Logikal Blog

Thoughts and words from Roland Hughes

September 29, 2015

It Takes 150

A few days ago I got fed up with all of the chatter about income inequality and dug up a blog post from years back. I cleaned it up a bit and posted it on the government petition Web site.


Then send you a link via email and encourage you to Tweet, spam, yadda yadda yadda the link. A few days later I went back to check on it and wondered why it had so few visitors. Then I hovered over one of the fine print links. That said it would take a minimum of 150 votes before it would be visible to a general site visitor. I swear I saw things with 20-40 votes listed when I posted it. Perhaps it is because the full text would not fit in the petition space so had to include off-site link?

At any rate, it needs 150 votes before the average schmoe visiting the site can see it.

Not really conducive to receiving good ideas. Someone could have a great idea, but not do Twitter, yadda yadda yadda so they would not get the 150 votes.

Is the purpose of the site to get great ideas to fix a broken country, or is the purpose of the site to find out what issue “might” have enough votes to get you re-elected?


September 23, 2015

The Annuity Scam

I poke around on financial sites from time to time. Yes, I see the late night commercials as well, when I’m awake late at night. No matter how many legal beagles and politicians swear up and down they are legit, the long history of annuities which took peoples money then disappeared to countries without extradition treaties (both real and imagined) will not be forgotten by the scammed or those they can tell in a 24/7 connected universe.

Someone once said the editors at Yahoo Finance couldn’t find a lit candle in a darkened room and after reading this article I firmly believe it.

Why in God’s green earth would anyone throw $20,000 into a murky barely understood annuity hoping to get just shy of $900/month some 20 years from now? The reason annuity sales have stalled is that they SUCK! They have finally proven P.T. Barnum wrong by running out of suckers. The example from the article says you buy at 65 an annuity which won’t start paying you just shy of $900/month until you hit 85. Odds are, it is non-transferable so when you reach life’s great checkout counter just a couple of years later, guess who keeps all that money?

There are many legitimate sites out there which report the dividend history of ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) and stocks. Personally I prefer the ETFs since they are a basket or group of stocks spread across many companies, usually within an industry. This protects you from a Volkswagen diesel emissions bomb or a Jared Fogle sex with minors court case. One company may vaporize overnight, but, generally, the ETF doesn’t sink or much notice. If an entire industry tanks, like say oil drilling, and you hold an ETF focused on oil drilling industry, well, you will take a bit of a hit. As long as you realize industries have cycles and don’t panic things will be well.

My point is you can take that $20,000 and spread it across half a dozen monthly and quarterly dividend paying ETFs. Each month you take the money which lands in your brokerage account and re-invest in the same or other ETFs. Since the article in question stupidly uses a 20 year time frame, do the math. It shouldn’t take long before you calculate how dividend paying ETFs snowball down the mountain past murky and un-trusted annuities.

That’s the reason nobody buys annuities today.

September 22, 2015

Perhaps It is Time for a Double Greek?

During this election season we are hearing the phrase “double down” quite often. True it is sometimes “doubling down” or “doubled down” but the gist of it is the same. We have even seen Germany “double down” when it comes to austerity measures for Greece. Many are pointing to Ireland and claiming austerity works. This is the same misguided thinking which lead Volkswagen to believe it could cheat with emissions testing software and not get caught.

We are now starting to see stories on NPR and other places which are saying austerity didn’t really work in Ireland. The inconvenient truth is that what saved Ireland had nothing to do with austerity. What saved Ireland was the “double Irish.” Yes, the “double Irish” started back in the late 1980s, but it was just a trickle of the most devious companies dodging taxes that way. A few minor tweaks to the laws over the years created many tech and other upper pay scale jobs in Ireland as companies were forced to staff up a presence there. This caused an influx of capital into the country and that, not austerity, is what pulled them out.

Today the “double Irish” is effectively being shut down. Granted the original evil doers won’t feel the bite until some time around 2020, assuming they cannot fund election campaigns before then to get “more favorable elected officials.” As horrible as it has been for the countries which were shafted by these tax dodgers, it might have been a form of medicine the world needed.

You cannot simply give loans to countries which have little to no industry (relatively speaking) and demand they enslave the poor via austerity to pay those loans back. Make no mistake, large corporations have been trying to bring back slavery for most of my adult life. Before you dump on that statement you need to watch two documentaries. “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price” and “Food, Inc.” You’ve all heard the stories of children forced to make soccer balls in sweat shops. These aren’t just urban legends. These are the direct result of corporations being allowed to chase “low cost labor” wherever and however it can be found. Those soccer balls didn’t just pile up in a warehouse, they got sold by retailers who made a margin. Many of you reading this probably own one of them or an article of clothing made under similar conditions.

Instead of saddling Greece with debt it cannot possibly repay, we, or more accurately, the WTO (World Trade Organization) need to allow Greece, for a period of 7-10 years, to make available a “double Greek” along the same lines as the “double Irish” near its end. Greece cannot pull itself out. Tourism tanks when the economy takes a dump. While they have a lot of manufacturing, nearly all raw materials have to be imported. While agriculture is a major industry relative to the GDP of Greece, they do not have the tillable real estate of Russia, Brazil, Australia, or the United States so, the world’s bread basket they cannot become.

Moving manufacturing to Greece only makes sense if your product sources from multiple countries in the region and Greece happens to be somewhere in the middle.

What has to happen with Greece is they have to get an influx of jobs and cash into the economy. Without it they are simply doomed. The most expedient way of doing that is to allow them to implement the “double Greek” for a period of time.

Yes, you could continue to force austerity on them to the point Greeks flee the country like the Syrians washing up on Greek shores now, but then, who would deal with the Syrians?

A limited time “double Greek” is the only viable solution. It worked in Ireland where austerity failed.

September 19, 2015

The Nextbook 10.1 From Wal-Mart

Let me start out by saying it is against my religion to purchase anything from Wal-mart. The client of a client wanted us to test our the software we were developing on one. We already had a rash of hardware, desktops with Linux, Android devices, tablets, etc. so my client backed off on buying even more. Since I was coming home that weekend I offered to swing by China enslavement Inc. and pick one up on my way back.

Ignore everything you see in the packaging about contacting technical support instead of returning. If you have even the tiniest bit of trouble with one of these units immediately take it back for refund/exchange. I went down the technical support route and let me tell you, they would have to improve by biblical proportions just to attain the level of useless. It is my firm opinion their one and only purpose is to tie you up waiting for email responses until 15 or whatever day in-store exchange policy has expired. After filing a ticket it takes roughly a week before you see a response. That response will simply be a stupid question which has nothing to do with your issue. Once you reply you are back on the waiting list.

Since my unit was trashed and a coworker who is a Microsoft certified whatever that is obligated to go around to help with developer training events and consumer education needed to test with Windows 10 I told him to go ahead and install it. He didn’t have the non-Microsoft drivers for the unit, but it functioned enough for what he wanted to test.

After repeated attempts to go through the support denial service asking for either a link to an ISO to re-flash the device to 8.1 or a link to the Windows 10 drivers I was finally told they could be of no help. Gee! Imagine that. Keep in mind the roughly one week turn between request an useless response for every request. Part of me thinks the support center must be in North Korea or some other impoverished country where the building only gets electricity one day per week. I mean for no more help than they were they could have set up an auto-responder to provide useless responses to every inbound support request.

What infuriates me most about this situation is that they obviously didn’t even have Internet access or know how to use a search engine. So, assuming you got Windows 10 installed on your device and the screen rotation along with a bunch of other things aren’t working, here is how you fix it.

Your first Web search should lead you to this link. You want to notice the link on the page to pull down this file.

Once you have that file unzip it into a directory then navigate to system settings->device manager. Do not just apply a driver for the devices shown in error, apply them all. Yes, it is slow and boring and many of the drivers won’t update because you already have the current one from Microsoft, but apply them all. When you get done reboot and turn orientation lock off. You will see the screen will come up flipped in laptop mode. Do not fear. Feel free to lock and fix rotation if it helps you keep your sanity.

You now want to navigate to this link. On it you will find many comments and instructions. You will also find this file.

You will need to install 7Zip on your computer to unzip the contents. Do not install or unzip anything other than the screen orientation stuff. The rest of it errors out and simply doesn’t work correctly, at least it didn’t for me. Run the executable to install the screen driver, then reboot. Do not skip the reboot step. After rebooting navigate to your downloads folder and double click on the registry fix file. This last step will clear your orientation problems.

That’s it. I found these answers with one Web search. Counting the time to apply each and every device driver I spent under an hour. Technical support couldn’t be bothered to obtain this information.

September 16, 2015

The CADT Model Revisited

Some time ago someone in a VMS newsgroup posted this link describing the CADT Model. We stumbled onto that topic because I had recently received a whole wad of emails from the OpenSuSE bug database. It was something of a shock seeing them in my inbox given the fact I hadn’t used OpenSuSE in roughly a decade. You guessed it. The bugs sat there untouched and un-viewed just waiting for the versions they were reported against to officially drop off the “supported versions” list. Once that happens, the only real functioning part of the bug database kicks in. It automatically closes and sends an insulting email much like the one in the link telling you to verify your bug still exists in the new version then to log yet another bug report which will be dutifully ignored.

I firmly believe this is how 98.5% of all Linux/OpenSource bugs are closed. The creator of the name may well need to change the word associated with the T from teenagers to tweens though.

Recently I was on a project to build a custom Ubuntu ISO using Ubuntu 15.04. _Every_ tool which supposedly worked well with previous versions of Ubuntu wouldn’t even run on Ubuntu 15. Even the ones flagged as “maintained by Canonical” with the little paw print to the left of them in Synaptic package manager failed to work. This set me to surfing the Web looking for sites of maintainers. I wish I would have saved the link of the one busted package. It was an apology and announcement of retirement.

Yes, the creator of this package had gotten in a pissing match with the creator of another package, so he forked the other package and set about creating a tool that worked the way he wanted _and_ trash talking the other package maintainer all over the Internet. His justification? He was only 12 at the time.

That is correct. He created the package which was used by many when he was only 12 and then set about ruining someone else’ life, at least on-line. Guess what? Now that he was old enough to potentially meet real women and go out on actual dates, he wasn’t interested in maintaining the tool he created. Adding insult to injury, the other package maintainer had basically gotten tired of being trash talked all over the Web, so they pretty much quit maintaining their package as well.

So, as of Ubuntu 15 none of the tools which are supposed to make it easy to generate a custom ISO actually work _and_ enough changed with the installer than none of the unattended installation scripts posted on-line actually work.

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered Linux “Abandonware.” It is also not the first time I’ve had to call out Canonical’s management. The peak of that came when they threatened to ban me from one of their forums/developer-sites/I forget what it was called at the time. It too is probably also Abandonware.

Some years ago I had a need to use a faxmodem. Since nobody at Canonical used faxmodems (at least the head of that message place openly stated he didn’t) he didn’t bother to check anything out with the person who volunteered to maintain it. The maintainer lived in Egypt. I say that not as a slur, but to make a point. Even the most cursory of checks by a supposedly international organization would have turned up the fact it was illegal for the volunteer to obtain the hardware necessary to test. Due to some compression/encryption software embedded on the majority of faxmodems export and/or sale to Egypt and a list of other countries was prohibited. I checked just prior to getting myself on some kind of international watch list trying to ship the 6 modems I bought to help with testing to the “maintainer.” Would have felt really stupid walking in to the Post Office with that package. Even more stupid when I got a response from the maintainer the following day stating his only computer was a laptop and it didn’t have a faxmodem.

There was still a tiny gleem of hope. The “maintainer” had a friend some 45 minutes away who had a computer with a faxmodem in it. He could go there to test when he was “ready.” Pretty much everyone dropped off the discussion thread over the next few days. Not because the problem had been solved, but because the maintainer was repeatedly checking in code which would not compile. I’m not talking about simple things like a file got missed on check in. Noooo. Blatant mistakes in the code which could never compile. So, all of that good will and all of the people who purchased hardware to help test the stuff just left.

Those modems are still gathering dust in my big parts drawer, btw. Would I like to be able to use them the few times per year I need to send a fax? You bet. I don’t get to though. “Abandonware” Last I knew the code to support them didn’t even come close to compiling. You know, it has almost been long enough now I should be getting one of _those_ emails from the Ubuntu bugbase.