When Your Business Literally Hangs by a Few Threads

I’ve long been a critic of my local utility monopolies because they’ve put their own profits ahead of doing right by customers and taxpayers. Last night was another example of this.

The top of a utility pole owned by electric monopoly Eversource caught fire around 6:00 p.m. due to their lack of attention and maintenance to their infrastructure. The pole was replaced sometime overnight but the communications cables were still attached to the old pole.

Eversource’s solution was to cut the top and bottom off the old pole and tie it with a rope to the new one. I kid you not. The communications backhaul for me and thousands of Comcast and Frontier customers literally hangs by a few threads.

Eversource owns the pole so they won’t reattach the communications cables. Comcast and Frontier outsource most of their fiber optic line work to contractors and lack the staff to actually deal with it in a timely manner. And they can conveniently point to Eversource as being uncooperative. Who knows if Eversource even tried to coordinate with Comcast and Frontier that evening to get the pole fixed correctly?

Part of the problem is that none of these companies feels like they have any responsibility. It’s so much easier to pass the buck – their mutual customers be damned.

And this pole is not alone in my neighborhood.. Five poles down and this is what you’ll see:

It’s been strapped together like this for at least a year or two. The power company added a second pole for power but nobody ever took the communications cables off the old one. Frontier was even coming through here running fiber and left everything on the old pole.

The kicker here is that these monopolies are granted access to public and private property to run the wires that they profit from. In fact I have utility pole on my property and wires running underneath my driveway that go to other homes with a right of way they can use for free in perpetuity.

It’s time these companies put the needs of their ratepayers first and fix this mess. Enough of the finger pointing. For more on why Eversource is the worst company ever see my analysis piece here:

There is still a Mark on My Twitter Record

Despite being fully exonerated following Twitter’s misidentification of my rocket video as porn, there still a mark on my record. Earlier today I tried to join the community notes program where Twitter users can provide context for people/organizations that are not fully telling the truth. Unfortunately I was denied:

Apparently that 12 hour suspension is still on my record as a recent Twitter rules violation. My concern is that this may also negatively impact my algorithmic placement too.

NASA Details Launchpad Damage

The NASA SLS rocket’s boosters burn at around 3000 degrees fahrenheit / 1649 celsius, so it’s no surprise the mobile launcher that supports the rocket on the ground took some damage. Here’s what it looked like the afternoon of the 16th following the launch:

One thing I noticed at the NASA press site was that the launch tower definitely had a color change after the rocket blasted off earlier that morning. NASA released some images this afternoon that details the more notable damage the tower took at liftoff:

This area is where the rocket boosters take off from – there was some definite damage around the area but nothing critical that can’t be repaired in time for the second SLS flight for Artemis II.

This next photo is likely why it took so long for NASA’s ground teams to clear the area around the pad – the elevator doors for the launch tower blew out due to the massive pressure during launch! This prevented a quick inspection of the launch tower’s overall condition.

But at a press conference held this evening NASA officials said the hardware is working exceptionally well with just a few “funnies” the team are tracking. They currently have more fuel than they anticipated remaining after their recent burn to whip around the moon and they’re generating more power and using less than anticipated.

There’s still a lot of time left in the mission but if things keep tracking this well a crewed flight around the moon won’t be far behind.

See my full Artemis 1 coverage on YouTube here!

Mastodon & Why a Blog with RSS is the Best Way to Decentralize Yourself

With all of the talk of this decentralized platform called Mastodon I decided to set up an account myself. I went with the indieweb.social “instance” as I have an interest in reviving the independent web. You can find me at @lonseidman@indieweb.social.

Mastodon is not a centrally controlled social media platform, rather it’s a network of federated servers that all communicate with one another. You plant your flag on one of them and you’ll have access to all of the users on all of the other federated servers. To some degree this reminds me of how the bulletin board system (BBS) network FidoNet has worked for decades.

But Mastodon has a few weak points. First, can their federated network scale at the volume of Twitter with hundreds of millions of users? That remains to be seen.

A big problem I see is that if your instance goes *poof* so do you. Migrating to a new instance without losing your identity requires the old one being available to release you to the new one according to this post. If your originating instance disappears one day it’s not clear if you have a way of importing your presence elsewhere without having to start over.

I’m also struggling with automating ingesting my content from elsewhere into Mastodon. For example I’m using Zapier to automatically post my YouTube content and blog posts to other platforms, but Mastodon doesn’t work with Zapier at the moment.

My advice for those looking to “cut the social cord” is to get a blog with an RSS feed. You can control it, own it, and because RSS is still largely the connective tissue of the modern internet it’s relatively easy to link it to other things.

That’s why I set up blog.Lon.tv as my base of operations. Everything from here feeds into other stuff like my email newsletters, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. You can learn more about this effort from a video I did a few months ago.

It’s funny how we really solved this federation problem back in the early 2000’s with content management systems and RSS. It’s how podcasts work to this day. And yet we’re still trying to reinvent the wheel every time a centralized platform has a crisis. There is no need to reinvent the wheel IMHO – we just need to make it easier to get started and federate!

Twitter’s AI Took Down Astronomy Videos Too

Twitter has reinstated my account after it somehow determined that my video of the Artemis I launch was pornography. They also republished the post they took down back to my feed. You can see it here.

I’m not the only one this impacted. The BBC reports that an astronomer had the exact thing happen to her the other day. However in her case they shut down her account for 3 months, not the 12 hours they hit my account with.

Twitter has an appeal process but they don’t give the alleged violators a link to access those appeal tools. I only found out they existed when I googled it!

For what it’s worth Twitter says “it appears we made an error” and determined that my account committed “no violation.” So I’m now fully exonerated!

Twitter Suspended My Account!

So early this morning I was here at the NASA press site covering the launch of Artemis I. Following the launch I uploaded this video to share the experience with followers on Twitter along with YouTube And Facebook.

Right when the video finished uploading my account was immediately suspended for violating Twitters “rules against posting or sharing privately produced/distributed intimate media of someone without their express consent.” Clearly their AI misinterpreted the scene and threw down the ban hammer immediately.

Twitter does have an appeals process that they don’t make clear unless you Google it. The communications from Twitter basically told me to chill out for 12 hours before I can gain access to my account. Other people can still see my account but I’m completely locked out of the service.

And oh yeah, I am a Twitter Blue subscriber. That $8 is not taking me very far today!

I should be back up by 2:30 p.m. eastern time today, November 16th. But if you’d like you can Tweet to @elonmusk , @twittersupport and ask them to restore the @lonseidman account!

My Twitter Analytics Post Musk Takeover

My Twitter analytics continue moving upward without any real changes on my part beyond going to the Blue tier. This could be due to more overall activity on Twitter, but I suspect the gatekeeping disadvantaged smaller voices on the platform prior to Elon Musk taking the company private and extending the reach of blue check marks. Have a look:

My impressions (how often my tweets appeared in feeds) went up 83.9%, profile visits are up 57.1%, and mentions are up 51%. Over this same period I lost 44 followers – either they don’t like me anymore, left the platform, or were bots that were cleared out.

The Week Ahead

Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment but I am once again heading down to Florida for the Artemis I launch. The next launch attempt will be at 1:04 a.m. on the 16th which means Tuesday night I’ll be camping out at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. How cool is that?

I was really disappointed my initial video from the Kennedy Space Center didn’t do all that well but perhaps a first person perspective with an actual launch in the piece will do better.

Since so many other outlets (including NASA’s own channel) will have much better close up views, my goal is to show you what it’s like to be there in person. I noted that a live stream I did with my phone showing people around the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center press site generated twice the views with far less effort! I will also present the launch without commentary.

Also coming up I have a review of Twitter’s Blue tier (I paid for it so you don’t have to) along with some balanced analysis of where I think Twitter is headed next. I’m also hoping to shoot a review of HP’s new ARM based Chromebook x360 (affiliate link) later this afternoon before I start packing up gear for my journey.

Stay tuned!

Twitter Blue Check Mania

It looks like today is the day that Twitter rolled out blue check marks for anyone who pays for the $8 “Blue” tier of service. I got mine this afternoon.

There was some controversy earlier in the day as Twitter rolled out a two tier checkmark system that would give some people a white “official” checkmark to designate them as a VIP in addition to the blue one they paid for. But that was reversed by Musk later in the morning:

But it looks like Twitter is instead going to embed a description for why the checkmark is assigned to a user if you tap on it next to the username. So for example my check mark says that I’m verified because I’m paying.

But if I look at an official government account like @POTUS, it’ll indicate that “it’s notable in government, news, entertainment or another designated category.”

Is it worth paying $8 for just a checkmark? Definitely not. But I like the idea of treating every user equally insofar as how far their content gets pushed out by the algorithms. Twitter’s prior policies shut out smaller independent creators and put them at a disadvantage. The blue check marks could even choose to ignore non-blue check mark people further deepening their echo chamber.

If Musk is serious about leveling the playing field $8 a month to extend the reach of my content is fine by me – especially if my mainstream competitors are having to pay for it too.

But ultimately I hope they really work to improve the consumption experience for Blue subscribers. The edit button and extended video lengths are a nice bonus but I’d love to have a completely ad free experience and better tools for consuming and posting content.

Twitter is not the only social media platform I subscribe to. I get a lot of value out of YouTube Premium as it provides a completely ad-free experience along with the full YouTube Music library. And the channels I watch are compensated for every minute I watch.

I’m also paying for LinkedIn’s Premium tier that offers a lot of useful benefits and guess what? A gold badge too!

Stay tuned as I’ll be doing a video soon about the added features you get with the subscription now and what I’d like to see out of it in the future.

The Week Ahead for November 7, 2022

First, don’t forget to vote tomorrow (Tuesday, November 8) if you are in the United States! I found Vote411.org run by the non-partisan League of Women Voters to be an excellent resource for voting information.

This week we’re going to take a look at the new Apple TV, likely in two videos. I picked up the new one over the weekend and have already put it through its paces with Plex and general usability. You can watch me attempting to unbox it here. Spoiler alert – it’s not much different than the prior 4k models. I’ll be working on that device today.

Also this week will be a review of the new more expensive “iPad.” Apple used to call their entry level iPad just “iPad.” They still do that but they’re also selling the prior generation one at a lower price and still calling it “iPad.” I bet they’re sitting on a glut of excess inventory of that low-end device.

We’ll likely take a look at the new Roku smart home products that are really Wyze products in disguise. There are a few usability differences vs. the Wyze versions that we’ll cover once I get a few questions answered by the Roku folks. In the meantime you can see me unboxing them here.

I’m hoping to get caught up on reviewing a pile of laptops so look for a review of one of them too.

Finally I’m wrapping up two paid sponsorship projects, one for Mevo and the other for Synology. So you’ll probably see those videos this week or early next.

Stay tuned!

GPD Win 4 Indiegogo Begins Soon

GPD has been making handheld PCs long before coveted Steam Deck hit the market. Their latest device, the GPD Win 4, is going to be launching soon on Indiegogo. We’ve looked at a lot of their PCs over the years, you can see them in my handheld device playlist here.

The Win 4 looks to be a lot smaller than Steam Deck yet should deliver better performance thanks to its Ryzen 6800U processor. There will be a version with 32GB of RAM and a 2TB NVME SSD. It has a 6″ 1080p display that can run at 40 or 60 hz that can be slid out to reveal a physical keyboard. Battery life will likely come in at around what the Steam Deck delivers so be sure to budget for some power banks for longer trips.

GPD Photo
GPD Photo

Also of note is that it will feature 40 gbps USB 4 ports that are Thunderbolt compatible for external GPUs and other high speed devices. The Win 4 will be running Windows 11 so it should be a good companion for Game Pass Ultimate subscribers who want to download games and take them on the road.

No pricing has been set yet but I expect this will likely cost more than Steam Deck if the prior editions are any indication. The Intel powered GPD Win 3 sold for $899 upon its release with an i7-1165G7 processor.

You can find their Indiegogo campaign here.

Starlink to Start Throttling Users

Via Michael Baylor on Twitter, it looks like Starlink is going to begin throttling users who consume more than 1TB of data transfers in a month.

Those who go beyond the allocation will be “depriortized” for the remainder of the month and will likely experience degraded connection speeds.

Here’s the notice Baylor received today:

Starlink will not run the bandwidth meter between 11pm and 7 am at the moment, so night owls should be ok for now.

It’ll be interesting to see how they’ll manage the continued growth of the service. I have a feeling this is just the beginning.

See my Starlink videos here!

Why Creators Should NOT Apply to the Walmart Creator Program Right Now

As many of you know a good portion of my revenue comes in from affiliate links that I place on my videos. With “social shopping” becoming more of a thing we’re starting to see major retailers develop programs that are better integrating into social video platforms.

That’s why I was interested in Walmart’s new “Walmart Creator” program, especially after some of the success I have found on Amazon’s influencer program. That was until I tried signing up for Walmart’s effort.

As a creator you’re asked to link your social media accounts to the Walmart Creator website. No biggie. But my alarm bells went off when I got to the next screen where they ask for what is essentially full control of my YouTube channel. Have a look:

The first item provides them read-only access to your analytics. While you’re giving them all of your analytics data there’s not much damage they can do there. But the second item which allows them to “manage your YouTube account” is one no creator should grant to anyone outside their organization. Here’s what they’ll be able to do without your intervention with this permission enabled:

View and manage videos and playlists means exactly that: they could change your descriptions, thumbnails, playlists, probably even delete entire videos. You’re also giving them the ability to comment as you on your own videos and others.

This goes without saying but YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER GIVE THIS ACCESS TO ANYONE, EVER. This makes the Walmart Creator platform a juicy target for hackers who could take control over who knows how many channels in one shot.

What’s worse is that Walmart’s not actually running it. You’ll notice that Activate Holding LLC is the company seeking this access, which is a subsidiary of Impact.com. Impact is an affiliate marketing technology provider that Walmart uses for their normal affiliate operations.

And the fun doesn’t stop with YouTube. Look at what they want from your Twitter account:

And for those of you building your brand on Facebook & Instagram you’ll find they require granting extensive management permissions to your accounts there too:

I don’t have a TikTok account but I’m sure they’re looking for the same level of control there too.

The worst part is the Walmart program is (at the moment) not much different vs. a standard affiliate program where you send people from social platforms to Walmart to make purchases. So if you’re already using affiliate links from them I don’t think being a part of this program is going to be much different unless they cut you a better deal.

But a point or two more commission is not worth turning over this much control to a third party IMHO.

My advice: hold off on this until they change these requirements. Otherwise you’re putting your accounts at significant risk for not much gain.

I have reached out to a number of Walmart and Impact executives via their LinkedIn profiles and have not heard back. I’ll update this post as I get more information or if things change.

Chatting about Twitter with WTIC’s Brian Shactman

Every couple of weeks I appear on WTIC-AM’s morning drive show “Brian and Company” here in Connecticut. This week host Brian Shactman & I talk about Elon Musk’s recent acquisition of Twitter and what it might mean for users whether they have a blue check mark or not! Listen here:

Elon’s erratic behavior aside I do think there are opportunities for independent creators if the playing field is leveled and a revenue sharing model is developed.

The commoditization of the “blue check mark” that created two tiers of users allowed the prior ownership to pick winners and losers. Contrast that to YouTube where every piece of content has the chance to be successful based on how well it holds a viewer’s interest.

Years ago one of my laptop reviews on YouTube got placed higher in search than the same product reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. That was empowering and indicative of YouTube’s desire to be focused on users and develop a culture of partnership with those who submit content to the platform.

Twitter doesn’t give the smaller voices that same opportunity. The verification process was never fair to anyone and often it was about who you knew at Twitter as opposed to a true measure of the credibility and quality.

Twitter will have a bumpy ride ahead. I think there’s some opportunity for independent voices but time will tell depending on how competently these changes are implemented and rolled out to users.

The Week Ahead

Another week is upon us!

We had a great cost of shipping giveaway and gadget sale livestream on Saturday afternoon! I spent most of yesterday resetting stuff and packing things up. Due to the Columbus Day holiday here in the USA items will be shipped tomorrow. Be sure to subscribe to my Store Alert email to be notified for when we do the next one! I’m already finding more stuff to sell and give away.

I am actually two videos ahead coming into Monday which is always a good thing. Tonight’s video will be a review of the Lenovo Thinkpad Z13 Gen 1 (affiliate link), a “concept car” of what future Thinkpads might look like. This one already made it into my recent video on USB 4 but in the review we’ll take a look at the rest of the system.

Later in the week we’ll be look at an Orico USB 4 SSD drive that delivers full 40gbps performance on USB 4 and Thunderbolt equipped laptops. You can see the review now on Amazon.

In a few hours I’ll be doing a livestream unboxing and setting up the Nreal Air AR/video glasses. These are supposedly pretty decent and create a private large screen for playing back video (or playing games) from mobile devices and PCs.

Tomorrow I am planning at least two livestreams because it’s Amazon’s big fall Prime Day sale. I’ll be focusing on items that I have on hand that are on sale answering your questions. You can see me live on my Amazon page – I’m planning to start around noonish eastern time and likely will do the second one around 3 or 4 p.m.

Wednesday I’ll be taking a quick trip to NYC for another Pepcom mini trade show. There will be several dozen tech companies there showing off some of their products slated for holiday releases so I hope to have a dispatch video for you on that by Thursday.

After that I hope to get caught up on some other product reviews. Busy week ahead!

Steam Decks Sell Over a Million?

Gaming on Linux reports that some developers at a KDE conference said that Valve’s Steam Deck has sold over one million units:

Perhaps the biggest bit of info coming out of this is that according to Edmundson, Valve has shipped over a million.  At about 29:45 in the above video in response to a question on it Edmundson said “They have crossed over a million, and they’re still processing back orders”. Valve haven’t actually given out any numbers in public on it yet and Edmundson was not speaking for Valve but still, the answer was pretty confident and clear.

I had to wait awhile for my Steam Deck due to ordering system snafu’s on pre-order day but when it finally did arrive I was not disappointed. Valve did an amazing job on this device across the whole stack: both hardware and software. They also managed to hit a reasonable price tag on it which is no doubt driving so many sales. You can see my full review here:

If these sales figures are true this is by far the most successful hardware product Valve has put together to date. What’s interesting is that it incorporates technologies developed on less than successful products, namely the Steam Controllers and SteamOS / Steam Machines.

I reviewed one of the Steam Machines way back in 2015. While I liked the approach of a dedicated Linux gaming OS and the hardware felt solid, compatibility with Windows games just wasn’t there. I ended up installing Windows on it.

Valve has done a ton of work over the last seven years addressing the compatibility issues with their Proton project, which simplifies the compatibility process and has become so good that most Windows games will run on the Steam Deck and other future devices running Steam OS or other flavors of Linux.

The moral of this story is that even when things fail or fall short of expectations ideas can morph into something better. That’s clearly evident with Valve’s patient approach to the hardware business. Many other VC backed companies would have thrown in the towel years ago.

Amazing Shots of the DART Asteroid Impact

NASA’s DART spacecraft successfully collided with an asteroid yesterday to see if a kinetic impact can nudge a threatening asteroid away from a collision with Earth.

The target was Didymos – a twin asteroid system that’s not in any danger of hitting the Earth and is about 6 million miles away. The mission targeted the smaller rock in the Didymos system that is orbiting the larger one. Astronomers and scientists will now observe the orbit of the small rock around the large one to see if any changes, slowdowns, etc. happened as a result of the impact.

DART hit the asteroid at a speed of about 14,000 miles per hour – easily 8 times faster than a rifle shot. The spacecraft weighed approximately 1200 pounds at the time of impact. It also beamed back pictures all the way to its demise:

Check out the detail beamed back from DART right before it impacted the surface:

And this amazing shot from a South African telescope captured the impact from here on Earth (via Twitter):

It’ll be awhile until the full “impact” of the impact will be known. But scientists are pretty confident that they’ll observe enough of a movement to help inform a future deflection mission.

AMD’s Processor Model Numbers Explained

AMD announced their model naming scheme for their Ryzen processors today complete with a helpful chart below for consumers to figure out exactly what it is they’re getting:

The first number will be the model year, followed by the market segment. The most important number I think will be the third one which refers to the processor’s architecture. As we saw with the 5000 series Ryzen chips, some were running with the older “Zen 2” architecture while others had the newer “Zen 3.”

This chart should help make sense of what exactly is in the processor driving your PC in the years ahead.