Category: Web

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A Purely Personal Purge

Today ends tight-integration between Google Drive and Photos, which when working on Chromebooks I earnestly depended for the fluidity of my imaging workflow. As expressed about three weeks ago, the change contributed to my decision to abandon all things Google. I have lost trust in the company’s commitment to treating users as customers; they are instead beta testers for products and commodities to be profited from. That’s the price paid for free.

I have waffled about Alphabet for more than a decade—delighting in beneficial innovation and ignoring even my own analysis about Google’s profiting from—no, exploiting—content created by others. As I have written before: “Google is a leech that feeds off the intellectual property of legitimate content producers. The search giant profits from your good work, reducing its value in the process. Stated differently, ‘You create it, we sell it, and you must give it away for free’. How convenient that Google assigns such value, free, to someone else’s good work, while producing little content of its own”.

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The Great Social Network Divorce

For years, I toyed with deleting my Facebook, opened on Oct. 1, 2006—or thereabouts. About an hour ago, I deactivated instead. Finally! It is first, important step. I only kept the thing live this long out of sentimentality—seeing as I signed on long before most people heard of the social network—and to maintain presence for family and friends.

But time to let go is long overdue. Facebook is a plague that encourages narcissistic addiction, as people chase Likes, comments, and the such. They’re like mice in a maze clicking the food dispenser. The social network’s construction is toxically habitual.

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My Personal Tech Kit 2019

I start the new year in a very different space, and with turnabout attitude, than 2018. About six months ago, I surrendered my digital lifestyle to Google, abandoning Apple as primary platform provider. Trust brought me to the Apple way. Distrust drove me away. Choosing between priorities privacy and security, in an increasingly dangerous Internet, the latter matters more. The Alphabet subsidiary truly has its ABCs ordered in ways that the bitten-fruit company doesn’t. I can trust that Google, being native to cloud computing and depending on it (mainly by way of search-related advertising), will secure my content and devices better than Apple, which is at best a cloud computing resident alien and more typically behaves like an immigrant who doesn’t speak the language well nor understands local culture.

Sure, I surrender some privacy but that would happen anyway, because privacy is a fiction. If you use the Internet or connected mobile device, you have none. Google is motivated to protect me (and you) because we are the product that generates ad revenue. Between marketers and hackers, it’s easy choice which I’d prefer to have my personal information. Granted anyone can debate which is, hehe, more criminal. But marketers aren’t likely to clean out my bank account or steal my identity. Or yours.

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I Lied About Quitting Tidal

I can count on two hands, which soon may not be enough, how many times that I cancelled the Tidal music service only to resume weeks later. I first joined on April 1, 2015, when the rebranded music streamer started. Three days before my then most recent renewal date, June 30, 2018, I pledged to end my subscription for good. Simple reason: The Wilcox household subscribes to too many services, and Tidal is among the most expensive at $19.95 per month. I terminated, as planned.

But as expressed six months ago, “the new rule is this: we will pay for what we get good value”. My aging ears derive too much value from music streamed as so-called hifi—Free Lossless Audio Codec, delivered at 44 kHz, 16 bit, and 1411kbps bitrate. I can hear the difference, compared to muddy 320kbps MP3 or 256kbps AAC files. Every time I switch services, the muddy sound—particularly pronounced in vocals—drives me back to FLAC, and to Tidal. About two weeks later, in mid-July, I celebrated my birthday with yet another return. My subscription is uninterrupted nearly six months later. 

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AMC and I argue the Semantics of A-List Membership

Earlier this week, movie theater chain AMC dumped coal in my Christmas stocking when I attempted to cancel the $19.95-a-month, watch-three-movies-a-week Stubs A-List subscription. One, and then another, customer representative informed me that at signup, the terms of service explicitly states that commitment is for three months. He, then she, warned that cancellation would trigger immediate charge for the remaining two months. But the ToS restriction shouldn’t apply to me, being a returning customer.

Everything comes down to the meaning of one word: Initial. When A-List launched, on June 26, 2018, my wife and I joined. We ended our membership about 90 days later. The ToS states: “A-List has an initial non-cancelable term of three (3) monthly membership periods (the ‘Initial Commitment’)”. We were good with accepting that requirement, which we met. But on November 18, with a few holiday movies of interest, I resubscribed, presuming that by making a second commitment I could cancel whenever. However, AMC service reps claim that my 3-month obligation reset and initial is the applicable word. Oh, did I futilely argue the semantics of that. C`mon? Doesn’t initial mean first time

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There’s Philo Coal in My Christmas Stocking

I didn’t last long with streaming startup Philo. At 3:37 p.m. PST today, I purchased a gift subscription for six-months of discounted service. By 4:43 p.m., Philo acknowledged my cancellation (without refund, incidentally). I deserve some blame for not choosing the 7-day trial first. But the features are so modern and channel selection so perfect, I didn’t want to miss out the Holiday sale available since at least Black Friday. Besides, I had pondered Philo for nearly two weeks, all while brain-vacuuming professional reviews that offered little less than praise. Nowhere did I read, and perhaps carelessly missed, the dealbreaker: Cough. Cough. Streaming caps at 720p. Say what?

We live in the early era of 4K, which video quality I didn’t expect from Philo. But I fully anticipated watching 1080p on my Pixelbook or days-old Roku Ultra. As expressed, with flaming antagonism, in a requested cancellation reason emailed back to Philo: “I never imagined that streaming quality would be limited to 720p, which is jarring on my 43-inch TV…I hugely regret spending $99 for six months. Ho. Ho. Ho. Bah Humbug. There’s Philo coal in my Christmas stocking”. 

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AT&T sinks FilmStruck

For two years, I have been an annual subscriber to FilmStruck. Tonight the relationship ends, as AT&T shutters the service. Go back a few months, when making promises about consumer benefits, AT&T merged with Time Warner. Since, services like Direct TV Now cost more, while others are going or have gone. There is, or was, nothing like FilmStruck on the Internet—well, for content obtainable legally. Not that AT&T brass care.

The service was a cinephile’s dream. Where else do you see movies cataloged by director, or are there fascinating extras available almost nowhere else? I chose “Night to Remember” as Featured Image because it is one of my favorite classic films and for the accompanying interview with the last living Titanic survivor (before she died). Her recollection is rare footage that punctuates the movie’s storytelling. 

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I Quit Nextdoor Today

More than a year after first hearing locals rave about Nextdoor, I joined the social network, on Aug. 29, 2017. Late this afternoon, I deactivated my account. In principle, the concept is well-conceived: Build community among people living close to one another rather than interact across the far reaches of the InterWebs on the likes of Facebook. In practice, my experience is something else: Busy-bodies spend too much time complaining about their neighbors. I liked University Heights more when knowing less about the people living here—or the amount of hit-and-run accidents, package thefts, and other so-called crimes or problems amplified by hundreds of virtual megaphones. My sense of safety and well-being has greatly diminished from using Nextdoor. So no more!

No single incident precipitated my exit. Little things accumulated—like last week’s Cookies with the Cops meeting, where one police officer explained that if a so-called incident isn’t documented, “it didn’t happen”. He referred to the Get It Done app as the go-to place for non-emergency interaction with San Diego’s finest. He likened anything else to phone chains of old, where gossiping along a line of calls turned one thing into a hundred.

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Twitter is Right About the ‘Public Conversation’

I respect—and support—Twitter’s decision allowing Alex Jones to continue using the service. No other social network is as much about free expression, whether or not you agree with the viewpoints expressed there. I see YouTube in similar vain and, as such, wag my finger in condemning “shame on you” for following Apple’s lead and pulling Jones’ channel(s). (Vain is purposefully misused to make a point that I hope you get.)

For the record: I have never listened to or watched even a snippet of InfoWars. Meaning: I don’t stand up for Jones’ viewpoints but for his expressing them across social networks. 

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Locked and Loaded for Your Browsing Pleasure

Late yesterday, this site underwent a minor, but significant, alteration. An account executive for my webhost sent email reminding about something already known: That today, Google would start aggressively designating sites secure or not secure, depending on whether they used https or http, respectively. The former is encrypted, and presumably safer to engage.

For many months, I had strongly considered moving to another host—not for dissatisfaction but to get more benefits while spending as much, or even a little less. But, as I have learned from painful past experience, migrating WordPress installations can go badly. Why take the risk, when everything works just fine? The account executive and I chatted about a pay-yearly discount (my preferred arrangement) to stay put and also purchase of a SSL certificate for encrypting the site. We reached an agreement. 

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My Tidal Time Ends

As explained yesterday, Google Store Father’s Day sale specials spurred along my decision to abandon Apple for Pixel devices and supporting services, nothing more. I had contemplated such a move for some time before acting, which brings me to revealing another change: Leaving behind Tidal.

I have subscribed to the high-fi, lossless music streaming service since its rebranded launch under Jay Z (and partners) ownership: April 1, 2015. A few other times I cancelled, mainly because of monthly cost ($19.95), but resubscribed during the billing cycle. Why? I can hear the difference, particularly in vocals, which pulled me back. Every other option makes muddy audio. But I have finally decided to, regrettably, put value before fidelity.