I’m sick of hearing the “Venezuela” argument.

From: Google Maps

I am getting sick and tired of people pointing to Venezuela when talking about Progressive policies. It’s a very dishonest strawman when we’re not even asking for a Venezuelan system. Venezuelan would be government control of the means of production.

What we’re asking for is simple: Medicare for All, Tuition-Free Public College, a Federal Jobs Guarantee Program, and Universal Public Housing.

Medicare for all would save us between $17 Trillion according to a liberal study, and $2 Trillion according to a conservative study. Not only would it be cheaper, it would also lead to better results, as multiple studies have found. On top of that, private supplemental insurance would still be available to cover whatever the public system doesn’t cover (which, yes, would include some things). If every other developed country can do this, why can’t we? Are we really wasting so much money on offensive wars and defence contracts that this isn’t even possible?

Tuition-Free Public College would simply extend the tuition-free school system that we have with Primary and Secondary School and extend it to Public Colleges. Simple. The point is to get more skilled workers out there to stimulate our economy, after all if you give regular people the chance to really earn money, they will actually use that money. Private Colleges will still exist, as they do with Primary and Secondarys Schools, and the Private Colleges would not be covered with taxpayer money, just as it is with Primary and Secondary Schools. If Slovenia can do it, so can we. If we can afford to increase our military budget by $100 Billion, we can afford to set aside $80 Billion for this program.

A Federal Jobs Guarantee Program will not replace jobs in the Private Sector. Instead, it is a form of a Social Safety Net; they would provide government-contracted jobs and pay the worker the minimum living wage of their county. You would not get a raise in this program, as it’s only meant to pay you enough to survive, and yes, you could get fired if you refuse to do your job. But if you want more money, you would go to the Private Sector, probably after going to College. This would also set the stage for what to do when all our jobs are replaced with automation: Where do people work after that? It’s time we start thinking about what to do when all our jobs are automated.

Universal Public Housing is a new one, but it’s also pretty simple: A 2-Bedroom Apartment provided by the government. Believe it or not, it actually costs more to leave a homeless person on the street than it is to provide them a simple home, so that’s what this program would do. It would be nothing luxurious: 2 Bedrooms, 1 Bathroom, a Livingroom, a Kitchen, and a Dining Room. Basically, a 2-Bedroom Apartment. If you want something better, again, you can turn to the private market.

Notice what all these programs have in common: Not a single one of them fully replaces the private sector. This is the difference between a Scandinavian system and a Venezuelan system: The actual thing we’re asking for is a strong social safety net. I know me personally, I could really use Tuition-Free Public College and a Federal Jobs Guarantee Program. I am glad for Obamacare because without it, my little sister may not actually be here today, but I want it to go further and cover everyone.

I’m personally not looking to move out anytime soon, I want to finish College and get a decent job beforehand, but if there was a need to, Universal Public Housing would be a very helpful program for me.

None of this fully replaces the Private Sector. None of this is Government Control of the means of production. None of this is a Venezuelan system of government.

You got that? If not, well, too bad, because we have the American People on our side. Every one of these programs are popular with the American people.

We can do this. We have the resources. We simply need to stop wasting it on giving more money to the rich and more war, like someone who can’t afford a decent house because they’d rather spend their money on the new iPhone and Netflix.

As Always,

-Keep Exploring

Public Service Announcement: 2-Factor Authentication is important.

From: Expert Reviews

There are two secure mainstream forms of 2-Factor Authentication: One that works with an Authentication app on your smartphone, and one that utilizes a hardware key. Both of these methods work very well in keeping people out of your account.

Most services that accept 2FA also provide backup keys in case you lose access to the smartphone or hardware key. I’d suggest you hold on to those as well.

Why is this important? It’s simple: Imaging you enter your password on a public Wi-Fi network, send it through SMS or Email, you are a victim of a Phishing attack, or the service you use is hacked.

Every single one of these situations can happen, and when it does, the attacker can get into your account and lock you out. No good.

I was a victim of this once. I don’t know how they got in my account, and it happened years ago, but it’s a wonder I still have access to my account today.

If someone manages to get their hands on your password, 2FA will keep them locked out.

So how exactly do these systems work?

When using an app like Google Authenticator, what happens is every 30 seconds, a new code is generated. Every time you log in to your account, you have to access the app to see your time-sensitive code and enter it in the field in question.

However, nothing is transmitted between the server and your client. Instead, when setting it up, there is an agreement made between the server and the client what equation is used, which includes an encrypted private key. The equation also uses the current time as a seed.

This means the code is generated by the app through the equation at that moment, and when you enter the code on the website, the server goes through the equation itself and checks the code. If it matches, the server lets you in.

This is very likely a very simplified explanation as to what happens. All you need to know is it’s secure, and keeps bad people out of your account.

Hardware keys are a bit different. How these work is, when set up a public and private key are generated and stored onto the key itself. When you try to sign in to your account, the website waits for the hardware key to send in the packet that it expects, and when received, will let you in. This is actually more secure than apps like Google Authenticator, but the actual keys cost money.

You see, you can’t just use any old USB Drive. This would be insecure. Instead, you need a specialized key whose sole purpose is to get you into your account. Typically you would need to press a button on these things so it knows you’re actually physically there, or some may actually include a fingerprint sensor that is needed before telling the website to let you in.

However, I think you all already noticed the issue with this:

What happens when you lose the key? Or it stops working?

When you set up Google Authenticator, what usually happens is the website will give you a set of backup codes. These are important, store them somewhere. With hardware keys, you can take two routes:

  1. Purchase a backup key.
  2. Use Google Authenticator as a backup.

The important thing is Backup, Backup, Backup. You should always keep a backup of everything you need. It may seem inconvenient to do, and it is, but you’ll be thankful when you lose access to whatever you were using before.

Now, another important note:

Unless it’s the only option provided to you, never, ever, ever use SMS as a 2FA method. Not even as a backup.

SMS is an inherently insecure form of communication. You should never send anything important through SMS. Ever.

However, if SMS is the only option, then at that point it’s simply better than nothing. Just know that there are actually things people can do to get access to your phone number with just information most people would be comfortable sharing.

Another important note is the security questions: Never, ever tell the truth on these. Always use them as a backup, but never tell the truth. Enter an answer that nobody, not even your closest friend, not even your significant other, would guess that you’d enter.

Yes, these security systems are important, and you should take the time to use these on accounts that are important to you. It is recommended that you change your password every 3-6 months. The best way to do this is through a password manager like Lastpass.

Lastpass will generate passwords for you and store them in a method that is so secure that only you can access it. You set up a master password, of which the only way to get access to Lastpass is said master password. And yes, use 2FA on Lastpass as well. This stuff is important. Lastpass is not a sponsor.

As Always,

-Keep Exploring

An Open Letter to Google: Why does the Pixelbook exist?

Image From: PCWorld

Dear Google,

I love Chrome OS. I really do. It’s fast, does everything I want it to do, and is affordable. But it feels like you are forgetting just who the target audience of this Operating System is for: People like me, people who need nothing more than a Web Browser and the occasional Android App.

On October 4, 2017, you went ahead and released something that makes no sense: The Pixelbook. Now, that’s not to say the concept is bad, I want you to produce a nice and decent device running your own software. I’m still waiting for the Pixel Watch, after all.

There’s just one problem: It’s overpriced. I’m not talking about in terms of hardware, I’m talking in terms of software. What can a $1,000 Chromebook do that a $300 Chromebook can’t do? Open more tabs? If I’m going to spend that much money on a laptop, I would want one running Windows 10 or macOS High Sierra. Or, at least, a fully functional Linux Distro.

I know there’s the obvious example of Google Assistant… that’s not lost on me, the Assistant and Pixelbook Pen were the things that made me consider maybe getting this laptop. However, Windows has Cortana, and macOS has Siri. Am I really going to spend an extra $700 just for the Google Assistant and support for the Pixelbook Pen? Not even the pen itself, that’s an extra $100.

No. No, I won’t, especially knowing that Google Assistant will be coming to more Chromebooks in the future.

This just seriously shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what your own Operating System was made for: The average person, one who doesn’t need anything more than a web browser and a couple Android apps. Again, someone like myself.

I am actually okay with having an on-brand notebook with a stylish look costing a little more than the average Chromebook. I really am. Plenty of people are willing to spend hundreds more on a product that’s just as good as another just because of a brand. But it’s usually not a $700 upcharge on brand alone. Maybe $200-300, and that’s a steep upcharge for a laptop that was built for the sole purpose of browsing the web.

The fact of the matter is, a Chromebook does not need an Intel Core i5 processor. It just doesn’t. A Chromebook with a Core i5 or a Core i7 can do 90% of the same tasks as a Chromebook with an Intel Celeron N3060 processor. I would know. I’m using one right now, as I’m writing this.

Yes, I get the occasional hiccup, but overall it’s much faster than the $800 Windows 10 based laptop I got from my High School and used for 4 years. If that $800 Windows 10 laptop was an $800 Chrome OS laptop, it not only would have served me quite well, but it could work for more than a decade. And guess what? I used it, primarily, for the Browser: Google Chrome. In fact, the only programs I used were programs that could be replaced with web apps. Even the AZMerit Testing Program could be used on a Chromebook.

So my question to you, Google, is this: Who is the Pixelbook for? Who would benefit from it? Why does the Pixelbook exist?

Now, I hear you’re going to add support for Linux apps in the near future. I commend this move to allow people with Pixelbooks to take further advantage of their faster system, but this is something you should have done before releasing a $1,000 Chromebook. If this device was $400 or less, I would probably be using it right now, and benefiting from Google Assistant. Those who already got it as it is right now are not benefiting from the extra processor power at all.

You need to remember who Chrome OS is for. Your recent ad attacking Windows and macOS for their error message issues, a problem that was solved long ago by both parties, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of just what makes Chrome OS stand out. Yes, it’s true we get less error messages, but that’s because we don’t use the same applications. Yes, it’s true your system isn’t as prone to malware, but that’s because it doesn’t run executables. Yes, it’s true your system is much faster, but that’s because it’s literally just a Web Browser packaged into an Operating System.

Once again, 90% of what can be done on a Pixelbook can be done on my own Chromebook. The only exceptions include a feature that is coming to my notebook soon, and support for a $100 pen that I will not be getting, instead opting for an AmazonBasic Stylus which, while not as feature-filled as a Surface Pen, Apple Pencil, or Pixelbook Pen by any stretch of the imagination, serves my purpose of taking notes in school quite well.

The only thing I substantively benefit from with Android App support is Pokemon TCG Online, NES Emulation, and Microsoft OneNote. That’s it. That’s all I need. And that’s why I use a Chromebook.

I don’t need an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor for that.

Sincerely,

Marco Salin