Tuesday, October 10, 2023

X (Formerly Twitter) and Social Media - Misinformation Is A Way Of Life and It'll Get A Lot Worse But There Is A Solution

I want to begin with the best advice I can offer when it comes to using social media - do not count on social media to provide you with accurate information. Having said that, there are a number of uses for social media that can be productive and even informative but you should not use it as a source of up to date information. Unless you're the guy on the ground or the person provide you with information on the other end is some you trust with your life, I would take nearly everything we consume on Facebook, X, or any other social media with a big bag of salt.

I am sure by now, we all know what is going on in Israel. Thousands dead, hostages, and a conflict that threats to erupt into a regional war instigated by very well coordinated terror attack by Hamas. I generally keep away from news on weekends but this caught my eyes. I went to Apple News, Google News, CNN, and Wikipedia to find out more what just happened. I then went to X to see what people are saying about it. 

I saw a video of a helicopter being shot down by a shoulder mounted missile, like the Stinger. One one tweet, the caption said it was a Hamas attack on an IDF helicopter. In another tweet with the same video, it was a Hamas helicopter (I did not know Hamas had attack helicopters). Apparently, while it looked realistic, it was from a video game. I just did a quiet look at X. A whole lot of misinformation. 

I did some research and here are suggestions on dealing with social media:
  • If the headline or the tweet seems inflammatory, it likely include misinformation. It is meant to engage your emotions one way or another.
  • A lot of posts or tweets will have the same photo or wording. Bots? I could never tell what is real or which are generated by bots. Perhaps Elon Musk is correct and X should charge users to cut out bots.
  • If you read something on social media, verify, verify,verify. If it is only available in one place, it probably isn't real.
  • Know yourself - your biases, political leanings, and pre-conditioning. You will likely find tweets you that agree with your views more compelling than others even if it could contain misinformation.
  • Verify, verify, verify - check the sources and check the facts.
Lately, I have been doing some house cleaning with my Twitter account. Getting rid of dead accounts, accounts that no longer send me tweets I am interested in, and accounts that I already get articles from newsletters or directly from websites.

I still find X very useful for other things:
  • I read sports tweets
  • Funny videos
  • I like science tweets
  • There are still reputable accounts on X. Plenty. Some I am interested in. Others, not so much. I usually follow accounts that provide useful information. I recently watched a video on X on how to make French toast and sourdough bread. My bread was not so successful (I'll have to try again) but my French toast wasn't bad.
  • I have been using X to look for information on how people are using AI. I have yet to find good information elsewhere for this.
One of the issues that the news media is focusing on is the explosion of misinformation just before the 2024 general election in the United States. I have yet to make up my mind on who I am voting for (though I know who I will not be voting for - this is a simple one and I think a lot of voters are in the same situation). I have made a general effort to avoid political tweets because of the biases and just awesome personal attacks that have nothing to do with policies. It will get worse. I do not see any great effort to curtail political and attack tweets.

The only solution I have, and it's a perfect one, is to avoid posts has all the profiles of being misinformation. Almost every social media has a way for you to let them know when something that appears on your feed is of no value or interest to you. Let them know what you do not want to see. I think that is one of the best tools we have available. Tell Facebook or X enough time that you don't care for misinformation or tweets/posts that are of no interest to you, less of those will appear on your feed.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Is Weight Loss and Portion Control the Key To Dealing With Climate Change and Its Effects?

I was watching the morning news while eating my usual breakfast of oatmeal and a hash brown (a little treat before my Friday meetings, which I always dread—where's my 4-day work week?). A segment caught my attention: grocery sales are down due to people pursuing weight loss through a new drug called Ozempic. This reminded me of a subject I've thought a lot about and want to write about.

The effects of Ozempic, a drug created as an anti diabetic mediation, was found to have weight loss effect. Despite its long list of side-effects (nausea, diarrhea, fatigue to name a few), its use has promising results for patients in terms of weight loss. It has even impacted sales of grocery, snacks, and even alcohol.

Medical issues aside, what got me thinking was just how a small portion of the population who are taking weight loss drugs can have on the overall economics of our food chain. For me, exercise is important to my own weight control and loss, what has really helped me was portion control. 

Let us be honest: American portions are hu Once in a while, this subject of big plates with huge amount of food comes up but iit quickly gives way other news or more interesting subjects.Also of interest form time to time is how the Japanese or some other culture are able to stay thin and live long healthy lives focusing on what they eat. A lot of time, I found what they eat is not all that different from what I eat. What got missed is how much of it they eat compared to how much I consume. Mediterranean diets? Sure, sounds great except our servings are 50% to 100% more.

I can only speak for Americans here. Let's assume we all reduced our food portions by even just one third. That would mean one third less food waste, lower transportation emissions from moving food around, and less water required to grow crops and raise livestock for dairy, eggs, and meat. According to the USDA, shrinking portions by a third could eliminate 170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually - the equivalent of taking 42 coal power plants offline. In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, smaller portions would also lower water use, fertilizer runoff pollution, and energy needs across the food system. This simple change could transform the environmental impact of the entire food industry.

Again, all it takes is eating less. And guess what? It could also mean weight loss, better overall health, and increased self-esteem for some. Oh, and one extra bonus: extra cash in your pocket!

I came up with something called "less bites'. It means eating less at every meal. 

  1. If I go out, I make sure not to finish my meal. If I can, I share a meal with my wife or I order smaller portions. I also take home anything I don't finish. It usually becomes my lunch the next day. 
  2. I eat more veggies and fiber. These are usually pretty cheap compared to processed food or meat. Healthier and less calories. Also, better calories as well. 
  3. I look at what I want to eat and I cook about 75% of what I want to eat.
  4. If I am eating at a friends or the food is family style, I look at what I want to eat and I take 75% of it. 
  5. I eat slower now. It helps a lot. Try it.
  6. I snack but I also have smaller portions. I have been making my own healthier snacks - nuts, fruits, popcorn. I even tried making my own protein bars. It doesn't look like protein bars but it'll do in terms of taste and what my body needs. I still eat Cheetos and chocolate chip cookies in smaller portions and not as often.
Over the last year, I have lost about 12 pounds but I really feel I should have made greater progress. So, I am in the midst of my 100 meals of "less bites". It comes out roughly to 33 days of dining where I am consuming 25% less than I did last month while forging salty and sugary snacks during this time. This personal challenge ends just before Halloween. You can figure out why that is. 

Now, if there was only a way to keep track of the waste, savings, and weight loss all together in one app, that would be perfect for what millions of Americans and I want to achieve.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Apple releases New Macs, Which Week Is It Likely To Do So

Conflicting reports about whether Apple will release a new MacBook before the end of 2023 have created uncertainty about if I will be able to get one this year. I am hoping a new model does come out soon, as I have been waiting to upgrade my 2016 MacBook.

I had hoped to wait until my needs grow and my coding skills improve. However, if you know anything about the butterfly keyboard issue that has plagued years of MacBook releases, then you know what I am talking about. Apple even has a dedicated web page to deal with that. I think I have come to the end of the road with my MacBook's keyboard (down arrow is out of commission, the space bar works but it uneven, and the right shift eye is sticky, and the whole keyboard feeling shallow).

And yes, while I had previously stated that I would try to wait until my needs warrant an updated MacBook, six to seven years of dealing with the keyboard issue is enough. So, while there is a good chance Apple might skip this year's fall MacBook update, there is still a chance. At the end of the September iPhone 15 event, Apple CEO Tim Cook thanked the hard working Apple employees who made the iPhone possible, he did not indicate that Apple was done with new hardware for the year. In past years, he let the media and fans know Apple was done for the year. So I am going to assume that Apple will indeed release new MacBooks.

With October still in the early innings, Apple still has a lot of time to release new Mac hardware. Just when is Apple like to release them? For the fun of it, I'm more interested in which week of October or November will we be getting new Macs.

Before I get into it, here is an interesting fact: Apple did not release any new Macs in the fall of 2022. The last time was week of October 18, 2021. Here are the breakdown of the M-series laptop release dates:
  • Macbook Air M1 - week of November 9th, 2020
  • Macbook Air M2 13.6" - week of June 6th, 2022
  • Macbook Air M2 15" - week of June 5th, 2023
  • Macbook Pro M1 Pro/Max - week of October 18th, 2021
  • Macbook Pro M2 Pro/Max - week of January 16th, 2023
As you can see, Apple does not follow any sort of pattern. However, it does seem like Apple will do releases around the middle October to early November.

Starting the week of October 9th, almost a month since Apple unveiled the iPhone 15, I like to think that if Apple is holding a press event, Apple would send out the invitation this week for an unveiling the week after, October 16th. Following Apple's previous release patterns, it would mean that preorder could happen the same week and new hardware starting shipping the week of October 23rd and starting arriving on the 27th, Friday. 

If everything is pushed by a week from the 16th, you just push all those previously mentioned dates back by a week. And if Apple makes their release two weeks from the 16th, then everything is pushed back by two weeks. Makes sense right? An October 30th release means November 10th arrival dates for a lot of the new Macs. 
  • October 16th release. Ordering starts Friday of October 20th, shipping on the 23rd and arriving on the 27th
  • October 23rd release. Ordering starts Friday of October 27th, shipping on the 30th and arriving on November 3rd. 
  • October 30th release. Ordering starts Friday of November 3rd, shipping on the 6th, and arriving on November 10th.

I think this is the ideal window for Apple. That leaves plenty of time for the Holidays to ramp up sales. Of course, Apple has done November releases a few times and really push things up against Black Friday. 

The argument for a likely November release of new Macs came from a rumor that Apple could be using new screen technology in new MacBook Pro. I am not sure how that would work. What are we talking about here - better M2 Pro/Max chips than the ones already released or M3 Pro/Max chips? If it is new M3 chips, that means Apple will have leased the MacBook Pro with newer chips before the MacBook Air, a first since Apple moved to its own silicon. 

We are only a day away. If nothing happens this week, we can eagerly await each of the coming Mondays through the beginning of November at the latest to see what Apple has in store for us. I'm strictly talking about MacBooks here but Apple could still do hardware releases in the form new iMacs or even just iPads. I simply do not think Apple is done with 2023 yet.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

M3 Macs Unlikely to Warrant A Special Fall Event - Mostly Like Just A Video

The 13.6” Macbook Air with M2 was introduced on June 2, 2022 at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference. It was given much attention due to the design change from the previous generations of MacBook Air. It was also a new M2 chip that was not only faster but had some features that were initially available only to the M1 Pro and Max. 

Now, I wonder if we will be getting an October event like the one Apple just held in September for new iPhones and Apple Watches. I am going out on limb here and suggest Apple will not hold a major media event for any new Macs that they might unveil in 2023. There is suggest that Apple might hold back any new Mac refresh until 2024 and allow the 15” MacBook Air just unveiled at this year’s WWDC to hold things over through the Holidays.

I consider myself an eternal optimist, and I'm eagerly anticipating the release of a new Mac, specifically a MacBook with the M3 chip. If my wish comes true, I believe Apple will likely produce a high-quality video showcasing the advancements of the new chip in the new Macs.

There seems to be no strong consensus on what Apple will do for the rest of the year. In previous years, Apple have always indicated when they are finished for the year. I did not get that impression at the conclusion of the iPhone event. If anything, I came away with the belief that Apple will refresh the Mac right before the Holidays.

The question is what exactly will Apple refresh? With the 15” MacBook Air just released four months ago, it does not seem Apple will refresh both the 13.6” and the 15” Airs again even though the 13.6” is more than a year old. Nor will Apple refresh the smaller Air with the M3 while leaving the 15” with an older M2. 

Some have suggested that the iMac which did not get the M2 treatment will see an upgrade. Perhaps, we might even see a bigger iMac. If there is a new MacBook with the M3 chip, I’m going to be first in line for it. My MacBook from 2016 has served me well but issues with the keyboard, battery, and not being able to run the latest software like Xcode are becoming an issue. 

As long as Apple has something for me, I’ll be fine with just a press release. MacBook Pro with M3 - I’ll take it!

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Apple and Foundation (Apple TV Plus) - Apple University and Foundation

I think it is not an accident that show, Foundation, based on Isaac Asimov’s series Foundation, is on Apple TV+.  Steve Jobs always knew he was not going to be around indefinitely. After he was done, Apple had to find a way forward while still retaining the essence of what made Apple the company it is today. And in a word, Steve Jobs had foreseen a future of where Apple and the market was headed and he helped laid out the foundation for Apple for decades to come much like the mathematician Hari Seldon in Foundation did.

Who is Hari Seldon? He is a math professor on the imperial planet of Trantor - father of psychohistory that allowed him to predict the future. That’s pretty much the gist of it and the future of his empire was bleak. Instead of a dragged out downfall, he created the means to limit its fall to a mere thousand years.

While the future of the tech market is hard to read for mere mortals like me, Steve Jobs did envision the need for Apple to be able to navigate the waters of innovation and potential disruptions from market shifts, competitors, and unknown startups. 

For Apple, with Tim Cook at the helm, it has grown to a 2-trillion dollar company. Everything is looking good. However, Tim Cook and his current executive team were with Steve Jobs when Jobs laid out the path to where Apple is today. What is of concerns to Apple fans like myself is what happens when Tim Cook and the vast majority of the people at Apple today retire or move onto something else? And many where there during the Jobs era are no longer there, including Jony Ives.

The Foundation TV series is one take of Asimov’s work, it is important to note that it has stayed true to Hari Seldon’s vision for the future. For Steve Jobs, his reach at Apple continues to be just as strong it it is today as it was when he was still the CEO. This is thanks in part to Apple University at Apple HQ that was established in 2008 to educate employees about the Apple way in terms of communication, its culture, and product development. It is heavy in history, focus on major decisions made at Apple and why, The Apple philosophy on what the computer means to user, the UI and usage, and preparing Apple employees to focus on the essentials based on Apple values.

You cannot argue against the success of the plan. Other companies may have their own version of Apple University but it is not difficult to see which one has had the most impact. 

Furthermore, Steve Jobs has indicated that Apple planned out its production and services roadmap years. I am sure the Apple’s roadmap include elements of those Steve Jobs helped to create, a large portion of it likely are different from what Steve Jobs envisioned at the time. Apple’s success, in the years removed from Steve Job’s tenure at Apple, suggests that the company has been able to plow forward and change course as needed. This speaks well for Apple’s future. 

There could be a time when fans will find that Apple is different from the same company that offered productions and services, Apple University will become all the more important to put the company back on the right track. 

The TV series 'Foundation' is outstanding, and I highly recommend it. However, I'd even more enthusiastically recommend the books. Both Steve Jobs and Hari Seldon, in their own unique ways, shared a common goal: predicting the future and preparing for it to the best of their abilities.

iPad and WWDC Prediction: Apple Will Upgrade Siri And Users Will Not Be Able to Choose Between ChatGPT or Gemini

At this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple is set to unveil major upgrades to its virtual assistant Siri. These enhanc...