Monday, September 26, 2016

Apple is planning to eliminate many iOS parental controls over next year?

This sound like quite bad if true (emphases mine) …

SimpleMDM | iOS 10 MDM Enhancements To Expect

… Apple plans to deprecate some non-supervised restrictions at some point, though not immediately, in the iOS 10 series. The restrictions slated for deprecation are:

Disable App installation and removal
Disable FaceTime
Disable Siri
Disable Safari
Disable iTunes
Prohibit explicit content
Disable iCloud documents and data
Disable multiplayer gaming
Disable adding GameCenter friends

These restrictions will become available only for supervised devices.

The result would be to make iOS devices like Android devices — restrictions require a mobile device management solution (schools and businesses, also packaged for home use).

The only way this could be a net positive for parents (and those who care for special needs and vulnerable adults) would be if Apple were to add supervision capabilities to iCloud.

I’m going to look for more information on this.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Maciej's Pinboard is a contender for longest lived microblog platform.

Twitter is racing to the grave. Google social is almost as forgotten as Apple’s flails.

Maciej CegÅ‚owski's Pinboard though, that continues.

Title, Link, Comment, Tag — all editable forever. RSS everywhere. No comments (no trolls), no images, no ads. Cash supported - $11 a year [1]. No obvious string length limit. Common API and bookmarklet support. XML, JSON, and Netscape Bookmark export formats and API for programmatic transfer. Minimalistic mobile support because that's for apps.

Almost a perfect microblog foundation — save that it requires a unique link for each post. [2]

Privately held by a brilliant iconoclast (eccentric?) with atypical values. Maciej has a regular cash stream, seems uninterested in further growth, does no marketing, and his ongoing costs decrease as storage and processing costs fall. He is unlikely to sell or terminate prematurely. Pinboard’s longevity is largely bounded by the health of a male born in 1976 who enjoys travel, is probably a non-smoker, and knows the bus will be fine.  Another 30 years seems achievable. Even Wordpress is unlikely to last that long.

Pinboard may become the world’s longest lived microblog platform.

- fn -

[1] I had to go incognito mode to find pricing. Turns out I paid when he had some kind of lifetime fee. A yearly fee is better.

[2] Pinboard has (editable) Notes which have Title, tags, and description (markdown formatted text). They are a handy way to create a text string with URL and RSS feed, but their native display omits the description portion and I don’t know of any app support ( does not show Notes). I also don’t know if there’s API support for Notes or how export works. Notes are basically incomplete, but could be extended to create a complete (spartan) microblog framework. One could create a root “Note” and then, using Pinner, author posts as linked-lists of bookmark referencing prior bookmark … (hence unique url for each) …

Sunday, September 18, 2016

On being a non-contender in a regional mountain bike race

I’m not a competitive athlete, but over the past 3 years I’ve been doing a lot of exercise. This is relatively new for me. I’ve always been active but I scaled up the exercise when I went from middle-aged to old. (Whatever the dictionary may say, 55+ is different from 50- for most of us.)

Yesterday I played at being a competitive athlete. It was the first official race I’ve competed in since I was a member of short-live swim team [1]. I’d been in timed events previously, but they were either not official races or I was keeping a slow child company. This time it was the real thing — a regional mountain biking race known as the Chequamagon Fat Tire Festival

Since then I’ve been ruminating about the race more than I expected. Enough rumination that I’m compelled to write it out.

There are two distances at this race, the 40 mile and the 16 mile. Neither is technically demanding; the 16 has a slightly higher technical and single track percentage. Although the trails aren’t technical it would be hard to do the race without a fat tire; the often steep trails are grassy, sandy and usually muddy. There are minimal prizes but the race still attracts some amazing regional athletes. Even the 16 has some elite riders who for various reasons didn’t want to do the 40 or couldn’t get a slot. 

I started near the front of wave (gate) 6 for the 16 mile race, the last and largest wave. I finished at 1:29:46, 42 of 85 in the 55-59 men’s group [3]. That means next year I’d start in wave 5.

I did some things right. I switched my obsolete 26” [2] Cannondale Team Scalpel from 2.1” dry surface XC tires to 2.2” climbing tires. I went easy on my CrossFit class the day before the ride. I’d done a good amount of trail riding with skilled people so I was much better on downhills and shifting than most of my cohort. I carried and used “goo”, small pouches of high glucose paste. My bike was in good mechanical shape. Some recent straight leg raise work seemed to help my arthritic knees. [4]

I make some mistakes. I should have skipped CrossFit for a week before the ride — my inner quads started out sore and sluggish and improved slowly. I wore a long sleeved undershirt because the start was cold and drizzly — I had to stop and remove it. I should have brought a waterproof heavy warmup jacket and put it in the “checked post-race” bag just before the bike-ready deadline [6]. I forgot to take the goo 5 minutes before start — I was amazed how well it worked during the race. I didn’t drink as much as I thought I had, that would have been a problem in a longer race. I carried a hydration pack but for this distance I might have been better with water bottles. I didn’t have a race plan or a timer/speedometer so it was hard to adjust my effort. I didn’t realize there’d be no AT&T coverage; I could have left my phone behind [7]. I also didn’t train for the race, but that was by choice [5].

When I was done I felt like I’d had a big CrossFit workout — the kind of thing I do every 1-2 weeks. I’ll clearly never be a contender — I don’t have the genetics. It was fun though. 

Were I to repeat the 16 next year, starting in wave 5 with fewer mistakes, some race planning, and a watch (or speedometer), I think I could get to wave 4 (3% faster). To get to wave 3 (13% faster) I’d definitely need to train. I suspect wave 3 would be my limit. 

I’m more likely to try the 40 — if my knees allowed. I would want to train though. 

This business of competing but not contending isn’t so different from everyday life …

 - fn -

[1] At a High School that didn’t have swim team practices. It did not go well.

[2] Obsolete because after decades of using 26” wheels inherited from trick bikes of the 70s manufacturers realized that bigger wheels were faster. The transition happened around 2010; new materials and designs enabled stronger wheels and bigger profit margins. Thanks to information asymmetry in 2014 I purchased a lovely but obsolete 2010 racing machine that has been both educational and costly. On this particular race however my bike wasn’t in any way a limiting factor; I didn’t spin out on climbs.

The 29” transition was followed by a 27.5” option for shorter riders and the fat bike option. Lots of real tech improvement has created an explosion of good bikes. Which means a crash is sure to come… 

[3] I was 376/702 for all men, 445/946 overall. Pretty much the median rider — at my level there’s not as much drop off with age as one might think. The winning time as 51:53 —  an average of 18 mph for 16 miles. The winner of the 40 mile race averaged 19.2 mph for 40 miles. Different course profiles, but rain and timing meant the 40 had even more mud …

[4] Inherited slow-mo knee-hand-foot thing. I bought some cheap ankle weights and I do straight leg raises while sitting (work) and driving (commute, nobody around, cruise control, no obvious problems when I test braking response.) The only way to do something as boring as weighted leg raise.

[5] I didn’t want to give up my CrossFit (CFSP, yeah) time, and my mountain bike time is focused on being with #2 son who is even less athletic than I am.

[6] The post-race bag was a nice feature, it was transported to the finish were there were showers with bath gel post-race! Bag should hold a warmup jacket, a light but big backpack for carrying things (so don’t need to keep bag), a towel and wash cloth, shoes, clothing, etc.

[7] So weird to be in an AT&T coverage hole. I missed meeting up with a friend because we didn’t set up an old-school rendezvous point.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Americans like television commercials ... and other quick notes

I’ve eliminated every other possibility. The unlikely remnant is that Americans who watch television secretly like television commercials. Why else would my Samsung TV ship with a OTA (antenna input) USB record feature that’s disabled for the US market?

Yes, patents and legal annihilation, but if there were demand they would be overcome.

I miss my VCR.

In other news the best thing I ever bought my 94yo father is his LTE iPad. All it does is show family photos and enable our weekly FaceTime calls. He doesn’t do anything with it, an aide manages call answering and his nurses know to tap on the iCloud based slideshow. During the calls we talk, but I also do an iPhone narrated visit of home, office, mountain bike trail, etc. Gerbils, dog, bicycles, tools, whatever. Fifteen to twenty minutes once a week and he loves it.

Lastly, I’m still doing the exercise gig, despite being a zillion years old and enjoying a slow-mo familial auto-immune arthritis. Over 3 years now. You too can manage weight without harsh diets; you just need to do an insane amount of exercise.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Last days at the best of social networks: (aka Alpha, ADN).

My (@johngordon) services are beginning to fail - including PourOver. Post counts are gone. I still find some great discussions; the community will outlast the infrastructure.

I joined ADN/ Alpha in 8/2012, I’ve paid yearly since. I was a fan in 2013, still am. filled the void left when Google Reader Shares died. It was better than Posterous, Tumblr or Twitter.

Four years isn’t a bad run. I’m not sure Twitter will be here in four years. On the other hand, “the Well” is 31 years old now (and funded by memberships). The Well is private, so I’ve no idea how active it is, but that’s probably a record.

There’s no obvious replacement for on the horizon but I’m keeping my eyes open …

Trumpism: a transition function to the world of mass disability.

We know the shape of the socioeconomic future for the bottom 40% in the post globalization post AI  mass disability world.

But how do we get there? How does a culture transition from memes of independence and southern Christian-capitalist marketarianism to a world where government deeply biases the economy towards low-education employment?

There needs to be a transition function. A transform that is applied to a culture. With the anthropology perspective I’ve long sought Arlie Hochschild makes the case that Trump is, among other things, a transition function that erases Tea Party Marketarianism and embraces the heresy of government support (albeit for the “deserving”).

In a complex adaptive system we get the transition function we need rather than the one we want. No guarantee we survive it though.

See also:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

What socioeconomic support will look like in 20 years

This is what I think socioeconomic support will look like in 2040 based on cognitive [2] quintiles.

The bottom quintile (0-20%, non-voters) will have supported work environments and direct income subsidies; an improved version of what most [1] wealthy nations do for the 0-5% of adults currently considered cognitively “disabled” [1].

The second quintile (20-40%, Trump base if white) will have subsidized employment (direct or indirect).

The fifth quintile (80-100%) will live much as they do now.

I don’t know what happens to the 3rd and 4th quintile.

- fn -

[1] The US is currently “mainstreaming” the cognitively disabled into relatively unsupported work, a well intentioned and evidence-free project by (my) Team Liberal that is going to end in tears.

[2]  In US male euros (avoid racism/sexism effects) maps to academic achievement which tests learning, social skills, temperament and the like.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Massive phone spam -- from Weatherby Healthcare

Weatherby healthcare hires physicians for “locum tennis” roles. That’s filling in for someone on holiday and the like.

They’ve contracted with the phone spam company from hell. My Google Voice number is deluged with calls like this (email of transcription):

Good morning. This is Kevin with weatherby Health care. I saw you recently inquired online about some outpatient work. I wanted to touch base with you. I'm currently working with several urgent care and outpatient facilities not only in your area, but throughout the country as well that are looking for a position like yourself to provide temporary full time or sporadic shift coverage they offer a high flexibility in the schedule and competitive pay rates. Give me a call back today would love to give you some additional information and details about these opportunities and see how I can be a resource for you my direct line here is 954 300 77 1821 again. This is Kevin with weatherby Healthcare 954 370-7828 have a great day.

and like this:

is Mike Ruskin weatherby Health Care's primary Care team. Hope you're doing well. I was reaching out to you because I came across your information, and I have some new open a family medicine positions available in Minnesota wanted to see if you or any colleagues should have I might be available. Give me a call back when you get this message. Let me know 954-343-2142 again Mike ross again with weatherby 954-343-2142. Thanks so much. Have a great day. Bye.

I blocked several of the numbers, but their phone spam operation is rotating through a large set. Number blocking doesn’t work.

I’ve turned off text messaging notifications of calls on my GV number and notifications from the GV app and notifications of missed calls. So the only notification I get is now email. In gmail I set a filter for any email with the text “weatherby health” to send it to the trash.

We desperately need a robocall/phone spam solution.

Oh, and if you’re a physician — please don’t answer calls from Weatherby. If you’re Weatherby, you’ve made a disastrous choice of marketing services.

PS. If you’re Google — your Google Voice phone spam filtering needs work.

Friday, August 19, 2016

What a solution for phone spam will look like

The FCC wants a vast and unmanageable array of voice communications carriers to fix the robocall plague.

I’m here to tell you what will happen. It will work much the way email spam was managed in the 1990s. It will also be the end of our legacy voice communication system and, somewhere along the way, the Feds will mandate that Google and Apple support VOIP interoperability.

Yeah, email spam is managed. It’s true that 95% of my email volume is spam, but I don’t see it. Differential filtering based on the managed reputation of an authenticated sending service works. Push the spam management problem down the sending service, then vary filtering algorithms based on the reputation of the authenticated (PKI) sending service. If you still see large spam volumes or losing valuable email it’s because you’re using Apple as an email service provider. Don’t do that.

Here’s what I think will happen to enable differential filtering based on the managed reputation of the authenticated calling service. I’m sure insiders know this, but they aren’t talking. 

  • VOIP interoperability will be mandated. No more Apple-only FaceTime audio.
  • Services (AT&T, Verizon) that don’t authenticate or manage their customers are assigned poor baseline scores. Service that authenticate/manage customers (Apple) get high baseline scores.
  • Low score calls get sent to spam VOIP, we never see them. Medium score never ring through, they go automatically to transcription and we get transcription summary.
  • High score calls are eligible for ring through based on user device settings.
The carriers will fight like hell to preserve their domain, Apple will fight interoperability, Google will be fine.
PS. For now we have a home phone number that is purely message, the phone doesn’t ring. Google Voice would be even better. If I could set my iPhone to “Do Not Disturb” status strictly for voice calls I’d be fine. I rarely answer unrecognized and unscheduled calls.

See also

Crab Bucket

Terry Pratchett taught me about “crab bucket” in Unseen Academicals [1]. I don’t know if it’s a metaphor of his part of England, or if it’s unique to the Discworld.

… She reached down and picked a crab out of a bucket. As it came up it turned out that three more were hanging on to it…

… ‘Oh that’s crabs for you,’ said Verity … ‘Thick as planks the lot of them. That’s why you can keep them in a bucket without a lid. Any that tries to get out gets pulled back…’

Crab bucket, thought Glenda … That’s how it works. People from the Sisters disapproving when a girl takes the trolley bus … Practically everything me mum ever told me…

I did find a wikipedia entry for “crab mentality”, which led to a 1994 article

When teachers at Frank W. Ballou … talk about the crab bucket syndrome …

But the author doesn’t describe where the term comes from. It’s a useful concept; reminds me again how much we need to recreate anthropology.

[1] Written when Pratchett was well into his eventually terminal dementia syndrome, so while it’s very enjoyable for fans it’s not his best work.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Those moments when you feel the walls of reality fall away

I’m working through a tedious form that requires me to look up old information from dusty files. I step away to eat and locate some documents.

I then return to the form and open it.

And it’s been filled out.

My eyes bug out.

My jaw drops.

I’ve switched timelines. I have a brain tumor. I’m more demented than I thought.

Then I notice the date - February, 6 months ago. I’d filled the same form out for the same people before. Forgetting that is well within the scope of my congenitally poor and not improving memory.

By chance, on returning to my work, I took a different folder path and found the original document.

A perfectly reasonable explanation. At least that’s what I tell myself. In this timeline.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Creaks and clicks in geriatric bikes

I like a quiet bike as much as the next neurotic guy. So the creaks and clicks in my 20 yo Cannondale T400 have been distracting. Like dental surgery.

I finally clear up the problem. Except it was problems, the plural. Plural recurrent actually, which was why it took a year to get through them all, and why the damned bike seemed haunted. The big tubes on this aluminum touring bike didn't help, they sent the sounds everywhere. Danged hard to localize, as is often true.

I went through a lot of diagnostics and replacements, which sometimes seemed to work but they the creak-click would return — though maybe with a bit different sound. In the end of day these were the obvious culprits:

  • The seats: Swapping seats didn’t hep too much. Turned out I had swapped one mediocre old seat for another, both were stretched and creaky. I bought myself a nice (i.e. pricy) Fizik Antares R5 for my birthday and that creak went away.
  • The damned Shimano Shimano PD-A530 SPD Dual Platform pedals: WTFShimano?! The worst pedals every made. Five years ago I compared Shimano’s surprising quality to Apple’s. Since then both brands seem to have gone on a bender. One of my creak-clicks was a bad bearing in the first pair I owned. I bought a replacement and they were defective out of the box. I returned those under warranty and 10 months later that one started a creak-click. Hard to diagnose because the seat was creaking too, but in the end these pedals were 80% of the problem. I’m debating switching to Crank Brothers for all of my bikes. Shimano sells a Deore XT dual platform pedal in Europe, but they are hard to find here. I guess I could try those, but I’m loathe to send Shimano any more money.

These were things I replaced that probably didn’t contribute to the problem.

  • Seat post: For $25 I picked up a Nashbar replacement post that’s much nicer than my original single-bolt post. Didn’t make any difference but I wanted the better adjustment anyway.
  • Bottom bracket bearing unit: This was because I couldn’t believe it was the pedals clicking - again. Original was 20y old, so probably not a bad idea anyway, but didn’t make any difference.

Old bikes are like old men. It’s usually not a weird and exotic disease, it’s more likely two or three common diseases that just coexist.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

In defense of Donald Trump.

Trump is more racist and sexist than most 70+ yo white men. He is amoral and a con man. He may be a sociopath and probably has a narcissistic personality disorder. He is living proof that we need drug and dementia testing for presidential nominees. He is dim. Even by the standards of presidential contenders he is a nasty person.

Trump is the anti-Obama. Irrational, impulsive, thoughtless, intemperate … it’s a long list.

Trump makes paranoid H. Ross Perot look good. He exceeds the sum of the worst of GWB and Richard Nixon. I cannot think of a post WW II major party candidate this bad.

He may be worse that Cruz.

Yeah, America’s two leading contenders for the GOP nomination in 2016 were both awful. Two of the worst options in the past 100 years. That means something. It means despite our immense wealth and overall prosperity, despite our social and environmental progress, America is in trouble. Trump isn’t America’s festering abscess, he’s the fever. It’s not enough to treat the fever. We need to drain the abscess.

So where is the abscess? Why did the GOP drift further and further from reality? How did a political party that once supported science become anti-evolution and, most insanely, pro CO2 production?

I think Noah Smith has a part of the answer. The GOP had deep internal divisions and over the past 15 years the glue gave way.  The Party is broken, it has to reform.

Maybe that’s the whole story. I don’t think it is though. I think the abscess is the bottom 40% of white America. The great unwanted. The Left Behind. The new disabled. A cohort that has seen 40 years of shrinking opportunity. The economy has moved on; we don’t have vast office buildings full of thousands of people who move paper from cabinet A to cabinet B.

The odds are we’ll fix the Trump fever. Hell, even the Koch brothers favor Clinton. Obama is in the game and on top of his form. Women are starting to realize sexism is no more dead than racism.

But the abscess will still be there.

Sometimes fever is a friend. It tells you something bad is happening.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Life tip: photograph or photo-scan cards and special correspondence

A few years back, around the time the iPhone camera became very good at close photography, I began to photograph Father's Day cards and the like.

Later, when products like “Scanner” made it very easy to create PDFs that went to Google Drive, I began to phone-scan correspondence I wanted to keep.

I store the PDFs on my computer. The photos go into my photo library and become a part of our screensaver slideshows. Most of the originals go to recycling.

It would have been great to save more of my mother's correspondence this way, but that would take time travel. We didn't have the tech back then.

It's a good idea.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Double unders

People come to our gym and in two months they’re doing double unders.

I am not those people. After ****** of practice I do about 5 DU with 2 singles between each as I advance backwards across the floor. (I think this is “piking” and is related to using a longer than desired rope)

As someone who has failed at this for so long I’m well placed to recommend these tutorials….

I’d add …

  • If you’re practicing at home a glass of wine might not hurt
  • Try a metronome? (free on iPhone)
  • Chest has to stay high.
  • Warm up with 25 singles, then 10 slow high singles, then to the DUs.
  • I like long handles that amplify my poorly coordinated wrist snap
  • I think my speed rope is too long
  • I might try the beaded rope, they are supposed to help old people. (50 isn’t old …)

I’m on record saying if I ever get 10 consecutive DUs and a single bar muscle up I’ll get a tattoo. Presumably a very small one. I’m not worried.