Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Community Color Redesign

PHP7 was released last week.

I am doing a huge redesign of the Community Color sites. I am writing and testing the code on the domain yintercept.com .

I know this sounds pathetic, but I stopped programming a few years back because my coding style is considered an "antipattern" by the technorati. The word "antipattern" is the way that thugs in the programming world put people down.

I finally decided that it is stupid let oneself be cowed by a bunch of thugs.

So, I decided to call my coding style The Resource Model of Web Design.  I just opened a Disqus Thread and invite people who enjoy code or have comments on design to drop a line. The site uses PHP7, SQLite3, HTML, CSS and SVG.

Note, I am blocking in the structure for yintercept.com in HTML. I will add the PHP script after I've tested it line by line with PHP7.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Happy Small Business Saturday

Happy Small Business Saturday.

The theme of today's post is simply that ownership matters.

Personally, I believe that the most robust form of society involves a large number of small businesses owned by people who are active in the local community.

Mathematically, one can show that networks with a distributed framework and many independent yet interconnected nodes is more robust and more resilient than societies formed in a hierarchy or dominated by a few control centers.

History provides thousands of examples where communities depending on a single business or product fail when faced with adversity, while diverse communities are able to adjust to changes.

Societies that depend on big government, big business or big capital might thrive for a moment but are subject to systemic risks which can can cause untold hardships.

The driving theme of the different project that I engaged in on the Internet is that ownership matters.

So, rather than shopping at a small business on this small business Saturday; I would like to encourage readers to think about and research the ownership of the companies with which they do business?

Look at your credit card statement. How often do you spend at a big business and how often do you shop at small businesses.

One should look through their household. Where did the stuff come from? How much, if any, of things were made locally?

You can look up your web history? How often do you visit small locally owned web sites?

I believe that ownership matters. I want to frequent locally focused small business whenever possible.

One valuable tool for researching ownership is the whois lookup. whois.ICANN.org lets you look up the current owner of a domain. whois.domaintools.com maintains a database with the domain history, but you have to register to use the service. (more domain related tools)

The whois record shows who owns a domain-name. Some times the the domain name is owned by a different person or group from the business. Even worse,  domain registrars push "enhanced privacy services." These services mask the domain ownership.

If you have a business; you should never use domain privacy service. Instead you should maintain a good clean registry entry with your business address. If you are own a business and are using a domain privacy service, you should cancel that service and display accurate information about your business.

The one privacy caveat is that you should not use your primary email address in the domain record because unprincipled marketers harvest publicly displayed email addresses and spam them. Since you can control the email address on your registry record; you don't need to buy privacy services.

I use the email address spam (at) community color. com to inform the user that I treat every message received by that address with suspicion. To date, just about everything I've received on that email address is useless marketing garbage.

A useful shopping tip: If you are considering purchasing something online, you should check out the whois record first. I never buy from a web site that uses privacy services. If a business is not willing to display good contact information, then I assume they are hiding other things as well. Domain privacy should only be used by opinion sites.

The Internet makes it easy to trace down owner the ownership of a domain. It is more difficult to track down ownership of businesses.

Publicly traded firms are required to post quarterly filings with the SEC. I've been maintaining a list of stocks of local concern on this page irivers.com/stock.html .

Unfortunately, only the largest businesses in a community are traded publicly.

Wikiepedia often has good information on huge corporations. But almost no information on local firms.

Anyway, my goal for 2016 is to track down other sources to help people figure out who owns what in their local community. There are many good sources of info on the Internet. States require businesses to file incorporation records and DBA records. Counties often have good databases on land records.

My message for Small Business Saturday is that ownership matters and that responsible consumers should be attentive to who owns what and should consider ownership in purchasing decisions.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday and onto Small Business Saturday

It's Black Friday and I feel that I should do something commerce related like post coupons or sales.

The truth of the matter is that I really don't care too much for marketing.

My experience is marketers of the modern-mindset tend to do negative things in their efforts to control markets.

Marketing gimmicks like Black Friday tend to be dominated by big commerce and big media.

I like the idea of Small Business Saturday. This is a gimmick invented by American Express in which people are coaxed to support small local businesses after Black Friday.

The Community Color project fits this format better. This project lists web sites from select local communities in the Mountain West. The main page lists directories for Arizona, Colorado and Utah.

NOTE: I started this project by creating sites for towns in Idaho and Montana. That project was taken over by a different group. I kept the domain Missoula.WS because my partner didn't like the WS TLD.

Originally, I intended to make sites for towns. The ArizonaColor.US has a county focus.

The first design included numerous interactive features. I discovered that the people who make posts on general information sites tend to rude; So, I removed all the interactive features.

I wanted to include maps and other resources. Unfortunately, I ran out of diskspace. I will be switching web hosts with the release of PHP 7 and might start reading interactive features.

Basically, if you live in the Mountain West, you can go to the site and find directories with links to local businesses. I fund the project by listing affiliate programs for national web sites. My plan was to create a structure in which big business funded free listings for small business.

To be truthful, the sites barely make enough money to pay my web hosting fees, but, as I said at the beginning of this post. I am not very good at marketing. I want to find ways that give small business and individuals a voice to counter big media and big business. But this is really not something that people support.

BTW, the site aFountainOfBargains.com is my attempt at affiliate marketing. Anything I make from that effort goes to pay the web hosting fees for the community sites.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Adding SSL

I've read several blog posts by people who say that they refuse to visit or link to web sites that do not SSL.

I would never enter a credit card number of buy from a web site that does not use SSL, but I have never been so paranoid as to refuse to visit unencrypted web sites.

SSL does not encrypt the meta data left by your computer browsing. A hacker who finds out that you visited this blog will see exactly what you see when you visited this blog ... just a bunch of opinionated posts by a computer hack.

SSL certificates do not prevent advertisers from tracking your every move. They only prevent people who are sniffing web traffic on a router from seeing the content that you see. 

I have not added SSL certificates to all my sites for a very simple reason. The certificates are expensive and require regular maintenance. A certificate for a single subdomain costs  about $70 per year. (The sale price of certificate at Godaddy was $62 on 11/26/2015) Wildcard subdomains cost several hundred dollars.

The cost of SSL is prohibitive for charities, small businesses, and information sites.

This particular blog is hosted by Google on blogspot. I decided to turn on the SSL option. You can see the SSL version the site at https://communitycolor.blogspot.com. Google is a huge company at the center of the Internet world; So, I guess they are able to get wildcard SSL certificates at a sufficient discount that allows them to give the things away.

Turning on SSL is a simple matter of going into settings page on blogger.com and clicking SSL.

They only have SSL options for sites ending in blogspot.com. I cannot add SSL to my other blogspot blog blog.yintercept.com.

*It is possible to add a self-signed certificate to a web site. Internet browsers raise a warning when you enter a web site with a self signed certificate. I find the warnings silly because a site with a self signed certificate is more secure than a site with no certificate.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tax Day

It's Tax Day. I am sitting here doing my taxes and feeling depressed.

For some odd reason, I've found that I am unable to do my taxes before the deadline. I will often finish gathering all of my tax documents in January and February. But when I sit down to finish my taxes, I get so depressed that I am unable to finish the tax.

This is the only task that affects me so deeply. And I really don't know why.

Actually, I do know why. I get depressed because the way the United States goes about taxation is absurd.

In the current system, the government collects taxes from our employers and business relations. We have to clutter our living spaces with petty little documents then refile all of the information to the IRS.

If the IRS decides there is an error in our taxes, the IRS rains down upon us like a ton of bricks.

If Americans had a functional political system, we could very easily streamline the process.

I dislike this antiquated tax system. This year, I decide to take a stand for sanity. Early this month, I launched a KickStarter Campaign to publish a book about tax reform.

The reform I propose is quite simple. I want our government to create a computer program that calculates and collects taxes to eliminate the need to file a tax return.

The reform suggests that Congress start an Open Source Program to create an account based alternative to the current income tax system. I named the reform The Object Tax after Object Oriented Programming. I named the reform after a design methodology because the reform is not about changing the tax code. The goal of the reform is to use computer technology to streamline the process of tax collection.

The reform creates a thing called "A Tax Aware Account" as an alternative to payroll withholdings and an annual return.

The Tax Aware Account would include all the information needed to calculate a progressive tax. Taxpayers would get their whole paycheck deposited into the account. They would pay taxes when they withdraw the money for spending.

Lets say you earned $1000 and your progressives tax rate was 20%. When you withdrew the money, the account would send $200 to the government and you would get $800.

The Tax Aware Account includes all of the information needed to pay your taxes. This way people wouldn't have to file a tax return. (If a person's tax status changes during the year. They would record the change in the Tax Aware Account which would calculate the effect of the change and create a transaction to reflect the change.

I must emphasize. The program creates an alternative to the existing system. The taxes collected in the new system are based on the old system. People would only use the new system if they found it more convenient.

I like the approach of creating alternatives better than the audacious approach used by programs like PPACA and The FairTax which force a reform on the entire nation at once.

I want to publish a book on this reform proposal because it includes some unique insight on taxation that I have not found in other works about tax reform.

For example, this reform changes the flow of money. In the current system, the money flows from employers to the government. With the Tax Aware Accounts, the money flows from taxpayers to the government.

The bureaucracy tends to form around the flow of money. Because our tax dollars flow from employers, the government aligns itself to employers and large corporations. Changing the flow of money so that it comes from individual accounts would make the bureaucracy responsive to the needs of the people.

Let's face it. The fact that Walmart and other big corporations write huge checks to the government each month gives these huge corporations additional clout. If these same tax dollars flowed from Walmart workers to the government, the government would be less attentive to the corporation and more attentive to the worker.

Changing the flow of money also transitions the income tax from a tax on production to a tax on consumption.

My articles on consumption taxes makes one extremely important argument that many economists seem to have missed: In order for a tax to be a true consumption tax, the money has to flow from the consumer.

Supporters of the FairTax want to replace the income tax with a national sales tax. The advocates of the FairTax believe that a sales tax is a consumption tax, but they miss the subtle point that since the money flows from the producer, the FairTax is still a production tax.

From the point of view of the producer, a sale is the moment when one realizes profit from production. A huge sales tax dampens production at the most important moment in the production process ... the point of sale.

The Object Tax is a true consumption tax because the money flows from the consumer when the consumer prepares for consumption. The FairTax is a production tax because the money flows from the producer at the point of sale.

The Object Tax also brings up some fascinating discussions about the role that the Open Source Movement could play in implementing public policy.

In our current way of doing things, Congress bids out contracts to huge service providers. The service providers with the best inside connections usually win the contract. The contractor then builds a huge monolithic program. The contractor is often monolithic nature of their program to accumulate even more wealth and power.

The effect of this approach is that it concentrates wealth and power in a few hands.

The goal of the Object Tax is to create a computer program that collects taxes.

Rather than seeking a single provider, the reform launches an Open Source Project that would invite thousands of service providers to create a base of common code that could be used be used by hundreds of thousands of companies. This reduces the concentration of wealth and power that occurs in the status quo.

There are some other really cool things that would happen if Congress launched an open source program to create an account based alternative to the current income tax. For example, the open source project could be designed so that it is extended by state governments to collect state and local taxes.

If programmed properly, the Tax Aware Accounts could provide a single point from which to collect federal, state and local taxes.

While the Object Tax is really just an thought experiment on my part, the project introduces insights that might be of value in other attempts to reform the tax code.

My Kickstarter Project has been up for several days and has received zero backers. It runs until May 13, so I get to spend a month checking a project that most likely will receive zero support for a month. yippee, hooray.

Anyway, I have to get back to my taxes. If you hear a person jumping off a bridge in despair. That's just me. I get depressed at tax time because I know that there are better ways to go about collecting taxes than this stupid system of payroll withholdings and an annual return.

Monday, January 26, 2015

HTML 5 Date Picker

Firefox just updated itself.

Every time Firefox updates, I stop what I am doing to see if Firefox has started supporting the new date picker functionality of the HTML 5 specifications.

A few years back, I started upgrading my sites to HTML 5.0. Since several of the sites needed a date picker. I decided to put off the upgrade until the functionality of HTML 5 was in place; So, I am really irritated that this needed function is not yet in place.

Chrome, Opera and Safari support the new date picker. Firefox is pretty the last hold out. I should say it is the last holdout that matters. I have no idea what Internet Explorer is doing.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to see if the date picker works followed by an essay on why the date picker should be implemented on the client side.


Client Side Date Picker

Dates and times are extremely important in computer systems. We use the date and time to figure out the sequence of events.

While it is easy to use timestamps to record the date of computer actions, we need an easy way to query users for events that took place outside the computer.

A date picker is not a difficult piece of code to write. For the most part it is sufficient to know that weeks are seven days long and every fourth year is a leap year.

It is easy to write a javascript date picker. The problem here is that such code needs to be tested on hundreds of devices. Ideally, it should be checked in multiple languages. This type of testing is very expensive.

After that expense, the next problems kick in. The first is that the web site needs to send the javascript to the client with each page that contains a date. The second is all the web sites need date checkers send different code. This creates a confusing experience for users.

A client side date picker will present users with one consistent date picker that can be used on multiple sites. This greatly simplifies both the life of the web user and the developer who needs only send the parameters for the date.

Anyway, I've been anxiously awaiting the inclusion of a date picker in Firefox. The main purpose of this post was to create a form with a date, week and hour field to see if the picker was implemented yet.

If Firefox does not support this feature soon, I will probably just switch to Opera or Chrome.