It’s time we did something about guns

I am getting sick and tired of writing posts like this nearly every month. There were two prominent mass shootings just this week; One at a school (yet again), and one at a Madden Tournament. This does not happen anywhere else in the worldThis is literally Only In America.

Not a single month with school in session has passed by since the Parkland shooting in which I didn’t hear of a mass shooting. Parkland happened in February. After that, one happened in March, April, May, and now August. None happened in June and July of course, because school wasn’t in session at that point.

Remember the Sandy Hook shooting? This happened December 14, 2012. This led to 28 deaths, including the perpetrator and his Mom. It was done by Adam Lanza with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S Rifle with 10 30-Round Magazines, and a Glock 20SF Handgun. He had mental health issues that led to the mass shooting. Mental health issues that would have prevented his gun purchases if they were detected in the Background Check system. This shooting killed 20 kids between six and seven years old.

After this tragic situation, what has happened? What has been done?

Nothing.

Fast forward to 2018. February 14, 2018, killed 17 people and injured 17 more. The perpetrator was Nickolas Cruz. The weapon was an AR-15, a similar style weapon as the Sandy Hook shooting. Specifically, it was a Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport 2. Just like the Sandy Hook shooting, Cruz had issues that, had there been an effective Background Check system, would have been prevented.

As a matter of fact, before this shooting happened, the police department has received at least 45 calls in reference to Cruz. You don’t think an effective Background Check system would have caught that? The police department even got a call on February 5th, 9 days before the shooting, that Cruz threatened to shoot up the school. This should have been an immediate red flag that led to his guns being taken, and him sent to a mental health Therapist.

Here’s the thing, I don’t watch Fox News. However, when I heard these numbers, this was a very interesting thing for Fox to report:

  • 91% Approve of Universal Background Checks.
  • 84% Approve of Mental Health Checks.
  • 71% Approve of Raising the Legal Age to 21.
  • 69% Approve of Armed Guards in Schools.
  • 60% Approve of an Assault Weapons Ban.

Where do I stand? Well, it’s on the My Politics page.

Expanded and Improved Universal Background Checks including Mental Health Checks.

  • Expanded – Extend the check to include other relevant issues on one’s record
  • Improved – Fix the flaws currently present in the Background Check system
  • Universal – Required in all 50 states
  • Mental Health Checks – Check for issues with one’s mental health that could pose a danger to the public.

The 2nd Amendment is as reads:

“A Well-Regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the rights of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

It states a well-regulated system is necessary for the security of the United States, and that we can not infringe on one’s right to keep and bear arms.

It does not say we can’t regulate the process of obtaining a weapon, and it does not prevent the country from taking action given reasonable suspicion of one’s danger to the general public.

The government constantly cites “National Security” when violating the constitution. The NSA Spying. Guantanamo Bay. Our gun issue presents a real National Security Risk, yet now people actually care about the highest law of the land?

We don’t have to violate the constitution to implement effective policies targeting the gun issue. Our founding fathers already agreed that the 2nd doesn’t block all forms of gun laws. They implemented gun laws themselves, laws more radical than any of us are asking for, save for the minority population asking for an actual gun ban.

An effective background check system can prevent a large number of shootings from happening. It won’t end gun violence, we know this, but if we can prevent any gun violence, I think it’s an option well worth investigating.

Sandy Hook happened in 2012. It is now 2018. It’s been 6 years. Nothing has been done in that time. Now, the problem has gone worse.

I support March for Our Lives. Victims of a school shooting using their platform to say yes, it is the time to discuss solutions, is very inspiring to me.

As Always,

-Keep Exploring

YouTube competitors exist. Can we start uploading to them?

Hello, all.

I am getting sick of YouTube’s behavior. Their copyright system places all the power in the accuser, and they’ve been deplatforming and demonetizing creators since the AdPocalypse event that happened in 2017. It’s not just political talk shows, either, but also channels that review TV Shows or Movies, and even Anime channels like Lost Pause, who got deleted twice on the basis of Spam… marking a completely unique video as Spam. Yeah, Noble got pretty angry.

It’s time for a competitor. The question is: Who will replace YouTube.

Y’all need to realize… the one that replaces YouTube is highly dependant on you guys.

The reason networks like Dailymotion and Vimeo aren’t viable replacements is not because they’re just bad websites. It’s because nobody is uploading to them. And this is true for literally every other platform, including a new one called BitTube.

The thing is, if you want another network to become viable, you have to upload to it.

The sad thing is… nobody really does this. Pretty much every channel I watch uploads exclusively to YouTube. The reason for this likely has to do with the fact that all the viewers are on YouTube… and that’s because the creators are uploading exclusively to YouTube.

So here’s the proposal: Anyone who is uploading to YouTube needs to find another platform to upload to, at the same time. The more YouTubers that do this, the more people would be willing to try out the other services.

On the other hand, people would like a single service to view all their content on. This can also be solved: Someone needs to build a website that brings all these platforms together in one spot, and can accept channel feeds through RSS.

Similar to how Podcasts work.

Once this happens, YouTube would be forced to actually become a good website to share and watch videos on. Because at that point, they can no longer rely on the fact that all the creators are on their platform… because they won’t be.

Someone should write a whitepaper on a “Video Podcast” kind of system. Maybe I should?

I know Video Podcasts do exist, but they’re not as huge as audio podcasts, and we’d honestly need a unique system for them to be viable to replace YouTube.

As Always,

-Keep Exploring

No good way to download movies??!?

How, in 2018, is there still no good way to digitally purchase a movie?

While I’d prefer it, I’m not strictly talking about DRM-free downloads. My main problem is owning something with a time limit.

Let’s say I purchased Iron Man on Amazon, as one would do. There is no good way to download the movie, and it can disappear from my library at any point at Disney’s or Amazon’s whim. It’s also limited by how long Amazon continues to exist.

The same is true if I purchased it on iTunes, Google Play Movies, or even Vudu. Sure, I can download them on some apps, but their DRM is super restrictive, to the point where it’s kinda pointless.

When I talk about downloading movies, I’m not strictly talking about making them available offline. I’m talking having a file that I can save onto a storage medium and hot-swap between devices. This still doesn’t seem to be possible.

Let’s say I used iTunes to purchase a movie. These purchases can only be played on up to five authorized computers, synced with any iOS devices, or synced with an Apple TV. Even if I download the movies, I can’t move them between devices. The only advantage this gives is viewing the movie offline.

How about Vudu? With this, I can download a file to watch the movie, and yes, the movie is only viewable with Vudu’s application (I have no problem with this), but the movie can only be viewed on the device it was downloaded to. If I moved it to an external drive to view on another computer, it would not work. This places an effective time limit, as once Vudu disappears, I can only view the movie on the devices the movie was already downloaded to, assuming the app still works. The only advantage this gives is viewing the movie offline.

What about Google Play Movies? I can only download the movie on an iOS, Android, or Chrome OS device. On Windows and Mac, I’m out of luck.

What about Amazon? Once again, only on iOS, Android, or Chrome OS devices, and not on PC.

So what’s the verdict? There are no good services to purchase movies on. They all have highly-restrictive DRM protections that effectively puts a time limit on my purchase.

Even when it comes to music, this isn’t a problem. I purchased Imagine Dragon’s “Evolve” album on Amazon, and was able to download DRM-Free MP3 files that I can use anywhere I please. I have them saved to my SD Card right now, safe even if Amazon goes out of business or decides to remove the album from my library, or if Imagine Dragons decides to revoke Amazon’s permission to distribute it. This is why I’m okay with using Amazon for future music purchases.

Once again, I don’t have a problem with DRMs as a concept. However, when the DRM is so restrictive that I could lose access to my purchase whenever the company decides to stop supporting it or goes out of business, then the question becomes why did I even purchase it in the first place. I might as well rent it, or wait for it to be available on some streaming service. Sure, it’s all temporary, but I go into it knowing this.

It’s 2018. The only good way to own a movie is through DVD or Blu-Ray. This should not be the case. Why can I digitally purchase music from Amazon in a DRM-Free way, but I can’t do the same for movies?

My problems with this situation is the same as my problems with the current look of the gaming industry. If I, say, purchased Splatoon 2, there is no good single player or local multiplayer mode. It was designed with the online multiplayer game in mind. However, what happens when the servers go offline?

Here’s what happens: The game is no good. Even if it works, there are no servers to support it.

Why would I purchase something with a time limit? I might as well just rent it or set up a subscription to it. Yes, this even… no, especially concerns Steam purchases. What happens when Steam goes offline? You effectively lose all of your games. Even if you downloaded them, now they’re only going to be available on the devices you downloaded them onto.

This is why I would stick to purchasing discs or cartridges for games, rather than buying them digitally. Say I purchased Super Mario Odyssey. If I purchase it digitally, then it’s existence is dependant on the existence of the Nintendo eShop. If I purchase the physical medium, I will be able to play the game for as long as I have the cartridge.

I understand the reason for DRM existing, and once again I don’t have a problem with it, but can it exist while allowing people who own the product to have the freedom to use it freely? The original Playstation was able to accomplish this. If this is an impossibility these days, then I guess I would rather just not have DRMs.

Sure, my VRV subscription would only exist for as long as I pay for it, or for as long as it exists, but at least I pay for it with this understanding, and don’t have an expectation of owning anything I watch.

As Always,

-Keep Exploring

Why is Konosuba so fun?

Check the Ego tab to see My Anime List!

It’s been a long time since I last watched anime. I think the last anime I sat down and watched was one called Anonymous Noise, which, by the way, I recommend you watch. It’s on Amazon Prime.

But recently I decided to sit down and watch some anime, since YouTube really is starting to get boring… and it was totally worth it.

For those of you who don’t know, Konosuba is a fantasy anime that stars a character named Kazuma. He was a massive gamer before he died and was sent to the afterlife. Aqua, the goddess of Water, offers him a choice: He could go to heaven, or to a MMO-like world which is in danger of being destroyed by someone called the “Demon King”. He can pick one thing to bring with him, an ultra-powerful weapon, but decides to pick Aqua, which is apparently legal.

In order to complete the goal, they decide to put together a party. The ones who join him is Megumin, a super powerful mage who can only use Explosions, and Darkness, a knight who also manages to be a masochist.

Did I mention this is a comedy?

This was a pretty fun series, though I would warn against allowing just anyone under 16 to watch. Parents, your guidance is recommended. It doesn’t visually show anything bad, but the jokes made aren’t child-friendly jokes by any means.

Now, you would think Aqua, being a goddess, would be the perfect choice to make in completing this goal, but… nope. She is totally useless in this world. Seriously, the kinds of things you see her doing is pathetic when you realize she is a literal goddess.

Then there comes Megumin. Sure, she has the most powerful spell in this world, but she literally can only use it once. She refuses to learn anything else in the process. (However, she is a straight-shooter in nearly everything else).

Darkness sends herself to the front lines, but not because she’s brave or anything like that. She’s a masochist. She goes to the front lines because she gets pleasure in pain.

Kazuma is pretty much the only real straight-shooter when it comes to missions and combat. He selects his skills based off what he thinks will be useful, and tries to set out strategies for completing missions. He also will shut down missions he believes the party can’t complete.

That being said, his personality isn’t very pure. When he was taught his first skill, steal, he used it on his trainer to steal something she would not want taken from her. This is one of those jokes that aren’t kid-friendly. He also used Steal on Megumin. (I still have no idea how Kazuma and Megumin are good friends)

If you’re looking for something pretty fun to watch, I would most definitely recommend Konosuba. Parental Guidance is recommended for this show. Konosuba is available subbed on VRV through Crunchyroll. It’s ad-supported, so you don’t have to pay anything, but if you like it, you can purchase VRV Premium for $9.99, with a 30-Day Free Trial.

Next up, I’m watching Assassination Classroom.

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

Update: I said in this post that the only things I substantively benefit from Android support is Pokemon TCG Online, NES Emulation, and Microsoft OneNote. That has changed. I no longer play Pokemon TCG Online on this thing, I’ve stopped running the emulator since finding my Nintendo 3DS and playing Super Mario Bros. on that, and I now use the online HTML5 version of Microsoft OneNote. The fact is, I can turn Android support off right now, and I wouldn’t lose out on anything.

As for Linux Apps, the only one I would use is ToonTown Rewritten.

98% of the things I do on here is through the Chrome Web Browser. I don’t need to spend $1000 on this kind of thing.