YouTube banned keywords

One of my side projects over the past couple of years has been making YouTube videos.

There has been a bit of a fuss lately about YouTube disallowing advertising on controversial videos.  Many YouTubers have made videos about this issue, many complaining that YouTube is censoring them. They should probably consult a dictionary before making this bold claim.

I have had two experiences with this lately and thought I would write a little bit.

The first video with advertising disallowed was about a tunnel in my hometown named in memory of a city in France, and New Zealand soldiers' connection to that town during World War II. The video was mostly about my personal experience of cycling through that town but one of the keywords that I used was "war". Advertising was disallowed. I sent a quick support request to YouTube and the situation was resolved in a few days.

YouTube advertising isn't that important to me. So far, I've made $1.67 from it. But getting advertising enabled was sort of about the principle.

Just recently I uploaded another video about a funeral of my great uncle that I went to a couple of years ago. One of the keywords was "funeral" and advertising was disabled.

It has since been enabled again with no action on my part.

I'm guessing that maybe YouTube has an automatic process that flags videos based on keywords and other information. Then there may be a manual process to release those videos from quarantine.

Like I said, YouTube isn't a significant source of income for me. I'm also not one to fly off the handle and throw around accusations about censorship without solid evidence.

Anyone got any more information about YouTube advertising policies that they want to share?

Apple's Lightning and wireless headphone story

I enjoy some of the carnival that happens in the days and weeks before an Apple keynote event. The part that I enjoy most is fantasizing about what the future might hold.

I don't particularly enjoy the leaks of parts and cases or shaky-cam photos of parts. I also don't really like speculating about whether any of the news is real or fake.This is in the same way that I don't like opening my Christmas presents before Christmas morning. 

This year has been particularly interesting with all the rumours around the removal of the headphone jack from the iPhone.

So, here are my predictions:

  • the headphone jack on the iPhone will disappear
  • Lightning headphone (EarPods) will come in the box
  • a Lightning-to-3.5mm adaptor will come in the box this year (and maybe next year because of the 2-year replacement cycle for phones)
  • the two-piece wireless headset (AirPods) does not exist

For most of the past few months, the noise has been getting louder about the removal of the headphone jack. Also, for most of the past few months I was thinking that it was unlikely that Apple would be bold enough to actually remove it. 

However, Apple is good at creating controlled leaks to kill any stories that they don't want told. For this reason, I'm starting to come around to believing the idea that the headphone jack is toast.

To me this is an interesting development where the drawbacks are seriously overblown by scare stories in the media.

Here's why I don't think it's a big deal:

  • the iPhone comes with headphones in the box so everyone will be able to listen to music on day one.
  • 95%+ of iPhone users will use the supplied headphones.
  • I think that it is very likely that a Lightning-to-3.5mm adaptor will come in the box this year to get ahead of the PR about the removal of the port.

The media will be all over the removal of the headphone jack for one reason: writing hysterical,  controversial, ALLCAPS, click-bait articles about Apple sells papers and gets clicks. This doesn't mean that the general Apple-buying public will actually care or that it is a big deal.  

That leaves the question of what strategy Apple will be pushing. Are they going with Lightning headphones? Are they going with wireless? Is it a combined strategy of Lightning and wireless? Or is it something else entirely?

I'm thinking that Apple are just going with Lightning headphones. Lightning headphones in the box are almost a certainty.

However many rumour sites think that a combined strategy of wireless and Lightning headphones is more likely. This doesn't quite seem right to me. There are many rumours about "AirPods". These would be individual single-ear Bluetooth headphones.

With any amount of thought, I'm can't see how something like the AirPod is practical. There are at least three good reasons why these in-ear lice would be an awful user experience:

  • the ear-louse is tiny with an equally tiny battery, and consequently a tiny battery life
  • the short battery life also means that they will constantly need charging. Both of them. Probably daily.
  • the ear-louse is tiny and easy to lose. You need two of them to provide a good user experience and one of them is bound to get lost.

As a company, Apple likes to make small, yet significantly changes on a regular basis. Always moving forward. Slowly yet constantly.  Apple also likes to solve difficult problems in an elegant way. USB was better than pre-USB (ADB, serial, floppy drives, etc). Touch screens are better than keyboards. Retina is better than pre-Retina.

Removing the headphone jack is arguably a small yet significant change, and also argubly an elegant solution. It might not be better today but likely will be better in a couple of years once more products support it. This is just like the way that the move to USB took a while for the advantages to become real. 

Two separate "AirPods" is not an elegant solution or a step forward, more like wishful thinking.

I will be interested to see if Apple does have a wireless headphone solution. Most of their advances in headphones recently have been pushed by Beats rather than Apple so the release of a wireless headset would be a change in strategy.

The only part where my thoughts on Apple's wireless strategy don't quite make sense is with the Apple Watch. The Watch was released with Bluetooth and the ability to play music from the Watch while out walking or running without a phone. This had always seemed a little awkward to me, especially since neither Apple nor Beats sell wireless headphones that are lightweight enough use while exercising. Maybe, despite my doubts, there is something coming.

Personally, I have been using wireless headphones for about 7 years. I started out with the Nokia BH-905, until I wore them out. They were a good compact size (being on-ear rather than over-the-ear headphones) with pretty good noise-cancelling. They were great when I was living in London and travelling on the tube every day. 

This year I replaced them with some Sony MDR-ZX770BN headphones (why such long model numbers, Sony?). I'm not that keen on the large over-the-ear style, the noise-cancelling isn't as good as the Nokia and they feel a bit cheap and plasticky. However, there isn't much choice in headphones that are both Bluetooth and noise-cancelling, which is my preference, and my budget doesn't quite stretch to the Bose QC35's (or was it the 25's?).

There is no way that I would go back to wired headphones. It's amazing how freeing the lack of wires is. Wireless is the future for headphones, as it has been for phones, computers, networking, etc.

The removal of the headphone port is the first step on the wireless journey. Is Apple going to take any other steps on that journey this week too?

 

Brexiteers have taken over the asylum

I’m in shock right now. 

The United Kingdom has just voted itself out after 43 years of EU membership. That’s longer than I’ve been alive. 

I feel like this really shows the poor state of politics in many countries today. We can vote for whoever we like but both major parties are basically the same and the politicians just do what they want anyway. 

The first-past-the-post Westminster system used in Britain (and the highly gerrymandered version used in the United States), provides definitive results and stable government. What it doesn’t provide is a government that anyone actually wants. 

It appears to more and more people that the general public have no control over politicians, with corporate money and Rupert Murdoch rigging the election and the mainstream media being corrupt and lying. Or at least that’s what many people think, whether it is true or not. In these days of spin doctors and PR gurus, politicians work for themselves and their own interest and not for us. 

This is the political environment that has brought about the rise of Donald Trump and it’s the environment that has allowed the British EU referendum to succeed.

Following the end of the Second World War, the citizens of many Western countries enjoyed in a shared prosperity caused by modernisation, post-industrialisation and globalisation. Trade and travel have become easier and the European Union has significantly helped with that, in Europe and globally. 

On the down-side, globalisation has also caused many businesses to close or re-locate overseas. Politicians have embraced globalisation, as they are right to do because there are many benefits to it. But recent prosperity has not been shared. 

I lived in London until 2012 and at the time there was growing unrest about the state of the economy and the direction the country was heading. I was in a well-paid job and would have struggled to buy a house. A close friend was close to bankruptcy in a decent graduate job. This is not shared prosperity. 

I accept that times have changed and factory workers and shop workers are valued less than fifty years ago. 

But a government needs to do the best for the country and also do the best for its people. These are not necessarily the same thing. The majority of the people need to be brought along for the ride. This EU referendum is the culmination of years of governments not looking out for all their people and the poor being left behind. 

This is also a failure of the inevitability of Europe’s “ever-closer union”. Whether ever-closer political and economic union was real or imagined, it has some responsibility here for this election result. It feels to many European citizens that they have no control over the future of the European Union. I wouldn’t be surprised if these result could be replicated in other European countries. 

The fallout from this currently is that the Pound has fallen by over 10% overnight. Stock markets around the world are down. Lots of uncertainty is ahead, and regular people willingly voted for it. 

This all feels like a huge conspiracy that has been created for us. But we have walked in to it. The country won’t govern itself but by opting out of politics until the disaffected outnumber the rest, we have allowed this to happen.  

[It's a bit late and the article above probably doesn't make much sense. The conspiracies listed above aren't really things that I believe but if enough people believe them then aren't they half true, anyway. Just like Father Christmas.]

Get out and vote but maybe more importantly, get off the keyboard and do something in the world more than just posting on Twitter or Facebook and putting a tick in a box once every few years.

DeRay Mckesson has Twitter account hacked

A prominent Black Lives Matter activist, DeRay Mckesson, had his Twitter account hacked yesterday, after getting in via his Verizon account. 

There are two things that I find rather scary about this hack. Firstly, I'm amazed that even with two-factor authentication enabled it's still easy to get in. On top of that, Im really concerned that someone out there is so racist or so pro-Trump that they felt the need to make an attack like this. 

In other sad Twitter news (((Jon Weisman))) from the New York Times left Twitter this week because of anti-Semitic abuse.

All this abuse is so pointless. Maybe it makes some loser feel good for about 30 seconds. But at what cost?

 

Top Gear fans: Nostalgic for before political correctness took over

Last week Top Gear returned to television screens worldwide after an unscheduled refresh.  

I'm sure that anyone who has made it this far through the article already knows what happened: controversial host Jeremy Clarkson lost his job after a "fracas" with a producer and his co-hosts left the show in support. 

Over the past fourteen years, Top Gear became one of the most successful shows ever from the BBC. As part of the success, Clarkson became one of the most loved and loathed figures on British television. Sort of like a Nigel Farage who you might actually want to have a beer with. 

Inevitably, the show has been widely criticised upon its return with a new cast. Given the number of people claiming they were going to hate it before a single scene was even filmed, let alone broadcast, that isn't a surprise.

To me all of this just feels childish. The school bully got sent to the headmaster's office and expelled from school. And now school's just not the same. 

I'm unsure what exactly caused Clarkson to be fired because I wasn't there. None of us were. But, in most workplaces violence would almost certainly warrant dismissal. Probably instantly. And this was far from the first time he had been in trouble with his employers. 

Listening to some people it feels like the BBC cancelled Christmas, and Easter. But they only fired someone who didn't really want his job anymore.

Personally, I feel like the best days of the old Top Gear were already in the past. I remember sitting through the Vietnam special and wondering what the point of it was. It was like being on a lads weekend without the benefit of being drunk or leaving home. More and more episodes would go past without any gold at all.  

Top Gear had become the Daily Mail of television shows. How great would Britain be if the E-Type was still in production and the sun hadn't set on the British Empire?  How much better was life when we could call foreigners by racist names? When we could go to the pub and drive home drunk? When there were none of those annoying bike lanes or speed cameras? Ah, nostalgia, how I miss you!

Top Gear had become a picture of a bygone era that never really existed. Not in my lifetime, at least. And now it has gone, replaced by something else that may or may not recapture that glory. 

In 2002, Clarkson's Top Gear took more than a couple of episodes to find its feet. And this series will too. We might even look back in a few years and miss LeBlanc and Evans as much as Clarkson, but only if they make it their own and stop being compared to the past.

Peter Thiel: saviour of the world. Or something.

I'm seeing lots of negative articles today about Peter Thiel bankrolling Hulk Hogan's lawsuits against Gawker Media. 

Not surprisingly, journalists have come out against Peter Thiel's actions because it is seen as an attack on free speech. They seem to have a conflict of interest here. Any attack on freedom of speech is an attack on journalists, and they don't generally like that.

I've really only got one thought on this though: Play with fire and get burnt.

Gawker played a dangerous game for years peddling gutter journalism. This has finally come back to bite them. But on the other side, Peter Thiel is creating some dangerous enemies who can also play a long game. How many people are going to reconsider going in to business with Thiel because of this? I'm sure there will be a few.

No one wins here. 

Update: I finally got around to reading the New York Times article about Peter Thiel and his secret war. There were several direct quotes that made it all sound pretty creepy.

“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” he said on Wednesday

He added: “I would underscore that I don’t expect to make any money from this. This is not a business venture.”

This makes it sound an awful lot like revenge. And if not revenge then maybe it's about creating the new standard of: All the news that Peter Thiel says is fit to print. Almost superhero level creepiness.

He also describes Gawker by saying:

"I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”

He has obviously never come in contact with British tabloids. Or maybe just never been the target of them.

Tinder as travel companion

Amusing article from a couple of months ago (sometimes news travels slowly on the internet), from Travel and Leisure about using Tinder to hook up with temporary tour guides when travelling.

My goal wasn’t to get laid (though if the opportunity arose...) — I was more curious to see what Tinder could offer a single traveling woman besides just convenient sex. If I was lucky, maybe I’d have a good conversation with someone I would never otherwise have met, a meal at a restaurant I would have overlooked, in a neighborhood I might have neglected to visit, or a buddy to show me some wild underground party that I never would have been cool enough to discover — basically facilitating the other chief travel fantasy, experiencing a city as if it were your own.

It's always interesting to me when someone is using a service for a purpose slightly different from what it was designed for. An article like this also helps to remind me how old I am and how I'm not part of the Tinder (or Snapchat) generation.

Starring John Cho? Bring it on!

Great article and meme about how easy it should be to put non-white actors in any role. This issue is coming up more and more often: does every film role need to by played by a white man? Probably not.

So, why not have a film starring John Cho?

Recently, I have been watching the BBC series The Night Manager, where Olivia Coleman was playing the role of what had originally been a male part. But it really changes nothing to have the role played by a woman.

So, why not an Asian president, or a black James Bond? How much does it really change? The problem surely starts as a lack of imagination and keeping it safe rather than a lack of actors.

Imagine if your parents were Russian spies. Unbelievable but true story.

Shaun Walker at The Guardian writes the amazing story about a married couple of Russian spies living in Boston who raised their children believing that they we Canadians.

But the FBI had not made a mistake, and the truth was so outlandish, it defied comprehension. Not only were their parents indeed Russian spies, they were Russians. The man and woman the boys knew as Mom and Dad really were their parents, but their names were not Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley. Those were Canadians who had died long ago, as children; their identities had been stolen and adopted by the boys’ parents.

This is the story of spy fiction, not of the present post-Soviet era.

I'm not entirely sure whether I believe that the children were unaware of what their parents did. But it's possible. Incredible story regardless.

Thin-skinned Trump supporters get violent. Again.

There are many reports from a couple of days ago about a Trump supporter attacking an artist who created a nude image of Donald Trump. This from the Huff Po:

Illma Gore, whose pastel “Make American Great Again“ has been widely shared on social media, said a man attacked her Saturday near her LA home. The man drove up, got out of his black Honda Civic, hit her and yelled, “Trump 2016!” she wrote in an Instagram post with a photo showing her with a black eye. She said she wasn’t seriously hurt.

Now that Trump is the Republican nominee from the US Presidential race, we've probably got more of this to look forward to.

Only six months to go until the election. I can't wait until it's all over.

The difficulty of weight loss for 'The Biggest Loser' contestants

Interesting article from the New York Times today about the struggle of losing weight and keeping it off

Kevin Hall, a scientist at a federal research center who admits to a weakness for reality TV, had the idea to follow the “Biggest Loser” contestants for six years after that victorious night. The project was the first to measure what happened to people over as long as six years after they had lost large amounts of weight with intensive dieting and exercise.

The results, the researchers said, were stunning. They showed just how hard the body fights back against weight loss.

“It is frightening and amazing,” said Dr. Hall, an expert on metabolism at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. “I am just blown away.”

It has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. When the show began, the contestants, though hugely overweight, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight. When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes.

This is a story that I have heard over and over again from friends and family. So many people I know have lost weight and then struggled to keep it off. Unfortunately the article doesn't actually contain any answers to this problem.

Justice for the 96. Why did they have to wait so long?

I'm not in Britain but was born in a Commonwealth country where the British news was important to us. Their triumph was our triumph. Their tragedy was our tragedy. 

In April 1989, news came through of the Hillsborough stadium disaster. 96 people lost their lives after over-crowding in part of the ground at an FA Cup semi-final match. This is one of a small number of man-made disasters that I remember well from my youth. The others were things like Chernobyl and the Space Shuttle Challenger and terrorist acts such as the Lockerbie bombing.

Compared to these other disasters, Hillsborough felt entirely avoidable and mundane: how do fans go to a football match and not come home alive? It could easily happen anywhere. Yet it doesn't.

As with many disasters, it's not necessarily anything big that sets events in motion that cause the loss of life. Instead it's lots of little things.

Large crowds of ticket-holders still outside the ground at kickoff, anxious to see the game. A gate opened to help relieve pressure of the crowd. A door that is the quickest access to the terraces is left open. An inexperienced police commander in charge on the day. Stadiums with high fences between sections and the playing field to reduce problems with violence. The poor and out-dated design of the stadium.

Without all of these factors happening together this disaster would not have happened. Disasters do happen though. We plan in order to avoid them, we learn from them when they do and we try to ensure that they don't happen in future.

Instead, in this case, the police concocted a story where they were blameless and the crush was caused by unruly, drunken fans. This is shameful and even worse is that the process has taken twenty seven years to reach its current point. Twenty seven years!

It is not uncommon for police to mould a story to suit their own ends. This behaviour doesn't help anyone. But in addition to the police there were many, many other issues on that day. 

Hopefully as many lessons can be learned from the aftermath of this disaster as were learned from the original disaster itself. 

Death in the sky: drone killings aren't ok

This article about the US drone program was published a few days ago, by someone who claims to be a target of the program and additionally claims to have witnessed various mis-targeted attacks that have killed other family members and bystanders. 

The drone program has always sat rather uncomfortably with me. To US voters and lawmakers, it appears to be a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. This is simply not acceptable. 

This should should called out for what it is: extra-judicial execution with an unacceptably high risk of collateral damage. 

There are two scenarios to imagine that might help to understand how unacceptable this program is. 

How about this for a possible scenario. In an attempt to control the war on drugs the US government, in co-operation with the Mexican government starts a drone execution program. You driving through a poor neighbourhood, approaching some traffic lights. The lights turn orange, and you think to yourself, do I run the lights or stop?

You stop at the lights and see the Cadillac Escalade (stereotypical, I know amirite?) that you had been following explode after being hit by a missile. Take that war on drugs! Shrapnel scatters everywhere with a few pedestrians falling down injured. Well, at least it was for a good cause. Think all all the potential drug deaths that have been saved.

Surely the US government wouldn't do anything that wasn't carefully planned and executed. The evidence seems to say otherwise

Now, let's assume that this sort of attack is acceptable to you. These are clearly drugs dealers and potential terrorists, . And maybe a few by-standers and family members. No big deal.

Now consider some other countries out there. Think about Russia. Think about China. Think about Israel. This drone technology can't be that hard to create. Surely if the United States has it, other countries can have them too. 

If the United States if using them as a great long-distance problem solver, what's to stop Russia doing the same from across the ocean. Bye bye Mossack Fonseca offices. See you later Entebbe airport

Use of the drone as a panacea is creating the situation where the unacceptable has become acceptable. 

Blackbox: Thinking outside the box with games

I have just discovered the game Blackbox (Medium post from author). It is probably the only game that has ever made it on to the first page of my home screen. 

This is the weirdest game I have ever played. None off the interaction takes place by using the touchscreen. It is a game where you need to solve puzzles by using the many available interaction methods to solve them. For me, this has included adjusting the screen brightness, changing volume, using the camera, location sensors, etc, etc. 

The puzzles aren't hard to complete, if you know what to do. There are currently two puzzles that I have no idea how to solve and a couple more where I need to go to places to complete them. It has been challenging and fun over the past few days. 

Download it now. You won't regret it.

[Can't remember how I found the game, possibly via a tweet from Casey Liss.]

Refreshing an iPad 2, but wanting an iPad Pro

On the day that the new 9.7" iPad Pro is released to the public, I'm a little sad to admit that I'm still the owner of an iPad 2.

I queued up outside the Apple Store in Covent Garden, London on 25 March 2011 to buy it. The queue was too long for me but I did come back the next day to purchase it. So, it had its fifth birthday just a few days ago.

At the time I was excited by the new device. It was the future in my hands. There was a bit of a reality check when I realised that I could have bought a laptop with Windows for less than the price of an iPad but I was still happy with the decision.

But, if a five year old computer is sad, a five year old iPad is even sadder.

A new iPad is getting pretty tempting. iPad performance has probably improved ten-fold in those five years. The screen is significantly better and the device is smaller and lighter. 

But the reality is that once you add in the cost of a smart cover and maybe also a Pencil or even the keyboard cover, the cost is getting pretty close to the cost of a MacBook Pro (the retina one of course, not the 2012 vintage spinning drive version). This is an expensive device, especially since arguably a third device isn't really necessary. It's a convenience not a necessity. 

So, I'm hanging on to the old iPad 2 at least for a little longer.

Despite the introduction here, the iPad 2 has not really been performing admirably for me for a long time. Performance has slowly been deteriorating. This has been going on for so long that I can't even remember when it started. Was it iOS 8? Or maybe iOS 7? Maybe even before then? I can't even remember. But it was definitely before iOS 9. 

Whenever it was, it seemed worse with iOS 9.3. With each new update I notice a performance difference. It's either slightly worse or slightly better, which will cause me to either curse or celebrate. This time it was much worse.

With all the recent discussion around problems in Safari in iOS 9.3, and how they are possibly caused by Universal Links, I thought I would try something new and drastic. 

Yesterday, I completely wiped my iPad and started again.

As I am writing this, I have installed 8 apps on the iPad: Facebook, Twitter, Tweetbot, Reeder, YouTube, YouTube Creator Studio, Dropbox and 1Password. I expect that I'll add a few more apps in the next few days but it has been working pretty well so far.

I haven't even set up mail, turned on iCloud Photo Library or synced my music yet but that will probably happen too. I have used 1.1GB out of 56GB. 

Performance has significantly improved and I've had hardly any crashes. It's still slow and doesn't have enough memory to hold more than two or three Safari tabs. But it's an improvement, and it's cheaper than a shiny new iPad Pro. I hadn't expected that it would make a difference but it has. A huge difference.

it now runs at tortoise speed rather than glacier speed. Much better.

I don't expect that the old iPad 2 will see its sixth birthday, but it is pretty good that it has lasted as long as it has and  has a bit more spring in its step.

ICAO to require real-time tracking of aircraft

In news that should be a surprise to no-one, the International Civil Aviation Organisation will require aircraft to transmit their position at least once per minute and increase cockpit voice recording to 25 hours.

This is clearly in response to the disappearance of flight MH370. If that technology had been on the Boeing 777, it probably would have saved at least $100 million in search costs.

I'm a little surprised that a UN agency could actually make a recommendation and implement it as quickly as 2021. 

France investigating penalties for refusal to decrypt devices

From the AFP:

The controversial amendment, drafted by the right-wing opposition, stipulates that a private company which refuses to hand over encrypted data to an investigating authority would face up to five years in jail and a 350,000 euro ($380,000) fine.
Telecoms operating companies would be liable to lesser penalties, but still up to two years in jail.

I'm assuming that this likely won't become law but what happens if it does? Does Apple just stop selling the iPhone in France and any other country that enacts a law such as this?

The pendulum has swung a long way towards security over privacy in the past few years. It's only a matter of time before a law like this becomes reality somewhere. 

(via The Guardian and Ars Technica

 

Trump

Great article at Rolling Stone from a few days ago about Donald Trump. It's an interesting look at his methods and what it means for the American political system. 

The article was written by Matt Taibbi who was the author behind many of Rolling Stone's articles from a few years ago about the financial crisis, before he briefly headed to First Look Media.

The conclusions in the article seem well-considered and are quite different from any analysis I have seen elsewhere. Giving Trump credit where it is due and criticising him where appropriate. Unfortunately the article full of big words and great word-play such that many Trump voters might not fully appreciate the writing through their anger.

Apple and security

This week Apple published a brutal critique of demands from the FBI to create security holes and back doors in iOS.  

Apple makes few public comments that aren't directly related to selling their products. "Thoughts on Music" and "Thoughts on Flash" spring to mind. 

Over the past few years, security has been a big selling point for the iPhone and iOS devices generally. Apple is really putting their position out there.

They are asking: want do you hate more? Terrorists or snooping governments? But they are also saying they are big enough to stand up to the U.S. Government. Seems like a risky move.

Watch this space.