UPDATE on 02/07/2020 at 6:38pm PST
Looks like Google is adamant that they do NOT track this way: Google denies Chrome tracking allegation, explains use of ‘X-Client-Data’

As I take steps to extract myself from Google (and others) ubiquitous tracking, I’ve been paying attention to anything related to Google’s Chrome browser. In my news feed yesterday, I came across this threaded discussion in Hacker News:  Google tracks individual users per Chrome installation ID.

I was stunned to learn that every install of Chrome generates a unique ID just for you and it’s possible that Google is using this install ID to track us. As soon as you log in to any Google account with that new installation of Chrome, it’s also likely linked directly to your individual Google profile.

Not only is this completely “evil” on Google’s part if true and they’re using this ID for browser fingerprinting, but it also means it is a complete violation of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR) and would result in massive fines for the company.

In order to get a deeper sense of what was going on, I went out and did a bunch of online searching (using my now preferred search engine, DuckDuckGo, of course). There are dozens of developer and tech site articles and posts that helped me fully understand what is going on, and why developers (and those of us who care about security and privacy) are so upset, concerned, and making a huge fuss to get an answer out of Google.

From LongRoom News:

On Tuesday, Arnaud Granal, a software developer involved with a Chromium-based browser called Kiwi, challenged a Google engineer in a GitHub Issues post about the privacy implications of request header data that gets transmitted by Chrome. Granal called it a unique identifier and suggesting it can be used, by Google at least, for tracking people across the web.”

Even the adblocker software company, Magic Lasso, shared this insight on their blog about the controversy and explained the problem and how this potential tracking occurs:

Each and every install of Chrome, since version 54, have generated a unique ID. Depending upon which settings you configure, the unique ID may be longer or shorter.

Irrespective, when used in combination with other configuration features, Google now generates and retains a unique ID in each Chrome installation. The ID represents your particular Chrome install, and as soon as you log into any Google account, is likely also linked directly to your individual Google profile.

The evil next step is that this unique ID is then sent (in the “x-client-data” field of a Chrome web request) to Google every time the browser accesses a Google web property. This ID is not sent to any non-Google web requests; thereby restricting the tracking capability to Google itself.”

Google needs to address this and quickly. Just about every developer I know has abandoned Chrome and are using Firefox exclusively (as am I).

The Transportation Research Center at Argonne National Laboratory recently published this U.S. Plug-in Electric Vehicle Sales by Model analysis. It turns out the Honda Clarity PHEV is not selling well at all.

Introduced in the fall of 2017, the Honda Clarity PHEV sales for that year were only 903 vehicles. In 2018, sales leapt to 18,602 and, as of the end of 2019, have fallen back to 10,728.

Perhaps radically slowing sales are due to people have so many issues with the car and telling anyone who will listen not to buy it. Or maybe it's because cars like the Tesla Model 3 (with 50% of the EV market as of now) has turned out to be the smarter investment. Or perhaps it's because Honda has pulled back sales to California only, and will likely soon discontinue the car.

Thought you'd enjoy seeing this spreadsheet of sales, by model, in order of market introduction:

To view more details, notes, and acronyms, please download the Excel spreadsheet.

Below are two screenshots of the Excel spreadsheet I downloaded and then highlighted the Honda Clarity Plugin sales in red:

  • The left one is sorted by sales from model introduction.
  • The right one is sorted by total sales. Note that the Tesla Model 3 was shipping at the same time the Honda Clarity was in 2017.

Click on either of them to see a larger view:

Total U.S. PEV Sales since Model Introduction
Total U.S. PEV Sales Overall

It’s been years since I’ve gone to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, so had considered doing so this year as I could grab a cheap airfare or would likely just drive there as I’m only 4.5 hours away! With other commitments I found myself unable to go to CES, so this morning I went on the hunt for good videos from the show, and came across ones from CNET at their dedicated CES website.

As much as I was delighted to find that site and it is filled with excellent videos from the tens of thousands of products at CES, I must admit that I’ve got a love-hate relationship with CNET though, even though I fully realize they (like most media companies) are struggling to find the sweet-spot on making money vs. pissing off their visitors to the point they’ll stop visiting:

  • Their websites are a nightmare of popups, snarly ads, and visual noise which are especially bad when reading on my iPad.
  • For years their “CNET Downloads” site saw near-malware installation on PCs and Macs and I spent many hours cleaning (or helping clean) people’s systems who inadvertently trusted them.

So even though their dedicated CES website is organized very well and it’s easy to find specifically what might interest you, instead of the website you might want to go to CNET TV channel on YouTube instead.

If you don’t want to go poke around their site, embedded below is their “Best of CES 2020” recap you’ll likely find interesting:

Thought I’d be helpful since the holidays are approaching quickly. Enjoy this compilation of Saturday Night Live holiday skits with several I’d never seen before:

In January of 1993, I was attending the MacWorld expo in San Francisco. At a furious pace I was hustling down a hallway to get in to a ballroom presentation when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a magazine that looked pretty dang cool. It was the WIRED Premiere publication (issue 1.1) and I stopped dead in my tracks and picked one up.

Quickly leafing through it I instantly knew I’d found exactly the right publication for everything I was doing and thinking as it pertained to the future of technology! Ripping out the subscription card I immediately filled it out to subscribe.

I wish I could convey to you what a big deal this magazine was when it appeared, and how profoundly it covered the big ideas and the overall zeitgeist of that era which birthed the commercial internet, companies like Google and Amazon, and tapped in to the explosion of tech and its changes on the world.

The constant (and sometimes jarring) design, colors and layout choices were often disconcerting, but always pushed-the-envelope in keeping with what they were covering: emerging, disruptive and futuristic tech.

Looking back on that first issue now is also a bit amusing — and I wish I could link to a live copy online but cannot find one — but there is one advertisement I found particularly delightful from Apple, proudly touting the ability to fax from the Powerbook 170 which I just so happened to own at that moment:

Click image for a larger view
The third ad from the front of the magazine was this one from Apple.
Note that the “killer app” for use of this Powerbook 170 is “Fax Transmittal”.

For at least 15 years, Wired magazine was my tech-bible. I devoured each issue and learned a lot along the way, and have used the Wired iPad app to download and read each issue. Unfortunately there is so much tech writing online now, the magazine has become less relevant (dare I say “boring”?) and I reluctantly just cancelled my subscription which will expire with the February 2020 issue.

SOME WIRED TIDBITS

Here are some items you may find of interest:

  • The Internet Archive has TechNation “internet radio show” (the term ‘podcast’ was not yet invented) and you can listen to Dr. Moria Gunn interview the founders of Wired magazine, Jane Metcalfe and Louis Rosetto, and it is very enlightening (This part of the show starts at 32:18). They discuss how “Wired” is different from its predecessors, addressing the complete societal impact of technology and its latest breakthroughs. Other topics include the phenomenal success of “Wired”’s premier issue and why the BBC is “wired” while National Public Radio is “tired.”
  • Lastly, here is the Wired Magazine Promo Reel from the lead-up to the premiere issue that I found at the Internet Archive (which, by the way, I have always found to be THE best resource for anything digitally significant from history):

UPDATE November 18, 2019
Since the dealership is closed on Sunday, I waited until this morning to call for a jump-start. The tow-truck driver tested the 12V battery and it was down to 4%! After jump-starting the car, the display was going crazy with errors and all idiot lights on, so I asked the driver to tow the car to the dealership…I don’t trust that I’d make it there.

Today is Saturday, November 16, 2019 and my wife, son and I were going to take off for a family luncheon event. I went in to the garage to move the Honda Clarity so they could climb in easily, and I was stunned to discover…

…that for THE FOURTH TIME SINCE JUNE the Clarity would NOT START!

The dealer, Rancho Santa Margarita Honda, has had the car for a total of 15 days at their facility since I purchased it, they’ve gone through the car at length, and cannot determine what’s wrong.

After the last time it didn’t start at the end of October, the Service Drive Manager, Doug Jezowski, promised me he’d contact Honda and have a field service engineer (FSE) come out to examine the car. I dropped it off on Tuesday, November 5th so they could perform the 10,000 mile service a bit early, and so the FSE would have time to do his magic diagnosis.

After having the car for four days, Doug called me on Saturday the 9th to tell me that “the FSE can’t come out just yet and it might be another two weeks or so” and that I could come over and pick up the car.

To say I am filled with rage is an understatement!!!!!!

I don’t trust the car. Can’t count on it starting or, after this happened three days after I bought the car,  my wife won’t drive it and I’m leery of the car and its performance. But the car not starting is a fucking joke for a car that retails for nearly $38,000.

Here is what happened each time my car won’t start:

 

Lemon Law Attorneys

On Monday I’m going to pull together all paperwork and formally engage with a Los Angeles law firm that specializes in California lemon law. At this point I just want Honda to buy the car back since they do not seem to give a shit about whether or not they fix the car.

Other Honda Clarity Complaints

Here are others having the same issues:

My Own Fault for Trusting Honda

Then there’s this old clip from the movie Animal House which sums up how I’m feeling … and identifying with Flounder as fraternity rush chairman, “Otter” (played by Tim Matheson), puts his arm around him and says this:

As family and friends have asked me again and again about what’s up with my Honda Clarity, I thought I’d do yet another an update.

Last Friday afternoon I hopped in to my car to run errands after not having driven the car for two days (I’m heads-down on a project so didn’t go anywhere). Pushing the Power On button did … nothing. “Oh shit!” I thought, “the Clarity is dead again!

So for the second time in the month of September, I contacted Honda Roadside Assistance and they dispatched a tow truck to give me a jump. As it was nearly 5pm the dealer, Rancho Santa Margarita Honda, couldn’t see the car until Monday. It is now Tuesday afternoon and they need to order a part (the “battery charge monitoring system”) and will keep the vehicle until Wednesday.

This is getting ridiculous. My wife won’t drive the car after our first incident, and now I don’t trust the car being able to start if it sits for more than a day. Also, my confidence in the dealership is low, as-is my belief in American Honda doing the right thing and fixing this car.

I’m doing three things to go forward:

  1. Working with Honda Customer Support who has assigned a Regional Case Manager so we’ll see if that individual can finally be effective and take some action.
  2. Contacted Tesla to see what they’d give me for a trade-in on the Clarity for a Model 3 Long Range.
  3. Contacted the Ana Brown, Customer Relations Manager at American Honda Motor Company, Inc.

So we’ll see what happens next.

 

iPhone 11 Pro Max and Sony RX100 VII

Admittedly I’m a technology snob. I’ve always purchased relatively good DSLR cameras, high end computers and devices, excellent microphones and sound editing gear, and have tried to find the sweet-spot of best quality vs. price.

When it comes to cameras, however, I’m always torn about taking a bag with the camera, two lenses, and a tripod with me to shoot photos. It’s too much bother and fuss, even though the images I can capture are outstanding!

A few years ago we went, as a family, to Italy. I wanted to enjoy the trip and knew that it would be hot and I would not want to carry a big bag with lenses, or even a single, big DSLR camera with one “walking around lens,” an 18-200mm one that would cover what I’d likely need on our trip.

Instead I purchased the best small travel camera on the market at the time (and arguably still the best travel camera as Sony just released version 7), the Sony RX100 M2. While the “reach” of this camera’s lense was not what I wanted, the photo quality was unbelievably good and I got some good photos on the trip.

So with upcoming trips in 2020 — and no desire to carry my big Nikon on any of them — I decided to purchase the Sony RX100 M7 which now does have a better lense, microphone input and other great features. I even had it in my Amazon cart with all of its accessories and the cart total was close to $2,200.

THE IPHONE 11 PRO MAX
Then I watched the Apple September 2019 keynote where the new iPhone 11 series was introduced and I made my decision: I would preorder the iPhone 11 Pro Max with 512GB of storage and NOT buy the Sony RX100M7.

Wait just a dang second Borsch … what!?!

For quite some time I’ve been watching the acceleration of computational photography and have realized we are at (or very close to) the tipping point where smartphones will supplant every kind of photo capture device except for truly high-end, professional cameras.

In fact, check out this paper and the video on this page about 3D rendering and creating a “Ken Burns effect” from *a single image* as it shows what’s possible computationally with photography.

One could argue we are already there, what with camera company sales down trending dramatically, according to a brilliant tech analyst and writer Om Malik. Om wrote this post about the down trending of camera sales and included this graph:

One of Om’s reasons for this decline is the acceleration in smartphone sales and the “good enough” quality of images shot on these devices. While I recoil at the thought of millions of muddy, not sharp, bad color photos being shot by hundreds of millions of us around the world, this is the future of photography whether we “prosumers” or “pros” want it or not.

Having heard this (possibly apocryphal) response by a professional photographer to a novice who had asked, “What’s the best camera I should buy?” and the pro’s response was, “The one you have with you” have made me realize how many times I’ve been somewhere when a great photo opportunity has presented itself.

Yes, this is a glib response to a legitimate question, but one thing is clear: If you don’t have your camera with you, you are unable to take any kind of photo and almost all of us have our smartphones with us all the time. I know I do.

So when I saw the computational photography capability of the new iPhone 11 Pro Max, I knew that I’d have to buy it and not buy the Sony RX100 M7.

By the way, I still often go out with my sole intention of taking photographs and schlep all of my gear with me. But now that I have tripods and a gimbal for my iPhone (and have had them for some time), now that I will be able to take better quality photographs I’ll use these accessories even more.

Food for thought…

Thought I’d write a quick update as a full post, rather than update yesterday’s post here.

Since the battery was dead in my Clarity so I couldn’t start the car, I called Honda Roadside Assistance. The tow truck driver did jump the car and it started, but there was something obviously wrong so I had the car towed to my dealer, Rancho Santa Margarita Honda, on Tuesday in the early afternoon.

Finally, after TWO DAYS of repeated calling and talking to several of the service advisors to find out what was going on with my car (there were seemingly multiple advisors on my car and no one returned my phone calls promptly or had answers) I picked up the car late yesterday after calling-in to talk to the general manager of the store to get some action.

The punchline? Is the car fixed? I have no idea but suspect it is not. Why? Because there is NO explanation as to why the battery was completely dead. Or why the check-engine light was on four times in July and August with the same error codes. Forget about any explanation on all the other issues I’ve had like this dangerous one after only a few days with the car.

The fix? Basically the service tech “reset” the car by clearing the codes, reset the steering and braking sensor system, but apparently did not identify any root problems with the control systems in the car. There were no software updates required (or performed) and apparently no aberrations or issues uncovered, even though there were several error codes and all of them show that there is some issue with the car’s internal communications system (likely bugs in the software and/or problems in the communication bus within the car itself):

In my printed receipt, here is what they gave me showing what they found and the action they took to “fix” my problems:

After reading this Inside EV forum thread about others with goofy Clarity electronic issues, my level of confidence in the Clarity is at an all-time low, after only three months with the car and 4,600 miles.

I’m going to give it two weeks and, if there are continued problems, I’ll ask Honda to buy back the car or I’ll sell it on the secondary market (or likely trade it in on a Tesla Model 3).

To be continued…