Why the Focus on Streaming Services During the Coronavirus (covid-19) Crisis

Video StreamingThe internet cannot crash. Like a highway, it is built to handle separate discrete “vehicles”. The problem with the internet is that it will get congested and become slow. As my rural users say “This is worse than dial-up!!”. It can become so slow that you’ll move the mouse and wait 10 seconds for the screen to update where it went.

However, there is a tool to help manage congestion; it’s called “Quality of Service” (QoS) which can recognize and prioritize critical packets (e.g. critical vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances). QoS is usually only implemented on private networks but during a crisis, it could theoretically be enabled on the internet.

I use QoS at home to ensure my work computer gets priority to the house’s internet connection (the “last mile”). Here’s what it looks like to setup on my home router:

QoS on a Home Router

 

Let’s be honest though, streaming services are not “critical” and will not get QoS priority.  That is, no one is going to die, the economy will not suffer if someone’s television isn’t optimal. So this is the situation that video streaming is in:

Roughly 60% of internet traffic is video streaming which is why the focus is on reducing video quality which will reduce traffic loads.

How can video quality be reduced? Via compression, frames per second (fps) and/or resolution.  How much benefit is there from reducing this? Consider the “Standard Definition” digital equivalent is about 480p resolution. As portrayed in the bandwidth usage charts here,  Netflix bandwidth usage of 480p @ 23.976 fps versus 4K @ 59.940 fps is staggering! ~792 MB per hour vs ~7 GB per hour for a factor of over 7 times (700%)!

The impact may be annoying to some or some people might not even notice. I run all my video services at SD digital equivalent quality even pre-crisis because I don’t care and don’t really notice. I like that the videos load faster when they are smaller. Users may notice more so these differences on larger screens.

Compared to analog television, it doesn’t matter what the streaming services cut, it will still be better!

Preparing Your Home for Remote Working During the Coronavirus (covid-19)

Remote WorkingAs Telecom networks deal with “unprecedented” pressure it may feel like there isn’t much you can do to prepare yourself for working remotely from home. While that’s somewhat true, it isn’t entirely true. Here are some things you can likely do:

  1. Plug directly into your internet service modem/router. If you think you don’t have a cable, try looking in your original computer/modem/router boxes if you still have them. They usually come with a cable and you may have collected some unwittingly over time.
  2. If online stores are still open, invest in a good router. I talk more about this in my article: “Forget a bandwidth upgrade! Try these 4 things to make the home internet experience better“.
  3. If your router has a Quality of Service (QoS) feature, use it. Assign your work computer to the “highest” setting while making sure junior is watching TV on a lower QoS setting. Break out your router’s manual to find out if you can do this.
  4. Set any video, including video for a teleconference, to its lowest quality setting. Most video streaming services have a “download to device” feature which can make sure the device is not streaming while you’re trying to teleconference. Switching from HD to SD can save up to 25% of your bandwidth – article: “Netflix And YouTube Switch To SD To Ease Pressure On European Networks
  5. Think you’re ready for your work teleconference? Test your changes to see how well you did. The Cisco Spark WebEx Network Test measures all pieces of your internet service to make sure you’re ready; it’s not just about bandwidth!
  6. While you might not need a webcam, you’re going to need a really good headset (again, if you can still order one online). I talk more about this in my “PMI-SAC Remote Working Tips” article. Don’t forget to mute if you’re not talking while on a teleconference!
  7. Make sure your workspace is ready:
    • Have a room with a door that can be closed and that is quiet.
    • Have a proper desk and chair setup. Do your best to make it ergonomic.
  8. Wear something that makes you feel productive. For many people this means not wearing pajamas but if that’s not you, then you’re good!
  9. Keep consistent work hours as much as possible.
  10. Go outside at least once during the day; especially important for those who live in areas where vitamin D supplements are necessary.
  11. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
  12. Get used to thinking about what is the best way to communicate to your team members depending on your needs. For instance, if you need to discuss something right away and at length, instant messaging might not be the right forum. Know when to pick up the phone or start a teleconference.
  13. You’re going to have to develop your ability to pick up on tones people are using. You may have heard that if you lose one of your senses, another sense goes into “overdrive”. Well, the same with remote working. You don’t have the luxury of a physical presence. More on this subject and more via the article “These are the 7 reasons why working from home can make you a better communicator“.
  14. If you need 1-1 check-ins, schedule them. Don’t assume someone is going to stop by regularly; make that happen.

I hope it’s clear that being good at working remotely doesn’t just “happen”. It takes preparation and some skills development. Don’t beat yourself up though, it takes time. Try to make the changes gradually if you can.

For more remote working suggestions see them here: https://www.inc.com/lindsey-pollak-eileen-coombes/remote-work-home-productivity-communication-self-care-morale-team.html

“52 things I learned in 2019” – A summary of a fantastically interesting list:

 
#9 Placebos are so effective that placebo placebos work: A pain cream with no active ingredients worked even when not used by the patient. Just owning the cream was enough to reduce pain. [Victoria Wai-lanYeung]
 
#27 Spotify pays by the song. Two three minute songs are twice as profitable as one six minute song. So songs are getting shorter. [Dan Kopf]
 
#41 Disco, a Japanese high tech manufacturing company, has introduced an internal billing and payment system, where every cost is charged back to workers. Renting a conference room costs $100. “People really cut back on useless meetings,” says one staffer. [Yuji Nakamura & Yuki Furukawa] -> Haha!!! Useless meetings are the harbinger of the apocalypse.
 
#33 According to WaterAid research, women spend 97 billion hours a year looking for a safe place to go to the loo. That equals 46 million working years, which is the same workforce as Germany, the fourth largest economy in the world. [Caroline Criado Perez via Tanya Gold]
 
#42 A man who bought the personalised number plate NULL has received over $12,000 of parking fines, because the system records ‘NULL’ when no numberplate has been recorded. [Jack Morse]
 
#29 Three million students at US schools don’t have the internet at home. [Michael Melia & co] -> Why Trevor is so passionate about internet delivery. Such a critical problem…
 
#3 Emojis are starting to appear in evidence in court cases, and lawyers are worried: “When emoji symbols are strung together, we don’t have a reliable way of interpreting their meaning.” (In 2017, an Israeli judge had to decide if one emoji-filled message constituted a verbal contract) [Eric Goldman]
 
#4 Harbinger customers are customers who buy products that tend to fail. They group together, forming harbinger zip codes. If households in those zip codes buy a product, it is likely to fail. If they back a political candidate, they are likely to lose the election. [Simester, Tucker & Yang]
 
#7 At least three private companies have fallen victim to ‘deep fake’ audio fraud. In each case, a computerised voice clone of the company CEO “called a senior financial officer to request an urgent money transfer.” [Kaveh Waddell, Jennifer A. Kingson]
 
#15 People hate asking sensitive questions. However, it turns out that people don’t hate being asked sensitive questions. So talking around difficult questions in research interviews is a waste of time and money. [Hart, VanEpps, Schweitzer]
 
#18 Mechanical devices to cheat your phone pedometer (for health insurance fraud or vanity) are now all over AliExpress. [Matthew Brennan]
 
#19 In 2017 Google and Facebook lost $100 million between them to one scammer who sent them fake invoices. [Jeff John Roberts] [found by TomBot*]
 
#20 Teenagers with acne get higher marks, are more likely to complete college and, if female, eventually get paid more than people without teenage acne. [Hugo M. Mialon & Erik T. Nesson]
 
#32 In 2018, the Nigerian government spent more on subsidies for petrol than on health, education, or defence. [Andrew S Nevin]
 
#36 At least half of the effort of most AI projects goes on data labelling, and that’s often done in rural Indian villages. [Anand Murali]
 
#44 Some blind people can understand speech that is almost three times faster than the fastest speech sighted people can understand. They can use speech synthesisers set at at 800 words per minute (conversational speech is 120–150 wpm). Research suggests that a section of the brain that normally responds to light is re-mapped in blind people to process sound. [Austin Hicks & R Douglas Fields]
 
#46 SDAM (Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory) is a rare syndrome where otherwise healthy, high-functioning people are unable to remember events from their own life. There is also an exhausting syndrome called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, where people can remember precise details about every single day of their life. [Palumbo & Alain]
 
#50 Six reluctant Chinese hitmen who hired each other to carry out a murder went to jail when their outsourcing scheme collapsed. [Eric Cheung] – explained more in the Planet Money podcast “WHITWELL: So this one is a guy hired a hitman to kill somebody else. That hitman said, I’m not doing that. He gave half the money to somebody else. He said, I’m not doing that. He gave half the money to someone else. Went all the way down the chain. The last guy was getting paid so little money, he said, this isn’t worth my while to do it. He went back to the victim and told him what had happened and said, we should split the money. Instead, the victim called the police, and all six of them went to prison.”
 
#52 Asking ‘What questions do you have for me?’ can be dramatically more effective than ‘Any questions?’ at the end of a talk. (Many more good tips in this thread. [Jacqueline Antonovich]
 
And also covered by Planet Money podcast episode:

Consumer Reports Food Label Decoder

These labels are total BS:
“All Natural” or “Natural”
“No Antibiotics”
“Non-GMO”
“American Humane Certified”
“USDA Organic”
 
You’d think this is just the USA… but unfortunately a lot of this food labeling shenanigans is in Canada as well.
 
You can find out which labels you can trust here:

The “Fox for Fiver” Campaign

The Bank of Canada is changing the $5 bill and is asking whom Canadians think should be on the new bill. It has been suggested it be Terry Fox and I agree. Read more about the “Fox for Fiver” campaign here:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/terry-fox-5-bill-1.5465956

Canadians can support the campaign by submitting a nomination for Terry Fox here by March 11, 2020:

https://www.bankofcanada.ca/banknotes/banknoteable-5/

Nailed it: On why “How I retired at 35” stories are extremely irritating…

“All of these early retirement articles are the same. They all say things like, “Make it a goal”, “Track your expenses”, “Establish a system.” Blah. Blah. Blah. But none of these things are the actual reason for how they retired early. Because the actual reason is either (1) earning a high income or (2) having an absurdly low level of spending, or both.”
….
As a public service, the article includes more realistic headlines for retiring early, “Wanna retire at 27? Marry rich” and “Foregoing Procreation, Living Like a Hermit, and 4 Other Ways to Retire in Your 30s”.”
 

End Plastic Waste

To end plastic waste simply make fossil fuel plastic more expensive than recycling plastic. QED

No more plastic bag bans, no more plastic garbage everywhere, reduce or eliminate plastic in our food chain, improve impoverished nations, etc. There are a lot of advantages.

Total cost to consumers on a soda bottle is a quarter of a cent to half a cent.

Full TED talk here “A radical plan to end plastic waste”:

Add your name to the #NOPLASTICWASTE petition:

A Poorly Understood Challenge of Building Rural Internet in First World Countries

Passive Infrastructure Tower

We all want more internet in more places. A logical person would assume that the stage is set to make this happen. Well, it’s not. As an internet builder myself, I can say yes, funding is an issue but that a bigger issue is there is no market to help build the internet. What do I mean?

I’ll use an analogy because it simplifies things and takes the industry specific terminology off the table. We want to build a house. We have nails but where do we find the wood? There is no equivalent of a home hardware store to go to. Instead what we have are wood piles placed all over the country sitting unused. How do we find the wood piles? Who owns them? What kind of lumber is it specifically? (2×4? 2×6? Length? etc.)

Most first world governments do supply funding but it is typically for building more of these hidden wood piles.

What exactly are these “wood piles”? They are “passive infrastructure” needed to build the internet. Things like towers and cables (like fiber). And this infrastructure is shareable; meaning they are more like a 40-story office tower than a single-family home. The nails are active infrastructure like radio and cable transceivers which are readily available. But where do you install these things if you don’t have any passive infrastructure to install them on? That is the challenge of rural internet builders.

There is TONS of empty infrastructure across the nation but it is hard to find, figure out who owns it and then to strike a deal in which to share it. Canada has a partial database of passive infrastructure for towers called “Spectrum Direct” but adding information about the towers is an afterthought. That is, it’s intended use is to track wireless (spectrum) licenses and only collects data on where the radio is as an afterthought. This doesn’t track any unlicensed wireless or “free” wireless (which would you use?). Which means it doesn’t have data on towers for 10s of thousands of towers. Further, the database doesn’t validate the passive infrastructure information and does not indicate ownership. 

Sure, we could drive around aimlessly in rural Canada but not all infrastructure is located along roads. And even if you do find something, often times the infrastructure is physically unmarked with ownership information.

I’ve located a partial commercial database, but again, it doesn’t capture everything and plus, it costs money. Consumers and businesses do not want to spend a lot of money on internet, so there isn’t a lot of money to pay for extras like this when building rural internet.

USA has a bit better database but it only tracks towers above 100’, nothing about smaller infrastructure, private infrastructure or accessing cable. So I’ve come to the conclusion that the situation is similar in most first world countries (with 2nd and 3rd just having bigger problems to solve).  

What we need is a marketplace for passive infrastructure and policy to make sure everyone registers. Like a “rentfaster” site for building the internet.

Some sort of sharing policy that would apply to private passive infrastructure would also be nice but I’d settle for a marketplace. Beggars can’t be choosers.

NPR “The Indicator”: How Temperature Affects Workplace Productivity

Men like it cold, women like it hot – it’s a zero sum game. At 80F (27C) women get a 10% productivity boost while men lose 3%. Men prefer high 60s (20/21C).

The ideal temperature for 50% male/female office? 75F (24C)

AHHH!!! SAVE US ALL! (men) In a 75F office, men will be dressing in tank tops and mini skirts.

“The Battle For The Office Thermostat” https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=730438603&fbclid=IwAR0072qm0VvmXNQdssnH1X2V_HVB_0OhGDjE4UkrJFGdqiS35wNSXvkoMx4