The Perfect Dog

November 26, 2021

My son asked a question as little boys do
Of me in my wisdom and all that I knew.

“Is there a dog that is perfect?” he asked on a whim,
Well, I thought and I thought about where to begin.

“He’d have ears that were floppy… or cropped and alert
And eyes that were sleepy… or perky and pert,
He’d leap like a bunny or sit in your lap
And run fast as horses… or opt for a nap.

“A dog that is perfect would be covered in spots
Or maybe one-color … and then have spots-not.

“He’d be small as a teacup… or big as a house,
With a nose that seemed flattened … or long like a mouse,

“He’d swim and he’d hunt with a coat flying free
Or be dainty and delicate … and ‘He’d’ be a ‘She’

As I struggled to answer, and not with a clue,
My son, with a smile, said, out of the blue,
With the wisdom of children, what he already knew…

The dog that is perfect … is the one next to you.

– John O’Hurley


Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive – Harvard Business Review

November 14, 2021

imageResearch shows that not only is a cutthroat environment harmful to productivity, but that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.


POLITICO: Google sought fellow tech giants’ help in stalling kids’ privacy protections, states allege

October 23, 2021

A woman walks below a Google sign on the campus in Mountain View, Calif. on Sept. 24, 2019. “Google sought to use an August 2019 meeting with fellow tech giants Apple, Facebook and Microsoft to stall federal efforts to strengthen a children’s online privacy law, attorneys general for Texas and other states alleged in newly unsealed court documents on Friday.
Google also bragged about “slowing down” new privacy rules in Europe that would apply to digital services like services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Microsoft’s Skype, according to internal documents quoted by the states. But the search giant expressed concerns that Microsoft, which had been making “subtle privacy attacks” on its Big Tech rivals, might not go along with its plans.”


The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time

October 8, 2021

imageExcerpt:  Taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive. For example, silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory.

But cultivating silence isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or tweets.  Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, and quiets inner chatter as well as outer. Try going on a media fast, sitting silently for 2 minutes during the middle of your workday, or taking a long walk in the woods — with no phone. The world is getting louder, but silence is still accessible.

Read the full article here:


Mental health is the next big workplace issue

October 5, 2021

imageEmployees’ mental health is quickly becoming a top concern for companies as they try to hold on to workers through the pandemic.

Why it matters: The firms that confront mental health are poised to win the war for talent.

“These days there are worker shortages everywhere,” says Chris Swift, CEO of The Hartford, a financial services and insurance company. Mental health is a massive contributor to that, he says.

Read the entire article from Axios here:


NEWS: Use of employee surveillance software has jumped over 50% since the pandemic started

October 5, 2021

Headline: “Your company could be spying on you: Surveillance software use up over 50% since pandemic started.”

Yeah, that’s not unsettling at all. <sarcasm>

I’ve had more than a half dozen customers ask me, “How can I monitor the keystrokes of my employees?”

WHAT?

“Yeah, we wanna make sure that they’re working while they are remote.”

ACTIVITY IS NOT PRODUCTIVITY
This is the most common scenario I’m told is the reason companies are looking for ways to monitor their employees computer activity.

Which if course is ridiculous.  Computer activity is never a measure of productive work. 

The urge to monitor employees however is an indicator that management doesn’t know how to measure employee productivity or their success – and that’s a failing of management, not their employees.

Who cares if the employee works only 3 days a week if they’re not required to be at a physical location?  If they do their job with excellence – why should anyone care? 

EXAMPLE: SALESPEOPLE & QUOTAS
Sales jobs often do exactly this:  They have sales quotas that they have to meet for the year as the metric of their job performance.  I’ve met numerous salespeople that have completely blown out their quotas in the 1st half of the fiscal year… then effectively went on vacation for the remaining 6 months.

Some say this doesn’t translate to other jobs: I disagree.  The majority of jobs do in fact have measurable outcomes.  Everyone has quantifiable goals that their job requires.  And there are tasks that are necessary to attain those goals.  Simply identifying when employees complete those tasks & ultimately, reach the goals & outcomes of their jobs are simple metrics that every manager can establish & do every month, quarter, and review period.

If you can’t verifiably measure an employee’s productivity or excellence, maybe you should spend time & effort on that before you think of doing something as valueless as monitoring employee computer activity.


HOWTO: Stop“paused TV” ads when using DirecTV Genie DVR

October 2, 2021

imageFor years, my DirecTV DVR would show a floating DirecTV logo as a screensaver when TV was “paused” for 5 minutes.  This was great because it’d prevent burn-in on people’s projection or OLED TVs and I appreciated that. 

THE DAY DIRECTV GOT DESPERATE
One day, instead of a floating DirecTV logo after “pausing” for 5 min, the DirecTV Genie DVR started showing still image advertisements for future TV programming, pay-per-view shows, and sometimes even products.  These rotated every so often and were pretty obnoxious.  I didn’t like this but it wasn’t that distracting.

But THEN, during the pandemic, my DirecTV “Genie” DVR started playing 30 second VIDEO ADS when live or recorded TV is paused after only 30 seconds. Suddenly, 30 seconds after pausing the TV program, “Lily from AT&T” is on a loop pitching completely irrelevant business phone service on my screen.

Video ads during a pause?  Now that’s distracting and extremely annoying.

GETTING “ADVICE” FROM AT&T/DIRECTV
imageSo the question is, how do we make it stop?  I contacted DirecTV and of course their people gave me completely irrelevant & incorrect advice which is inline with the kind of guidance they’ve given me in the past:

  • First, they said to “turn off power savings” – which has nothing to do with the ads that run during paused TV.
  • imageThen they actually told me to “turn off” my DVR and turn it back on, providing the worst, most embarrassing tech support I’ve gotten in years.

I resorted to Internet searches at this point.

BLOCKING ADS ON DIRECTV GENIE DVR
The short answer is I found out that you can block the following domains on your DNS or your home router and it will stop the ads from appearing during paused TV:

  • xaaf-be-live.att.com
    Blocking this one domain will prevent the full motion video ads from playing after 30 seconds of paused TV.  You will still see still-image ads after 5 min of paused TV. (I’ve tested this and it works perfectly when I block this domain on OpenDNS, my DNS provider)
  • Blocking the list of domains below will reportedly prevent still-image ads from appearing.  The only thing you should see, assuming you’ve blocked both domains is a moving DirecTV logo screensaver. (I haven’t set this up yet but many folks have confirmed that it works.
        • xaaf-be-live.att.com
        • xandrssads-sponsored.akamaized.net
        • insights-collector.newrelic.com
        • dtvstb-screensaver.secure.footprint.net
        • iw.dtvce.com
        • callback1-stb.dtvce.com
        • cmd.dtvce.com
        • stb-plugin-akamai.directv.com.edgesuite.net
        • bbvds.dtvbb.tv
        • ums-stb.dtvce.com
        • analytic.rollout.io
        • itv-pxy.dtvce.com

I’ll update this once I’ve entered in all the domains above to block in OpenDNS.


How IBM Public Cloud struggled against AWS and Microsoft

October 2, 2021

imageInsiders say that marketing missteps and duplicated development processes meant IBM Cloud was doomed from the start, and eight years after it attempted to launch its own public cloud the future of its effort is in dire straits.

The words stunned IBM’s cloud executives in November 2013. Former CEO Ginni Rometty had just told them that Watson, IBM’s dubious crown jewel, should run on the company’s own Power chips inside SoftLayer, IBM’s recently acquired cloud-computing division.

There was one big problem: SoftLayer, like all major cloud efforts at that point, only used x86 chips from Intel and AMD.

What came next can only be described as a scramble, according to sources who worked for IBM at the time.

Read the full article here:


Worried About Swearing Too Much? Science Says You Shouldn’t Be

September 18, 2021

imageA study found “swearing can enhance the effectiveness & persuasiveness of an argument.”

Another study “revealed people who curse often, lie less & have a higher degree of integrity.”

So suck it.


Study: Two spaces after a period makes reading easier

September 14, 2021

imageAmongst people who care deeply about typography and fonts — which is, in our typographic age, probably a reasonable chunk of people online — there’s been a low-level war about spacing after a period. Specifically: When you finish a sentence, do you type one space, or two?

There are many heated views on this matter.

But recently, a couple of scholars decided to science this one out, and … things did not turn out well for the one-spacers.

Read the full article here:


Bitcoin is a cult – Adam Caudill

September 4, 2021

This article from Adam Caudill, Director of Security at 1Password, is all you need to know about Bitcoin & crypto-purveyors.

imageThe Bitcoin community has changed greatly over the years; from technophiles that could explain a Merkle tree in their sleep, to speculators driven by the desire for a quick profit & blockchain startups seeking billion dollar valuations led by people who don’t even know what a Merkle tree is. As the years have gone on, a zealotry has been building around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies driven by people who see them as something far grander than they actually are; people who believe that normal (or fiat) currencies are becoming a thing of the past, and the cryptocurrencies will fundamentally change the world’s economy.

Every year, their ranks grow, and their perception of cryptocurrencies becomes more grandiose, even as novel uses of the technology brings it to its knees. While I’m a firm believer that a well designed cryptocurrency could ease the flow of money across borders, and provide a stable option in areas of mass inflation, the reality is that we aren’t there yet. In fact, it’s the substantial instability in value that allows speculators to make money. Those that preach that the US Dollar and Euro are on their deathbed have utterly abandoned an objective view of reality.

I read the Bitcoin white-paper the day it was released – an interesting use of Merkle trees to create a public ledger and a fairly reasonable consensus protocol – it got the attention of many in the cryptography sphere for its novel properties. In the years since that paper was released, Bitcoin has become rather valuable, attracted many that see it as an investment, and a loyal (and vocal) following of people who think it’ll change everything. This discussion is about the latter.

Yesterday, someone on Twitter posted the hash of a recent Bitcoin block, the thousands of Tweets and other conversations that followed have convinced me that Bitcoin has crossed the line into true cult territory.

Read the essay here:


The gap between Microsoft & Amazon on Work-from Home

September 4, 2021

Taken from Bloomberg/Mint:

imageWhen Amazon said in March that most of its 60,000 workers in the Seattle area would return to the office by fall, some employees were infuriated. A few threatened to quit for reasons both substantial and otherwise, including one who said post-pandemic rules would interrupt his regularly scheduled kayaking. At the same time, Microsoft, at Redmond, said employees could work from home, the office or in a hybrid arrangement. Covid has compounded the impression that while Microsoft is often more enlightened, Amazon is harder driving and more old school. As employers compete for prized workers, demand for remote or hybrid work is fast becoming a part of hiring negotiations and compensation packages. Work flexibility may be even more important than pay.

“I think the job market has changed forever,” said Chris Bloomquist, co-founder of Talent Mine, a tech recruiting startup. Years ago, he said he could have counted on one hand the number of prospective employees seeking remote work. Now, seven of 10 candidates mention it off the top. And many, several recruiters say, insist on 100% remote.

Amazon has clarified its rules, likely shamed into it by corporate peer pressure. It now plans to allow two days of remote work. This beats its earlier “office-centric culture as our baseline”, but maybe not by enough. “People can be wooed away by other companies,” said an Amazon software engineer who requested anonymity. “I am jealous of Microsoft. There is implicit trust in its policy, that trust is meaningful.” A self-described introvert, she feels the office reduces her productivity, which flourished under stay-home rules, partly because she said she recharged after a daily siesta.

Read the rest of the article here:


The Legend of the “Chocolate Bar house” on Halloween

June 1, 2021

Halloween was always the start of the best time of the year for me when I was a kid.  In October, we got candy (I never got candy), then in November I had my birthday, then in December we had Christmas.  But Halloween was what I looked forward to because it was such a mystery as to what costume I’d be making and what candy I’d be getting.

imageTHE LEGEND OF THE HALLOWEEN CHOCOLATE BAR HOUSE
When I was in 4th grade, there was a famous rumor going around my friends & classmates about a house in the neighborhood that gave out “full size chocolate bars” for Halloween as opposed to the “fun size” smaller snacks.  This was the 1.55oz bar that ran about $1 each, I think.

That was enough incentive for my friends and I to chart out the neighborhood in search of the fabled “chocolate bar house”.  We strategically organized every year covering each block and reporting back what we’d found by meeting in a central location.

Over the years, we continued to search every Halloween but we never found it and I began questioning after all these years if it even existed – or if may be the family that did it, moved away.

RESURRECTING THE LEGEND
It’s been 40 years since then & I still remember how much fun Halloween was:

  • Sorting my candy into 3 tiers of quality (Take note: You tootsie roll, Jolly Rancher, & lollipop houses are bottom tier)
  • Judging houses & families based on the quality of their candy (And make no mistake: The kids JUDGE)
  • Trading candy amongst friends & bringing your stash to school the next school day (And you better have the goods)

I also remember how important that “house” search was each Halloween & how much fun it was to passionately *believe* in the legend of the Chocolate Bar house.

About 8 years ago, after living in condos most of my life, I bought a house in a suburb of Los Angeles right around Halloween and was sitting in my sparsely furnished living room, thinking about how much fun Halloween was going to be for my son, when it dawned on me:

“HEY… I COULD BE THE CHOCOLATE BAR HOUSE.”

I thought about the candy I could give out, the thrill the kids would get, etc. 

MARKETING THE LEGEND
But it dawned on me that our house is on a street that doesn’t have a lot of families… mostly older, less active folks that didn’t turn their porch lights on during Halloween.

Honestly, we are in the middle of our block and our street was easy for kids to skip – you kids-at-heart know what I’m talking about: A lotta time, as a kid. you would look down a street at how many houses had their lights on, how long the block was, and wonder if the “juice was worth the squeeze”.  With a lot fewer porch lights on our street & a reputation for being filled with Boomers, I felt I had to overcome that.

So we decorated the tree on our curb with orange Halloween lights – LOTS OF LIGHTS – powered by a portable battery secured to a car we have parked out in front.  It was bright enough that the Intl Space Station could probably see our house’s tree from orbit.  No kid could miss the big orange tree and at least not wonder, “What’s goin’ on there?”

Our house had, well, no decorations.  I kept the entire house 100% black as night except the entryway to our front door which was lit in very bright orange light.  Simple but effective.

THE CHOCOLATE HOUSE LIVES
Over the years, our house went from ~20 visitors to ~300 and it really never gets old watching the awe & smiles on the kid’s faces wearing Captain America outfits & many many Harry Potter Wizard/Witches costumes. 

Additionally, our video security system out front constantly catches spoken comments from the kids (and parents) outside:

  • “Dudedudedude, shut up, I think this is it.”
  • <whispering parent> “Jeannie just texted me that it’s the house with the orange lit porch.”
  • “Mom, can you hold my chocolate bar in your purse? It’s too big for my pumpkin.”
  • “OMG I’m never going to be able to finish this [bar].”
  • “BOYS, I BELIEVE WE’VE FOUND THE MOTHERLODE!”
  • “Bro, remember Tim talked about this place. We gotta ‘gram this house.”
  • “Mom! Mom! C’mon! There’s a line forming! He might run out! Hurry!”
  • <parent> “They really do this every year? Jesus.”
  • “Awyeah, achievement unlocked! LET’S GOOOOOOOO!”
  • “Fix up your costume… he doesn’t like if you have a sloppy costume…”

(Every year there’s a few parents that take photos of our house to text to their friends, which I guess I should expect, but what’s funny is that they usually try to photograph the front which, remember, has an extremely brightly lit entry way – and no other light.  Try it some time… it’s really hard to take a recognizable photo with this level of contrast.)

imageSTEPPING UP THE BAR SIZE
I forgot to mention something:  I hand out the “XL 4.4oz” Hershey chocolate bars – not the 1.55oz that I pined for when I was a kid.

These are enormous – particularly for grade school kids.  They are the size of actual books for many of them and their eyes grow wide when I hand them out.  I get less of a reaction from the jaded high schoolers but it’s still hilarious to hear them say, “Brooooooo” – that’s what’s up!”

COSTUME REQUIRED – THAT’S FAIR, RIGHT?
That comment above about “needing to fix up one’s costume” is a relatively recent one.  I started to institute a simple, informal rule that seems to have been shared: 

  • No costume = no candy.
    (The corollary is: Lousy costume = lousy candy.)

Why? We’ve been doing this now for 7 years, and around the 3rd year I had a problem with high schoolers (and some adults) walking up in little/no costume at all.  Their little brother/sister told them our address and so their gang just showed up on a lark, basically wearing street clothes.

So I keep backup candy. Small fun size candy that I hand out to folks that simply don’t put in the effort.  I still remember the last kid (no costume) I handed a fun size candy to:

“What the… aww maaaaannnnn”

I realize I risk an egging of my house – but I still have hope that kids know the unspoken covenant of Halloween: “No costume – no candy”.

THE DARK SIDE OF BEING THAT HOUSE
And then there’s always the 1% that wanna ruin it for everyone.

Sure, there’s a small set of kids that try to go for another pass, trying to double up. I usually give them a small item the 2nd time around which is their signal to move on.

And then of course, adults always fuck it up

  • Rude kids with parents that don’t teach them any manners (there’s always the “gimmes” & smart talk, attempts to grab the candy out of my hand, kids that actually try to ENTER my house, etc.)
  • Costumeless parents that are entitled enough to ask for candy for themselves – sans costume
  • Adults without kids that randomly walk up without a costume, saying “Trick or Treat” (This last one is full on creepy)

This has been on the rise in the past couple years but the happy ending is I’m judge, jury & executioner: Piss me off & you might get demoted to “fun size”… or may be nothing at all.  Believe me – the threat is all that’s necessary.

THIS HALLOWEEN… I’M CHANGING IT UP
I’m not doing the chocolate bar this year.  Some folks will be disappointed but I’ve got something different planned.  It’s costing me a decent amount of money but I think it’ll be better.

For the chocolate critics, and yes, I’ve had a few folks that bitch about the “quality” of Hershey’s chocolate vs other brands (you can see what I deal with), this change will probably make them happy.  You can see where I’m going with this.

I’ll add more once we hit October 2021… which will be like the revenge of Halloween after this miserable pandemic that we’ve all gone through.

Happy early Halloween!


INFO: Understanding the differences between N95 respirators

May 28, 2021

imageIf you’re like me, you know wearing a piece of cloth on your face is more than 25% less effective than wearing an N95 mask. Statistically, 25% is a ridiculous difference in effectiveness.  (In Las Vegas, if someone told you that you had a 25% greater chance of losing on one game vs the other, you’d never take the table with the greater odds.  The difference is were talking about people’s lives.)

So the question is, if you’re going to buy N95 disposable respirators, which is the best product for your money?  Which provides the best protection for your dollar?

It turns out that there are many different N95 masks/respirators.  All are NIOSH approved however there are those:

  • With or without respirators (Exhaled air is unfiltered)
  • With or without FDA approval (Surgical qualified)
  • With or without oil particle filtering (“P95”)

And then there’s even N100 class respirators which are designed for 100% filtering instead of 95%.

imageNow it’s kind of hard to tell what masks are designed for medical protection and which are designed for carpenters & inhaling sawdust.  So I found the following resources that helped me… maybe it’ll help you… understand the difference between the different mask types.

(Note: I don’t have anything written on the difference in prices but suffice it to say that the price can vary wildly.  Also note that surgical respirators are often restricted to purchase by medical professionals.)


Reminder post re: contributions

May 12, 2021

These are instructions for discontinuing contributions.  (Reminder post for my own benefit)  Send an email to “RSVP Government Affairs” (auto-resolve through the GAL) with the message, “Please discontinue my contributions.” A response will be sent asking that you provide your employee ID & alias.  Deductions will halt in 1-2 pay periods.


Being wrong is an opportunity to “learn”, not an opportunity to “penalize”

March 15, 2021

imageIf you punish people for being wrong, they cover up their mistakes. They make excuses and throw blame to justify the past.

If you treat being wrong as a learning opportunity, people admit their errors. They take responsibility for correcting and preventing them in the future.


Echo Wall Clock not maintaining accurate time

November 29, 2020

imageI bought an Echo Wall Clock and found that it seems to STOP keeping accurate time every so often – for no reason at all – which is really annoying. 

I couldn’t find anyone that talked about this on forums or in

There’s very little support for this device online I’ve discovered, and as everyone knows, Amazon is effing horrible when it comes to customer support.  Even getting things returned takes knowing “where to go” because all routes intentionally lead to automated responses that usually lead to dead ends and are ultimately really frustrating.

PAIRING & UNPAIRING ECHO WALL CLOCK FROM YOUR ECHO DEVICE
I tried in vain to have my Echo Show disconnect and ultimately “forget” my Echo Wall Clock hoping that re-pairing the clock to my Echo would get it to synchronize the time with it so that it would accurately display the time. 

  • Holding the tiny blue button on the back will put it into pairing mode and flash Orange
  • Tell your Echo to “Alexa, pair Echo Wall Clock”.)

No dice. Every time I did this, the device would pair – but it wouldn’t set the time on the clock.

GETTING THE ECHO WALL CLOCK TO “SYNCHRONIZE TIME”
I can’t believe how difficult this was but basically, I had to do a complete “factory reset” of the clock in order to have it accurately reflect the time.

This “factory reset” completely erases the wall clock’s memory and starts it again as if it had never been used before.

HOW TO FACTORY RESET THE ECHO WALL CLOCK
Buried in the tiny brochure that comes with the Echo Wall Clock are the instructions for doing a factory reset of the device.  Only after I read this did I find an article on Amazon’s customer service page to accomplish this. This is the only way I could get the Echo Wall Clock’s time to be set accurately.

  • Go to your Echo device and have it “forget” your wall clock.  This is done on the Echo Show by swiping down from the top of the device, pressing  SETTINGS, pressing BLUETOOTH, selecting the ECHO WALL CLOCK but pressing the (i) symbol and selecting FORGET THIS DEVICE. 
  • Go to the Echo Wall Clock and push the tiny blue button on the back FIVE TIMES and the device will start to flash blue.
  • Go back to your Echo device and re-pair the Echo Wall Clock.  Simply tell your Echo, “Alexa, pair Echo Wall Clock.”

While I still use the clock to keep time, I would not recommend this device for anyone with an Echo ecosystem.  This is really poorly engineered and the device’s User Interface is terrible.


Recording YouTube videos using YOUTUBE-DL for free

November 18, 2020

imageRecently the RIAA made a big stink about an open source tool called “YOUTUBE-DL” which provides people with a free means of downloading YouTube videos.

Google has gone through great lengths to prevent people from downloading videos from YouTube, going so far as to lock out apps posted in the Google App Store that recorded YouTube videos.

Personally, I’d never even heard of this app.  I only learned about it when the RIAA filed their cease & desist notice to GitHub, the service where the app and it’s codebase are hosted.  So imagine my delight when I found the tool (reposted to GitHub after GitHub concluded that the request had no merit) and discovered it works BEAUTIFULLY.

HOW DO YOU USE IT?

First of all, it’s a command line tool, so if you’re not comfortable with using the command line (CMD.EXE)then you probably won’t want to use this.  On the other hand, it might be an opportunity to learn, right?

The main page for YOUTUBE-DL is:
https://github.com/ytdl-org/youtube-dl

Here you’ll find all the details however for the Cliff’s Notes on how to get started:

DOWNLOADING YOUTUBE-DL

  • If you’re using Windows you can download the Windows app here:
    https://yt-dl.org/latest/youtube-dl.exe
      • Note: Your browser will likely try to prevent you from downloading the raw executable because downloading .EXE files is usually not a safe thing.  In this case, it’s fine and millions of people use this tool.  You can sidestep any warnings in downloading the .EXE.  How you do that will depend on what browser you use.
  • Move the .EXE to somewhere in your path to make it easy to call from a command prompt.  I moved it to C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Microsoft\WindowsApps

USING YOUTUBE-DL

  • Open a CMD.EXE prompt.
  • Change to the directory you want to save the video/MP4 file to.
  • Type youtube-dl [URL]
    Ex: youtube-dl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-Db_AFKCzM
      • The program will pull in the video, identify the title, and save the video as [titlename].mp4 in the directory you’re in
      • The video quality will be the best available by default. If you wish to get a lower quality, see Options.

OPTIONS FOR YOUTUBE-DL
There are hundreds of advanced options available that can be applied at run time.  Here’s a few interesting ones:

  • Bypass geographic restrictions
    Ex: youtube-dl –geo-bypass [URL]
  • Record playlist from 5 to 49
    Ex: youtub-dl –playlist-start 5 –playlist-end 49 [PLAYLIST]
  • Update to newest version
    Ex: youtube-dl –U
  • Download at a lower quality format
    Ex: youtube-dl –f worst [URL
    (https://github.com/ytdl-org/youtube-dl#format-selection)

FAQ
There is a very important FAQ published at:
https://github.com/ytdl-org/youtube-dl#faq

It lists answers to questions like slow performance or other commonly asked questions.


HOWTO: Return stuff or get a Refund from Amazon

November 3, 2020

I’m writing this up more for my own memory as I keep forgetting how to get to the customer contact site when the refund process fails.

GETTING RETURNS/REFUNDS ON THE WEB

Easiest way to return stuff with Amazon is through the “Order History” portal:

  1. Go to https://www.amazon.com/gp/css/order-history
  2. Find the item you ordered & click the button “Return or Replace Items”

CHATTING WITH CUSTOMER SERVICE

If however after trying this, you find that the web site says, “This item is ineligible for returns” or something like that, just go to the Customer Service site and chat with someone.  Or you can ask to be called by someone through this portal.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/contact-us

If you chat online, there’s a good chance that if the item is under $100, they will just refund the money outright.  I received the wrong item and they refunded my money and let me keep the “wrong item”.  Even if you never received the order, they will refund your money.  I had a $250 package that was never received and on the chat, the person got authorization to simply send another the next day.


Optimizing my home network for Remote Work

November 3, 2020

Recently, I completely revamped our home network and the performance for everything has skyrocketed.  Ping times, bandwidth/speed, network reach/range, responsiveness… everything.

These are the steps I took:

UPGRADE INTERNET SERVICE
I upgraded our cable Internet plan from “100Mbps/10Mbps” to “400Mbps/20Mbps”.  Most days I see 480Mbps (!) which leads me to believe that that bandwidth is actually 500Mbps but they only guarantee 400) Total cost: $10/mo increase.

IMPLEMENT PERFORMANCE-BASED MESH NETWORK ROUTER
I replaced the Asus single hub router, with a 3-module, Eero Pro Wifi Router.  Beside having “5 bar” coverage across my entire home, performance against the 400Mbps connection is literally perfect as I usually see a ~480Mbps. This is because the Eero Pro, designed for performance, has one channel for communicating with PCs/tablets/endpoints & a SEPARATE channel that it uses for hub-to-hub mesh network communications.  This was about $270 but well worth it.

DEPLOY MICROSOFT EDGE
I installed this on every machine on my network.  This browser is soooo much faster than Chrome and Internet Explorer.  Edge leverages the same HTML rendering & Javascript engines as Chrome does so it’s 100% compatible with Chrome web site but the “Google Analytics tracking” services that monitor your browsing have all been removed, leaving a faster browsing experience.

IMPLEMENT “OPEN DNS”
Replacing the lousy DNS server that the cable company uses with OpenDNS makes browsing so much snappier and immediate.  Click on links is now almost instantaneous compared to the 1-2 second pauses per click.  Everything is “snappier”:  It’s crazy that a free service can improve your overall browsing speed so much.

OPTIMIZE FOR VOICE/CONFERENCE CALLS & BAND STEERING
Modern network devices have modes that will do a few nice things to maintain a good network connection:

  • Prioritize (also known as QoS or Quality of Service) voice and video conference call communications.  The Eero Pro has this capability they call Eero Labs “Optimize for Conferencing and Gamiing”.
  • Encourage devices on the network to use 5Ghz instead of 2.4Ghz.  2.4Ghz is easily interrupted by microwave ovens, appliances, and other devices disrupting phone calls.  The Eero Pro has a capability called “Band Steering” which tells devices to use the 5Ghz band instead if they can.

RESETPLUG
This is something I’ve actually had for a while but it’s worth mentioning:  When Cable Internet goes down, it’s usually because something has gone wrong with the cable modem’s connection, but sometimes’s it’s the router as well and they need a reboot.

The ResetPlug is a simple device that plugs into a AC power outlet, and you connect your mode+WiFi router into it for power.  You program it and it pings a web site every 5min:  If it can reach the site, it shuts off power, waits 30 seconds, then powers everything back on and tries again in 5min.  It repeats this process until a solid Internet connection is established.