Imagine Google apps as viruses or spyware

Maybe that’s not a fair analogy, but it is an interesting thought that Google apps would make fantastic viruses and spyware.

For one, you don’t need them to act like part of the operating system (Android) but they do anyway.

You can disable some of them though, but you do not get the option to uninstall them like regular programs. Not unless you root your phone, which voids your warranty. (Very convenient for phone manufacturers, I suppose.)

It’s interesting that Microsoft and Linux give you root privileges to your own computer. But for your ‘security,’ more likely the security of Google’s business, root privilege has to be wrestled from Android at potentially great expense. Google’s Android seems to give the user the ‘barest’ minimum of control. Like when task manager (on Windows) is disabled by a virus.

Then you notice that Google Play Services updated itself in the background without the option to give it the permission to do so. (Of course it is not the only culprit.) That’s classic virus/spyware behavior — doing interesting things under the hood.

You boot up the phone for the first time and you are asked to acknowledge (setup) the presence of Google. Then her apps encourage you to leave your door open in order to enable a better service experience for you. In real life, this is not smart.

(It’s okay that we have nothing to hide, but our private parts are still private parts. We might choose to bare almost all on the beach, but we leave the beach where it is when we leave it. It seems like several app builders just want us to live life fully as on the beach — for the convenience that that would provide them.)

Then, was there ever a sudden realisation that your phonebook was backed up to your Google profile for your convenience. That’s okay if you don’t mind. But was this feature on by default? You probably told it to. There are settings choices that the make easy to make, and may be useful. There are also menacing default settings, particularly those you cannot change (like the compulsory background updates using your data), or the option to change is blurred or discouraged (placed at the bottom of a scrollable menu, or ‘dehighlighted’).

In summary, it is possible, perhaps easy, to view Google’s Android as a hijacked opensource operating system. It’s just about their business though; nothing personal. (The article in the following link highlights the business: It doesn’t seem like things have changed.

So I’m beginning to think that it is in the interest of the public, national security, and basic human rights, that Google’s Android come with root access provided, and better, easily accessible user control of access to the private. And if Microsoft lost an antitrust case, should Google not lose one too.


Honest Diplomacy

​Honesty is a policy
not the best diplomacy
Truth is
yet not the whole of it
For “the simple
when silent
is counted a sage.”

PS: the quote is a paraphrase of the first part or Proverbs 17:28

The Brexit is not reality until implemented

It has been a week since the history making vote by the UK to leave the EU. Going by all the buzz in the media, it would almost seem that the UK had left the EU already. Obviously not the case. Not yet, if at all.

Everything is getting hyped; hype being a specialty of the British. It’s as though the world would end for the UK if they left. Not so. There’s uncertainty, sure. But, so what?

Scotland asserted itself, being almost unanimous by local district and regional count, but their numbers were overwhelmed by those of the land of the Angles.
Scotland (their leader(s)) threatened some sort of breakup or separation, I hear. Again, so what? It forces England to look beyond oil? And while size matters, it isn’t everything.

The thing is, England has also asserted itself. And they have a queen.

London, being ‘extremely’ international voted to stay; not surprising. She got her current status from the historical Romans who had successfully unified Europe (for a while) and whose name for her still stands.

Let’s see how the politics will play out in this battle of the blocks.

Soon after the results were announced, the British Pound (GBP) lost a lot of its value, and there was a lot of upset in the stock market. But we know that stock prices do not measure the real value of their corresponding companies exactly. So any associated hype in/by the markets should be taken with a spoon of informed salt. (Now might be a good time to buy ‘great stocks’ for cheaps. Those who play the market well could make a killing.)

Granted that it might be that the UK’s trade with European countries would be affected (positively or negatively), but they all have two years to adjust at least. So why the suddenness in the market crash? Invisible hands perhaps. Algorithms, maybe.

And really, I think, the GBP going down in relative value to the Dollar, is just the GBP going closer to its true value. Its been kept artificially high for way too long. And the importers loved it so.

So what if the UK breaks up? Would there be irreparable losses? That’s one question for the hype machine against leaving. For the hype machine that supports leaving, if your motivations go much beyond reasonable concerns about sovereignty, the loss of identity, and tangible economic benefits, then you might fall guilty of some sins in the future.

When It’s Better To Owe A Thousand People And Not Just One

If you have many small credits, no single creditor can make a significant demand.

We know that the borrower is subject to the lender. That’s natural law. It thus seems better to owe a thousand people one Naira each than to owe one person a thousand Naira. Because if at all a creditor would make a significant demand, particularly in a near default, they’d have to negotiate with the others to make headway. If you owe a single country, then you might have created a threat to you national security. Because there’s no one else to help reduce their negotiating power.

Banks owe very many people; people not likely to make demands at the same time; people who will not demand all that they’re owed.

This is what it comes down to: negotiating power. However if the can all agree, you would still have likely bought yourself some time (during their negotiating period). It might be terrible short though, but there’s always that chance (and hope) that they would argue and squabble for a ‘long’ time, giving you some room to breathe.

If you find out that you owe too much to one country, diversify. Many normal companies try to diversify their product portfolio as in insurance measure. Diversify your debt portfolio such that one single country cannot try to claim your land without another crying foul.

This might be good news for China if the US can (or if they will ‘let’ the US) pull it off, because they can rid themselves of some of the, maybe, toxic debt stock they hold. On the other hand, it means China buys more from the US than they sell to them.

How is that going to happen?

It is possible, but I doubt that China would sit idly by.

What can other countries do?

Buy from others even though it might me more expensive. In the long run, you might actually save your country from its inability to not import certain goods and/or improve her overall balance of payments.

We sometimes do this at a micro level, buying from someone/somewhere for the emotional value of doing so when we had an equally easy option of buying the same thing cheaper from another.

In a popular Mafia, crime boss, loan shark scenario, what is the likelihood that one of the creditors would count their losses and ‘kill’ the debtor? Will the others sit by and let someone kill the hope of the return of their monies and get away with it?

Choosing Your Battlefield

If Ireland had left the decision about government recognition for homosexual marriage to the courts, and if the USA had left this same decision to a national referendum, what might have been the results?

When the battlefield admits only a one-on-one match, you’d better be like David—with the sling, skill, and speed to deliver the killer shot. And you’d better make sure your opponent has an exposed forehead or an Achilles heal you can place a fatal blow on. The government and people of Iceland where able, willing, and quick to cut off the heads of bad banks to repair their banking system.

Iceland had chosen to let their bad banks die after their financial crisis about the end of the twentieth century. They shrunk their battlefield to picking up the pieces, and it made the fight very short. They look like they came out with better results than the bail-out college, even if one might argue that the lighter you are, the lighter you fall.

Where there are many ‘enemies’ of similar ability and capacity as one, be very efficient; where they shall beat you, leave them; and make as little noise as possible when you’re just starting off in a territory where big guns already exist. That’s advice by Bruce Greenwald and Judd Kahn in ‘Competition Demystified.’ Fight where you’re stronger than your opponents; fight when you have what it takes to beat them.

So that key questions to ask are whether we can, or make ourselves can, and on which battlefield can we can. These questions aren’t mutually exclusive because what we do, the path we take, says much about the battle we envision and defines our battlefield.

The Growth That May Not Show

What do you call growth? Increase in size and scope of operations? What is the hope in this kind of growth? Increase in market share? But market share is relative, meaning that you can’t grow larger than 100 percent, the pure monopoly. Is it continued increase in profits — the proper motivation for the growth obsession? One can also imagine a limit or supremum to how much profit can be made, even in a perfect monopoly, because resources are finite. So when you tank at 100 percent market share and are very well profitable, what is left is to leave, expand your portfolio, maintain your position and/or become totally tyrannical. It’s a nice place to be.

But if the structure of society/nations doesn’t permit that, you could either try to restructure society and the nations, and/or enjoy the vagaries of competition and chance in business. The point we’re making is that everything tanks somewhere or at some point. So we ask, is it possible to chose your size and maintain ‘successful’ operations despite the operating environment? What conditions would be necessary for this.

Most organisations have a growth obsession, and perhaps, rightly so. Because growth may be translated to profit. And even where it doesn’t translate to profit, a ‘good’ objective is to have minimal competition, insuring dominance and long term profitability and existence. Every going concern has to have a strategy to remain so. Every one, we assume, wants to be successful. And more, to be seen to be successful. These are the origins of the growth obsession: power, pride, survival.

If survival is the primary and overarching motive, then business growth, as is commonly understood, isn’t a necessity. How many profitable one-man or small businesses do you know or see around that have been operating for decades without visibly growing. On a bigger scale, the Semco group of Brazil deliberately control their size, minimizing the temptation to get acquired or to acquire new operations. It is said that they’ve implemented sales and human resource policies that have ensured profitable operations in their environment without over-expanding, for decades.

Could we choose where to tank per time whilst ensuring sustained success, without the pressure to survive and complicate management by expansion. It would at least mean respecting our abilities and capacity as a person or organisation, understanding the competitive and operating environment, potential/likely industry trajectory, and committing your objectives to wisdom.

This brings us to the notion of ‘invisible’ growth, something akin to maturity and the realities of our human experience. We all stop growing physically at some time, but our bodies continually regenerate cells, flushing out the old and bringing in the fresh. We also grow in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. So that there’s a constancy to our appearance and a growth within that can be seen in the fruit we yield and that we still live.

If we hold on to that which is true, our tenacity keeps us from falling; we’re growing against a decay, so that people see a constancy. The underlying growth is hidden. Therefore, it is an attribute of growth to not regress from our current states when true and good. We may thus regard the act of maintaining sound practices as growth in itself. This growth is the growth of renewing and refreshing (i.e. a cultivation), not of change in height or status. Clearly, creating and maintaining some special relationships require the cleverness of renewing and refreshing those relationships (as with CRM). That is cultivation that leads to growth, a growth within constancy or permanence.

This is a growth where one is still: we aren’t stagnant since the cells of your bodies are continually renewed even while one greys. Procter and Gamble have rebranded a lot of their products countless times. It helps to keep and renew a product in the face of the people to keep it going. That’s the benefit of having traditions. It keeps hope alive. Products and services do not need to suffer from the decay that is of nature. They can be cultivated and made into a full grown tree, bearing fruit in its seasons.

CRM = Customer Relationship Management.

Growth is always at something’s expense. So we may choose to consider whether the expense is worth it. A number of environmentalists are of the opinion that the price we pay as a biological system for mining and burning fossil fuels at the current rate is too high for our future to bear.

If like Apple you have tens of billions in cash, most of which you choose not to share, and supposedly more than enough to maintain your competitive edge, what do you do? Buy up/into your supply chain, making you vertically integrated. Buy RIM and IBM if you could? Go into supercomputers? And then what? What about digging deeper roots in order to tank? Perhaps it’s some credit to apple they’ve been growing without radically expanding their their core businesses. And both them and Microsoft etc. are looking for new core businesses—and more importantly, relevance for the future.

Tanking requires strategic positioning and perpetual vigilance; it’s an equilibrium state that is potentially highly dynamic. So situations may not be right achieve and maintain it.

Couldn’t your businesses grow and maintain great market share and profits without necessarily growing its size. Let’s try to be as effective as possible, then as efficient as possible, before probably deciding that we need a new house. But why strain ourselves if we can already get the new place? Probably because we need to have learned some lessons from experience.

Property/Residence Tax is an Expense on Life

Property based tax is like a statement that the ownership of lands and landed property is a privilege that could be revoked; that the owner is like a lessee. A true owner must have irrevocable possession of his property; which means that ownership could only change hands by voluntary transfer (includes bank foreclosures) or death. And certainly never by seizure by government for nonpayment of a residence or land-use based tax.

To pay taxes from profits/income as a result of profits/income is a natural duty; indeed, the only natural tax responsibility. Paying taxes as a result of ownership of property is an imposed duty reminiscent of feudalism, and, in an interesting way, speaks of socialism.

Taxes on profits is an expense on business; taxes for ownership of property is an expense on life.

Retirees and those above sixty should never be required to pay any council/land-use/residence taxes for their property.

This is a step towards ending the practice entirely. End the practice entirely.

Incomplete thoughts

The Germanwings D-AIPX Plane Crash: Mitigants and the Aftermath

The plane crashed on 24 March 2015, and investigators, I gather, currently have the mind that the first officer/co-pilot deliberately crashed it—with the absence of the pilot.

To prevent this scenario from repeating itself, the Canadian and New Zealand aviation authorities have recently changed regulations to require that at least two people be on the flight deck at all times during flight for safety reasons. [Wikipedia: Germanwings Flight 9525.] A policy aftermath.

Might a requirement to always have more than two crew members for the flight deck permit the head of the cabin crew as a stop-gap for a temporary absence by a traditional member of the flight crew?

Where there’s a flight engineer in addition to the pilot and copilot, this becomes is a non-issue; only just an additional expense.

Could the crash have been avoided if the pilot wasn’t locked out? It’s a 50-50 probability (for two players). And we’ve been schooled by enough movies to imagine the few things possible on the flight deck. It could’ve gone either way, lending credence to the new regulation.

This particular policy change reflects a shift from ‘innocent until proven guilty’ to ‘guilty if innocence isn’t seen.’ It’s the way with security though: assume reasonable cases for concern, and mitigate them as best as possible. The incident highlighted a now reasonable concern to mitigate.

Would there be broader implications for pilot training, and in-flight security observances and behaviour? Obviously, some authorities have done a process review and implemented recommendations. Take no one for granted—even those you should perhaps ordinarily trust as a matter of ideal.

Other aviation authorities, and ICAO, so far seem to be taking their time. There’s no need to be hasty about making changes to the status quo, because of any systemic effects. Analyse the whole for the part, and not just the part for itself, unless you can prove that the part exists (or could exist) distinctly.

Mitigants might also include toilets for an elongated flight deck or measures to ensure the pilots don’t need to leave the flight deck during flight (with any appropriate exceptions). We could choose to ensure emergency access—and associated procedures for access—to the flight deck from outside. (I assume there is none, for security reasons still.) There might be more stringent flying certification, or pre-flight suitability assessments for flight crews before every flight etc.

Apart from maintaining the status quo, any person oriented mitigant to this newly highlighted threat would be an additional cost to the airlines and/or the pilots. (We also count non-financial costs.)

How feasible are the options? Which is the craziest from a financial perspective? Where safety or security is paramount, money shouldn’t be an object. But then, it always is in business. Hence, a reason for innovation. We’d also want to take more stress off pilots and airlines.

Rather than focus on the person factor only, let’s enhance the technology also. Let’s program the plane to recognise and take evasive action in identified scenarios that lead to crashes, irrespective or pilots’ commands? There are a whole lot of issues to resolve if this route could be permitted for civil aviation. We may also choose to go pilotless (no deck presence) except perhaps on takeoffs and landing ….

Technology suppliers have an opportunity here to make money again while contributing to flight safety; for this incident has served to market a potential need. A technology aftermath.

A question:
How or why was the pilot locked out of the flight deck. Was he escorted out, or did he have to use the toilet or something. I gather that on short flights, the pilots prepare, and try to ensure they won’t need to use the toilet while flying. Makes sense for more than one reason.

To state the obvious, there’s no intention to trivialize anything of the crash or surrounding circumstances.

Before the crash, I had told an airline ticketing agent that I liked Lufthansa (the owner of Germanwings). And he said something I dismissed and apparently thoroughly filtered. And now? I still like Lufthansa.