Net neutrality protests today at selected Verizon stores #stopthefcc

I know it’s been quiet over here, and yes, I definitely know it’s 2 in the freaking morning (Houston time). But, this is important and can’t wait for daybreak. For those still tuned in and following the blog, I want to get the word out about this. Today, December 7, is the day for Team Internet’s protests of the planned repeal/rollback of the rules protecting net neutrality.

For those of you new to all of this, net neutrality means the equal treatment of all traffic on the Internet. It means Internet providers aren’t allowed to give preferential treatment to certain websites (particularly sites owned by the same parent company as the one providing your Internet service, such as Yahoo for Verizon, or NBC News for Comcast). Perhaps more importantly, it means Internet providers aren’t allowed to slow down or block blogs like mine here because I criticize their dubious and unethical business practices (like I have criticized Google so many times in the past). Put another way, it means the Internet is not just “cable TV for computers” where one has to pay extra to access certain sites; one is not stuck using Google because it costs extra to access DuckDuckGo.

It disgusts me that we have someone in charge of the FCC (Ajit Pai) who used to be an attorney for Verizon and who is apparently still Verizon’s puppet. Yes, DJT put him there, but this goes beyond the presidency. We still have a week to compel Congress to act.

For those of you in the Houston area, there are two main protests. I signed up when only the protest at the downtown Verizon store was available. That store is at 930 Main Street #103, right next to the northbound Main Street Square station on METRORail’s Red Line, across the street from a Metro bus stop for (inbound) routes 40 and 41 (also 212, 228, and 262 but those are more expensive commuter routes), and about a block and a half from the southbound Main Street Square station. (If you’ve been downtown a lot, you’ll remember at one time it was an AT&T store, and before that, a Krispy Kreme donut shop.) The protest at this store is at 5:00 pm, but I will try to be there no later than 4:45 pm to help get things started and/or meet and greet. There is apparently a second protest scheduled at the downtown store for Friday at 6:00 pm; this may be an alternate date due to the weather forecast (the hourly forecast I am seeing has no chance of rain during the 5:00 pm hour, but a 40% chance during the 4:00 pm hour and 30% during the 6:00 pm hour).

The other Verizon store protests listed in the area (current as of very shortly before the time of this post) are at the Galleria area store, 6 BLVD Place (1800 Post Oak Boulevard) at 11:30 am (on Metro bus route 33, also a relatively short walk from the Post Oak stop on route 82); Pearland store, 10904 Memorial Hermann Drive at 2:00 pm; and Pasadena store, 3830 Spencer Highway at 1:00 pm.

If you are outside the Houston area, please consult the event map. If you can’t attend a protest, you can still help out by spreading the word.

Is WordPress’s new Gutenberg editor going to be its “new Coke”?

Valiant Chicken recently reported on the impending change of WordPress’s editor to an entirely new one code-named Gutenberg. VC refers to the Gutenberg editor as “the end of the world” in the sense that it “changes the very fundamental assumptions about how you use WordPress.”

I took a quick look at the Gutenberg editor as it currently exists (a beta-quality plugin not intended for use on production sites). I get where the somewhat melodramatic hype is coming from. For the record, the vast majority of my posts are not even created using the current built-in editor in WordPress; I prefer a plugin for my text editor of choice, Vim. (Until a few months ago, the plugin was one called Blogit; the one I use now is VimRepress which is itself a fork of an earlier plugin called VimPress.)

Now, if I need to go back in and add images or other media, such as those on most posts on SKQ Record Quest or some posts on the now-retired Quinn’s Big City, those do get added in using the WordPress built-in editor, as there is simply no other way (yet) to add non-text content. (Well, I shouldn’t say outright no other way, as it is possible in theory to upload and link the images by hand. But that doesn’t allow the use of the gallery options made possible by the Jetpack plugin, something I make heavy use of on SKQ Record Quest.)

As a point of reference, the current built-in editor looks like this:

while the Gutenberg editor looks more like this:

The difference is pretty striking. What I really can’t show you easily with static screenshots is that the Gutenberg editor has a way to add “blocks” when mousing over parts of the editing area. None of the details on the right expand by default in Gutenberg; by contrast, the existing editor shows you at least minimal information about when the post is scheduled for, visibility, etc without having to expand each section individually.

For comparison, this is a screenshot of GVim (graphical Vim) having loaded a blank Gutenberg post:

So, while it is still possible to edit Gutenberg-created posts, there is a lot of other weird stuff in HTML comment tags that Gutenberg adds to keep track of everything.

What this means for how I currently edit the majority of my posts is unclear. I have found it easier to switch back to an editor window as opposed to a different browser window. Maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned and, despite it being closer to Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision for the World Wide Web, just find it a bit clumsier to edit in a browser. (In a pinch, that is how I put together a few posts on this blog, particularly from the era in which I did not have regular Internet access without going down to the local library.)

I may have more to add once I’ve actually tried Gutenberg for a while. Having barely tried it out, I can’t say for sure that I already hate it, but I do know I’m going to have a huge adjustment period ahead if it becomes the “new normal.” (And for the curious, I was a Pepsi drinker during the time Coke tried its “new Coke” experiment, but having read first-hand accounts, I can see why Coke is considered to have made one of the biggest screwups in marketing history.)

How did Apple manage to screw up the iOS calculator app?

This is a strange one.

Not too long ago, Quartz reported on an unfortunate gaffe by Apple in the calculator app in the latest version of iOS. If you typed in “1+2+3=” fast enough, you would get a wrong answer (i.e. not 6). In some cases, you would get a very wrong answer.

Apple did finally get around to fixing this bug about a week after the article. What’s disturbing is just how the botched calculator came to be to begin with. Per the article:

According to a group of eagle-eyed iPhone users on Reddit who spotted the issue, it seems to be because of a new animation in the calculator app, where a button briefly fades to white when you press it. The result is that if you press an operator button (i.e., the plus sign) before the short animation finishes, the app ignores it. So, 1 + 2 + 3 accidentally gets read as 1 + 23.

Translation: Apple cares more about the flashy and purely cosmetic animation than the calculator actually performing its intended function. This is wholly unacceptable for any company involved in devices intended to be used for functional computing. A calculator app is not a laser light show with numbers on it. It is a tool, much like the dedicated devices it is modeled after, which is relied upon to give accurate results when used. Screw up something like the calculator, and you (quite justly) lose the trust of a good number of your users, something which is not very easy to regain.

The good news is that Apple is fixing it. The bad news is that it apparently took Apple two minor iOS revisions to recognize the issue and get a fix out there. Quite disturbing to me. Yes, there are third-party calculator apps, but one should not have to resort to a third-party app for something like this.

I can only imagine what’s next: a phone app that dials the wrong number if you enter it too quickly?

In re Bob McNair’s gaffe of 2017 October

It’s time for another “queue jumper”. This one can’t wait because it is all over the news; I offer up Bleacher Report’s version if you need to catch up on the story.

The crux of this was the comment from Mr. McNair: “We can’t have inmates running the prison.” Though to his credit, he did apologize for the comment earlier today on Twitter, Mr. McNair’s choice of words was reckless and he should have known that they could be interpreted as racist, given the disproportionate number of people of color currently in prison and the fact that the majority of NFL players are men of color.

I caught some of the commentary on the radio (specifically KILT-AM, SportsRadio 610 during the Triple Threat show) and one of the commentators on that show suggested there would be no controversy over this remark if Mr. McNair had instead referred “inmates running the asylum”. I disagree, even though perhaps there would be less controversy, there would probably be a fairly sizeable stink over the remark. This isn’t the 1960s anymore when asylums of the sort referred to in that idiom are even common. As someone who has battled mental illness in the past, and who has also had to help friends cope with mental illness at various times over the past couple of decades, I think that idiom no longer reflects the reality of current times and needs to be retired as being in equally poor taste.

This goes beyond Mr. McNair, though. All the current NFL owners and anyone representing an NFL team as a coach or front office employee need to realize that a lot of current fans are now closer to tuning out of the NFL before, and in fact many already have, whether it’s because of reasons related to the protests, because they feel the player safety issues will never be resolved to their satisfaction or any number of other issues. Comments such as this one definitely will not help the situation, and if too many owners or staff make these kinds of comments, the NFL’s profitability might suffer.

On our nation’s leadership and protests by professional athletes

I have a lot to weigh in on regarding the recent actions of our president and elected officials, given that I haven’t posted a lot recently. But this, as a football fan (for the moment, anyway), is something I feel needs to “jump the queue”.

This story from Huffington Post covers DJT’s unfortunate and inflammatory remarks about the NFL and its players, calling for fans to boycott NFL games over the protests taking place during the playing of the national anthem. For those that have not kept up with this, the protests follow those by Colin Kaepernick, at the time of the San Francisco 49ers, and now a free agent (i.e. not currently playing in the NFL), which I commented upon previously in this blog.

Before even getting into DJT’s remarks, I feel Colin remaining a free agent (i.e. not employed playing football) as its own problem. Some of it may be due to the injuries he was recovering from last year, but for the most part, I’m not buying any argument that it’s due to football skill or lack thereof. At least most of the reason most NFL teams won’t consider signing Colin to play is because of his protest. Colin’s original protests during the playing of the anthem were, in his own words: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” As I have said previously, it’s a noble cause to protest. That people are angry because those who take a knee during the anthem appear to be unpatriotic, without knowing the real reason, is an unfortunate side effect.

While this was sitting in the queue, something even more disturbing happened. Our vice president (and former governor of Indiana), Mike Pence, flew out to watch the San Francisco 49ers play the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium (in Indianapolis). He saw (49ers) players kneeling during the anthem. DJT told him before the game to leave if any players did this, so he left. According to the Indy Star, this costs the taxpayers somewhere around $250,000 at the minimum, possibly more. In government budgets, that’s not really a whole lot. But Mr. Pence had to expect that some 49ers players would take a knee, and I personally think he orchestrated this whole thing as a protest of his own. An editorial piece in the Indy Star which criticizes Mr. Pence’s walkout also says that he should have expected this, so I’m clearly not alone:

The vice president chose to attend Sunday’s game fully knowing what was likely to transpire. He should have stayed away or stayed in his seat for the game. Instead, he chose to run a political play that shouldn’t have been in the game plan.

(I do disagree with Tim Swarens on his stance that the players are wrong to protest. It is their right to protest both the oppression originally protested by Colin Kaepernick and DJT’s later statements where he suggests that NFL rules put in place to make the game safer for its players should be rolled back, and also suggests that protesting players should be fired with the “get that son of a bitch off the field” remark.)

In this case, Mr. Pence actually protested the existence of the First Amendment by walking out of a game. (That, and he missed what would have been a great game for him to watch, as his Colts beat the 49ers in overtime 26-23.) If DJT is as rich as he makes himself out to be, he should be able to cover the cost of this egregiously stupid PR stunt out of his own pocket. The taxpayers should not have to pay for this waste of resources. This was really DJT’s move here, even though Mr. Pence was the one who actually flew to Indianapolis and left the game. If DJT wants players to quit taking a knee during the anthem, he should show more respect for them and take action to fix the root cause of the protests, which is the systemic oppression of people of color. Given DJT built a large part of his campaign on racism and division, I’m not exactly holding my breath.

Rather than firing NFL players for bringing to the nation’s attention something which has been long ignored, I think a far more intelligent move would be to get that son of a bitch (DJT) out of the White House. The time has come to impeach DJT (and possibly Mr. Pence as well) without any further delay.

(This was written, but not posted, before Colin Kaepernick filed his grievance accusing the NFL owners of collusion. I will cover this in a later post.)