I’m seeing so many people struggling with understanding why our nation (and other nations) are essentially in lockdown, especially when “more people die of flu” and “just a tiny few have been identified so far“.
Do you understand how quickly the growth of a virus can move throughout humans? The wheat and chess board problem below is a great illustration of how exponential growth works — similar to how a virus spreads in a human population — and why the governmental reaction is happening to restrict our movements at this point in time.
THE CALIFORNIA EXAMPLE
As of yesterday, all non-essential services in my current State of California are shut down and people are mandated to “shelter in place” so as not to communicate the novel coronavirus to others. But why is this happening now?
According to How overwhelmed is California’s health care system about to be? California may not even be able to handle the surge of COVID-19 cases with the current hospital beds:
“Projections by state health officials have indicated that California hospitals could handle a surge — right now, statewide — of about 10,000 patients. But given the potential for the virus to spread so far and so fast, some models project the state could need twice that, closer to 20,000 extra hospital beds.”
A few facts about the State of California and the death rate and the state’s ventilator need is in order:
- As of the end of 2018, the population of California is 39.56 million people.
- Approximately 3.4% of people 60+ years of age are dying from the virus. Others in multiple younger age ranges are ending up with lung damage and both require ventilators to survive or minimize that lung damage.
Yesterday California Governor Newsom made announcements and sent a letter to the Trump administration stating that 56 percent of the state’s population — 25.5 million people — is projected to be infected with the coronavirus over an eight-week period.
With California’s citizenry being left to move about as before the virus emerged, the projection is that within two months a whopping 25.5 million people would have COVID-19 and therefore 3.4% of 25.5 million = 850,000 dead (and an unknown number of younger people with lung damage).
THE WHEAT AND CHESS BOARD – A LINEAR VS. EXPONENTIAL GROWTH EXPLANATION
The reason for the lockdowns is that the deaths are caused by acute respiratory failure requiring ventilators for those afflicted. If there aren’t enough ventilators the death rate goes way up.
The spread of a virus, especially one as communicable as this novel coronavirus, is exponential…and that’s the problem. Left unchecked (i.e., we were NOT locked down) the virus would spread exponentially.
You maybe saying, “Steve…I still don’t get how or why it would grow so fast and why the government’s numbers of people infected are so high.” It’s not your fault if you don’t understand since your brain understands linear growth easily, but your brain is NOT good at understanding exponential growth.
Linear growth is always at the same rate, whereas exponential growth increases in speed over time. If the coronavirus spread at a linear growth rate the numbers are larger than most people can understand since they are so enormous.
To understand both types of growth, let’s look at a chess board which has 64 squares on it and is one where you place grains of wheat on each square.
1) Linear growth is always at the same rate, so this is easy when you put one grain of wheat each day for 64 days. At the end of 64 days you have 64 grains of wheat.
2) How many grains of wheat would be on the chessboard when you finish with exponential growth? Since exponential growth increases in speed over time — just like a virus would spread — let’s see what happens when you double the number of grains each day for 64 days like you would if you were at the mall, in a restaurant, and moving about as you did normally before the virus hit:
- FIRST DAY: You place one grain of wheat on the first square on the chess board
- SECOND DAY: You double the grains of wheat on the second chess board square … so now there are two grains on that second square
- THIRD DAY: You double the grains again and now you have four grains on the third chess board square
- FOURTH DAY: You double the grains again and now you have eight grains on the fourth chess board square
- FOURTH THROUGH 64TH DAY: For the next two months continue to double the grains each day and place them on each subsequent square.
At the end of 64 days you would have 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 quadrillion grains of wheat! (NOTE: A quadrillion is a thousand trillion).
THAT is why we are in lockdown and trying hard to flatten the curve, performing social distancing, and trying to stop the exponential spread of this virus until a vaccine (and other mitigation strategies) can be found.
Here’s an interesting video to give you an idea on how quickly exponential growth occurs:
Browser extensions are fraught with danger — which is why I rarely use them — especially those extensions that request your permission to:
- Access your data for all websites
- Access browser tabs
- Access recently closed tabs
- Read and modify bookmarks
- Download files and read and modify the browser’s download history
- Input data to the clipboard
- Display notifications to you
- Read and modify browser settings.
I mean…seriously!?! There is not a snowballs-chance-in-Hell that I would ever give permission to a browser extension to rummage around in my browser and change things, possibly add malware code in to my computer or device’s memory (i.e., the clipboard), as well as essentially look over my shoulder while I use that browser!
As you may have already guessed, I’ve been wary of browser extensions for a long time. I wrote about how dangerous browser extensions are back in 2011: Why We Need a Google Condom for Chrome Extensions and again in 2017: Why Browser Extensions Are Dangerous but there are an increasing number of security experts now recommending caution on your use of browser extensions. One such expert is the cyber investigator Brian Krebs who writes the excellent Krebs on Security blog. His latest post was just published on March 3, 2020 and gives great advice and reasoning behind limiting the browser extensions you install: The Case for Limiting Your Browser Extensions.
Add to that my specific intention to limit (or completely stop) tracking as best I can — which is why I’ve moved from Google’s Chrome to Firefox as my default browser — is why I am not just concerned about malware and rogue extensions, I’m more concerned about third-party trackers and the companies that enable them to flourish to our detriment.
A CRACKDOWN ON EXTENSIONS
Fortunately there is a move by major browser companies (i.e., Google with Chrome and Mozilla with Firefox) to crack down on rogue and dangerous extensions. Ars Technica had this article published January 30, 2020: More than 200 browser extensions ejected from Firefox and Chrome stores:
The crackdowns highlight a problem that has existed for years with extensions available from both Mozilla and Google. While the vast majority are safe, a small but statistically significant sample engage in click fraud, steal user credentials and install currency miners, and spy on end users—in at least one case, millions of users, some of whom were inside large companies and other data-sensitive networks.
WHAT IF THE EXTENSION IS FROM A TRUSTED COMPANY?
“When you use the Websites or Products, we automatically gather information made available by your web browser (such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome), Internet service provider (such as Comcast or Time Warner), and device (such as your computer, phone, or tablet), depending on your settings for each. For example, we may collect your IP address, information about the operating system or type of device you use, the date and time you access the Websites or Products, and the location of your device.
Generally, the information addressed under this section is anonymous and does not, standing alone, directly identify you; however, it could possibly identify you when associated with other information. For example, if a third party were to see your IP address, they would not automatically know your name—yet your name could be associated with your IP address by your Internet service provider if you are the named accountholder.“
You could argue that the above is boilerplate and all organizations do some form of this type of data aggregation. But when that data is has specific intents like the following, it shows how they intend to use your data AND allow it to be shared by third parties:
“What about Third Party practices?
Third Party Cookies and Web Beacons: Advertising agencies, advertising networks, and other companies (together, “Third Parties”) who place advertisements on the Websites and on the Internet generally may use their own cookies, web beacons, and other technology to collect information about individuals. Except as expressly provided herein, we do not control Third Parties’ use of such technology and we have no responsibility for the use of such technology to gather information about individuals. It is up to you to familiarize yourself with the privacy practices of such Third Parties.”
Remember this quote when something like this useful extension is free, “You are not the customer. You are the product.”
WHAT EXTENSIONS CAN YOU SAFELY INSTALL?
“…a browser add-on that stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, Privacy Badger automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser. To the advertiser, it’s like you suddenly disappeared.“
Though Firefox’s new privacy and anti-tracking capabilities are excellent, Privacy Badger completes the capability I seek to make tracking and surveillance even harder for the hundreds of third-party trackers out there. Firefox’s creation organization, Mozilla, also has a rigorous vetting process for extensions and has a short list of verified extensions that do not violate their Recommended Extensions program guidelines.
Here is the best article from Mozilla that I’ve seen yet on how to determine whether or not a browser extension is worthy of (and safe to) install. but if you already know these tips (or have read Brian Krebs’ article above), at least pay attention to wise advice like this from Dan Goodin, the writer of the previously linked-to article from Ars Technica:
“There’s no sure-fire way to know if an extension is safe. One general rule is that there’s safety in numbers. An app with millions of installs is likely to receive more scrutiny from researchers than one with only a few thousand. Another guideline: apps from known developers are less likely to engage in malicious or abusive behavior. The best rule is to install extensions only when they truly provide value. Installed extensions that are used rarely or not at all should always be removed.”
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.
“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.”
“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).
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:
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.”
- Wired 1.1: An Archaeology: Good blog post that breaks down what was contained within the premiere issue.
- Revisiting the Original 1992 WIRED Media Kit: This was sent to potential advertisers well before the publication of the premiere issue.
This was amusing and thought you’d like to watch it … especially if you get flummoxed with technology!
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…
In just eight months I’ve had three pair of the $250 (now $199) Bose Sleepbuds. The first pair ‘lost’ connection in the right sleepbud after a few months. I brought the complete product back to the Bose store in the Irvine Spectrum Center in Irvine, CA, and the staff not only didn’t bat-an-eye when I asked if I could exchange them, they glanced at each other and one of them immediately gave me a completely new shrink-wrapped complete product.
I was surprised but pleased. But that super-easy return made me immediately suspect that Bose knew they had a big problem with these sleepbuds and just gave away a new product to anyone who complained.
Two months later I had to do another exchange and get a second new pair and I’m now on my third pair of Bose Sleepbuds which are now unusable. Sigh…
So I joined the Bose Community to see if others had the problem and if there was something I’d not yet done to fix it (as a techie I know to run updates, reset, delete and redownload the mobile app, etc. which I’d already done … multiple times). Nothing would fix it.
Then I posted this as a new thread for discussion and to get some help:
As a techie I am overly careful with devices like my noise-masking sleepbuds (and case) while ensuring that they are clean, charged properly, updated immediately (e.g., case firmware), and otherwise handled with care. I adore what these sleepbuds do for my sleep, but have since learned that they only work for a couple of months.
So when, some months ago, my few-months-old sleepbuds saw that the right bud stopped charging fully. I brought the buds, case and all pieces to the Bose store in Irvine Spectrum Center (Irvine, CA). Told the guys what happened and they instantly returned it and gave me a new one! I was surprised, but quite pleased that they did that.
Less than two months later the exact same thing happened, this time with the left sleepbud. I updated the case firmware and both buds, and everything was fine for a week or so. Then it happened again with the right bud not charging. I took it back to the Irvine Bose store and you guess it … they replaced it *again*!
It’s now been six weeks or so and two days ago the left bud would only charge to 38%. It didn’t get me through the night, but was still workable as I could get to sleep. Did you guess that it now is only charging to 1%? Yep…so my third pair of sleepbuds have stopped working.
This is SO frustrating for a gift my wife gave me that cost her $300. It’s the only Bose product I’ve ever owned that I’ve not been consistently over-the-moon and also a product that lasted years.
I’ve read this community forum frequently trying to figure out what I might be doing wrong, but when I handle this device gently, keep it updated and clean and it still doesn’t perform, I can only surmise that it is just plain bad engineering.
If anyone from Bose is reading this and has any suggestions — and please don’t give me links to support docs since I’ve done EVERYTHING in all your troubleshooting guides — then I’m open to real solutions. Otherwise I guess I’ll take them back to the Bose store AGAIN and have them replace them for me so I can get another 6-8 weeks to find another, reliable solution.
So what did Bose do? One of their “community admins” (moderator) merged it with another thread that supposedly contained the solution … one that did not work for me so I still have an unreliable product.
They did NOT offer me any kind of personal response. There was no link to a post in the private message the “community admin” sent me. I tried to reply to it with a copy and paste of his message to me, but the HTML in it was refused and my 2nd attempt to message did not go through and resulted in an error message that I was “over my private message limit”. Holy shit this is poorly managed.
There is a “Phone Free” mode which seems to make the sleepbuds function … but I lose the alarm and other phone-connected functions (and the right sleepbud still disconnects) so that’s not a great solution.
So I think now my only course of action is to pack up my current sleepbuds and drive half an hour over to the Bose store to return them … this time to get our money back vs. exchanging them. My wife bought them for my December 2018 birthday and it’s been less than a year, so they definitely should refund us.
So Bose … if anyone bothers to read this post, you’ve got to step-up your game and learn how to perform customer support. I know this isn’t a huge sale at $250, but I’m about to go out and buy a sound bar for my expensive Sony 4K TV, and I will not be considering Bose because of this incident and how you handled it. Perhaps it’s time to bury your remaining sleepbud inventory in a landfill.
As you may know from reading this blog, I’ve been using Flickr for my photo albums for years. Once owned by Yahoo, it was sold last year to the family-owned — and very well run photo service website — SmugMug. As you can see from two posts I wrote about preserving digital media here and here, I’m very concerned that photos of family and friends taken today with smartphones will disappear in to the digital ether at some point. If so, they won’t be in some shoebox in the closet 50 years from now for guys like me to scan, digitally clean up, and preserve.
SmugMug will occasionally send me marketing emails, most of which I ignore like I do with most ads of this kind. But I happened to get a marketing email from them and had time to view it and again, SmugMug never spams me so I clicked on the link and ended up on a site called Chatbooks, one of SmugMug’s affiliate partners.
Immediately my thought was, “Oh…just another photo book printer” until I watched the marketing video you see below and found myself laughing and delighted with it. It is an amusing and well-produced video pitching their service called Chatbooks and I smiled just about the entire time the video ran.
The service that caught my eye (and is the subject of the video below) is their Ongoing Photo Book Series which you can set up to publish a new soft or hard cover small book for every 60 photos you take with your smartphone. It’s a no-muss, no-fuss way of preserving photos for future generations, especially if you lose your phone and have never done a backup!!
Of course, I’m not the target market (Moms are for this video) but it still tickled me and made what they’re offering stand out in my mind and seriously consider the book series option. Well done Chatbooks!