I Know What We’re Going to do Today!

I Know What We’re Going to do Today! (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 7-31-14)

Holy Cow!  What a great month for movies!

First, of course, is the new Transformers movie.  OK, fine, maybe it wasn’t the best of the franchise.  But what science fiction fan doesn’t love watching Optimus Prime fighting it out during a summer blockbuster?

Next comes one of the greatest science fiction plots of all time.  The franchise has come a long way since Charlton Heston discovered that a new intelligent race had replaced humans.  This year’s offering continues the journey of Caesar to his destiny.

And this past weekend we are all introduced to Lucy.  We’ve all been waiting months for this movie.  (Still waiting, actually – A hot day at the lake trumps the movies, unless of course we’re going to see “Maleficent.” Again.)  The previews tease at the transformation of the lovely Ms. Scarlet into a Matrix-mastering femme fatale that puts Neo to shame

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’ve always been a Keanu Reeves fan.  While I was in college, “Bill & Ted” was one of my favorite movies.  To this day, I’ll stop flipping channels if I happen upon “Point Break” or “Speed.”  But when it comes to Lucy, let’s just be honest.  Keanu is no Scarlett Johansson.

Also the past weekend, The Rock showed up dressed as Hercules.  Not awful…I see how that can work.  Now, if Cameron Diaz had shown up as Xena instead of doing that “Sex Tape” mess…that would have been a classic worthy of “Sharknado” status!

BTW – Did anyone go to a “Sharknado” party Wednesday night?  It’s OK, you can admit it.  We’re all friends here.  Tweet us some pictures.  #SharknadoAugusta

Finally, for the last week of summer vacation***, we’ve got one more release to go.  This weekend, no doubt that most of Augusta will be trying to see “Get On Up.”  That’s a respectable choice.  On the other hand, I’ll be in the line with the nerds waiting to see “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

*** BTW – When did the last week of July become the last week of summer?  I’m officially going on record to say, “This is nuts!”  There’s still a full month of 100-degree temperatures, crappy summer jobs, rocking trips to the beach and random and assorted other goofing off to do.

According to Pheneas and Ferb, there are 104 days of summer vacation.  And as they rightly point out, school comes along just to end it.  Working off the Columbia County calendar, if you backup from 104 days from August 7, the last day of school should have been on April 25.   Well, we all know that didn’t happen.  By my estimation, CSRA students deserve at least another three or four weeks of summer vacation.

One last major release occurred this month that’s worth mentioning.  We’ve all seen the countless numbers of “Star Wars” parodies.  From the classic Mel Brooks movie “Spaceballs” to the COPS take-off called “TROOPS” to the more recent parodies by “Robot Chicken” and “Family Guy”, the number of “Star Wars” spoofs greatly exceeds the content of the original movies.

But wait, there’s more.  Disney released another sure-to-be-classic spoof of the “Star Wars” story.  No, it’s not Mickey and Minnie, but rather the resourceful and kind-hearted Phineas and Ferb.  In a twist from the classic parodies, the brothers are not cast as the “Star Wars” heroes.  Phineas and Ferb are the happy and content neighbors of Luke Skywalker, enjoying the endless summer of Tattonine .  Unfortunately, they get caught up in the high drama of the fight between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.  Darth Vader may have crushed the Rebellion if it weren’t for a couple of key encounters with Phineas, Ferb and their friends.

Until next time…I’m off the grid@gregory_a_baker


  <source src=”novideoplz.mp4″ type=”video/mp4″> (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 7-24-14)

The legions of Augusta Tek fans already know that I generally dislike video embedded into web pages.  First of all, it’s just rude.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had to apologize to my spouse, kids, and employees for creating an interruption. Surfing the web is a private activity.  Sure you will share pics and clips with your friends, but most of the time, the Internet is enjoyed in solitude.  That is, until an unfortunate click spawns a greatly amplified, embedded video and announces to the whole world that, “Yes, I am an inconsiderate bastard.”

Personally, I think web developers do this on purpose.  Most developers work under the cover of anonymity, rarely getting the recognition or respect for the hours spent pixelating the Internet.  I can envision them sitting in their dark rooms (true coders never work with the lights on), secretly devising new schemes to torment the average user…

Step 1: Start with a clean and functional page

Step 2: Create compelling hyperlink to drive traffic

Step 3: Insert Rickroll

Step 4: Start maniacal laughter (Heh! Heh! Heh! Heh! Heh!)

Of course, the embedded video is tolerable when the content is actually useful.  Unfortunately, useful content is usually the exception.  Websites designed around video streams provide the most enjoyment.  Sites like YouTube or Netflix are successful precisely because they give us the kind of Internet content we demand: amateurs making good movies, or professionals making bad movies.  If we wanted anything of higher quality, it’d be worth buying the DVD.

Many other sites continue to embed video into written or other graphical content.  Most of the time, it just doesn’t work.  ESPN is probably one of the better sites to mix written and video content, but their success is not universal.  Sure, it’s nice to see the highlights of the latest Brave’s win, but why would I want to watch 3 to 5 minutes of the experts talk about how Georgia is well postured to take the SEC East when we all know that their season is going to be bookended by losses to two lowly ACC teams.  (Yes, I know.  It’s a very unlikely scenario, but not impossible.  (Heh! Heh! Heh!))

One trend I observe with increasing annoyance is the inclusion of commercials in front of the video.  Putting ads in front of videos is nothing new, but until recently, designers would only subject you to five seconds or so of pain before allowing you to skip to the destination.  Over the last couple of months, I’ve experienced more and more sites that apply the full measure of torture prior to starting the desired video.  More often than not, the cost-benefit analysis of suffering through a 30-second car insurance commercial in order to watch a two-minute product review just isn’t adding up.  I’ll just read the article.

Opting for the article is especially true given the streaming performance that I’ve experienced lately.  My provider has told me on multiple occasions that everything “Looks fine from our end.”  Apparently, no rhyme or reason exists as to why all our streaming services are stuck in play-cache-repeat mode. Here’s the fun part, though.  My wife and I decided to change providers because we had finally gotten fed up.  When the installer for the new provider came out, he questioned our decision.  Basically, this guy thought that our current service was much better than what he was installing.

Obviously, a recommendation like that can’t be ignored.  I guess that we’ll have to get used to the spinning circle of death.  Oh well, it doesn’t really matter.  I never liked videos in my web pages anyway

Until next time…






Joe Pesci Got it Wrong

Joe Pesci Got it Wrong (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 7-10-14)

If there was ever an operation that was in need of tech refresh, it has got to be the drive-thru window.  In the thirty-something years since they became widespread, nothing really has changed.  Sure, the speakers may have better quality, and some upscale joints may have electronic signs showing your order.  But let’s be honest – Is there really any difference between the drive-thrus of today and what we had when “Cheeseburger in Paradise” was topping the charts?  The answer is a resounding, “NO!”

You might be asking yourself how I could speak with such authority.  It’s very simple.  Fast food is how I live.  Conservatively estimated, nearly 40% of my meals are delivered through a driver’s side window.  When I was in college, a guy doing phone surveys for fast food service hung up on me when I told him I ate fast food over 50 times a month.  To me, the five food groups are hamburger, chicken, Mexican, Chinese and pizza.  So it should be no surprise that when it comes to drive-thru windows, I consider myself a subject matter expert.

The best drive-thrus in town are undoubtedly run by Chick-fil-A.  The Chick-fil-A drive-thru’s performance is rooted in organization and execution.  No matter which restaurant you visit, the drive-thru line is guaranteed to be long, especially at the Augusta Exchange and Mullins Crossing locations.  No worries, though.  There’s nothing to fear.  The Chick-fil-A servers always stay positive and keep things moving in the right direction.  Road stick thingies to manage traffic – Check!  Place a person outside to take orders and improve efficiency – Check!  Food properly bagged and ready to go when you drive up – Check!  On behalf of everyone going through the lunch drive-thru, thank you, Chick-fil-A.  It’s our pleasure!

The fastest drive-thru I’ve ever been through is the Wendy’s at the corner of N. Academy Boulevard and Kelly Johnson Boulevard in Colorado Springs.  I worked not far from there, and on more than one occasion, I was able to go through the lunch-time line without having to come to a complete stop.  I could never figure out how they did it.

Of course, you can’t talk about drive-thrus without mentioning McDonald’s.  Like it or hate it (FYI – I’m Lovin’ It!), the one thing you can say about McDonald’s is that they are consistent.  Whether you’re on Washington Road, Peach Orchard Road, Walton Way, or anywhere else for that matter, you know what you are getting.  I’ve eaten McDonald’s on three different continents (2 Hamburgers – no pickle, small fry and small Coca-cola), and burger flippers in Beijing deliver the same Happy Meal as they do in London!

Augusta Tek Trivia – A few years ago my wife and I spent a week in Beijing.  We ended up eating at one restaurant more than any others.  Which one was it?  Well, the Schlotzsky’s in the China World Mall, of course.  How about a close second?  The KFC across the street, of course.

Finally, do you ever need to get away from the office, but don’t want to deal with the crowd at a sit- down restaurant?  One of my favorite drive-thrus might suit you.  Well, it’s not so much a drive-thru as a Drive-In.  Sonic provides a place to drive up and chill out with a nice beverage.  (It’s the Ultimate Drink stop, after all.)  Personally, I like the one on Bel Air Road.  It’s quiet and out-of-the-way.  (Translation: No one has found me at this hiding spot.)   🙂

Until next time, I’ll hold the pickles if you hold the lettuce.





The Founders Didn’t Fight for Government Agency Protocols

The Founders Didn’t Fight for Government Agency Protocols (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 7-3-14)

Good news!  At least one part of the federal government is entering the 21st century.  The Supreme Court is demonstrating an understanding of something that we’ve all known for a while.

Whether it’s on paper, in our phones, or in the cloud, our data is OUR DATA!

This past week, the Supreme Court unanimously judged that law enforcement officials must obtain a warrant prior to searching mobile phones seized at the time of arrest.  This decision was reached in the case of Riley v. California.  In this case, a college student pulled over for driving a car with expired tags is possibly linked to a gang-related shooting due to the contents of text found on his mobile phone.  The mobile phone was taken and searched as part of the arresting process.  This “search incident to arrest” was ruled appropriate during a 1970’s era case in order to protect law enforcement and preserve evidence.  However, the current decision recognizes the significant intrusion on personal privacy that occurs when reviewing the contents of a mobile phone.

“Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and qualitative sense from other objects that might be kept on an arrestee’s person, “ writes Chief Justice Roberts in the Court’s unanimous decision.  In this decision, the Court not only invalidates the search of mobile phones as measured against search-incident-to-arrest rules, but also justifies specifically why cell phone data deserves protections conventionally applied to one’s house or property.

Under search-incident-to-arrest rules, law enforcement officials are permitted to search an individual in order to ensure the safety of the officers and ensure the preservation of evidence.  In the Justice’s opinion, neither of these criteria justified the examination of a phone’s contents.  Upon arrest, only a physical inspection of the phone is needed to verify that the device is not a weapon.  The phone’s contents are typically not in danger of deletion once the phone is in custody.  Even if a remote delete command were issued, simple solutions are available to prevent loss (e.g. Farady bag to shield the phone from radio signals).

When discussing the impacts of searching one’s mobile phone, the Court’s displays an understanding of how privacy has changed in the digital age.  Mobile phones possess an “immense storage capacity” and “facilitate the collection and aggregation” of different types of information.  Tracking cookies from web sites, emails and texts, GPS location data and various pictures and videos can all be brought together to provide a very intimate picture of one’s person.  The Justice’s noted that searching your mobile phone might provide law enforcement with more information about your life than searching your home.

In addition, the opinion hints that privacy protections may extend beyond the data stored on the device.  In addition to storing private data, these phones provide access to other personal data stored on remote servers.  “[c]ell phone users often may not know whether particular information is stored on their device or in the cloud, and it generally makes little difference.”  The Court rejected the argument that government agencies develop protocols to address concerns raised by cloud computing.  The opinion stated clearly, “…the Founders did not fight a revolution to gain the right to government agency protocols.”  This opinion shows the court moving toward the recognition that it’s the personal data, and not the location of the data, that is paramount.

As the Chief Justice writes in conclusion,

“The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.”

Well said.

Until next time, I’m off the grid@greg_a_baker