So, my mom just asked me if Facebook is still “safe.”

Posted on April 6th, 2018

Filed under: General Noise — Karl Olson @ 12:38 AM

With a lot of caveats, yes, it and other social media sites are safe.

The caveats are it is only safe if you can turn a skeptical eye to every last thing vaguely informational/educational/news-like item that comes across your feed, especially anything advertised to you or anything you feel strongly about, and also if you’re in a position to keep your profile open only to your friends and keep that list of friends very well curated. If you already tend to check on snopes, scientific journals and traditional print media websites for anything that’s shared by your small set of friends or advertised at you, Facebook is no worse than the rest of the internet, or at least no worse than the e-mail forward saturated inboxes older internet users have been dealing with since they got online two decades ago on AOL. If you’re actually some what familiar with statistical best practices like sample sizes and experiment design, and/or have a good sense of journalist best practices, you might even be in a position to help stop the spread of fake information in your circles here. Your friends need you in their feed, often, keeping them informed and honest!

However, as a person who has been online since childhood and thus learned the hard way to always research everything I see online, especially if it seems to good or bad to be true, and as someone whose job involves collecting and analyzing a ton of data directly on behalf of businesses that’s collected by voluntary participation in online research panels, the notion of “safe” is a very complex and fragile one if any of those things above start to fail. If you’re not in a position to be choosy about your friends (at the very least which friends are muted or not,) the odds of having a friend who will pollute your feed with things that are bypassing your natural skepticism are higher, and you’ll buy into lies or even end up being scammed or manipulated subconsciously. Even your real-life, childhood friends, if they’re not skeptical internet users, can end up bypassing your normal vigilance, because you’ll tend to believe them. If your natural skepticism is generally low, this is definitely worse, because bad arguments and fake news are everywhere on social media, and when you don’t have the ability to filter it out for yourself, you will likely to spread it around.

Even if you’re very diligent, the data you share online also makes you and everyone you’re friends with a target for advertising designed to be about the things you all like, or vastly dangerously to yourself and to the society as a whole, the things you all hate both consciously and unconsciously, regardless of whether it’s real or fake. As such, your own skepticism is that much more critical towards safe, rational use of social media. This is to say nothing of how irresponsibly your data may be handled by social media websites and other parties with access to them in other ways, but even the on-label use of Facebook is to keep you reading by any means necessary with basically no ethical sense of how that’s done. It’s just worse when your data is then correlated by third parties to stuff you’re doing off Facebook (always use private mode, never save cookies!)

At it’s worst, Facebook and other social media sites can be malicious gossip distribution machines, carefully trained using everything they know about you to surface the most interesting things to you all the time, regardless of whether those things are real or true, and it’s trivial for people to make ads exactly around that and manipulate you towards their ends if you’re not double checking for secondary sources, and then actively blocking any sources that are pushing garbage, even if they are sometimes friends. If you can’t trust yourself to be super vigilantly skeptical, then no, Facebook is not safe for you, most social media that’s ad-supported and algorithmically sorted is not safe for you, and it’s not safe for the people you’d be on the website with. People, advertisers and the website itself will sink it’s claws into the serotonin centers of your brain to keep you here like an addict if you let them, and will tell you lies to do so if it happens to be what you like to hear, and once it has done so, you’re a vector to accessing your friends.

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My Blu Life: Two Months In

Posted on May 17th, 2015

Filed under: General Noise,Reviews — Karl Olson @ 12:00 AM

For a computer scientist and a nerdcore rapper, I’m not terribly big on device upgrades. You’d think I’d always chase new gadgets, but I’m still using the same desktop computer I’ve been using since 2009 (barring a processor upgrade before the socket was discontinued and Black Friday SSD and RAM upgrades.) Had I not run into various problems with my previous phones, I’d probably still be using the Galaxy Nexus I was given at Google I/O 2012. It did everything I needed more or less until the screen cracked. From there I’ve been on a Lumia 521 and a Moto G, both of which were less than stellar with battery life, and both of became erratic after firmware updates (dialer crashes in the middle of calls on the Lumia, force closes due to bad memory management in Android 4.4.4 on the Moto.) Still, I would’ve kept them if they didn’t get weird on me.

My ideal solution: buy a phone with a huge battery built in, and while I’m at it make it a dual sim one since I’m currently bouncing between the US and Canada. Hopefully the firmware never goes sideways, but if it does, the phone should be so inexpensive so that I don’t have to worry about the cost of replacement. Previously, this would’ve been a tall, if not impossible, order. However, as it turns out, a phone was released this spring that fit that bill brilliantly: the BLU Studio Energy D810U, which goes for a mere $150.

This is the point where I expect you to be like “the what phone?” and really that’s quite justified. BLU is a young company out of Florida that more or less puts their badge on designs from various Chinese OEMs, then sells them unlocked directly via retailers like Fry’s and Amazon. However, BLU has been clever about carefully selecting and wisely tweaking the more interesting models from those OEMs, and the Studio Energy is no exception. With it’s outstanding 5000mAh battery, this phone can swing a couple days of reasonable use like it’s nothing, and even with brightness turned up fully and processor intensive work like writing and rendering multiple songs in Caustic 3 and streaming anime off Crunchyroll, I’ve never put it on the charger lower than about 40 percent. That means it’s gone from 8am to 1am (or later) with a workload that’s completely inconsiderate towards battery longevity. It’s not going to play the very latest 3D Android games, but it’s otherwise entirely functional, and most importantly, it’s functional all day long – no range anxiety, ever.

Sure, it’s not without compromises. Hardware wise, the massive battery life means it’s not svelte (though it’s thinner than you’d expect,) and that battery isn’t swappable. It’s only capable of HSDPA speeds, and it’s bands are so limited you need a different model to get those top speeds depending on your carrier. Further still, it only has a MediaTek MT6582 processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, half of which is soaked up by Android, though a MicroSD card slot alleviates storage concerns. Still, it’s not buttery smooth all the time, and that’s technically a trade off (though, it’s not like the Moto G it replaced never stuttered.) Those looking for top specs beyond battery will be let down. Software wise, it’s lightly skinned, but if you’re coming from stock Android, you might find yourself running to get everything as close as back to stock ASAP.

However, I think for most smartphone users, battery matters way more than any other consideration, whether they realize that or not. Besides, given it’s current competition in this price point, it easily holds it’s own on performance, camera and storage. I would take this over the current Moto E, Moto G or low-end Lumias any day of the week, and they’re really only phones that compete with this currently. More importantly, it’s worked great in real world usage as my sole phone for the past couple months. It does the jobs it should do, and it’s even changed my use behavior with my phone. Since I don’t worry about the battery life, I’ve already written a few EPs in Caustic 3 while commuting on the train using the Studio Energy (by the way, this means the DAC is alright too.) I wouldn’t do that on any other phone without having a charger at work if not an external battery pack. Even pounding the battery with GPS and high brightness are no longer worrisome scenarios. I haven’t taken the car charger out my car yet, but the only time I bother to throw it on is if I’m making a day long drive, and really, I don’t have to, I just feel like I should.

One day, this phone will come without its tradeoffs, but that goes for the flagships too, and until the day I can have no tradeoffs, I’m going with the phone that can still provide directions after a long flight or late concert. The fact that it costs a fourth of what a top flagship does is just a victory lap.

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This Is My Aesthetic

Posted on April 4th, 2015

Filed under: General Noise,Music News — Karl Olson @ 10:11 PM

So, it’s not a super responsive dream site, but it’s clean and lean and will be improved farther on those notes while hopefully adding functionality. Gone are the old style style links in favor of a leaner, more modern look.

Meanwhile, I’ve been on Vaporwave-ish kick, and the results have been available to my subscribers on bandcamp for the past month. However, I’ve also started transitioning them to YouTube and non-exclusivity, so if you want to re-live a sleep misspent afternoon in a dead mall, below it your soundtrack:

Ultraklystron – 100 Hours Free:

Ultraklystron – 101 Hours Free:

Next week should result in 102 Hours Free being released from exclusivity, but 103 will remain subscriber exclusive until June.

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Bitcoin Accepted Here, Apparently.

Posted on November 29th, 2013

Filed under: General Noise,Music News — Karl Olson @ 10:43 PM

So I have added BitCoin payment via CoinBase to the web store. It’s rough looking as ever – I really should redo it with div and css, for now, I’m ready to take BTC (though I’m keeping the prices in USD since that’s what I payed for the material in.) I’ll admit I was a skeptic, and I still am a little, but sites like CoinBase seem to provide a reasonable means of giving it a shot, and it’s not like PayPal has been a bastion of honest dealings anyway.

To celebrate the occasion, let’s repost this remix, again:

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Legacy Content

Posted on July 5th, 2013

Filed under: General Noise,Music News,Videos — Karl Olson @ 8:00 AM

All of my back catalog that wasn’t posted to my main YouTube channel is now online here. I decided to split that material off from my main channel as I no longer know which albums these belonged to (well, I didn’t want to dig through CDs at my parents’ place to work it out,) and because most of it is fairly mediocre. Of course, I was only a teenager when I wrote most of it, and there are few decent gems hiding in with the junk there, but there it wasn’t worth binning the content beyond maybe a few YouTube playlists I’ll put together later. Besides, I figured since I could upload it easily thanks to a couple of nifty open source python scripts I tweaked and knitted together (I will post my code online once I clean it up a little,) I might as well do so.

Having posted those songs up, that pretty much only leaves mash-ups, remixes for other artists and mixtapes as the only material I haven’t uploaded to YouTube. I don’t see my self bothering with uploading them at the moment. I now have over 500 songs on YouTube on those two accounts alone, and I figure that’s good enough for the moment.

Otherwise, the main thing going on with me is that I’ve graduated university, and I’m looking for work. I’m doing a lot of programming tests at the moment, and though I’m feeling a little fatigued, I’m pretty sure that’s just anxiety regarding these opportunities. Hopefully, I’ll have something lined up soon enough.

EDIT:

Behold, the best of my worst. I guess that’s supreme mediocrity. 😀

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