Radio Exam Complete!

Just passed my amateur radio technician exam ! Once the paperwork is in with the FCC I can start communicating with technician privileges.

I’ll talk more about that on Monday’s wrapup.

Twitter Deal “On Hold” Pending Due Diligence on User Numbers

I speculated about this in my May 2nd Weekly Wrapup video and now it appears as though it’s coming to pass:

Elon Musk today announced that the Twitter deal was “on hold” until he could verify the company’s claims that fake users account for only 5% of their overall user figures.

Any acquisition has a period of due diligence to ensure that the company being acquired is worth what the owners say it is – and in the case of Twitter the number of users is the foundation of Twitter’s value proposition.

As a mostly free service Twitter relies on advertising and advertisers want large audience numbers with some assurances that the audiences Twitter serves are actually real people.

Twitter has long struggled with calculating the exact number of unique users on their service. In fact they disclosed that they had been overstating user numbers from March 2019 through the end of 2021 according to their most recent quarterly results:

In March of 2019, we launched a feature that allowed people to link multiple separate accounts together in order to conveniently switch between accounts. An error was made at that time, such that actions taken via the primary account resulted in all linked accounts being counted as mDAU. This resulted in an overstatement of mDAU from Q1’19 through Q4’21.

This overstatement alone accounted for 1.9 million duplicated users. If Twitter is overstating users that they know are humans behind the keyboards how can anyone be confident in Twitter’s claims that fake users are only 5% of their user base? Given the company is incentivized to demonstrate user growth they likely did not invest the resources to detect fake accounts and remove them.

Musk is in the driver’s seat now. If he walks away from the deal the stock tanks as it will erode confidence in the validity of Twitter’s user numbers. Twitter’s Board of Directors will likely feel some pressure to reduce the $44 billion price tag to get the deal done.

Things of Note from Google I/O 2022

I attended a Google event in New York city to watch the Google I/O keynote. Here are the things I found most of interest:

Pixel 6a

Google will be releasing a new low cost phone this summer called the Pixel 6a. The new 6a, like the prior models, incorporates many of the features of their flagship phones. This one will get the same Google Tensor processor as their flagship Pixel 6 phones along with what will likely be a great display and camera system. It’ll sell unlocked for $449 in July. If you like pure Android phones but don’t want to spend more than $500 I think this will be a winner.

Oddly they also announced a Pixel 7 phone even though we’re only a few months into the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. The new phone will have a second generation Tensor processor.

You can see all of my prior Pixel device reviews here.

Pixel Watch

Google also announced the much rumored Pixel Watch that will launch around the same time as the Pixel 7. It’s a sleek Wear OS device designed to pair up with Android powered smartphones.

I’ve always found smartwatches to be big and clunky – and that includes my beloved Apple Watch which has largely followed the same design as the original from 2015. The Pixel Watch looks like a real improvement in overall smartwatch industrial design. It might very well be the nicest looking consumer product I’ve seen Google put together. I’m eager to see how this performs and looks in person.

Pixel Tablet

After abandoning Android tablet devices a few years ago, Google is getting back in the game. This includes releasing a new Pixel Tablet and also redesigning their core Android apps to work better on tablet devices. Those tablet app updates are apparently rolling out at the time of this writing. The Pixel tablet, however will not be released until sometime in 2023. It’ll be powered by Google’s Tensor chip.

Google Glass is Back?

The last thing that intrigued some of my fellow watch party attendees are these new translation glasses that were teased at the end of the presentation. The glasses will project a translation from a speaker into the lens for the wearer to read.

No doubt this is something that was iterated from the ill-fated Google Glass project from a decade ago. This use case seems to make a lot more sense. And these actually look like glasses! See my original coverage of the Google Glass here.

Google also had a bunch of other software feature announcements including continued work on their AI systems which are getting better and better each year. They will soon release an app called the “AI Test Kitchen” that will demonstrate the progress they have made with natural language interaction. It’s really fascinating stuff.

Hopefully we’ll get some of these things in for review!

Boost Mobile Goes Freemium

Boost Mobile is a prepaid wireless carrier here in the USA owned by Dish Network. They are introducing a new program that will let you bring your monthly bill down to nothing – but you have to sing for your supper by earning “Boostcoins.”

Here’s how the company says you earn them:

Boost Mobile’s BoostOne app allows users to earn blockchain-backed “Boostcoins” by playing games like “Spin & Win,” watching videos, and engaging with thousands of partners to complete offers to earn coins that can be redeemed for discounted and free wireless service.

These Boostcoins are of course “blockchain-backed” but have their value pegged to the dollar. According to CNET it looks like 100 boost coins equals about a dollar.

Local Public Access TV Still Matters!

I visited an amazing public access station in Farmington, Connecticut the other day. NutmegTV is one of the largest in my home state and does some amazing work helping people connect with their communities.

Nutmeg has found some innovative ways to pivot to online platforms and offering services to local businesses, non-profits and individuals. They even do film and tape transfers for local customers.

As more and more people cut the cable cord these local community assets are losing funding which is tied to cable subscriber numbers. It’s time to rethink how these stations are funded.

With video becoming more and more important local access facilities are more valuable than ever. Nutmeg TV is a real model for how to transition to modern content production and delivery. But I do believe local telecommunications monopolies should continue to provide resources.

RIP iPod!

The iPod has been officially discontinued just a few months shy of its 21st birthday. The iPod, much like the iPad, was something that you really couldn’t appreciate unless you tried it. After that you had to have one.

The success of the iPod is most certainly thanks to Apple retail stores that started opening around the time the iPod was introduced. In the early days iPods only worked with Firewire equipped Macs – so they likely sold a lot of Macs around that time too.

The last iPod is the 7th Generation iPod Touch that I reviewed back when it was released in 2019. You can watch the review here.

Starlink Holding Up Against Russian Cyberattacks

Starlink has become a key communication tool for the Ukrainian military and the Russians are having a hard time detecting and jamming it. As we’ve found in our Starlink coverage the service is remarkably easy to connect to and offers bandwidth on par with low to mid range cable Internet services.

Elon Musk in a tweet today says that the satellite network has so far resisted Russian jamming and hacking attempts. Starlink’s network engineers are up against a tough adversary with state level resources so they no doubt will have to remain on their toes.

The service doesn’t work as well in the eastern part of the country as the satellite network still relies on ground stations to connect users to the Internet. But SpaceX is working on a laser based orbital relay that would bypass many ground stations to route traffic. At some point we might see SpaceX launch servers into positions to act as CDNs for streaming services, etc.

A Busy Week!

I have two “in and out” New York City trips this week for new product overviews. I did one yesterday and have another tomorrow. My Dad’s best business advice for me was to always go to industry events that you’re invited to. You never know who you’ll meet or what opportunities you’ll find. 

NYC is an easy trip for me thanks to a local commuter rail station. The downtime on the train has been super helpful for my HAM radio adventure as I have time to finish up studying for my technician license exam. I am going to try and test this Saturday!

Whenever head out for a day it means I have to make up the time to keep my production cadence. I like to post a minimum of three videos a week. So today I’m going to try to shoot two videos back to back to take the pressure off the end of the week. I shot Monday’s wrapup on Sunday night. 

More and More 5G Ultrawide Band Towers Popping Up

5G is pretty common around my neck of the woods now, but it’s the “sub-6” variety that operates largely on the same frequencies as 4G. Still I’m finding that speeds are always very consistent and presumably these new 5G cell cites can handle more capacity.

Lately I’ve found that the higher frequency MMWave “ultrawide band” indicator is popping up more and more often as I’m traveling around. They even activated one at my local high school presumably for its football field that attracts large crowds for games.

Generally the MMWave cells require you to be outside and fairly close to the cell. But I’ve found that I’m picking up mmWave inside of trains (if the cell is close enough) and in a few cases next to windows in view of a cell on the street.

The speeds from these MMWave cells can be all of over the place depending on where you are in relation to the cell and what kind of connectivity it’s receiving from its fiber optic connection. Most of them I’ve encountered on Verizon’s network deliver speeds not much better than sub6 or LTE:

But I have experienced some in New York City that deliver crazy speeds. Check out this one from the middle of Grand Central Terminal: 1.6 gigabits per second downstream and a health 141 megabits upstream!

So although speeds will vary dramatically from one mmWave to the next I do think we’ll be seeing many more livestreams from stadiums and other large public gatherings now that the wireless bandwidth is there to support more customers simultaneously. I’m eager to see how things work in Las Vegas the next time I go to CES.

I covered the different types of 5G a few months ago. The wireless carriers are definitely hyping things up a bit but there are some areas where the tech will improve connectivity.

Switch Sports Bowling is Fun

Wii Sports was always popular in my house. It was a perfect pack-in title for a system that had a very unique control mechanism and it was the only motion control game that really worked for me. Motion controls felt very gimmicky in  the other Wii titles.

Nintendo updated the game for the Switch and changed its name to “Switch Sports” (Affiliate link). The new game (at the moment) includes soccer, tennis, badminton, volleyball, Chambara (stick fighting) and bowling. My kids enjoyed most of the sports in the game and it kept us occupied during a rainy afternoon. They will be adding golf and possibly another sport with some free updates in the near future.

Will Sports bowling was one of my favorites on that original console and the new version is just as good. What makes it better than the original is an online mode that pits you against 15 other players. I won my first match as evident in the post image!

Unfortunately to get a four player experience you’ll need to buy another two joy cons (which means more accessory sales for Nintendo). Soccer requires two game cons for each player plus a leg strap for kicking.

RSS Mania

I love RSS. It is an important underpinning of the web that a lot of folks don’t even know is there. I’ve recently updated my RSS workflow and it has made content consumption both for work and entertainment immensely more efficient. 

I use the Bazqux reader to do that consolidation. It requires an annual fee but it most certainly pays for itself in the efficiency it brings me every day. There are a number of open source options that provide similar functionality. One of the cool things Bazqux does is that it will bring in Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram content the same way it brings in RSS – and then it’ll allow you to create RSS feeds from those sources! 

I just added a static page to the blog where you can subscribe to my RSS feeds individually or a master one that incorporates all sources. You learn more about how I’m using RSS here

Saturday Morning May 7, 2022

Hope you all had a good week and are looking forward to the weekend. My little ones (6 & 9) have birthdays this weekend. They are 3 years and a day apart so we’ll be celebrating those today and then mother’s day on Sunday. I’m also going to sneak in a little work to get ahead on next week as I’ll be traveling to a few press events in NYC. 

Monday’s wrapup will be about centralizing my written words around a blog vs. other platforms. I’ll also be reviewing the Sensibo Air (compensated affiliate link) which is a really simple smart thermostat & controller for remote control enabled air conditioning and split systems.

I’ll have my review of the Nebula Cosmos Laser Projector 4k up tonight! 

Stay tuned! 

Now Running WordPress :)

Well I gave Hugo the old college try but ultimately I was finding it was more cumbersome for a blog than I would like. The biggest impediment was the lack of image management and the rather clunky process of uploading new posts.

I had to create a new markdown file, manually enter (or copy over) the basic metadata, manually re-size images, move those images to the right folder, type in the right markdown code for the image, save the post, run Hugo in terminal to render the site, and finally sync with my FTP server. If I had to make change I had to re-run Hugo and resync. Just too much for what I wanted to be a quick thing.

So back to WordPress. I am self hosting for now on my web server. The only issue I encountered this evening was getting the full feed to dump out to my RSS feed. The RSS feed is how I generate my digest emails.

I had to hand code the RSS generator PHP to correct what looks like a bug. h/t to this 2009 post which solved my problem.  I also found a clever way to pull down the “medium” sized images too. Both of these fixes required editing the RSS template in the WordPress installation.

One of the things I like about WordPress is that it’s so ubiquitous and everything works with it. So I can easily post from my phone. I also use a great app on the Mac called Mars Edit that I used 10 years ago when I was doing more with WordPress. To my surprise I was able to upgrade to the newest one for a nominal fee a decade later! Thanks Red Sweater Software!

New Email Digest List

As I continue to tweak the blog along with my content automation I found that it’s pretty easy to bundle things up into an email newsletter/digest that can be sent out several times a week.

If you’d like to see me in your inbox several days a week I set up a new digest email list that will go out with a much greater frequency vs. this one.

It will consist of any new content I push out on YouTube along with interesting links I came across throughout the day/week. This content is the same as what will be posted to my blog and other social platforms.