1995 called; they want their T1 line back

Also: censoring the censors and fiery robot car crashes (I hope)

I’m Canadian and therefore painfully aware that most of the world looks at Canada as “America Lite”. And, until 2016, I would have agreed with you. Two important things happened in 2016 to change my views on that: the whole Trump thing, and I started working for a U.S. based company. During that time I have become far more acquainted with Americans than before, and have learned a lot about American culture. One of the things I’ve learned is that somehow Americans are not America. By that, I mean that the Americans I work with are intelligent, thoughtful, fun-loving rapscallions. But America itself has a global public relations problem and is widely viewed as xenophobic and racist. I believe that America is the Americans I know and work with, not the press’ view, but this experience has been very instructional to me about how a polarized media can hurt the world’s view of a country. Keep on keeping on, my Americans. You got this.

Close the door door

In some circumstances, the correct thing to do is do the thing again. Like, if someone shoots you, it is perfectly acceptable to shoot them back. I get that, and while I hope nobody gets shot, that’s a pretty normal human reaction to bad things happening to us. But sometimes doing the thing again doesn’t make sense. Like, if you’re mad that a website censors content you like, blocking that website so you can’t look at it makes no sense at all. Side note: people say “no sense” enough that we now just call it “nonsense”, but we should call it Idahosense.

There’s an ISP in Idaho doing just that. After evidently fielding “non-stop” calls from their customers to block Facebook and Twitter for “censorship”, YourT1Wifi in northern Idaho has told its customers that it can block those sites for them if they ask.

Let’s break this down a bit. Twitter and Facebook are just two companies that have kicked Trump and his dullard band of misfits off their platforms. They did so for violating their respective terms of service. That’s not censorship, that’s just good human beinging.

There are many, many other companies that have also kicked Trump off their platforms, so it’s not clear why Facebook and Twitter are the only ones this ISP is offering to block. I’d say it is because of those “non-stop” phone calls, but upon a more careful read, I’d suggest that most of those phone calls were people calling in confusion as to the poor wording of the notice, and were, in fact, calling to make sure they were not going to be prevented from reaching those sites:

We believe that everyone deserves to make a choice and our customers that have called and emailed have expressed to be blocked (not All of them just a lot of them) so we sent out a email to everyone asking if they wanted to be blocked or unblocked. Guess we should have been more clear in the email if you don’t reply back or contact us you Will Still be able to connect to these sites. (emphasis mine)

Next, although it pains me to say this, the internet will basically break for most people if they block Facebook. Facebook isn’t just a site you “go-to”, it is an all-pervasive cookie-deploying, internet-tracking, personal-data-harvesting scourge and it’s always operating under the covers, including on millions of services that are not Facebook. Most of these misguided folks will become closely acquainted with how pervasive Facebook is once it is blocked and their TV shows and whatever else people do in Idaho stop working. Which, I gleefully predict, will likely result in an increase of panicked support calls to good old YourT1Wifi.

Robot Indy 500

I recently discovered that there’s an Indy car race for automated cars. The Indy Autonomous Challenge started in 2020 and is back for its second year. There’s $1.5 million in prizes to be won, with the winner pocketing the majority $1 million purse.

Back in 2020, IAC announced that 37 universities from 11 countries registered to compete, with teams being composed of members with varying expertise. There are undergraduate and graduate student participants, as well as faculty and industry experts in AI, machine learning and robotics. To win, their AI-powered car must be able to beat all other participants in a 20-lap race around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.

The math works out that the cars have to average 120 mph to make the cut, and there are several rounds leading up the main race. Honestly, the qualifying rounds are going to be where the fun is, right? F1 cars driven by robots, travelling at high speeds, and (probably) smashing into each other. Who cares about the main event?

Participants are told what car they will be working with. The focus isn’t on hardware, so every team gets the same car which has been modified to support autonomous driving. The magic is in the software the teams develop to drive the car.

Hello, please hold for Lord Vader

I have been pondering all night whether this is brilliant or ridiculous. I am still not sure, but I guess the sales will tell the story. Bluetooth headsets have evolved dramatically in recent years; everything uses Bluetooth now from watches to scales, of course phones, and now…COVID masks. I bring you…the MaskFone!

The new Binatone MaskFone seeks to address one issue that many of us have, and it's getting around muffled voices when having a phone conversation out in public spaces. As important as it is today to wear masks to keep from spreading Covid-19, it can make having conversations difficult whether it's in person or on the phone. MaskFone's solution is as simple as embedding a mic and earbuds into your mask.

As a remote worker (even before COVID), perhaps I don’t appreciate the complexities of the “muffled voice” when making phone calls. Is that a thing? I feel like I can hear everyone in my life properly without wondering if they’re wearing a mask, so I’m not sure what the adoption rate will be for this type of thing. I’ll give you one tip, though. Don’t look for mask phones on eBay thinking you’ll find a cheap knockoff.