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  • Geebo 12:32 pm on August 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: child labor, electronics, ,   

    The form of slavery we’re all complicit in 

    The form of slavery we're all complicit in

    Here at Greg’s Corner we often talk about the human trafficking and slavery that is facilitated by less than scrupulous sites like Backpage. Unfortunately there is another form of slavery that most of us are supporting whether we realize it or not. Most gadgets that we are dependent on today like our phones, computers and tablets, have roots in overseas child labor. While a number of us are aware of the child labor in many assembling plants overseas did you know that there are around one million children who are working in dangerous mines for our gadgets? Many of the materials in our electronics such as gold and cobalt are mined by children across the globe. Even with the safety precautions that miners here in the US have it’s still one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Now imagine being a child down in some mine without such safety protections.

    The conundrum is that as a society we can’t function anymore without these electronics. From basic communication to international business we’ve all become reliant on these devices. It’s almost impossible to function properly in our country without them. So what can be done about the abuses these children have to endure? For starters, Mashable has a great post about how you can help but I think the most important point they bring up is that we need to hold the electronics manufacturers to task for allowing their partners to engage in these practices. However, this would cut into the profits of many of these companies and too many of them would probably not be willing to do that but there is hope. According to the Mashable post…

    “If even half the people who own smartphones spoke up and said, ‘You know, I’m really worried about these kids mining these minerals in my cellphone,’ I really think that would get companies’ attention,” Reid Maki, director of child labor advocacy and coordinator for the Child Labor Coalition says. “If there were enough evidence of consumer concern, the company would then be forced to take the lead on that.”

    Think about dropping an e-mail to your tech’s manufacturers asking them about their child labor practices. These children deserve the same opportunities that the children in our country do. It’s the least we can do.

     
  • Geebo 10:02 am on July 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Android, Apple, iPhone,   

    Apple sells billionth iPhone: Best product ever? 

    Apple sells billionth iPhone: Best product ever?

    Earlier this week, the little company that could from Cupertino, California, tech goliath Apple, announced that they had sold their billionth iPhone. To put that in perspective, Apple has sold more iPhones in the past 9 years than Sony has sold PlayStations since their debut in the late 90s, and has sold more iPhones than Rubik’s Cubes have been sold since the 80s. This has led some people to ask, is the iPhone, the best product ever?

    Before the advent of the iPhone, even the most sophisticated smart phones were rudimentary in their design and purpose. The biggest seller at the time, the Blackberry, had a small screen and a physical keyboard. For anyone that did not have a smart phone probably only had a flip phone that could only text message through the T9 way of texting. Now we live in a world where most of us can’t imagine not having our smart phones within arm’s reach. Without Apple developing the iPhone there’s no reason for Google to try to develop the Android operating system in order to compete with Apple and without Android smart phones would not be as affordable as they have become in the past decade. A reasonably well-functioning smart phone can now be purchased for less than a $100. What really launched the iPhone into the proverbial stratosphere was the development of its app store. Because of that we have had brand new economies and business built solely around apps.

    While it’s no cure for polio, in the grand scheme of things, the iPhone can’t be denied its profound impact in the shaping of our current culture.

     
  • Geebo 9:52 am on July 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Tumblr, ,   

    Tumblr tries to straddle a fine line when it comes to ads 

    Tumblr tries to straddle a fine line when it comes to ads

    After being classified as ‘worthless’ in the Yahoo-Verizon deal, micro-blogging site Tumblr will be rolling out ads on its users’ blogs today. The problem is that Tumblr has the unenviable task of trying to be profitable without alienating their core user base.

    Tumblr’s main demographic tends to skew much younger than most comparable services like Twitter or Facebook. Due to their users’ naiveté, Tumblr’s users tend to not only be resistant to change but they tend to resent any kind of corporate influence into what they perceive as a fragile ecosystem. When Yahoo first purchased Tumblr in 2013, many of its users took to their keyboards to voice their displeasure (NSFW language), to say the least.

    What their young minds may not understand is that not a lot of people run a free service on the internet purely out of the goodness of their hearts, and in no uncertain terms, advertising is the currency of the internet. Tumblr needs to make money in order for it to survive and Tumblr users are already raging against the advertising machine. If Tumblr continues to be valued as basically worthless, then new parent company Verizon, may decide to shutter Tumblr altogether. If Tumblr’s users want to keep their favorite platform, then it might be time for their user base to do some growing up.

     
  • Geebo 10:04 am on July 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Backpage’s role in sex trafficking by the numbers 

    Backpage's role in sex trafficking by the numbers

    Recently, women’s news blog Broadly posted an article about the trouble that law enforcement and regulators have been having with Backapge and the hand they have in sex trafficking entitled “Why Is It So Hard to Fight Child Sex Trafficking on Backpage.com?” In it the article’s author, Matt Ramos, goes over the history of Backapge’s role in the sex trade and some of the atrocities that many believe they have had more than just a cursory involvement in.

    Even with these well documented incidents attributed to Backpage, most people still don’t understand the far-reaching effect Backpage has had when it comes to the trafficking of women and children for the purposes of sexual slavery. In his article Mr. Ramos mentions these statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

    According to Yiota Souras, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the NCMEC has seen an 846 percent increase in reports of suspected child sex trafficking over the last five years. The increase, according to NCMEC, is “directly correlated to the increased use of the Internet to sell children for sex.” Souras added that 71 percent of child sex trafficking cases reported to NCMEC are related to Backpage listings.

    Let’s add those statistics to previous ones like the estimate that says that 82 percent of all online prostitution takes place on Backpage, or that over 80% of Backpage’s overall ads were for prostitution. Pretty sobering statistics for a company that claims to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

     
  • Geebo 10:02 am on July 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Yahoo: What could have been 

    Yahoo: What could have been

    Yesterday it was announced that Yahoo has been purchased by communications giant Verizon for $4 billion. While that may seem like a fair price for the aging internet icon, it pales in comparison to what might have been for Yahoo.

    Although hindsight is 20/20 Yahoo has made some financial decisions that even through the looking-glass of history seem questionable. For example, Yahoo had the chance to buy Google twice. In 1998, Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin were trying to sell their company, that would later become Google, for $1M. Both AltaVista and Yahoo turned them down. In 2002 Yahoo entered into negotiations to purchase Google but walked away from Google’s asking price of $5B. In 2008, Microsoft sought to purchase Yahoo for upwards of $40B. Once again, Yahoo walked away from the deal. However, the question has to be asked, if Yahoo did purchase Google, what’s to say that they still wouldn’t be a floundering tech company today? Not to mention we’d be without a lot of Google services that many of us rely upon today. If history is any indicator, Yahoo would more than likely find themselves in the same situation they’re currently in.

    The news isn’t all bad for Yahoo though, at least not as far as Verizon sees it. Verizon already owns another massive tech property in AOL. While the AOL brand may not have the same punch it once did it still has such properties under its banner as TechCrunch and the Huffington Post. Business Insider purports that with the addition of Yahoo to its portfolio, Verizon could have a bigger web network than both Google and Facebook. That may not be hyperbole since Yahoo was once the most visited website in the world and still holds a place in the top ten.

     
  • Geebo 9:57 am on July 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: laptops, , , Windows, Windows 10   

    Time running out for free Windows 10 upgrade 

    Time running out for free Windows 10 upgrade

    If you’re currently running Windows 7 or 8 on your laptop or pc, and you’ve been on the fence about upgrading to Windows 10, you may want to make your mind up pretty soon. This Friday, July 29th, 2016, will be the last day you’ll be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. If you want to upgrade after the 29th, it will cost you roughly $120. Conversely, if you don’t plan on upgrading maybe Microsoft will finally stop with their constant ‘encouragement’ to upgrade.

    I personally Like Windows 10. I was a Windows 7 holdout for the longest time, then I bought a low powered Cloudbook, the Windows version of a Chromebook, that came with Windows 10 and I was hooked. I think that Windows 10 runs better on lower powered hardware than Windows 7 did and it corrects all the problems that Windows 8 had.

    The upgrade has not been without its problems though. There have been stories of the upgrade going wrong for some people. Because of that I can’t stress enough to make backups of all your important data before upgrading. As a matter of fact I would make two backups of your data before upgrading.

    Lastly, if you upgrade and then you decide Windows 10 isn’t for you, you can quickly revert back to your previous versions of Windows.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on July 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , TV, VCR   

    Off Topic Friday: The last VCR to be made this month 

    Off Topic Friday: The last VCR to be made this month

    For those of us who grew up in a bygone era no machine held such wonder and awe in us than the VCR. It promised what no other device could before it, being able to record your favorite TV programs while you weren’t home…in theory. In practice the overly complicated controls would often fail to record the correct program. Then when cable company set-top boxes were added to the mix it became an even more herculean task to set it up right. Then there was the often told joke about how the digital clock on the VCR would only blink 12:00. That’s because even setting the clock to the correct time was a hassle.

    VCRs were not without their benefits though. With the addition of video cameras, home movies could now be watched on a TV rather than having to set a movie projector and a screen. However the biggest boon of the VCR was the fact that you could now watch full length movies at home. Almost overnight, video rental stores popped up all over the country, Many people even started entire VHS libraries in their homes. Sadly, with all media formats, something better always comes along to replace it, In the late 1990s DVD’s came into their own and rang the death knell for the VCR.

    Surprisingly VCRs are still being made to this day, but not for much longer. Japanese manufacturer Funai Electronics is the last company to make VCRs and they are ceasing the manufacturing of the device at the end of this month.

    So while you’re watching Netflix or something from your DVR, remember the humble VCR and how it paved the way for modern television viewing.

    Be kind and rewind.

     
  • Geebo 10:03 am on July 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Artem Vaulin, , , , KAT, Kickass Torrents, piracy   

    US seizure of top piracy site shows government’s misguided priorities 

    US seizure of top piracy site shows government's misguided priorities

    Yesterday, in a joint effort between Homeland Security, Facebook, Apple and the Polish Government, among others, 30-year-old Ukrainian citizen Artem Vaulin was arrested in Poland and is awaiting extradition to the United States. With that kind of concerted effort behind it you would think that he must be some kind of terrorist, or drug lord, or some huge figurehead in international organized crime. He’s none of those actually, but what he is believed to be is the owner of a website that allows its users to obtain pirated works such as movies, music and TV shows. Vaulin is believed to be, by US authorities, the owner of a site called Kickass Torrents (KAT). KAT doesn’t actually host any of the pirated works. What they do host are what’s known as torrent files. These are files that allow the users of KAT to collectively share the pirated works between each other. I realize that’s largely arguing semantics, but it dispels a myth that these pirate sites host the actual pirated works.

    So why does any of this matter? Even though no statement has been made to the effect, one could easily surmise that this massive operation on the part of the US Government came from pressure from the entertainment industry, which Homeland Security estimates that they’re losing $1 billion a year because of KAT. In a sense, it seems like the government is bowing to pressure from people who make things like trashy reality shows.

    Now I know the ‘Why don’t you go after the real criminals’ argument is a specious one, because you would want your law enforcement to pursue all criminals, but couldn’t the government’s resources and manpower be better used? For example, take Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer. Mr. Ferrer was called to testify before Congress about Backpage’s role in the sex trafficking of women and children in our country. Instead, Mr, Ferrer left for the Netherlands ‘on business’. Since that time not only has Congress held him in contempt but he and Backpage are being sued by Congress. Why is there no contingent of government and corporate forces uniting to bring Mr. Ferrer before Congress? It’s simple really. The victims of sex trafficking have no lobbying group behind them. There’s no money to be made by politicians for trying to stop the flood of human trafficking that Backpage allegedly facilitates. On the other hand the entertainment industry has very deep pockets for our friends in Washington.

    So sorry to all the victims of Backpage, it seems you can’t afford justice.

     
  • Geebo 10:02 am on July 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: jewelry, , , wedding rings   

    Avoid this wedding ring scam 

    Avoid this wedding ring scam

    For whatever reason, let’s say that you’re selling a wedding/engagement ring online. Police in San Diego are reporting a scam in their area that involves the online sale of these rings.

    In what has become the norm with these types of scams it’s actually a new twist on an old scam but it’s still designed to separate you from your money or your possessions. In this scam while you’re selling the ring online you’ll be contacted by someone who claims to be in the military and is being sent overseas very soon. Before they ship out they want to propose to their significant other. The seller will then receive a fake e-mail from PayPal saying that they’ve received the money. Some less than careful sellers may then ship the item without realizing they never received the money.

    Anytime that a buyer is claiming that they need to purchase an item with an extreme sense of urgency like that, it should immediately send up a red flag that it may be a scam. For the best results when using online classifieds is to always try to only do business locally, in person in a safe area and with cash only.

     
  • Geebo 10:06 am on July 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , opera, Qihoo 360,   

    Times change, even for internet mainstays 

    Times change, even for internet mainstays

    We’re about to tell the story of two internet pioneers and how their fortunes have changed. One you may not have heard of but one you definitely have.

    Our first story is about the formerly Norwegian based web browser known as Opera. You may have never used Opera as a browser but it’s been around since 1995 and has been an innovator in the browser space since then. Think about some of the breakthroughs in browser features over the past decade and a half, chances are that it was a feature on Opera first. Do you remember when tabs on browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer first became a killer feature? Opera did it first among many other innovations such as including an encrypted VPN service built into the browser. While Opera didn’t have the largest market share, it did have one of the most loyal userbases on the internet. Now, more than likely, that userbase will begin to evaporate since the Opera name and browser assets have been bought by a Chinese consortium called Qihoo 360. Opera had a reputation as being one of the more secure web browsers, but now with the browser being owned by a Chinese company one has to wonder how much influence the normally invasive Chinese government will have when it comes to the security aspects of the browser. Former Opera devotees may want to try the Vivaldi browser as it’s been made by former Opera developers.

    Our second story comes from an internet behemoth that most of us would be hard pressed to remember a time without it. Yahoo has been around since 1994 and was Google before Google was. It not only offered one of the internet’s first reliable search engines and free web mail, but also provided news and game portals along with many of its chat services. Yahoo was unrivaled in popularity for many years until an upstart of a company called Google started eating its lunch. Google did a lot of what Yahoo did but much, much better. How many of us couldn’t wait to jump ship to GMail from Yahoo Mail once the GMail invites started going out? Yahoo then started emulating Google by acquiring more properties to add to their portfolio. The names read like a Who’s Who of internet history in Geocities, Delicious, Flickr and Tumblr. By most accounts Yahoo has failed to capitalize on most of those properties, and even shuttered poor Geocities. While Yahoo does have some successful properties, like their sports and finance divisions, the company has been hemorrhaging money for years. Even Yahoo has seen the writing on the wall. What was once the most visited website in the world is now a husk of its former self and is offering itself, either whole or piecemeal to several financial suitors including Verizon, who already owns AOL, and AT&T.

    The moral of this story is, it doesn’t matter how ubiquitous or how enduring an internet property can be, like the empires of yore they can always fall. In a not too distant future we could all be reminiscing about how we all used to be on Facebook before it was replaced by an even better service, or how many people used to use that ‘other’ online classifieds before it collapsed under the weight of its own criminal element.

    As the saying goes, the only thing constant is change, and while it may not happen overnight it will happen. Just ask MySpace.

     
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