Food for thought….

From what we are being told, coronaviruses are common and are the cause of common Colds. Also, we are already about to start clinical trials of a vaccine against this particular “novel coronavirus” that is running amuck currently….

Given those two statements, wouldn’t that mean it should be more than possible to provide a vaccine against the common cold? Just saying….

Drunken Tech Blog Has Become….

Wits n’ Giggles

In my efforts to minimize my reliance on Facebook, Google, and other big data organizations, I am moving from my Drunken Tech Blog presence on Facebook and have moved my personal blog to WordPress. Since Drunken Tech Blog was basically my personal blog for so long, this seemed like a good opportunity to just combine my efforts and Wits n’ Giggles was born.

Tech, Booze, Potty Humor, Movies, and Music have always been my go-to sources of entertainment. This new blog will continue in that vein. You’ll still see technical articles and reviews, posts about booze, and all the things you’re accustomed to seeing on The Drunken Tech Blog, but I’m trying not to limit myself to just those topics going forward.

The Facebook page for Drunken Tech Blog will be going away soon, so please be sure to bookmark this blog or add it to your favorite RSS reader to keep up with all the Wits n’ Giggles you can handle.

This post will remain a “sticky” reminder at the top of the blog for a few weeks. Also, if you click the little “Menu” lines in the top left, you can select the Drunken Tech Blog posts page to filter on the posts brought over from there!

You’ve heard it before,

Now hear it again…

Facebook IS SPYING on you.

I can’t recall ever seeing an ad for an antacid or reflux medication on my Facebook feed…ever. I haven’t searched or even typed “Reflux” or any related search term in my phone, computer browser, or anywhere.

Last night I mentioned aloud that I was going to take some Tums because I was feeling a bit “reflux-y.” Fifteen minutes later, browsing my Facebook feed, I see this:

This is not the first time something like this has happened, but it IS the most obvious example. In the past, there have been many times I’ve seen posts/ads related to things I’d searched for outside of Facebook. Proving they reach deep into other, non-Facebook ecosystems to gather as much intel on us as they can.

But clearly they are also listening even when we are not actively using the App.

Here are just a couple of the more recent articles relating this this problem. And it’s not just Facebook, folks…

I set up this blog a few days ago as an alternative to sharing on Facebook. I figure I can post my “Facebook-worthy” content here and, as I see fit, share links to my Blog posts on Facebook.

Today I have officially uninstalled the Facebook App from my phone. This isn’t another one of those “Ermergerd! DeLeTe FaCEbOOk” posts. We all know that course or action rarely works out. But we can be more careful…

Here’s what I’m going to try:

  • Primarily only use Facebook via the Webpage on my Desktop (without a camera or microphone connected; limiting their ability to spy on me)
  • When I do feel the need to use Facebook on my Phone, I will only use it via the web browser. I prefer Firefox as they have made great efforts of late to help protect your privacy. You can even go to https://m.facebook.com in your phone browser and add it as a Shortcut to your home screen. That way, you can access it like an App, but not have the Facebook App installed (and always listening in the background).

Be sure you double-check your Permissions for Firefox (or your browser of choice) to deny access to the Camera and Microphone. I personally see no reason why a mobile browser would ever need access to these, and Firefox does not request them

Also, consider taking the same precautions with Instagram, since Facebook owns them, too.

Those who want to keep up with me and my life, I appreciate you! You can bookmark this blog and even pull the RSS feed into an aggregator of your choice to easily see my posts. I will continue to share these blog posts to Facebook for a while, as well. In the meantime, I will be purging all the Apps, Pages, and other crap that have accumulated access/association with my Facebook account over the years.

Some good, regular housekeeping is always necessary!

Google and Amazon Need to Get it Together

Let’s start this out with a disclaimer; this is an opinion/rant. Do with it what you will.

We all know there is some stiff competition between the two Titans; Google and Amazon. But can they please get over their back-and-forth bickering already? It is costing their users like you and me a lot of missed entertainment!

About the time Amazon started selling their FireTV devices, they decided stop selling Google products that it saw as direct competition. At the time, this included Google’s Android TV devices and has grown to include their Google Home Smart Assistants. Amazon has even gone so far to not just exclude these devices from its search results, but actually display THEIR devices instead! Note the search results for “google home”:

In an act of apparent retaliation, Google has pulled its YouTube service from availability on Amazon devices. Quid Pro Quo, eh Google? This has gone back and forth several times, with occasional arrangements bringing the massive service back to Amazon devices briefly, at best.

Let’s face it, a LARGE number of us consumers are regularly using and subscribing to BOTH Google and Amazon services. And it was AWESOME to be able to switch from watching music videos on YouTube to catching up on Sneaky Pete from my Amazon FireTV. Now, without workarounds, that is no longer as easy as it should be.

And one thing that really doesn’t make sense to… While voice-controlled home assistants like Google Home and the earlier Amazon Echo devices could be considered direct competition, Google has nothing to compete with the screen-toting Amazon Echo devices like the Echo Show and Echo Spot!

Even if/when they do, wouldn’t it make sense to give some leeway and come to an agreement which allows users of those Amazon Devices to use their YouTube service? Sure, Amazon bitch-slapped Google by not selling their hardware, but as you know, Services = MONEY. And by eliminating the customer base that uses Amazon devices like the Echo Show and Echo Spot (as well as the millions of FireTV and Fire Tablet users), Google is essentially punching themselves in the DICK by loosing out on that large group of people who could be using their service.

On the flip-side, you can FIRE up the Google Play Store (pun definitely intended) on your Google devices and enjoy any of Amazon’s services you want; Prime Video, Prime Music, etc. So apparently Amazon recognizes the importance of having their services available to users of non-Amazon hardware. Too bad Google hasn’t come to that same understanding.

I really just don’t get it….

Can’t we all just get along….and get YouTube back?

So, Is AnTuTu Benchmark Infecting Us With Malware?

AnTuTu Benchmark is the go-to for many who want to test out their phone’s capabilities. As of this posting, it has a 4+ Star Rating, with over 925,000 reviewers on Google Play.

Recently I was in need of a Sprint-compatible phone that would work where my temporary (6-month) office would be. Not wanting to break the bank, I settled on the Essential Phone (pleasantly surprised, for sure).

I decided to load up and run the obligatory AnTuTu Benchmark. Irrelevant to this post, but it scored pretty well.

A couple days later, while browsing through my phone memory using Solid Explorer, I noticed something odd…so odd that it made my heart skip a beat. Keep in mind, I have Solid Explorer set to show hidden files, cause why not? Well, I noticed quite a lot of hidden files with random filenames. My mind immediately went to Malware, as this seemed pretty typical of Malware I’ve fought on Windows machines for decades.

At first I didn’t make the connection….but later that day it dawned on me that it could be AnTuTu since that was the only thing I had installed recently. So I fired up another phone and installed AnTuTu and….Ah-HA! The same sort of files appeared on that device.

So now, intrigued, I started my Google searches for “AnTuTu Malware” and “AnTuTu Hidden Files” but got nothing of any significance in the results.

Best I can tell, if anyone else has noticed this, they aren’t asking about it online anywhere. Keep in mind, the average user probably never installs a Third-Party File Manager; much less has it displaying Hidden Files. The typical user probably would never notice these files.

I’ve reached out to the developer for explanation and will report back. I will say, these files remain in Internal Memory even after clearing data and uninstalling AnTuTu.

See video below for the pudding…proof and all.

My Experience Cutting the Cord, and the Service that Won in the End

Spoiler/tl;dr – Philo TV is an awesome service!

To clarify, this post is more focused on streaming Live TV, not just on demand…

Let me start by saying I DESPISE Cable TV. Paying a ridiculous fee for an obnoxious number of channels that will never be watched just seems ludicrous. When I decided to cut the cord, Sling TV had just recently come into being. I liked the idea of around 25 channels, most of which I would actually watch, only costing about $20.

This was also about the time that The Walking Dead was reaching the end of whatever season they were on at this time. This was a show that my wife and I watched religiously on Sunday night.

So, my first foray into streaming Live TV channels had begun…

For the most part, things went well. But then Sunday night came around and time to watch our show. I can’t begin to express how frustrating the buffering was. It was more annoying than I could deal with and I decided to change the channel, with the plan to watch it on demand the next day.

A couple more weeks went by, with each Sunday being the same ol’ story. Eventually, PlayStation’s Vue TV Service went live in my area. Sure it was a bit pricier, but it offered more channels that I would enjoy and offered better services with their Cloud DVR. I switched and was happy for quite a while. There was the occasional buffering, but nowhere near as consistent as I experienced with Sling. A few months later, they actually added one of our Local TV Stations to their service which was a huge win! But after some time, and I’m guessing more subscribers, the buffering started to get more and more common.

At this point, there were several other contenders in the Live TV Streaming game. First I gave DirecTV Now a spin. They had horrible apps for FireTV. Seven times out of ten, when I picked a channel from the guide, it would just get stuck on the loading screen. Then I tried Hulu’s TV service but was not impressed with the lineup and absolutely hated their user interface.

Now, I had kept my PlayStation Vue service all this time, as I was generally happy with it and really liked the DVR function. Unfortunately, they increased their prices so I was exploring other, cheaper options for comparison.

One day on Facebook, I saw a random add for Philo TV. Apparently they got their start when a couple of Seniors at Harvard University where playing around with Aluminum Foil. At that time, it went by the name Tivli. If you want to read more, here’s a like to the Wikipedia Page. It’s actually a really interesting read. Flash forward to 2018 and they are being backed by the likes of HBO and Mark Cuban, just to name a few.

So, given that there was an offer for a free trial, I thought, why not? At the time, there was an Android app available, but no FireTV app. I installed it on my Android phone as was immediately impressed by the ease of setup. You just input your phone number and they send you a code to log in. Equally impressive was their channel lineup and their user interface. I liked the guide screen view and the fact that you could “restart” the TV show that was currently on air.

I sort of hacked it onto a FireTV by installing Chrome Browser and using that to watch Philo on the big screen; not ideal by any means, but usable. In spite of that clunky setup, I found myself using it more and more and PlayStation view less and less. Oh, did I mention it was less than half the cost of Vue with pretty much all the same channels I actually cared about?

After a couple months using the FireTV/Chrome setup to watch Philo, I decided to give the new Roku boxes a try. That’s a story for another post, but let’s just say I’ve been impressed. The biggest selling point was that there actually was a Roku app for Philo. Now, I can say that we are happily streaming away Philo TV on the big screen with very minimal buffering/hiccups.

Philo might not be a feature-rich as PlayStation’s Vue service, but at such a lower cost with similar lineup, I’m not complaining one bit. See below for a breakdown of cost and lineup for each of the services discussed in this post.

What you will find with the below outline is that PS Vue and DirecTV are more comparable to each other, and to big Cable TV providers. These two are far more expensive. While Philo TV and Sling TV are cheaper options, both somewhat comparable to each other. But as you see, you get more for your buck with Philo TV.

Please excuse any typos or bad grammar…..I am, after all, typing this while buzzed
-James
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Philo TV
*Streaming on up to 3 Devices at Once
$16/mo Package Includes 40 channels (as of this posting)
$20/mo Package gets you all the above plus:
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*Stream on up to 1, 3, or 4 Devices at Once, depending on Package
$20/mo “Orange” Package – 32 channels (as of this posting)
$25/mo “Blue” Package – 47 channels
$40/mo “Orange + Blue” Package – 53 channels
—————————————————————————————-
*Streaming on up to 5 Devices at Once
*Certain Restrictions based on Location (see here)
$39.99/mo “Access” Package Includes 49 channels (as of this posting)
$44.99/mo “Core” Package Includes 68 channels
$54.99/mo “Elite” Package Includes 89 channels
$74.99/mo ‘Ultra” Packages add two more channels; HBO and Showtime
—————————————————————————————-
*Stream on up to 2 Devices at Once
$35/mo “Live a Little” Package – 72 channels (as of this posting)
$50/mo “Just Right” Package – 100 channels
$60/mo “Go Big” Package – 128 channels
$70/mo “Gotta Have It” Package – 140 channels