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Category: Technology

“Powered By Reason”

I’ll admit it: when you pop up an ad on my Twitter feed telling me about a debate platform powered by reason, the only thing I see is a hazy red cloud of danger surrounding the words “debate” and “reason.” I blame Gamergate and the alt-right for implanting this reflex deep within my soul. Why are you avoiding my attempts to rationally discuss your inferiority?

But I will rise above my bias and check it out… oh god.

Yes, that’s the problem. Not all claims are created equal; demanding that we put equal time into attacking the argument that oceans would flow away if the Earth were round is a bad idea. The quality of a debate is in part determined by the quality of the claims made during that debate.

Kialo tries to mitigate this by allowing users to vote on each statement’s impact, but that means the displayed validity of points is determined by who can turn out their side the best. Obvious flaws are obvious. More subtly, this concept accepts the assumption that all claims are worth engaging with. Consider the (decade-old!) concept of the social denial of service attack.

Are You Happy?

A long long time ago when I was a desktop support grunt at Sun Microsystems, I encountered the best support feedback mechanism in the world. Every time you closed a ticket, it generated an email to the person who opened the ticket. The email had three faces in it: a smile, a frown, and a neutral. Each face was linked to a URL. Click the appropriate face, register your opinion, go on with your day.

We had a target percentage of smiles. If you ever got a frown, you went down and talked to the person who was unhappy and got the issue resolved; then you told your manager about how you fixed the problem. This process cut down on the number of people who submitted spurious frowns. When your casual expression of dissatisfaction results in a human being asking how she can make it better, you start getting in the habit of saving the frowns for real problems.

The system was very easy to implement. The URLs were something like http://feedback.sun.com/?ticket=XXXXX&happy=1. You don’t need a web app to process that, you just need to run the logs through a bit of perl to aggregate stats. Sun probably was dumping the results into a database cause that’s very simple, but even that wouldn’t take barely any programming. No authentication or anything.

It is, therefore, quite satisfying for me to read this article on HappyOrNot. They’re a Finnish startup that makes a physical version of the smiley face feedback tool. They’re smart, they get the requirement to be frictionless, and they kept the product simple. You just press the button.

AirPods One Year In

Yep, they continue to be really great after a year of use. Apple hasn’t made progress on the wearable interface yet, alas. They’re still my favorite headphones ever. The unexpected benefit: they’re exactly what I need for using videoconferencing at work. Lightweight, live in my pocket, I don’t have to awkwardly carry them to a conference room when I’m talking to someone remotely. They’re just great.

Quick AirPods Thoughts

The basics: I like my AirPods. They were easy to pair, the sound is decent, and they’re secure in my ears. The case is cool and will fit nicely in my backpack. I am not an audiophile, so if you are maybe you want something better, but they’re fine for me. I’m not going to be a huge fan of pulling my phone out of my pocket to change the volume, but I think I can live with that.

The really interesting thing is how unobtrusive they are. I could possibly have one of these sitting in my ear all day; it wouldn’t cut off outside sound and it wouldn’t be annoying. If Siri was really awesome, this would be the at-hand personal assistant as described in Oath of Fealty, which would be kind of cool. Siri is not that awesome yet, however, and she’s not tuned for voice communication. Like, I should be able to say “Where is Susan?” and Siri should tell me where she is instead of making me peer at my screen. (We have Find my Friends, it’s not creepy.)

Anyhow, lightweight: that’s the cool bit about this device. They’re a wearable that fades into the background. Or maybe they’re a signpost on the way to that wearable.

Redhat Openstack Install

Redhat has a shiny new Openstack install process, which includes an all-in-one configuration. This beats DevStack on Ubuntu for me because it’s persistent, which DevStack is not. And I’m a bit too lazy to work through the install by hand if there are options available. I’m pretty sure this guide would have been useful if I wasn’t lazy, FWIW.

Anyhow, I’m running through the install now. Only one snag so far; the Quickstart fails to tell you that you need to install puppet. Do this before step 3:

sudo yum install -y puppet

No problem rerunning the packstack step if you didn’t install puppet the first time through. Two minutes later I had an instance up and running, and most of that time was downloading the image.

Quest for LTE

Did you remember that Ron Perlman was in Quest for Fire? Me either, but he was. This post is not about cavemen, though. It is a note on an AT&T LTE provisioning problem in the interests of helping other people get the problem solved.

I upgraded from my iPhone 4 to a spiffy new iPhone 5 on AT&T. It was great except LTE wasn’t working; I just got 4G and nothing better. The first week I had it, I went to Austin and Las Vegas which kept me a bit too busy to bug AT&T. I did call AT&T tech support from Vegas a couple of times, but neither time was very successful. (Do not foist me off on Apple, dude! Uncool.) My research said that a number of things could be wrong: my sim card might not be provisioned for LTE; I might not be on an LTE data plan; or the sim card itself could be hosed.

In all these cases except the broken sim card, it’s reportedly possible to get a phone support person who can fix it. I believe this is true because ultimately it was a phone support guy who solved the problem, but none of the ones I talked to in Vegas were clued in. So I finally went down to the AT&T store in Palo Alto today and chatted with this awesome guy named Chris Dubon. He swapped out my sim card and double-checked my data plan with no luck. I offered to hit the Apple Store, since at this point I was suspecting hardware, but he was all “nope, let’s eliminate anything we can eliminate before you leave.”

So he called tech support and they said “hm, we don’t see that sim as provisioned for LTE.” He swapped in another one, and they reset the whole profile. Bam: LTE.

The key thing here is not to go bug your AT&T guys with the magic words I’m not even sure I got right; what I’m saying is just hit the AT&T store directly and let them be smart about fixing the problem. They can pull out a replacement sim card on the spot, they’ll get through to the right tech support people, and so on. It took like 45 minutes but it was time well spent.

The Federal Internet

I’ve been reading a lot of AlternetHistory.com lately. Someone challenged the board to come up with an AH in which the Internet was unrecognizable with a point of divergence later than Jan 1st, 1989.

I couldn’t do it; by that time you already have at least two regional ISPs. If you somehow prevent Bob Rieger from turning Netcom into a business, Barry Shein still gets The World underway. I don’t think the One Great Man theory applies to consumer-oriented ISPs.

But if you’re willing to push the POD a couple of months earlier, you might be able to do something. None of this seems de

Instapaper Fiction

I like fiction delivered to a convenient and elegant place to read! So:

  1. Go to ifttt, log in/register/whatever
  2. Create a new task.
  3. Choose the Feed trigger.
  4. Choose New Feed Item.
  5. Use the Feed URL http://hilobrow.com/tag/world-shook/feed/, on the assumption that you want to read HiLoBrow’s H. Rider Haggard serialization.
  6. Feed it into Instapaper (or Readability if you like that). You can leave the default field values alone. If this is your first time using ifttt, you’ll need to register the channel first.
  7. Give it a description.

Or just go ahead and use the recipe I made.

Price Awareness

I don’t get the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7. It’s a pretty standard tablet, with LTE as the standout feature. It’s a 7.7″ model. It runs Android 3.3 — in theory ICS will come in the future, but we hear that a lot. At 16 GB of storage, it retails for $499 with a two year contract. How does that make sense when the 16 GB iPad 2 is selling for $580 no contract at Best Buy? And where’s the cheaper WiFi model?

Streaming VIDEO_TS?

Oh mighty Internet: is there a preferred solution for streaming VIDEO_TS directories? Boxee does it but support is rumored to be flaky. Plex maybe does it? I can handle more or less any platform although OS X or Linux are more desirable.