Monthly Archive: January 2016

Uber adds yet another creepy “feature”

My last Uber driver was actually pretty hot.

My last Uber driver was actually pretty hot.

Uber announces plans to use drivers’ GPS and accelerometer data to determine if drivers are speeding. The idea, according to them, is if the trip is too fast or there are sudden braking manuevers, that is something that they should be aware of and take up with drivers. So yet a new way this company is being creepy, evil, and mysterious.

They say this will promote safety. But it’s hypocrisy, because:

  • This is the same Uber that says it doesn’t employ these drivers, they’re just independent contractors. Since they’re independent contractors, why is it Uber’s business how they drive?
  • If you had an accident due to unsafe driving, Uber wouldn’t be there to pay damages. Uber would say, “Hey, sue the 20-year-old kid — we’re just a marketplace.”
  • The post linked above includes vague assurances like “improve safety proactively” and “on the lookout . . . to do better.” But it makes no promises they’ll actually jerk the leash on bad drivers… because if they were to actually promise stuff, then they would become liable.

And do we really need Uber literally tracking our every jerk and twitch? This is the same Uber that invented “God Mode” to track Uber passengers, and whose privacy policy currently says:

If you permit the Uber app to access location services through the permission system used by your mobile operating system (“platform”), [which there is no way not to do, not if you want to be able to get a ride,] we may also collect the precise location of your device when the app is running in the foreground or background.

Yes: Uber sees you when you’re sleeping, and even when you’re not using the Uber app. And you can’t turn it off if you want to use the service. Nothing is to say Uber won’t be following the accelerometer in your phone, too. You can’t trust these people.

The Uber service has changed my world, but the arrogant Silicon Valley technocrats (and their lawyers) are out of control. File this under: dangers of monopoly; the pain of adhesion contracts; the inexorable advance of the security state.

How to get unlimited cell phone data for FREE

I now have a cell phone plan that offers unlimited calling. Amusingly, AT&T sent me a letter about it, printed with ink on pieces of paper.

AT&T then sent me an e-mail telling me that my “unlimited” data plan from a decade ago will be going up $5 a month in price, but it’s the same “unlimited” plan that is subject to harsh throttling when you go over a certain limit. The throttling can be so severe that the data plan is worthless. It’s annoying.

Well, I just realized how I can solve the data problem using the new free calling, and it’s so obvious: bring back modems!

Remember the modem? It was a piece of hardware that connected your computer to your phone line. I actually had a 2400 baud Smartmodem (pictured at right!). And tons of other modems over the years, too. The modem converted digital data into annoying audio sound that could be sent over a phone line.

It seems so obvious. Get a piece of software to run on your cell phone in the background and let it go ahead and tie up the phone line 24 hours a day. (Who cares? You have call waiting anyway if anybody calls, and you could probably configure it to automatically hang up the data line when a call comes in.) Then, send data packets over the telephone line just like in the old days.

It would tear up battery like crazy. And who knows how fast it would be: the old modems went up to 56K but they were using landlines that were decent. Maybe the software modem idea would be better reserved for data that can be batch processed in the background, like app updates, synching the news, and backing up the phone.

Still, every byte that goes out over the modem is a byte that doesn’t come out of your data allocation. And there is just something so sweet about the idea of screwing the man by taking advantage of “unlimited” calling to fix “unlimited” data.

The only problem I haven’t solved is who to call on the other end of the line…

Everything comes out OK

This weekend was somewhat truncated because I had a little delay getting in on Friday and had to leave on Sunday afternoon to get back to work. Pretty much I did some nesting and relaxing, but also found time to work out, pick out some more lighting for the new bathroom, and even go and look at cats to adopt.

This guy is Richmond. The cat people picked him up off the street where he was living with a pack of feral cats. Somehow it seemed like a good idea to get to know him. He was extremely relaxed even around all these strange new people. But he also had a really playful mood too. I could easily see myself finding him lying around when I got home.