Facebook Groups: Opt-out, not opt-in

The way Facebook currently works, people may add others to groups without their approval, essentially making groups opt-out, rather than opt-in. This is a massive problem. It allows people to add others to groups, making it seem like they support the agenda the group is pushing. In case you doubt what I’m saying, this has already happened (link in Norwegian).

While there are a number of problems with Facebook, not least of which being that their users are the product, and the customer are advertisers, this is one of the bigger ones. If it was my decision, I would make and groups, like tags, opt-in, rather than opt-out. That way, the users are allowed to retain control of their online persona.

Frankly, I think this is a change that Facebook are going to have to make sooner, rather than later. With the influx of users of all ages – particularly the parents and grandparents of the original user base – I suspect that they will struggle to maintain relevance in the coming years regardless of what they do, but if they don’t make this change, that struggle will become a hard slog of an uphill battle.

Reviewed: Bose Quiet Comfort 25

I recently replaced my well-used and much-loved headphones, a set of Bose QC 15’s, with a new set. The old set was getting on a bit in age (I’ve had them for close to five years now), and were getting to a point where they were more or less worn out. Though they probably had another four or five months of heavy use in them, I wanted to replace them now, rather than having to scramble to replace them later. After looking at the offerings out there, I opted for their successor, Bose QC 25.

QC 25 is available in black, white, or a custom colour chosen by the customer (at a $100 premium). It comes in a carrying case matching the main colour. Like its predecessor, it has a detachable cable, and is powered by a single AAA battery. It also features an upgraded sound element, which offers a significant improvement; you can use the headphones while the noise cancelling feature is turned off. Another improvement is that the headphones are now (somewhat) collapsible.

While both Bose and any sales person you might care to listen to will tell you that the sound quality is significantly improved, all I can say with confidence, is that it is comparable to that of QC 15, whose sound quality I have always found to be excellent. There is a not insignificant difference in the sound offered when the noise cancelling is off compared to it being on. I happily use it for speech in non-noise cancelling mode, but find that the sound quality is somewhat bass-heavy (and thus treble-light) for music.

The noise cancelling feature is excellent; and even better in QC 25 than in QC 15. It does not feel as loud as in its predecessor, meaning that I can use it for longer without my ears getting tired. The control section on the cable is a bit bulkier, as is the cable itself, which makes the build quality feel higher. In addition, the microphone does not seem to pick up the wind as much as that of its predecessor, an impressive feat.

All in all, I am a happy return Bose customer. I find that their products hold consistent high quality, which delivers excellent audio every time. I have no reservations in heartily endorsing it.

Caveat Lector: I purchased the headphones for my own money, and have neither been paid, offered compensation, nor given any consideration to write this.

BTS: Just a solution this time around.

This week, I’m just posting the solution to last week’s challenge. The next brain teaser will be published in late August.

Last week‘s brain teaser is one that I found very challenging. Here is my answer and justification:

We know that Albert knows the month, and Bernard the day of Cheryl’s birthday.

We can immediately eliminate any dates whose day number is only found once; had that been the correct date, Bernard would have known. We can then also eliminate any months that feature those days in the list; they been an option, Bernard might have known the correct day. Since Albert says he does not know, May and June is out.

That leaves July 14th and 16th and August 14th, 15th and 17th. We can now eliminate both instances of the 14th; duplicates are at this point mutually exclusive; had that been the correct day, Bernard would not have known the date. That leaves July 16th and August 15th and 17th. Because there are two options in August, the correct answer must be July 16th.

TBT: Finding the name of a service

This post originally ran in October 2008. I am reposting it now, as part of my throwback thursday project, to give some of my older quality posts some love. Though the post references Windows XP; the method outlined below works in later versions, too.

In my last post, I showed you how to use a batch script to start a service from a desktop shortcut. The command we used was the net start command. In order to use it, you need to find the name of the service you want to start. Here’s how:

    1. In the startmenu, click run
    2. In the run dialog box, enter the command compmgmt.msc
    3. In Computer Management, find Services under the header Services and Applications

Services

    1. Find and double-click the service for which you need the name
    2. For this example, I’ve chosen to use a service called Distributed Link Tracking Client. As seen below, its name is TrkWks

Named Service

On religious freedom

The right to religious freedom is much like the right to free speech. It regulates what I can and cannot do, but does not grant me the right to deny anyone else to do as they wish. A few examples:

  • It provides me the right to eat kosher food, should I so desire, but does not let me forbid christians from eating pork.
  • It lets me worship as I see fit, with a tallit, a kipa, and, on occasion, with tefillin, but it does not let me forbid muslims to worship bare-footed, kneeling towards Mekka.
  • It lets me get married under the auspices of a rabbi, under the Orthodox Jewish tradition, but it does not let me forbid same-sex couples from marrying.

Just like other personal freedoms, the right to religious freedom grants me the right to my own religious views and practice. It does not, in any way, shape or form, grant me the right to limit those of anyone else. It also does not mean that the state should limit what civil liberties it grants to others, such as marriage equality.

I am happily married to the love of my life, who just so happens to be a woman. The thing is, though, the fact that Norway has changed its laws to allow same-sex couples to marry changes nothing about my marriage to my wife. (I do take exception with the Norwegian law forbidding shechita – kosher butchery, but that’s another matter altogether.)

I am strongly in favor of a clear division of church and state; the state should make provisions to allow religious people of all faiths exercise their religion, but should not allow religious liberties to infringe on other human rights. To me, this is not only the right choice, but an obvious one; we are, after all, talking about civil liberties, not civil prohibitions.

BTS: Cheryl’s birthday

This week’s brain teaser is a logic puzzle that has gained  a fair bit of fame, as it was featured as one of the tasks in the Singapore and Asian School Math Olympiads. Here goes:

Albert and Bernard just became friends with Cheryl, and they want to know when her birthday is. Cheryl gives them a list of 10 possible dates:

  • May 15th
  • May 16th
  • May 19th
  • June 17th
  • June 18th
  • July 14th
  • July 16th
  • August 14th
  • August 15th
  • August 17th

Cheryl then tells Albert and Bernard separately and respectively the month and the day of her birthday.

Albert: I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, and I know that Bernard does not know either.

Bernard: At first I didn’t know when Cheryl’s birthday was, but now I do.

Albert: Then I also know when Cheryl’s birthday is.

Last week, we met John and Seamus, but how many cows do they each have? John has seven, and Seamus five. How did I arrive at that? Let’s see. First, we know that the difference between the two numbers must be very small, as a shift of one increment can both double and completely remove the difference. We also know that the numbers must be odd, because the end numbers must be even. Armed with that knowledge, we can brute force our way to the solution:

If John were to have three cows, and Seamus one, Seamus would be left with no cows at all when giving his one cow to him.

If John had five cows, and Seamus three, the results would not match up; six is three times two.

If John had seven cows, and Seamus five, the results do match up. Seven plus one is eight, which is twice as much as four. Seven minus one is six.

My EDC setup

EDC, short for Every Day Carry, has become a common term to many, myself included. The underlying philosophy of “what do I need to bring with me on a daily basis” is an interesting one, and one which has prompted me to think about what I bring with me on a day to day basis. While the specifics may – and do – change, in general, what I bring with me is:

  1. Wallet – currently a Secrid Miniwallet, which includes an RFID blocking cardslide.
  2. Keys – currently an Orbitkey, which is quiet and stylish
  3. Pocket tool – currently a Leatherman Skeletool with torx (T10 and T15) and Phillips-head bits
  4. Cell phone – currently an iPhone 6
  5. Pen – currently a Mont Blanc Meisterstück LeGrand Rollerball

Those are the absolute, bare bone basics, and all of them fit in my pockets or on my belt, precluding the need for a bag. When I do add a bag, a few other items are usually added to the collection:

  1. Headphones – currently Bose QC 25
  2. Knife – currently a Spyderco Tenacious
  3. Flashlight – currently a TerraLUX LightStar80
  4. Leatherman Bit Kit
  5. Roll-up with chargers, cables and spare batteries

As for what bag, I have three go-to options:

  1. 5.11 Tactical PUSH Pack – compact yet spacious, this is the lightest of the three
  2. 5.11 Tactical RUSH 12 Backpack – quite a bit larger, this offers the most options, and sits well on my back.
  3. Mitchell Leather Classic Briefcase – the most stylish of the three, and a spacious option suitable for most applications

Finally, as an aside, a comment about one of the connotations of EDC; carrying a firearm. I have never felt the need to be armed for my protection, and I count myself blessed that that is so. Furthermore, carrying a firearm in a holster on your body in public is illegal in Norway, except for when you are at the firing range. There are exceptions for people under a specific threat, but again, I am not in that situation.

BTS: Farmers and their cows

This week, I have a tale of two farmers for you…

The two farmers, let’s call one John and the other Seamus, are both cattle farmers. One day, John says to Seamus; “Here’s an idea; how’s about you give me one of your cows? That way, I’ll have twice as many as you do.” Seamus counters “I don’t think so; instead, why don’t you give me one of yours; that way we will have the same number of cows.” How many cows did they each have to start with?

Last week, I left you without revealing who was arrested. It was, of course, the maid; there’s no mail delivery on Sundays.

TBT: Creating a shortcut to start a service

This post originally ran in October 2008. I am reposting it now, as part of my throwback thursday project, to give some of my older quality posts some love. Though the post references Windows XP; the command works in later versions, too.

I’ve finally got my HTPC up and running with Team Mediaportal‘s lovely Media Center replacement Media Portal. One of the issues I faced while getting it up and running, was getting it to work with my MCE Remote. The solution to this was a third-party app called IR Server Suite. Once installed, every function in my MCE Remote worked like a charm. Until I rebooted the computer that is.

For some reason, the service that IR Server Suite uses to override Windows Media Center, and reroute signals to Media Portal, does not start properly. Although I am trying to solve the problem, a more immediately interesting issue is creating a better workaround than having to go to Services and manually start it.

The solution came to me while at work, as I remembered that a few of our servers have services that at times need to be restarted. This is done through shortcuts on the desktop of the server to save time. The shortcut leads to a batch file, using the NET START command. Here’s how my batch file looks like:

@echo off
net start inputservice
exit

On the user friendly computer

One of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis, 99 percent invisible featured a story about the computer mouse and its inventor, Doug Engelbart. In it, the fact that modern computers are becoming increasingly user friendly was bemoaned, arguing that if it were less user friendly, we would be able to perform more advanced tasks. Though an interesting point of view, it seems to me sadly mistaken. The thing is, though modern computers and operating systems are becoming ever more user friendly, accessible, and easy to use, that does not necessarily extend to the software run on the device. Let’s look at a few examples:

  • Statistics suites
    • Whether you use, SPSS, R or SAS, you will be spending a fair bit of time learning how to use it, and they all have advanced and complicated tools that take time and experience to learn
  • BI Software
    • Highly powerful though they are, I would be hard pressed to call software such as SAP BI or Oracle BI readily accessible to the untrained user, though the experienced user can get a wealth of information out of them
  • Database management suites
    • Whether you use MS SQL, MySQL or NoSQL, database management is a skill that takes time and experience to hone,

Simply put, I would contend that the world envisioned by Doug Engelbart, where we push ourselves to do more with our tools, and leverage those tools to greater effect, is here. Though most users might not see it, and therefore not know it or even know of it, it is here, and the toolsets afforded to us are ever expanding, ever improving, and ever deepening.