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Book ‘Em Danno

Forbes recently ran an opinion piece by an economist who said we no longer needed public libraries because people have Amazon and Netflix. Considering my wife is a public library director, you can guess I thought he was…how can I put this…out of his pea-pickin’ mind! So many people disagreed with the notion that the piece was eventually taken down, but not before the writer’s popularity went down faster than the Titanic.

As utterly disturbing as this economist’s views were, some of the comments in opposition to them were equally disturbing because the commenters decided to inject politics into the discussion. And guess who they blamed for this economist’s views. Donald Trump. After all, Trump is the source of all evil in the universe (after beating out the Loknar in the Intergalactic Electoral College vote), so why wouldn’t he be to blame for people thinking public libraries are worthless?

Well, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it’s because…Trump has nothing to do with that point of view. It’s a stretch, I know, but it’s one I’m willing to make.

The problem with discussions like whether public libraries still have worth in a society where our phones we carry around can look up anything under the sun is that it far too often becomes muddled in tangential ideological muck that takes our focus off the issue. I’m not a Trump fan, but even on my worst days, I wouldn’t dream of blaming him for said days. Ditto when Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and so on were President. (Although I suspect Jimmy Carter may have had a hand in me losing my lunch money on a class field trip to the zoo back in 1978, but I don’t have any concrete proof…yet.) In short, if you’re using this or any other issue that has nothing to do with politics as a soap box to make a political statement, just don’t! Not everything is political, and not everyone has to be on ideological point all the time.

As far as the economist’s viewpoint on public libraries, he’s off the mark by…let’s just say a lot. Amazon and Netflix are great, but they both require a little something the kids like to call the Internet. And as technologically saturated as we are, there are people across the country who do not have reliable Internet service. And, no, this is not a plea for there to be universal Internet access. But there is one place in just about every community that has Internet access: the public library.

Aside from using the Internet, public libraries provide other services ranging from photocopying to access to books and movies to educational programs for young and old alike, and that’s only scratching the proverbial surface! Public libraries provide much more than the tax dollars necessary to keep their doors open and their lights on. They provide a means to expand our minds, open our hearts, and maybe just escape our normal lives for just a bit. Put another way that is sci-fi related (since I’m a sci-fi geek from way back), your public library is a TARDIS that can take you anywhere and anywhen you want to go.

I know “anywhen” isn’t a word, but work with me people, okay?

Call me old fashioned (or just old, for that matter), but I always get a thrill when I walk into a library and just browse the aisles for old favorites and potential new favorites. And it’s for that reason I will always be an ardent champion for public libraries.

That, and the fact my wife knows where I live.

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Leftist Lexicon Word of the Week

To be honest, the Internet is as safe as a meth lab housed in a nitroglycerin factory on the San Andreas Fault. Although I’m exaggerating for (hopefully) humorous effect, you don’t want to be too careless with your personal information online because there are unethical slimeballs out there who will use that information against you in any way they can. Although, I hear that Nigerian prince is a real cool guy.

When the war of ideologies goes online, political operatives have a number of tools at their disposal, one of which is a called doxing. We’ll get into the definition of it here in a bit, but the reason it’s become a hot topic recently is because of a Huffington Post writer named Luke O’Brien. O’Brien did a story about a Twitter user named Amy Mekelburg who has tweeted some anti-Muslim sentiments and has been retweeted by President Donald Trump. O’Brien’s story exposed Mekelburg, but also opened up her family to additional harassment. And this occurred because Mekelburg left identifying information online for people to follow.

Leftists cheered this, stating racists have no right to privacy and should be exposed. Others expressed outrage at those who took it upon themselves to bring Mekelburg’s private actions into the public square and expose her family to various punishments for actions they didn’t directly take.

In order to understand the Leftist mindset on doxing, let’s start by defining the term, shall we?

doxing

What the Left thinks it means – exposing conservatives for saying and doing things that should be called out and discouraged

What it actually means – invading someone’s privacy for purely ideological reasons

One of the key elements of Leftist ideology is the ends justify the means. If they can find a way to destroy an enemy, even if it goes against their public platform, they will do it. It’s just a matter of how and when. And when it comes to doxing, Leftists have no qualms doing it to conservatives because of another key element of Leftist ideology: those who do not conform are the enemy.

Nice folks, those Leftists.

In the Mekelburg situation, the Left has argued she doxed herself, which is entirely plausible and most likely happened. If O’Brien wrote a piece limited solely to her, we can debate the merits and flaws of the approach. However, that didn’t happen. O’Brien went to her husband’s employer for a comment, which caused her husband to get fired and a business owned by members of her family (who have openly said they don’t agree with her, by the way) to get harassed. Collateral damage because Mekelburg said something the Left didn’t agree with.

And while we’re here, what did Mekelburg say? Among other things, she made disparaging comments about Muslim prophet Mohammed, linked to people like Sean Hannity, and told people to follow noted white supremacists. The first two are enough for Leftists to get their collectivist panties in a wad, but the third gave them all the excuse they needed to target her…and her family. Obviously, they must agree with her. After all, they have the same last name!

And, as with most things Leftists believe, their position is hypocritical on a number of fronts, the most glaring one being the Left’s professed love of privacy. This may smack of “whataboutism”, but I have to say it: the Left has more problem with a woman expressing an opposite and Constitutionally protected opinion than it has with a woman killing an unborn baby in the womb. Call me crazy (because, trust me, plenty have), but isn’t that a bit…well…stupid?

I don’t condone what Mekelburg says, but she has a right to say it, thanks to the First Amendment. Which brings us to another area of Leftist hypocrisy, by the way. The Left will cry about freedom of speech being threatened whenever Donald Trump calls CNN fake news (I have another name for them that’s far harsher), but they also want to limit the speech of conservatives and libertarians because they’re afraid those groups will tell the truth.

And to round out this trifecta of trickery, the Left engages in guilt by association when it suits them, as it did in this case. Yet, who are the first ones to scold us for assuming terrorists are Muslims because “not all Muslims are terrorists”? Leftists, who by a complete coincidence always assume mass shooters are white men. (And, unlike them, the people who assume terrorists are Muslim tend to be right more often than wrong.)

And let me make myself perfectly clear here. Doxing done by anyone is morally wrong and, in my humble opinion, is a form of terrorism designed to control targets into either hiding or conforming to the ”right” opinion. And, to take it a step further, anyone who is responsible for circulating a person’s information online and/or uses it to harass innocent people is just as bad as the doxers themselves. No gray area, no letting it slide, no mulligans. If you dox or help spread the information, you are scum. Thank you for playing.

That brings us back to O’Brien. I’m sure he thought he was doing the right thing, but he should have taken more than a nanosecond to think about the implications of and fallout from taking the actions he did before submitting even a pitch to his editors. The fact it doesn’t appear he took that step is a stain on his integrity and yet another blot on an already-Mount Everest-sized mountain covering the media today. As the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right, and O’Brien and Mekelburg are as wrong as they can be.

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Net Neutrality

With any government regulation you run into the same problem. There is either too much regulation or there is too little regulation. And usually it’s too much regulation. Net Neutrality was to enable everyone’s data to be treated the same. No matter where it originated or what it’s destination.

Comcast, a major backbone provider of the internet, has been known to throttle data of its users in the past. They did so against Netflix and bittorrent. And only Net Neutrality and customers complaining made them loosen up. Now with Net Neutrality done away with by unelected bureaucrats, Comcast and other major providers are free again to throttle or shape any data crossing their networks. And they will do so. Not today, let everyone get used to the idea that no Net Neutrality is “good” and in a year or so when everyone has forgotten about the change is when it will begin to happen.

This already happens in Europe and Asia where there is no Net Neutrality, where ISP charge more and have different packages based on the type of data one is sending or receiving. And it will happen here. Never fall for the line of “it can’t happen here.” That is a myth and lie you are telling yourself.

And now without Net Neutrality, the bigger ISPs can force the smaller ISPs to pay them more money to transmit their data across the network. This already happens in the cable/satellite world for TV broadcasting. That is why bills for those always go up. It’s the rebroadcast rights are getting, well extorted. And those operation costs get passed to the consumer.

I know, I work in the cable industry. I see the things that non-technical and the average consumer or user does not see. The loss of Net Neutrality is terrible thing.

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Not Neutrality

I woke up this morning and something was wrong. I didn’t feel any different, but I knew something was wrong. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Then, I tried logging onto the Internet…and it was just fine. No delays, no demands for money. Just an easy logon. Then, I figured out what was wrong.

The proponents of Net Neutrality had brought Y2K back.

Seriously, was there any doubt the pro-Net Neutrality side were going to wind up with a hatchery’s worth of eggs on their faces? Anyone with a lick of common sense could have figured out the “Net Neutrality will save the Internet” line was bogus from the get go. Then again, common sense in today’s society is like finding a unicorn in your Lucky Charms.

I have a series of immutable laws that have been developed over years of observation and repetition. One of these laws is the more one side has to rely on fear to make a point, the less likely that point is valid. And Net Neutrality is pretty much all fearmongering. As it plays out, the pro-NN side wants you to believe each ISP owner is only concerned about making money and doesn’t give a tenth of a damn about the little guy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Basic economics says if you price something out of people’s ability to pay it, you lose customers and, get this, revenue. For the Net Neutrality advocates to be right, ISPs would have to literally go against their best interests.

If that wasn’t insane enough, Net Neutrality doesn’t even address the problem it seeks to solve. Granted, one of the NN provisions is transparency, but if you’re dishonest, you can find ways to hide bad behavior in plain sight and no one will be the wiser. Case in point: Harvey Weinstein. It gets even harder to be transparent when the entity controlling the Internet is the federal government. You shouldn’t need a Freedom of Information Act filing to find out if you’re getting the fastest speed for your area, but with Net Neutrality, it’s only a step or two away from that bureaucratic nightmare.

You know who has solved the problem? Cell phone providers. Thanks to technological advances, we can now stay connected to the Internet almost anywhere around the world using our cell phones. And if we need Internet access, our phones can turn into WiFi hotspots or we can buy gadgets that can do the same thing. And you thought having the Internet at your fingertips was only good for winning bar bets!

Cell phone providers have rendered the problems Net Neutrality sought to address obsolete. And if you think it merely shifts the power from ISPs to Verizon, et al, remember cell phone providers also are bound by the laws of economics.

Above all else, Net Neutrality fails to take into account the concept of competition. Back in the day, I would take my laptop with me to visit my parents and I had to deal with the slow and spotty Internet of being in a small town in northeast Iowa. Although this might seem to be an example of how Net Neutrality could be good, it’s actually not. Satellite technology has made Internet access available to people in rural areas as well as urban areas, and it can be bundled with existing satellite TV providers like Dish and DirectTV for only a marginal monthly fee.

Wow! It’s almost as if the free market has an answer for the problems Net Neutrality proponents find, because, well, it has! And it will continue to do so for long after we’ve gotten past the point where the Internet is the go-to for information, entertainment, directions, gaming, and great blog posts like this one. Okay, so that last one may be a bit sketchy, but you get the idea.

Now if only the Net Neutrality supporters would.

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Time to Put on Some Pants

Winston Churchill is alleged to have said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” And in the case of Bill Clinton, the lie may get further.

Why do I bring this up other than to take yet another shot at the Commander in Briefs? Well, it’s because of an app that has become the bane of my existence, even though I don’t use it: Twitter. The reason I haven’t joined the Twitterverse is simple. I don’t have the time or energy to engage in trying to stop people from spreading misinformation, and I’m just not that into selfies or taking pictures of my meals.

Back in my day, it took a lot longer for a lie to be picked up and turned into fact. Remember the urban myth the ships on Snapple Tea labels were slave ships? Although it’s still believed in some pockets of society today, the fact it took so long for it to even take root was a testament to not only the simpler time of the early 90s, but the fact-checking people did back then. Thanks to Twitter, both of these fail safes are more obsolete than Compuserve.

Take the outrage over President Donald Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. If you read Twitter (and I wouldn’t recommend it without some adult beverages), you would think President Trump is sitting on his hands (which would make it really hard to Tweet) and not helping Puerto Rico for every reason from racism to not knowing Puerto Rico is one of our territories. In reality, though, federal assistance has been on site since before Maria hit. We can argue about whether it’s sufficient, but to say the Trump Administration and Trump specifically has done nothing is blatantly incorrect.

Yet, the Twitterverse will repeat the lie while the truth is putting on its pants.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve lost count of the number of media outlets who have tweeted juicy stories about President Trump, only to have to tweet a retraction within hours or days. While it’s nice to see these media outlets posting retractions, there are a few problems I have with it. First, rarely do these media outlets delete the initial erroneous Tweets. That in and of itself may seem like a minor quibble, but when you consider the number of people who will believe the original Tweet and won’t dig further into it, the fact the Tweet is allowed to exist after it’s been discredited gives it credibility. It’s like Bernie Sanders’ “democratic socialism” idea, but with 140 characters.

Second, rarely, if ever, are these corrections retweeted. The same people who are eager to pounce on any negative opinion of the Trump Administration (confirmation bias, anyone?) aren’t so quick to retweet a correction. Those who do are at least trying to be transparent with their rhetoric or are already quick to defend the Trump Administration. Those who don’t have more axes to grind than Paul Bunyon. They would prefer to believe the comfortable lie than the uncomfortable truth.

Third, and finally, Twitter isn’t known for its fairness. For those of you with lives, Twitter gives out blue checkmarks for people whose accounts can be verified as actually being owned by the people who claim they have them. What goes into this verification process is a mystery, but what is obvious is the blue checkmarks are handed out like drug samples at a dealer convention if the owner is a Leftist, but you’re out of luck if you’re a conservative. I’m beginning to think the Catholic Church’s qualifications for sainthood are easier to achieve than a conservative getting a verified Twitter account. With this checkmark comes credibility, earned or…well, let’s face it, it’s never earned. It’s an electronic Cracker Jack box where the right ideology gets you a free prize inside.

But we all know Leftists would never lie or distort the truth for political gain, right?

Put simply, Twitter is a quick way to widely push a narrative, spin a story, or blatantly lie without a way to be just as quick and widespread with the truth. But, it’s important we continue to tell the truth whenever we can. Facts matter.

Now, go put on some pants.

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If I Were Google

The tech world got rocked by a scandal within Google starting with a 10 page memo written by a male employee regarding a desire to start a conversation about…treating everyone not as labels, but as individuals! The horror!!!! How dare a white man suggest people are more than identity politics!

Google, being the rational and totally non-SJW company they are, fired him for a violation of their code of conduct, which has set off a firestorm among those of us who like free speech and free thought. Whether this is a free speech issue is subject to debate, but what isn’t up for debate is the regulatory complaint being taken against Google for unlawful termination of employment. Ouch.

If I could offer a bit of advice to the Google overlords (and they would listen to it for longer than the attention span of a ferret on espresso-flavored crack), it would go a little something like this.

1) Take the loss, kids. How can I put this lightly? You screwed up. Bad. I’m talking Dennis Rodman going to North Korea bad.

2) Hire him back yesterday. See point 1. The first step to righting this Titanic of a mistake is hiring back the guy you fired, and if I could make a suggestion, give him a big pay raise and a public apology.

3) Take his concerns seriously. Regardless of how you feel about what was said in the memo, there is a reason he felt the need to speak up about it. It’s going to take a bit of self-reflection, but if it makes for a better workplace (and I believe it will), it will be better for you. Not to mention, it might go a long way towards getting your regulatory and possible legal woes dismissed.

4) Change. The extent of the change will depend upon a) step 3, and b) how much you want to keep your jobs.

5) Open your minds to new ideas. And this is going to be the hard one for you Googleftists, but it’s going to be the best thing you can do. The tech industry is all about innovation, and making this change would put you out in front of most of the tech companies out there. And that will buy you a lot of good will.

And you won’t look like total asshats in the process.

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Ubuntu going back to GNOME

For those that haven’t guessed it yet by my other tech based posts I’m a big fan of open source software. My main computer at home runs Linux.

Over the years the flavor of Linux on it has changed from time to time. But it has been SimplyMepis, Debian, Fedora, or Ubuntu mostly. All depending on what I wanted to do at the time. Even the server running this blog is powered by Linux.

I have liked Debian and Debian-based systems more than others. It’s just the feel is better to me and that is one of the great options about Linux. You get to decide.

Currently at home I am running the GNOME community edition of Ubuntu. For a desktop environment I prefer the feel again of GNOME over the multitude of other environments available.

A number of years ago Ubuntu decided to make their own in-house desktop environment called Unity. My systems really didn’t like it and it was a factor that made me try out other flavors of Linux.

But come next year in 2018 Ubuntu is switching back to GNOME as the default desktop environment. And I am ecstatic and thrilled to hear this news. It’s a good move for the company and the users alike.

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The Lawnmower Man

Technology is coming a long way. A friend of mine has created semi almost autonomous lawn mower. Pretty cool huh. He can mow his lawn from inside his house using his computer.

The basics of the mower is a RaspberryPi, one of those small single board computers that runs Linux.

He has a kickstarter up at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lawnmower/almost-autonomous-lawn-mower

Maybe you can see it for yourself!

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Hosts files are great

If you have a computer, a hosts file is an absolute must. These handy files located where most system type files are kept can be used to prevent unwanted malware, ads, and other sites from attacking your computer.

The folks at https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts have created a fine database source for maintaining and installing a hosts file for most operating systems. I strongly suggest checking it out.

On Linux, they created a python script for updating the hosts file. I in turn decided to create my own updating script using bash. Mainly as an exorcise in writing it. So here is my hosts file update script for Linux written in the bash shell.

#!/bin/bash
#---------------------------------
# hosts file updating script
# writen by bynw anlarye
# November 2016
#---------------------------------

# function to merge new hosts file into the system
mergehosts ()
{
mv /etc/hosts /etc/hosts.backup.$(date +"%Y%m%d")
mv hosts /etc/hosts
}

# script needs root access
if [[ $EUID -ne 0 ]]; then
echo "This script needs to be ran by root or with sudo"
exit 1
fi

# downloads latest version of main hosts file
while :
do
clear
echo "  Menu Options  "
echo ""
echo "[A] - The master hosts file"
echo "[B] - The master hosts file + gambling sites"
echo "[C] - The master hosts file + porn sites"
echo "[D] - The master hosts file + social media sites"
echo "[E] - The master hosts file + gambling & porn sites"
echo "[F] - The master hosts file + gambling & social media sites"
echo "[G] - The master hosts file + porn & social media sites"
echo "[H] - All hosts file sites"
echo "[X] - Exit Script"
echo ""
read -p "Please choose one of the above options [A-H or X] and press [ENTER]: " whichhosts
case $whichhosts in
a|A) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/hosts
break ;;
b|B) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/gambling/hosts
break ;;
c|C) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/porn/hosts
break ;;
d|D) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/social/hosts
break ;;
e|E) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/gambling-porn/hosts
break ;;
f|F) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/gambling-social/hosts
break ;;
g|G) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/porn-social/hosts
break ;;
h|H) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/gambling-porn-social/hosts
break ;;
x|X) echo
echo "Host file will not be updated"
exit 1 ;;
*) sleep 1
clear
echo "Invalid responce."
echo "Please choose from [A-H or X]"
sleep 1 ;;
esac
done

# adds user defined custom hosts to file
sed -i '/Custom host records are listed here/r myhosts' hosts

# checks for existance of whitelist
if [ -f whitelist ]
then
grep -Fvxf whitelist hosts > hosts.tmp
mv hosts.tmp hosts
mergehosts
else
mergehosts
fi

echo
echo "Hosts file has been updated"
echo

exit 1

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Website Ads

I joined the internet when it was young. Before the beginning of web pages. Now that is all people think of as the “internet”, but it only one part of a greater whole.

When the world-wide web was born I started tinkering around with making my own web presence. And I’ve had one in some form ever since. Currently I own about half a dozen domain names. All of them have an active web site. And none of them have ads.

Web advertising is a booming business. And in may cases it does pay for a site’s hosting, bandwidth, and maintenance costs. It does take money to keep a site running. I fully understand why ads are there.

I use an ad blocker on my own browsers. And I may turn it off on some sites but for the majority it’s on. I’m not interested in the ads and I don’t want to see them. Not to mention the potential exploits and privacy violations some ads contain.

But what I really hate is going to a site to read an article much like this one. Only to be bombarded by ads. They slide up from everywhere on the page compleatly blocking the content making it unreadable. Like a hydra, you can remove them one by one but they are replaced by twice as many more.

On a machine without an ad blocker I just close that tab or browser window when I encounter those sites. And I don’t go back to them. They get no ad revenue and no return visits from me. It’s just not worth the hassle.

Does this mean I wont ever have ads on my sites? No it doesn’t mean that at all. But before I place ads on any site I own it will be vetted first to make sure it is not intrusive in any way. After all it’s the end user, the customer coming to read or look at the site content that is the most important. Far more important than advertising revenue.

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