Saturday, September 10, 2016

My Internet Birthday (and Debit Cards)

My date of birth is a security item that I don't want to put on the internet.  Many sites like Google, Facebook, Skype, etc. want your date of birth.  Sometimes to send you a stupid birthday wish or to prove you are over 18 or 21.  So I don't want to share my birthdate with them.  I don't trust them and fear the data will be hacked at some point and it will be used for identity theft or access to some account of mine.

Now sometimes I have to provide my real birthdate, like to the FAA or IRS.  OK, I'm not going to lie to them, not that I trust them any more, but there are usually penalties that I don't want to endure.

But for everyone else, you don't get my birthday.  So when I'm required to provide one, I simply provide a false one.  I call it my "internet birthday".  I use the same false one all the time.  It is a variation of my real birthdate.  I'm not going to tell you what the fake birthdate is or how I varied it from my real one because (duh!) then you'd know my real birthdate.

The funny part is I sometimes get birthday wishes on my internet birthday and my first reaction is "why are they wishing me happy birthday now?"  Then I quickly remember my internet birthday.  I'm not paranoid, just distrustful of companies' ability to protect sensitive information.

Related note:  I never use my debit card as a debit card, only as a credit card.  I'm not giving my ATM card number and PIN to a retail store.  I don't even like to swipe my card anymore.  I use the chip whenever I can and prefer Apple Pay because these methods are encrypted.  The store never has my credit card number.  I also recently received an offer from my credit card company to get a new card that I can tap at the register, like Apple Pay.  I'm switching to that as well.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Apple September 7 Event - Waiting for “One More Thing”

Today at 10 am PT in San Francisco, Apple will host another press event to announce new products.  iPhone 7?  G2 Apple Watch?  New OS Release Dates? Whether your technology center is Cupertino, Redmond, Seattle or Mountain View, this is an exciting time.

We are all gadget geeks to varying degrees.  Apple is among the most valuable companies in the world.  The event will be simul-streamed on the internet and highlighted by every news outlet for the next 24 hours.   But imagine if it wasn’t.  What if this event was page 12 news and no one even talked about it?

Instead the event was one of the lead in stories on every news show today.  Our business, our lives and our world are technology driven.  Our companies use tablets and smart phones daily.  What they do next with these devices is being affected by today’s events in some small or big way.  How Microsoft and Google and Amazon react to their competitor affects us.  Whether the iPhone 7 is a boom or bust, the conversation is happening. New apps yet to be developed are being influenced by the new OS.

The juju of today’s Apple event is a sort of “tech recharge” for us personally and professionally. The conversation is happening.  If it wasn’t, the silence would be cause for worry.

Side note:  I'm sad to hear that the headphone jack is going away in the new iPhone.  But I'm reminded of when Apple removed the 3.5" floppy drive, then the phone modem jack, then the CD/DVD drive from their laptops and we all cried NO!  Apple said, don't worry, you're not going to need it it anymore.  And every time I put forward an argument to keep the headphone jack, I think back to why I didn't want to lose those other technologies that Apple took away from me and the arguments were the same then.  In the end, Apple was right.  Pause this moment and think back to it later to see if they were right about the headphone jack.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Waze is Wise. The Best GPS? I think so.

There are basically 3 types of GPS today: in-car navigation, leading apps (Apple Maps & Google Maps) and Waze.  I've used them all extensively.  They all do a good job of getting you to a destination but it is when things go wrong that they differ, and things always go wrong.  Weather, construction, traffic, highway shutdowns, etc.

My wife's Ford Edge in-car navigation is simply terrible when I need it most.  I can be sitting in traffic on the highway and it tells me that the route is clear.  So already, you're dead to me.  Google & Apple Maps do a good job of showing traffic issues and do a reasonable job of avoiding them.

Then there is Waze.  What's great about Waze is that it is crowd sourced. Other cars can mark slowdowns, accidents, disable vehicles which then appear on your screen as alerts.  You shouldn't do this while drive so of course these alerts are being entered by passengers, right?  Even if you don't mark these slowdowns, Waze can detect your progress or lack of and identify slowdowns.  What is truly remarkable is Waze's ability to reroute
you around problems.  I've used it on 1500 mile drives and been routed off the interstate, through rural roads and back to the interstate to avoid total highway shutdowns.  Waze users, called Wazers, also alert you to police that are visible or hidden ahead, nearly eliminating a need for radar detectors.  There have been times when I know the route so well that I've ignored Waze's rerouting advice; that is a mistake.  As we say in our family, Waze is Wise.

Waze is such a great app, Google purchased them and has been slowly adding the technology to Google Maps.  However, Waze is still superior to all the others and I have not found a reason to change.  There was a time when we used GPS to give us directions to a destination, perhaps not using it on familiar routes.  With the increased traffic and risk of road problems, especially on notorious highways like I-95, we use Waze all the time to avoid traffic as much as provide a route.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Don't ask me who I'm voting for.

The 2016 presidential election is a mess.  Clinton or Trump.  Are these the two best people we could muster from over 300 million Americans to run for president?  I won't get into who is worse; they're both bad.

So don't ask me who I'm voting for.  Everyone is barely FOR their candidate and wildly AGAINST the other.  I've heard and wrestled with all the negatives of each candidate.  I can barely come to a conclusion of who I"ll vote for.  I don't want to debate it with you and moreso I don't want to defend a candidate that I can barely stand.  There's plenty to be disgusted about for either candidate.  I also won't hide behind "I'm not voting for President" unless it spirals into such disarray that I don't care anymore.

I wish I could ask one or both of the candidates what they think about the great numbers of voters who can't decide.  "Madame Secretary or Mr. Trump, I'm very disappointed in my choices for president this election and I'm far from alone.  In fact I'm having a very hard time choosing the candidate I dislike the least. How would you address this substantial number of voters who are wrestling with voting for the lesser of 2 evils or not voting at all?"

The thought of actually filling in a box next to one of their names makes me feel like I've made a deal with the devil.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sometimes I don't know anything

I think I know quite a bit, having traveled, interacted and experienced much in my 56 years, more than some, certainly less than many.  Watching Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown, Japan, made me question just what do I really know.

During the show, the inescapable topic of sushi came up.  A renowned chef, Yasuda-san, owned a sushi restaurant in NYC for 27 years before returning the "mecca" of sushi in Tokyo.  On the topic of the best tasting sushi, many people say, the freshest fish, straight out of the ocean.  Yasuda-san says no.  He doesn't shop for fish early in the morning for the freshest catch, but later.  Some of his fish is aged and then frozen, yes frozen.  

Then Bourdain asked Yasuda-san what is the most important part of sushi, the fish or the rice, or at least what percentage is most important.  Yasuda-san said it is 90% rice.  RICE.  I know the rice is important but 90%?!  The fish is that unimportant?

Sometimes, I don't know anything.

Your online accounts when you go off-line permanently

Here’s a unpleasant thought while you enjoy the rebirth of Spring today. What happens to your online accounts, particularly social media, when you die? You might say, who cares? Yes, but do you really want your colleagues getting LinkedIn notices that you are celebrating 14 years at your company 3 years after you’ve been dead? Should your friends and family be getting reminders of your birthday every year from Facebook after you’ve stopped having them? Let’s go through how to avoid these uncomfortable situations.
Image courtesy of, used with permission

The silver bullet, so to speak, is to have all your online account credentials (usernames and passwords) written down somewhere so your family can access your accounts and delete them or at least de-activate them. And in the event you yourself have to deal with the online presence of a deceased relative, here are ways to log them off permanently. Special note: there may be very special photos or videos in these accounts that you want to preserve. If so, log into the account and save these to your computer before permanently deleting the account.

Facebook. You can de-activate a FB account, which is like deleting but nothing is lost and you can re-activate simply by logging in. If someone has died, then you can permanently delete it. Once you’ve logged into the account, go to you can permanently delete the account. If you can’t access the account, go to to make a special request to remove a deceased person’s account.

LinkedIn. Once you’ve logged in, you can delete the account by starting here, When it’s someone you know that has passed but you can’t get into their account, start here,

Twitter. First log in, then go to and click Deactivate my account at the bottom of the page. Deactivation starts a 30-day clock after which your account is permanently deleted, unlike FB which is sort of a suspend mode indefinitely. When it’s someone you know has passed but you can’t get into their account, go to

Instagram. One stop shopping here. You can disable an account, which is similar to FB deactivation, shutdown without deleting. If you know the log-in, you can delete the account. Instagram says on this page that they do not allow for deleting someone else’s account, however there is a way if you’re willing to provide verification of death. Start at

Snapchat. With credentials, you can delete an account by going to There are no stated ways to close someone else’s account.

iTunes. Here is an interesting side story. Music in your iTunes account does not pass to your estate according to Apple. For some people there can be thousands of dollars in DRM protected music, movies and videos at stake. When you delete an iTunes account, those digital assets simply go away.

And then there is an endless list of accounts that require attention because they may have monies on account, or due or important documents stored there: PayPal, Amazon, Dropbox, Match, Netflix, Shutterfly, etc. I found a comprehensive site, Everplans, that addresses these accounts and many more, though most information requires you to be able to log in to the account. Save their URL ( because you will need all the help you can get when trying to unravel an online life.

Have a nice day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Monty Hall Problem.

The Monty Hall Problem is a brain teaser based on a probability puzzle and the famous TV game show, Let’s Make a Deal.  You can read about the puzzle and the expert opinions on many internet sites.  The short of it, courtesy of Wikipedia, goes as follows:

Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?

Experts in probability will tell you that it is always advantageous to switch for this simple fact.  When you picked Door 1, you had a 1 in 3 chance of picking the car.  The other two doors represented a 2 in 3 chance of picking the car.  Once the goat is revealed, the odds are better that the car is behind one of the two doors the contestant didn’t pick and therefore it would be better to switch. 

Image courtesy of  Used with Permission.

I've struggled with this problem for quite a while.  Is it really worthy switching or are the odds truly 50/50, 2 doors, 2 possible outcomes?  At first, I was in the camp that it was a 50/50 proposition.  Then I conducted an experiment that convinced me why switching is always a better probability.

Let's expand the game to 52 doors to make the point more dramatic.  I simulated the game with a deck of playing cards.  The king of hearts representing the car and every other card representing the goats.  Regardless of what happened later, I had only a 1 in 52 chance of picking the car.  Monty is never going to reveal the car if it is among the other 51 doors.  He will knowingly only goats.  So either I have the car or the remaining door has the car.  I had a 1/52 chance of picking the car and if I picked wrong, which the odds suggest, then Monty has eliminated all the goat doors, leaving what should be the car behind the remaining door.  While it may appear that the two remaining doors represent a 50/50 chance, my initial choice was a low probability, 1 in 52.  My better choice is to switch.  I will statistically win 51 out of 52 times by switching.  On the real game show, I will win 2 out of 3 times by switching.  Switching is the better choice.