Meet Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees

Search is one of those things that most people don’t think about. Google, the dominant player in search, uses enormous amounts of energy to power the searches you perform. They get paid handsomely for this, of course, but they are a net negative to the environment.

Enter Ecosia. According to Seth Godin, “It’s fast, it’s easy and it’s a lot more private than Google.” But, perhaps the biggest difference is that for every 45 searches you perform, they plant a tree!!

At the time of writing, Ecosia has planted 153 million trees. That’s a lot of trees.

This is one of those things that can make a big difference, without you doing anything at all. A few clicks, and suddenly you are planting trees every day. How cool is that?

I’m giving it a shot. It’s possible I won’t like it. But…I might. And if I do…I’ll be doing something good for the environment every day.

Want to try? Go to and in a few clicks, you’ll be set up.

So why not give it a go yourself and let me know what you think?

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Filed under Free Software, Technology

F1 TV – Your User Experience Sucks!

In 2014, I finally became frustrated enough with my cable providers crazy pricing schemes that I gave up and cut the cord.

It was a good experience, with one small fly in the ointment – I could no longer watch Formula One, which had been a passion of mine for many years, and a rare instance of something both my wife and I could watch together. Well…if we are honest, she slept through most of it, but liked the bits she was awake for!

Then, in early 2020, we watched Formula 1: Drive to Survive and it reminded me of what we were missing. So…in January, 2020, we signed up for F1 TV, paying the full year subscription and then waiting for the races to start.

Except…they didn’t. Because of Covid they started cancelling races, with not even the first race being run. And they could not tell us when (or even if) they would restart.

This is where it starts to get strange

  • I asked them to cancel my subscription because they couldn’t actually deliver what I had paid for.
    • They refused, saying that I should have cancelled within 30 days of signup.
  • I pointed out that 30 days after I signed up they were still planning to show the races.
    • They still refused, sticking with I had to cancel within 30 days
  • I asked if they bought something from an online vendor who later stopped making that thing, would they still expect the vendor to keep the money?
    • They still refused, sticking with I had to cancel within 30 days
  • I called the credit card company, disputed the charge and got my money back.

Of course, later that year they did start showing races but, by then, I had lost the passion to watch.

Fast forward to 2021

We have been cooped up for a year, and the latest season of Formula 1: Drive to Survive airs. Cue desire to watch again and so we tried to sign up.

I tried to sign up online. I filled in the form, including credit card info, etc. Hit submit and…nothing.

In case you were not aware – I was in IT for a long time. I am the guy people come to with computer problems. This was not user error. There were no error messages it just…did nothing. My wife even tried…same deal.

OK, so we signed up through Roku and that worked.

We went for the cheaper deal that didn’t provide live races since I am in the USA and most races are done before I get up. We then found out that the cheaper deal doesn’t allow you to watch qualifying (which is at least half the fun) and there is a two day delay before you can watch the actual race.

This means watching races in the evening on week nights, which would not be my preference, And there is also a very high likelihood that we will hear the results before the race.

Soo…we opted for the full plan.

Except…we couldn’t

There is no option to upgrade. Any other system out there would have an upgrade button and you pay the difference. Not F1 TV.

If you order through Roku, then you have to manage through Roku. The only options Roku gives are to cancel or keep. No upgrade.

Fortunately, we went for the month to month option (not getting stuck with a yearly subscription that can’t be honored again) so we have had to cancel the existing subscription and wait for it to expire. As we still have access until the end of the month I can’t buy a new subscription until that is over!

So now I’m stuck with the crappy coverage until mid April where I hope I can upgrade to the full version.

Internet subscriptions are not a new thing. This should be basic stuff. Having forms that work, give meaningful error messages when they don’t, allow upgrades to plans…these are all normal.

I am exactly the type of customer you want. I know how to use technology, I stream, I have multiple devices, and I am interested in your product…and you are losing me!

I hope, once I finally get in, that the product itself is good. But…to date…I have not been impressed.


Filed under Life - or something like it

A faster, more private internet?

I’ve always been a little uneasy about how much information I am required to share with my ISP.  Optimum is not on the top of my list of people that I trust to keep my data safe and secure.  For example, their privacy page’s section entitled How We Use Subscriber Information has this lovely phrase:

  • ensure that you receive information about products and services that may be of interest to you;

Which I read as “We will totally sell your browsing information to anyone that might want to sell you things”

So, I was very intrigued by the new service from Cloudflare called which promises “browsing a faster, more private internet.”

Here’s a quote from their site:

Unfortunately, by default, DNS is usually slow and insecure. Your ISP, and anyone else listening in on the Internet, can see every site you visit and every app you use — even if their content is encrypted. Creepily, some DNS providers sell data about your Internet activity or use it target you with ads.

We think that’s gross. If you do too, now there’s an alternative:

via — the Internet’s Fastest, Privacy-First DNS Resolver

They make the statement that We will never sell your data or use it to target ads. Period.”  They also claim to be faster for the DNS lookup, and that seems to be born out in independent tests.  dnsperf

I decided to try it out.  Installation is easy and the instructions can be found here:

It just takes a few seconds to change and doesn’t need any software to be installed.  Everything seems to work just fine so far.  In fact, I’m writing this using the new setup.

What’s in it for Cloudflare? You can read more about that here:



Filed under Technology

The Alpha Male Paradox

I enjoyed this so much I had to share…

True alpha males don’t behave like the caricature, they listen, learn and then act.  The second they start believing their own press and start throwing their weight about they limit themselves and those around them.

All that ego just gets in the way.

via The Alpha Male Paradox

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Filed under Career, Education

America. Can we talk about the gun thing?


Let’s talk.  No, I mean really talk.  We have a problem with guns and I think it’s time we got things out in the open and took some sensible measures to address it.

I’ll start. I’ll lay out some ideas for discussion and then give details why I think that way so that you understand where I am coming from.

Then it’s your turn.  I hope you will participate because…well…I love you and I want us all to get back to being normal again.  Can we give that a try?

Here are my thoughts on a 7 step program to recovery.

  1. Look at the patchwork of laws that exist across the country, rationalize those down to a smaller set of sensible, workable, laws.  Then enforce those laws completely.  
  2. We need to study the causes of the gun violence and use that information based on actual science to inform the work of #1
  3. We need to take a good, hard, look at what is covered under the second amendment.  Anything not covered – see #1
  4. We need to make access to medical care a right for all citizens.  I think this also needs to be part of #1
  5. We need to get guns out of schools.  
  6. We need to start talking to each other instead of shouting from the sidelines.  
  7. We need to say a big “Thank You!” to the kids from Parkland who have shown amazing strength both following the events and the personal attacks hurled at them afterward.  They are kids – Stop it!  

OK…take a breath.  I’m sure you have a lot of questions and I will try to answer them here.  Then, if you need more, well see #6.  I’m happy to discuss, but I will not respond to being yelled at, called names, etc.

Let’s go one by one.

books#1 – Rationalize laws

I’m not a gun expert, nor a lawyer.  But one thing I am certain about is that adding more laws on top of existing laws isn’t likely to solve the issue.

Most laws on the books are already:

  • Duplicative
  • Confusing and contradictory
  • Inconsistently enforced

I understand why the pro-gun people say that after a mass shooting is a bad time to talk about it because when people are hurting is a terrible time to write new laws.

But it is the perfect time to talk about it and get the ball rolling on some meaningful change. But, that change has to start with understanding the problem first and that takes time.

Which leads me nicely on to…

#2 Study the causes of gun violence in America

We need to take a good hard look at the root causes of gun violence and then see what we can do about it.  This needs to be actual science.  You know, the proper peer-reviewed type of work that we used to do before people started believing their Twitter feed and stopped thinking for themselves.

We can’t expect to fix a problem if we don’t know what is the underlying issue.

Once we have those facts we can start to take a good hard look at ourselves and start making meaningful changes.

wethepeople.jpg#3 Look at what is covered under the second amendment

I’m OK with people owning guns.  Really.  But I do think that we need to take a look at some of the types of guns and their capabilities.

If the second amendment really was to enable the people to resist the government then we should be loading up with tanks and rocket launchers, because your rifle isn’t going to do much against a fully armed Apache helicopter.

I don’t think personal tank ownership is a good idea though because, well, where would we put them all?  And who would move them when street cleaning rules are in effect?

Based on the above I personally don’t believe that “weapons of war” should be covered, and that extends to assault rifle type guns.   I see very few situations where people need to have a high powered, semi-automatic rifle with a 30 round magazine.  So, let’s go through a few use cases

  • Home defense
    A good friend of mine is very pro-gun, ex-military and highly trained.  His view is that the best gun for home defense is a pump action shotgun.  His reasoning was simple.

    • They look evil
    • The sound of one of those being cocked is enough to send most sensible people running for the hills
    • People that are under stress and scared are terrible shots.  A shotgun doesn’t need to be aimed accurately – just point and shoot and you’re going to get them with some of it
  • Hunting
    • If you need a 30 round magazine for hunting then perhaps you might be better spending time to develop your skills.
  • Target shooting
    • My experience of these things is that they are generally more about accuracy, and that takes time.  So is it really a big inconvenience to have to reload slowly?  It might actually help.
  • They look bad-ass and are fun
    • Yes, they do.  And I bet they are a ton of fun to fire.  Maybe there’s a place where you can go to rent them, fire off some rounds, and then leave them locked up in that place?
    • But, we have to recognize that these things are open to abuse.  The safety of kids in schools and people in theaters trumps your fun I’m afraid.
  • Zombie hoards
    • If you really are worried about that then perhaps you have a reason to own an assault rifle.  Or perhaps that leads on to…

#4 Making access to quality medical care a right for all citizens.

If owning a gun is a right then surely this is just as much of a right.  In part, because it might provide some much-needed help to those people suffering from mental illness that might otherwise do harm with guns, either to themselves or other people.

If you think that medical care should only be available to the rich then you and I have nothing more to discuss. 

And don’t kid yourself that “those people” have adequate medical coverage already through social programs.  If they did, people wouldn’t spend vast amounts of their income on medical care, and it would not be the #1 source of bankruptcies in America today.

#5 Get guns out of schools

We often hear that “the thing that will stop a bad person with a gun, is a good person with a gun”.  Frankly, as we have seen in Parkland, that isn’t the case.  And arming the teachers is a terrible idea for the following reasons:

  • We can’t seem to adequately provide school supplies and training for the job teachers already do.  How are we supposed to fund the training and equipment for this?
  • School security is not the job they had in mind when they choose that career path.
  • What do you think is going to happen if a SWAT team shows up to an active shooter situation and sees a bunch of people running around with guns in their hands?  It’s just going to add to the confusion.

Put yourself in their shoes.   If your company came to you and said “Hey Mr. Lawyer/Dr./Chef.  I know you’re pretty busy anyway but would you mind adding building security to your list of tasks?  It won’t take much, but if there’s an active shooter situation – would you mind grabbing your gun and shooting it out with them?  Thanks awfully.
I know some of with visions of grandeur might think that’s pretty cool.  But I also bet that at least 50% of those would wet their pants in a real situation.

Bringing more guns into schools is (IMHO) going to increase the number of killings in school, not decrease it.  Sure, it might stop a mass shooting but I worry we will instead replace that with a steady stream of 1 or 2 deaths across the country that adds up to more deaths overall.

coffee.jpg#6 We need to start talking to each other instead of shouting from the sidelines

The Internet is a wonderful, and scary, thing.  It tends to amplify whatever we are doing so if we are shouting at each other, it just leads to more shouting.

It also creates filter bubbles that reinforce existing views to the point where people think anyone with a different point of view is just an idiot – and that is on both sides.

So, let’s debate things openly.  Preferably in person!  Yes, I know that is scary for the keyboard warriors but I think if we all sat down with a nice cup of joe I bet we would find that we are closer than we think.

We all love our children.  We all want a peaceful and safe world to live in.  Let’s start there and then we can debate the best way to achieve that.

Speaking of children…

#7 We need to say a big “Thank You!” to the kids from Parkland.

The kids in Parkland have been through a horror that none of us should ever have to experience.  They have taken that and, in just a few days, turned it into a movement that has moved the needle further than ever before.  They are to be applauded, supported and thanked.  Frankly, they have shown us what is possible. Whether you like it or not, they have taken a stand for what they believe in and that, my friends, is the most American thing you can do. 

And, for those who have drunk the cool aid that they are “crisis actors”.  Please go and do some actual fact-checking from a reputable source before you share that post in your news feed.


Well, that was a lot.  Thanks for sticking with me.

Yes, I’m willing to concede I might not have it all right.  But I’m open to debating it and even learning a thing or two.  So feel free to leave a comment.

Want to meet for a coffee to discuss it?  I’m OK with that too – let’s figure out where and when.  I’m willing to learn and open my mind to new ideas…are you?



Filed under Life - or something like it, The Human Condition

Solid Foundation Drone Building Class

Is drone building as cool as skateboarding?  Probably not!  But who says you can’t have both?

via Solid Foundation Drone Building Class – Avios Aerial MediaAvios Aerial Media21624008_10155033600844786_804616408_n.jpg

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Filed under Life - or something like it

Equifax’s Instructions Are Confusing. Here’s What to Do Now.

By sitting on information about a massive data leak for two months, Equifax put over half the population of the US at serious risk of fraud. Now it turns out they may even be able to turn this into a money making proposition!

So, yes, your worst suspicions are now confirmed. Equifax may actually make money on this breach. We would expect nothing less from the credit reporting industry, with which few of us would choose to do business but nearly everyone has to sooner or later.

via Equifax’s Instructions Are Confusing. Here’s What to Do Now. – The New York Times

Similar to how it is illegal for criminals to make money from their notoriety, I think it’s time we had something similar for companies.  At the very least, any monies made need to be funneled into a fund to take care of the victims.

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Filed under Life - or something like it

The Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation

Did you know that there was only one automobile in the 1900 New York City parade, and just 13 years later there was only one horse?

Seven years ago I predicted that self-driving cars would be the norm very soon.  But as Tony Seba correctly points out, it is the merging of different technologies that really bring innovation and disruption.

Combining self-driving, solar power, ride sharing and the amazing longevity of electric vehicles it seems clear that the future of transportation is about to undergo massive disruption.  And if Tony is correct, we are going to see major changes in just a few years!

This video is long…but well worth watching.

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Technology

My Father’s Dragon

8 years ago I convinced Greg to record a children’s audio book for a group called Librivox.  Librivox provides thousands of free audiobooks that are in the public domain.

The book was called My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett.  It’s a fantastic story about how a boy uses his smarts to overcome various obstacles and it is made extra special (IMHO) because it is read by a young child.

Today I stumbled across that old recording on my phone and wanted to see how it was doing.  If I’m reading the site correctly it looks as though it has now been “read” over 70,000 times!

If you have young children I would recommend giving it a shot.  I bet they will love it!

If you would prefer to download it see the page on Librivox here:


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Filed under Life - or something like it

3D Printing Landscapes and Buildings

One of the uses I’ve been putting my drone to is creating high definition maps of areas. This is a relatively new service offering for Avios Aerial Media and I’m experimenting to find the best combinations of height, speed, picture overlap, and camera settings to achieve consistently good results.

The software I’m currently using is DroneDeploy which recently announced a host of new features.  But the one that really caught my eye is that you can now 3D print your images!


Think about that for a minute.

Let’s assume you really like that beautiful old church complete with steeple etc.  You can send your drone off to automatically capture images from all around it, upload those to the server and have someone 3D print a little replica of the church in a material of your choice.

Or you are about to start developing an area of land and need to show that to investors. Forget about maps.  Now you can print a 3D landscape of the entire area and drop it on their desk.

How cool is that!!

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Filed under Life - or something like it