‘Netflix for theaters’ MoviePass disrupting movie theater industry

Yet another industry-shaking paradigm shift is underway: a theater subscription service that lets users see as many theater movies as they wish for only $9.95. How does this work? The user pays MoviePass $9.95 a month and for each movie they attend, the company reimburses the theater. Unless there is some genius way to make the accounting of this work, MoviePass is doomed to fail. Each movie costs an average of $8.65. If a user sees more than one movie, MoviePass is losing money. Is this just an future IPO scam where investors pump cash in and the founder walks away rich? Do they plan on raising subscription costs? What do you think?

China Shutting Down Bitcoin Exchanges

Chinese authorities have ordered Bitcoin exchanges in Beijing and Shanghai to submit their plans to close operations by September 20. The county is citing financial risks associated with criminal activity, including drug trafficking, money laundering, smuggling and unauthorized fundraising activity.

Will different countries follow suit? Can bitcoin grow without a huge country like China? Will people lose confidence? The value of the bitcoin has swung wildly in the last month after the bitcoin split from $2,500/bitcoin to $5,000. Very risky investment IMO.

Biometric data rollout and the implications of being chipped

Comerica Park baseball field in Detroit, MI is featuring a new way for sports fans to get through the lines quicker: fingerprint scanning. You can order a hot dog and a beer without carrying your wallet! Just register your biometric data and you are now in the system. They are promising the ability to use your fingerprint in other venues…

The company contracted out for the biometric data scanning is called Clear. Their biggest contract is with the Transportation Security Administration. This technology has been installed at airports, including Detroit Metro Airport. The company also specializes in eye scanning equipment.

What are the implications of mass use of biometric data? Sure the convenience is attractive, but can the technology be misused? Once you register your fingerprint and eye scan, you are in the system. The NSA and other government organizations will be able to run searches for individuals through this database. The more the system is in use, the more they can keep track of you and monitor what you are buying, who you are visiting and what events you attend. This data can be sold to advertising firms. They know you go to Jazz concerts and you love hockey. They also know that you like to buy expensive mixed drinks and go a chiropractor. Once all these pieces of information are indexed, they have a profile on you. Are you likely to commit a crime, get divorced, buy a new home, become delinquent with credit cards or need car repairs? They can tweak their ads, affect how much you pay for insurance and raise/lower your interest rates. Your value as a consumer or a citizen, not a human being will become a score. There will be no where to run or hide. Are you more likely to cheat on your taxes? The IRS will know. If you are trying to get custody of your children, the court system will access your data to find out if you can pay more and whether or not you are worthy enough to take care of your children. Imagine what it might be like to be on parole. They will be watching every location you visit, everything you buy etc.

Now imagine the implications of having a chip implanted in your hand. Threesquare Market, a technology company that makes devices for break rooms and small markets is in the process of implanting microchips in their employee’s hands. The employees will be able to enter secured areas, pay for food and access computers with the chips. Once this system is studied and the bugs worked out, how long before large companies like GE, IBM and Apple require this of their employees? How long before prisoners, government employees and school children be required to have them? Will newborn babies be implanted for their security? Once the ball is rolling, will it even be possible to live life without a chip implanted? Will the chip allow for universal access or we have multiple chips?

The chips use RFID technology. Your every movement can be tracked. Imagine if your employer had access to this kind of information. The implications of bio-metric data and implanted chips are incredible. Without a push-back from the public, a future where privacy is a myth is inevitable.

 

Install a new Digital Speedometer in a Harley Davidson Sportster

The Harley Davidson Sportster appeals to me because it’s a classic bike that looks great and is very powerful. You never look like a douche when you are sitting on a Harley!

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I bought a used 2009 model a few years back. It looks very much like the picture above. They don’t really change over the years other than maybe the seat or the shape of the tank. That’s also part of the appeal.

The only thing that bothers me about it is the lack of information on the gauge. There’s no gear indicator other than neutral and no RPMs. All you get is the odometer and the MPH. I’m not one to accessorize something this cool and I love the stock look of the bike. In fact, I took parts off of it! Replaced the upgraded shifting pedal to the stock one and took the engine guard off the front. There’s a seat rest on the back that I want to take off. But an upgrade to the gauge would be a worthy and needed change!

I bought the combo speedometer/tachometer from my local Harley Davidson dealer. My main concern was how to install and how not to screw up the linking of the odometer information. You have to link the new gauge to the bike and sync the data from the old one. I’m going to lay out how I did this successfully with pictures.

Reference data:

Part: Combination Digital Speedometer/Analog Tachometer-70900274

Combination Digital Speedometer/Analog Tachometer-70900274 Installation Instructions

Please use the instructions that came with the gauge and use my guide as a reference. I am not responsible for any damages you do to your equipment. I am just providing a reference. If you see any errors in my information, please contact me using the contact page! Good luck and safe driving!

Open the access panel on the left side of the bike to gain access to the data link port and the fuse. Take the fuse cover off (see: the green fuse).

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Next, remove the rubber plug from the data sync cable on the Harley. You are going to plug the jumper that came with your new gauge into the bike’s data cable and on the other end you will plug into the new gauge. Take note of the key on the connector that goes into the gauge. It faces downward.

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Jumper data cable is installed. Ready for sync.

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Turn your key to the ‘Ignition’ position. The data will sync very quickly and display “OK” when it’s done. In my case, the first time it said, “FAIL” which freaked me out. I disconnected the cable from the bike’s data connection and reconnected. It synced that time. Took a couple seconds. *relief*. Replace the rubber plug on the data link port on the bike and turn your key back to the ‘off’ position.

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Now we are going to install the newly synced gauge. According to the instructions, the first thing you should do is remove the main fuse (the green fuse from the first step.) Remove the two 1/4″ Allen head bolts from the top side of the gauge. Carefully flip the gauge assembly over and remove the (2) 3/32 allen screws from the back plate.

Take the back plate off. Put all of the hardware together in safe place so you don’t lose it. Carefully remove the seal.

 

Disconnect the connector and carefully move the trip odometer button assembly to the side. Carefully pull the gauge out from the top side and remove the seal. Clean the seals if they are dirty with soap and water. The old gauge is free and now you can reverse the assembly process with your new gauge.

Center the gauge before you tighten it down. Once it’s installed, you can plug your fuse back in and put the cover back on it. Put the black metal cover back on because you are almost ready to go… Turn the ignition back on and check out your odometer reading.  If you are successful you can go back to the instructions to see how to customize your new gauge. If not, see the troubleshooting section in the instructions. I hope this guide was helpful!

 

 

 

Deep Cleaning Vinyl Records

There are many ways to clean vinyl records. No one way is the best but I feel like mine is the most thorough.

First I start by gluing the record. GLUING you ask? Won’t that ruin the record? If you use the wrong glue, yes. But if you use Titebond II, which you can find in any hardware store, you will see good results. The Titlebond II (don’t use Titebond I!) formula works by covering the grooves and hardening to a flexible vinyl negative. When you peel it off, it takes the junk off the surface and pulls out the junk deep inside the grooves. You will be very surprised at how older, seemingly scratchy records looks afterward.

Start with three things:
1. Titebond II glue
2. And old plastic card
3. Preferably a turntable but use a soft disposable towel as a second choice.

Later you will need a steamer and a wet vac with a modified wet vac tool (or a soft clean cloth).

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While the turntable is running at 33.5RPM, apply the glue in a spiral by just moving from the label toward the outer edge. Be careful not to get glue on that label and don’t overrun your glue past the record’s edge. *If the glue seems a little thin, stop the record and add some more glue across the spiraled glue (see the third picture).

Hold the plastic card at a low angle (30 degrees or less) and smooth out the grooves. I usually press hard to make sure the glue is getting down in the grooves. Move the platter around with your thumb and go over your work to make sure you have uniform smoothness on the outer and inner edges because you don’t want strays of glue gobs.

Once the glue hardens, you can flip it over and glue the other side. Then when the record is done, you can peel the glue off to reveal your clean record! Some tips on drying: Place the record(s) near a fan to ensure faster drying. Do not set out in the sun! Note that the glue does give off a smell so do this in a room where you can close the door.

When both sides are finished, on the very edge of the record, agitate the glue with your fingernail and start peeling the glue back. Take your time because you don’t want any areas to tear off. They are very difficult to get off if that happens but what I have found easiest is to use masking take to pull up any stranded glue. An important note: if you had put on too thin of glue, you will have a mess on your hands as the glue has little elasticity. Be generous and refer back to the “*” above. The third picture shows a side where there was too little glue. I had to peel from the label side and ended up with a mess.

Now that we have a very clean copy of our record with years of dust and gunk removed, we will steam clean it to remove the static that formed when the vinyl/vinyl glue were separated. You will notice that your record now attracts a lot of dust. The steam cleaner will discharge that static and make your record optimally clean and ready to play/record. **Use distilled water in your steamer. Pre-heat for at least 15 minutes. This is important.

While the record is moving, run the steamer from the outer edge to the label and then back again. Move slowly but do not stop because you can damage the record. IMG_0823

Now you will want to vacuum that water if possible or use a soft, clean cloth. I use a small wet vac. I took one of the wet vac tools and cut a slit on the bottom with a dremel. Then I hot-glued a piece of cloth (ripped off of an old RCA Discwasher brush). Then cut a slit in the cloth with an x-taco knife. Put a piece of tape on the end to cover the hole and presto! A very effective way to vacuum water off of the record, leaving no debris behind (see first picture). Much cheaper than a $500+ VPI record cleaning machine!

If you are using a cloth, wipe in the direction of the grooves, not against. If using an improvised wet vac tool, run perpendicular to the grooves and move the platter very slowly with your hand to ensure it pulls all of the water/debris out.

Congratulations! You now have a VERY clean record, perfect for archiving. I really need to upload a before/after clip so you can see how incredibly quiet the record is after this cleaning. In addition, if you hacked your wet vac tool, you can steam and vacuum new records to clean them up (new records have mold-release chemicals on them from the manufacturing) and get rid of the static.

Android Security

Android Security

Here are some tips for keeping your Android phone or tablet safe. As you may know, the Android phone platform is not very secure. It can be hacked/compromised through a variety of methods which I will get into through subsequent posts.

Is an iPhone safer? Out of the box, yes. But the advantage with the Android OS is that there are many security programs in the Google Play Store. There are many options not available in the walled garden we call the Apple iTunes App Store.  iPhones are still subject to hacking, fishing, wifi and http spoofing, etc.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure connection to a remote server that allows you to hide your IP address. This is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Region-restricted websites can be reached, your location and personal IP is masked from spies and trackers, bypass internet censorship for users outside of the United States (and U.S. residents who are on restricted WiFi access) and for downloading files over Bit Torrent.

Most VPN connections are made on a mobile platform through an app. It is usually easy to use – a simple click of a virtual button/switch and you are off the races. Make sure you add a bookmark in your browser to check your IP address to verify that you are really masking your IP address.

Most security-minded tech users are well aware of this first line of defense. There are many VPN options, most of which are pay-to-use, including Private Internet Access (PIA), KeepSolid, PureVPN, and IPVanish. I encourage you to look into all the options and consider that you do get what you pay for. Avoid “free” options as you are likely to be looking at a faulty service that may sell your data, show ads and create a false sense of security.  Personally, I use Private Internet Access VPN, which does not store logs of your use, works on your PC, Mac, iPhone, and Android platforms. There’s even a linux Ubuntu option. The service at the time of this post is $6.95/mo and $39.95/yr, which is divides out to $3.33/mo.

TOR

What is TOR?

I can’t explain it better than Wikipedia:

Tor is free software for enabling anonymous communication. The name is derived from an acronym for the original software project name “The Onion Router”.[8][9] Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer network consisting of more than seven thousand relays[10] to conceal a user’s location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. Using Tor makes it more difficult for Internet activity to be traced back to the user: this includes “visits to Web sites, online posts, instant messages, and other communication forms”.[11] Tor’s use is intended to protect the personal privacy of users, as well as their freedom and ability to conduct confidential communication by keeping their Internet activities from being monitored.

Tor is often used without VPN but I encourage you to use it with VPN. While Tor was seen as uncrackable, both governments and bad actors have discovered ways to unmask your Tor connection. This has scared many away from Tor, but rest assured that if you use an underlying VPN and aren’t up to devious/criminal behavior, you are likely safe to use Tor as a valuable privacy/security tool. If you are unmasked, the VPN will still show your VPN IP address. Here’s my humorous way of looking at it: Orbot is like pants, VPN is like underwear.

How do you use it with Android?

Using Tor is a two step app process. Download Orbot and Orfox from the Google Play Store. Both are free apps and were created by the Tor Project. Once downloaded, you will want to click on Orbot first which will create your Tor connection. Click start once in and the app will let you know if you are connected. This app will encrypt your internet traffic and will work with other Android apps, including Twitter, chat apps, web surfing, etc. Next you will want to open your Orfox app, which is a version of Firefox created by the Tor Project that will make sure  your web communications are routed through your Tor proxy connection. Use this rather than Chrome, Firefox and your default web browser for private browsing. It is generally frowned up to log into bank accounts and other accounts that can compromise your personal security. If you need to check your bank account, do so with your real IP before you log into VPN and Orbot.

Noscript and HTTPS Everywhere

Once you are in your Orfox browser, you will see links to “noscript” and “https everywhere.” You will want to install these Firefox add-ons. Orfox will by design block the installation and will ask you if you want to proceed. Noscript is open source software that blocks JavaScript, Java, Flash and other plugins from untrustworthy sources from running and hijacking your Android device. Https everywhere will attempt to force all website connections on Orfox to connect with https, which creates an encrypted connection between your android device and the destination.

D-Vasive Pro by John McAfee

John McAfee, the notorious creator of McAfee Anti-virus, legendary internet security pioneer and expert created this $5 app on the Google Play Store that blocks bad actors from accessing your bluetooth, wifi, camera, and microphone. If something attempts to open a connection to these things, the app will prompt you. If you want to use the wifi or camera, you can override the software as needed. Very valuable tool in a day when these things can be remotely activated to spy on you in real time! Highly recommended app.

 

 

Resurrected Mac Mini on a Budget

The older model Mac Mini circa 2005-2009 was a great PC alternative, measuring in at 2.0 × 6.5 × 6.5 inches instead of a huge beige tower. You can buy these old machines on ebay in the $50-$100 price range but their usability and expansion is limited by Apple. We will get around this!

The model I bought for $50 (that included shipping) was the Apple 2006 (model MA607LL/A) Mac Mini with a 1.66GHz [Intel Core Duo 2] processor,  CD-R/W,  160GB Hard drive, and a measly 1GB of RAM.

The RAM is expandable in this model to 2GB. There are two slots, so (2) 1GB RAM [DDR2 PC2 5300] modules could replace the (2) 512MB modules. RAM upgrade (both modules) for me cost a total of $6.40 shipped.

CPU being only 1.66GHz will need to be maxed out. The good news is that this machine’s CPU can be upgraded to a Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 mobile CPU 2.0 GHz. Total cost in my case, $7.65 with free shipping.

The Upgrade

To get the case apart, you will need to flip the unit over and take a screwdriver and gently pry along the seam until you can pop the lid off. I recommend watching an instructional video. It’s not user-friendly but it’s also not that difficult. The video linked was made by The 8-Bit Guy and he goes over how to take the case apart, replace the RAM and Hard Drive (jump to 1:30 if you are impatient).

For the upgrade, once the lid is removed, you will remove the air port connector, the ribbon cable and a controller cable. Remove some screws (this is all shown in the 8-Bit Guy’s video) and the CD-RW can be moved out of the way for your RAM, CPU and/or hard drive upgrade. In my case, I left the 160GB hard drive in because there’s plenty of room for my OS of choice, Ubuntu Linux 16.04.

RAM: once the CD/RW is out of the way, this is easy. Pull the metal tabs back slightly on each side and remove the top RAM module. Repeat for the bottom module. Reverse this process when installing the newer RAM. This part is done.

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For the CPU, turn that small screw you see in the picture on the CPU socket until you can free the CPU. Carefully place your 2.0GHz CPU in the socket and tighten the screw. Now apply a dab of thermal paste on the metal square on the CPU (as shown in the picture). Now you are done with the CPU!

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If you want to continue with the hard drive replacement, please refer back to the 8-Bit Guy’s video. Carefully reverse the disassembly process and your machine should be a happily upgrade Mac Mini!

Now for the OS. I was unable and unwilling to get a new Apple OSX operating system on this box. Unable because it’s a huge hassle and I believe you can only upgrade to Mountain Lion. Unwilling because the machine has limited specs and you are not going to get a good experience using this machine with OSX. Ubuntu Linux however will run VERY WELL! In fact, once I upgraded the OS to Ubuntu the machine ran quite nice and I’m able to do pretty much everything I normally do without any lock-ups, spinning wheels of death or slow downs. It’s not a rocket but it’s definitely usable and enjoyable.

To get Ubuntu Linux on your machine, visit the Ubuntu Desktop download section and download the 32-Bit ISO image. Now that you have the image, you will need to put it on a flash drive with your computer. In my case, I used a tool called Apple Pi Baker, which is also a great tool for flashing SD cards for Raspberry Pi. If you have windows or Linux and want to do this, I suggest looking for a good instruction video.

This is an important step: Installing the rEFIt boot menu for the Mac Mini. Go to the rEFIt Project page and download. Then install rEFIt. This will allow you to boot your the Ubuntu installation you flashed onto the flash drive.

Once you place the ISO onto the flash drive and install rEFIt, you will put it in your newly upgraded Mac Mini and hold the “Alt” key after you turn it on. Choose the Flash Drive and boot into Ubuntu and install. I chose to overwrite the entire drive since I do not plan on using this machine to run OSX. Once this process is complete, you will be enjoying a very inexpensive computer that has a low-power usage and fits in a very small space. In addition, Linux is cool and you can brag to your friends. 😉

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I am using a 32″ Samsung TV for the monitor. I needed to use a DVI to HDMI converter for the video signal. This is my setup!

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Prince 4Ever

To Prince’s credit (you could put MANY things to his credit), he didn’t have too many cash-out live albums or complications. Prince 4Ever is a great collection of his songs that really encapsulates his career. Any long term fan could pick on the list, though I can find few faults. I would have swapped one of the lesser-known songs out for Erotic City but it’s all good. If you were saddened by his death this year but wanted to start somewhere with Prince, I would say this is a really great way to.

"Beercade" – Beers and Arcade Games

A local bar/restaurant called Terry’s Terrace in Harrison Township, MI has opened a new “Beercade”, offering legendary 80’s arcade games in a bar setting. This is a welcome trend for many Generation X and Y arcade fans. Bringing this experience back to life is also great for the new generation of kids. I often see kids enjoying games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong.