Thursday, November 19, 2015

FCC Response To Complaint Against Epicurious

Well, the FCC finally responded to my complaint. I wonder why big corporations like this can violate the law with no consequences, when, you know, there's no consequences. I'm really glad to hear that no further action is required, even though Epicurious continues to send me email almost two months after I pressed the unsubscribe button.

Oh, and I filed an FTC complaint the same day I filed the FCC complaint. I'm not holding my breath. Meanwhile, they send me spam every single day, weekends and holidays included.

FCC Consumer Complaints (FCC Complaints)
Nov 17, 10:32 AM
Hi Mark
Thank you for your submission. Your complaint provides the FCC with important information we can use to develop policies to protect consumers, remedy violations of the Communications Act, and encourage future compliance with the law.
The FCC appreciates the information you’ve shared with us. It appears that the Federal Trade Commission will be better able to assist you.
We urge you to contact that agency about this matter.
Please go to the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer website at You can review educational materials or file a complaint.

As such, no further action is required by the FCC. Your complaint was closed as of today.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Android Explained: New Google Now Voice Commands

For anyone who ever said "Siri is nice, but Apple isn't my flavor of koolaid," then you will like some of the recent voice commands for Google Now. The voice commands were rudimentary at first, mostly focused on navigation. But in recent months, they have been really buffing it out with stuff you would expect to be there, like sending texts and alarms and such.

Being Google, there are some really cool commands in there like "do I need a jacket today?" and "turn on wifi".

Having suffered a neck injury a couple years ago, it affected one of my hands and made it hurt to text. Now it's easy to text someone by saying "OK Google text this person" and then you dictate the message with your voice, confirming at the end to send. This feature is still a little more basic than it should be, but already incredibly useful to someone like me who won't drink the Apple koolaid no matter how much it hurts to type.

Another of my favorite new voice commands is "OK Google set alarm for 9 AM"

Here is a really good writeup of the new commands as well. All you have to do is say "OK Google" to active a voice command. One of the commenters claimed that you can say "Ok dude" but that doesn't work for me.

Some of my useful favorites:

"What's the weather?"
"What time is it in [place]?"
"Navigate me to [place]"
"Send a text to [person]"
"Wake me up at [time]"
"Do I need a jacket?"
"What is the next turn?"
"What time will I get there?"
"Call [person]"
"Go go gadget [app]"
"Do I need an umbrella?"
"Read the last text"
"Are we there yet?"
"How far is [place]?"

Some of my fun favorite "easter eggs":

"Beam me up, Scotty"
"What does the fox say?"
"Who's on first?"
"Make me a sandwich"
"What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen Swallow?"
"What is the loneliest number?"
"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Some of my interesting favorites:

"Flip a coin"
"How old is [person]?"
"Who is [person] married to?"
"Who wrote [book]?"
"When is [holiday]?"
"When is the next episode of [tv show]?"
"What is the tip for [amount]?"
"What is the word for [word] in [language]?"
"Is John Snow dead?"

Friday, October 30, 2015

Review: DoingOutdoor Panasonic NCR18650 Unprotected Lithium-Ion Cells [6 Pack]

From the day I started building USB power packs using 18650 lithium-ion cells harvested from laptop batteries, I've dreamed about replacing every single cell with brand new NCR18650B cells. These packs all take unprotected cells, which is good for my use because these Panasonics are known for being long.

But they are expensive, even direct from China, and a good many are intercepted because customs will arbitrarily decide these types of batteries are too dangerous to ship. They can be had on Amazon, but it's very hard to tell the fakes. Some of these fakes can fool some of the experts.

I decided to take my chances on Amazon, and I have heard of DoingOutdoor, so I bought two of their 6 pack of these cells for about $37 each pack. Pricey, but much cheaper than anywhere legitimate that I've found. I figured that if they weren't legit, then Amazon would take care of me.

Here is the official spec sheet from Panasonic, in PDF format.


The cells are wrapped individually in little cardboard boxes, so they are safe to ship. I doubt Amazon would allow anything unsafe since their name is on it too. They sure look legit to me. The color of the cells, weight, etc., all feel good in my hand.

Box of 6 Panasonic NCR18650B Lithium-Ion Cells, Individually Packaged


I figured the best way for someone like me to prove these cells are legitimate is to measure and weigh them, and test the capacity, both anecdotally in my 4x18650 Ruinovo USB power bank, as well as my analyzing charger. There's no way a fake is going to measure anywhere near 3400 on the charger, though it takes a LONG time to test these cells, because the charger does a full charge, discharge and then charge again, at 500 mA!

Four Panasonic NCR18650 Lithium-Ion Cells With Four Sony Laptop-Harvested Cells

Weights & Measures

Weight and length both look within spec. I took a random cell out of the box, and got 46 grams on my calibrated scale, and 65.01 mm on my calipers, which wanted to be at 65.00 but kept bouncing back and forth.
Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cell - Caliper Measurement
Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cell - Caliper Measurement

Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cell - On Scale

Test #1 - USB Power Bank

This power bank had 4 decent and matched Sony cells harvested from a laptop battery. They all tested near 2,000 mAh before I put them in, so this has made a decent power pack the last year or so. And other than scratching and killing a couple electronic gadgets from being heavy and aluminum, this Ruinovo power bank has really done well, surviving being carted all over the country in the truck.

Ruinovo DIY USB Power Bank With 4 Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cells

Ruinovo DIY USB Power Bank With 4 Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cells - 2

Ruinovo DIY USB Power Bank With 4 Panasonic NCR18650B Unprotected Cells - 3

The unit charges from a micro USB port at 1 amp. When I first plugged it in, it registered about 25 percent charge, and spent 11 hours charging until it hit full, which is a completely reasonable number. This power pack is now 4-6 full charges for a modern smartphone, actual capacity!

Test #2 - Opus Analyzing Charger

This Opus analyzing charger has constantly surprised me with its results. Cells I thought were good have turned out to be garbage, and cells I thought were garbage have turned out to be workhorses. Science doesn't tell us how to live, but it can measure a battery's capacity like a boss.

These are two cells I pulled out at random and stuck in the charger, knowing it was going to be a long wait.

Test Results: Slot 1 was 3322 and Slot 2 was 3296. Not bad for their first charge cycle.

So, the Opus likes them.


These are the real deal. I started testing them immediately in case I would have to return them, but no need since that USB battery pack is now my precious, and I have the cells to build several more just like it. I have a 6x18650 DIY power bank coming within a week or so. Something that size should be fairly ridiculous with 6 of these bad boys in it.

Sure, there are about a million other USB power packs, but they almost universally lie about their capacity. Most give you the capacity that it would have if it had good cells in it like these, but they put varying degrees of awful Chinese cells in them, usually in the range of about 1,000 mAh each. Having a power pack with a real world capacity of about 13,000 mAh is about as good as you can get at any price.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Still Getting Email Spammed By Epicurious

Almost a month after I unsubscribed from the Epicurious emails, they are still spamming me every day. So far I have unsubscribed, tried to contact them, and filed both FCC and FTC complaints against them.

In the meantime, they happily continue to send me emails.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Help Stop CISA

CISA is a truly awful cyber security bill that has nothing to do with security and everything to do with mass surveillance. Earlier today I dismissed what I thought was a pop-over ad, until I realized that it was a) on my own site! and b) a message from the Internet Defense League, which doesn't activate its messages very often, so I forget that I'm a member and have granted them the ability to put messages on my site when it's really important.

And this is really important. So, if you have a free moment, make sure to visit them or fill the form out on any of the sites they are putting their popovers on. There is also a "CISPA is back" site and lots of other good resources like Fight for the Future,, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

FCC Complaint Against Epicurious

Well, I still continue to get email spam from Epicurious every single day. They didn't honor the unsubscribe request, and I've escalated to filing complaints with the FCC and FTC.

Yesterday the FCC responding to me, saying that they are looking into my complaint, yay!

However, my prediction is that Epicurious will tell the FCC "oops, technical glitch, sorry," take me off their mailing list but continue to spam everyone else who didn't complain to the FCC. But the FCC has a newly-developed spine during Obama's second term, so we'll see how this plays out.

There are also a few more cards to play if I get no love from the FCC complaint. But I'm giving it a week or so before I keep at it. There's also the possibility that they could do something lame or stupid and draw attention to the issue.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

OK Google For The People

The other night someone said "OK Google" to their phone, and every phone in the car responded with that "blunk" noise which means Google is listening to you, and all of our phones searched for "Does Wendy's still have the pretzel burger?" Spoiler alert: It doesn't.

Google listening when the phone is asleep in your pocket is a great feature. Except when it isn't.