– Whats up with Facebook Privacy?

facebook1By: Billy BeerSlugger

So I stumbled onto whilst reading a magazine article about why not to be on Facebook. Lot of compelling arguments not to be on Facebook and I too share the authors feelings of perceived un-coolness when people I meet are bewildered that I’m not on Facebook.  Obviously I also share some of the authors views on the reasons not to be on Facebook as you may have read recently, mostly dealing with private companies like Facebook and Google containing so much data on people and how that data can be misused.

There has been general problems and criticisms with Facebook and privacy issues for some time but the most public issues came to light as recently as late 2009 and May 2010 when Facebook with revised privacy policies.  It forced “user profile photos and friends lists to be visible in users’ public listing, even for users who had explicitly chosen to hide this information previously, and making photos and personal information public unless users were proactive about limiting access” according to So basically users who previously thought their data was safe behind a login wall and or only accessible to their firends now had to actively protect their data as Facebook’s default functionality was to share your data.

Besides all that mess the real thing I’d like to you visit is Go ahead and search a multitude of terms. As suggested by the author at Wired fun ones are “cheated on my wife” or “my new mobile number is” or “feeling horny“. Just a small taste of what can be grabbed off of your online Facebook profile. Just trying to raise some awareness for you Facebookers and social network addicts.

PECO Rate Caps Expiring this January

peco_logoBy: Billy BeerSlugger

Federal Rate caps on electricity expire on the first of the new year. That means that electricity rates will go up about 20% this January.

PECO says right now the price for electricity per kilowatt hour is about 15-cents.  The average household uses about 1,000 kilowatt hours a month,or roughly 150-dollars per month. The rate increase could add to your bill as much as 30-dollars!

Not a huge amount of press has been made about this though I have heard radio commercials as far back as January 2009. One thing for sure is that there will be a large public outcry coming February about how much people’s bills are and how they are too poor to afford it. I’d think that the local news stations would start alerting the general public on a more frequent basis at the end of November and through January. Of course PECO probably has been alerting people via their monthly statements for some time now so it shouldn’t be a shock. However, it will be a shock. I can foresee about 10-15 news stories in the Philadelphia area with interviews from residents who say they can’t afford the increases in electric and that they weren’t properly notified about the increases.

So now especially would be as good a time as any to start good habits to save yourself electricity and money like:

  • Turning off unnecessary lights and fans.
  • Unplug unnecessary appliances like a toaster, blender and can opener.
  • Turn your refrigerator down to around 37 degrees. Refrigerators can account for about 20% of household electric use.
  • Set your clothes washer to the warm or cold water setting, not hot.
  • Make sure your dishwasher is full when you run it and use the energy saving setting, if available, to allow the dishes to air dry. You can also turn off the drying cycle manually. Not using heat in the drying cycle can save 20 percent of your dishwasher’s total electricity use.
  • Turn down your water heater thermostat. Thermostats are often set to 140 degrees F when 120 is usually fine.
  • Use Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs. CFL’s 1/4 the energy of an ordinary incandescent bulb and lasting 8-12 times longer.
  • Replace dirty Air Filters in your Heating and Air Conditioning system and it will run more efficiently, saving you money.

These tips are slightly more costly but pay off in the long run:

  • Insulate your walls and ceilings. This can save 20 to 30 percent of home heating bills. (During construction)
  • Modernize your windows. Replacing all your ordinary windows with argon filled, double-glazed windows can save a lot of money. I believe these are also tax deducible.
  • Replace outdated appliances with new Energy saving ones. (I think this is also a tax credit)
  • Use less hot water by installing low-flow shower heads.
  • Caulk and weatherstrip your windows.

Remember any amount of reduction in consumption of Electricity is also a reduction in your carbon footprint. Save electricity, save money, help the environment.

Internet TV is Coming

zinc-main-screen-1By: Billy BeerSlugger

So both Apple and Google will release set top boxes for your television and my educated guess is that in the next year or so that some new HDTV’s will come pre-loaded with some sort of standard interface whether it be a web browser or operating system like iOS or Android. That being said I wouldn’t rush to grab any of these devices before a lot of the kinks are worked out: namely access to content.

I have long been a proponent of ditching cable for the internet and absolutely think that all meaningful communication will occur over the internet. All of the technology is there for nerds like me to hook up my laptop to my TV and be able to essentially watch anything on my hard drive as well as any content available via the web like YouTube, Hulu and Netflix. I could take it a step further and turn a cheap computer into a dedicated media and internet player like Boxee. There’s actually a bunch of different ways to consume internet content from your living room TV though nothing your grandmother would be able to figure out how to put together.

However, for this whole internet TV thing to really take off and overthrow the Goliath cable companies, the content that is licensed to these Cable companies, more specifically the channels themselves will have to be ported to the internet as well. What does that mean? Well my take is that it means one of two things:

  1. You could pay for each channel you want individually from the channel or owner itself and install some sort of widget/application which when clicked on your internet TV opens the channel for viewing.
  2. There would be some paywall to content on the internet just like there is with Cable/Satellite TV now.

One, I don’t think it is logical or plausible that each individual channel or ownership group of channels would want to get into dealing with the customer service aspect of payments, service shut offs and turn ons. I think they want to stay exactly where they are and do what they are good at: making content and grabbing a per-subscriber fee.

Two, I think there will eventually be a kind of Cable Company for most internet content in terms of broadcast and cable TV. I’m not sure if that is going to come from an existing cable company, a merger of companies or a new company but that is the best way I see it happening at least in terms of the content that is currently on cable/satellite right now.

So while it’s likely that there will be some sort of middle man in terms of traditional TV channel content and probably the companies holding onto the current contracts for the right to broadcast these channels and content will these companies want to crush their current cash cows and take everything to the internet right away? My guess is no. Traditional Cable/Satellite TV is not going anywhere too fast. They have too much money to throw around, too much money invested in their current business model and too much of a monopoly on content.

So yes, you will see a more progressive exodus of the general public from watching cable TV in their living rooms to watching content via the internet in their living rooms but it won’t go mainstream until TV manufacturers start putting wi-fi or Ethernet jacks standard into new TV’s and certainly some sort of breakthrough in terms of cable licensing their channels to broadcast over the internet. Internet TV is coming to the mainstream, just not as soon as you might hope.

Is the Watch Useless in the Digital Age?

watchBy: Billy BeerSlugger

Anyone plugged into the grid enough to own a cell phone automatically has the time in their pocket at all times so is a watch now a novelty or status item only? Is there a practical reason to have and own a watch now that cell phones and smart phones have become ubiquitous?

I don’t like clunky things on my wrists or hands and I never particularly liked having a watch. I would always get a watch from my grandmother for Christmas, wear it for 3 days and then it would go in a dresser drawer until I got rid of it. Maybe it was because I was a kid and didn’t need to have a concept of time but I just never saw a good reason to keep a watch on. I do remember one of my classmates using his watch/calculator to cheat on math tests so I guess that was one reason back in the day to have a watch.

Besides cheating on math tests I just don’t see a watch as being anything but an accessory anymore. Though there’s nothing wrong with the watch as an accessory and it still functions for time it just seems a little redundant when you have a phone in your pocket.

Crystalline Fructose

Crystalline_FructoseBy: Billy BeerSlugger

I’m a person who usually looks at the health information on the back of a package or drink to see what I’m putting into my body. Increasingly and especially in so called “health drinks” I have seen “Crystaline Fructose” as a sweetener. Inquisitive as I am I had to look this healthy stuff up that has been replacing sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup in some of the drinks I see.

Well essentially Crystalline Fructose is just crystallized Corn Syrup which is pretty much the same stuff that’s in High Fructose Corn Syrup and that is the same stuff that’s in soda like Coke and Pepsi.  So Crystalline Fructose is about 5% sweeter than High Fructose Corn Syrup and 20% sweeter than Sugar which allows beverage companies to add less of it to their drinks and thus cut about 20-30 calories per 12 oz. beverage. The marketing behind the beverages can employ a “healthier” or “reduced calorie” tag-line because ultimately the calories have been reduced and there is no High Fructose Corn Syrup in the beverage even though Crystalline Fructose is made from Corn Syrup.

I’m inclined to drink a beverage with Crystalline Fructose in it over artificial sweeteners like Aspartame and the like found in Diet Sodas. However, I really don’t think there’s a good substitute for regular sugar for sweetened beverages and drinking them in moderation. I don’t trust these companies/corporations who’s main goal is to increase their profits. That’s why I was glad to see Snapple go to real sugar in it’s beverages, at least you know what you are getting into.

One “health” drink I rather like is Arizona Rescue Water and it uses Crystalline Fructose to make a 20 oz beverage about 75 calories and packs in a bunch of stuff like Alpha Lipoic Acid, green tea extract, milk thistle extract, and L-Glutathione and various vitamins. It generally makes me feel slightly better after I drink it and doesn’t have a sugary taste.  Of course water is your best option in terms of watching calories but there are at least some better options than soda and processed fruit juice which generally still employ High Fructose Corn Syrup as the main sweetener.

Overall I wouldn’t be surprised down the line to hear that Crystalline Fructose is bad for you. There are even concern right now as to the effects of Crystalline Fructose and hepatoxicity and it’s effects on the liver even though the FDA considers it safe. Seeing how Crystalline Fructose still comes from Corn Syrup I am on the fence as to embracing it because I am an opponent of High Fructose Corn Syrup. Making Corn Syrup sweeter to reduce calories isn’t really a solution to a problem but I’ll try and consume it in moderation until more data comes out on it. Maybe you should too.

Google Contacts

google-bbBy: Billy BeerSlugger

Now I’m all about Google Services and have been for a long while. Long before I swore by gMail I was an early adopter of Google Search. I started using Google Documents to save things in the cloud that I needed to have access to between my home computer and work computer. Google Calendar sends me text message notifications before my calendar events in case I’m not at my desk. I use a host of other Google Services including Google Analytics to track the traffic of this blog to watching Youtube videos and the list goes on. Until recently I hadn’t really found a reason not to use one of their services.

Google Contacts will act as a digital Rolodex for you and store all this information online.  This year I got an Android Phone and I love it. When I enter a new persons information into my phone it asks me whether I want to enter them into my phone’s contact’s or my Google Contacts. At first glance this seems kind of intuitive, store all my contacts online in one place and never have to worry about losing my phone and subsequently all my numbers. Or I can’t tell you how many times I had to backup or migrate someone’s Microsoft Outlook contacts from one platform to another. But seeing how I really don’t want to be that plugged in, how I’m not on any social networks, how I think these things are just one more way for the government to keep tabs on the general population I am quite hesitant on using what looks to be a very good free product.

What if Google uses my contact information to connect dots between me and other people like my asshole friends? What if there’s some people I don’t want other people to know that I know? What if Google can track though my Android that I and another Google/Android user were at the same place at the same time? Certainly possible.

I mean why was a woman not allowed to buy an iPad using cash a little while ago? These companies want as much information they can get on you. Paying with a credit card certainly gets Apple a lot more information then a pile of 10’s and 20’s. This is the edge that Google has on other search engines, it has more data, their algorithms aren’t any more snazzy. So the only way to keep their number one search engine ranking is to keep adding more and more data about you and everyone else in the world. So they can target ad’s to you better and maybe, just maybe because they are in cahoots with the US government.

If I were in charge of data mining for the US government one of the first things I would have done was to set up a meeting with Google, applying whatever political pressure possible to allow access to their no doubt Exabytes of data at their disposal. Same thing with Facebook. If you don’t think there’s been at least contact about this happening you are probably a little naive.

So it really does come down to big brother. Google now has my email, my search history, my newsfeeds, my chats, my documents, my calendar and if I start using Google Contacts it will know everyone I care to list in there. Certainly a wealth of knowledge at someones fingertips if they choose to use it. I mean you could readily figure out that I’m an avid porn watcher and have athlete’s foot just from my Google searches alone, couple that with the questionable company I keep and I doubt I’ll be spared during Armageddon.

Broadband Internet to Unify Communication

internet_1By: Billy BeerSlugger

Over the next 5 to 10 years you will see a fade out of a lot of different technologies we use today and them being folded into the umbrella of Broadband internet. You first saw it with phone lines; VOIP allowed you to make phone calls via the internet. Since Youtube and Hulu have come out you can see that streaming media could easily displace Cable TV for a number of reasons(including it’s cheaper). With the 4 major sports providing streaming access (in most cases HD) to games and most network TV and cable channels having an online presence there really isn’t a reason you couldn’t ditch cable altogether (except for local blackouts of some games).

So what you will see is all these technologies slowly be enveloped by the internet. I’m not saying Cable TV will go away, I’m not saying you won’t have to pay a phone bill but you will see these things be delivered by the internet ever increasingly. For that to happen though the country has to get way more wired. By some estimates the United States is the 15th most Wired nation in the World in terms of subscribers to broadband internet per 100 people. That has to increase substantially but it will. The government realizes all this and has put subsidies in place and stimulus money to work to get America’s rural areas broadband internet access. Obviously companies like Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon will have lobbying in place to delay as long as necessary the switch of their cash cows to the internet. In time though everyone will be on board once the big players have secured their business model and can guarantee the massive profits they are currently raking in.

If all these communication technologies are going the way of the internet you should be more mindful of what is going on and how open or closed access to the internet effects you. What kind of laws are being passed and the balance of control of the government and internet service providers.

3D Porn Is Upon Us

By: Billy BeerSlugger

It was only a couple of months ago since I wrote an article about how the porn industry has helped shape and standardize technologies. In the article I mentioned that the first 3-D porno would probably come out within the year and that hypothesis was apparently right on track. Vivid Entertainment is coming out with a movie called “This Ain’t Avatar XXX”. Not sure if the film will feature lanky blue people with tails but I’m sure there will be some tail in it and worth a spank or two just for the novelty. How silly will you look jerkin your gherkin with 3-D glasses on? How much better can 3D Porn be than regular Porn?

Android Vs. iPhone

Resistance is Futile.
Resistance is Futile.

By: Billy BeerSlugger

With the iPhone 4 coming out later this month and 600,000 pre-sale orders already it’s safe to say that Apple’s new phone is already a hit. The millions of Apple fanboys aren’t going anywhere either. However, it is just completely inevitable that the Android OS will dominate market share on smart phones and eventually tablet PC’s like the iPad.

Why? It’s a simple numbers game and it’s a path that Apple already went down in losing the PC market share to Microsoft in the 90’s. Microsoft has dominated the OS scene because Windows can be installed on any PC. So multiple manufacturers of hardware could focus on the hardware and Microsoft could focus on the OS to run that hardware. Apple has always done both; making the hardware and the OS for it’s electronics and for the most part they do a very good job of it. They pretty much control every aspect of their products and that has lead to a lot of user satisfaction. Unfortunately, Apple being only one company competing with a multitude of hardware manufacturers allowed Windows to become the ubiquitous operating system hovering around 90% of the market.

Google took a page right out of Microsoft’s book and has taken on Apple’s iPhone OS with the open source operating system Android. So once again you have Apple in a situation where they will be competing with multiple hardware vendors and this time the operating system is free. I don’t think it takes Nostradamus  to predict what happens here. You will see Android completely saturate smart phones with Apple in a similar position in terms of iPhone market share as the Mac has been for the last 20 years.

Don’t fret though, Apple isn’t going anywhere and will continue to invade other markets (my bet is an iTV) and innovate as they have done throughout the company history. You would think that they learned from their mistakes in the PC era though.


By: Billy BeerSlugger

Somewhere around 2005 I began using Netflix to rent movies online and it was a far better service than any major Movie Rental place like Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. You could rent video games at those places but the service was about as good as the movies and the late fees still applied.

Fast Forward to January of this year and I started using GameFly. GameFly operates pretty much the exact same way that Netflix does in that there are no late fees and you receive your games in the mail. Again I could not be happier about the results of this service. Instead of sinking $40+ dollars into a new game and then finding out it sucks you can rent it from GameFly. If you like it play it until beat the game and send it back when you’re done. If you really like it then you have the option to buy the game for less than you can in the store. If you don’t like the game you send it back immediately and get the next game in your queue.

There really isn’t a better service out there for renting and previewing video games. It carries all the major console games like PS2, PS3 and PSP, XBOX and XBOX:360, Wii, Nintendo DS and Gamecube. The best part is that it’s FREE TO TRY! Or you can start for only $8.95. Whether you are an avid gamer or just play occasionally games there isn’t a reason not to use this service.