Standardizing Labels for Electronics

Gizmodo wants electronics to have standardized labeling to make things easier to compare. I suggested something along these lines back in 2008 about energy efficiency. Their proposal is a little more broad though I like it.

Recently I tried to get stats on power consumption for a product from a decent sized manufacturer. Interestingly their sales and support team didn’t know how much power it consumed. They didn’t even know where to get such information and suggested they could try contacting engineering but weren’t sure if it was available. Something as basic as “how much electricity does your device use?” is not available online or upon request.

So yes, I’m 100% on board with this proposal. It’s insanity that it’s so difficult to find anything more than some silly marketing specs (3D, HD, WiFi, “Fast”). It should be listed on the product details page on any online store, or on the back of the physical packaging.

It’s easy to get all sorts of stats on components when purchased individually (RoHS, Lead free, 80+ certification, power consumption, thermal specs), but buy a device full of components and it’s a mystery in many cases regarding the real specs.

Considering how much we use our gadgets, knowing such information can mean big savings. Think about your home router and switches. Just a little power savings can add up over the 3-5 years you have them installed (and running 24×7). If you live in an area where power is expensive it may make sense to actually spend more for a higher efficiency device.

More On Facebook Places Privacy

Via NY Times:

“I like Foursquare because I can actually pick who sees where I actually am, compared to Facebook, where I have 1,200 friends,” she said. “I don’t want 1,200 people knowing where I am.” Facebook does let users pick a smaller subgroup of friends who can see location updates, but Ms. Lovelidge said it would be too much trouble to set that up.

Emphasis mine. This isn’t lost on Facebook. Zuckerberg himself said: “But guess what? Nobody wants to make lists”.

The problem is that for every Ms. Lovelidge who at least acknowledges the risk and avoids it, there will be 10 others completely oblivious to the risks.

One great lesson here is that you can’t change the paradigm and assume an old security model, in this case the “friends” network will continue to work. This is the equivalent to turning a store into a private residence without bothering to replace the open store front with a more traditional door.

Sharing Location With Strangers Via Facebook Places

Twice in a weeks time [1, 2] I’ve suggested that teens in particular have more “friends” than friends. AOL apparently did some of the research for me regarding the prevalence:

…more than half of the children surveyed (54%) don’t personally know all of the friends…

54% of teens surveyed don’t know all their “friends”. Facebook defaults the privacy settings on places to “friends”. 54% of children surveyed will likely be sharing their current location with people they don’t personally know. Places will catch on, especially once the check-in games start coming up and it becomes more fun and competitive. Half will likely share their location with people they don’t know.

Think about this for a second. Just a few years ago society would have found the idea of teenagers revealing their current location to people they don’t even personally know to be insanity.

It’s easy to fix, just setup a group and include/exclude as desired. The problem is awareness of the problem is low. Also problematic is the desire and patience to sort through several hundred “friends” and bucket people.

It would also be easy for Facebook to fix by forcing users to either select specific groups or individuals rather than just defaulting to the overly broad “friends”. They have the UI, and it’s actually pretty good (I’ve got some gripes, but they don’t apply to 99.9% of the population) they just don’t make users go through it for the sake of simplicity.

I don’t really like this.

More On Facebook “Friends” And Privacy

Last week when I wrote about the risks of Facebook Places I specifically said:

Decisions on who qualifies as a friend may have been made a few years ago when the risks were different and content being exposed was much less harmful. Letting a stranger see your obnoxious status update is different than letting them know where you are.

MG Siegler at TechCrunch just realized this himself and cut the number of friends he had in half. To quote:

Facebook is mutating. The problem is that the original social graph isn’t built for this mutation. And we’re going to see that very clearly with things like this new location element.

I’d argue MG Siegler is brighter and more in tune to this sort of thing than 90%+ of Facebook users. Perhaps 99%. If he just realized this now, it’s going to take a long time for the more casual user to catch on.

As I wrote last week, the term “friend” has been grossly distorted over the past few years. I strongly suspect the most at risk users are the ones who distorted it the most. Defaulting things like Places to “friends” isn’t good enough.

You’ll be seeing more about this in the press over the coming several months. This is going to get messy as people leak information they didn’t intend to.

Budget Calculator Dice

When I was in High School somehow dice became popular for the 2000th time since the dawn of humanity. For some strange reason I felt the desire to build a little dice game in my TI 83 calculator in TI-BASIC. I had long forgotten about this, and recently stumbled upon it. I transcribed it to my computer recently since I don’t have one of those cables and decided to just throw it out there on the web.

Looking back on it, I could have written this a lot better ;-) . Regardless it’s a fun trip down memory lane. I believe I wrote most of this little gem while lifeguarding on a Sunday morning. Nobody drowned in the production of this code, I swear.

My favorite part may be the about text “DEPRIVING A VILLAGE SOMEWHERE OF AN IDIOT”. Someone at some point somewhere said that about me, and it stuck for years.

Continue reading

The Color Red

Women are more attracted to men in red according to recent research: Red, Rank, and Romance in Women Viewing Men [pdf].

…in a series of 7 experiments we demonstrate that women perceive men to be more attractive and sexually desirable when seen on a red background and in red clothing, and we additionally show that status perceptions are responsible for this red effect. The influence of red appears to be specific to women’s romantic attraction to men: Red did not influence men’s perceptions of other men, nor did it influence women’s perceptions of men’s overall likability, agreeableness, or extraversion.

Considering how common it is in the animal kingdom, this shouldn’t be surprising. Even in in modern humans it’s common, for example red lipstick.

Still it’s interesting that something like color can have an impact on a person.

Cable Fail

I’ve been looking for a 4 conductor male TRS connector (Apple iPhone headset jack) for a small project. Simple enough. I found a cheap extension on Amazon a week ago that seemed to fit the bill. For posterity here’s what the description says:

Technical Details

  • Made and designed to work seamlessly with the Apple iPhone.
  • Will act as an extension cable, carrying both the stereo audio and microphone signals from your device.
  • Allows the adapter to be used with stereo headphones that also have integrated microphone functionality
  • Made with Nickel plated materials, 3.5mm 4-pole plug, 3.5mm 4-pole jack and a 10 cm (L)
  • A perfect accessory for your NEW Apple iPhone.

Emphasis mine.

It arrived in an envelope containing a tiny ziplock back with no labeling (it’s barebones). When I hooked it up it seemed that audio quality wasn’t very good. I never bothered to check out the microphone. At that price it obviously didn’t make fiscal sense to return it as the postage costs about as much as it’s worth. So I decided to finish dissecting it.

From what I can tell it’s actually 3 wires. Each is a different color (red, copper, green) with some white strands in the core. The female jack has two prongs with one wire attached to each and the enclosure itself which seems like it’s the ground. My suspicion is that the audio is either combined or only one channel is used making it actually mono. The jacket I dissected was molded on so it was virtually impossible to remove the plastic without severing the thin wires in the process.

Here’s what the wire and the female jack (sideways on the bottom) look like:
Full Sized iPhone Wire Dissected

Here’s the jack from the back side. I suck at photography and only have a P&S camera, so it’s a bit blurry:
iPhone Cable Female Terminal

I’m now debating trying another vendor or a more expensive 2.5 mm to 3.5 mm adapter.

My original plan was to find a new 4 conductor TRS male plug, but that proved impossible via the usual sources. 3 conductor is easy.

If anyone has suggestions feel free to reach out.

Thoughts On Mindset List For Class Of 2014

The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014 is out. To quote the site it “provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall”. The first one really struck me:

  1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

Yikes. From what I can remember it was mostly required on handwritten work after 4th grade or so. Only exceptions were when you typed a paper. I’ll confess I have the handwriting of a doctor, but at least I have it.

For the rest of the list, some still applies to me, some doesn’t. Johnny Carson retired in 1992 when I was in second grade, so for the most part I only remember Leno and Letterman. Carson however had a strong impression on pop culture for several years thereafter. First computer I really used was likely an Apple II, though I later used an even older IBM 5150. I also don’t recall when Czechoslovakia cased to exist, I just remember learning about it in the past tense.

“Nirvana is on the classic oldies station”… that’s just crazy talk.

Coming Soon: 3D Pornography

Apparently some enterprising director is working on 3D porn. Yes, the same technology being used in movies, but for porn. Will anyone want to actually watch porn in 3D? Will they be able to sit through it without ducking? I’m really not sure. I suspect morbid curiosity may help lift the sales for the first one. It may also make a good novelty gift when it’s on Blu-ray.

If that isn’t bad enough Gizmodo is reporting that someone is at work on an IMAX 3D porn flick. I can’t even type this without cringing and laughing. I dare anyone to watch that in an IMAX theater and not duck under their seats. This might be the worst idea I’ve read in a long time. I don’t think anyone wants to see that in 3D on such a large encompassing screen. Or maybe I’m totally wrong and it will be wildly popular.

I recall a few years ago reading about the backlash of people who found HD to be “too much”. Even worse than watching with headphones. This is going in a whole other direction.

This was to silly for me not to post.