code for each specific project.

Finally, there are some things you should not learn about. The RPG Cycle is one of these. Originally, back in 1965, you needed to know the cycle. Today, not at all. If you have to maintain a program using the cycle, track down a old timer like me with a good memory and I will help you (at the standard billing rate, of course).

Another thing is rather important to me. In college, I was taught structured programming (also known as GOTO-less programming), as advocated by Edsger Dijkstra, and have not written an RPG program with a single GOTO in it since 1976. But IBM, not caring what one of the greatest computer scientists advocated, added additional non-structured operation codes to RPG. The basic concept of structured programming is that every section of code should have one but only one entry point and one but only one exit point. If you write an RPG program for me, you will not use these operation codes:

CABxx   (Compare and branch)
GOTO    (Go to)
ITER    (Iterate)
LEAVE   (Leave a do/for group)
LEAVESR (Leave a subroutine — Allowed only if just before an End Subroutine)
RETURN  (Return — Allowed but only once per program or procedure and used carefully with *INLR or *INRT)
TAG     (Tag)

After reading the book, manuals and this information, you should be able to develop your programming skills. After writing 100 programs, you might get fairly good at this!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mitt Romney doesn't understand emergency care

The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch interviewed Mitt Romney recently for a possible endorsement and ran the story on Oct. 11, 2012. They quoted Romney as saying, “We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack. No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

What he just described is socialized medicine. But we don't have socialized medicine in this country as the Republicans would never allow it.

Wendell Potter explains what really happens at the Huffington Post: "Romney is absolutely right, people who are uninsured don't have to die in their apartments. They can indeed be rushed to a hospital, and the hospital is obligated to treat them. … Many of the uninsured die in the hospital, in the emergency room, because they could not afford to get care earlier when it might have saved their lives. Instead of going back home to their apartments, many of them, unfortunately, go to the morgue."

I'm surprised that Romney's lack of knowledge of health care in this country hasn't gotten more traction. Perhaps it's because his lack of knowledge in so many other areas is competing for our time in the news cycle.

Do you want to know how many Americans die each year because they are uninsured compared to the same types of people who are insured? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of additional deaths at 44,789 in 2009. That's more people than were killed in car crashes in the United States that year.

(Sorry about the delay in posting; I was having trouble finding the original story on the Dispatch's Web site.)

How NOT to start an Internet business

On the LinkedIn group Linked Dayton (registration required) I saw this discussion: "New Consultant directory online at: www.Consultants.info. List for free!" Actually, this was the title; there really wasn't a discussion.

I was skeptical, so I checked it out. After entering some information, including selecting the United States of America from a list of every country in the world, I found no computer programmers listed for either Dayton or Cincinnati. My response to the group: "No computer programmers in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. This is crap."

I received a private message from the person who posted (name withheld to protect the guilty) explaining that I needed to register as a consultant. My response: "Sorry, you can't just start with an empty database and expect people to fill it for you. You need to buy some lists and launch it with data already in it. People will try it once and, if they don't get useful information, will never try it again. ..."

In addition to putting some data in the database, he needs to reduce the scope to the U.S.A. at a maximum and reduce the number of categories from over 200 to a more reasonable number.

I'm sorry if I come across as rude or arrogant, but I really am trying to help this poor guy get a clue. Yes, I am a fan of Shark Tank, especially Mark Cuban. How did you guess?

Being Christian means you don't stumble

This is from Facebook group "At the Feet of Jesus."

So you're saying that, when a Christian with a Holy Bible on his desk* steals my 401(k) money, that's okay because "I stumble and need Christ to be my guide?" If you follow Christ, then why are you stumbling? Why are so many Christians breaking the law these days (God's law or man's law, take your choice)? We need more Christians who actually follow Jesus Christ instead of some warped notion of things he never said. We need more Christians who can be "clean living" and not stumble.

* I no longer trust any businessman with a Bible on his or her desk. I've just been ripped off by too many Christians.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I voted today

I voted today at the Hamilton County (Ohio) Board of Elections, taking advantage of the free parking on Broadway in front of the building. I consider myself an independent and will vote for both Republicans and Democrats. Excluding judges, which are supposedly nonpartisan, 38% of my votes were for Republicans and 62% of my votes were for Democrats.

I voted for Obama/Biden, Sherrod Brown for Senator (a no-brainer) and Brad Wenstrup for Congress (Ohio Second District). Brad sounds like a Reasonable Republican (hard to find these days) and his opponent failed to complete the League of Women Voters questionnaire.

For Hamilton County races, I usually voted for the incumbent. Hamilton County government has downsized during the recession and the incumbents have already had to do more with less. I figure that if they're dedicated enough to continue with cutting their own budgets, they should be given the opportunity to do that.

One exception that I voted against Tracy Winkler as she mentioned her church in her League of Women Voters profile and she's endorsed by the Citizens for Community Values, both real no-nos for me.

The Hamilton County Sheriff was hard to choose as the venerable sheriff serving since 1987, Simon Leis, is not running. It appears that both candidates are qualified but Jim Neil got my vote because he was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police. Politics Extra, a blog at cincinnati.com, explains the reasoning behind the endorsement.

As a general rule, I don't think judges should have to run for election and I usually vote for the incumbents when possible. However, for justice of the (Ohio) Supreme Court, I voted for two challengers, Mike Skindell and William O'Neill. This is due to the First Energy controversy. Although I can't tell you for sure that anything improper happened, it still sounds fishy to me, especially the timing of the donations.

State Issue 1: Call for constitutional convention - No. Let's not waste tax dollars on this.

State Issue 2: Letting citizens choose legislative and congressional districts - Yes. Both Republicans and Democrats make a mess when they do it.

I voted for three local levies (18 City of Norwood, 50 Senior Citizens and 51 Mental Health) as I usually vote for levies like this. It so happens that none of these will raise my taxes.

If you have any question about a race that I've skipped, send me an email or write a comment and I will explain my vote for that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Details of the Romney-Ryan tax plan

"For a detailed explanation of how the Romney-Ryan tax plan is able to cut taxes by $5 trillion without raising taxes on the middle class or exploding the deficit, simply click" on this link.

At the risk of piling on, Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, was not happy that Paul Ryan showed up at the Society and pretended to wash dishes that were already clean. More details from The Washington Post.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Proper reference to the Fortune 500 list

From time to time, I see references to the "Fortune 100" or the "Fortune 400." There is no "Fortune 100" or "Fortune 400". There is the Fortune 500 list and the Fortune 1000 list. The proper use is like this: "Procter & Gamble is one of the top 100 companies of the Fortune 500."

(While I'm writing this, a photographer is taking my picture. Why? Watch this blog for details! Update Nov. 10: Andrew Spear was taking pictures for the Wall Street Journal. I was featured, along with seven other people, in a cover story on Oct. 26.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Clearing the peony bed

It is the time of year to clear out the peony stalks and put them in the trash (you're not supposed to compost them). After clearing out the stalks and weeds, I added a bushel of compost from the Earth Machine (bottom of bottom picture). Yes, there is one weed left; it has nice flowers and I have a soft spot for weeds with nice flowers.

The bushel of compost represents about 20% of the capacity of the Earth Machine and maybe a year's worth of kitchen scraps and some lawn clippings. I don't put a lot of lawn clippings in because I'm trying to maintain a balance between the green and the brown. To keep the compost bucket clean, we sometimes put paper towels in the bottom and they compost nicely.

One thing that doesn't compost at all are the labels on fruits and vegetables because most of them are made of plastic. I recommend that you remove all the labels before composting.

We bought the Earth Machine from the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District several years ago. The other recycling container we bought from Lowe's and we use it only for yard waste. Lowe's doesn't seem to sell it any more maybe because it's so inexpensive (just a piece of plastic with holes in it and six sticks).

The peonies are heirloom and over 40 years old. I'll post about them in the spring when they're in full bloom.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Launching my blog

Tonight, I'm launching my blog. I'm not expecting people to read this blog daily. Rather, I hope people find a page here or there through a search that provides them with helpful information.

Topics which I intend to cover are news items of the day, politics, stock information and IBM i articles. I plan to post at least once per day every day of the year.

Well-thought-out comments by intelligent people are encouraged. Other comments will be deleted.

I reserve the right to update postings. I will do this by writing a new post then updating the original post to refer to the new one. This will provide a historical record but allow me to update my posts.

I actually have been blogging for a while, if you consider Facebook as a blogging site. By blogging here instead, I'm going to make life better for my FB friends.

Want me to write on a topic? My email address is shown so drop me a line.

At this point, there is no monetization involved. This means that I will not receive any payment for any posts that I make. Since I'm not protected as a journalist, I will ask all sources to give specific permission to use their information.