Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Why are so many celebrities dying?

Carrie Fisher died today. I thought she would recover from her medical problems and live many more years but, alas, she didn't. We still have four more days this year and I expect another celebrity will die before January 1, 2017.

Why are so many celebrities dying? Mathematically, it's simple: It's due to a reduction in life expectancy in the United States. Many people aren't making it to 60 years old any more, and celebrities are included in that. George Michael died recently at the age of 53 and Carrie had just turned 60 a couple of months ago. People are succumbing to cancer, heart disease, drugs (legal as well as illegal), suicide (some caused by repeated concussions) and gun violence.

I am especially appalled at the increase in drug overdoses. I feel that the pharmaceutical companies as well as the doctors are responsible for the increase in overdoses due to painkillers and are making big profits from this. The Charleston Gazette-Mail found that, over the last six years, pharmaceutical companies have shipped 433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in the state of West Virginia. That's a total of 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills.

Meanwhile, the people from an earlier era who are now in their 90s, such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99, are dying as well. Expect this combination of seemingly large numbers of young and old celebrities dying to continue until the average life expectancy in the United States begins to increase again.

Note: I donated to Wikipedia for the third year in a row during their recent fundraising campaign. They said that if everyone who uses Wikipedia donated just $5 per year, they would reach their goal. I gave a bit more than the average because I'm an above average kind of person!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Milestone yesterday: 100,000 page views

Yesterday, I celebrated 100,000 page views for this blog (according to Google). It was launched a bit over four years ago, October 12, 2012. Google is supposed to be filtering bots and scrapers so these should be real people viewing my posts.

My goals for next year is to add appropriate advertising and to begin archiving posts that are no longer relevant. By appropriate advertising, I want to avoid ads that say, "New Rule In Cincinnati Leaves Residents Furious." There is no such new rule. Clicking on the ad produces this heading and subheading: "Why Did No One Tell Drivers with No Tickets in 3 Years About This?" and "Recent studies indicate that drivers are paying too much for car insurance." If you don't know already that you can shop around for car insurance, you must be living in a cave. Of course, the company running the ad does not actually sell car insurance. They refer people to real car insurance companies, collecting fees in the process. I would prefer not having ads like this on my blog. We shall see.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

He's not a hero to me

Pumping three bullets into a man armed with a knife, killing him, doesn't make Officer Horujko a hero to me. Getting him to surrender without causing further casualties and without shooting him would make Officer Horujko a hero. I hope there is a full investigation of this shooting.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Donald Trump won't deport anyone immediately

Donald Trump is not going to deport anyone "immediately." Before someone can be deported, they are entitled to a court hearing. However, there is currently a backlog of 500,000 cases. Maybe Trump should work on increasing the number of judges working on these cases.

He is also choosing to ignore that Barack Obama has deported more people than any other President, including many of the criminals that Donald thinks are still here.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Apple iPhone iOS 9 bugs, discrepancies and desired features

Note: I have updated this post for the last time. I am currently using iOS 10.3.3 and will not update this any more with iOS 11. I'm surprised and disappointed that many of these problems have persisted since iOS 5. Nobody seems to care about my "desired features."

I switched to an Apple iPhone when the 4S was the first iPhone available from Verizon Wireless. I have now replaced the iPhone 4S with an iPhone 6. I have noted some bugs in the phone, some discrepancies in the user interface and I have some desired features.

The iPhone 4S came with iOS 5. My current iPhone 6 is running iOS 9.3.5. After I publish this post, I will upgrade to iOS 10 and retest all the bugs and discrepancies and look for the desired features and update this post if there are changes. Some of these may be fixed already as some of them are hard to test with iOS 9. Update: I have now installed iOS 10.3.3 and will be checking each bug, discrepancy and desired features for improvements.

Many of these bugs and discrepancies go back to iOS 5. I don't understand why they don't get fixed. I can't be the only one out of millions of users who has noticed these problems.

I'm only discussing applications and the keyboard provided by Apple as part of iOS.

Phone and Contacts (including Voice Mail)
When a contact is marked as "Blocked" and you add a phone number to that contact, the added phone number will not be blocked. You must unblock and block the contact again to begin blocking the added phone number. iOS 10.3.3: Still a bug.

The "1" digit on the phone keypad is tricky. I've had cases where I needed to dial the "1" but was unable to do so. Many times, the screen just flashes. When I have a conference call and the authorization code includes a "1", I set it up in Contacts so I can dial the number from Contacts and avoid having to try to dial the "1". This seems to have improved and it may be finally fixed. October 10: I just received a call supposedly from Google and needed to press "1" to confirm my listing. However, the phone would not let me press "1" until after the caller hung up. Each time I pressed the "1" key, the phone flashed a black screen for a second, implying that pressing the "1" key was not permitted. It's just the "1" key I have problems with; all the other keys work fine. The other day, I needed to key in an account number with a "1" in it; I could not get the "1" to work.

Update: The other day, I was unable to answer a call because the phone wouldn't allow me to swipe to answer. As there is no other means to answer a call, I had to let it go into voicemail.

If a call comes in as "No Caller ID" or "Unknown Caller" you can't set up a contact for it and mark it as blocked. Your phone will ring every time (unless you have turned the ringer off for all calls).

iOS 10 has added two bugs: When blocking or unblocking a contact, the Contacts app will either lock up or sometimes respond slowly (10 to 15 seconds). Since I have crash reporting turned on, I expect Apple will fix this with the next release. iOS 10.3.3: I believe this has been fixed.

The second bug: On the notification screen, it will show you missed calls. Then it will say, "Swipe for more information." Swiping does not give you more information, it calls the person back. That's not what I want to do.

If your voice mail is 100% full, the app won't show you this until you go into voice mail.

When playing a voice mail message, the pause does not work. The screen flashes black and the message continues playing. iOS 10.1.1: Fixed.

Desired feature: When a call comes in and on the list of recent calls, the name and type of call shows up. I would rather have the name and company name show up. Sometimes, I don't remember what company a person is associated with. iOS 10.3.3: No change.

Desired feature: If I'm in an app when the phone rings, I can accept or decline the call. I want to be able to do this when I'm on the home screen. I can mute the ringer, but I can't decline the call. If I put my phone back in my pants pocket, I run the risk of accidentally answering the call. iOS 10.3.3: No change.

The Weather app is atrocious and I'm surprised that The Weather Channel allows its logo to be included. It's especially interesting to watch the app update the forecast to the actual as you go through the day. For example, at 10 a.m., it might say the temperature is 60º at 10 a.m. but that it will be 75º at 11 a.m. No it won't. 

Most days, the high temperature for the day is higher than the highest hourly temperature. See picture to right; the high for the day is 88 degrees but that high is never reached during the day. You may argue that the high is still accurate, but just not at the top of the hour. I still consider it a bug. iOS 10.3.3: Not fixed.

The Weather app requires that you turn on location tracking even when the app isn't being used. Why are you spying on me and using up my battery?

Desired feature: Include the humidity with the temperature. Especially in the summer in Ohio, the humidity can have a major influence on the perceived temperature.

The prediction capability of the keyboard is helpful yet infuriating. I don't like it when it takes perfectly valid words and changes them into invalid words. I thought it learned my vocabulary but I seem to be mistaken as I have to correct it over and over again for some words, especially slang.

When I type "a.m." or "U.S.", the keyboard turns capitalization on after the period even though I the next letter is not capitalized 90% of the time.  Example: "I will leave at 4:45 p.m. and head home." The "a" on "and" should not be capitalized but it will try to capitalize it. It should monitor my typing and turn the capitalization on only when I'm at the end of a sentence. 10.3.3: I have turned capitalization assistance off. It was just wrong too many times.

Desired feature: If I type a number, then a space, the keyboard returns to showing letters instead of numbers. I want it to stay with numbers.

When I see a full message through the Notification Center or just from the list of messages, the unread message indicator is not cleared. I have to go into the actual message to clear the indicator even though I have already read it. This is especially annoying when the message is "K". iOS 10.3.3: Not fixed but worse now because I often am able to read the full message before I unlock the phone.

Sending a message with a picture is weird. If I click on the camera icon first, I can now add a message to the picture (this was added at some point in iOS 9). If I enter the message before clicking on the camera icon, the message will not be sent with the picture.

General User Interface
The icon used to add an item to a list of items is not consistent. The Stocks, ContactsWorld Clock and Calendar apps uses a + sign, which is what I would expect. However, Notes and Messages use a box with a pencil instead. The Weather app uses a + in a circle to add a location.

The search box is normally shown on apps that have a search capability, such as Safari. However, Notes hides the search box until you scroll. It doesn't take up much space, so it should always appear. iOS 10: It's still a bit hidden but easy to find. I consider this fixed.

I was watching Apple stock one day when the price changed dramatically. I noticed that the dividend yield was not recalculated as the price changed. iOS 10.3.3: Not fixed.

App Store
Recently, when I went into my Facebook review to update it, the review was completely gone. I will go through and back up my reviews after this. iOS 10.3.3

On September 12, 2017, the update history in the App Store was wiped out. It's going to be a moot point soon as the history only retains the last update. But still, I'm surprised that that happened. iOS 10.3.3

Desired feature: There needs to be an API that an app can use to determine if I've written a review for the app. Some apps ask me to write a review when I have already done so. I find this annoying. iOS 10.3.3: No change.

Desired feature: When I look at purchased apps, they seem to be listed by the most recently installed to the earliest installed. I would also like a list in alphabetic order so that I can find a desired app quicker. iOS 10.3.3: No change.

Desired feature: When I open the App Store, it always opens to the Featured screen. I would prefer that it open to the last screen that I was on (almost always the Updates screen) or allow me to choose which screen it should open to. The Featured screen has heavy graphics and typically takes a bit to display. iOS 10.3.3: No change.

Desired feature: Unlike the Chrome browser for the iPhone, you can't search on a page for a word or phrase. iOS 10.3.3: Not fixed.

That sums it up. Feel free to use the comments for corrections or additions.

Updated October 3: Added screen shot of Weather app and iOS 10 comments.

Updated October 5: Added problems with Contacts and Voice Mail. Added a desired feature to the App Store about the screen the app opens to.

Updated October 10: Added to discussion about pressing "1".

Updated October 20: Added a second new bug to the Phone and Contacts (including Voice Mail) section for iOS 10.

Updated November 4: The voice mail pause has been fixed.

Updated December 6: Added note that I was not able to answer a call.

Final update September 26, 2017 before iOS 11.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Smartphone videos are causing rising racial tensions

I'm seeing comments blaming President Barack Obama for rising racial tensions. This is all wrong. It's the smartphone with its portable video camera and social media that has made the difference.

I don't think racial problems and the resulting discord are any worse than they were 10 years ago. I think, due to all the video cameras in people's hands, that racial situations are more visible with the ugliness of police brutality out there for all to see.

Ultimately, this is a good thing because maybe we can end racism, homophobia, harassment of immigrants and other evils once and for all.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Don't discriminate against anyone!

Last Friday, I saw a Facebook post that began, "I noticed a transgender man heading for the dressing room in the women’s clothing store I was shopping at." Correct me if I'm wrong, but most people wouldn't know a transgender person vs. a cisgender person unless someone personally knew the person and told them. How would this "transgender man" look any different than any of the other women in the store (assuming she really means transgender and not cross-dressing)?

Don't believe me? Watch two movies, "Victor, Victoria" and "Tootsie," and you'll see what I mean. Yes, we're not talking about actual transgender people in these movies, but it's easy for me to see how the same person could look both male and female, based on clothing, makeup and hair style.

This is no different than lesbian, gay and bisexual people: Most people have no idea looking at a person what their sexual orientation is. Yes, some people have a "gaydar," but most people don't.

So when you try to discriminate against an LGBTQ person, you may be accidentally discriminating against someone who's completely straight. So don't discriminate, take people as they present themselves, and there won't be a problem.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Watson on Jeopardy!: The end of the Microsoft/Intel computer era

On this day five years ago, IBM's Watson competed against Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings on the game show Jeopardy!, winning the competition. (The actual competition happened January 14, 2011 with the first broadcast of the two episodes on February 14 and 15, 2011.)

To me, this event marked the Microsoft/Intel computer era that we have been living in for so long and the start of the Watson era, which continues today. To my knowledge, Watson's software and hardware does not contain much, if any, Microsoft code or Intel processors.

The Microsoft/Intel computer era was an age where cheap software running on cheap hardware was king. It was an era where Version 1.0 was garbage and everyone waited until at least Version 1.1 came out. It was an era where Intel microprocessors would take arbitrary text and execute it as a program (allowing over 30 million viruses and other malware to date).

Sadly, other companies fell into this trap of bad software with bad security. Adobe Systems is a leading example of this. In the Watson era, Adobe's Flash is near the end of its life.

I graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Computer Science (College of Engineering) in 1976. Some of the best practices of that time were simply ignored by Microsoft and Intel and have only been rediscovered in this decade, some 40 years later. What if the cars of today were designed and built with the technology of the 1970s? Air bags and antilock brakes would not be included. People would be furious! But many business people didn't want to pay for good-quality hardware and software over the last 40 years, so they bought technology that was poorly designed even for the 1970s.

What is different about the Watson era of computing? IBM's Power Systems servers, like the ones running Watson, running the IBM i Operating System have multiple parity bits (including error-correcting memory) and other checks to prevent memory errors and even adder errors from corrupting the operating system, user programs or data. These processors and operating system require that programs be compiled by a compiler and will not run arbitrary text as a program. I know of no viruses or worms that run on IBM Power Systems (with the caveat that there may be malware that affects the two other operating systems that run on IBM Power, AIX and Linux). Ironically, many of IBM Power Systems do run antivirus software, but not as much for themselves: They do it to detect viruses affecting Microsoft/Intel systems which have been uploaded into their file systems by infected computers (how ironic)!

The IBM i Operating System, including its predecessors going back to 1979 (longer than any Windows Server has existed), have always more robust than Windows Server. Today they can manage multiple workloads in multiple virtual machines without conflict or crashing and dependable resource allocation. It's not unusual to have a 10-year-old Power Systems server that has never crashed. There have been cases where one IBM Power Systems server has replaced over 100 Windows and Linux servers. There are companies that have 15,000 active users working on one Power Systems server with sub-second response time.

What did the end of the Microsoft/Intel computer era and the start of the Watson era five years ago mean for the typical computer person? For many, nothing. Companies will still buy cheap: They can buy Windows 2012 R2 running on a server with an Intel processor for less than $1,000. They will still pay lots of money to load this system up with antivirus software, which is unlikely to block zero-day vulnerabilities, and pay technicians to keep this system running and to restart it when it crashes. They will continue taking the server down to install monthly patches from Microsoft. If they need another function, they will buy another server, and another, and another... I know a company that buys a skid of servers with Intel processors (at least 20 servers) whenever they have a planned power outage to replace the servers that will not boot up when the power comes back.

But there's another group of companies out there which understand the false economy of the Microsoft/Intel world. These companies will spend the money for better servers and operating systems, without the need for antivirus software for their operating system, and end up with better results with a lower cost of ownership. And many good computer people will work for these companies, because they don't want to deal with things keeping them from writing dependable programs which can run 24/7 without having to deal with crashes and glitches.

Notes: I have donated $10 in both 2015 and 2014 to Wikipedia for its operations. Have you donated?
This is cross-posted on my company blog at Netburg Services.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Shiites and Sunnis: Mutually assured destruction?

Remember Eugene Fields' poem of the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat (actual name: The Duel)? If you haven't, spoiler alert!

We hear this talk about Muslims not liking non-believers. But, to me, it seems that the biggest enemy of the Shiite Muslims are the Sunni Muslims and vice versa. When they're all done killing each other, with the United States killing Muslims of all persuasions, will there be any Muslims left? Can't they all just get along? (Apologies to the late Rodney King.)

(Prompted by Saudi Arabia executing Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. The things that al-Nimr did that Saudi Arabia objected to sound like they would be perfectly legal in the United States.)