Link Log 2022-09-19

Life After Lifestyle

Is Your Son a Computer Hacker?

“Life Goes On” With Stewart Brand

Yeti Coolers Are Luxury Goods for Bros

Facebook Has No Idea What Data It Has

The Golden Gate

Link Log 2022-08-31

On being a “Gray” man

Mediocrity Goes Electronic

Scientists Grow Plants in Lunar Soil

Nancy Pelosi, China and the Slow Decline of the U.S. Military

Fish Eyes in your Kettle: Chinese Water Temperature Methods

Now Detroit is Selling $75K Pickup Trucks for the Cappuccino Run

Bicycle Tea

Rudy Replacement Lens Program

Rudy Project offers a replacement lens program wherein they will replace any of their lenses for frames that are in the current year’s product catalog. They require you send in the lens you want replaced, and charge $29.95 per pair.

I just learned about this warranty program a couple weeks ago and thought I’d give it a whirl. I sent in two pairs of lenses for my Rydon spectacles.

One pair was ImpactX Photochromic Black. These were one of the two original sets of lenses I bought with the Rydons in 2011. Prior to my shine job, these were what I kept mounted in the Rydon chassis most of the time, with the RX carrier behind them. The lenses had some noticable scratches on them, I think caused by my face, the RX carrier, ImpactX lens, and other people’s fists all coming into loving embrace.

The second pair was ImpactX Photochromic Laser Red. These are the ones I’ve used almost everyday for the past 4.5 years. These had some minor scratches on them from normal use – nothing that was noticeable when worn, but I figured as long as I was sending a package in for warranty I’d include these.

I classify both of these lenses as critical equipment, so I already had a spare pair of each. I was prepared for a long wait, or for Rudy to reject my claim because both lenses were still usable as is.

I put both lenses in a padded envelope, with a check for $59.90, and dropped it in the mail last Monday. The postage cost me $3.42. Today, nine days later, I received a package with two new lenses.

Purchasing those two lenses would cost $209.98. There’s a lot of ridiculous markup in the eyewear industry, but knowing that I can easily replace my Rudy lenses for about 30% of their MSRP makes me happy to continue to do business with Rudy. In past years I’ve looked at third parties, such as Revant, to expand my lens collection with less money. But now I can’t say that I have any interest in purchasing lenses from anyone other than Rudy.

Link Log 2022-05-15

Primitive Communism

Urban vs Rural Sustainability

Anti-Poaching Units: The Tools Of The Trade

Cowboy Bebop x Blade Runner - Cycle of Influence

How to Sharpen a Single Bevel Knife with Bernal Cutlery

Hackers: Costumes from the Motion Picture Exhibition Tour Video

Inside the nuclear bunkers that will protect Finland’s citizens from war

Civic Center

Link Log 2022-03-20

How Technology Grows

The Resilience of the Internet in Ukraine

Jerry Cans: The True Secret Weapon of WWII

Harry Potter’s real lesson is guns and libertarianism

Ukraine Post #2: Options

Camp Reynolds

Link Log 2022-02-27

DĂ©neigement Montreal

Toby Ord’s Earth Restored

George Kennan’s Long Telegram: The Post-War Soviet Outlook

Enemies of My Enemy: How Fear of China Is Forging a New World Order

Reboot 11: Stragetically Forecasting Your Next Ten Years of Dark Euphoria (Bruce Sterling, 2009) (transcript)

Tennessee Valley

Better Payments with Privacy.com

Privacy.com is an excellent service with a terrible name. They provide merchant-locked virtual debit cards. I’ve been using them for about three years. Around 90% of my online transactions go through them (the other 10%-ish is PayPal).

When one of their card numbers is first used, it becomes locked to that merchant. The card will reject transactions from anyone else. This immediately eliminates the problem of stolen card numbers. If a random ecommerce website leaks my card details, I don’t care, because nobody other than the original merchant can place a charge on the card.

When generating cards, Privacy.com also allows you to set dollar limits, either in total or for a period of time. This eliminates the problem of unreliable subscription services. For example, the card tied to my Amazon Web Services account has a monthly usage limit slightly higher than my average monthly bill. If AWS tries to double my bill one month, the transaction will be rejected.

Cards can also be paused. While I use the periodic dollar limit feature for things like subscription services with regular payments, other cards in my Privacy.com account stay paused when not in use. A paused card rejects all new transactions. Before making a purchase on a website, I login to the Privacy.com website and unpause the associated card. I then make the purchase as usual. Placing an order usually results in the merchant immediately placing an authorization on the card for the purchase amount. Existing authorizations can still be captured on a paused card, so at this point I can switch back to my Privacy.com tab and re-pause the card, preventing the merchant from taking any more money than the agreed upon authorization.

Cards can also be closed. Effectively this is the same as pausing a card, except that it is permanent. This is useful for signing up for free trials that still require a method of payment. When the trial is up, if you choose to not continue using the service, inform the provider and simply close the card.

Privacy.com offers software you can install on your telephone. I’ve never used it. I don’t trust my phone enough for it to touch money in any way. They also offer browser extensions, which I also have never used. Their website works great, and I see no need for locally installed software of any sort.

Over my few years of using Privacy.com, I’ve never had a problem with their service. I’ve never had to contact their customer support, so I have no idea how that works. I’ve had merchants issue refunds to my Privacy.com cards half a dozen or so times, and those have always come through and landed in my bank account without drama (even when the original charge was on a card that at the time of refund was paused or closed.

Last year, Swift Silent Deadly posted an in-depth overview of Privacy.com. This provides a good overview of the service. What he wrote matches my experience, with one glaring exception. He mentions giving Privacy.com access to your bank account. I don’t know if he is referencing some shady Plaid bullshit or if he simply means providing them with routing and account numbers and going through ACH. I did neither. When I signed up, Privacy.com allowed me to add my real bank debit card as a funding source. That is the only way Privacy.com has to push or pull funds from me. If they ever become untrustworthy, I can just cancel my real debit card, and Privacy.com will loose all access to my money.

The debit card that I use for this is tied to the checking account that I previously used only for PayPal. This provides an additional layer of defense, in that there isn’t much money hanging around in that account for someone to steal. I usually keep around $100 in it for incidental purchases, and transfer more in from my real accounts when I plan to make a larger purchase.

Privacy.com has free and paid tiers. I am on the free tier. Apparently it has some limitations in terms of number of cards generated per month and total monthly spend. I have never run into these limitations so I have no idea what they are. They claim that they make enough money on us low-volume free tier users by collecting the transaction fees that merchants pay to process debit cards. I would be very unhappy to return to participating in the electronic commerce market without a service like this, so they would probably have a pretty easy time convincing me to move to a paid plan if they ever decided to eliminate the free tier.

I’ve heard some banks offer virtual card numbers somewhat similar to Privacy.com, but perhaps without the merchant-locking and spend limits. While I refer to my “bank” accounts, my accounts are actually with credit unions. Credit unions tend not to be at the forefront of technology, so I need a third-party to provide this functionality.

Privacy.com says that they offer merchant masking to their paying customers. This means that transactions show up in your bank account as “Privacy.com” instead of including the name of the merchant. I suspect this may be where their business name comes from. I suppose that is great if you have a joint bank account and want to hide your Porn Hub subscription from your spouse. But it is not a problem I have, so I maintain that their name is dumb and has nothing to do with their excellent service. If anything they reduce my privacy, since they are now an additional party involved in all of my online purchases. But I’m good with that trade-off.

A Better Phone Mount

When I purchased my first smart phone in 2013, I was motivated primarily by the promise of using Open Street Map for bicycle navigation. This does not require, but is greatly assisted by, a mounting system of some sort. I’ve tried a few over the years. Since 2015 I’ve used the Aduro U-Grip Plus Universal Bike Mount, which I think is an excellent design. It uses a ball and socket to provide complete adjustability. It secures the phone with a spring-loaded cradle and silicon band. Between the two, there’s no way the phone is falling out, unless the mount breaks. Unfortunately the whole thing is cheaply made of plastic. Earlier this month, mine finally broke.

  • Aduro U-Grip Plus Universal Bike Mount: Failure
  • Aduro U-Grip Plus Universal Bike Mount

After seven years, I feel I got my money’s worth out of the Aduro U-Grip, but when a tool like this fails I want to replace it with something better. Purchasing another of the same just resets the countdown to the next failure. Unfortunately, the bicycle phone mount market seems to be flooded with shit. Either they provide limited adjustability, or they require a special phone case. I have no interest in either. I was disappointed, and about to just order another Aduro U-Grip, until I happened upon Tackform. Their Enduro Mount was advertised for motorcycles, but I figured it ought to work on a real bike.

Cockpit

Tackform’s offering is similar in concept to Aduro’s, with a ball and socket providing complete adjustability, and phone security provided by a spring-loaded cradle and silicon band. But it raises durability to the extreme. I’ve had mine for just a few days. I am impressed.

The only plastic component is the wingnut used to lock the position of the cradle. Everything else is metal. The spring that operates the cradle is no joke. It is capable of operating as an improvised finger guillotine. Yet it is quick and easy to operate one-handed. Tackform includes a silicon band for further security, but in the packaging material they say that you really don’t need it. I believe they are correct. When it is installed in the cradle, I can lift the bike with the phone. The phone doesn’t move at all. It is difficult to imagine a scenario where the phone would escape.

The top of the cradle has a lip to prevent the phone from being pulled out straight up. The sides and bottom of the cradle are lined with a thin rubber to provide some protection to the phone. The outer edges of the cradle are quite sharp, which makes me somewhat nervous about a crash. I have no doubt that the mount would come through, and that the phone would still be secured in it, but my face might not fare so well if it comes into contact with the cradle. But, hey, that’s what eye pro is for.

The primary disadvantage to the Tackform Enduro is that the arm which connects the cradle to the bar mount is tightened with a single wingnut. To rotate the cradle from portrait to landscape mode, you have to loosen this wingnut, which also loosens the connection to the bar mount. So while the ball and socket connection gives you complete freedom to position the phone as you like, it’s the sort of thing where you need to figure out what position you want and then tighten the wingnut to lock it in. You won’t leave the wingnut loose enough to allow for adjustments while riding. With the Aduro U-Grip, the socket is part of the cradle, the ball is part of the bar mount, and I was always able to leave the nut which secures the two just loose enough that I could make minor in-flight positioning adjustments without compromising the security of the system. In practice, I have yet to find this limitation with the Tackform to be something I really care about. But if you want to be able to rotate between portrait and landscape modes without stopping and using two hands, look elsewhere.

The other disadvantage that some riders will identify is weight. I didn’t weigh the components, but what you’re dealing with here is basically just a chunk of aluminum. I imagine the whole system is somewhere around 6 oz, which is significantly more than the plastic competitors. If you have much spandex in your wardrobe, you won’t be happy with Tackform. But my bike is carefully built for what I see as the ideal compromise between performance and durability, and the Tackform mount makes the cut.

Beyond the durability of the system, what endures me to Tackform is that their products really are systems. They are not just selling a few application-specific packages, but have whole series of components. It’s like a grown-up Lego set. I appreciate knowing that I could replace an individual component, or buy just the piece I need to expand the mount’s applicability to different vehicles or environments.

None of Tackform’s products are cheap, but they claim that their products are designed to last a lifetime. After the first 100 miles on this mount, I believe that statement will prove accurate. I suspect that the slab-format pocket terminal will be phased out and become irrelevant well before the Tackform Enduro will fail.

Tackform Enduro Mount

The mount is manufactured in the country of Taiwan, so get yours before China expands its beachfront property.