Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Bad VIBE from Vidable

There is a real Web site called vidable.com. It has some videos on it. Sort of. They are actually on YouTube and just embedded on the Vidable site. What Vidable purports to do is make it easy for you to find coupon deals in your local area, actually see video from the merchant, and look at ratings before you decide to buy. They have a video to explain how it all works. Which is not, so far as I've seen, how it actually works and, to be perfectly honest, it's an incredibly cheesy video.

I tried looking at the channel for restaurants, for example, letting it think that my current location was Deerfield, NH (which is actually where my ISP is), and got one video. Of a culinary instructor from Vancouver, BC, Canada. Yeah, really local.

So how did I run across Vidable in the first place? Because in the last couple of days I've gotten no fewer than six emails touting its stock, VIBE (OTC). I am in no position to invest, of course, having just spent most of my allowance for the month on the props for my upcoming film shoot, but when you're blitzed with this much spam in a couple of days for the same thing, it kind of piques your curiosity. Well, at least it piques my curiosity.

So, what is Vidable all about? I can't say with certainty, but I'm pretty sure what it is. And so, if you've never heard of it, I'd like to introduce you to the concept of "Pump and Dump."

In the classic pump and dump scheme, you would get a message on your answering machine or voice mail giving you a stock tip, usually on an obscure penny stock (that is, a stock that trades for less than a dollar a share), and giving someone else's name as the intended recipient of the message. This was designed to make it sound as though you were accidentally getting an inside stock tip. If enough people fall for this and buy the stock (for the stock is real), the price of the stock will go artificially higher, until the pumpers, who already own the majority of shares, becoming dumpers, selling off their shares all at once.

At which time the stock crashes and becomes worthless, but not before the dumpers have made a killing, and killed your investment. Kind of sounds like mortgage-backed securities, but on a much smaller scale.

The modern version, via email, has some of the same earmarks. For example, none of the email addresses that show in the header are mine. In every email, the TO: field has my name, but at a different domain. These are legitimate domains (I checked), and so it makes the whole thing sound as if it might be real.

The things that bothers me most about this is that I can find no simple way to report this scam to the authority who has the power to prosecute the perpetrators: the Securities and Exchange Commission. If you look on the agency's Web page, there's information aimed at brokers, institutional investors, and advisors, but not consumers.

I guess in the world of finance, even penny-ante finance, Wall Street counts, and we don't.



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dear Google, et al

Google, I adore you, really I do. I can hardly get along without your search engine, and I use Blogger, Google Maps, YouTube, and other Google services on a daily basis. I just have one little—well, actually really big—favor to ask:

Stop trying to make my computer obsolete.

Although I have more than one computer, the one I use every day is a Mac Mini G4. The problem is not that I am using a Mac, or that the operating system is 10.4.11, but that the processor is a G4. It means that I can't upgrade to the latest browsers, or to the latest version of Adobe's Flash Player.

I understand that the world has gone Intel. I don't expect my old processor to do all the new things that developers are coming up with using new software they've only developed for Intel processors.

What I do object to is not being able to do things that I've always done without having to buy a new computer. Like uploading videos to YouTube. I can only do that now by using the old uploading screen, and something tells me that this option won't be available in the near future.

I've already lost the controls on YouTube videos. Well, they are there, but I can't see them. It doesn't matter what browser I use, so I suspect it's an incompatibility with my older version of the Flash Player.

And there's more. I can't use Street View in Google Maps anymore. How long is it going to be before my Mac can't use any of the Google services?

And it's not just the age of my computer. I have a Dell PC that's about the same age, but because it has an Intel processor, it can do all of the things in the Google world that my Mac can't. But I don't use the Dell unless I absolutely have to because, compared with the Mini G4, it's a crippled machine. (What's it crippled by? Well, Windows, for one thing.)

I'm not asking you to develop all of your new stuff for both processors; I understand how expensive that is. All I'm asking is that you leave ways for those of us who still have non-Intel processors to do the simple Google tasks we have come to rely on.

Thanks.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Really Cheap Teleprompter

As promised, I built a teleprompter. I used materials I had around the house, and spent $1.00 on a picture frame. Here's the video:


It's made from a scrap of plywood, a small piece of 1X6 left over from a door frame I built, eight wood screws, one 1/4-20 thumb screw with a wing nut, and a ball head adapter that I've used for a lot of different things over the 30 or so years I've had it. Oh, yes, and a cardboard box as a light shield.

I used my Android phone as the text display, with a program called Android Prompter, which was, of course, free. The unit I built is large enough for a tablet as well. There's software available for Android tablets, iPhone, and iPad, though I don't know of any free software for devices that don't use the Google Play app store. Feel free to point me to any that you know of, especially if it has a good mirror feature, which is essential for this kind of teleprompter.

Since none of the tablets in my household can use Android Prompter, I have an alternative method for getting larger text; I happen to own a 7-inch TFT television, and my phone can output NTSC video with the right cable (which also happen to have from another device—I never throw out cables). This method would also allow an operator to control the text speed for me, which might be very helpful.

Thinking of that also made me think of another application for this cobbled-together device. You know how people who are taking video of themselves, with a Web cam, for example, are either looking somewhere other than the camera lens, or can't get themselves placed properly in the frame? Well, if you output from your camera to a monitor, and placed the monitor in the teleprompter so that the top of the monitor faces away from the camera, you could see yourself in the glass while looking straight into the camera. Not only that, but the image in the glass would turn the same way you do, making it easier to make the little corrections in position to keep yourself properly framed.

That's another trick I'm going to try, when I have a video to shoot that I've memorized the lines for, or where I'm just talking off the top of my head.