john lennon is spinning in his grave

In case you haven’t heard, Paul McCartney is the darling boy of the EU’s Article 13 which hopes to stab out YouTube’s heart with a spork. Since Google owns YouTube, it’s naturally worried about all this. To make matters worse, the EU’s Article 11 link tax is quite possibly aimed at Google itself. The former Beatle has stepped up to urge the European Parliament to…

“PLEASE VOTE TO UPHOLD THE MANDATE ON COPYRIGHT AND ARTICLE 13. YOU HOLD IN YOUR HANDS THE FUTURE OF MUSIC HERE IN EUROPE.”

From the tone and use of ALLCAPS you’d almost think this were the Crusades and they’re all mounted on horses pointed south, defending Christendom.

Let’s not forget though that in a public ranking of all Beatles songs ever made, topping the worst-of-the-Beatles list at #213 is none other than Good Day Sunshine.

From Vulture’s article:

Revolver (1966): Paul McCartney was welcome to write all the happy, upbeat, cheery-cheery songs he wanted. But this one is beyond the pale. It’s blaring, received, and strident. Even by McCartney standards (“Getting Better,” “Hello Goodbye”) the title is inane. It could have been “Yum Food Delicious,” or “Hot Sex Baby,” or any other three random words McCartney took out of his Young Man’s Collection of Positive Synonyms — and note that of these three choices McCartney chose the blandest. McCartney’s piano playing, which graced so many Beatles songs, right up to “A Day in the Life,” is a parody of itself. It’s the worst song in the Beatles’ classic period. And it ruins Revolver, otherwise the most consistent and mind-blowing collection of pop-rock songs ever conceived by man.

John Lennon’s song Imagine was liked much more and for good reason. I think the sentiment resonated more with the average person. But now I’d like to mashup the lyrics a bit in honor of Paul’s recent audacity. Note that I only changed the words in italics below so I’m not far from John’s original sentiment in the last stanza about no possessions (to include even the possession of songs themselves).

Imagine there’s no money
It’s easy if you try
No credit cards before us
Behind us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no currency
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to buy nor pay for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life so free

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

I can’t imagine for even a single minute that John Lennon would have begged the European Parliament to protect his song rights from anyone.

Shame on you, Paul McCartney. If you’re mad at YouTube, don’t blindly lash out at the Internet-at-large and encourage the advent of “Lawyer-fest 2019”. You’d have to be daft to support legislation which gives full reign to every vulture of the world to now feed on the average Joe attempting to run a website.

goo.gl broke it

Jumping into the Wayback Machine to the year 2010, Google introduced a means of shortening URLs. Since they’d purchased the goo.gl domain name, they took advantage of this plus an abbreviated means of issuing shorter URLs. The shorter URL would then redirect to the actual target address.

Why?

You might ask why Google would create a seemingly-free service that would redirect URLs for people. Part of it could be explained by re-using a domain name that sounds a lot like Google as a form of advertising their brand name. But the strongest reason would be to build a database of URLs which could be mined in some way, perhaps for their own search engine’s optimization.

It’s clear that analytics was a big reason for offering a service like this. There is value in knowing everything about what other people are doing.

And den?

Good question. What comes next after the Internet has then embraced the concept and created millions of shorter links? You guessed it…

Google is killing the [goo.gl] service in March of 2019.

What will break?

It’s difficult to even fathom how much of the Internet will take a hit in three months. People routinely used these shorter URLs in combination with both Google Drive— and Microsoft OneDrive—related documents. There are numerous one-off solutions which automatically submit URLs to goo.gl vicariously for you. These should be the first things to break.

Google will likely continue to redirect links for a while but they will eventually need to pull the plug.

Imagine the sheer number of times these shorter URLs were used in printed documentation to refer back to online support pages. This would have been typical of many consumer products with small printed manuals. Imagine the number of boxed consumer products still sitting on shelves in stores which contain these soon-to-be-deprecated links.

Is that it?

Google is now moving the service over to Firebase (which they bought in 2015) as Dynamic Links which presumably few people will use since they’re not Google Developers.

 

one-line edit, no more google $$$

In reading articles today entitled “You can’t boycott Google” and “They Tried to Boycott Facebook, Apple and Google. They failed.” I would suggest that neither Adrianne Jeffries nor Jack Nicas, respectively, understand the power of activism. People do have personal power but only if they’re willing to accept this fact.

Case in point, today I made a one-line edit to my laptop’s hosts file. It’s so easy that it only took a moment of my time. And what great thing, you might ask, did I accomplish doing so? In a one-line edit, I just removed Google’s revenue stream for their search engine.

In a one-line edit, I just removed Google’s revenue stream for their search engine.

2jjzsp

Remove Google’s adSense from Websites You Visit

The beauty in all this is the simplicity. Even the mighty Achilles had his weakness in the form of a vulnerable heal. Much of Google’s ongoing stream of income relies upon those ad impressions. Remove the impressions and you remove their revenue.

Remove the [Google ad] impressions and you remove their revenue.

And let’s face it, we didn’t really want to see those ads in the first place. They’re annoying, they vie for your attention in ever-newer distracting ways and they use your paid-for bandwidth all the while and without your permission.

  • OSX:  Open a Terminal and enter the command: sudo nano /private/etc/hosts
  • Windows:  Start -> Run -> cmd -> Choose the option to Run As Administrator, notepad c:\windows\system\drivers\etc\hosts

In either case, add the following line and save/exit: 127.0.0.1     *.googlesyndication.com

Let’s See the Difference

Going now to the website which apparently ranks the highest in Google adSense revenue, I show what their website looks like without those ads.

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 1.34.41 PM

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 1.35.00 PM

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 1.35.21 PM

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 1.35.32 PM

See all those empty regions? Yep, those were the ads. The page loads faster. The page doesn’t now try to update the ads while I’m trying to simply read the content. It’s now a lot quieter and easier to take in the information.

Less Impressions -> Now You Have Google’s Attention

This is all it will take to make a difference in the world. If others follow suit and take my advice, this revelation of personal power as seen in the aggregate might just change the way these big players operate.

It’s all up to you, though. What do you really have to lose (other than those unwanted advertisements)?

boycott google

We reasonably expect that our service providers are not secretively working against its consumers/users and reporting search results to governments. In this case, if a Chinese citizen did a Google search which included marked keywords their name, GPS location and phone number were forwarded to their government. It is well-known that this then would eventually result in imprisonment and they will now be forced into slave labor to make consumer goods so that Wal-Mart can sell a toaster for $6.

When Google executives worried that the memo would somehow break out to the media, they then attempted to suppress the story by threatening emails, using technology to know who complied internally.

I think this needs to stop. And by “stop”, I’d suggest an all-out boycott of Google.

I think this needs to stop. And by “stop”, I’d suggest an all-out boycott of Google.

Google employees are reportedly resigning over China search efforts

Closer to Home

In a similar troubling story, Google employees are also protesting and resigning over its involvement with the DoD.

Project Maven: Nearly a dozen Google employees have reportedly quit in protest

DuckDuckGo Steps Up

I see that today the plucky DuckDuckGo.com search engine alternative has obviously read the news as well.

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 9.20.44 AM Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 9.22.09 AM

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The Corbett Report

Please watch this video. If you’re familiar with the character from the popular television show The Colbert Report, you might accidentally think that these are the same people (they’re not). Note the slight difference in spelling.

https://www.corbettreport.com/?powerpress_embed=24412-podcast&powerpress_player=mediaelement-video

Suppression of alternate media

As described in the video and demonstrated by the search engine comparison, Google has been caught manipulating the results in such a way that they are manufacturing public opinion. The days of valuing Google as an objective provider of search results are over; they’re no longer the “good guy”.

If you specifically depend upon independent media as opposed to the national media, GoodGopher.com has that option.

Change your search provider

Follow my lead and change your search provider today. Don’t wait for things to get worse.

got chrome?

“Would you like to install Chrome?”, I’m asked a hundred times per day by my default search engine, Google.com. “No, Google. As I’ve already answered a thousands times before this, I don’t want to install another browser on my computer.”

No, Google.  As I’ve already answered a thousands times before this, I don’t want to install another browser on my computer.

In the browser wars, Google hates Microsoft and Microsoft hates Google. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then when you’re using Internet Explorer and you visit Google that they then try to get you to install their own competing browser (Google Chrome). And when I say “try” I really mean “relentlessly nag you to death on the subject“.

The Fix

I’ve posted before about using a custom stylesheet to thwart Google’s Chrome-nag. Here is a new method which seems to be working for me today. I just updated the option for IE -> settings -> Internet Options -> Home Page:

https://www.google.com/webhp??

Normally, that /webhp?hl=ca part is expected to steer Google so that it selects your home language, Catallà, for example. Interestingly enough, Google doesn’t apparently nag people (regarding Chrome) who speak languages other than English!

So we use this knowledge to break the chain of violence, so to speak. Actually, we’re breaking more than that since by putting two question marks we’re technically breaking (okay, “faking out”) the specification for query strings.

outsourcing your work as a captcha

I guess everyone’s seen the robot test captcha thing on Google these days. If you try to use their websearch engine too fast, then you’ll soon be proving that you’re not a script that’s running on some spammer’s computer.

I'mNotARobot

Often, though, you’re then next asked to select which squares have store fronts, or doors, or signs or food.

CaptchaSigns

And of course, since we want that content, we dutifully “prove” that we’re not a robot. But—and I realize this might sound a little cynical of me—what if we’re actually being forced into conscripted labor, as if we were Google’s robots?

What if we’re actually being forced into conscripted labor, as if we were Google’s robots?

Try to follow along…

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Amazon has a variety of services within the AWS space. The one I’m thinking about at this moment is their Amazon Mechanical Turk. If you have a computer and Internet and want to make some money doing (usually) mundane tasks, then Amazon will pay you to do so.

For instance, Amazon might pay a hundred people to look at one image after another and to indicate/highlight where in the image they see a sign or a store front or whatever it is that Amazon needs highlighted. Humans are great at this. Artificial intelligence applications are getting there, only it takes a supercomputer these days in order to do these tasks.

What if Google doesn’t want to use their supercomputers nor wants to pay anyone to do object recognition either?

Google Maps Streetview

Google’s mapping featureset with Streetview represents a way for them to make a lot of money. And their collection of project managers would love to know where storefronts are within all that captured data. (Imagine that they’ve paid drivers to drive around a car with 360° cameras.) Because behind every storefront is a business who could pay Google money for placement within Google Local.

Now, Google has datacenters with plenty of available processing power to do this. But what if… they’re using us instead.

Think about it, we’re asked to identify objects within photos (which look like they’re taken from the Streetview data) and we’re being asked to identify things (businesses) which could make Google money or things (signs) which could be used in mapping directions.

Call me cynical but Google is looking a little guilty on this one. Why aren’t we identifying the squares with puppies in them? Because puppies don’t buy listing upgrades, that’s why.

 

the power of seo

Everyone wants to sell you search engine optimization (SEO) as a service.  I’m sure there’s good money in doing that but I’ve never paid anyone for this since it’s easy enough to do yourself.  The higher you are in a Google search result, the more likely that you’ll be seen.  And the more likely you’re seen, the more likely your blog will be read.

“Roll Your Own” SEO

Believe it or not, one of my most popular blog posts of all time is “why PowerShell sucks so badly”, enjoying 743 views so far (mostly from searches in Google).  Viewing this graph, clearly something changed between Jul & Aug of 2016.

powershell-sucks

The views for this blog post were all 100% organic (unaffected by anyone’s attempts to manipulate search engine placement) before August 2016.  If you typed in “powershell sucks” into Google before this time you would have had to search page after page within their results to find any mention of my blog.

August 2016

Somewhere during that month, I noticed the popularity of this particular blog post and wanted to do an experiment.  Up until this point there might have been a total of 50 views, making it one of my most popular posts at the time.

Daily, for about a week, I visited Google and typed in “powershell sucks”, then walked through the pages of results until I found the link to my own post.  I then clicked the link and parked that browser.  (It’s important to just appear as if you’re actually reading the content because Google’s JavaScript is tracking your behavior.)

It’s only necessary to do this once per day, to be honest.  It doesn’t take much to make an otherwise-obscure blog post gain in popularity in the “eyes” of Google’s search engine.

I repeated this behavior until the blog post was listed in the top five entries of the first page of results and then let nature take its course.

The Result

Of course, the Internet loves to complain.  From this point on, the Internet-at-large would then see the blurb in Google’s search results and offer to them the promise of a rant by some distant blogger (Yours Truly).  They clicked the link, landed on the page and were instantly rewarded by a smarmy commentary on my frustrations with PowerShell.

Once this “pump” was primed by my own efforts, it was unnecessary to do anything other than to continue to write content.  Well, at least, I write content which I myself would be interested in reading.

Have I learned anything from all this?  The Internet appears to love a post whose title resonates with something they’re feeling at the moment.  For comparitive purposes, I demonstrate that “too much fun” received three views and “windows 10 sucks balls” has about 120 so far.

Do you change your blogging style to accommodate the prevailing mood of the Internet?  I wouldn’t suggest that.  Just write.  Try to find something interesting and say what you need to say.

windows-10-sucks

too-much-fun

the rise and fall of the microsoft empire

1975-1980

Our historical timeline begins in 1975 when an unlikely duo—Paul Allen as Batman and Bill Gates as his awkward “Boy Wonder”—started Microsoft Corporation.  I’m guessing that ro-sham-bo was involved in this decision but incredibly somehow Bill was made the CEO when the company got its start.  Maybe dropping out of Harvard gives you that kind of confidence.

1981BillPaul

1981-2000

Nothing really significant happened until they managed to modify an existing operating system for the IBM PC in 1981 from another company and rename this to MS-DOS. Significant sales of the IBM series of computers and those of their competitors then launched a thirty-year stretch of dominance in the business world in the area of operating systems, software and development platforms.

For most of us, we reasonably dismissed Apple’s hardware and the MacIntosh operating systems as nothing we could seriously use in business outside of the marketing department.

Consumers bought new versions of software and that license was good for life.  It could often be transferred from one computer to the next as long as the last one was de-registered first.  If you built software for Windows, you likely used a Microsoft compiler to do so and you paid for that.  In fact, the Microsoft Technet collection of CDs was quite expensive.

2001

About six years into the “Internet Tidal Wave” as Bill would call it, Microsoft was starting to lose its way.  They tried to dominate in the browser wars but never quite managed to quash the competition.  Others saw their efforts in this area as annoying.  Their software for creating programs, Visual Studio, first hit the scene about four years prior to this.

Google was founded some five years prior and was just beginning to get attention from an investor before they had anything real yet.  In 1999 they moved from their garage to an actual building in Palo Alto.  Yahoo’s popularity as a search engine from a decade ago was waning.  Google’s ad-based revenue from keywords was paying off; they’d planted a money tree which eventually created an entire forest of money trees for them.  It wouldn’t be long until Microsoft’s executives behind closed doors would consider Google their biggest threat.

About this time Apple created a very clever method of provisioning content for one-and-only-one device within the music-delivery space.  The iTunes store would turn out to be the goose that laid the golden egg, as seen in the following revenues.  And yet, it would take years for either Microsoft or Google to realize the beauty in this fulfillment model and to come up with their own versions.

showmethemoney

The “Internet of Things” concept started gaining in popularity at this time.

2009

Microsoft’s attempts at copying Google’s success (MSN Search, Windows Live Search, Live Search) now culminated in the introduction of Bing as their default search engine destination for all things Microsoft.

Apple introduced the first iPhone and the first iPad about this time, noting that the same provisioning model from iTunes was incorporated into both via iOS.  The subscription model of sofware licensing was born with this, if you think about it.  If you wanted to write a program for either, you needed to use Apple’s software to do so.

Google has just introduced Chrome as a browser and would begin their campaign to slowly break Internet Explorer.  The same was true of the Android phone and its related operating system.  It would take a few years for Microsoft to catch up to either the iPhone or the Android before releasing their own app-savvy smartphone offering.

Amazon some three years prior had introduced the beginning of what would be a full complement of cloud-based services to support web development.  It would take Microsoft two full years to realize that they needed to be in this space and they didn’t have their offering ready for a few years more, too late to effectively compete.

Github.com had just celebrated their first year online, hosting over 46,000 repositories by then.  The world of open source was the very antonym to the way that software had been developed prior to this.

The free Ubuntu operating system was released about four years prior to this, backed by the well-funded company Canonical.

2015

Microsoft releases Windows 10, “the last version of Windows” (they claimed).  Rumors suggested that Windows would eventually go from a version-based license model to an annual-subscription model with respect to pricing.  I think it’s safe to say that the market hasn’t really embraced either Windows 8 or Windows 10.

The subscription-based model for Office 365 was introduced four years prior to this so the writing was definitely on the wall:  Microsoft wanted to depart from their former methods of making money and to chase the monthly subscription model.

2015-popular-coding-languages

The world of open source was offering new programmers a wealth of free code.  All they had to do was to take it and make it their own.  Formerly, Microsoft-friendly coding languages like C, C++, C#, VB and .NET dominated the playing field but this graphic shows how the game had changed.

2017

And here we are, present-day.  That curious number 42 now describes the number of years that Microsoft has been around.

Yesterday evening, I attended a very geeky meetup of perhaps fifty or sixty coders and only saw one Windows-based laptop.  Almost everyone had a MacBook of some kind.

I just spent about two hours today installing the free Visual Studio Community 2017 software so that I could—in theory, anyway—alter a free copy of the source code for TightVNC software.  Out of the box, so-to-speak, Visual Studio doesn’t want me to build this project since it uses an earlier target platform (Windows 7 or 8, one would assume).

Microsoft only wants me to make things for Windows 10.

So rather than making it easy for me to build a program that will happily work with Windows 7, they’re forcing me to jump through hoops in order to add the necessary pieces for this to happen.

Add two more hours to this and I find that my installation does not want to download the earlier pieces to allow this to happen.  I’m forced to then upgrade the code to Windows 10 compatibility mode… only to find that the build fails with 528 errors.

The main crux of all these errors appear to be:  “we can’t find common files”.  It’s a very amateur sort of error from a company that’s been providing compilers for several decades now.

I have to think that Microsoft doesn’t want me to do anything with Visual Studio unless it benefits Microsoft.  And this is the core of the reason why I suggest that they’re doomed.

Every time a coder like myself runs into obstacles like these, the usual seed that’s planted inside their head is “this would be easier with another free compiler or another language from someone else”.

2022

Fast-forward another five years and Microsoft will have lost ground on many fronts.  New software development here, there and everywhere will be via some language which wasn’t popularized by Microsoft on computers which aren’t Windows and with browsers which aren’t Internet Explorer or Edge.  Our toasters and refrigerators and our cars will be powered by the Ubuntu operating system or perhaps Debian, a similar free Linux flavor.  These appliances will be connected to our wi-fi and even to the Internet but there won’t be a scrap of anything Microsoft about them.  They’ll be coded up with something that isn’t C#, doesn’t use .NET and doesn’t need Visual Studio in order to compile it.

The only thing with a Microsoft pedigree with some staying power could be some of the websites and services currently served up at Microsoft’s datacenters via Azure.  But Amazon or Google could kill that by simply lowering their own prices for cloud-based services.

captcha the moment

Robots

According to Newton’s 3rd law of motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Out on the Internet that probably means that when forum content spammers apply force (adding content advertisements in order to enhance someone’s SEO) then forum admins must use an equal force to repel them. In this particular case, we’re talking about that captcha challenge that you keep seeing everywhere: prove that you’re not a robot.

recaptcha

Part of the problem is that the assumption here is that we are a robot and that we must prove otherwise to proceed. And I suppose that to some extent, Google is part of the underlying problem.

Search Engine Optimization

SEO is the acronym for what’s behind all this. Google, for example, can be faked into thinking that a particular website is more important than it should be.  Spammers have figured this out of course. Every day of the year, people are being paid to create fake content across the Internet’s collection of forums, blogs, websites, etc.

Behind-the-scenes, websites and forums are being visited nightly by a virtual army of Google’s webcrawlers, those robots which visit all the pages of a website and re-add them into the big indexed database which is the brain of Google, if you will.

The problem, though, is the collection of odd configuration settings and files for which most people have no knowledge. A typical website would have a /robots.txt to tell webcrawlers what files to add to the collection; the webmaster could simply not index this area of the website. A really awesome forum or blog software would know to automatically decorate the visitor-supplied links added in comments with a no-follow argument. What this means is that these spammers/advertisers would be foiled almost overnight since they wouldn’t get any value from this behavior.

But since nobody spends much time thinking about a real fix, most of us—the forum and blog users—are forced to prove our humanity on a daily basis. We are inconvenienced in many ways.

Fast Typist = Spammer

This detection method really annoys me. Back in the ’70s I typed 115 WPM on an Underwood typewriter. Now imagine how fast I type now on a computer keyboard with almost forty years’ of experience.

Underwood

Add to that, my brain works well. I can process problems and develop solutions in a hurry and will on many occasions attempt to provide assistance to others on the Internet, say, on a forum. Unfortunately, I’m often confronted with these anti-spam countermeasures which seemingly think: if you can type more than two posts in five minutes you therefore must be a robot. Seriously, I hate that one.

Denial-of-Service to Everyone

This is the reason behind today’s post. I was out there attempting to ask a question on the Sainsmart forum and after trying multiple browsers realized that I simply wasn’t going to get to ask that question. Their registration mechanism’s captcha doesn’t work. It fails over and over again since their code is wrong. It’s a denial-of-service (DoS) to everyone, robots and humans alike.

More Than One Lookup = Spammer

I tend to use the WHOIS database information a lot since I work in Information Technology. Each domain registrar (like GoDaddy) maintains a database like this of who has registered a particular domain. And yet, I’m sure there are people who create scripts to promiscuously query this information in order to build and sell marketing lists. I would urge people who maintain websites not to be so heavy-handed at robot-detection methods. (In other words, looking up two domains does not a robot make.)

Typical Customer Reaction

In my particular case with respect to Sainsmart’s forum DoS, it feels like Newton’s 2nd law of motion: the acceleration of the customer away from their forum is directly proportional to the force of rejection by their failing captcha mechanism. Okay, even for me that was stretching things a bit but I did want to add another Newton reference so there you go. Seriously, it will take a lot for me to go back to Sainsmart’s forum again. (See, that was a Newton’s 1st law of motion joke. You knew I was a geek, right?)

the inattentive blogger

I thought I’d see just how many bloggers pay little attention to their comments before first approving them. So I searched for a phrase which I saw in my own spam-marked comments and it surprised me how many people are falling for this.  There are at least 35 thousand blogs out there with this single instance of blog-spam.

Google: “My family every time say that I am wasting my time here at net”

MyFamilyEveryTimeSay

In some cases, like the Health and Wellness site that shows up as the first result in Google, it doesn’t result in anything harmful in this case because there is no link-back to the spam destination. It’s a seemingly-useful and yet bland/generic comment which has nothing to do with the blog post where it’s found. Note that it’s followed by another blog-spam attempt a minute later, likely the very same spammer.

NoLinkback

And in many cases, it does result in a harmful link within their blog comments. Working links like this result in promoting a particular website destination within, say, Google’s SEO.

Linkback

If you Google that exact phrase then the culprit who’s truly behind all this blog-spamming is likely one of these companies:  Google: “free online car insurance quotes”.

Specifically, it was this one…

https://www.freewebstore.org/carinsuranceminimizer

…which appears to have come under the scrutiny of the freewebstore.org’s Abuse department and they’ve been taken offline.

NoSoupForYou

Fortunately now, there’s no “there” there. Although tens of thousands of these dead links now litter the blogspace, no one is reaping the benefit. Given that someone just posted this same comment to my own blog (flagged as spam), I must assume that the spammer is possibly still getting paid to do so.

It’s like there’s a battle going on at all times on the interweb and it’s marketing versus I.T. most of the time. Only now, bloggers get to be the I.T. person just to maintain the status quo.