Sunday, August 30, 2015

FM Radio on your Phone

FM Radio on your Phone

If you are ever looking for an example of special interests preventing us from having useful services, here is one that really irritates me.

Did you know that there is an FM radio receiver in your phone?  But you can’t use it. 

I suspect many of your first thoughts is “Who cares.”  I have an app that is much more customizable and user friendly. I can create personalized playlists, find new artists, and so on.

But there are a lot of advantages of the direct FM signal.

FM radio doesn’t use your data allocation. If you never hit your limit anywhere you might not care about this one, but it is nice to know you can listen all day without any concern.

FM radio works when the power goes out (the tenth anniversary of hurricane Katrina should make the importance of this obvious).  FEMA wants to unlock your phone for this reason alone, but they haven’t been able to.

The FM signal works in a lot places where your cell signal drops out. 

FM radio is local. Listening supports local businesses (the stations and the advertisers), so if you support eating local or buying local campaigns, this one is for you.

What irritates me the most is that these chips are already in our phones.  The reason we don’t have them is that the service providers keep the chips turned off.  They won’t turn them on, even if you ask.  The app companies (Spotify, Apple) want to force you to rely on their services.  The cell service providers want you to use up your data allocation.  It is pure selfishness.

There is one solution. A company called NextRadio created an app that unlocks the radio receiver.  I don’t know enough about the technology, but it works of the cell phone service goes along.  It just works on Android. At first, only Sprint went along.  Now, I think all service providers (or at least all the main ones) accept it.  So if you have an Android phone you can unlock your FM receiver.

The app also creates a reasonably good user interface.  It can’t do what Spotify et al can do because you are limited by the available FM stations.  But searching and navigating are easier. I am not here to promote this particular app, but as a user experience designer I have to at least make a note of it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

This Week in EID - Episode 69

Did you catch EID this week? 

Thursday’s post on the Beauty Industry Efficacy Bias seems to have struck home with many of our readers.  I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but very little of that stuff really works.  It is mostly self-delusion. You put on some expensive cream and think that you look better.  Pure placebo effect. But if you feel better about yourself, heck – why not?

Another self-delusion is the entitlement effect.  How many times have you pretended to make some progress just so you had an excuse to take a break?  Or to indulge yourself? If you do it on purpose, that is one thing.  But when you don’t even realize it, you can be your own worst enemy.

Our discussion of food labeling touched a sore spot, especially with the category of information “for which there is no scientific consensus that it has any effect – good or bad.”  This includes GMO, local, natural, and in many cases organic. 

Monday had a Hall of Fame post from earlier in the year.  This was one of most popular topics.  If you missed it the first time around, definitely check it out now.

And have a great weekend.  Enjoy the last one before school starts.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Google fixes the Presidential race

Many of you will probably remember the science experiment that Facebook ran a few months ago. They “adjusted” the Facebook algorithm to vary the number of positive and negative comments that users saw on their Feeds and then measured the number of positive and negative posts those users subsequently posted. Seeing more positive posts made users more positive.  Seeing more negative posts made users more negative. 

But here is the true conspiracy theory version of that.  Note – Google has not done this (at least not that we know about). But if it is possible, it becomes a major concern, at least for some researchers at the think tank that investigated the possibility.

What if Google does something similar to Facebook but with political news (described in this Fortune article)?  What if they show a little more positive news about one party and a little more negative news about the other party in searches about the US Presidential campaign?  It wouldn’t change most people’s opinions or their votes.  It wouldn’t change mine.  It wouldn’t change yours. 

But there are over 200 million registered voters and several states are won by just thousands of votes.  Even if only 1 in 100 people get their news online (2 million) and Google influences the votes of only 1 in 100 of these users (20,000) some of whom live in a swing state, that could change the outcome.  And it would be completely invisible because the changes on Google would be too small for any one user to notice. And the algorithm is a total secret, invisible even to the NSA and Edward Snowden.


  • Do you think they would?
  • Do you think they will?
  • Do you care?

If the answers to these questions are yes, what should be done? The researchers at the think tank want some serious action.