Are You Following Me On Instagram? Who Should I Follow?

Are you following me on Instagram yet? I’m there as SpikeHK8. I’m posting more often there now, and lots of stuff that never makes it to here. I’ve got 248 followers on Instagram, as opposed to over 4,200 on Twitter. (I’ve just added the Instagram icon/link to the “Follow Me” box on the upper right.)

Who should I be following? When you look at what’s in my Instagram feed, the pictures seem to be mostly food and Filipinas in bikinis. The discovery feature on Instagram is mostly useless – it seems like most of the recommendations that I get are for Facebook friends (no surprise) who have accounts but haven’t posted anything. Sometimes I even get recommendations to follow accounts that I’m already following!

I have this love/hate relationship with Instagram because they try to force you to use it on a mobile device – and by that I mean that it is much more feature-rich when viewing on a phone than on a browser on a desktop or laptop. Lots of features are non-existent on the desktop, not the least of which is the ability to post photos.

Which kills me because the photos that I most want to share are photos that I’ve taken with my “real” camera and processed on the desktop. So far I have just two work-arounds for this – the sane option is to transfer the photos to my phone when I sync; the insane option is to post them to Facebook, bring up the Facebook app on my phone, go to the photo, save it to my phone, and then post to Instagram.

There’s gotta be a better way! But I have yet to find it.

I’ve found options in the Google web store that make it easier to save Instagram photos to your computer (I just right-click, select view source, find the direct URL for the photo, open that up in a tab, right-click and save as).

As for why I’m on Instagram, there are a couple of reasons, one of them sane, one of them not so much.

The sane reason is that I like to get my stuff seen as widely as possible. I’m not trying to earn a living from photography or social media, I harbor no illusions about doing so, but I like to get my stuff seen and get some feedback.

The stupid reason is that one day I was at BGC High Street and went to the Nike store. There was a huge line inside of people picking up the latest Jordans they’d pre-ordered. They looked cool but I was told they were all sold out. Outside, there were people sitting there putting on their new Jordans. I asked one guy how he knew about it in advance so that he could pre-order. “Instagram.” Not Facebook, not Twitter, Instagram.

So I figured I needed to get on there and as long as I’m there, might as well post stuff too. So, if you’re on Instagram, please think about following me … and leave me some comment somewhere about some of the accounts you follow. Thanks!

 

 

No Bad Words in Facebook Ads?

Screen shot of original post:

Suggested ad on Facebook:

Spot the difference?

I just find it amusing that someone took the time to write a program that would screen out certain words for Facebook ads.

(No, I don’t pay to “promote” my site. I don’t really do anything to promote it at all – aside from having things set up to automatically post on Facebook, Twitter and Google + whenever I post a new thing here.)

 

Where Can I Find a Job Like This One?

Yahoo’s “core businesses” have been sold to Verizon for $4.8 billion. What remains of Yahoo will primarily be its investment in AliBaba.com, other web sites and some patents. Yahoo was once valued at US$125 billion.

Meanwhile the NY Times reports that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will receive severance pay of around US$57 million. She’s had the job for four years, did not successfully halt Yahoo’s slide into irrelevance, and for her four year efforts will have received a total of US$218 million.

Really tough break for her, huh?

New Geo-Blocking on Youtube?

This is disturbing. A quick Google search isn’t revealing anything but I think Youtube has come up with a new method of geo-blocking (blocking access to content based upon the viewer’s geographic location). Has anyone come across any news related to this recently?

I clicked on a link this morning for the “bunny in a bear-trap” scene from Preacher.  I got the usual “the uploader has not made this content available in your country” message.

No problem, I thought. I turned on Hola, set my location to the U.S., reloaded the link, same error message. So I turned off Hola, turned on Private Internet Access, set my location to California, same error message. That’s never happened to me before. One of these two methods has always worked.

I didn’t want to clear my cache so I fired up a different browser and tried again. Still same result.

I looked at the screen more closely and saw this:

youtube1

See the little “PH” there? But the URL was still just plain old youtube.com, no youtube.com.ph or anything like that. I scrolled to the bottom of the screen to change country, and got this menu:

youtube2

I know it’s pretty tiny but take my word for it, the good ole U.S. of A. doesn’t even appear on that list.

So I selected “worldwide.” Hola still didn’t work. But this time Private Internet Access did.

There’s a battle going on globally between content owners who license their content to different countries under different terms and conditions and consumers who just want to see what they want to see and couldn’t give a fuck about these nonsense rules. As history has shown, over the span of time it’s usually the consumers who will win.

I really don’t watch too many new series. I just don’t have the time for it and I’m behind on some of the older shows I’m ostensibly following. This series is on AMC, which has brought us some truly great series in the past few years, shows you might have heard of like, oh, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead.

Preacher is adapted from the revered comic book series by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and even though their last genre effort was the terrible remake of The Green Hornet, I thought this might be worth a look and the first episode was very promising.

Anyway, here’s that clip from Preacher, hope you can see it!

 

 

Dealing With Traffic; Marc Maron; Horace and Pete

I have written (too?) many times about how soul-crushing the traffic in Manila is. There are many reasons, not the least of which is a ridiculously inadequate and poorly managed public transportation system, poorly trained and corrupt traffic enforcers, the FX and jeepney drivers who do whatever the hell they want, fuck everyone else, and too many people on the road who either just don’t know how to drive properly or have a total “fuck everyone” attitude once they get behind the wheel.

My house is less than 10 kilometers away from the office.The drive in either direction can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours on any given day.

drivingmorefun

When I’m driving in the car alone, I have my iPhone hooked up to the car stereo. I have a 128 gig iPhone and 100 gig of that is music, well over 10,000 songs. (I could fit a lot more but I prefer the 320 kbps bit rate.) I could get by with less. I load new albums onto my phone every week but when I’m stuck in traffic and stressed out, I tend to want to hear comfortably familiar albums over stuff that’s new and basically unknown. But the downside is that listening to the Allman Brothers Band Live at Fillmore East for the 9,000th time doesn’t really occupy my attention. So I sit back, light a cigarette, crank the music louder, file some traffic report with Waze, but I can still get to feeling frustrated and stressed.

Then one day it hit me. Podcasts. They’re not new. They’ve been around for more than a decade. And they’re really working. If it’s a good podcast, if the conversation is interesting, then I’m wrapped up in it and not noticing the minutes tick by. I sometimes  get upset if I reach my destination before the show has finished.

If you look in the iTunes store or in any other source, there’s millions of different podcasts, covering just about any conceivable topic.

The one that I’ve been following for years is What The Fuck with Marc Maron. The back story here is interesting. Maron is a 52 year old stand-up comic who went for decades without much notable success. Then he started interviewing people in his garage. His podcasts contained long rants about whatever was going on in his life but also amazingly insightful interviews with other comics. He has this way of drawing people out, getting them to talk about their lives and their own creative process and as a comedian himself with decades of ups and downs, he seems to know exactly the right questions to ask.

maron

The result is that each episode of WTF is downloaded anywhere between 500,000 and a million times. And while it was his Robin Williams episode that initially brought him a lot of attention, in recent times his guests have included Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Ethan Hawke, William Friedkin, Michael Moore, Lorne Michaels and … President Obama. Obama actually came to Maron’s garage and sat for a one hour interview.

WTF is so popular that Maron now has a TV series on IFC, a half hour sitcom called “Maron”, a fictionalized version of his life that initially might have been too close to comfort to Louis C.K.’s show but has significantly improved with each new season (the fourth season starts soon). The supporting cast includes Judd Hirsch as his father, Sally Kellerman as his mother and a host of other comics making cameo appearances. A number of the episodes were directed by Bobcat Goldthwait and those tend to be my favorites.

Last week Maron published his 700th episodes. Episodes because for some reason there were two of them. The first one featured a 90 minute interview with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. The timing may have been due to the 5th season of Veep kicking off, but the interview touched on most of her career, especially the early days.  The second episode was an almost-two-hour interview with Louis C.K., entirely devoted to the creative process behind C.K.’s groundbreaking Horace and Pete.

A ten part mini-series that (so far) is only available as a download from C.K.’s web site (get all 10 episodes for $31), completely financed out of C.K.’s own pocket (to the tune of $5 million), it was announced – with zero promotion or fanfare – only via emails to the people on his mailing list. No explanation of what it was about, no mention of how many episodes there would be or when the next ones would be released … and probably most importantly nothing like anything he’d done before.

horace-and-pete-title-card_1920.0.0

He did it this way because he wanted to be completely independent. It represents such a radical departure that he didn’t want to risk anyone else’s money on it and he didn’t want any network or distributor giving him notes on what they thought it should be.

It isn’t a comedy, although there are comedians in it and there are moments of humor. It is set in a downscale Brooklyn bar that is 100 years old and always owned and run by the same family. It’s very theatrical – just two sets (the bar and the apartment upstairs) – and many of the episodes had an intermission.

[small spoiler in the next paragraph]

Louis C.K. plays Horace and Steve Buscemi is his brother Pete. Horace had done something terrible that ripped his family apart to the extent that his son doesn’t talk to him. Pete has severe mental problems and is dependent on medication that won’t be manufactured for much longer because of the side effects.

Get it? Terrible people in horribly depressing circumstances. It’s been compared to Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill but C.K. cites the Mike Leigh film Abigail’s Party as a particular inspiration.

The rest of the cast? Alan Alda as Uncle Pete, a foul-mouthed bigot who makes Archie Bunker seem like Bernie Sanders. Edie Falco as the sister who may be dying from cancer. Jessica Lange, Aidy Bryant, Steven Wright, Tom Noonan, Laurie Metcalf, Colin Quinn, George Wallace, Amy Sedaris, Burt Young, David Blaine. And featuring new music from Paul Simon.

There’s been a lot of nonsense press in the wake of the show. C.K. went on Howard Stern and said that he’s millions in debt as a result but that was an exaggeration. Even if he didn’t get enough downloads yet to pay the production costs of the show, it will eventually go to DVD and Netflix and other outlets and is guaranteed to at least break even. There are those who didn’t watch the show who reported that it was cancelled after ten episodes but that was nonsense as well. Ten episodes told the whole story exactly as he wanted to tell it.

C.K. sees the show as tragedy and it’s almost unrelentingly depressing. The ending, when it comes, seems simultaneously inevitable and abrupt. And I simultaneously hated the show and was mesmerized by it. What I’m struggling with is that tragedy, in the classical sense of the term, is said to have to be about kings and queens and gods, people in high places who are cast low, not about ordinary people. In more modern times, perhaps these stories can be seen as metaphors for the human condition, but I’m struggling to find the metaphor here.

I’m feeling that I’ve seen some great acting. And some pretty strong writing. I just don’t know what it all adds up to. I honestly don’t know what to make of it – except that it struck such a deep chord for me that I’m still thinking about it.

I watched it alone the first time and I really want to watch it again now that I’ve had the chance to give it some thought. I don’t know that it’s the kind of thing that I could put on for my wife or my mother. I know that some people will find this total nonsense, incredibly boring or ridiculously depressing.

Me? I’m just thrilled that in these days of the Marvel Comics Universe someone is trying to do some actual adult entertainment. Someone is taking real risks. We need a lot more of this, at least I do.

 

Once Seen, These Cannot Be Unseen

You’ve been warned.

These are not “so bad they’re good.” They’re “so bad you can’t believe they even exist.”

I forget how I first came across the link for this one. It’s Donny and Marie Osmond singing Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ In the Years” on their TV show in 1978, obliviously smiling their way through lyrics they don’t appear to grasp. You need to make it at least halfway through this for the dancing which just adds that much needed extra amount of cheese to the entire affair.

When I posted that on Facebook someone shared this link with me, this young couple sweetly chirping their way through a cover of Brewer and Shipley’s “One Toke Over the Line” on … wait for it … The Lawrence Welk Show. I guess it was the “sweet Jesus” bit that made someone think it was a good song choice for that show.

Wait, I just found this one! Celine Dion and Anastacia doing AC/DC! It’s actually kind of not bad. Or maybe it’s just late.

 

What other absurd covers can you find on Youtube? Share them here!

Bonus clip, different category, Conan O’Brien apparently did some shows from Korea and while there took time out to appear in a K-Pop video with The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun. This is goofy fun (at least to me).

 

 

Facebook Security Sucks

Stick with me on this ….

As you should well know by now, my mom is 94 years old. Although her eyesight is declining due to Advanced Macular Degeneration, she is still able to read an average of one book a day thanks to the Kindle.

About a year ago, I got her an Amazon Fire tablet. The idea was that she could do Facebook, Skype, Netflix and the card games she enjoys as well as continue reading books with a device she could hold in her hands in a comfy chair or in bed. And while I’m not much of a fan of Android, the advantage of the Amazon tablet was that I could easily add apps and content to it even though I’m halfway around the world.

So we got it and I set it up with all of her accounts and taught her to use it. All well and good.

Or maybe not so much.

I was using my mom’s US-based Netflix account, accessed via VPN prior to the arrival of Netflix in the Philippines. I would add things to her queue that I thought she might like (and of course I watched some stuff as well).

One day I logged in to her Netflix account and saw some strange items under “continue watching” and “recommended for you”. By “strange” I mean soft core porn and Bollywood musicals. They’re within the range of things I might watch but my mother?

I called her up and asked what was going on and she told me first that she had no idea and oh, by the way, the Amazon Fire tablet was too heavy for her to comfortably hold so she sold it off. And, being that she’s 94 years old, she didn’t reset or unregister the device to clear all of the data – it’s not the sort of thing that she would have even known to do, let alone known how to do.

So obviously this guy who bought the thing from her was using her Netflix account. I changed the password. I hit the button that would force anyone using the account to have to do another login to continue. And then I changed the passwords on all of her other accounts. In January. I thought that would take care of all of it.

But as of April, my mother’s friends were still contacting me to ask me what the hell was going on with her? They were seeing all sorts of oddball stuff from her on Facebook, things that she had liked on Facebook that she would never like in real life. I checked her account and found that she had been added to all sorts of groups and pages for certain religions and cults, that she had “friends” whom she had never heard of, that she was following other people neither of us knew, and that she was “liking” posts from those people.

I changed the passwords again. I un-liked all of those pages and blocked them. I went through her friends list with her and unfriended a lot of people.

And still the “likes” kept on coming.

Finally today I dug deeper into the Facebook security settings page. This page has an option I probably should have looked for three months sooner, “Where You’re Logged In.” And sure enough, even though she has been in the Philippines for the past six weeks, I saw a login from The Bronx just 4 days ago. I clicked on “End activity” to shut that device out and hopefully end all of this nonsense once and for all. Now I’m going through her activity log on Facebook and trying to unlike all the things this creep posing as her liked, but there are hundreds of them. It’s just too much to delete them all.

Now, you may call me a schmuck, you may say that I clicked the button on Netflix to require a re-login on all devices, why didn’t I also do it on Facebook? And the only argument I can offer is that I didn’t know Facebook had such functionality and didn’t think to look for it and yes, I am a schmuck, for this and many other reasons.

But … I changed the password in January and this guy was still able to use her account on this device in April? Seriously? Doesn’t that strike you as being even a tiny bit bizarre?

And beyond that, what kind of piece of shit would continue to use someone else’s Facebook account in this manner for months? What kind of donkey-raping uncle-fucker does this to a lil old lady?

 

Massive Philippines COMELEC Database Breach

The Philippines may have many good things, but it has one of the world’s worst airports, one of the worst public transportation systems, some of the slowest internet in the world and now what appears to be “the worst ever government data breach”.

COMELEC, the Philippines Commission on Elections, has been hacked, and personal identifying information on more than 55 million Filipinos, in the Philippines and overseas, may be in the hands of hackers. This includes information such as passport numbers and expiry dates, fingerprints and more.

The Info Security web site has a lot of the details.

COMELEC claims that no sensitive information has leaked though admits that the security of their site is “not high.” I note that, amazingly enough, their web site front page has zero information on this incredibly important event.

Trend Micro states:

Every registered voter in the Philippines is now susceptible to fraud and other risks after a massive data breach leaked the entire database of the Philippines’ Commission on Elections (COMELEC). While initial reports have downplayed the impact of the leak, our investigations showed a huge number of sensitive personally identifiable information (PII)–including passport information and fingerprint data–were included in the data dump.

Following the defacement of the COMELEC website on March 27 by a hacker group, a second hacker group posted COMELEC’s entire database online. Within the day, they added three more mirror links where the database could be downloaded. With 55 million registered voters in the Philippines, this leak may turn out as the biggest government related data breach in history, surpassing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hack last 2015 that leaked PII, including fingerprints and social security numbers (SSN) of 20 million US citizens.

So hacked twice the same week.

Here’s further information from Trend Micro:

There are however discrepancies in the statements made and our findings. COMELEC officials claimed that there were no sensitive information stored in the database. However, our research showed that massive records of PII, including fingerprints data were leaked. Included in the data COMELEC deemed public was a list of COMELEC officials that have admin accounts.

Based on our investigation, the data dumps include 1.3 million records of overseas Filipino voters, which included passport numbers and expiry dates. What is alarming is that this crucial data is just in plain text and accessible to everyone.  Interestingly, we also found a whopping 15.8 million record of fingerprints and a list of people running for office since the 2010 elections.

Regardless whether the hacking could affect the elections, there is still the issue of all voter information that was leaked. Reports stated that while some of the data were encrypted, there were some fields that were left wide open.

Cybercriminals can choose from a wide range of activities to use the information gathered from the data breach to perform acts of extortion. In previous cases of data breach, stolen data has been used to access bank accounts, gather further information about specific persons, used as leverage for spear phishing emails or BEC schemes, blackmail or extortion, and much more.

If you want to be cynical then you could position this as a dispute of COMELEC officials trying to protect their jobs versus a company that sells cyber-security products trying to promote itself.

I know which one I believe. And I’m glad that I’m not eligible to vote in the Philippines.

 

Telstra Walks Away From Philippines Mobile Joint Venture

This is disappointing news. Australia’s Telstra was going to partner with San Miguel to set up a third major mobile phone company in the Philippines but has now walked away from negotiations with San Miguel, according to The Australian and Rappler. Telstra says they were unable to reach commercial agreement with San Miguel.

San Miguel has said they will move forward with setting up the service on their own or with another partner company. Telstra has offered to provide consulting services to San Miguel.

The Philippines has just two major mobile phone/internet companies and some of the slowest mobile internet speeds in the world. It’s not just that it’s slow, it’s not just that coverage is bad, it’s also very expensive. Perhaps a third company might be enough to shake up the market. But I think it’s safe to say that it won’t be happening in 2016.

Myanmar & Laos Have Faster Internet Than The Philippines

4g

From the When In Manila blog, the 50% bad writers raving about the free meal they got but the other 50% is good blog, a mention of a February 2016 report from Open Signal rating coverage and speed for 4G / LTE in the world – and of course there’s no link to the actual report in the blogpost because the writer of this article, Koji Arsua, “believes that less is more. Adding more would defeat the purpose.” Except when the purpose is access to facts.

But I digress….

So here’s the actual real report. I know Open Signal as an app I run that gives me info on mobile coverage, cell tower locations, and has the Speedtest app embedded within it. They also publish “heat maps”, built on top of Google Maps, showing coverage. With the crowd-sourced info they have, if anyone is going to be an expert on this, they’re the one.

OpenSignal collects its data from millions of smartphone owners through its apps. That crowdsourced data goes into building our coverage maps as well as our analytical reports. For this report, we drew data from the hundreds of thousands of OpenSignal users that have LTE-capable phones and connect to operators with live 4G networks. That data was collected in the three months between October and December, but we also included our results from the previous three months for comparative purposes.

So here’s the facts according to them.

LTE Signal coverage – 68 countries listed and the Philippines is the 4th worst out of all those countries with coverage of 43%.

The Philippines fares slightly better when it comes to average speed, it’s the 7th worst country in the world with an average 4G speed of 6 Mbps. Hence the upcoming new slogan from the Philippines Tourist Board – “The Philippines. We’re faster than Iran!”

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