Monday, July 29, 2013

Your GMAIL Inbox Is Changing - A Heads Up & A Quick Fix

Monday night I signed into one of my GMAIL accounts and I found that I was looking at a brand new kind of inbox.  An inbox with tabs now.  Initially, I'm not sure I'm happy about the change.

When I logged in, I had that "Welcome to your new Gmail Inbox" pop-up and the usual explanation window ready to help me through my new process.  Wha?


My in box now has tabs.  Primary, Social and Promotions tabs.  Now, instead of 272 unread items in my inbox, I have 80 unread emails in my Primary tab, about 75 unread in my Social tab and the rest of my email in my promotions tab.

They got very little right as far as what goes where.  And suddenly, I'm seeing a lot of work ahead of me to help Gmail learn where what goes where.

To me, as I tool around the options, this feel exactly like "tags," so what's the point of tabs?

On the bright side, there's a quick fix if you want your old inbox back.

To the right of your tabs, is a "+" for "adding more tabs."

If you're brave enough to go there, you'll see a few other tab options to add, or, you can uncheck the Social and Promotions tab options and everything goes back to the way you want it or are acclimated to.

If you get "buyers remorse" and want them back, you can always go into "settings," "inbox," and there's now a "categories" section where you can pick out your tabs again.  Ah... so tabs are actually categories.  Most interesting.

- - -

And for now, that's how I'm going to treat it.  At least that is, until Google forces me* back into the Gmail tabs mode.  If that's their intent with this new change.

For now, I'm sticking to the old.  My time is pretty crazy valuable and I don't have the time to screw around with my inbox.  I have accounts for my different websites, for contest (junk mail) entries and then some.  This would be a horrible time-sink for me.

Well, any way, that's my new Gmail heads up and fix (temp?).

UPDATE: 7/30/13:

Someone made a great point about this new system and I had not thought about this new perspective... If you had not already been using any of the multitude of filtering options that Gmail had previously provided, then this new form of organization might very well be a neat new organization tool for you.

Thanks to reader Trainer Trish (an incredibly insightful animal trainer!) for that one!

- -  -

*Before this latest rendition of Gmail, they had a new inbox feel you could either use or check an option to keep your inbox the old way.  So I had checked off the "Old inbox" format.  But that is, until they hard-coded my day, dissed my "old" option and suddenly, there I was, looking at the new format that I didn't want.

-Bruce
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People That Poison Dogs (or any animal) SUCK (add choice term here)

Be warned, hitting a soft spot, I sort of let loose in this piece a bit.

Dogs getting poisoned in San Francisco
This innocent victim is Oskar, and he died because he ate a poisoned meatball left behind by some scum-suck of a sub-human, who, for whatever reason, has decided to leave tainted food treats around the San Francisco area.

The jerk or jerkette, is lacing meatballs with strychnine.

Hey jerk-wad, maybe you should taste test your work first to make sure you laced the meatballs correctly!!!

At one point, police had collected over 100 meatballs.  So this isn't some random bullshit, but someone with some demented bent about killing anything that might snack on the food bits.  (This could also include homeless folk hungry enough to eat stuff off the ground.)

Most of the poisoned food came from the Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights regions of San Francisco.

-

Bottom line, when you're out and about with your furry family member, keep a close eye on them to make sure they aren't eating something they shouldn't.

A slow death by poison (Oskar didn't die immediately, but rather, he suffered to his untimely death) sucks and the animal and the human who suffered the loss of her beloved dog doesn't deserve this kind of agony.

And I haven't seen any new updates on whether the scum-f*! has been captured or not.  There's a $2k reward out for info leading to his arrest. (See link)

[NBC Bay Area News]

UPDATE 7-30-13:  I just came across a news piece about Justin, the Fire Survivor kitty.  Apparently someone set him on fire.  A kitten.  Yes, some a-hole set a kitten on fire.  WTF?  How off in the head can one be, to want to do things like that to an innocent animal?  There's no word on if this individual was caught but there are times I'd love to see the "civil rights" of criminals be removed when they violate others' rights, and have the biblical eye-for-an-eye process instated!

Here's the piece on Justin, the Fire Survivor Kitty, and it has a good ending.  Thank god for good people in this world.

-Bruce
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Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Dining Experience at Palo Alto's ‘Umami Burger’

Disclaimer:  This is the opening paragraph from the article on the parent site to this site... so be aware that the link will take you elsewhere... but it's OK, it's an elsewhere it's OK to go to...
-Bruce

Today my family and I decided to check out Unami Burger in Palo Alto for the first time.  We were looking forward to this and hit up the place for an early dinner.

First up, the decor is pretty interesting.  But… despite it being a quiet part of the late afternoon, it was pretty noisy.  Like an echo chamber almost.  But that’s neither here nor there.  It wasn’t horrible.

We sat at a table near the front, and my view, looking out the windows, was of a huge UPS truck delivering goods.  When that truck vacated the spot, I thought I’d finally get a view.  But then a Fed Ex truck filled in that gap and my view was a bit joyless.  The front window seems to be a favorite spot for delivery vehicles.  It is a yellow zone.


When we were trying to order, one of my party is a vegetarian, and she ran into an interesting issue.

First, she tried swapping up a burger (Where they say you can order any burger, sans the meat patty) and getting a different cheese put on it, but they would not allow that.  Then she decided upon a different burger since she wasn’t allowed to swap cheeses, sans the meat.

Now in my mind, the common sense approach would be that if you pull the most valuable piece of the hamburger out, that there would be some form of a discount on the item.  But instead, after not being able to swap cheeses, we still got a full-price charge on the ticket for the meatless burger.

Continued on Brusimm at Review of Umami Burger in Palo Alto.
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Friday, July 26, 2013

Product Recalls: Dehumidifiers, LED Lanterns, Baby Bath Seats, Jumpers and Cribs!

Here's a collected set of what I'd consider important product recalls from Sears, REI sold items, Amazon sold products and the like.

If anything here seems critical to you, check out www.cpsc.gov and search for the product names noted here.

As is the case with any recall, if you have a recalled product, stop using it and determine what your next course of action is via the recall notice.

-

Sears Reannounced their recall of Kenmore Dehumidifiers Due to Additional Reports of Fires.  The dehumidifiers can overheat, smoke, melt and catch on fire, posing fire and burn hazards to consumers.

Industrial Revolution Recalls LED Lanterns Due to Fire Hazard; Sold Exclusively at REI Stores. Name of Product: UCO Arka LED lanterns  Hazard: The lantern's wall charger plug can fail during normal use, posing a fire hazard.

Thermobaby Bath Seats Recalled by SCS Direct Due to Drowning Hazard; Sold Exclusively at Amazon.com  Name of Product: Thermobaby Aquababy Bath Ring Seats.  Hazard: The bath seats fail to meet federal safety standards, including the requirement for stability. Specifically, the bath seats can tip over, posing a risk of drowning to babies.

Kids II Recalls Baby Einstein Activity Jumpers Due to Impact Hazard; Sun Toy Can Snap Backward.  Name of product: Baby Einstein Musical Motion Activity Jumpers, Hazard: The "sun" toy attachment on the activity jumper can rebound with force and injure the infant, posing an impact hazard.

Nan Far Woodworking Recalls Rockland Furniture Round Cribs Due to Entrapment, Suffocation and Fall Hazards; Sold Exclusively at jcpenney.  Name of product: Rockland Furniture round cribs.  Hazard: The crib's drop-side rails can malfunction, detach or otherwise fail. When this happens, the drop-side rail can fall out of position and create a space where an infant or toddler can become wedged or entrapped, posing a risk of strangulation or suffocation. A child can also fall out of the crib. In addition, drop-side related incidents can also occur due to incorrect assembly and with age-related wear and tear.

-Bruce
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

[Plastic Bag Ban] I Traveled to San Diego And Felt Like an Adult!

Up here in Norther California, it appears that the region is embracing the plastic bag ban whole-heartedly.

Of course if a local city wants to decline "adopting" this plastic bag ban, that's OK... but the state then enforces an environmental report requirement on that city, which would cost that local municipality $100k.

So don't be fooled by the embracing of this ban.

But since it's gone into effect, it's created a new kind of lifestyle. 

You have to constantly have some kind of backpack or bag on your person and/or in your car at ALL times. At first it was pretty annoying when you couldn't just stop into any store if you had ideas about buying things, unless you had a bag on you.  Or look like a fool carrying everything out of the store in your arms.

Daring to look like an enemy of the environment, I find the "law" rather annoying and I am curious about the draconian method to employ this ban.

But then the other weekend I was down in San Diego, and the plastic bag ban is not in effect down there.  And it felt weird to be treated like an adult.

I no longer had to "pack it in and pack it out" of the store or lug an empty backpack or bag with me everywhere.  They actually gave me plastic bags with my purchase.

Along with no ban, the store was also not forced to charge ten cents a paper bag, if I chose paper.

For one all too short weekend, I felt like a trusted adult once again.

But now I'm back at home in NorCal.  I have empty bags in my trunk, in my truck cab, in my office.  Cloth bags, funny bags that collapse into small but funny shapes. All kinds of bags.

Yep, I'm back in bags-ville.

-Devil's Advocate:  Sadly, because my fellow man can't seem to actually put their plastic bags in the right place when they're done with them, these kinds of draconian measures are needed.

It's a sad state of affairs all around.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wow, My Droid RAZR M Finally Had a Second Update!

Droid updates
If you recall, back on June 3rd I griped here on Consumer Bits about my Droid Motorola RAZR m doing random and untimely reboots without my asking it to.  Most of the time it was incredibly annoying.  It got to the point where I looked at my phone as undependable.

It was actually rather disappointing.  The update mucked with all kinds of things.  My screen saver was harder to turn off, my camera got a bit wonky, my screen brightness auto-detector became somewhat useless and using GPS and going indoors made my phone a hungry-hungry hippo for my battery juice.

At least those were the things I noticed.

Then to be a complete dick about it, I started updating my personal Twitter Account and Google Plus pages every time my phone rebooted itself.  To be honest, I've had great luck with posting bits about things on Twitter and having company reps reply to those tweets.

Not so much for Motorola.  I guess they were too busy working on the new patch patch!

Right now I'm on Android Version 4.1.2; System version 98.18.78.XT907.Version.en.US

Maybe this new update will fix the things noted above.  I hope.

-Bruce
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

People Who Litter are Lazy and Suck

NOAA did a little exercise... they helped sponsor a cleanup by the Ocean Conservancy.  It took more than 500,000 volunteers and they ended up collecting 10,000,000 lbs (4,540,000 kg) of coastal crap.

Then they dug through it and found that in the crap, there were

2.1 million cigarettes

1.1 million food wrappers/containers

1.1M plastic bottles

1M plastic bags

.95M caps and lids

They even found 40 lottery tickets (losers I presume) and 117 mattresses.

Damn people, there are plenty of trash cans around.  How hard is it to step a few feet to toss something out or place in the recycling can?


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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Are "Computer Cookies" As Benign As You Think? No...

I was pulling together a piece on how stores are tracking your phone's Wi-Fi signals to help them gather marketing data on their customers.

In that piece, folks were a bit agitated that they knew they were being tracked.  I said "knew" because stores have been tracking customers with video cameras and other tactics for quite some time it seems.

And the old adage, what we don't know won't hurt us, just might apply.  Because once we know we're being tracked, or maybe, emotionally feeling like we're being stalked, this marketing angle becomes an entirely new aspect.

But what I found interesting was that even though folks were agitated about being tracked in a store, they have no issues with websites and apps leaving cookies on their PC or phones.

Surfers and the like think that a cookie is rather benign and holds very little information.

LOL.

A cookie is one piece of info left or used by a single website.  Every single website you visit leaves at least one cookie on your surfing system.  Sometimes, many more.

A website will use a cookie.  Any ads on any website will each leave/use a cookie.  Some insidious sites, even images on some sites do nasty things and leave or use cookies.

I've seen some sites that dump or use 30 or 40 or upwards of 70 cookies when you land on their pages.  That's a single site.  Then every page you go to on that site, new ads, new cookies.  It can be silly.

But what folks don't get is that cookies are left for and read not only by the originating website, but other sites as well. 

Your collection of benign cookies is a wealth of information waiting to be culled by other websites or apps that look to do that.

Your smartphones love tracking where you are by GPS, then deliver you ads based on location and your past surfing behavior.  Google is pretty rich for maintain a billion records.  And interestingly, it's not all on the phone or PC, but in a tracking database off in some server farm.

Hey, if you think cookies are harmless,check this out:

ON one of my sites, my visitors are

  • Close to equal numbers for gender,
  • Over half my visitors have "Some College"  while
  • About 30% have college degrees.
  • That 60% surf my website from home, the rest, from work.

And that on average, my visitors spend just over 1 minute reading what web page they landed on.

-

Now that was just a quickie outline of stats I have available to me from the cookies that are on your computer systems and phones, so don't get too comfortable thinking one cookie isn't harmful.

It's like a jigsaw puzzle.  A piece here and there makes no sense.  But when you are at websites, they look at the collective of cookies on your system and put the puzzle together.

On your smartphones, have you ever noticed how some of the ads that pop up in your browsing or app usage seem correlated to stuff you seem to like or are near in proximity?

Or that ads in sidebars and banners seem to hit on things that interest you?

That's the system culling ALL the information from the collective of cookies or other tracking bits on your PC/laptop/phones and doing the "math" on who you are.

-
And to be honest, the moment we get out of bed, it seems our own privacy is up for grabs.  It's sort of crazy!

But it's also how things work.  If you like headed online and seeing things you like more often than not in ads, that's cookies working for you.

If you're on the road and your map app is pointing out that Hooters is having a special, that's cookies and app tracking working for me.  Hmm... oops.

We can live by cutting ourselves off from all this, but it would be a wee bit more difficult.

Me, I prefer to think that they'll lose me in all the noise of the millions upon millions of surfers "they" track.

I hope.
-Bruce
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Did You Know Stores Are Tracking Your Cell Phone For Marketing Intel

Did you know that places where you shop can and are tracking you and your cell phone to determine behavioral tendencies in their stores?  It's a marketing angle for the stores and their sales team, and it's an interesting one.  But are people able to handle this idea?

Your phone, if it connects automatically to the store's Wi-Fi system, they can track your behavior.

So if you walk into a store, they can see where you go, how long you linger in sections, and where you go from there.

This tech isn't just for shopping retail stores.  It's also being used by places like coffee shops... where they are determining how long clients/customers are spending in their stores.

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Apparently Nordstrom started doing this last year, but to be fair, they did make public postings in their stores saying this.

And to be fair... the process tracks a Wi-Fi signal.

And as customers started grumbling about this, Nordstrom says they stopped the program.

-

What's interesting is that many retailers are looking at this integral piece of marketing information or intel, and then they can start making smarter business decisions about sales practices.

The end-consumer could probably benefit from this, as you will start seeing only stuff you want in stores.  Plus, in my mind, this can help brick-and-mortar retailers to survive in this world of online economy.

-


All the retailers say they're doing nothing more than what the internet/websites have been doing for years.  This is their form of a web browser cookie, when they track your movement via your cellphone.

And oddly, many users are OK with browser cookies because it does not identify them personally.

The idea that you’re being stalked in a store is, I think, a bit creepy, as opposed to, it’s only a cookie — they don’t really know who I am.”

Yet what web surfers don't realize is that one cookie may not give a lot of information away, but dozens of cookies on your system, that are read by other websites, could spell out quite a bit about themselves.

For example... I know when people come to one of my websites, what gender, what their education levels are and many more aspects of information that many don't realize are culled from their systems.

-

If you think this premise is something new, it's not.  Some retailers have been studying their customers via video footage, and cataloging behavior in different sections of the store for some time.

Of course, if your Wi-Fi is on, and you also love your store so much that you have their app, well, "game over man!"  They know who you are when you downloaded their app and signed up with it.

-

Then of course, there's the inverse of being tracked, and that's telling retailers whaat you're doing.  And getting paid for it?

Look, folks think life is a private thing, where what they do is their business.  If they're on the band wagon with accepting browser settings as-is, or use smartphones, the gig is up.

If you use email, the gig started being up then.  Once you branch out to social networks, or have all your features on your phone turned on (the default settings), you're giving up a ton of info to anyone who will look or listen.

Once you go out your door, it's not your call what's your business or not.  Anyone just looking at you will know what you're doing.  You going out your door is akin to the privacy forfeited once things are in your trash can!  It's fair game in the public domain.

Just sayin'.  You might want to be prepared for it.

Me?  Since I don't trust unknown third parties, my Wi-Fi is set to only connect to my home network, and nothing else.  My GPS is off unless I intend to actively use it.  And various other modes.

Sure, it's a pain to some degree, but it's what makes me feel a little more comfortable.  I couldn't tell you why.  It just does.

{NY Times}
= = =

-Bruce
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Monday, July 15, 2013

Golden Gate Bridge Now Doing License Plate Photo Program

Not sure if you were aware or not, but now the Golden Gate Bridge is doing bill-by-plate! License plate that is.

So some day you might be meandering through the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza and think to yourself how nice that the toll plaza was closed this time through.

But instead, two weeks later, you will get a bill for $6 for crossing the bridge.

What's more, be careful when sending a check.

A peer of mine sent a check in a very timely fashion, but she was still bill the penalty fee of $31 because they had not "seen" her check yet.  She said it has not cleared and the woman on the phone she talked to said that

"It's a new process and the check is probably sitting on someone's desk."

That doesn't seem like a good system where drivers might get dinged for more money if a check is still sitting on a desk somewhere!

So careful, be wary and pay that bill pronto when you get it!

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

It's Just Me, But I No Longer Trust HostGator For My Hosting

Of late, I've been having odd consumer experiences with HostGator that made me feel the way you feel when your girlfriend stops returning your calls as quickly.  Or when she stops calling as often.  Or even when she stops truly engaging you in conversation but only mumbles "yep," or "nope" to anything you say.

You know, all the warning signs that something has changed dramatically. That is, until you start investigating and find the dirt on your relationship with "your girlfriend."

If you're curious why I've started moving my work to WordPress.com and Blogger.com, read on and see why I'm being driven to these other services.

-

Back in 2010 I had signed up with HostGator and for the first two years, I had the most incredible user experience with the company.

My account with HostGator (HG) is a shared hosting account, meaning, rather than having a dedicated server just for my little site, I am put on a machine with a few hundred other sites and we all use the resources of that server.

Cool.

From 2010 to late 2012, I had been having a flawless experience.  They were always incredibly prompt with any inquiries and helping with noted issues.  It truly WAS a five-star rating experience.

And then the changes started kicking in, during 2013.  Actually, since December of 2012, I've been running into small but annoying issues with HostGator {hostgator-great-hosting-site-when} that I initially felt were created by my own hand.

Since December of 2012, here's what's taken place:

12-18-12:  ... a crawler robot (or robots) was causing a high load on the server.***
  3-12-13:  HostGator was "forced to suspend the directory" (shut down my site)
 4-21-13:  My account was not getting backed up because I had too many inodes (files).
 5-22-13:  Website shutdown for high traffic load*

And since December, my inquiries to their service department were getting more "functionalist" and less personable.

In fact, since December my site "issues," have taken upwards of several hours to get any response or resolution.  (Email responses now take anywhere from 1.5 to 4+ hours.  My latest experience had my site offline for 13 hours.)  Where as the old HostGator would have replied to each email within the hour and had me back up and running within a few hours, at most.

My emotional reaction is that HostGator customer service was no longer the primary focus for shared hosting customers.  And I don't care if I am a shared server customer, that is unacceptable.

What tipped me off to this new, customer-hostile service is that when I got notifications on server issues, the options for me to take to resolve the situation now started including upgrading to a dedicated server.

Don't Laugh
When I asked what the issue was with my website and the hosting environment, their reply more or less indicated that my WordPress database had become inefficient.  Or to quote them,

{

"Wordpress starts becoming inefficient at handling the number of posts somewhere between 1500 and 2500 posts, at over about 5000-6000 comments, and over around 7000 tags, give or take a little depending on plugin configuration.

Once those numbers are doubled, it becomes exceedingly inefficient, performing very poorly and using a lot of cpu resources to process the results coming back from mysql.

This is further exacerbated by plugins, such as any popular or related posts plugin, that work with the tables that relate to these within the database. Looking through your wordpress site, you are exceeding those numbers, and this has resulted in the high resource usage of your site and increased CPU load.

I recommend reducing the amount of posts and removing any plugins that work heavily with the wp_posts database table such as 'Wordpress Popular Posts'."

}

They also went on to point out several plugins that might drag down the database performance due to using server resources.  Check out this list and tell me they didn't ping every major or most used WordPress plugin out there:

{

DB Cache plugins, WPTouch, WordPress Related posts, FeedBurner, FeedSmith, Related Content, YARPP, Popular posts, Contact Form 7, StatPress and other wordpress statistics software, Facebook / Twitter (Post to), SEO All-in-One/Ultimate Plugins, Sitemap generators....

In general, I would advise deactivating and removing any plugins that are not absolutely critical to the operation of your site as this will help in keeping it performing within acceptable parameters
.

}

Seriously, the above is a concatenated list from their response to my inquiry.

My Latest Suspicious Clue
The experience that got me motivated to look at things came in my May 2013 experience.

When things went awry and they took down my site and locked me out (They lock you out until you reply to their email, and give you a special tunnel to access the site to allow you to fix it. And since they took 1 to 3 hours to reply to my emails... well, you do the math, after four or five emails.)

But what got me suspicious were their replies to what was wrong with my site. 

1st reply said, my "database was using an inordinate amount of mysql connections, degrading overall system performance."
Their 2nd response indicated that I have "too many posts, comments and plugins."
Their FINAL reason why my site was tanking was that "search engine robots" were the cause for the issue.

And they took no issue with apprising me that moving to a dedicated server would resolve these issues.

I'm Working With the System, But...

Since May, I've

Reduced by posts by about a thousand (I'm killing one-offs, non-traffic entities, and eliminating whole subjects from the site in question.)

Reduced my tags by almost half (Again, deleting one-off instances, 0 posts associated, and whole subjects that are non-SEO compliant)

I've not touched my few comments.  Give me a break.

So WHEN I have another mystery incident (BTW, I've also reduced the amount of times Google and Bing visit my site, at HostGator's request), and they come back with their canned reply to my problem, I might have another thing to say about it.

-

Full of Sh**!?
BTW, I asked a several peers of mine who run websites about this situation.  They have major, top ranking sites that each have thousands upon thousands of posts, comments and utility plugins intact.When I show them this, their replies were loaded with colorful expletive-like words of disbelief. Or that these limitations were utter BS and in two cases, it was noted it's just a sales pitch to force clients to more expensive plans. 

My own disbelief is that if this is such an issue of limitations, how the heck does WordPress.com survive?

-

Were My Suspicions Correct?
So was my gut feeling that something had changed on HostGator's end good, or was I just being a miffed consumer?

Turns out that I've with some quick research, I've discovered that HostGator was sold to EIG [Endurance International Group], a business group that also owns other sites like Fatcow, iPage, Bluehost, VPSLInk and more.

IN ALL FAIRNESS, I had sent them an email, detailing what my peers said about these "WordPress" limits, and this was their reply:

{

Hello,

Thank you for contacting us. Those observations are gathered from the numerous similar issues we see on our servers every day. As WordPress is one of the largest Blog systems in use today, we do attempt to make our knowledge of this platform wider than others, however the issue with resource consumption will always lie in the back end code and database structure, especially with plugins are involved.

One thing we do suggest, is using a plugin profiler, such as P3, which will assist in pinpointing theses issues. By no means are the post, comment, and tag limits we state a hard limit, but we have noticed that having them reduced does help not only with resource usage. Also site load time is reduced as the database can then be searched through much more quickly.

Do note that if your site were to be hosted on its own server, these issues would become negligible as the full server resources would be at your disposal.


}

There it goes again, the pitch for a dedicated server.

So now that EIG has bought HostGator, there's a new sheriff in town and new rules.  One is to push new and more costly options onto their customers.

Now if I were a suspicious minded consumer, I'd be curious about the timing of my site issues and EIG purchasing HG.  But that's just a suspicion.

Well if anything, in my exploration for a new hosting company, I can at least take a look at the other companies that EIG owns (They snatch up web entities when and where they can and own 50 or 60+ sites) and avoid them like the plague.  I presume they'll have the same, restrictive practices in place at those locations too.
Other companies owned by EIG,  per {donnedwards.co.za} and { wikipedia.org }

And that's why you're reading this post on a Blogger-hosted domain site.  Because writing content will break my site at HostGator.

-Bruce

Thesis 2.1 Has An Official Release Date - Oh Goody, I Can't Wait! (Snark!)

The folks behind Thesis is releasing Thesis 2.1 on July 16th

If version 2.0 had actually been useful/usable to the common man, I'd be pretty excited.  But since it's a black box inside a black box, with no or little accompanying documentation, my excitement is on par with listening to Karaoke...  sober.

In other words, if you don't know what you're doing, programming wise, you won't know what you're doing with Thesis.

They do make fun of themselves by saying the release date is not a "Chris Pearson release date," because those are mystery date targets that don't happen quite on time.

They're pretty excited in their marketing pitch about 2.1, but then again, it is a marketing pitch.

They have what's called a "Classic Responsive Skin," with new design options.   Improved CSS experience, because, well, if you're a CSS expert, you'll love this.

They claim that 2.1 will make running my site easier.

But for the general blogging practitioner, who doesn't have time to learn CSS programming, blocks and square dragging, 2.0 was a disappointing mystery.  I've saved all my Thesis 1.85 files so I won't get left out in the cold when they stop supporting it.  (That's just my paranoia talking)

Or, as I've been doing, I've been considering CopyBlogger's stuff.  But I'll give Thesis a chance to see if I can make "intuitive" heads or tails out of this newest version.

Who knows, my faith in the system might get restored.  Maybe.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Open Letter to Menlo Park's Park Manager: 4th of July Foul Up or What?

When the Fourth of July rolls around, that brings many things to mind.  It brings the thought of freedom, of independence, of fireworks and a long weekend away from work.

Additionally, these long weekends involve getting together with family and friends and doing things outdoor-ish.  Like camping, backyard barbeques and hitting up your local parks to play a fun game of volleyball or what ever else one might think up.

That is, of course, unless you live in Menlo Park.

Here in Menlo Park, someone decided to "refurbish" multiple parks around town.

What refurbishing really is, is that they do some maintenance to the grass of a park, then put up a big orange warning fence around the perimeter of the grass and let it recuperate from public usage, taking approximately six weeks (That's what two different employees said it would take) for this process to occur.

I think it's a good idea, but the implementation and timing of it was pretty unfortunate.

For one... one of their bigger parks, they shut off about 90% of it.  The other 10% was always being watered, mowed or a city service (day camp) hoarded the region.

For another, having many parks locked off from public use for a grand holiday seemed poor judgement... or at least, not caring about what folks might want to do on this special weekend.

This reminded me of when the city shut down one of its dog parks, and put a sign on the gate that directed people/dog pairs to the other dog park in the city.  Yes, the other one that was also shut down.  Both parks pointed to the other location as an alternate destination.  Brilliance folks!  Pure brilliance.
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But to be fair, I don't run a city or city parks.  I don't know the demanding pressures put upon anyone to run a park, to schedule watering times during the day when people are in the park or to schedule park closures during holidays. 

I'm only speaking from my perspective as the frustrated end-user.  The last time I used the park was sometime just before June 1st.  Me, I have to head over to Stanford for some grass space.

psst: As of July 18th, 2013, the parks are all still closed off to use.  That "six weeks" is getting pretty dang close!  If Menlo Park were a business, I'd take my business elsewhere.  But since the flub of politics is in command here, it doesn't matter to them who they tick off it seems.


-Bruce
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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Important Product Recalls: Infant Recliners, Baby Bath Seats, and Two More...

Getting to the point today, the product recalls I've received via press releases include several baby products, IKEA coffee cups and a diving warning system.  (I'd think you really need your dive gear to work right the first time.)

Below are the product recalls:

Nap Nanny and Chill Infant Recliners Recalled by Baby Matters LLC, due to parameters of a litigation, where five infants have died because of the recliners.

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BeBeLove, Buy Buy Baby, and Chelsea & Scott all recalled baby bath seats they sold because the product has some instability issues and can tip over, causing a drowning risk.

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Strollers Recalled by Kolcraft because the inner tube of the tire on the stroller can rupture causing the wheel rim to fracture and fly off as a projectile, posing a risk of bodily injury and property damage.

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IKEA Recalls LYDA Jumbo Coffee and Tea Cups because the cups can break when hot liquid is poured into them, posing a burn hazard.

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DiveAlert Emergency Signaling Devices Recalled by Ideations because The signaling device can malfunction when used and restrict the diver├┐├┐™s air flow, posing a drowning hazard.

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For more details on the above recalls, hit up http://www.cpsc.gov/ and use their search functions look up the official recall details.  Those details will give you more information on if there are replacement or repair instructions and contact info for all the recalled products invovled.

-Bruce 

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cops, Guns, Dogs and Deer - Cops Seem To Always Shoot First, But...

The other night I came across an NBC LA Facebook piece on how a Hawthorne CA police officer shot and killed a man's dog while they were taking the man into custody.  It tore my heart out.

The official Hawthorne police department statement says that the dog's owner, Max, was a threat to the police officers.

Now it's a seriously sad scenario on many fronts.  The dog's owner already has a lawsuit against the cops and called the shooting an execution.  (meh.)  That doesn't help things.

In the events leading up to to tragic killing of the man's dog, (someone else was video taping and uploaded to YouTube), you can see a police action going on in the background, you can see Leon Rosby brazenly holding up his phone to tape the event.  (He claims to be protecting everyone's civil rights.  God, I wish he would shut up.)

But then you see the cops eyeballing him while he tapes the unfolding events, and come over to him, then arrests him.  From the video alone, it seems that the cops did not like him taping the events.  I did not see him do anything other than his taping events.

While arresting him, Rosby's 80 pound Rottweiler jumps out of Rosby's car and comes over to the fracas where Rosby is being arrested.  Whether the dog is being playful or protective, well, we'll never know.  Because while the HPD are restraining the man, another cop emptied four rounds into the dog, killing him.

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Animal Lovers DO NOT WANT TO SEE THIS

I've watched the YouTube video.  And I don't care how morbidly curious you are, I RECOMMEND STAYING AWAY FROM WATCHING IT.  Please, don't.  I implore you... 

I watched the video and I was speechless.  Stunned, wordless, going on into the next day.  I ruined my sleep. My heart broken for and going out to the spirit of the poor dog who was lovingly trying to protect his owner from the "gang of bad humans" surrounding him.

And these bad humans (from the dog's perspective), the ones with guns, had options.  I have to say, there were so many different ways this could have been handled.

Walking up, a SIMPLE OBSERVATION by the cops could have ascertained that he had a dog and preventative measures could have been taken.

They could have waited a moment and asked the man to control or restrain the dog before taking him into custody or by letting him talk his dog down once the dog had jumped out of the car.

But no, they're going to head on over to the man who was brazenly filming them and take it from there.

And then they do what they normally do, and that is they step up, "take control," and respond to the ensuing events that unfold from their actions after that.

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Cops are taught to take control of situations and maintain control.  And that commandment alone is what makes them thoughtless, "alpha-male jock-strap a-holes" in any situation, no matter how simple. 

And how often do we hear about cops shooting animals in self-defense or for the safety of citizens?

Over the last few years here in the Bay Area, a few deer have been shot and killed to protect people from the dangers the deer presented

Because, well, you know, how deer are constantly adding human bodies to their tally of wanton destruction and death they cause.

Then there was the mountain lion they shot and killed here, because he was posing a threat. 

OK, that seemed reasonable, even if you try and ignore how they chased it into a corner and it was acting as any cornered human or animal might react.  The last time I cornered anything frightening, I just sat it out until it calmed down.  But that's me.  I'm funny that way.

In most animal shootings, the common thread was that they could not wait for the ONE state animal control officer who is carrying the necessary gear to subdue an animal.

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I did a quick Google search for dog shot (adding a "-hawthorne" to the search command to eliminate this latest event from the results) and gads, there are so many dog shootings.

But sadly, many of them could have been prevented or controlled if the dog owners took better control of the environment they kept their dogs in.  Not the cops, the dog's people.

Yet on occasion, you see where the cops or authorities, disregard dog warning signs, walk onto properties, and shoot the dog protecting their yard.
But mostly, it's the "dog owners" fault.

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This alpha-male mentality scares me

When cops arrive on a scene, they instantly have to take control, and when something does not comply, it's resolved to the best of their ability, within their acceptable environment.

My dog runs up to me and barks his bark to say hi!  He charges hard and fast (he's happy and excited) and then he flies by my while jumping waist high.

It's cute... to me. 

But I can see how disconcerting his "hi" can be to anyone who does not know him, or is by nature, afraid of dogs.

That's why I take bundles of precautions constantly to make sure that his seeing people or other dogs, is under a controlled scenario.  That's he's not surprised, and that he's aware.

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The Other Side of a Different Coin

Though I tear into how authorities "alpha-male jockstrap" their way into situations, they have their rules and procedures for very good reasons.

The ilk of our society, when under duress, or willingly looking for trouble, do need to be subdued and taken control of.  And if they're given the slightest leeway, will take advantage of those situations.

Cops can't be kind in those situations and are taught to not give them that opportunity.  This "take control" mode is a critical part to their getting through their day in one piece and going home at night.

As it was put to me during a ride-along once, "Do what you have to if you want to be home eating dinner tonight."

A police officer's job is a crazy job, and in the most harrowing times, we all admire and respect the end results.  Case in point, the capture the Boston bomber.  I had no issues what so ever with how they effected that capture.

(It's funny when the shoe changes hands... or something like that.)

The Other Side of This Different Coin!
And through it all, here's one thing I bet you might not have known...

It's that the Supreme Court says that police officers have no legal or constitutional duty to respond to any call, or protect any citizen.

Crazy, huh?

But what's crazier is how rare it is when they don't respond.  Keep that in mind next time crap hits the fan.

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That's my emotionally-sparked rant for the moment. 

Just great...  I work across the street from a police station. 

If anyone finds me face down and drooling in the grass, don't worry.  It's just the effects from being tazed!

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[pjmedia.com: the-police-have-no-obligation-to-protect-you]
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--Bruce
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Monday, July 1, 2013

How To Change Google Analytics "All Web Site Data" Title

Changing a profile name in Google Analytics
Recently* Google has changed things a bit when you add a new website to your Google Analytics tracking page.   (Recently is a relative term.)

Now, rather than actually using the name you give them for the site, the program defaults to the name "All Web Site Data."

Nice, huh?  NOT!

You'd think in this day and age, with Google being on par with SkyNet, they'd manage to be able to translate what name you want from your web address or from the myriad of other info they have on you from your social networks and what not and apply it?  But that's cool.  I found out how to fix it.

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Changing "All Web Site Data" To Preferred Title


In your Analytics Home Window,

  • Click on the "All Web Site Data"
  • Click Admin (UR Corner)
  • Click on the "All Web Site Data" (seemingly again)
  • Click on "Profile Settings"

Here, you should see your profile info and that curse-ed profile name.  You can change it here and save it (hit apply at the bottom of this page).

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Now that was liberating.  I had a few names under my control panel that were not optimal for my emotional well being and I changed them all to something insightful, like

  • Google Panda f***ed this one
  • No traffic love
  • Hey, where'd everyone go?
  • The Google Penguin crapped here...

And other relevant titles.  Now, I can coordinate and prioritize accordingly!  Hopefully this has helped in some slight fashion and with a bit of brevity.  ...really, that was f*ing brevity.   I can't do anything else but laugh since it's all out of my control! 

-Bruce
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