Paul E. Jones' Blog

YouTube Premium Price Hike

October 20, 2022

YouTube announced that it is increasing the price for its YouTube Premium service. This service is both a streaming music service and a mafia-like service where, as a subscriber, they promise to not show you ads in exchange for “protection” money. I’m personally a subscriber and pay the “protection” fee so I don’t see ads. I don’t personally care much at all about the music service.

The price hike appears to be global and substantial in some countries. I am in the United States and my service fee will rise about 44%, while other people around the world are reporting an increase of several hundred percent.

If music is the reason you subscribe, perhaps a service like Spotify or Amazon Music makes more sense. Alternatively, just buy MP3s from Amazon.

If “no ads” is the reason you subscribe, both Brave and Vivaldi will block YouTube ads. The uBlock Origin extension will also block ads presently, but there have been some concerns raised that Google plans to make changes soon that will make it impossible for that extension to perform this function. (This is related to “Manifest v3.”)

On Android, an alternative for viewing YouTube videos without seeing ads is NewPipe.

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Revolutionizing Collaborative Communications using Distributed Applications

October 1, 2022

Having recently finished work on a project involving holographic videoconferencing (which was totally awesome, by the way), my mind now drifts back to one of the things that is near and dear to my heart: the concept of distributed applications in the space of collaborative multimedia communications.

Those who know me know that I was championing this concept for several years just as the 2008 financial crisis took a grip on the world. Before that global recession, there was substantial momentum and interest. It’s a non-obvious concept, often confused and conflated with the concept of “disaggregated media.” It usually took me explaining the concept to hardware vendors, like TV and device makers, for them to understand it. However, the reaction was always positive once the lightbulb went off in their heads.

I’m back to thinking about it again. I put together a new presentation on the subject of
Revolutionizing Collaboration Technology using Distributed Applications.” It is hard for me to not think about this concept because the concept is powerful and has the potential to truly revolutionize the way we communicate. It opens the door for innovation unlike anything we have seen to date in this space.

As I take inventory of the current collaborate communications landscape, I see an unfortunate trends in the industry, including more isolation, disregard for standards or interoperability, and more centralized control. I am convinced that a more open collaborative communications platform can be created that not only creates more value for users but can simultaneously create more customer loyalty and profit growth. I have heard many users express a yearning for more interoperability, and it is frustrating to them (and me, quite frankly) that it isn’t just seamlessly possible to jump on a video call with anyone in his or her address book because different people use different vendors.

Building a distributed application platform is not trivial. I have been studying this for a long time. I understand the challenges and there are plenty. At the same time, if done properly it opens the door for substantially more user adoption and collaboration among people. This is especially true for those who need to communicate with industry partners, vendors, etc.

Perhaps most neglected of all in all of the existing collaborative communications offerings is the consumer space. I understand why. And while there are many non-interoperable solutions from which to choose, the abundance of non-interoperable options is one of the biggest problems. I, and I think most users, would prefer to select a preferred communication application provider and, from that application, be able to collaborate with anyone. This is achievable.

Are there any companies out there with vision, drive, and motivation that want to revolutionize the world?

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Pointers are not Dangerous

July 21, 2022

Some programmers say pointers are dangerous. I think pointers are fine; bad programmers are dangerous.

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What is the Metaverse?

February 11, 2022

I have been asked several times “What is the metaverse?”

The short answer is that it’s a flailing company’s effort to remain relevant as their user base and core business erodes.

Seriously, that’s it.

Young people do not care about Facebook anymore, and older adults are getting bored with it, too. This is reflected in decline in number of daily active users.

Teens and young adults are more interested in newer platforms like TikTok and Snapchat.

I appreciate that my definition of metaverse is entirely non-technical, but it’s important to put things into perspective. There is and will be a lot of hype around metaverse, with Facebook jockeying to put itself at the front of the pack. it’s unlikely to unfold that way, though.

The metaverse concept is substantially equated with virtual reality or augmented reality. To that end, Facebook has a good foot in the door with the acquisition of Oculus. There is no doubt that virtual and augmented reality will become a bigger part of our lives. However, merely creating a piece of hardware is not going to make one the dominant player in the VR/AR market. Facebook understand that, which is why they’re trying to position themselves as the platform for this technology. This platform being the metaverse.

The challenge that Facebook has is that VR/AR will be most successful in entertainment (especially gaming) and business, neither of which Facebook has any significant presence. By far, the largest business opportunity for VR/AR will be gaming, which will be dominated by Microsoft and Sony. Apple could be strong contender, too, if it produces a long-rumored headset. Likewise, Google could be a player in this space and has dipped its toes in the water a bit. Importantly, though, the company that will dominate in this space will be one with a large platform. Microsoft, Sony, Apple, and Google have viable platforms. Facebook does not and likely will not. Facebook phone, anyone? They are too far behind.

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How to Pronounce "char" (C Data Type)

December 2, 2021

Click on this link to learn how to pronounce char.

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Holographic Videoconferencing

October 26, 2021

While I've not been so engaged in public activities recently, I've nonetheless still been very busy working on some very cool videoconferencing technology.

Over the past few years, two things I've been involved with are end-to-end media encryption in conferencing and holographic video conferencing. The former was predictable since I had worked in the public on some standards related to that (like RFC 8871). The latter has been kept pretty quiet.

Today, Cisco announced that new product I've been working on. It is called Webex Hologram. Webex Hologram utilizes an array of cameras to create a three-dimensional image that gives you the impression of being there with the person with whom you're communicating. You can move left or right and observe the parallax enabled by using a plurality of cameras.

To get a sense of what Webex Hologram will enable, see this video.

In addition to video, the system enables one to interact with content. The content interaction is pretty cool, but what truly makes Webex Hologram stand out from other holographic solutions is the fact that there is real video, not just bobbing cartoon heads.

It has been a very fun project that offers a revolutionary user experience. It is not over, but I'm pleased to see the project reach this significant milestone.


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LinkedIn Using Demographics to Artificially Promote Users

October 22, 2021

I logged into LinkedIn and was greeted with this. They want to “improve equal access and opportunity” by asking me demographic questions. There is only one possible way to use such demographic data: to modify algorithms to artificially promote some people and demote others based on demographics. There is nothing “equal” about that kind of behavior.

I am a firm believer in promotion based on merit. Anything other than merit-based promotion is demoralizing, degrading, and unfair those who are intelligent and who have worked hard to achieve accomplishments.

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Crumbling Discourse in Society

October 6, 2021

Our society seems to be going off the rails. I am not sure where the problem is rooted, but people have become more and more intolerant of views expressed by others in recent years to the point that I think it is harmful. I have seen friends become enemies. I have seen people rebuked for merely having a different opinion on a topic. Any day of the week, you can visit Twitter and see some of the nastiest, hateful exchanges between people. Twitter isn’t alone, of course. The same thing exists on Facebook. And it is because of the hateful exchanges I’ve seen that I do not have account on either platform any longer.

Before I closed those accounts, though, I had many animated discussions with people on different topics. Some people participating in the conversation agreed with my opinions and some did not. Personally, I appreciate the fact that others have a different opinion than my own, since hearing their views helps me to expand my thinking about whatever issue is being discussed. However, there were some people who had absolutely to tolerance for any view except their own. And it was sad, too, because most of those people who were so bigoted in their thinking called themselves “liberals”. Liberals, they were not.

In 2021, it is clear that the free exchange of ideas is still being oppressed by these types of bigots. One of the platforms I was using was “Nextdoor”. For those unfamiliar with Nextdoor, they are a community-oriented site where people have discussions about things happening in their town or the neighborhood. I had not visited the site for a few days, but tonight when I went to log in I was greeted with this notice.

I was being falsely accused of violating community guidelines, specifically in sharing “misinformation.” I had not been involved in any heated exchanges with people, but I was involved in discussions related to vaccinating children. There are some in my neighborhood who want to require all kids to get the new COVID-19 vaccine. I believe we should not force it on them until we know more about the effects. Is my opinion “misinformation”?

It might due to the references I used to support my position. On the CDC’s web site, they show that children are not nearly as affected by COVID-19 as older adults. In fact, as of today they show the total number of deaths of children aged 0 to 17 at 499 people, whereas the same page shows that the number of children who have died from pneumonia is 1010. We also know, generally, who in that age group is most at risk, as the CDC has published that information, too. The research is pretty clear about it.

And my concern about vaccinating children is a concern shared by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in the UK. They wrote:

For persons aged <18 years old who do not have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, there is more uncertainty in the precision of the harm-benefit balance when considering the impacts on children and young people themselves.

My concern is also shared by Pfizer, too. In a document published October 2021, they wrote the following:

The number of participants in the current clinical development program is too small to detect any potential risks of myocarditis associated with vaccination. Long-term safety of COVID-19 vaccine in participants 5 to <12 years of age will be studied in 5 post-authorization safety studies, including a 5-year follow-up study to evaluate long term sequelae of post-vaccination myocarditis/pericarditis.

In short, they need five years to determine whether it is safe for children.

My expression of caution is clearly shared by medical experts. Even so, the bigots who police Nextdoor falsely claimed that my opinion, with data points taken from the CDC and linked directly, is “misinformation”.

Well, this is one more social media platform I will not be using. It’s sad that our society is so full of intolerant, bigoted individuals. What’s worse, though, is that they lie. I did not publish “misinformation”. Apparently, though, I published information with which they did not agree.

How can we function as a society when conversions are shut down by intolerant, bigoted individuals like those at Nextdoor?

More importantly, how many deaths like this, this, this, this, this, and this will there be among children due to vaccines the government claims are “safe”? Perhaps we will know once research is conducted on what is actually causing the adverse side-effects.

UPDATE 9/2022: A year later, the CDC is now sharing even more information about how to deal with the health issues that we observed in 2021. Nextdoor still says I shared misinformation. I did not. Not only did they suppress information I provided from the CDC, but they also lied about me and still lie about me.

UPDATE 10/2022: It has now been made public that Pfizer did not test to see if the vaccine stopped transmission.

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Credit Cards Paying 2% Cash Back

September 6, 2021

Talking about credit cards that pay 2% cash back has nothing at all to do with technology, but I just found it interesting that recently there are several cards on the market paying this amount. What prompted me to take notice was the fact that I got an invitation in the mail from PayPal for a credit card that pays 2% cash back. I knew PayPal had debit cards, but until I got that letter in the mail I was completely unaware that they even had a credit card. (It might have been advertised to me when I logged in, but I'm really fast at bypassing ads without reading them.)

As I looked around, I found several cards that pay 2% or more cash back on all transactions. I'll maintain this list for a while of those cards I find (or if you tell me) that pay 2% or more cash back. I do not want to list cards that use gimmicks like paying 5% in "top categories" or have "requirements" you have to satisfy periodically or limits on the cashback amount.

Here are the consumer credit cards I found that might be of interest (in alphabetical order):

If you find more, send them my way and I'll put them on the list. Just don't email me cards that use gimmicks.

Also, while credit cards like the Amazon Prime card with its 5% back are great for Amazon customers, and the Apple card is great for Apple Pay users, I just want to list the general use cards that consistently pay 2% or more cash back.

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Scott Adams' Financial Advice

December 27, 2020

Today, I was listening to Scott Adams daily video blog. As the creator of Dilbert, Scott Adams is well-known through that cartoon for highlighting the stupidity often found in the corporate world. In this video (episode 1233) he mentioned that he had outlined a list of financial advice and suggested we search for it. He said that he wanted to write a book about financial advice but gave up since it really boiled down to just these ten things and the rest of the “financial advice” industry is more-or-less a fraud.

Here is his list of recommendations:

  • Make a will
  • Pay off your credit card balance
  • Get term life insurance if you have a family to support
  • Fund your company 401(k) to the maximum
  • Fund your IRA to the maximum
  • Buy a house if you want to live in a house and can afford it
  • Put six months’ expenses in a money market account
  • Take whatever is left over and invest it 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount brokerage company and never touch it until retirement
  • If any of this confuses you, or you have something special going on (retirement, college planning, tax issue), hire a fee-based financial planner, not one who charges you a percentage of your portfolio

I would make one suggested change. Buy a house once you find yourself in a fixed location. Regardless of whether you are renting or buying, you are paying for a place to live. If you are renting, though, you are essentially buying somebody else’s home or business.

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Paul E. Jones

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