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Netflix Misses the Easy Marks

Netflix! Bro! You can be SO much better than this.

One of the reasons that Google because THE Internet search engine (though DuckDuckGo - New Search Engine Choice or Dud? is better because it protects privacy) is because they have clean, no frills interface and they WORK. They get the job done. Those two key features made it the juggernaut that it is. Netflix is basically on the same path except for a few obvious design flaws.


The first is auto play. I really don't need to say much else: it's a feature almost no one wants or needs and they shouldn't have shoved it down our throats. If you want to "opt-in" fine, but making it the default and forcing us to turn it off (which doesn't even work fully) is obnoxious to say the least. Don't play, don't preview, don't do anything at all until and unless I tell you. No one wants an interface that goes rogue and has a mind of it's own.


This one is probably petty, but it ticks me off when I see something labeled as "Netflix Original" that is neither. They slap that label on Anime that they didn't create, produce, or otherwise do anything with other than make it available. Giving it a "Netflix Original" label is much like seeing Apple juice in the store labeled "100% juice!" when in reality, it only has 10% apples in it.

I'm 100% aware there are some linguistic and legal shenanigans at foot that make this not technically fraud, but I don't care. It's dishonest and manipulative.

Watch forever

Recently I've been enjoying something that is actually Netflix original: Netflix comedy specials. It's fun to have on when I'm working on other stuff, but I'm not interested in watching the same show multiple times in a short period. Much as I might like Dave Chappelle or Gabriel Igelsias, it's going to be several months or years before I can really enjoy seeing it again. Meanwhile Netflix keeps showing me the same stuff over and over with no way to filter it or even indicate which ones I've seen.

I contacted Netflix about this and they said I could either check the watch history in my profile and manually keep track or thumbs down my favorite things instead. So my current choices are to build a crime-scene wall of watched photos to keep track myself or gut-punch my recommendations (and favorite shows) with undeserved thumbs-downs. I think they can do better than that.
No indication of what's been seen before. No option to filter. Really?

Pandora has a neat feature where you can say "I'm tired of this, shelve it for a while" which would be great. Or if I could just say "seen it" and filter it to only things I haven't watched before, that would help me find new stuff instead of accidentally starting the same John Mulaney special 5 times in the course of a week. The thing that kills me is that it would be so easy to do. It's not difficult to have a little icon marking "watched this". Maybe even a counter, but WAY better would be a way to push them aside if I don't want to see it again for a while.

To prove this is as trivial as I claim, I wrote a greasemonkey script to give basic ''watched that'' functionality. It's pretty basic, but it's better than what Netflix is giving you.


Click here to learn more about Greasemonkey and how to use it. If you already have GreaseMonkey (or similar), you can get install my script by clicking the install button on this page. Otherwise, here's the raw script if you prefer:

// ==UserScript==
// @name	Netflix saw it button
// @author	TheGeekProfessor
// @description	Fix netflix thumbnails so you can mark them as watched
// @include	https://www.netflix.com/*
// @require https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/3.4.1/jquery.min.js 
// ==/UserScript==

// license	Creative Commons Attribution License

$(document).ready(function() {  
    // It's  query string that's actually JSON that's actually an array
    id= JSON.parse(decodeURI($(this).data('ui-tracking-context')));
    id = id.video_id;
  $('[data-tracking-uuid]').closest('.title-card-container').append('<div class="watched_eye">&#128065;</div>');
    id = $(this).closest('.title-card-container').find('[data-ui-tracking-context').data('ui-tracking-context');
 	  id= JSON.parse(decodeURI(id));
    id = id.video_id;
  $('head').append( `
    .watched_eye {
      font-size: 57px;
      padding: 10px;
      position: absolute;
      bottom: -40px;
      left: 0;
      background: gray;
      border-radius: 6px;
      height: 30px;
      line-height: 30px;
		.watched_eye:hover {
			opacity: .3;
		.title-card-container.g_watched {
			opacity: .3;
  ` );
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OnStar To Spy On People

(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC][Mod][Comp])

OnStar was recently admonished by several senators for its plan to spy on people (even non-customers).

OnStar is apparently hoping to create a new revenue stream by collecting data about the movements of OnStar-equipped cars. Obviously, this data set will be more comprehensive—and, therefore, more lucrative—if it includes data from former OnStar subscribers as well as current ones. In an announcement e-mailed to subscribers earlier this month, the company said that, starting December 1, it would continue collecting data from subscribers even after they cancel their service. OnStar also said it reserved the right to sell aggregated and anonymized data to third parties.
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RFID Chips in Hotel Towels

As anyone who reads much of my site knows, I'm not a fan of how RFID is being implemented. However, I'm not against the technology itself as it has many practical uses. For example, some hotels have begun putting washable RFID in the towels and bathrobes to keep people from stealing them.

Since the RFID towels have no privacy invading purpose at all and serve deter self-entitled punks who think it's ok to take hotel items, I will offer my tentative support for this. The main concern is feature creep meaning that depending how they implement this, they may also know which towels you used and when. I can't really see the hotels bothering to do so, but if they did, that would be crossing the line big time.

Source: http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/gee-how-did-that-towel-end-up-in-my-suitcase/ (H/T to The Consumerist for the link)

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Researchers Steal Cars With Wireless Ignition

(Image is used under the Pixabay license)

If you read this site much, you probably know I have a "guilty till proven innocent" attitude when it comes to new technology, particularly wireless technology. That's why it's no surprise to me (and hopefully no surprise to you), that they've discovered they can break into and steal cars that use wireless entry and ignition.

The researchers tested a few scenarios. An attacker could watch a parking lot and have an accomplice watch as car owners as entered a nearby store. The accomplice would only need to be within eight meters of the targeted owner's key fob, making it easy to avoid arousing suspicion. In another scenario, a car owner might leave a car key on a table near a window. An antenna placed outside the house was able to communicate with the key, allowing the researchers then to start the car parked out front and drive away.

Companies need to stop with this high-tech gadgetry until they commit to hiring brilliant security experts to design these systems for them. Even then, using simple wireless radio transmissions that any regular joe can produce with less than $500 of equipment is just a bad idea.

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TSA Pilot Refuses Naked Scanner – TSA Response

(Image is in the Public Domain)

Maybe you haven't heard of this yet, but a pilot working for ExpressJet refused to use the new nudie scanners installed at his airport. They offered to pat him down instead, but according to him:

"Pat down is misleading," Roberts explained. "They concentrate on the area between the upper thighs and torso, and they're not just patting people's arms and legs, they're grabbing and groping and prodding pretty aggressively."

I've written about this previously as it's been reported that refusing the scanner will get you a ''super-sized'' pat-down almost like a punishment and this experience seems to confirm that.

Peter Pietra, the head of privacy for the TSA is a reasonable guy who I met at a conference once. I asked him about this issue and he stated that the procedures seemed to work as intended. People have the right to opt out, but must be patted down in the process. I asked him about the "aggressive pat-down" and he said this:

There is no retaliatory pat-down for people who decline AIT. There used to be several types of pat-downs, but there are now only two (standard, and resolution). People who decline AIT or metal detector, for that matter, get the standard pat-down, but our standard pat-down changed about a month ago .... There was a flurry of media attention about a month ago on it, and some complaints following the news articles, but not a lot. My rough recollection is a dozen or fewer complaints specific to the new pat-down.
There is no retalitory pat-down…people who decline get a standard pat-down

Along with my previous talks with him, this is the second time he's assured me that there is no special treatment of people who refuse the scan. While I'm positive there are people who abuse their authority or make things tougher for people who they think make things tough for them (asserting rights which also makes their job harder), here's the thing:

There are two pat-downs and while I don't know what warrants the second, you should only get the first by refusing to be scanned. Therefore, if your pat down is more extensive than what you see old people with heart devices getting, it's time to complain and complain loudly (which is what I believe this pilot has done and good for him). Peter says he thinks there's no problem because he hasn't received many complaints. If you think you've been a victim of retaliation or excessive probing, make sure he hears about it.

Make sure your voice is heard. You can connect with his office here: TSAPrivacy@dhs.gov

Support for the Pilot

There's been a lot of support for him in the airline industry (among workers not officially). Here are some of the industry forums where they're talking about him:


UPDATE 2010/11/07

I recently went through the airport and also refused the scanner. I was patted down, but the TSA employee was very clear and professional. At no point did I feel uncomfortable.

It's a big deal if someone overdoes it and they should be called out, but it really wasn't a problem for me.

However, I was once told that signs would be prominently posted showing people they could opt out of the scan, but I found none anywhere.

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DC Online Voting Halted Due to Hackers

(Image is in the Public Domain)

From the Washington Post:

Last week, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics opened a new Internet-based voting system for a weeklong test period, inviting computer experts from all corners to prod its vulnerabilities in the spirit of "give it your best shot." Well, the hackers gave it their best shot -- and midday Friday, the trial period was suspended, with the board citing "usability issues brought to our attention." Here's one of those issues: After casting a vote, according to test observers, the Web site played "Hail to the Victors" -- the University of Michigan fight song.

Whoah! E-voting not secure? Where have we heard that before!? And the best part is that it doesn't even take the vile hacker underground to do it. It's the college researchers each time.

No knock against college researchers, but for e-voting to work, it should take a vast conspiracy spanning several continents and special agents who jump from helicopters in the night to break into buildings through air-ducts not some mostly-sober frat boy. They obviously have no idea what they're doing and should stop. Now.

About the only ray of light in this whole story is that they were smart enough to challenge the public to hack them thus making their failure obvious (and therefore correctable).

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How to Save Your DVDs From the Kids by Ripping Them to Your Computer

(Image is in the Public Domain)

With the kids constantly losing, scratching, or breaking DVDs, I've been looking into building a home media center for a while. I'll get my DVD's, copy them to the computer, and play them from there (kind of like Hulu or Netflix on-demand). If you think that sounds like a great idea, check this out:

Are you looking to for a way to play your media DVDs without rifling through your collection and swapping discs? Today we’ll take a look at ripping a DVD to your hard drive and playing it with some popular media players.
There are some easy tools available for copying DVDs to your computer

This doesn't go into the particulars of how to build a good machine or hook it to a TV, but it's a great start for the software side of it. They recommend some software that costs money, but there are always alternatives or if it's good enough, it might be worth the money anyway.

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Owning Apple Products May Be More Dangerous Than You Think

Apple Corp.
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

As illustrated by The Oatmeal, you may suffer more than you imagined for loving your apple products. Take a look and decide for yourself though it does get a little raunchy in parts (fair warning).

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Researcher Points Out the Risk of Virus Infected RFID Implants

An RFID tag hidden under a label

One of the many problems of RFID technology is that they can be hacked and used to spread viruses.

The device, which enables him to pass through security doors and activate his mobile phone, is a sophisticated version of ID chips used to tag pets. In trials, Dr Gasson showed that the chip was able to pass on the computer virus to external control systems. If other implanted chips had then connected to the system they too would have been corrupted, he said.

Mostly, this hasn't received a lot of attention to date because the computing power of RFID has historically been very low. But as the technology progresses, the consequences of not securing them properly becomes higher and higher. Tags: ,

DuckDuckGo – New Search Engine Choice or Dud?

(Image is in the Public Domain)

Every now and then, there's a new search engine released that tries to play with the big boys, but they often fail. Usually its because of speed, maybe financial backing, sometimes user interface, but most often because they don't do the job well.

So here's one that may be worth some attention. Like Google, they focus on keeping very minimal and having a nice interface. But unlike Google, they make an effort to help you find what you are actually looking for:

They also include some summary information right in the search making it possible to skip visiting the site at all if you don't need to or at least getting a better feel for what the site is about before going. And according to their About page, they store NO personal information (which has long been a complaint of mine about Google).

So far, they're doing a lot right, but with Google having just released HTTPS for searches, the competition is even stiffer. I wish them luck.

Check them out yourself here.

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