Category: Rant

Its sad how political debate on the Internet has devolved with the rise of social media over the years. There is absolutely no worse offender than Facebook. Facebook has a major sharing crisis. People are posting less and less content. Content is what ultimately drives people to social networks.

To combat the trend of declining sharing, Facebook has implemented a number of mechansims. The first one was the website embdeded share button, which made it easy for people to post content from external sites. The second was the “like button,” which is basically one click sharing. Then Facebook introduced the ability to re-share content from your feed, making easy for posted content to go viral.

All of these advances have made it very easy for people to share information. So what’s the problem?

The ability to easily share other people’s content on social networks has led to a decline of political debate on the Internet. When is the last time you saw someone post something political on Facebook that was original content? People are no longing expressing their own thoughts and views, instead they are simply reposting cookie cutter content that is designed to be eye catching, but rarely ever does it actually inform.

Contrast today’s state of deterioration with the “old days” of blogging. The vast majority of content posted on blogs was original content. Sure, people reposted pictures and linked to other websites, but it usually included original content that built upon the parent post. The length of that content went far beyond 140 characters or an awkward picture with a catchy headline.

The real tragedy in this onslaught of unoriginal content is that good information is being drowned in a sea of “shares,” “likes,” and “retweets,” by people have never written a single original thought online. Its no longer about crafting a clever argument, its simply about re-sharing as much crap as possible.

TSA Insanity

I haven’t posted to my blog in months, but my latest encounter with the TSA has to be documented.

I’m not a frequent flier, I usually fly about 5-10 times a year. Most of the time I’m travelling for extended trips, so I usually check my bags. This week I had a quick business trip to Pittsburgh.

You would think that the Philadelphia to Pittsburgh flight would be a very affordable ticket. There was a brief time when that was the case. A few years ago Southwest came in to Philly with great fanfare and had very affordable flights to Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, a few months ago Southwest stopped the PHL -> PIT route, and US Airways subsequently jacked the ticket price to $700 round trip.

Fortunately this was a business trip, but regardless of the reason for air travel we all have to go through the TSA. Tonight was a slow night, so there was no line. I walked right up with my boarding pass and my ID. After getting through that checkpoint, I went through my bin ritual as well.

After I walked through the scanner, a TSA employee asked me if I had anything in my pockets. The scanner did not go off, but I had my wallet. He then told me that my wallet would need to go through the bag scanner. He also told me that my buttocks would need a pat down from where the wallet was removed. He then told me not to move, as he wanted to swap me for some sort of explosives test. He also told me to look away towards the scanner as he was swabbing my hands and clothing.

After going through all this nonsense, the bag scan operator flagged my suitcase. Another TSA agent had to hand search my bag. She opened it up and went straight for my toiletry bag. I usually check my bag, so I’ve never bothered with this plastic bag idiocy.

She informed me that all my toiletries were the correct size, but I needed to get a plastic bag from the information desk. She then informed that I needed to place the toiletries in the plastic bag, leave the secure area with a TSA escort, then re-enter the security line and go through the ENTIRE process again.

I wasn’t sure that I really understood her, so I echoed back what she wanted me to do. She then mentioned that it was the process, and if I wanted to I could speak to her manager. I usually never do such a thing, but I said that I would LOVE to speak to your manager. The manger repeated the same line, that it was standard process. I literally had to go through the entire process again.

I hope everyone feels safer knowing that my toiletry bag is now in ziplock bag.

It all started with a few e-mails. A bunch of receipts for $50 iTunes purchases. When I first saw them, I assumed they were phishing attempts. A lot of phishers will use fake receipts that contain links to lure people to fake websites for acquiring passwords. I looked at the source of the e-mail and it looked legit, so I went on iTunes and discovered that my account was hacked.

There were several $50 purchases that use a feature called “Itunes allowances” which allow people to give others iTunes credit. The allowances were sent to a bunch of Yahoo! china e-mail addresses. Needless to say, I was pretty shocked. My password security is pretty good, and I’m very careful about what I do on the Internet.

So after finding out I was hacked, the first thing I wanted to do was call Apple. Want to actually call Apple about something? You’re shit out of luck. The only way to contact Apple about iTunes fraud is to send them an e-mail, and don’t expect a timely response. It took 12 hours to get a reply. Apple doesn’t really handle fraud at all. They tell you to contest the charge with your credit card issuer or Paypal. I was shocked at how poorly Apple handled the situation, which I guess is why scammers are using iTunes as a platform for exploitation.

My Apple account was tied to my Paypal account. Apple forces iPhone owners to have some form of billing setup, even if you don’t actually buy anything from Apple. I had my Apple account linked to my Paypal account. The eight $50 charges went to Paypal, so I contacted Paypal too.

I have to give Paypal some credit, someone called my cell within 10 minutes of me filing the fraud compliant. Paypal will be sending me a refund. However, the refund process takes 10-15 days! Paypal instantly withdrew $400 from my bank account, but it takes them over 10 days to issue me a refund. Oh, and here is the best part. The refund is sent to my Paypal balance! Then I need another 3-5 days to transfer the money back to my bank account.

How did my itunes account get hacked? I’m not sure. My computers are all secure, but I did reuse the Itunes password on several different other websites. It was a password that I used on quite a few Internet forums. My best guess is some forum site got hacked, and thats how my e-mail/password was grabbed. Thats my best guess. My security questions are too tough for anyone to guess, and while Apple is completely inept when it comes to security, I can’t imagine anyone brute forcing my iTunes password.

So I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about Windows 7. Apparently, its the first Microsoft client OS release since XP (2002) that will actually improve with a new release. It also happens to be first “pre-release” Microsoft OS I’ve tried since 2001, which was when the release candidates of XP started to pop up on the Internet.

I was shocked to hear that Microsoft released a freely downloadable beta, so I decided to give it a shot. I googled “Windows 7 release candidate,” and the first result was this link . As soon as I get to the page, a pop-up comes up asking to install “Silverlight,” which is Microsoft’s lame attempt at creating a flash clone. Typical for MS, they clone something that is cross platform (.NET=Java, Silverlight=Flash), and make sure it only works well on Microsoft operating systems. Needless to say, I didn’t bother installing “Silverlight.”

So the next step was for me to click the download link. I assumed that would take me to a page where I pick my appropriate download, and away we go.. Nope, I was then prompted for a Microsoft “Windows Live” id. The windows live id is a relic of Microsoft’s failed “Passport” initiative to monopolize federated web authentication. It took me 10 tries, but I finally found an old account that worked.

So now can I download Windows 7? Nope, Microsoft wants me to fill out a survey. The best part of the survey is when they ask what my primary client operating system is, the only products they list are Windows! Naturally I picked “other,” but its just another shining example of Microsoft’s hubris.


So I avoided Silverlight, dug up an old passport account, and filled out a survey, can I download Windows 7 now? Nope, Microsoft wants to verify my e-mail account. Sadly, I never received a verification e-mail, so I guess I wont bother trying Windows 7 today.

e-mail verify

Is pretty sad, that Microsoft can’t even get a simple beta download right. Its probably easier for someone to download a pirated copy of any Microsoft product, than it is to participate in a legitimate beta test.

Since our new president was elected on the notion of change, lets talk about changing the most absurd government policy of all. Why do individuals need to pay money to private companies in order to file our taxes online? Its absurd that a multi-billion dollar industry exists for no good reason.

The IRS should be doing everything possible to make the payment of taxes easy and free. Every year I pay around $40 to file my federal and state taxes online. Why doesn’t the government have a free site that is comparable to Turbotax online?

Maybe if it was easier to pay taxes, our politicians wouldn’t have so much trouble paying them..

The United States is in the middle of a recession, with crumbling infrastructure, and the country’s global influence waning. I thought now would be a great time to discuss standard of living in America.

Since the birth of this nation, there has been one overwhelming theme which bolstered the growth of the nation. Throughout the 20th century, if there was one constant in the United States, it was the notion that the next generation would have a better standard of living than the previous.

Unfortunately for today’s youth, the idea of a constant increase in standard of living is no longer a certainty. Salaries are not keeping up with increases in cost of living. During the 20th century, upward mobility in America was driven by the educational system. Children would aspire to be physicians, attorneys, journalists, policemen, and businessman.

A four year degree in the United States today is the equivalent of a high school diploma thirty years ago. Being a doctor today is not what it was a generation ago. There is an oversupply of attorneys, since law school became the default career path for students without clear career aspirations. Perhaps the most reliable vehicle for upward mobility in the 20th century was small business, particularly the idea of a family business.

Over the last twenty years, the family business has become an endangered species. Just think about where you purchased goods 20 years ago. Groceries, gas, clothes, sporting goods, cars, and appliances were all bought from family businesses. Today, the vast majority of goods and services are purchased from multinational corporations.

While Americans watched small businesses die around the country, it seemed like progress. The prices were lower at Wal-Mart, and instead of owning their own business, Americans would work for the multinationals, dabble in real estate, and invest in stock. The financial system was going to be the overwhelming source of wealth in this country, replacing legacy methods of upward mobility. After this year, there is no clear path.

Sure, there are always going to be opportunities for Americans to be successful. There will be new markets, new technologies, and new opportunities, but the odds of success are getting worse.

Today, there is no clear path upwards for the youth of America. Its no longer a certainty that generation X and Y will have a better quality of life than their parents.

Today, people are just hoping to break even.