Monday, July 20, 2020

Intelius Background Check Product Review

A major disappointment. Or to be more narrative:

I was creating a lesson on the persistence of information on the Web, and I thought some info from a background check company would make a revealing slide. So I typed in a name and the service at the Intelius Web site provide a reasonable presence. Like several of the other background check companies on the Web, Intelius apparently uses trained gerbils with abacuses to find information, because the user must sit through screen after screen of growing completion lines, while the screen says something like, "Gathering information on possible arrest records."  I must have wasted five minutes waiting for these gimmicks to play out.
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Finally, I was offered the report for $20 or so for a month of unlimited additional reports. I was a sucker, so I chose that. Then a screen pops up, saying that if I wanted to print or download a copy of this report, i would have to pay a few more dollars. This ploy turned out to be a major method of upping the cost of the report. For more details on criminal records, for example, please pay extra.

The basic report is pathetic. Here is what I got:
1. Name and birth  date, accurate
2. Possible Aliases, three listed, none correct
3. Possible Jobs, 9 listed, 6 correct, 3 incorrect, including owning a termite control company
4. Educational degrees: 3 listed, all correct (impressive)
5. Social Security Number: number not provided; location issued (California), correct
6. Possible Marriage Records: 6 listed, 0 correct.
7. Possible Divorce Records: 7 listed, 0 correct
8. Possible relatives: 6 listed, 4 correct
9. Related URLs: 10 listed, 4 correct
10. Possible P)hone numbers: 1 out of 6 correct
11. Possible email addresses:  1 out of  5 correct
12. A list of sex offenders living near previous addresses.
13. List of neighbors near various previous addresses.
14. Possible criminal records: incorrect traffic violation
15. Unlikely criminal records: About 12 criminal records none attributable to me, mostly  traffic violations, but a  couple burglary
16. 28 sex offenders near addresses
17. list of 6 web pages or connections, 6 listed, 3 incorrect
and a few more pages of the same junk.

A purchaser could have gleaned a former address and a former phone number  if  he had been looking for it. Otherwise,  every correct note is buried and confused by incorrect junk.

I didn't spring for any of the "extra details." I felt somewhat cheated by the ploy of withholding info, especially after saying how thorough it was going to be (and that I had better prepared to be shocked at what I was about to learn).

Bottom line: for me, Intelius is a waste of time and money.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Best Computer Speakers, Ever

When you bought your latest PC,  did you also get a pair of plastic-enclosed, cheap speakers so that your Zoom calls would have better audio than the tinfoil emitters built in to your new pride and joy? If so, I think you might have made a mistake. Over time, I've bought a number of "computer speakers," and since I'm cheap, they have all been under, say, about $75, usually more like $29. And they sounded like it. But that was before YouTube. I like to listen to music--of various kinds.

For years, I had two Maranz floor speakers sitting on my desk on either side of my PC monitor. They were impressive and good, what with a near flat frequency response and   12-inch woofers in an unported three way system. I had them so long as my main stereo speakers that the foam mounting on the woofers crumbled. I liked them so much I had the foam replaced.

But more recently circumstances so occurred (that is, my wife "commented" on them) that I was encouraged to give them to a housekeeper making his start in the world. So, I  had a pair of hand-me-down Pioneer bookshelf speakers, two-way ported jobs, with 6 1/2 inch bass drivers. To power them, I bought a tiny amplifier Lepai LP 2020A+ which produces about 15 or 20 watts per channel. That little amp is great. I liked its performance so much that I bought another for my room with the treadmill, so I could listen to YouTube while exercising.

Long story a bit longer, I saw an ad for some bookshelf speakers by Dayton Audio, for sale by Parts Express. These were the B652, with a 6-inch bass driver. But they were still  just a tad large (and they were sold out, too) so I looked at Dayton's other offerings. And there they were. Our eyes met, the room grew warmer, excitement filled  the air.

So now, my "computer speakers," my musical sound while I am computing, comes from two Dayton Audio B452 speakers, driven by the newest little, cute as ever, Lepai LP2020TI amplifier. Yes, as the secret code hidden in the model number deciphers, these speakers are two-way (4 1/2-inch bass drivers and a tweeter). Not ported.

The speakers are about 9 1/2 inches high and 6 inches wide, so they don't take up much real estate.
The current (May 2, 2020)  price is about $28 for the pair of speakers and about the same for the amp. So, for under $60, you can get a surprisingly wonderful audio system for  your PC. I've tried several kinds of music with them, from vocal like "Be Thou My Vision" to EDM (electronic dance music). Crank up the amp and the bass will stun the termites in  your walls.

Both the speakers and the amp are from Parts Express (who paid me nothing for this plug).

I'm just sayin'.






Monday, December 16, 2019

My First Experience with Induction Cooking--I Love It

This is my first experience with induction cookers, so, cheapskate that I am, I chose this Rosewill unit for about half the price of the other brands, that look like the same product with different names. At any rate, for the low price, I was surprised at the degree of control that can be selected on this: (1) how many watts of cooking power do you want? 300 up to 1800. (2) what temperature would you like to maintain? 150 to 450? (3) How long would you like to cook? and so on. A real surprise was the speed of cooking. We boiled some water as a first test and were amazed to see the bubbles starting up so fast. Then I made some eggs, and almost got back to the bowl too late. We made some spiced cider and the unit kept the standby temp between 200 and 250.

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: (1) induction cookers require flat-bottomed pots and pans that are magnet-friendly. To be sure your pot or pan will respond to a magnet, a refrigerator magnet is included in the box to test. (2) NOT ALL STAINLESS STEEL pots and pans are magnet-friendly. I learned this by accident just in the past few months. And, of course, aluminum is not magnetic.  (3) A pot and glass lid are included in the package, making this a deal you can't pass  up.
The unit appears to be well made, including a thermostat-controlled muffin fan (like the fans that cool PCs).

I'd say, if you want to find out what induction cooking is like, take a chance and get one of these.


Saturday, December 7, 2019

What I Found for Eczema, Psoriasis, Seborrheic Dermatitis, Flaky Skin around the Eyes and Ears

*****Disclaimer******Caution*****Read at your own risk*****

The following blog entry does not constitute nor is it intended to be medical advice, a recommended medical procedure, a treatment, prevention, cure, or help for any disease or apparent disease condition, circumstance, symptom, or health event. This blog does not embody or imply any assurance of help or benefit. If  you have a medical issue, get professional medical advice and treatment from a legitimately educated and licensed medical doctor.

For several years, I have been bothered by flaking skin around my ears. I just washed it out each day with a washrag while taking a shower. Then for no apparent reason, the flakiness moved below my ears and then sideways across my eyes and eyebrows. This "attack" grew sore and tender. So bad was it that I went to Urgent Care on a Saturday. The Physician's Assistant gave me a prescription for an antibiotic ointment. I tried to keep it out of my eyes, but since some of the infection / problem was on my eyelids, that was difficult.

When I got in touch with my regular doctor, she gave me a prescription for a steroidal cream. Steroids are definitely to be kept out of  the eyes, since the eyes can become cloudy. I finally went to an ophthalmologist, who gave me yet another prescription for a different steroidal cream. She, like the others, said, "Just  keep it out of your eyes." I was afraid to use it, since some of the gooky buildup was on he lower eyelash area.

However, almost in passing, after we briefly discussed the fact that all that buildup is water soluble, the ophthalmologist mentioned that I might try Johnson's Baby Shampoo to wash my eyelids.

Johnson's Baby Shampoo is my hero. A couple of times a day I run the tap to get warm water, pour a little Johnson's on my fingers, and wash my eye area--lids, brows, tear ducts, etc. There is sometimes some pain caused by the physical rubbing of the lower eyelashes, but there is no sting and no irritation from the shampoo. Then a gentle pat and gentler rub with a dry washrag or face towel and we're done.

Johnson's head-to-toe wash and shampoo is even milder than the straight baby shampoo and works just as well for me.

If you have similar skin issues, ask your doctor if trying Johnson's is a good idea.

Disclaimer: I have not been paid or given any consideration of any kind by Johnson and Johnson, nor as of this writing has anyone from that company even contacted me.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Fake and Counterfeit Academic Degrees Are Everywhere: How to Spot Them

 The proliferation of online degree programs, many of them legitimate, has encouraged some groups to offer fake degrees to anyone with sufficient money. Here are just a few ideas to help employers avoid hiring people who present fake or counterfeit degrees or certificates as a means of getting a job or a promotion.

First, what is a fake degree? A fake degree is a diploma (such as an MA or PhD) that has been purchased from a degree mill that is not a genuine college or university and that requires little or no academic work. Give me $100 and I'll send you a PhD in Interpersonal Counseling or Social Accommodation Theory. For an extra $50, I'll send you a set of transcripts listing all the courses  you took to qualify. And for another $100 (I'm just making all these numbers up as examples, since prices vary), I'll send you the dissertation you, uh, "wrote."

I don't want to be sued, so I'll keep these tips general and simply state that these are  red flags, if not screaming evidence.

1. Find the school's web site. In the United States, virtually every college and university's online presence has an .edu (for "education") domain. If the place your candidate got a degree from has a .com (for commercial) domain, be very suspicious. The same caution holds for .org domains.

2. What is the university's web site URL? Oddly enough, many of the questionable sites have the word "university" as part of the URL, as in www.riverbottomuniversity.com.

3. Go to the university's web site and read some of the text. If the text appears to have been written by a non-native English speaker, be very cautious. Here are some examples:
+ "comprehensive curriculum that prepare you to face"
+ "interested in obtaining high level of education and expertise"
+ "Earning a doctoral program, adds credibility to your academic profile"
+ "Develop Expertise that are Essential for Successful Career in the Long Run."
+ "Dissertation: For successful completion of doctoral program, it is must for students to complete their research work...."

4. Admission requirements. Are there objective, third-party assessments required for admission? SAT, LSAT, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT? What are required scores? If there are no or only pro forma admission requirements, be suspicious.

5. Graduation requirements. Read the requirements (or call the institution) and find out if credit is given for "life experience" or "career accomplishments" so that the number of required units is lessened or eliminated. How many classes and units are required? Is there the possibility of waiving some or all of the required work?

7. Is the institution accredited and if so by whom? There is actually a Council for Higher Education Accreditation that lists the credible and authoritative accrediting organizations.  https://www.chea.org/.The  United States Department of Education also accredits American higher education institutions. See the site at https://www.ed.gov/accreditation?src=rn.
Go to the institution's web site and search on "accreditation." There should be ample evidence of accreditation by one or more of the legitimate organizations listed on CHEA.

8. If  you are still in doubt about the genuineness of your candidate's degree, have him or her come in (or video conference by phone using Skype or WhatsApp) and discuss a paper or two or the dissertation submitted for the degree.

9. Other resources to help evaluate the quality of a higher education institution. (Listed for information only; not endorsed or guaranteed.)
https://www.geteducated.com/diploma-mill-police/degree-mills-list
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unaccredited_institutions_of_higher_education
https://thebestschools.org/magazine/online-college-vs-diploma-mills/

A Counterfeit degree is a certificate copied from a real degree (from a  genuine, accredited institution of higher learning), with a faked name, degree, date, etc. If you suspect that your job applicant does not really have the degree claimed, in spite of sending you a photocopy, call the institution and ask.

Unfortunately, you just can't be too trusting these days. 
If you know the techniques for interviewing people suspected of plagiarism, you can often use them profitably by interviewing a  job candidate or employee, also.

+++



Saturday, July 27, 2019

DOSS Touch Wireless Speaker Investigative Review

If you have not read my previous review of the DOSS Touch Wireless Speaker, I recommend you look at it for an overview of  the unit. This review includes the results of a set of "Bass Performance" tests, designed to discover how to get the best bass from the unit.

Background: Bass sounds are at the lower end of the audio frequency spectrum. The lower the bass sound, the larger the size of the sound wave. To generate a low-frequency sound wave in a speaker, the size of the speaker and the amplifier power needed to drive the sound must be big. That's why you see 250 watt amplifiers and 15-inch woofers. So how can the dinky 1.5-inch speakers in the DOSS Touch unit have any hope of producing a deep bass sound?

The answer lies in the way sound waves can propagate. In brief, if you are a tiny speaker that by itself cannot produce a sound down to, say 40 Hz, then you get help from the surface you are sitting on. In other words, since sound is just vibrating air, the little speakers can vibrate a relatively large surface and the surface will act similarly to a woofer. That's what a "passive radiator" does: it radiates vibrations from the dinky speakers to the surface where the speaker is sitting and the surface vibrates at a much lower frequency, creating a richer bass than the unit by itself can produce.

Okay, okay. So just what effect can placing the unit on various surfaces have on delivering better bass? Here are the results of my own, highly subjective testing. The table shows the degree of bass enhancement provided by each surface or setup, with better bass being indicated by more plus (+) signs.

Music: "What a Feeling" from Flashdance

Bedroom Floor, upstairs, laminate: +++
Bed, bedroom: ++
Bathroom, tile floor: ++++
Bathroom, tile floor, DOSS Touch positioned facing a wall, 8 inches from wall: +++++
Kitchen, Quartz counter top: +++
Open room, DOSS Touch suspended on a 2 foot by  2 foot piece of 1/4 inch plywood: ++++
Open room, DOSS Touch suspended on 2 foot by 1.5 foot plastic storage bin lid: ++
Laminated particle board desk, facing listener, 1 foot from edge: ++++
Laminated particle board desk, unit facing wall, 8 inches from wall: +++++
Listener lying on back, DOSS Touch placed facing listener at bottom of rib cage: ++++

Conclusions
The bounce created by placing the DOSS Touch about 8 inches away from a wall, facing the wall provided the richest, best bass response--and that is a great sound. Just by itself the unit puts out a surprisingly rich low frequency range, entirely unlike the screech and slap "music" put out by the previous generations of tiny speakers.

The other notable discovery is that a listener can truly feel the music by placing the DOSS
Touch on the ribs, so that the base of the unit is over the last two inches of the rib cage. As noted above, that experiment earned a ++++ score on our evaluation.

Random tips:
To turn the unit on, press and hold the round button on the back until you hear the first of three chimes. Then release the button.

For first time paring, put your phone or tablet in Bluetooth ON mode. Then turn on the DOSS Touch. Your phone or tablet will show all the available Bluetooth objects. If you don't see a listing for DOSS Touch right away, click on the Bluetooth address, such as FC:58:FA:EF:C1:DD and soon the name DOSS SoundBox will appear and connect. Next time, pairing will be quick and automatic and the SoundBox will play some tones to let you know that is is connected.

Note that the DOSS Tech will automatically connect to the last device when  you turn it on. So, if you want to connect it to a different device, you must first disconnect the previous one. So, to change from your phone to your tablet, first disconnect your phone.

To increase volume, use your finger to wipe around the blue circle on top in a clockwise direction. When you hear a beep, the DOSS Tech is at full volume. It should be  quite loud. If not, you must increase the MEDIA volume on you phone or tablet.

I've been using the DOSS Touch SoundBox regularly since I got it and I continue to be impressed by the music it renders. When you can't listen to music on your home system, such as at the beach, in the park, on the lunch tables at work, this unit is worth your serious consideration.

Still recommended.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

DOSS Touch Wireless Bluetooth V4.0 Portable Speaker Review

This is a review of the DOSS Touch Wireless Bluetooth V4.0 Portable Speaker with HD Sound and Bass, 12 Hour Playtime, Built-in Mic, Portable Wireless Speaker for iPhone, Samsung (Black).

Talk about exceeding expectations, this DOSS Touch Wireless Bluetooth speaker was a pleasant surprise out of the box. I had begun to wonder--that is to say, I had come to doubt--whether any small speakers could put out decent midrange music, much less, any sound that one would identify as bass. I  had been to many Consumer Electronics Show expos, where 20 or 43 vendors all featured those tennis-ball sized speakers and swore that the music was fantastic (it was almost always acid rock so no one could tell whether or not it was any good). One booth had daisy chained a dozen or more of those itty bitty speakers together, in hopes, I suppose, that the combination would produce both better volume and better sound. But the result was, "BZZZZT. Thank you for playing. Next!"

I am also quite skeptical of product reviews since they can be faked to support one's own product or criticize a competitor's product. (And often, the most negative reviews seem to reveal that the person condemning the product didn't follow the directions.)

But all that to say that I really wanted to get a small, stereo, portable, Bluetooth speaker that I could carry easily and connect to a phone or tablet. So I did a bunch of research. Reviews, specifications, thinking, and doing some decision making activity all led me to take a chance on the DOSS Touch Wireless Bluetooth speaker. According to the specifications listing, the unit contains  two 1.5 inch, 6 watt speakers (for a total of 12 watts) and a 2.6 inch passive (bass) radiator. The unit weighs 560 grams or 19.75 ounces (19.6 on my postal scale). While there is no necessary correlation between weight and sound quality, if you have had any experience with those little, mostly plastic speakers for your phone or PC, speakers that if you sneeze will be blown off the table, speakers that produce pretend music, then the attention-getting weight of the DOSS Touch Wireless speaker unit creates a feeling of hopefulness. "There just might be something here that actually works," I thought.

And I was right. Whether you want to play "What a feeling" from Flashdance, Beethoven's Emperor Concerto (even at low volume), Elvis' "His Latest Flame," Pharrell Williams' "Happy" with crisp top-hats on the drums, "Far Away" by Libera, with its high vocals and cathedral acoustics, the DOSS Touch Wireless Bluetooth speaker unit will do it justice.

 OF COURSE, the sound won't match what your $3,000 home entertainment system can produce, but the sound is very, very good I think. No doubt your home entertainment system rolls down the bass to 40Hz or even lower, and up to, say 22,000 Hz. The DOSS unit specifications lists a range of 100 to 18,000 Hz. Not 20,000? Well, most men by age 35 can't hear above 15,000, and even if you can hear tones that high, there isn't all that much up there.

Signal to noise ratio is listed at greater than 55 decibels.

I haven't listened to the fancier units, so they may or may not reward the extra cost. But this 12 Watt Bluetooth unit will allow you to enjoy those 50-song YouTube mixes, or the radio, or your downloaded music all day long.

Recommended.