Sunday, November 20, 2016

Better software tools - which are expensive - artificially inflate the capabilities of folks against those who aren't as well-endowed [COMPACTIDEA]

  • Good example is Grammarly. It proofreads a body of text and correct grammatical errors [and also suggests "better" and "heavier" words], thus making a person's writing appear more sophisticated and mistake-free than his or her actual capability. Basically an incorrect and inflated impression of the person. Truth gets hidden. But since Grammarly is expensive, only the rich folks can afford it, thus making them look more intelligent than those folks who don't have as much money. Clearly not good, since this is another way in which difference in economic status leads to difference in academic/professional status [and in this particular case the difference isn't real, it's only apparent]. In this sense, money perpetuates inequality, since richer folks become more likely to be able to score higher, to get jobs, etc.
  • Similarly, someone who can afford Microsoft PowerPoint at school/college is likely to be able to make better-looking presentations in lesser time, compared to someone who, say, can only "afford" LibreOffice, thus perpetuating inequality.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It's possible that the 'Comments' section of The New York Times is actively being rigged in order to help Hillary Clinton [COMPACTIDEA]

Based on information in leaked emails, it's okay to conclude that Hillary can go to any lengths to win this election. Any amount of corruption and rigging are okay for her. Why are top/most-recommended comments on NYT articles extremely/unusually pro-Hillary, while comments on other publications [FT, WSJ, etc.], either not so pro-Hillary or outright against her?

FT article endorsing Hillary as well as FT's tweet about it both have extremely anti-Hillary [and anti-FT] top comments.









Top comments on this shamelessly pro-Hillary piece on NYT are also extremely pro-Hillary. They don't seem like normal comments written by ordinary people, but feel like professionally crafted paragraphs composed by experts at Hillary's campaign, with caution about Hillary carefully sprinkled here and there in order to appear balanced and not blatantly fake.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Why do we eventually get bored of those songs which we initially like a lot, if we keep listening to them repeatedly [COMPACTIDEA]

Is it the case that we humans tend to get desensitized over time? Happens for both good and bad things [bad things start to feel less bad with time, as we "get used to" them and they become sort of "routine", while good things too no longer feel "that" good, perhaps because the exoticness/novelty of those good things becomes less exotic/interesting/novel/unusual for us and becomes more of "routine" stuff].

Happens certainly for good songs. Initially they feel so good that we feel we can keep listening to them over and over again. But as we do this, the excitement reduces with time, and eventually comes a time when we might even skip them. Also happens for comedy shows. Something that's very funny the first time becomes not so funny when watched repeatedly [this seems more explainable - because there was a "surprise/unknown" element when we heard it the first time, and now that we already know what's coming ahead so the surprise factor is lost permanently and thus we do not laugh as much].

The overall point is that it's possible or rather probable that us folks tend to get "bored" over time.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Can a Diwali fireworks rocket ("aatishbaazi") keep going up and up and eventually escape the gravitational force of Earth?

I used to wonder this during school days, when I would play with fireworks rockets such as Lunik Express or Whistling Rocket during Diwali days. I used to think that since this rocket is "overpowering" Earth's gravity for at least some seconds, it shouldn't be the case that it can't keep doing the same for longer and longer, to the point where it breaks free from Earth's gravity [almost, that is]. I used to ask myself what would happen if this rocket was filled with a little more of the explosive mixture so that it rose a little bit more? And so on.

It was only yesterday that I realized that each gram of extra mixture that we add to the rocket increases its starting weight, thus requiring more starting force [hence higher rate of combustion of the mixture] to lift the [now heavier] rocket. If we want to double the upward range, we can't just double the amount of mixture. The new amount of mixture also has to "carry the extra weight of the additional mixture" by burning at a higher rate, thus reducing upward range to less than twice. And so on. A rocket that's large enough to break free from Earth's gravity will likely become analogous to commercial rockets, as dictated by relevant equations.



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Are the people of a very advanced civilization living virtual lives by implanting their consciousnesses inside us, the characters of their simulation?

  • Hard to comprehend/understand, but our Universe has been around since "ever". Our scientists talk about some billion years ago as the starting point, but it isn't difficult to realize that there's infinite time before any time interval that we speak about.
    • Important caveat: If our Universe is indeed a simulation run by a very advanced civilization, then our Universe of course can have a finite starting point [the point where their video game was started]. However, the parent Universe in which folks of that advanced civilization live [assuming they themselves aren't a simulation of someone else] has been there since "ever".
  • Mankind already spends so much of its time inside all sorts of video games, including as characters inside virtual reality games [virtual worlds] such as Second Life. Proof enough that people seek to "escape" real life and live a more ideal/exciting virtual life, even if for only a while. Perhaps some aspects of the real world aren't always good, and solace is achieved within the world of video games.
  • Fair to assume that similarly the folks of that very advanced civilization sometimes want such an "escape". Maybe they have technology so that a dude in that civilization can implant his consciousness/mind/personality into a character inside the video game which we are [assuming we believe in the simulation hypothesis] and live a virtual life as a human being. Maybe all of us folks are actually "them" - our bodies are virtual and our perception/understanding of our minds is actually a subset of their actual/full consciousness [that is, each of us believes that we fully know our own minds, but perhaps we just can't access/feel/read/see those contents/portions of our minds which they've restricted our access to, and which belong solely to them and they do not want to make a part of the simulation]. Maybe they immensely enjoy playing in this world that they've designed. Maybe they've put concepts and phenomenon in this world that they dream of [or miss], like love or simplicity. Maybe due to incredible technological advancement those folks are so machine-like now that they just can't be simple or "cute" anymore.
  • Lastly, we know about only till a few billion years back. But the real Universe has been around forever. So this "forever" is "enough" time for development that's far, far, far ahead of anything that we are or anything that we can imagine. So it's likely that there's a much, much, much superior civilization our there, and that we're simply their game, and that we might never encounter anyone else.
*****

Jan'17

Just felt that it isn't necessary that we're a simulation. It could very well be that we are the "creation" of aliens. Maybe it's some aliens who discovered our Earth as a far-off planet suitable for [one type of] life, and maybe it's them who planted the seeds of life here. Perhaps they're watching us all the time, but in a way that we can't detect their presence. Ain't necessary that we're a simulation. Perhaps we exist at the same time as them, and maybe we are their creation.

*****

May'17

It's possible that us humans are actually the equivalent of "computers" of the aliens who created us. Maybe we are a real creation or a simulation that they've run and maybe we're just finding solutions to their problems, such as diseases, ageing, etc. Just like we use computer simulations to come up with solutions for [some type of] problems, maybe us humans are their computers which, by the way living our lives, are finding solutions to their problems. It's possible that they've purposely limited our lives to 100 or so years, so that this limited life forces us to find solutions quickly and desperately. Maybe it's actually them who're trying to find cures to cancer, AIDS, ageing, etc., and they've just replicated the problems here and want "us" to find the cures, for them. Maybe all this evolution and Darwin stuff is simply analogous to brute force, like trying all possible combinations in order to move towards solutions. Also possible that we're such a solution-finding simulation run in a fast-forward mode [also possible that the "speed of time", whatever it is, is slower in aliens' lives than it is here in our lives].

*****

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Insurance - car, health, life, etc. - uses socialism as its driving principle [COMPACTIDEA]

Insurance essentially is a common pool into which people put money [quantity of money you put in decides how much you can withdraw] without knowing which ones of them will need [a lot more] money later in life. Only a few out of the total group feel the need for money later in life, and these folks get many times more money than they had put in [because they also take those people's money who never needed to access this pool but had put in money].

It's like everyone says that we don't know who among us is going to require lots of money [due to a car accident or a critical illness or maybe death], so let us all put in small amounts to create a big pool and the few who will genuinely require money will each get a large sum.

In this sense the whole concept of insurance policies rests on a very socialism-like system. Even though banking, insurance, mutual funds, etc., are all hallmarks of a capitalist society. So socialism [and maybe communism] very much thrives even today, although as threads within the fabric of an otherwise capitalist society.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Price comparison of purchases done at online retail outlets with offline stores should be done by including intangible factors [COMPACTIDEA]

It isn't correct to only compare listed sale price when comparing a product at an online retail website like Flipkart with an offline store like Easyday. Some of the other, intangible factors to be included are:
  1. Time saving when ordered online [no need to go to store, etc.].
  2. Parking and fuel saving.
    1. Vehicle wear and tear saving.
It might be tough to assign exact monetary value to these factors, but it cannot be doubted that these positive aspects of online retail certainly reduce the actual price of the product to below the list price that we see on online retail websites [even if it's tough to determine the extent of the reduction].

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The complexity, obscurity, secrecy, invisibility, plausible deniability, hideability, speed and volatility of software and electronics are powerfully enabling covert evil acts by governments and corporations

  • VW wouldn't have been able to cheat if its engines had been purely mechanical [like yesteryear], with the ability to "see" all the components and to "visually understand" what each component does. With software, we don't even know what code/programming lurks inside, what logic/rules it follows, when it gets triggered, for how long, and so on. Worst of all, we don't even know if something, if anything at all, exists inside. The electronics could very well have been designed to automatically wipe the software if someone tried to study it, allowing plausible deniability.
  • Yahoo wouldn't have been able to quietly scan/spy upon the incoming emails of hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail users [or at least the extent of this massive spying operation would've been much smaller] if instead of invisible digital bits and bytes, the communication had been on physical paper. Electronics and software allowed Yahoo to covertly/quietly obey its masters in the US government to conduct blanket spying in a way that Yahoo's customers never knew about it, even as Yahoo continued to publicly trumpet about its strict adherence to the privacy of its customers. If not for this leak/revelation, the world would've never known, and this breach of privacy and trust would've gone unnoticed. That's the scary thing about software.
    • Because it's about invisible, complex software, when Google, Microsoft and Twitter claim that they aren't a part of this NSA program, why can/should we trust them? Is there a way to know that they aren't lying? If they were cooperating with NSA, would they admit it? Of course they would lie. This is more like an obvious/standard answer rather than a certain truth.
  • The CEO of Reddit wouldn't have been able to quietly edit/modify the posts of his own service's users [without their consent/knowledge] had we not been talking about software. In software, and especially in Cloud-based software, anything is possible. Expect anything. NYT could be modifying its past articles [and/or comments]. No one stops American companies from modifying your blogs. Past Reddit content could've been modified. And so on.


  • Google wouldn't have been able to covertly make ProtonMail invisible from its near-monopoly search results if its inner workings had been available for scrutiny. It's only when the ProtonMail guys noticed their demotion and left no stone unturned did Google correct this so-called "glitch" without any explanation. Two better explanations are that Google wanted to kill ProtonMail or that CIA/NSA asked Google to kill ProtonMail. [link 1] [link 2] [link 3] [link 4] [link 5] [link 6]


  • What's going on inside a Google Chromebit? No one knows. It's all inside, away from scrutiny. It's possible that the thing has been programmed to quietly ship the names of all files stored offline along with the encrypted traffic it uses to communicate with Google. Anything is also possible. We can't just trust Google on whatever it says. We have to assume that worse things are happening.
  • It's only because of the secrecy and speed of software/electronics that Uber has been able to [and continues to] fool governments and authorities.


  • It's very difficult for Imagination Technologies to know if Apple is indeed copying/stealing Imagination's patented technologies, because how in the world can Imagination go inside those tiny chips and reverse-engineer those billions of circuit elements in order to understand how they're doing what they're doing. Very, very tough, if not impossible. All because of the inherent characteristics of computers/electronics/software. Even if/when Apple claims that it has developed its own graphics chips "from the ground up, and without Imagination's patents", who's to judge whether or not they're lying?
  • Was this Google Maps "error" indeed an error? Or was it a pre-planned test by the CIA/NSA to see the effect of giving out incorrect coordinates? Nothing can be ruled out, when it's about a barbaric nation such as USA. That's why GLONASS and BeiDou are needed. GPS cannot be relied upon. In the future the US might selectively kill targeted individuals by supplying them wrong mapping and/or GPS data and by sending them off-course [like in Tomorrow Never Dies].

Two more examples of impossible trinity - in case of cars and in case of fancy insurance products [COMPACTIDEA]

During my MBA days, the concept of impossible trinity intrigued me. You can choose any two in the triangle, but you lose the third. Are there other similar examples? Sure. See below.

In case of cars:
  1. A car with low fuel consumption yet high performance will be expensive.
  2. A car with high performance and low price will guzzle fuel.
  3. A car with high fuel economy and low price won't have performance.

In case of fancy insurance products that claim to bundle insurance with saving/investment:
  1. A product with high, assured return won't have insurance in it [it'll be a fixed deposit].
  2. A product with high return and also an insurance cover won't guarantee that return [it'll be an equity market linked product].
  3. A product with assured return and bundled insurance cover won't give high return [this is the kind of bundled product that most people mistakenly buy, not realizing that the return is lower than if they had bought individual capabilities separately].

UPDATE [5-OCT-16]: In the car example, the extreme case is also true, where you choose any one vertex of the triangle in "extreme" way, and you cannot have the other two as a result.
  1. Choose too much power, and the car would be neither cheap not efficient [think Cruze].
  2. Desire too much efficiency, and the car would be neither cheap nor powerful [think Prius].
  3. Choose too much cheap, and the car would be neither efficient nor powerful [think Nano].

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Startups have got stereotyped - non-traditional startups aren't being considered as startups [COMPACTIDEA]

Wherever we look around, startups have this typical look - a bunch of guys with laptops [preferably MacBooks], discussing stuff in a cafe over a cup of coffee or in a room with lots of colorful sticky notes pasted on a wall. Technology must be involved. Preferably deeply related to the Internet. Presence of laptops and iPads is a must. Sitting around a table and discussing is a must. And so on. Startups, in a way, have got stereotyped.

I refuse to accept this stereotype. And I refuse to accept that you can't be a startup if you're in one of the "traditional" industries, like manufacturing. You're a startup if you start small and aim high and if you behave and move like a startup and if you're replete with innovation and learning. You're not necessarily a non-startup just because your "startup" belongs to an industry which isn't among the types of industries that are typically associated with startups. If you're thriving and growing despite considerable and formidable challenges, you're a startup.



Saturday, September 17, 2016

Airbus should launch a presidential plane version of the A380

All those wealthy rulers obsessed with my-size-is-bigger-than-your-size will love to get their hands on a presidential plane version of the A380. No other and nobody's presidential plane would be larger than this. Their tool would be the biggest, the fiercest, the largest, the most powerful. Giving the most satisfying feeling of "biggestness" at global meetings, conferences, events, etc. Even Obama would feel insecure that his toy, the 747, is relatively smaller and packs less punch. What a feeling it would be for a king that his plane is bigger than Amreeka's Air Force One!

For Airbus, the presidential planes would be a virtual goldmine. It would be their Airbus Force One! Years and maybe decades worth of lucrative maintenance, customization, spares, upgrades, repaints, training, cabin crew, repairs, and other contracts, with sky-high margins on each of these. Where are the brains of Airbus' salesmen? Why don't they see that having the unique distinction of being the biggest in the world appeals to the ego of so many wealthy rulers in this world?

And who knows? When a few of these super-wealthy rulers acquire the A380, it might even set off a "plane shaming" chain reaction, putting a sort-of "peer pressure" on the others to also match its size.






Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Like in aero engines, there should be a joint venture to produce world-class diesel engines for passenger cars [COMPACTIDEA]

Competition is coming from Google, etc. [even if not directly]. Car-makers can no longer afford to individually manufacture engines. Multiple factories with duplication of R&D, land, machines, labor, etc., is no longer possible. Duplication and unnecessary repetition needs to be reduced to free up funds for investment in bleeding-edge technologies. Else Kodak's fate could be repeated for today's blossoming car manufacturers. One promising idea is that two or more diesel engine specialists should join forces and create a world-beating diesel engine by combining/pooling all of their individual patents/strengths. For example, VW, Fiat and Honda could collaborate to produce diesel engines for their individual passenger cars. Each of these car companies produces excellent diesel engines already. Instead of spending money three times over, the JV would need to spend only one time. This concept has worked well in the aviation business, and there's no reason why it shouldn't work in the automobile business as well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The money that EU has asked Apple to pay to Ireland isn't government's money - it is the people's money [COMPACTIDEA]

Most people think wrongly. Government money [in a democracy] isn't really government money. All of it is people's money. All. All of it must ultimately flow back to the people via various government expenditures/projects done on the behalf of the people that the government represents. Hence the money that the EU has asked Apple to pay [to Ireland] in reality belongs to Irish people. Small and big. Apple, a big and evil corporation, cannot be and must not be allowed to steal people's money [by not paying taxes] by using fancy legal tricks and PR. Corporations must not be allowed to become so big and powerful that all the world's people effectively are slaves to these entities. Apple must pay all taxes in full so that the deserved benefits and welfare programs flow to the common man.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The significant annual hit on profit by giving one free Appy juice drink pack to each passenger on all IndiGo flights [COMPACTIDEA]

Number of planes= 111. Number of daily flights= 818. Flight capacity= 180. Load factor= ~85%. However, since load factor is an average of all planes and all flights, some planes will have 100% load factor while others might have <50%. Hence all planes must carry at least 180 Appy packs.
  • Price of 1 Appy bottle [250 ml]= INR 20
  • Bulk-purchase price [estimated]= INR 15
  • Basic cost of Appy packs used daily= 818*180*0.85*15= INR 18,77,310
  • Annually= INR 68,52,18,150
  • Add cost of extra fuel for carrying/flying these packs, plus costs related to purchasing, loading, refrigeration, distributing, collecting and disposing waste, overall management, etc. [estimated annual]= INR 15 crore
  • IndiGo's annual net profit [2015] = INR 13,04,00,00,000
  • % hit on net profit = ~6.4%
Two other points [not included in above calculation]:
  • Giving free Appy packs will result in a small reduction in revenues from food sold inside flights [some folks will just have the Appy and won't buy anything else - and these folks would've bought something if the Appy hadn't been given].
  • Free Appy packs will have a small positive effect on IndiGo's demand/satisfaction, possibly increasing overall load factor and revenue.
This thought came to me on my recent BLR-IXC flight with IndiGo.

Friday, August 19, 2016

If we are inside a simulation, we might never meet aliens and this would solve the Fermi paradox [COMPACTIDEA]

Fermi paradox asks why haven't we felt/met/seen aliens yet, when probabilistic estimates such as the Drake equation say that, by now, we should have. I feel that if the simulation hypothesis is indeed true, that is we're inside a simulation, we might never meet aliens if the simulation was designed in a way to have only us as the intelligent species [thus solving the Fermi paradox while preserving the Drake equation].

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Maruti Suzuki India has installed the amazing Fiat 1.3 liter diesel engine in almost all its cars [COMPACTIDEA]

This fuel-efficient Fiat engine is currently available in S-Cross, Ciaz, Vitara Brezza, Ertiga, Swift Dzire, Baleno, Swift, and Ritz. This is called utilization of a good asset everywhere. Why unnecessarily have separate engines for different cars [thus increasing your costs] when you can put the same heart in almost all of your cars.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Smuggling, hawala, under-invoicing, etc., nullify the intended effect of customs, duties, tariffs and taxes imposed by governments on goods exported or imported

Examples make this clear:
  • In order to "save" the domestic steel industry, Indian government has imposed a minimum import price [MIP] on some types of steel imports. The intended effect is to raise the landed cost of these types of imported steel, so that domestic manufacturers can merrily raise the prices of their steel products [competition from imports is effectively eliminated], forcing Indian buyers to shell out [much] more money for steel, thus feeding the coffers of India's steel companies [Tata Steel, JSW, Bhushan, etc.]. Sounds good on paper for the steel companies. If, however, smuggling is going on [which is of course going on], so that CR/HR steel coils can be imported into India without paying the various customs/duties, this cheaply imported steel will easily undercut domestically-produced steel on price, thus creating a downward price pressure on steel from Indian manufacturers. The higher the magnitude of such illegal imports, the higher the downward movement of steel prices in India. Laws and regulations to "protect" the domestic steel industry might exist on paper, but these won't cause their intended effect due to illegal movement of goods across the border [a lot of this movement happens when corrupt customs officials take bribes to clear under-invoiced shipments or shipments with wrong product type declared].
  • Similarly, in order to save the domestic cloth/hosiery/textile industries from China, Indian government has imposed various duties/taxes on imports of these products from China. However, a simple observation in the local market in Ludhiana demonstrates how these duties/taxes aren't having their intended effect. Chinese-made gloves for factory workers are selling at retail shops in India for about INR ~4.6 per piece [INR 110 for a pack of 12 pairs]. Go to large factories in China manufacturing these gloves, and take their best quotes, and try to legally import these gloves into India. Your landed cost per piece will be higher than INR 4.6. That these are selling for INR 4.6 per piece is a demonstration in itself that these were surely imported illegally, thus [funnily] making legal imports impossible [and thus nullifying the entire setup of duties/taxes]. And of course, the intended effect - saving domestic clothing/hosiery/textile industries from China - wasn't achieved.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Counting all costs - monetary and non-monetary - of owning and driving one's own car, it seems that taxi services such as Ola or Meru Cabs aren't that costly after all

SEE OID 199Z.

Consider the direct and indirect costs of purchasing, owning, maintaining/repairing and driving one's own car:
  1. Initial car cost - plus government registration fee, taxes, etc.
  2. Insurance [renew each year].
  3. Fuel.
  4. Replace tyres [every few years].
  5. Regular servicing of the car.
  6. Repair costs, when minor bruises/dents or major accidents take place. Also add the time spent on taking the car to the workshop and bringing it back, plus the lost work due to this downtime.
  7. Parking space needed at home plus parking fee to be paid wherever you go.
  8. Risk of car theft, or theft of parts such as tyres, music system, GPS device, etc.
  9. When you drive yourself, you're basically exhausting/using your own time and energy - this too is a major cost, although it's tough to quantify.
  10. Cleaning/washing, plus dry cleaning.
  11. Pollution certificate.
  12. Challans/fines on breaching traffic regulations.
Consider the fares published by Ola below.



When someone claims that the per km fares of cab/taxi services such as Meru Cabs, Ola Cabs, Uber, TaxiForSure, etc., are "high", they're usually only comparing the direct fuel cost [to that of their own car]. They do not include a bunch of other costs - some of which like the vehicle cost are themselves very, very substantial - but many of which are relatively small individually, but collectively become large enough to seriously start competing with fuel cost. That being said, let's be very clear that all of the expenses that one incurs on one's own car are also incurred by cab/taxi cars [plus remember the profit requirement of the company]. The saving comes from economies of scale, higher utilization of hardware and men, reduced wastage, route optimization, opportunistic pricing, etc.

Finally, these cab/taxi services also provide certain conveniences that aren't available in self-driving.
  1. Availability at any time of the night, and also at nearly any location. The fares can be higher, sure, but you can't always drive yourself at night.
  2. Further, the sheer confidence of availability [the assurance that it's always available, even if you don't use it] has quite a value.
  3. Services like Ola allow you to schedule a ride for a future time.
  4. When you're about to land at, say New Delhi, you can schedule a cab pickup and thus avoid waiting time at the airport. Not always possible with your own car.
  5. Ride history, ride tracking, etc., are things that are [currently] possible only with services like Uber, Ola, etc.
  6. Our own vehicles sometimes experience breakdowns, but the Ola fleet as a whole doesn't go down. Even if components of the fleet go down from time to time, for a customer a cab is always available.
Airlines grapple with these issues all the time - airlines have to take into account all sorts of costs, and not just fuel. This issue also has direct relation to the "rent vs. buy" question for a home ["Why build/buy a home at all when you can happily live all your life in a much superior rented home, while spending much less overall."].

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Imagining the Windows OS as a website and each Windows user as a visitor to whom targeted ads can be shown

ALSO SEE OID 202Z.

When I saw these two news stories yesterday, I felt that the idea of advertising inside the Windows OS [as if it were a website in itself, with each computer user like a visitor to this website] is brilliant. People spend only minutes on websites such as Google, Facebook, but they spend hours inside Windows. And since there are a very large number of Windows users, the advertising opportunity is huge.

It was just about occurring/realizing to someone that each installation of Windows can also be thought of as inventory - in advertising jargon.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Back to command-line interface - the coming wave of bots, chatbots, robots in messaging applications like Facebook Messenger is a reincarnation of Command Prompt

If you think about it, the way we chat/message on chatting/messaging applications [Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Facebook Messenger, Google Wave, etc.] is broadly similar to how we use a command-line interface. We type something, and a response comes from the other side. This other side could be a human or a machine, but that doesn't change the fundamental nature of the interface. We could fix a meeting or a short vacation with a friend over a chat program, and likewise we should be able to order a pizza using a chatbot. Not much different.







Update [Jun'16]: If you think about it, the way we use Web search engines, it's also similar to using a command prompt. You enter some text [which acts like a command], and it returns some results. Similarly, the !Bang feature on DuckDuckGo is like entering commands on a command line, complete with a specific syntax to be followed.



Sunday, February 7, 2016

I'm increasingly confident that private corporations just cannot be trusted - they will resort to every possible form of cheating if and when they can

ALSO SEE OID 184Z

Till many years back, I used to feel a sort of proud and confident feeling thinking about or using products of "top" global companies, such as Google, Ford, DuPont, Volkswagen, Apple, Microsoft, etc. There was this sort of feeling that "Microsoft can be blindly trusted.", "If it's made by Boeing, it can be trusted blindly.", "Google can do no wrong.", and so on. The cautious statements of GNU guys like Richard Stallman or Linus Torvalds didn't worry me [as much as they should've].

But slowly, over the years, I've come to conclude that Stallman is right. Private corporations just cannot be trusted and must not be trusted, ever. Private companies are driven by only one motive - profit maximization and then more profit maximization, and in the pursuit of control, money and power these enterprises can and will use every nefarious trick that they can. This is almost like one of Newton's laws.

These days, my default approach to products of private companies is that of suspicion. That one should believe that they're designed with the corporation's interests in the mind [although these companies are extremely good at marketing their goods in a way that makes the public feel assured and delighted].

Examples follow, but this is the tip of the tip of the iceberg:

- Apple bricking iPhones that have been repaired by third-parties, because it wants to squeeze the last drop of blood from the pockets of iPhone owners who are dumb enough to purchase a device that locks all of their data inside. The WSJ post also notes that "the policy appears to fit a recent pattern to give Apple more control over iPhone repairs and undermine third-party vendors. In another example, he said Apple uses proprietary screws on iPhones and refuses to sell screwdrivers that fit them."


- Apple quietly deleted music on users' Apple devices which was purchased from Apple's rivals. Wow! A related post by me on FB [alternative link].





- Microsoft is progressively locking-down the Windows operating system. Specifically, it's trying to remove the "download the setup, install, and run" capability that has existed forever in Windows. With Windows 10, Microsoft wants everything to be supplied from Windows Store. Issues with this system include total dependence upon Microsoft to accept/deny applications, Microsoft's ability to fully monitor what has been installed by which user, Microsoft's ability to remove applications from both the Store and the users' machines as and when it wants, the implicit pressure on developers/third-parties to not "disobey" or "criticize/oppose" or "expose" Microsoft, lest their revenue-earning applications be removed from or demoted in Windows Store [a form of silent suppression of expression], etc. This is a very bad situation to be in. In Apr'17, Microsoft banned game-emulators from Windows Store. Imagine if the "download the setup and install and run" capability was already gone/removed from Windows. It would mean that it would suddenly become impossible to play those beautiful NES games. It's a dangerous trend that needs to be curbed.

- On similar lines, Microsoft is regularly manufacturing glitches and troubles for third-party makers of antivirus/antimalware software, such  as Kaspersky. It likely wants only its own privacy/security solutions to be installed on and used by Windows users, perhaps because it fears that products of third-party vendors will comprehensively monitor and make public any nefarious activities that Windows OS tries to do covertly. With no third-party software present on the system, Windows can/will merrily transmit private data to Microsoft. And who knows, in the absence of such third-party security software, Microsoft might, at the instructions of its bosses at CIA/NSA, quietly brick select systems or deploy spyware on these systems.


- In line with what I've felt/written above, in May'17, Microsoft has launched Windows 10 S [and devices based on it], essentially a highly locked version of Windows 10, which, as expected, does away with "download the setup, install, and run". Everything now has to come via Windows Store [and remember, Microsoft will take a cut from paid applications/services/content sold on the Store]. They'll monitor everything you install/uninstall. They know which bugs exist on which apps on your system, and they can/will help the NSA to penetrate your system if/when needed. Plus, Microsoft won't let you change your default Web browser and the default search engine in it. Finally, there aren't going to be any real alternative Web browsers on 10 S. As expected, security scare is the stated reason.

Ford Pinto cost-benefit analysis that suggested not repairing the problem since letting people die is cheaper for the company.




- VW fooled both governments and its customers by cleverly manipulating the emissions of its cars.

- Microsoft designed Windows 10 in such a way that it forcibly collects and continuously/covertly transmits massive amounts of data to Microsoft, without informing the customer/user about this. Further, data collection/transmission cannot be turned off completely. Microsoft's explanation for this is the usual security/stability/safety nonsense. Welcome to the world of nonstop surveillance.


- My personal experiences with Windows 10 Mobile in May'17, showing how Microsoft and Windows 10 have little to no respect for users.

- Microsoft shrewdly yet unsurprisingly resetting all default applications chosen by users to its own applications, and later terming such a change a "bug". Microsoft didn't stop there - it made the process to change default programs far more difficult than before, reminding us all again that we're dealing with an entity whose sole motives are limitless profit generation and merciless competition-killing.


- First Microsoft quietly slipped an update into Windows 7/8/8.1, which adds the same "Diagnostics Tracking Service" to 7/8/8.1 systems that was present in initial versions of Windows 10. Secondly, in another example of Microsoft personifying evil, it described this evil service simply as "The Diagnostics Tracking Service enables data collection about functional issues in Windows components.". Does anyone understand what this evil piece of code does from this purposely-cryptic sentence? In reality, this code is doing this - "Examples of data we collect include your name, email address, preferences and interests; browsing, search and file history; phone call and SMS data; device configuration and sensor data; and application usage.". Evil MBAs and devilish managers are running these private companies and using every trick in the book to hide their crimes. Third, when there was some furore created about this spying service, Microsoft shrewdly renamed it to the friendly-sounding "Connected User Experiences and Telemetry". Who doesn't like or want "Connected User Experiences", after all? Though no one knows what "Connected User Experiences" means, it's probably something good, isn't it?


- This is true for all private companies. When they decide that they really need to push something to users, they use every dirty trick possible to get their task done. Case in point is Windows 10. Microsoft desperately wants everyone on Windows 10, and it's using all possible methods to achieve this, including methods and tricks used by malware! Examples include notification messages and screens that cannot be turned off [no matter how much Microsoft and other American technology companies brag about choice, freedom, etc.], pre-selection of the Windows 10 upgrade checkbox in Windows Update every time you open Windows Update, covert setup downloadsforced installation on some systems [which Microsoft conveniently termed a mistake, just like almost every private company], shrewdly slipping non-security updates into security updates [a sort of rider], purposely not supporting Windows 7/8 on the newest hardware in order to force people to Windows 10, knowingly/deliberately bricking the hardware of its own customers (!), taking over the entire screen to "remind" the user to upgrade, making the Windows-10-throat-feeding update KB3035583 re-appear in Windows Update even after it has been hidden multiple times - by re-publishing it on newer dates, etc. The latest trick Microsoft is using to force-feed Windows 10 its customers' throats is to change the meaning of the 'X' button. Now clicking this button, amazingly, starts the Windows 10 upgrade. This is as amazing as something can be.










- Microsoft has devilishly not given the true description of KB303583 in Windows Update. It has nefariously given a general/vague description that simply says "...to resolve issues in Windows...". This update doesn't solve any issues in Windows - it introduces adware into the system. Evil private companies! Further, on a Windows 7 system, when KB303583 was manually uninstalled, the next time it showed up in Windows Update with its checkbox already checked, and of course, the description was what we call fraud.



- Cancer drug companies deliberately/knowingly/purposely sell their medicines in oversized and single-sized vials, knowing fully well that this leads to wastage worth millions or perhaps billions. And of course, this wastage happens in the form of patients or their families overpaying to these drug companies for drugs never used fully, to the tune of thousands of dollars per patient. What's responsible for this? MBA guys obsessed with Excel and profit-maximization.



- DuPont knowingly hid the carcinogenic effects of some chemicals used in its products, leading to cancers and other ill-effects. DuPont isn't alone. Far from it. Most cosmetics and drugs companies do something of this sort.






- Sugar companies, in the 1960s, paid so-called researchers/scientists to produce "reports" that basically contained pre-determined results, in order to make sugar seem less harmful than it actually is [relative to fat] for the health of heart. Welcome to the world with evil, greedy, soulless private corporations like Coca Cola and Pepsi funding health organizations and scientific research, and bribing scientists and brainwashing us all into believing what they want us to believe via skewed study results. Good health be damned! And to add insult to injury, Coke shamelessly lies through its teeth by promoting itself using this shocking line - "Helping Families Get Fit".




- This is true of all pharmaceutical companies. They create slick, polished websites to promote their fancy new creations. They also give the required cautions/warnings. However, there's a clear asymmetry between the [much higher] emphasis they give on the beneficial aspects of the medication and the [significantly lower] clarity they provide on the side-effects etc. For example, in the screenshots below, while the benefits are highlighted using interactive animations, punch lines, etc., which are visual in nature like PowerPoint slides and also less on text [thus much more appealing and readable], the cautions/warnings are written in lawyerly manner - in boring, verbose text - that looks like and reminds one of software EULAs. So while the companies can claim that they've given "adequate" and "comprehensive" information about potential side-effects "as required by law", the truth is that these cunning psychological tricks have a significant cumulative effect - they discourage reading of side-effects, they over-assure readers about the benefits, etc.







- Unilever in India [as HUL], uses the much cheaper vegetable fat/vegetable oil to make its ice creams [which it has to label as "frozen dessert" due to local regulations] as opposed to using costlier milk fat, but markets/packages this money-saving choice as a "healthier" choice. Also, in the product packaging, it highlights in big font size the word cream/creamy so as to partially compensate for the loss of the crucial words "ice cream" [hoping that most people won't look deeply], while writing "frozen dessert" in small sized font. Typical corporate tricks. Pussies. They think they can fool everyone.

- Speaking of packaging, Google has launched a selective ad-blocker in its Chrome browser, and marketed/packaged feature this as "good for consumers" [as expected]. As expected, Google buried the most important information about launch of this tool deep down into the blog post, and there too in just 1-2 sentences. So now Google has unilaterally become the judge for which ads will be shown inside Chrome and which not ["In one possible application Google is considering, it may choose to block all advertising that appears on sites with offending ads, instead of the individual offending ads themselves. In other words, site owners may be required to ensure all of their ads meet the standards, or could see all advertising across their sites blocked in Chrome."]. As a rule of thumb, one should expect such large corporations to coat everything they do or say with heaps of sugar, and one should assume that there must be something malign hidden somewhere, unless proven otherwise. Also, one shouldn't be fooled by media reports that uncritically and lazily echo/reflect whatever statements have been put out by such corporations, in this case an article in WSJ describing this selective ad-blocker as "good for consumers". Look out for more analytical, critical and intelligent coverage, or apply your own brain.



- Because these software companies use bloody psychological tricks to trick users into blindly pressing the 'Accept' button, in order to covertly get all sorts of adware/malware/spyware installed onto the systems, while claiming that it's the users who pressed the 'Accept' buttons. In this case, you have to press the 'Decline' button thrice in order to start the installation of the actual product!





- It's quite easy to spot a feature that's pro-corporation and anti-customer. Like this Twitter email that tell you that you have notifications, enticing you to click and thus visit Twitter's service, but it won't list the notifications right in the email. It wants to "bait" you into clicking and visiting Twitter.com. The right thing to do here - one that saves time and effort - would've been to list the notifications directly in the email. Twitter won't. Corporations are demons that are designed to work in their own favor.


- Because these private corporations will suck away the last drop of blood from even those who are bleeding. They will not hesitate to give more misery to the poor, all in the name of maximizing profits, howsoever criminal the means might be.



- Online retailers such as Jabong proudly claim that they offer "a full refund" if you don't like a product and return it. They do not, however, tell you that the refund is issued not in cash form but in the form of Jabong Credits. These credits expire after some time, which likely happens for many people, so Jabong conveniently gets to steal some of its customers' money. Also, these points do not pay any interest, unlike real money that's returned to one's card or bank account by marketplaces such as Amazon. Further, these Jabong Credits can be used only on Jabong itself, thus acting as a sort of "exchange" more than a proper "return/refund". To be sure, Jabong does provide you a method to transfer these points to your bank account, but as expected, the process involves a lot of hassles and caveats - call up their helpline, request the transfer, receive a form by email where you fill up your bank details and then wait for a few days for the refund. As very much expected from a devilish company, this process has to be repeated in full - including typing full bank details - each time you want to transfer [which means each time you return something]. So while Jabong and other such evil private companies are more than eager to gobble up as much of your personal data as possible [especially credit card numbers], they seem to get coughs and sore throats when it comes to remembering your bank account details for the purpose of issuing refunds.

- Every American/Western corporation - whether it be a relic such as Microsoft or an upstart such as Uber - will always leak/share/submit data about its customers/users to America's spying agencies, despite public assurances against the same. These corporations will swamp you with their "strict" privacy policies, assurances about "due process" and "adequate oversight", but in reality, you are being tracked all the time, everywhere. Don't trust any one of them.




- Step by step ["boiling frog"], these nefarious private American companies - Facebook, Google, etc. - are killing people's privacy, and yet they claim with a straight face that they're taking strong measures to protect people's privacy. It's like first stabbing someone - and not acknowledging this at all - and then later loudly claiming that you're taking measures to minimize the loss of blood.


- Uber is actively deceiving/fooling investigations by government authorities by playing tricks.


- Even BlackBerry is deep in the bed with government agencies, sharing its global encryption key with them. No one can/must/should be trusted. Absolutely no one.




- What's more, as very much expected and as it very much the norm with every Western private company, when news of BlackBerry's sleeping with governments broke out, the company's boss put out an all-too-familiar ["same old crap"] spin using nice-sounding words such as "lawful access", "citizenship", "ethics", "responsibility", "privacy of customers", "difficult situations", etc. He talked about the BES server not being involved, but didn't address the real issue - that BlackBerry/RIM might have itself shared its global encryption key with government agencies.


- That Google is able to provide such detailed statistics on the usage of individual Chrome features makes it clear that there's a huge amount of background/covert/secret tracking going on. Firefox may be slow, but it's the only Web browser that's for the people.



- AT&T sells its customers' data to government agencies! The more one learns about AT&T's Daytona/Project Hemisphere, the more one realizes that AT&T has gone to great lengths and is almost competing with the NSA as far as the extent of spying on people's communications and development of spying concepts are concerned. In effect, citizens are paying from their pockets to have their private data sold to their elected government and a private company they trusted earns millions in this process! Seriously, these American companies just can't be trusted.




- Covert spying by VIZIO TVs, even as its own website asks us to prove that we're human.



- Full-blown keylogging by HP on its laptops, complete with plausible deniability that this was "an accident".


- Now [Jun'17], based on whatever I've known to date about the nefarious practices of private companies, I can safely conclude that the "check for available updates on launch" feature present in so many software applications these days is also used by software companies to measure/monitor/track usage of their applications. After all, each time a program is launched, it checks for updates [for itself], and thus tells the developer's website that I've been launched, allowing them to collect detailed usage metrics, including IP address and other personal information [which the user doesn't know is transmitted during this update check].

- HDFC Bank unilaterally decided to start charging a "nominal" quarterly fee to its Imperia customers. The email announcing the introduction of this fee was carefully crafted to dump the fee information deep down towards the bottom of the email's body [thus least likely to be noticed/read by anyone - which is exactly what HDFC Bank wants - yet fulfilling the "We promptly informed all our valued customers about this change." requirement], with the bulk of the initial email body devoted to singing praises about the Imperia program. Crooks!


- This is unprecedented. Facebook has threatened to delete users' synced photos if they do not download and install another of Facebook's applications - Moments. And we trust these devilish private companies with the most intimate and personal things of our lives!



- One real or alleged mistake/wrongdoing is all it takes to have your entire years-old account with Google, Microsoft, Facebook or Yahoo deleted, taking with it all those tens of thousands of emails, photos, videos, documents, and more. Has happened to many people, and there's little anyone can do once this happens. This is not a sustainable situation. Apple/Amazon/Faceook/Google/Microsoft/Yahoo cannot be and should not be allowed to delete your account and your data. They can be allowed to prevent you from adding/posting new data until facts become clear, but they simply cannot be allowed to delete your account without warning just because they believe/deem that you did something wrong. Otherwise, under the constant threat that you might end up doing something wrong, you'll silently/subconsciously curtail your expression, stop criticizing what needs to be criticized [including and especially criticism of Apple/Amazon/Faceook/Google/Microsoft/Yahoo], and silently become "obedient" and "compliant" lest the wrath of these private corporations fall on you and your data.

- By deleting Mark Dice's posts and by temporarily blocking his account, Facebook is harassing him and indirectly "nudging" and "training" him about what's right [for Facebook] and what's not. Facebook unilaterally gets to decide what is "hate speech" without having to explain why/how its decision that something qualifies as "hate speech" is justified. So they can modify the behavior and/or actions of anyone on their network using the "stick" of the threat of account deletion/suspension.



- In Apr'17, America's United Airlines cruelly dragged and threw out one of its own paying customers/passengers, like an unwanted animal [after duly beating and injuring him]. True face of America's capitalism. Till they want your money, they circle you, but the moment you become unwanted or a burden, they unleash their unfathomable shit on you. To add insult to the injury, United's CEO's so-called "apology" was anything but an apology. Non-male feminine pussies with no courage to acknowledge the truth.