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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Implanting microchips in humans

©Mark Ollig

To chip or not to chip: that is the question.

My first thought was, “This is only supposed to happen to the people living in the distant future.”

Apparently, we are now living in that distant future.

A company located in Wisconsin will be implanting a micro-computing chip device inside the hands of some 50 employees.

It should be noted, these employees volunteered to have the microchip implant.

The computing chip, which uses wireless communication, will be physically embedded beneath the skin area between the employee’s thumb and forefinger.

Let’s be clear; a microchip, an electronic device about the size of a grain of rice, is to be implanted (injected) under the skin of a human being for no medical or legal reason.

The chip’s purpose is to more quickly (and perhaps more securely) purchase a product, by waving the chipped hand in front of a scanner instead of swiping a credit card, or using a wireless NFC (Near Field Communication) equipped smartphone.

In addition to using the chip implant for making purchases; chipped employees will be able to wave their chipped hand in front of the keyless door entry of their company’s building to gain access.

Also, instead of typing their username and password to log into the company computer, an employee will wave their chip-embedded hand over its identification scanner and be granted access.

In what I assume was an attempt to alleviate fears of tracking the location of a chipped employee 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the CEO of the company is quoted as saying, “There’s no GPS tracking at all.”

Maybe he should have added “for the time being,” because I feel, implanting electronic chips in employees is opening a big ol’ can of worms.

I understand the reasoning of a dermal implant of a microchip when a person is under a doctor’s care; the implant is used for medical purposes to treat the patient.

Another related exception is when a court orders a prisoner or parolee to have a tracking device attached to their person.

Imagine if employers get the legal green light, allowing them to require employees to be “chipped” as part of their agreement to employment.

What kinds of data could an employer, insurance, or other company or government agency potentially collect about individuals?

I’ve got to hope we’re not going down a road which eventually leads to the compulsory implanting of a microchip inside all of us.

I’m no constitutional lawyer, but would this not constitute an invasion of personal privacy?

If this moves from voluntary, to obligatory chipping of employees; which I am greatly concerned about, expect the Supreme Court to rule on a final decision.

I’ll attempt a bit of levity; once voters are chipped, they could cast their vote simply by waving their hand over the candidate of their choice.

Here’s a campaign slogan: “One Chip – One Vote!”

I digress.

A few years ago, I wrote how all electronic appliances, machines, automobiles, planes, machining tools, and every other type of gadget, will eventually be embedded with an IP address, connected to the internet, and become part of the IoT (Internet of Things) network.

As we know, IoT devices can be tracked, their operating status monitored, and their data gleaned and analyzed by software for the purposes of improving their operation and productiveness within the sphere of their influence.

Analysis resulting in corrections or modifications of each individual IoT device ensures it will operate to its maximum potential; enhancing its value for the benefit of a corporation and/or society as a whole.

Is it humanity’s fate to eventually become physically a part of the IoT community?

Today’s topic reminded me of the “Star Trek” episode, “Patterns of Force,” where Kirk and Spock are implanted with a small “subcutaneous transponder” in their wrists before beaming down to a planet. If they were unable to use their communicators, Scotty could immediately locate and beam them back to the Enterprise.

It would not surprise me if airline travelers are offered a chip implant to guarantee quick passage through airport Transportation Security Administration check-in stations.

It would be interesting to interview some of those 50 Wisconsin employees six months from now, and learn of their experiences and thoughts of being chipped.

And so, dear readers, we’re now discussing the pros and cons of implanting folks with microchips.

Welcome to the distant future.

My tweets are not chipped; however, they are archived. Follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

(Image royalty license-to-use paid)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Prolonged internet disruption proved costly

©Mark Ollig

A total loss of internet access was recently experienced by people living in Somalia.

An undersea fiber-optic cable providing them with internet service was severed.

The internet interruption was determined to be caused by a commercial container ship while docking in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital city.

The ship’s anchor caught and sliced through the internet fiber-optic cable; instantly disconnecting service to some 6.5 million people living in southwestern Somalia.

Users affected by the cut cable endured 23 days without the internet.

Inaccessibility to the internet and its social media networks for this length of time was not only frustrating for citizens, teachers, journalists, and students; it was a large monetary loss to the country’s business and local economies, as well.

For each day without the internet, Somalia’s economy lost an estimated $10 million in revenue.

No doubt, much angst was felt by everyone affected during the sudden deprivation of the internet.

Computers located in science classrooms at the University of Somalia were not being used; one Reuters news agency photo showed empty chairs in front of rows of computers sitting on desks.

Substantial portions of our own country’s economic revenues have been generated from the internet during the last 20 years.

Loss of the internet in this country is almost too unimaginable to contemplate.

No more online access to our local and federal government services, healthcare providers, and financial institutions, for starters.

No more internet social media or ordering from Amazon, eBay, and other online businesses.

Content providers and others relying on an internet connection to obtain information for their work, research, stories, news, and columns would have to revert back to older methods.

We’ve become used to learning about breaking news the instant it happens, and then having real-time public conversations about it online over the internet’s social media.

During the 1980s and early ‘90s, before websites began appearing on the internet, many computer hobbyists used their personal computer for operating an online BBS (bulletin board system).

BBSes used modems, analog telephone lines, and popular software, such as Mustang, Renegade, and one I used on my BBS, “WBBS Online!,” called The Major BBS, by Galacticomm.

Users connected their computer’s modem to an analog telephone line and dialed a specific telephone number to connect with a business or hobbyist BBS, using communication software such as ProComm Plus, Kermit, QModem, PC-Talk, and others.

Sometimes, a user needed to download and execute client software on their computer in order to interact with the graphical user interface environment a particular BBS software had.

Back in the day, AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy commercial dialup online services provided a disk containing the client software we installed on our computer.

I recall, during the 1980s, a major telephone vending supply company in Minneapolis installed a BBS listing their inventory database for telephone companies to place orders from.

Local television and newspapers installed their own BBSes for enticing users to dial in and be part of their online community – and hopefully watch their television channel, read their newspapers, and patronize the product placement ads.

Some dialup BBSes were strictly for gaming; generating revenue for their owners by using 1+900/976 telephone numbers.

BBSes were used by local city governments as a means of connecting online with its citizens.

By the early 1990s, with the introduction of the World Wide Web, businesses and city governments began to move their online presence from a dialup BBS to a website on the internet.

Having their website maintained through a third party or internet service provider eliminated BBS hardware, personal time coding the website, dedicated telephone lines, and software costs.

Many of us remember how CB radios became less popular with the public, once cellular telephones arrived on the scene.
Hormuud Telecom, Somalia’s leading internet service provider, reported July 17 the damaged undersea fiber-optic cable was repaired, and internet service was restored.

Somalian citizens immediately took to social media and expressed their joy.

“You cannot imagine how happy I am today. The internet is back and I can browse to read and publish all my delayed posts on Facebook,” said one Somalia university student.

“Finally, Internet Service is back in Mogadishu #Somalia,” posted @LibanAbdili on Twitter.

“Internet Somalia repair successful to back the people using the social media,” read another tweet by @alim_mahamoud.

Twitter user, @Suheyfa posted a photo of someone using a laptop computer while holding a smartphone and said, “Internet service is back finally in #Mogadishu. #Somalia.”

So, how would we react if for some reason the internet was turned off; its websites, online services, and social media networks no longer available?

First thing I would do is get my old BBS out of mothballs, and reunite the local online virtual community.

I’d also install a CB radio in my car and announce to the on-air world, “The Green Hornet is back!”

Cue Jerry Reed’s 1977 “Smokey and the Bandit” song, “East Bound and Down.”

Breaker 1-9, follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes. That’s a big 10-4.

(Above image royalty license-to-use
 paid for by Mark Ollig)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

'Wayback Machine' for the web

©Mark Ollig

It’s hot and muggy outside; the western sky is filled with heavy, black, threatening-looking clouds.

It’s also less than 14 hours before column deadline submission, so I better keep typing.

Do you remember how we navigated or browsed the World Wide Web as it was being placed over the internet during the early 1990s?

One of the first web browsers for public use was created in January 1993, at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), called NCSA Mosaic, which I used.

Netscape Communications, based in California, developed a web browser called Netscape Navigator in 1994.

This web browser soared in popularity and became widely used among internet web surfers during the 1990s.

Netscape Navigator is the forefather of today’s much-used Mozilla Firefox web browser.

Microsoft brought Internet Explorer (which it purchased from Spyglass, Inc.) to the World Wide Web table in 1995.

A few years earlier, in December 1992, Apple’s Macintosh computer began using a web browser called MacWWW, or Samba. This web browser worked with their Classic Mac OS (operating system).

The World Wide Web was just getting started in 1992.

March 1989, engineer and computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee wrote a paper for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, located in Geneva, Switzerland.

He titled it, “Information Management: A Proposal.”

Berners-Lee’s written proposal included diagrams and details explaining the benefits of having computer server software with hypertext “links” to documents and files, which could be quickly shared among other CERN researchers working in various locations.

He labeled flowchart diagrams with such keywords as hypertext, hypermedia, and hyperlinked information.

Tim Berners-Lee finished developing and testing the first web computer server in 1989.

The web page editor and browser software application program he coded for his hyper-linked, hypertext markup language operating over hypertext transport protocol was called

Berners-Lee’s web application was used by CERN researchers and scientists over their networked computers in 1990.

The next year, Tim Berners-Lee’s web overly software platform application was released to the entire internet community, and thus to the world.

Through the web, we became hyper-connected with each other, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In 1996, the task of storing and preserving the growing number of webpages from the internet was started by an organization called the Internet Archive.

This organization began with a mission to preserve past and current internet webpages so future generations could look back and see their contents of information as originally presented.

“The Internet Archive is working to prevent the Internet – a new medium with major historical significance – and other “born-digital” materials from disappearing into the past,” stated their original mission statement.

Each day, the Internet Archive collects, organizes, catalogs, and preserves web content from numerous websites on the internet.

The Internet Archive is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization supported by donations.

This organization preserves and stores digital records for future generations, and offers historians, students, researchers, and you and me access to many thousands of digitally-saved historical collections.

These free collections contain a treasure trove of photographs, books, movies, music, audio files, software, educational and historical references, and archived internet web pages.

I think of the Internet Archive as a sort of “digital web time capsule.”

Looking back at those early websites, I was reminded how easy-to-read and uncluttered a web page looked 20 years ago.

In 2000, the Internet Archive began storing television news and related media at

Consider this: The total number of users of the Internet Archive website for the month of July 1996 was 16.

This past June, there were 83,836 users of the website.

The total number of recorded Internet Archive users from July 1996 to today is 3.7 billion.

I recall a 1960s television cartoon featuring a boy named Sherman and an ultra-intelligent dog named Mr. Peabody, using a time machine to personally experience and participate in famous historical events.

This cartoon used a clever and entertaining approach for teaching children history using the WABAC Machine, pronounced, “Wayback Machine.”

The Internet Archive has its own Wayback Machine containing some 300 billion web pages collected since 1996.

To use the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine, go to

A large list containing its “Top Collections at the Archive” can be seen at

You can upload data to be archived and searchable by the public; such as I have done.

To begin uploading videos, text, audio, or images you want saved for future generations, first obtain your Internet Archive virtual library card at

My presence on Twitter began “way back” in February 2008. Follow me there at @bitsandbytes.

(Above image royalty license-to-use
 paid for by Mark Ollig)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Why Facebook ads are personally appealing

©Mark Ollig

Our participation on Facebook means we accept its advertisements as the price for using their free online service.

However, not everyone is seeing the same ads.

Most Facebook ads are personalized to our individual preferences through a software algorithm which lures us to mouse-click on them.

Some folks call these types of online ads “click bait.”

The more time we spend on Facebook, the more its software learns about our personal likings.

By sharing Facebook postings and internet pages; participating in Facebook user groups, live broadcasts, and clicking ad content, we’re providing Facebook information about our personal preferences.

Facebook gleans our content choices for learning more about us; what products, services, sports, hobbies, vacation, and social media subject matter we prefer.

Where do we find the information Facebook has stored about us?

Log into your Facebook account and then go to this address:

Under “Your Interests” Facebook maintains six categories containing detailed information about our preferences labeled:

• News and Entertainment
• Business and Industry
• Travel, Places and Events
• Hobbies and Activities
• People
• More

Facebook saved the names and visual icon links of 426 news and entertainment pages I visited; which is why I see so many online ads from them.

My business and industry category preferences displayed 390 distinct Facebook pages.

The last category revealed a sub-list where Facebook records our personal preferences for each of the following subjects:

• Technology
• Education
• Sports and Outdoors
• Lifestyle and Culture
• Food and Drink
• Shopping and Fashion
• Fitness and Wellness
• Family and Relationships

Under each subject are Facebook user groups and linked pages we have visited, liked, or belonged to.

Facebook is uncovering what we like; thus targeting us with personalized ads from its paid advertisers.

Another category, “Advertisers You’ve Interacted With,” disclosed the list of 92 individual company and Facebook ads I’ve clicked on.

The varieties of ads we see are based on our history of visited Facebook websites and apps, and are managed under “Ad Settings.”

Under “Your Information” we are supposedly able to control (by enabling or 
disabling) Facebook’s ability to show us ads based on the following profile fields:

• Relationship status
• Employer
• Job title
• Education
• Interested in

A disclaimer states Facebook may still add us to categories related to these profile fields.

Facebook’s PowerPoint-like presentation explained why specific ads are presented to us.

The presentation showed how our age, location, interests in certain products, services, and social causes are used by advertisers to target us with ads they feel we would most likely respond to.

Hundreds – if not thousands – of our liked and visited Facebook pages are being recorded, cataloged, and processed through special analytical software.

Many Facebook advertisers use Facebook Pixel, which, according to Facebook, “is a piece of website code advertisers install that lets them measure, optimize and build audiences for ad campaigns.”

Ads directed to our specific geographic location are based either on our Facebook profile, or from where we physically connect to the internet.

Where and how we connect to Facebook over the internet can be determined from the IP (Internet Protocol) address assigned on our computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Our geographic location can also be obtained from our smartdevices’ or automobile’s GPS (global positioning system) navigational coordinates.

Lately, I’ve been seeing more Facebook ads from Minnesota travel trailer and recreation vehicle companies.

Facebook knows I visited the Trailer Park World and RV Tours Facebook ad pages, and that I belong to a couple of Facebook RV and Travel Trailer user groups.

They also know I live in Minnesota.

Here’s wishing your next Facebook ad is personally appealing.

Follow me throughout the week on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

(photo from Facebook Ads Preferences page)