A lot happens before ideas become solutions.

At ElixWare we want to bring you more than just great, affordable software. We want to let you know how and why we do what we do.

Our Ruminations blog will bring you insights into how we got here and some of the things we consider when trying to help you run your business. We hope it gives you a better understanding of how we strive to better serve your needs.

Bitpourri - Burgers, Chips and Cookies

Just a few appetizers after a long fast

A Mélange Hors d'oeuvres
Welcome to Bitpourri, where we post tidbits that aren’t lengthy enough to warrant a full blog post of their own but still merit sharing. These (usually) unrelated vignettes are quick and easy reads for when you're interested in some food for thought but are feeling more “snackish” than ready for a full meal. You can find more of our Bitpourri series here.

Baby Steps
After a 14 month hiatus necessitated by the long tail of a Covid-19 infection, I'm back to try my hand at a bit of writing. And what better way to stick a toe back in the blogging waters than with a Bitpourri post?

Few things go together like burgers and fries. But if you want your business to run well you need to serve up a different dynamic duo: procedures and training.

Today I'm going to draw your attention to a small detail that demonstrates consistency and a solid training program: the wrapper for a Burger King Whopper.

You may have never noticed, but the wrappers for BK Whoppers have symbols - what we would call icons in User Interface parlance - that indicate what's included on the burger. For example, if you order your whopper without onions, the crew at Burger King will strike through the onion icon on the wrapper indicating your Whopper does not include onions.

This technique is neither remarkable nor unique. But what I found interesting is when you order a double Whopper, instead of circling the icon for double meat patties, they strike though the icon for a single meat patty (these are only mutually exclusive icons on the wrapper). This consistency in their training goes against the natural inclination to indicate what is included rather than what was excluded.

So, here's to Burger King's training program, where doing it their way means you'll get your Whopper your way.

You may or may not have noticed, but there's a world-wide chip shortage going on right now. Not potato chips, chocolate chips or even poker chips. We're talking about computer chips. It's become a crisis and it's going to last well into 2022.

You may not think that this computer chip shortage affects you, but it will (if it hasn't already). The types of chips in short supply are in almost everything these days. Cars and trucks, personal electronics (e.g., phones, tables, computers, home monitors), computer peripherals (keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, cameras), gaming systems, TVs and monitors, digital media players, modems and routers, set-top and cable boxes, appliances, key fobs and just about anything else that plugs into a wall or uses batteries are impacted. The world consumes computer chips at an alarming rate. It should come as no surprise that the short supply and high demand is going to result in the price of everything that uses computer chips going up.

The shortage of auto semiconductors will impact over 10 million vehicles from US manufactures in 2021, resulting in the loss of hundreds of billions in auto sales.

You may be asking yourself, "How could this happen"? The answer sounds almost biblical: drought, fire, ice and pestilence.

  • For the last year Taiwan has been suffering its worst drought in 56 years. Many reservoirs are below 20% capacity, with some as low as 10%.
  • In March, a microprocessor plant in Japan that was a major provider of automotive chips, was damaged by a fire.
  • In February, unexpected cold weather knocked Texas' electric grid offline for several days, shutting down semiconductor plants and disrupting production for over a month.
  • And then there's the Covid-19 pandemic, whose mandates against working in crowded offices resulted in a rush on new tablets, computers and peripherals for working from home.

All together, these events have resulted in a critical shortage of the magic that makes most things work today.

So, what can be done? The easy answer is wait. It takes years, and tens of billions of dollars, to build new computer chip factories. Several of the big manufacturers, such as TSMC, Intel and Samsung, already have expansion plans in the works, totaling over $150 billion. But these new plants won't be online for at least a few years.

All semiconductor and microprocessor production capacity for 2021 has already been allocated to existing orders.

As production returns to normal manufacturers are working overtime to try to take a bite out of the production backlogs. By this time next year, we should see end of this crisis on the horizon. Unless, of course, something else comes along to cripple the production, or increase the consumption, of computer chips.

When it comes to the internet, cookies are like your shadow: they seem to follow you everywhere and there's nothing you can really do about it. So when Google says it plans to eliminate the use of 3rd party cookies for advertising (some time in 2022) it may sound like a cause for celebration. But alas, it's nothing of the kind. Instead of being a cookie jar to Google you'll become part of a FLoC (see 'Birds of a Feather' below). This isn't the privacy milestone Google would like us to believe it is. And don't assume companies like Facebook, and other websites where you are the product, will follow suit.

Google would like to change you from an "individual" to a "cohort" for advertising purposes. Sounds like a step in the right direction, but it's really just a baby step. They can still identify you as an individual (your cohort name plus your IP Address will be enough to identify you to advertisers or websites that you visit).

The solution to prevent most 3rd party tracking, as well as becoming an unwitting cohort, is to disable 3rd party cookies in every browser you use. There are also anti-tracking browser extensions you can install (e.g., Ghostery's Privacy Ad Blocker extension) and new extensions that block FLoC, such as DuckDuckGo's Privacy Essentials extension.

Birds of a feather. FLoC stands for "Federated Learning of Cohorts", which sounds like some government re-education program you'd find in the sequel to Minority Report. Google claims that FLoC will anonymize you by adding you to a flock of cohorts, but they also claim it will retain at least 95% accuracy in targeting you with ads. And only Google will know who your cohorts are (unless they monetize that information as well).

Google plans to determine who your cohorts are by analyzing your web history and even the content of some of the sites you visit. Google also claims it will not upload your browsing history, and that Chrome will do all the dirty work without sharing it with Google. The easiest way to opt-out of FLoC tracking you like an endangered species is to disable 3rd party cookies.

If you value your web privacy, then do what you can to defend yourself, including using browsers and browser extensions that protect your privacy, and blocking all tracking and 3rd party cookies. Google says users who have 3rd party cookies blocked will be excluded from FLoC, but that remains to be seen. Google makes its money by targeting you with ads so never forget that Google always has you on their advertising radar.

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We are a small team with a lot of experience, specializing in software development, design, and workflow, process & project management. We are fiercely dedicated to helping you do what you do best — run your business — without getting bogged down in the mountains of paper and hours of screen time required to do it. We are equally dedicated to protecting your privacy and your data. Learn more about our privacy policy.