Google and Home Schooling

April 8, 2020

Ah, Google—good enough is good enough, right? Except when a pandemic comes along, and good enough really won’t cut it. Digital Trends reports, “Google Chromebook Quirk Forces a Decision: Parental Controls or Schoolwork?” Now that schools have been forced to close and students are studying remotely, a Google Chromebook/ Family Link foible is suddenly much more of a problem than when it was discovered last year. Writer Mythili Sampathkumar explains:

“When school districts all over the country announced they would be shutting down to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, many parents purchased the relatively inexpensive Chromebooks to mimic students’ classroom experience. Parents can use Google’s Family Link app to control what websites and apps are accessed, when, and for how long for accounts identified as minors. But some students can’t sign into their schoolwork using those accounts. They need to use school-provided email addresses to access their schoolwork through Google Classroom — but Family Link parental controls can’t be synced to those school accounts. The Family Link app doesn’t allow parents to add a school email account for the same child user, preventing the child from using different logins to sign into the Chromebook and Google Classroom. It seems the situation is forcing parents to choose between what the Family Link website itself called ‘healthy digital habits’ and accessing learning materials for school during the lockdown, a choice many in the forum and those who spoke to Digital Trends do not think they should have to make.”

Schools do not have to worry about leveraging Family Link’s safe browsing features—they typically place universal security restrictions on their entire networks. Doing so at home, though, is not a good option for most parents. Not only would that block certain sites for parents, it would also restrict when they could use their devices. That just won’t do for parents who suddenly must work from home and help their kids with schoolwork. Will Google step up and fix the problem? Perhaps there is a way to cut down on Chrome glare?

Cynthia Murrell, April 8, 2020

Hyland Updates Document Processing Platform

April 8, 2020

Remember ISYS, the Australian search system? DarkCyber does. Hyland owns the technology. In a series of updates over the last six months, content-services provider Hyland Software has added file formats, capabilities, and support to its Document Filters platform, we learn from the press release posted by ProgrammableWeb, “Hyland Document Processing Update Includes New APIs.” The company aims to provide tools that allow its clients to process any type of file an organization may encounter in a typical day. Over 550 file formats are now supported. The write-up lists the new features:

  • Text and metadata support for Apple iBook file types, Apple PList binary files, EPUB ebook file types, and Quattro Pro Spreadsheet files
  • High definition support for NCR images, MS Project Gantt Charts, Microsoft Windows Clipboard (CLP) files, Microsoft Outlook for Mac OLK15MsgSource files, Paint Shop Pro images, Windows Cursor images, X-Windows-Bitmap images, X-Windows-Pixmap images, and WordPerfect Graphics (version 1)
  • New API for extraction and processing of hierarchical bookmark information
  • New API for the extraction and processing of static PDF form data
  • Added option, DETECT_MACROS, that outputs a metadata value if macros are detected in MS Office documents
  • New API to allow for adding common annotations such as notes, lines, shapes, polygons, and stamps. *When added to PDF output, annotations are created as native PDF annotations, that a user can interact with and modify
  • New API to allow the control of graphic effects on a per page basis
  • New option, GRAPHIC_ROTATE, to allow the rotation of an entire document rendition, or individual pages via the new graphic effects API
  • Added support for mark-up and drawing functions onto an HTML5 canvas

With clients in several different industries, Hyland helps them leverage their data to better serve their own customers. It boasts that over half of 2019’s Fortune 100 companies use its products. Founded in 1991, the firm is based in Westlake, Ohio. How many years has ISYS been available? Good question, and DarkCyber knows the answer. If you said a number less than 30, you might be on a walkabout.

Cynthia Murrell, April 8, 2020

The Roots Behind Criminality: Cyber and Regular

April 8, 2020

Coronavirus scams, global Internet traffic hijacking, and attacks on work-from-homers. Where does crime originate?

In the United States, true crime documentaries and fictional detective shows are popular. People love these shows because it explores the human psyche and tries to answer why people commit crimes. Mental health professionals have explored criminals motivations for centuries, including University of California Santa Cruz professor of psychology Craig Haney. Phys.org shares more on Haney’s work in the article, “New Book Debunks Myths About Who Causes Crime And Why.”

For over forty years, Haney researched the real causes behind crimes and he formulated the hypothesis that criminal behavior could be tied to childhood suffering, such as abuse, trauma, and maltreatment. Haney had interviewed many death row inmates and noticed trauma patterns in them. His colleagues were skeptical about his findings, because there was not much research not the idea and few studies. Haney wrote about his findings in a new book, Criminality in Context: The Psychological Foundations of Criminal Justice Reform. In his new book, Haney discusses forty years of research and what believes to be the root causes of criminal behavior, how it differs from accepted conventions, and what reforms are needed in the criminal justice system. Haney stated:

‘“The nation’s dominant narrative about crime is that it is committed by bad people who freely choose to make bad decisions, persons who are fundamentally different from the rest of us,’ said Haney, who holds psychology and law degrees. “The only thing that is fundamentally different about them is the lives they’ve lived and the structural impediments they’ve faced.’”

Haney found that the people most at risk to commit crimes were those exposed to childhood trauma and often experienced even more maltreatment in places meant to protect them: school, foster care systems, and juvenile justice systems.

He also argues that poverty and racism are key contributors to criminal behaviors. Poverty is a gateway to criminal behavior, because it leads to trauma, unmet needs, and less opportunities. Unfortunately ethnic minorities who experience poverty and trauma are more likely to end up imprisoned. By proxy ethnic minorities receive differential treatment and represent the largest criminal populations.

Haney’s research exposes bigger holes in the already broken criminal justice system. He points that bigger reforms need to be made than simple criminal justice. Crime prevention strategies need to start at the cradle, most importantly combating social inequality and and poverty.

While Haney’s research may sound new, it only augments what other mental health professionals have been spouting for years. Everything is connected when it comes to mental health, but humans usually are not taught how to properly care for their minds.

Whitney Grace, April 8, 2020

With Security Nailed, Zoom Returns to Its Sillycon Valley Roots

April 8, 2020

DarkCyber knows that you have been waiting for another great Zoom feature. “Zoom: Free Video chat filters Can Give You a long Beard, Devil Horns or an Egg for a Head” reports that Zoom compatible filters have arrived. Plus, you can replace your head in a business video conference with an egg. Well, that’s the story. The write up points out:

With a free app called Snap Camera. Snap Camera has been around since 2018 and it essentially allows you to add Snapchat style filters to video conferencing apps like Zoom.

There are other options; for example, devil horns for frisky Sillycon Valley quarantine sports.

Great innovations cannot be hindered by a mere pandemic.

Stephen E Arnold, April 8, 2020

Smart Software: What Is Wrong?

April 8, 2020

We have the Google not solving death. We have the IBM Watson thing losing its parking spot at a Houston cancer center. We have a Department of Justice study reporting issues with predictive analytics. And, the supercomputer and their smart software have not delivered a solution to the coronavirus problem. Yep. What’s up?

Data Science: Reality Doesn’t Meet Expectations” explains some of the reasons. DarkCyber recommends this write up. The article provides seven reasons why the marketing fluff generated by  former art history majors for “bros” of different ilk are not delivering; to wit:

  1. People don’t know what “data science” does.
  2. Data science leadership is sorely lacking.
  3. Data science can’t always be built to specs.
  4. You’re likely the only “data person”
  5. Your impact is tough to measure — data doesn’t always translate to value
  6. Data & infrastructure have serious quality problems.
  7. Data work can be profoundly unethical. Moral courage required.

DarkCyber has nothing to add.

Stephen E Arnold, April 8, 2020

Patience: In Short Supply in an Age of Digital Surplus

April 7, 2020

Humans are impatient, here-and-now creatures. CFOTech explains that patience is now a lost virtue in the article, “How Impatience Drives Our Digital Behaviour.” According to the article, Google research shows that 53% of mobile users leave a page if it doesn’t load in three-seconds or less. There is also research that dates back to 2012 from Microsoft that states if one Web site loads slower than another, people will avoid returning. Speed means revenue.

Want some facts about online shopping? Once consumers place something in their online shopping carts, they usually have second thoughts in twenty-two seconds. Even more interesting is that if the digital checkout process takes longer than half a minute, consumers are likely to cancel the transaction. Consumers want a speedy checkout and if their credit cards are not verified in ten-seconds, the sale disappears.

What is the impact of this? There are two reasons:

“First, it is a tangible illustration of how revenue is tied to the speed of your services. This is only going to become more critical as digital channels account for a larger portion of an organisation’s sales. According to Gartner, 37% of enterprise sales will be conducted through digital sales and digital channels by 2020. Similarly, a recent survey by McKinsey shows that on average, 35% of a company’s revenues worldwide are digitised.

Second, it shows a challenge that many of us are becoming more familiar with or exposed to.

It is now common for a single app to call upon a range of third-party services in order to complete a transaction. These microservices add slowness to many Web pages. Want to see microservices in action? Check out the British tabloids online. How do you ensure elements that you do not own or host are performing as expected and not introducing delays that have material flow-on impacts to your own app’s user experience (and the revenue you draw from that)?”

The operational idea is that you own your customer’s digital experience, but not the services that the experience runs on. The reality is that people with jobs in online want to stay employed, not deliver a service that works. Check out the latest version of Newsnow.co.uk on your mobile device. The ads make scanning headlines a chore, not a learning experience. I take that back. I have learned to go to Newslookup.com.

The thirst for ad dollars frustrates many who want a Web site that works smoothly. I know I do.

Whitney Grace, April 7, 2020

Some No Cost Electronic Scholarly Books

April 7, 2020

Finding books for many people is a virtual stroll through Amazon. Outfits like Ebsco and other commercial database companies don’t do a very good job of indexing books. When it comes to locating a copy, some of the readers journey to Google Books. That Google project remains controversial and a disappointment. The Internet Archive offers books, but it is remarkable that the effort required to find a book is fascinating.

What do you do if you want to locate a copy of a book published by a university press? Instead of flailing through the sources I mentioned or your favorite bookfinder, navigate to Publicbooks.org. The service provides a catalog of books which are “freely accessible online.”

Continuing the tradition of making books difficult to find, we did not spot a search function. Books are listed by university press. These books are offered through Project MUSE. (Project Muse is located at https://muse.jhu.edu/.)

Most of the titles are scholarly. Some warrant wider readership. Others are the ravings of a PhD desperate to get a book on his or her cv.

Enjoy free books at least through the end of June.

Stephen E Arnold, April 7, 2020

The US Newspaper Industry: Extinction Event

April 7, 2020

I am in rural Kentucky because of a newspaper. I left the wonderful world of suburban Washington, DC, to live near a mine drainage system. Oh, sure, I worked at a diversified newspaper committed to electronic publishing, but a mine run off is a mine run off.

I read “Local Newspapers Are Facing Their Own Coronavirus Crisis.”

I spotted an interesting statement about the newspaper industry in the US:

Researchers have long worried that the next recession – which economists say is already upon us — “could be an extinction-level event for newspapers,” said Penelope Abernathy, a University of North Carolina professor who studies the news industry.

Extinction event. Interesting phrase. The write up offered some factoids:

  • More than 2,100 cities and tows have lost a newspaper (mostly weeklies) in the last 15 years
  • Newsroom employment has shrunk by 50 percent since 2004
  • Twenty global news publishers expect a median 23% decline in 2020 ad sales
  • Lee Enterprises announced salary reductions and furloughs
  • The Tampa Bay Times, owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute, cut five days of its print edition and announced furloughs
  • C&G Newspapers, which publishes 19 weekly newspapers near Detroit, suspended print publication

What snagged my attention was the last paragraph in the article:

Editor, publisher and owner Louis Fortis is keeping the website operating and promises to resume printing at some point, in some form. Yet he’s feeling the same uncertainty as millions of other Americans. “I’m very disappointed,” he said. “On the other hand, you have to look at the big picture. People are dying.”

Interesting. On one hand the person is disappointed. On the other hand, people are dying.

What’s this mean? Gnostic puzzles must be eyeball magnets.

Historical fact: The Courier Journal’s Barry Bingham Jr. understood the change electronic publishing would have in the late 1970s. How did that work out?

Gannett, announced 15-day furloughs and pay cuts for many employees.

Gannett purchased the Courier Journal in the late 1980s.

How did that work out? Electronic information is not a solution. Flowing digits work like a high pressure water stream in the ill fated FlowTex system; that is, high pressure water directed at an object erodes that object, blasting it into tiny particles in some cases. Where once an edifice stood, only fragments remain.

Print newspapers are going to fall over. Money bandages won’t work.

Stephen E Arnold, March 7, 2020

To Monetize Is Not to Sell, Contends Google

April 7, 2020

Quite gradually, governments seem to be waking up to the problem of online privacy. The passage of the California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect on January first, is one example. The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains how Google is sidling around the law’s provisions in its article, “Google Says it Doesn’t ‘Sell’ Your Data. Here’s How the Company Shares, Monetizes, and Exploits it.”

Journalist Bennett Cyphers reminds us just how far Google has cast its data nets: Worldwide, the company commands 62% of mobile and 69% of desktop browsers; the operating systems on 71% of mobile devices; 94% of apps in the Play store; and 92% of internet searches. It runs code on about 85% of the sites on the Web while 73% of adults in the US employ YouTube. That is a mind-boggling amount of data on billions of people.

Though Google makes tens of billions of dollars each year off this data, it claims it is not technically selling it. The write-up explains two ways the company splits that hair. First, it builds user profiles filled with statistics and interests that it then sells to advertisers. Marketers then use those profiles to craft targeted campaigns. The second method is called real-time bidding; Cyphers explains:

“Real-time bidding is the process by which publishers auction off ad space in their apps or on their websites. In doing so, they share sensitive user data—including geolocation, device IDs, identifying cookies, and browsing history—with dozens or hundreds of different ad tech companies. Each RTB auction typically sees user data passing through three different layers of companies on its way from a device to an advertiser: supply-side platforms (or SSPs) collect user data to sell, ad exchanges organize auctions between them and advertisers, and demand-side platforms (or DSPs) ‘bid’ on behalf of advertisers to decide which ads to show to which people. These auctions take milliseconds, constantly churning away in the background of your browsing activity as companies at every level of the process share and collect more and more data to add to their existing profiles of users. … Real-time bidding is a convoluted, opaque system of data collection and sharing that enables profiling and surveillance by advertisers, data brokers, hedge funds, and ICE. It is at the center of everything that’s wrong with privacy in tech.”

The article describes how Google got this much power and elaborates on how it wields it, complete with

Illustrations and examples. Navigate there for those details. Not surprisingly, Cyphers concludes with a call for stronger laws, ones that make privacy the default setting. Is it too late to re-bottle that genie?

Cynthia Murrell, April 7, 2020

Voleflix: Public Domain Videos

April 7, 2020

Just a short note to document the existence of Voleflix. This is a public domain video and film site. (Anyone remember Xoom.com?) The Web page says:

Cheaper than Netflix and Prime! Dozens of free public domain movies plus our Voleflix Originals

What’s on Voleflix? This warning sets the stage:

image

If you are into free and interesting (unusual), point your kick back thing at https://vole.wtf. Yep, WTF.

Stephen E Arnold, April 7, 2020

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