What Is the Purpose of a Library? Maybe WiFi?

July 13, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

The misinformed believe libraries only offer access to free books, DVDs, and public computers in various states of obsoleteness. Libraries are actually a hub for Internet access, including WiFi. The Internet is a necessary tool and many people do no have reliable access either due to low income, homelessness, and rural locations. KQED reports on how San Francisco is handling WiFi access and homelessness at a local library: “What Happens When Libraries Stop Sharing Wi-Fi?”

San Francisco, California is experiencing record high homelessness. Businesses and people are abandoning the city, crime is running rampant on the streets, and law enforcement’s hands are tied. Homeless people regularly visit libraries to use the computers and the WiFi. Libraries usually keep their WiFi on 24/7 so their parking lots and outside areas are active hotspots.

The Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library turns off its WiFi at night. This is the only San Franciscan library that shuts off its WiFi, because homeless people visited the library after hours and the surrounding neighborhood had an increase in crime. Pulling the WiFi plug is another way San Francisco clears sidewalks and prevents people sleeping in areas.

“ ‘Neighbors in that area have been dealing with repeated encampments, open-air drug sales and use, harassment of local businesses and all-around problematic situations going on for a decade at this point,” said [Supervisor Rafael Mandelman]. ‘It reached its nadir in the pandemic in 2020. There were encampments on both sides of the street, the sidewalk was impassable, and the historic AIDS mural had been wildly defaced. Neighbors were being threatened. It was bad.’ ”

The library faced homeless people camping on the roof, hacking into their electricity, and breaking into a closet. After the library shut off the WiFi, emergency services were called less in the area. However, it is not 100% attributed to the WiFi shutdown. Some homeless people in the area found permanent housing, a mural was repainted, and other services were enacted.

While WiFi is an essential service. If the people and places that bring the service are harmed it is ruined for everybody. It is an ethical conundrum but if crime, drugs, debris, and homeless encampments make an area dangerous, then measures must be taken to resolve the problems.

Whitney Grace, July 13, 2023

Symbolic AI Inbenta Is Numero Uno

March 23, 2021

I know that you are intimately familiar with Inbenta Technologies. No fair asking, “What?” I read “Inbenta Announced As The Number One Service Provider In Latest ECommerce Conversational AI Benchmark Study.”

Inbenta, as you definitely know and think about each waking moment, is a global leader in symbolic AI based customer interaction applications.

A study focused on “resolution rates.” I think this means that a customer interacts with a smart Web site or a smart answering system, that customer finds out what’s needed. I assume that a customer who hangs up or clicks away in frustration, anger, and a sense of being dismissed is happy.

Well, guess what? Inbenta’s system ripped the Marika Eclipse Tummy Control yoga gear off IBM, Google, and Microsoft. These were underperformers. IBM Watson, Google, and Microsoft “underperformers”?

Who knew?

Inbenta, according to the PR write up:

Inbenta also scored the highest rate across all topic categories (order taking, shipping and payments) and having the best capabilities to detect and translate interactions to modeled intent.

Interesting. Inbenta may position itself to be purchased by one of these underperformers. With a study like this in hand, a bidding war could ensue.

The Inbenta loser would be “bent outa” shape too.

Stephen E Arnold, March 23, 2021

Customer Experience: Pretty Dismal It Seems

April 10, 2020

We noted “Companies Slow to Respond to Customer Experience Demands.” No kidding?

The write up contains some factoids. These are presented with minimal information about sample size, methodology, etc. No surprise. Whether true or not, the data may be useful. We found them suggestive:

  • “Organizations struggle to align their CX strategies to voice of customer (VoC) feedback, with 68% having no formal process for considering this data and 28% which capture no feedback at all.”
  • Faltering technology systems: Nearly one in three (30%) say their technology systems are failing to meet current needs and many teams still struggle with legacy systems (52%) and the integration of multiple technology systems (43%). Additionally, the inability to secure budgets (57%) remains a concern and skills shortages is seen as a growing concern (38%).
  • Siloed channels and internal business organizations: Almost two thirds (63%) of organizations agree there is only partial collaboration between functions when it comes to designing CX, and 11% don’t collaborate at all. More than two thirds (69%) still have no cross-channel contact management strategy and only one third (33%) claim to have good or complete consistency across contact channels.

Do companies care? Nah. We learned something that seems intuitively on the money:

While just over three quarters (78%) of organizations indicate that they are satisfied with their customer satisfaction capability, only 9% of their customers rate customer experience at ‘advocacy’ level. Worryingly, just 5% of AI and robotics users say customers rate their experience at advocacy level, exposing the gap between emerging technologies and satisfaction levels.

We think the letters from the US airlines informing people like those on the DarkCyber team that the airlines care about us. Yeah, right. How about those chatbots behind “Listen to this message carefully. Our menu has changed.” Super stuff.

Stephen E Arnold, April 10, 2020

VideoStudio 19 Ultimate Installation Failure: This Procedure May Help You

January 16, 2020

DarkCyber has never in our previous 16,000 posts provided a fix for a problem with commercial software. We are providing a fix for Corel’s VideoStudio 19 Ultimate for these reasons:

  1. Corel technical support responded to our trouble ticket but provided zero useful information
  2. There are problems on the disc with the packaged version of the software to make the resulting installation malfunction
  3. None of the posts on the Corel user forum provided a fix for what seems to be a common problem—No filters for special effects were installed
  4. The Corel download page for the program offers two files, but each is different. Careless, coincidence, lack of motivation, indifference, or some other reason? We don’t know.

A local group was unable to install VideoStudeo 19 Ultimate VideoStudio Ultimate 2019 on their Windows 10 computer. The big problem was that the software  would appear to install on the boxed version of the software. On the machine used by the group, the install typically took two to three hours. But the software would not provide access the “filters,” which is Corel’s word for “video effects” or “FX.” Annoying. You bet. That’s what triggered a request for DarkCyber to help out this group.


1. Program crashed when started
2. Filters (video effects) were not available

After quite a bit of fooling around, we hit upon a solution for a computer running version 18362.

General Approach: A Bird’s-Eye View

1. Examine the failed installation
2. Install VideoStudio Ultimate 2019 on a different machine
3. Move the needed files to a USB stick
4. Copy the files from the working VideoStudio 2019 Ultimate installation to the installation of the software that did not work.

What You Need

This fix is not perfect, but it was one which worked for this particular volunteer group.

Here are the steps you may want to follow:

1. Install VideoStudio Ultimate 2019 on a Windows 10 computer. We used a spare from our shop which was a clean install; that is, no other software had been installed on the computer. No plug ins, third party anti virus software, nothing. Verify that the program loads and that the components are available; for example, filters (which VideoStudio sometimes calls FX).

2. Get a USB drive or comparable storage method and copy this one file
and these two folders:


Here’s where you should be able to find these files on your computer:
vfilter.rsf is located at:

[root drive] \Users\ [user name] \AppData\Roaming\Ulead Systems\Corel VideoStudio Pro (x64)\22.0\VFilter.rsf

For the machines we used, the default locations were that the vft_plug folder was at:

[root drive] \Program Files\Corel\Corel VideoStudio 2019\vft_plug

The location of vfx_plug was at:

[root drive] \Program Files\Corel\Corel VideoStudio 2019\Vfx_plug

The Fix Which Worked for Us

We had to do several steps. None was difficult once we determined the names of the files and their location. Corel does not provide this information to its customers. We don’t want to speculate about why the company does not address this problem. A number of VideoStudio 2019 Ultimate owners have this problem. Therefore, we are posting this as a report of what worked for the non profit group. We used a legal copy of the software. We used a “clean” Windows 10 machine. No clean Windows 10 computer? No legal copy of the software? Well, you may be out of luck.

The Steps We Followed

The procedure we followed for vfilter.rsf was:

a. Navigate to the location of vfilter.rsf
b. Rename the file to vfilter old.rsf
c. Copy the version of vifilter.rsf from the USB or storage device.

For clarity, you are substituting the files from an installation of VideoStudio Ultimate 2019 which works.

The procedure we followed for the folder and its files vft_plug was:

a. Navigate to the location of vft_plug
b. Rename the folder to vft_plug old. (There is no need to fiddle with the files in the folder)
c. Copy the version of the vft_plug folder from the USB or storage device.

For clarity, your are replacing the vft_plug folder from the machine with the working installation of VideoStudio Ultimate 2019.

The procedure we followed for the folder and its files vfx_plug was:

a. Navigate to the location of vfx_plug
b. Rename the folder to vfx_plug old (There is no need to fiddle with the files in the folder)
c. Copy the version of the vfx_plug folder from the USB or storage device.

For clarity, your are replacing the vfx_plug folder from the machine with the working installation of VideoStudio Ultimate 2019.

Wrap Up

Corel support was not helpful. Corel documentation was not helpful. Most of the citations returned from Bing, Google, Yandex, and Boardwatch queries were not helpful. Therefore, we had to find a solution because the non profit group lacked the funds to buy a more robust video editor or find staff to learn how to use one of the open source options available.

For us, we rebooted the computer and launched VideoStudio Ultimate 2019. The Filters (FX) were accessible under “My Favorites.” Note: Our fix did display animated icons in the Filters (FX) panel. The user has to click “My Favorites” to see the installed Filters (FX).

The other functions of the VideoStudio Ultimate 2019 software were working when we left the office of the group contacting us.

If you find a quicker or improved way to get this low cost video editing software to work, use the comments section of this blog.

Stephen E Arnold, January 16, 2020

Chatbot: Baloney Sliced and Served as Steak

October 15, 2019

DarkCyber noted “The Truth about Chatbots: Five Myths Debunked.” Silver bullets are keenly desired. Use smart software to eliminate most of the costs of customer support. (Anyone remember the last time customer support was painless, helpful, and a joy?)

IT Pro Portal seems to be aware that smart software dispensing customer service is in need of a bit of reality-marketing mustard. My goodness. Interesting. What’s next? Straight talk about quantum computing?

The write up identifies five “myths.” Viewing these from some sylvan viewshed, the disabused “myths” are:

  1. You will need multiple bots. Now multiple bots increase the costs of eliminating most humans from customer support and other roles. Yep, expensive.
  2. Humans won’t go away. That means sick days, protests, healthcare, and other peculiarly human costs are here to stay. Shocker! Smart software is not as smart as the pitch decks assert?
  3. Bots can do a lot. View this “myth” in the context of item 1.
  4. Bots require a support staff. Of course not. Buy a bot service and everything is just peachy.
  5. Bots don’t mean lock in.

Now this dose of reality is a presentation of baloney and hand waving.

What is the truth about chatbots? Are they works in progress? Are they cost cutting mechanisms? Are they fairly narrow demonstrations of machine learning?

The reality is that bots, like customer service, are not yet as good as the marketers, PR professionals, and managers of firms selling bots assert.

Think about these five myths. It’s not one bot. It’s multiple bots. Bots can’t do human stuff as well as some humans. Bots do many things not so well. Rely on providers; you can trust vendors, right? Don’t worry about lock in even though the goal of bot providers is to slap on those handcuffs.

To get a glimpse of unadulterated rah rah cheerleading, check out “Robots Are Catching Up to Humans in the Jobs Race.” That write up states:

In real terms, the price for an industrial robot has fallen by more than 60% in 20 years. They also get better as they get cheaper.

What’s not to like? Better, faster, cheaper.

Stephen E Arnold, October 15, 2019

Google Search and ATT Exposed Cable Report

February 6, 2019

Update at 320 US Eastern time:

I stopped an ATT repair truck (not a subcontractor). I reported the open box managing voice and data. The ATT employee told me, “The company doesn’t care. I can’t call it in. Even if I see a downed cable, management does not want to know. The new ATT.” Interesting insight into a company which advertises “moments together.” More like no moments whatsoever.

Original Story:

Come across an exposed cable or exposed cables? Run a Google query for ATT cable down and one gets the first result: 800 288 2020. Like this:


Now the first hit means relevance, or that’s my assumption. Dial the number and the automated system only responds if one is an ATT customer who has an account number. What happens if a child fiddles with the exposed cable or gear? Let’s think about the risks to the youngster. What about the risks to actual ATT wireless, DirecTV, or phone / data services?

Nice work Google. A useless phone number. Nicer work ATT. Putting children and users at risk. (Please, don’t call me and tell me that someone somewhere is sorry. I don’t believe those sophistries.) We can make moments together in another way.

Stephen E Arnold, February 6, 2019

A Collection of Statistics on Chatbot Usage

November 14, 2017

As chatbots become increasingly common, businesses are naturally wondering how to make the most of them. Writer Josiah Motley at The Next Web has assembled user statistics from several sources and reports, “Chatbots Are Here to Stay, What the Data Is Telling Us About the People that Use Them.” He writes:

We know businesses are loving them thanks to better service times for customers and for certain problems to be solved automatically without the need for a (paid) human to jump in, but what about other statistics and interesting facts revolving around chatbots? Are people happy with them? Do they prefer a chatty AI or do they just want to cut to the chase? All of these are questions that will need to be asked when deciding if a chatbot is right for your business, so of course, there are companies out there that are breaking out the customer surveys and figuring out what people are liking, where they’re getting the most use, and a plethora of other random information about them.

The first bit of information Motley shares is how users are liking their chatbot experiences. Nearly half of the respondents to a survey from LivePerson had not had enough such chats to say, while 38% felt good about them and 11% were displeased. That survey also examined what respondents have been using chatbots for—67% had used one for customer service in the previous year, but just 14% for productivity. Then there are several usage trends sorted by US state, including most profanity used—see the write-up for those details (complete with bar graphs.) Motley insists that chatbots are becoming an indispensable part of a business, and each organization must now decide how best to use them to reach its own particular goals.

Cynthia Murrell, November 14, 2017

Google Deletes Idle Android Accounts

October 31, 2017

If you have future plans that take you overseas to areas with limited to zero smartphone connectivity for more than two months and you have an Android-based phone you are in trouble.  Vernonchan reports that “Google Will Delete Your Android Backups If Your Device Is Inactive For Two Months.”

It came as quite a shock for the article’s author and only came to light, because a Reddit user was caught off guard.  The story goes that the Reddit user sent his Nexus 6P in for a refund claim and while waiting for a replacement Android device, he used an old phone.  He thought his Nexus 6P backups were safe, but when he checked his Google Drive backup folder they were gone!

He found this document related to backups: “Manage & Restore Your Device Backups In Google.”  Here is what is found in the document:

The document briefly details about finding, managing, and deleting backups. Right at the end, Google explains what happens when your backup expires: ‘Your backup will remain as long as you use your device. If you don’t use your device for 2 weeks, you may see an expiration date below your backup. For instance: “Expires in 54 days.’

Note that once a backup is deleted, there is zero chance for recovery.

In other words, you are screwed!  If you use your device regularly, there is nothing to worry about.  But if you are headed overseas for that rare place on Earth without limited to zero smartphone access for an extended period you are doomed.  If you have a warranty claim or sent the device in for repair, there are concerns there as well.

The Reddit user was extremely surprised that he never received any warning from Google and thought that it would be a good PSA to alert others to the time limit on backups.

Google, we know you have a lot going on, but it is good customer service to alert your users to things as important as data deletion!

Whitney Grace, October 31, 2017

Black-Hat SEO Tactics Google Hates

November 16, 2016

The article on Search Engine Watch titled Guide to Black Hat SEO: Which Practices Will Earn You a Manual Penalty? follows up on a prior article that listed some of the sob stories of companies caught by Google using black-hat practices. Google does not take kindly to such activities, strangely enough. This article goes through some of those practices, which are meant to “falsely manipulate a website’s search position.”

Any kind of scheme where links are bought and sold is frowned upon, however money doesn’t necessarily have to change hands… Be aware of anyone asking to swap links, particularly if both sites operate in completely different niches. Also stay away from any automated software that creates links to your site. If you have guest bloggers on your site, it’s good idea to automatically Nofollow any links in their blog signature, as this can be seen as a ‘link trade’.

Other practices that earned a place on the list include automatically generated content, cloaking and irrelevant redirects, and hidden text and links. Doorway pages are multiple pages for a key phrase that lead visitors to the same end destination. If you think these activities don’t sound so terrible, you are in great company. Mozilla, BMW, and the BBC have all been caught and punished by Google for such tactics. Good or bad? You decide.

Chelsea Kerwin, November 16, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Can Analytics Be Cloud Friendly?

August 24, 2016

One of the problems with storing data in the cloud is that it is difficult to run analytics.  Sure, you can run tests to determine the usage of the cloud, but analyzing the data stored in the cloud is another story.  Program developers have been trying to find a solution to this problem and the open source community has developed some software that might be the ticket.  Ideata wrote about the newest Apache software in “Apache Spark-Comparing RDD, Dataframe, and Dataset.”

Ideata is a data software company and they built many of the headlining products on the open source software Apache Spark.  They have been using Apache Spark since 2013 and enjoy using it because it offers a rich abstraction, allows the developer to build complex workflows, and perform easy data analysis.

Apache Spark works like this:

Spark revolves around the concept of a resilient distributed dataset (RDD), which is a fault-tolerant collection of elements that can be operated on in parallel. An RDD is Spark’s representation of a set of data, spread across multiple machines in the cluster, with API to let you act on it. An RDD could come from any datasource, e.g. text files, a database via JDBC, etc. and can easily handle data with no predefined structure.

It can be used as the basis fort a user-friendly cloud analytics platform, especially if you are familiar with what can go wrong with a dataset.

Whitney Grace, August 24, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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