Tuesday, 13 September 2011

08:02 – I’m really thinking about abandoning Firefox for Google Chrome. The only reason I haven’t already done so is that I deeply mistrust Google, whom I rank right up there with Apple and Microsoft among corporations I consider to have abhorrent business practices and lack of respect for people’s privacy. I really don’t want Google keeping track of every web page I visit and every link I click, and then storing that information forever. Who knows what they do with it, and, more importantly, what they’ll eventually do with it. I’m convinced that Google never discards any data, even data that any reasonable person would consider ephemeral (and private). I don’t trust Google not to spy on me, but there’s no other alternative to Firefox that I’d consider using. In fact, I’m not entirely sure I trust Firefox. It’s too close to Google.


Here’s another Kindle book you might want to grab. It’s normally $50, on sale for $0.00. Genes, Chromosomes, and Disease: From Simple Traits, to Complex Traits, to Personalized Medicine. I grabbed a copy last night and read 20 or 30 pages from several chapters. So far, it look interesting. It’s written at a non-specialist level. That is, you don’t have to be a biologist to understand most of what the author talks about, but it’s helpful to have at least a basic grounding in science. If you’re interested, grab it immediately, because free offers like this tend to go away quickly.


Things continue to get worse for the US Postal Service. Much has been made of the decline in first-class mail and correspondingly smaller revenues, but the real problem is personnel costs. It wasn’t always that way. My senior year in high school, 1970, marked the transition from the government Post Office to the semi-private US Postal Service. At that time, the starting wage for USPS workers was, IIRC, about $2.80 per hour. The highest wage, which required more than 20 years to achieve, was something like $4.20 per hour. There were no lavish benefits, either. At the time, the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour, so entry-level USPS workers made about 175% of minimum wage and those who’d been there 20+ years made just over 250% of minimum wage. Minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, which means entry-level USPS workers should now be making about $26,000 per year and those with 20+ years should be making about $38,000 per year. Instead, ordinary letter carriers are paid about $45,000 to start, and top out at about $58,000. That excludes overtime, of course, but more importantly it ignores the gigantic increase in benefits costs. In 1970, retirement and medical benefits were a tiny percentage of compensation costs. Now, they’re a huge part of it.

If the USPS is to survive, they have no option but to cut personnel costs dramatically, including chopping pensions and benefits for current retirees. As things stand, the USPS will default this month, unable to make a required $5.5 billion deposit to fund retirement and health care benefits. That’s the least of the problem, though. At the current rate, the USPS will be literally bankrupt by next summer, unable to pay its operating costs. At that point, post offices close and the mail will no longer be delivered.

30 thoughts on “Tuesday, 13 September 2011”

  1. Thanks. I’ll take a look at that. I also considered looking at Opera again, although when I last looked at it several years ago I couldn’t stand it.

    My problems with Firefox are its huge footprint, its lack of stability when I have a lot of windows and tabs open, its slow performance, and its close association with Google.

  2. Robert,

    I’ve been annoyed with Firefox’s infatuation with the Chrome interface and the every-six-week upgrade schedule is moronic. Not that upgrades are welcome, but that version number change causes actually-working add-ons to stop working just because they haven’t had their internal max version number updated. But I stick with Firefox because I want and need a side-bar of bookmarks, something Chrome won’t provide in anything other than a drop-down menu or a separate tab.

    But I WAS having a problem that apparently something like two percent of Firefox users were having. There was some bug introduced late in the v4 cycle that has persisted and was crashing Firefox, mostly with lots of tabs open and with some add-ons included. I never did find a ‘fix’ within Firefox for the issue, but I have succeeded in almost completely eliminating the crashes. I know run Google’s GMail IN Chrome. Since adopting that practice and not running the ever-updating GMail in Firefox, I have had one crash total in a period where I might have expected nine or ten crashes.

    Now, I’m NOT saying Google is doing something with GMail … but an ounce of prevention sometimes is the cure.

    I do understand we operate Firefox differently. You prefer multiple windows, I prefer tabs. And I don’t know if you run GMail OR any other web-mail interface at all. But if so, maybe using Chrome for Google-ware might be something for you to consider.

    GM

  3. I am not worried particularly for myself, but am curious… for you, what is considered a “grounding” in “science”? Now “a’daze”, especially…

  4. “My problems with Firefox are its huge footprint, its lack of stability when I have a lot of windows and tabs open, its slow performance, and its close association with Google.”

    How about Internet Explorer?

    I have about four instances of Firefox going all the time, sometimes upto 40-60 tabs in an instance. It’s crashed on me several times in the last month, very annoying. I used to keep 30 or so Youtube tabs open, but it seems that Flash isn’t stable enough to have that many instances open.

  5. Regarding Chrome – it is nothing more than the Google-branded open source Chromium browser. Of course, Google will have contributed most of the code, but still – it’s open source, and presumably anything nefarious would be found soon enough. I have Chromium running on one machine – aside from the icon, it is pretty much indistinguishable from Chrome.

  6. I am not worried particularly for myself, but am curious… for you, what is considered a “grounding” in “science”? Now “a’daze”, especially…

    Well, I consider myself to have a grounding in science, in the sense that I have a general knowledge of the major fields but am not an expert in any of them. I guess what I was saying about that book is that someone who has, say, a BS in chemistry or physics or geology or whatever will be able to understand most of what the author covers. Someone who has only a layman’s understanding of science may find the book tough going in some places, particularly when it gets into the finer details of DNA. I’d say the book is written for a general audience but assumes some science literacy.

  7. As I’ve said before, I’m pretty demanding of my browser. I commonly have anything from 15 or 20 to 50 or 60 browser windows open, with anything from one or two tabs to maybe 15 or 20 tabs each.

  8. Regarding the USPS:

    Illegal competition anybody?

    Just dropped on my doorstep a 2″ x 3″ card, flyer hawking “Ruben’s Tree Service”, 714-630-4736.
    Trepassing and littering performed by a 4′ 10″, illegal alien crimmigrant of less than adult age.

    Minimum wage? What’s that?

    Medical? Yes, by US taxpayers.

    Retirement? Quien Sabe?

  9. Why do we have a minimum wage ? All wages should be negotiated between the employer and the employee with no interference from the government.

  10. I recommend Opera, which I’ve been using for years. It’s quite lightweight, being built on C++ and Qt (same as KDE), and has been on the cutting edge of features, such as tabs, speed dial and session restoration, and has a great set of out-of-the-box key shortcuts. I’m currently running three Opera windows, each with between 25 and 50 tabs, and it runs well even on my oldest machines.

    In previous versions, there were issues with its integration with Flash, and there remain some sites that don’t handle Opera properly (or claim Opera is an “out of date browser”, that is, not detecting it as a supported browser). Thus I usually run Firefox as well, for when encountering one of those sites. Or I set Opera to identify itself as a different browser, in which case the sites usually work.

    Opera is also cross-platform (at least Windows and Linux; I don’t know about Mac OSX), and, although I don’t use it, it includes Opera Link, which syncs data between computers, such as bookmarks and history.

  11. Labor unions fought for minimum wage laws, not because they cared about those who would earn minimum wage, but to increase the wages and job security of their members. If there were no minimum wage laws, most union members would make a small fraction of what they do now.

    Say based on productivity the market deems a union member worth three times as much as a low/no-skill minimum wage worker. At $7.25/hour minimum wage, that puts the union member at about $22/hour. If the market were able to pay the minimum-wage work what he was actually worth, say $2/hour, that’d mean the union worker would be earning only $6/hour.

    We need to get rid of all wage and hour laws, including requiring overtime past 40 hours a week. And we really, really need to return to the way things used to be, when government employees weren’t permitted to join unions or to strike. In the meantime, though, companies with any sense will locate/relocate in North Carolina and other right-to-work states.

  12. Good question, Lynn.

    I think the answer is thus:

    The government mandates a minimum wage, as they weren’t getting a decent tax chunk from the poor. For instance, the BC government just increased the min. wage from $8 to $10.25/hr, and we are taxed at a rate of approximately 22%, that nets the govt. $2.25 instead of $1.76. And since the minimum means just that, people who were getting $10.25/hr because they were “worth it” are still only worth $10.25, and are now working at minimum wage.

    By enacting legislation that guarantees a minimum wage, and by careful raising of that standard, the government can buy future vote loyalty. I mean, who are the young going to vote for anyway? The party that pushed for their raise, or the party that fought it?

    So, money and votes are the reason we have a minimum wage.

  13. I’d settle for having a majority of the House and Senate understand the consequences of raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 when you’re on the brink of an economic downturn.

  14. “Well, I consider myself to have a grounding in science, in the sense that I have a general knowledge of the major fields but am not an expert in any of them…”
    That is pretty unconvincing (to me), since you are writing what are basically science text books and creating the kits to accompany them. From what I have read here, not just recently, but over the years, you have much more than what I, personally, would consider a general knowledge of some of the science related fields, and so something grown “up and above” what I would call a “basic grounding”. Or else I (and many others, I think) interpret “general knowledge” as much lower than you do. I was thinking AP quality high school science and one or two college science courses (though years ago, so many of the details, and specific formulas forgotten), not a degree in a science field as a grounding.

  15. Well, in terms of science I’m a generalist, albeit one who functions at a fairly high level. As Dan Forrester said in Lucifer’s Hammer, I remember everything I read, and I read a lot. I’d be comfortable teaching any of the high school AP science and math courses, but I am not a specialist. I know something about organic chemistry, for example, but Paul and Mary (both Ph.D.’s in organic chemistry) have probably forgotten more organic chemistry than I ever knew.

    I don’t know. Perhaps my expectations are unreasonably high. But I do think anyone with a basic grounding in science should be able to understand most or all of what’s in that book (at least the portions I’ve read). Why not grab a copy and see what you think?

  16. ” In the meantime, though, companies with any sense will locate/relocate in North Carolina and other right-to-work states.”

    Unless the NRLB sticks their nose in on behalf of Union thugs.

  17. I agree with your concern about Google keeping your private history, but your ISP might do that already, and the FBI wants to force all ISPs to keep at least two years on record. While you and I disagree with this, it seems only a matter of time before this and worse take hold. Don’t even get me started on “online backup!”

    BTW, I live close enough to Nevada to get some radio stations, and there is a company that advertises anonymous safe storage for cash rental only. They also claim that because they aren’t a bank, they don’t have to permit any authorities to force their way into their customers’ boxes. Don’t know if they have ever been challenged. There are supposedly other, much more private ways of safekeeping. All this seems unnecessary to those of us who have nothing to hide 😉

  18. I’d settle for having a majority of the House and Senate understand the consequences of raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 when you’re on the brink of an economic downturn.

    I maintain that if we got rid of the minimum wage (I wanted to just roll it back first) that the jobless rate would drop two points in the USA.

  19. Yeah, but if we got rid of welfare and unemployment compensation, the unemployment rate would drop to nearly zero.

    There was an article in this morning’s paper about an Alzheimer’s patient whose family was going to be forced economically to institutionalize him. In-home care–unskilled care, mind you–was costing them $25/hour. If the great masses of unemployed and unskilled people in this country had to work to eat, you’d find it’d be affordable for middle-class people to employ people around-the-clock in such situations. Many would be willing to work for room and board and a bit of spending money. How much better that would be than having the government provide them with housing, food, and so on, ensuring that they have zero motivation to pull their own weight.

    Think Upstairs, Downstairs, except that in 19th- and early 20th-century Britain even middle-class people had servants, which was a convenient way to take care of those who’d otherwise be unemployed and starving. The need to eat is a strong motivation, but government welfare programs have eliminated it, which is why we have so many people sitting around doing nothing, leeching on those of us who pay taxes.

  20. I second the recommendation for Opera. It’s been my primary browser on Mac OS X for over a year now and I love it. On rare occassion I find a web page that doesn’t play nice with it, but I have Safari and Firefox to back me up.

  21. Most of my tech-savvy friends moved to Chrome much earlier in the year. One friend’s office of over 200 people moved the whole company to Chrome. I am considering moving, too.

    I just cannot see using Opera–or any browser–when you have to have a back-up browser ‘just in case’. Neither Firefox nor Chrome requires that. And Chrome is cross-platform, just like Firefox.

    A couple upgrades ago, Firefox started intensively using my hard drive–to the point that it now frequently locks up the computer to the point that I cannot do anything until it is done thrashing the drive. That can sometimes be longer than a minute. In fact, after a Firefox crash a week or so ago, when I restarted Firefox, it began thrashing the drive for a good 20 minutes. I could not do anything unless I killed Firefox in the Task Manager. Closing Firefox did not stop the thrashing, because although the application looked closed in Task Manager, the “firefox.exe” process was still running. Had to kill that to stop the thrashing and thus stop Firefox from essentially locking me out of the computer. I am sick of that. Will probably try Chrome due to so many recommendations from people I trust.

  22. I just cannot see using Opera–or any browser–when you have to have a back-up browser ‘just in case’.Neither Firefox nor Chrome requires that.And Chrome is cross-platform, just like Firefox.

    Really? I’ve regularly had to use IE for sites, especially work related stuff. Primarily because despite its evils, there are still a LOT of ActiveX powered sites and site functionality out there as well as still a number of B2B and intranet sites that need IE6. I have Parallels Desktop for Mac installed because I need access to a Windows/IE environment often enough to justify it.

    Point being. There is no browser that doesn’t require a back up.

    I do find it amusing that so many in the open source (Linux) community have embraced Chrome so emphatically. Apparently, Microsoft’s mega-corp monopolistic practices are evil and worthy of constant insulting, but Google’s are perfectly okay. I guess Google must be stylish and Microsoft still is not. Also, nothing pisses Chrome proponents off more than mentioning it uses the same parsing/rendering engine as Safari (i.e. Webkit).

  23. Hmm. Firefox is the only browser I ever use–and although IE is installed on my computer, I have never started it. Same with M$ Media Player.

    There is no site I need to use that does not work with Firefox–although I admit that some sites have print over print because spacing is not right: American Express is one, but I am still able to use it functionally.

    I have been using the same computer for the last 5 years with no backup browser. I was even able to get SP3 for XP using Firefox–which frankly did surprise me.

    Admittedly, I do not have to connect with any private websites for business. All of my business is with media companies or law firms, and they have the latest of everything.

  24. On a completely different topic: Jerry Pournelle pointed out that Obama wanted Congress to pass the American Jobs Act immediately, even though no one had even seen it yet. Apparently, it is now finished, and online for anyone to read.

    A few things stand out. Perhaps of most importance, it creates a whole new bureaucracy, the “American Infrastructure Financing Authority”. One might have thought that infrastructure spending was already adequately covered by existing agencies (HUD, DOT, and other acronyms come to mind), but apparently not.

    There are also numerous sections that have nothing to do with jobs, and a lot to do with special interests, hidden tax increases, etc. Take as an example sections 431-438, which change depreciation rules for oil drilling expenses. What does that have to do with jobs?

  25. There are also numerous sections that have nothing to do with jobs, and a lot to do with special interests, hidden tax increases, etc. Take as an example sections 431-438, which change depreciation rules for oil drilling expenses. What does that have to do with jobs?

    Those sections are part of the tax increases to pay for the bill. I predict that the bill won’t pass. If it somehow does pass, I think the tax increases will destroy more jobs than the bill will create.

  26. “…jobs that the bill will create”

    What jobs are those? It throws money around like confetti, but the only directly create jobs are those in the new bureaucracy.

    Take the highway funding as an example. There’s no reason to suppose that adding highway funds provides anyone with a job – highway maintenance would have been done anyway. With this bill, States don’t have to pay for it themselves. Instead, they can keep more of their own tax money, to keep their own bureaucracies and fiefdoms going. Better would be to eliminate federal highway funds altogether, and cut taxes by an equivalent amount. Putting that much money back into private pockets might actually have a useful effect.

    Or another example: there is a whole section about subsidizing the employment of people with no useful skills (ok, they put it more politely). What employer is going to hire someone on that basis? Can you imagine the red-tape it will bring? And you now have a useless and unfireable employee to boot. The only way those funds will get use is by someone gaming the system – “hiring” the people to do make-work, just to get at the federal money. Again, no real jobs. A better solution would be to just drop the minimum wage.

  27. Well, what did you expect? Democrats and Republicans believe that government can solve every problem. Libertarians believe that government *is* the problem.

  28. Firefox mostly, Opera and Chrome occasionally, IE rarely, Safari almost never. The one item I’m running into the most that forces me to use IE is security cameras. Many of my clients are installing these system because they are now cheap and the alarm companies are pushing them. Mostly I get to open up ports on routers for remote viewing. Every piece of software I’ve seen for the DVRs requires IE with Active X addons. I think it’s really all the same just different front ends.

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