My Ender 3 V2 And The Modifications I’ve Made

3D Printing with My Ender 3 v2 – 3D Printer and The Modifications I’ve Made

3D Printing with My Ender 3 v2 – 3D Printer and The Modifications I’ve Made 1024 1365 Jason Stadtlander

If there is one thing that became evident being stuck at home 24/7 during the pandemic, it was that I needed to find ways to keep my brain busy and keep life interesting. There are only so many TV shows one can watch and yes – I will admit I need to do more reading, but I also needed to do something with my hands. So, I began toying around with robotics, an interest I’ve had most of my life.

I pretty quickly discovered that the most effective way to build my robots would not be with carved wood and cardboard (though that could be interesting), but by using a 3D printer.

I spent weeks researching every aspect of 3D printing, trying to understand how they worked, what the different resolutions were, filament vs. resin, different plastic types. I almost bought a resin printer that seemed like a good fit, but it didn’t have a very large print area and I knew I wanted the ability to print larger prints. I also wanted something that was economical and wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg but still could put out good quality prints.

I finally settled on purchasing the Ender 3 v2 by Creality. The v2 had the same great design as the original Ender 3, but it had the built-in newer Mean Well power supply (PSU) that a lot of the Ender 3  users were upgrading to. It also had a 32-bit board rather than the original 8-bit board. To top all of this, it has the capability for great resolution (~0.1 mm).
Side note, this is a fantastic video that shows how to set up the Ender 3 v2 from start to finish.

Now, the great thing about the Creality 3D printers is that they are open source which means you can buy or create a ton of addons for them. To clarify, this is not why I bought the Ender 3 v2, I honestly had no idea that you could add on to it so much when I bought it. However, I quickly found out that there were some things that were driving me crazy, such as my printouts not sticking to the bed or constantly having to level the bed. So, over the last few months, I have found that there were a lot of needed (and some not – so needed) upgrades that I have chosen to do to my Ender. (be sure to also check out the software changes I have made – at the bottom of the article)

Important Tips I Learned Quickly

  • Preheat the bed before bed leveling. Metal, glass, etc. – they all expand when heated. So the distance between your bed and your hotend are going to be slightly different when it’s hot vs. when it’s cool.
  • Level the bed by using a post-it note. Slip the post-it note between the hotend and the glass bed at each corner. Adjust the leveling knob so that there is just a little friction on the paper. Do this for all four corners at least twice. (yes, you can use the same post-it note the whole time 😉 )
  • A better spool roller is a must. Creality ships this tube (yes, it’s literally a tube) that the spool sits on. So as the filament is pulled off it, the spool does this herky-jerky movement which can cause stress on the filament feeder. I have details on how to deal with this further down the article.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness. Keep that bed clean! My personal advise, wait for the glass to cool, then take it off and wash it at the sink with dishsoap and water, then dry it well. Never try and clean it hot, glass shatters under rapid expansion or contraction – even tempered glass like this.
  • Use Magigoo. You’ll see more on this below, but I’ve tried everything to get my printouts to stick well to the surface. Cleaning, painters tape, you name it. Magigoo is by far the miracle worker. It’s not cheap ($16 USD a bottle), but it lasts a LONG time and it’s worth it.

Some of the things that quickly irritated me:

  • Too Noisy – The printer sits in my office where I work every day. The original fans were ridiculously loud when you’re on a zoom call.
  • Constantly leveling the bed – This drove me crazy pretty quick. I realized that the prints were either not adhering or I was getting spaghetti’s (where the print slides out of place or the bed is too far away from the head and filament spews out with nothing to stick to).
  • Having to constantly keep an eye on the printer – At first, I took an old webcam that had an onboard interface I could connect to with a browser. Worked, but wasn’t really very effective in knowing what is going on with the printer.

Physical Modifications of My Ender 3 v2

So here are the modifications I made to my printer and hopefully (if you’re a 3D printer enthusiast or soon to be) these mods can help you!
NOTE: I am not responsible for any modifications you make to your printer and I highly recommend you do your research first and carefully make sure you are always insulating your wires and boards and that you solder your connections well. Improperly connecting electronics can result in a fire or damage to people or property. All of these modifications you make at your own risk.

  • New quieter fans – This made an enormous difference to the peace in my office. However, you can’t just buy new fans that fit into the existing print head because all the fans on the market that are that small are far too loud. I wanted to also make sure I wasn’t going to sacrifice airflow, quality, or worse, risk my printer overheating and causing a fire hazard. So I decided on the Noctua fans. They were highly recommended on multiple sites and there were some mods on Thingiverse that allowed for the upgraded fans (which basically involved me rebuilding the hot head cooling. It sounds laborious, but it really was not difficult.
    Here is what I used:

    • Print out the parts from Thingiverse for the PET Fang Cooler (for the record, I used standard PLA and not PET and have had no problems with the fang melting or anything).
    • 3 Noctua fans – (2 – 40X10mm and 1 – 40X20mm) The 10mm fans are used for the CPU mainboard and the print cooler. The 20mm fan is for the hotend.
    • Pack of 5 Buck Converters – These convert the voltage from the 24v of the power supply down to the 5 or 12 v needed. It’s very important to use good quality buck converters that you know can handle the amps (current). I used these because they were so small I didn’t have to add them inside the motherboard area, I could literally tie them in inside the flex tubing that goes to the fan.
  • PET Fang Cooling

    My modified print head

    BLTouch & New Springs – Two things tremendously helped with keeping my board level and not requiring me to constantly level it before each print. I still need to level it every few weeks (at least I do it, just to be safe), but I no longer have to with every single print. I added a BLTouch. This little device has a pin that automatically checks multiple points on the bed before it prints every time. It then automatically does the math of the z-index at each of those points, so that it creates a “virtually level” bed that it’s working on. By the way, this video by Dr. Vox was extremely helpful in installing the BLTouch.
    Here is what I used:

    • For the BLTouch:
      • Print out this bracket from Thingiverse – which goes with the above PET Fang Cooler.
      • Purchase a BLtouch – there are quite a few knockoffs, so use this one – the original. It comes with everything you need except the Fang bracket
    • Springs – now, part of the problem with constant leveling is that Creality uses a cheap spring on the beds. It doesn’t provide enough compression, so you need stronger springs to strengthen the holding position. (see this video).
  • OctoPrint – As nice as my webcam was, it didn’t actually let me monitor everything that was going on in my printer (temp, etc.). So I found this great little idea called Octoprint. You basically build out a small RaspberryPi computer that connects to your printer, monitors it, lets you see it, you can even stage print jobs. Here’s what I followed to build and install it all. One little downside is that you need your print job illuminated. See below and you’ll see the LED panel I used for that.
    Here is what I used:

    • For OctoPrint:
      • Print out this RaspberryPi case (it mounts to your printer)
      • Print out this boom and camera mount (also mounts to your printer)
      • Parts needed to purchase:
      • Setup OctoPrint
      • Print up LED Panel from Thingiverse
        NOTE: I already had some LED strip hanging around, but you can buy them pretty cheap here.
      • Now, if you’re like me – you don’t like a lot of extra power cords running around. So you can also build out a direct tie-in for power using this guide and this case on Thingiverse and this buck converter.
  • Print Spool with bearings – I wasn’t particularly happy with the simple “pipe” that Creality ships with their printer to hang a print spool on. It’s sort of jittery in the output on the filament and I felt it kept tensioning up the feeder too much. So I wanted something that would allow better flow. I printed this little guy out from Thingiverse and it made a world of difference.
    Here is what I used:

  • MagiGoo

    Magigoo – Magigoo was something that Dr. Vax mentioned in his video above. The stuff is AWESOME, especially with the Ender 3 v2 glass bed. A little forewarning, things can stick a little TOO well, so sometimes you need to just let your bed cool down a little first and then things pop off it. It washes off very easily and is safe for the bed. You can buy it here.

Once all this is done, I still have not yet gotten to the PSU (Powersupply) fan upgrade. This is a whole other ball of wax (or plastic). Because the PSU will not fit the fans I listed above and frankly, they don’t really move enough air anyway for PSU. So, to do this you’ll need to print out a new bezel and get a larger fan. I’m currently in the process of this and will post my outcome on this afterward.

Software Changes

How you set your settings can have a profound impact on the quality of your prints, I have found. Here are some changes I made to my Cura Utilimaker (the software Creality recommends using. It’s free.) Note that all of these you can “search” for in the Print Settings window.

  • Make sure the “Layer Height” is set to 0.18mm
  • Set the “Wall Thickness” for the Shell to 1.2mm
  • Set the “Wall Line Count” to 2
  • Set the “Infill Density” to 35%
  • Set the “Infill Layer Thickness” to 0.36mm -this should be double the layer height. It prints larger lines for the infill, but only prints infill every other line but retains high quality for the outer shell
  • If printing PLA, print it at 210°C and 60°C for the bed temp (this helps with layer adhesion) – The higher temp is on purpose, for the infill you are printing thicker lines and running at a higher speed, so you want the PLA to come out smoothly.
  • For prints that you aren’t overly concerned with aesthetics (such as mods to your printer) – Set the “Print Speed” to 110 mm/s
  • For prints that you want the best look possible – Set the “Print Speed” to 50-60mm/s (75mm/s is a nice middle ground)
  • Set the “Retraction Distance” in Travel to 5mm (this helps to prevent artifacts and webs from showing on the print jobs)
  • Set the “Z Hop When Retracted” in Travel to Checked (this helps to prevent artifacts and webs from showing on the print jobs)
  • Set “Combing Mode” to “All” – This keeps the nozzle only within printing areas when traveling, thus preventing (or reducing) the web threading that can occur between models.
  • IF you’re using supports (for overhead pieces) then use “Tree”, “Touching Buildplate”, Support pattern “Zig Zag”, and set the overhang to 53°


How to reach a live IRS person

How to Reach a Live IRS Person

How to Reach a Live IRS Person 635 423 Jason Stadtlander

UPDATE (6/3/2020) – COVID19: So, I saw everyone’s comments about being unable to get through. I did some research and found that the IRS has discontinued all of their phone support until after the pandemic is over. Wish I had better news for you, I know it sucks. Especially for those that badly need to get through. I did find though, that you can call 800-919-9835 if you’re calling about your stimulus check coming with the wrong amount or if you never received it. Please keep checking back here – I promise I’ll keep this article updated.

With tax season upon us, I thought it might be helpful to share one mighty little tip that I have found useful over the last few years: “How to reach a live person at the IRS” (Updated 2/4/2020)

It may sound silly, but it’s very difficult to get the right set of options to actually get a hold of a real person through the IRS phone system (no doubt that this is not a mistake on their part).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Added 12-29-2019: I have done some investigating as several people said that it wasn’t working below and found that they revised their phone IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system. Below is the CORRECT method for getting through to a live person, however, I found out that they do not allow their queue to be larger than 50 callers. So there is a very good chance you won’t get through if you call on their busy days (Monday, Tuesday, and Friday). So I recommend you follow below on Wednesdays or Thursdays.

So here is the combination (Updated 2/5/2020 – Thank you PJ for the update):

  • Call the IRS: 1-800-829-1040 hours 7 AM – 7 PM local time Monday-Friday
  • Press 1 for English.
    After selecting your language, choose option 2 for “For answers about your personal income tax…”
  • Press 1 “For questions about a form you have already submitted or …”
  • Press 3 “For all other questions about your tax history or…”
  • Press 2 “For all other questions about your tax history or payment…”
  • IMPORTANT: When it asks you to enter your SSN or EIN to access your account information, do not enter anything.
    • After it asks twice, you will get another menu
  • Press 2 for “personal or individual tax questions”…
  • Finally, press 4 and you get in line for a live person.

The Future Evolution of Humanity and Our Singular Existence

The Future Evolution of Humanity and Our Singular Existence 1080 608 Jason Stadtlander

For tens of thousands of years, we have struggled as a species, to exist, to progress and to evolve. Yet, we seem to be tied to one single limitation, the shortness of our existence.

We may not like to think about it, but a human life is so short. It may last, at most eighty, maybe a hundred years if you’re lucky. There are so many factors against us in terms of survival; disease, condition of our body and mind, genetics, environment, etc. The list is endless.

In our singular existence, we have a single mind. One which interacts with everything around it through the use of the five senses; sound, smell, touch, sight, and taste. If you really think about it, it is an extremely limited method of input. We can vaguely perceive time, or rather the results of the passage of time (objects aging, hair greying, etc.) however, we really only have those five senses to interpret our world around us. We spend our time in this life from the time we are born, taking in everything around us and in turn teaching what we have learned to others. Our growth as a species and society is something that is incredibly slow because of this process. Only with the advent of technology that allows us to share information instantly, has it become easier to learn, absorb and reach a higher potential than ever before in our history.

That being said, there was something unique about the way that we learned for millennia. We were born, we grew up and taught others what we knew through talking and direct interaction as well as writing. Now, more and more we are allowing technology to overcome person to person interactions. Our ability to transmit information to each other still remains sight, sound, and touch (so far I don’t know of a technology that lets us transmit via smell or taste). So we are still limited to learning things through our eyeballs, ears and communicating back through our fingertips (keyboard).

I pose a few questions in this advancing time. What if we could take things a step further? What if we had the ability to communicate, teach and relay information with each other instantly with our minds, rather than the limited inputs of our eyes, ears, and nose? Would it advance society more rapidly? Would we gain the ability to interact with each other yet retain that instant need to relay information?

A show recently came out on Amazon Prime called The Feed, which I hope to watch soon. It sort of follows the premise – in the future all of our minds are connected in a sort of ‘mental internet’. How would something like this change humanity?

There are many questions that can be raised with this concept, perhaps the most important being; Would we have privacy? Would we be able to (or need to) lie?

My biggest question of all of this is: Would our singular existence no longer be, or would our consciousness continue to live on after we die through the minds of the connected world?

Ads to con people

Fake Technical Support Links in Search Engines (Google, Yahoo and more) Conning Users

Fake Technical Support Links in Search Engines (Google, Yahoo and more) Conning Users 578 462 Jason Stadtlander

There has been an upsurge of fake technical support links and pop-ups being pushed out over the last few months and one of the latest tricks up their sleeves are Google Ads that look like legit sites. The scammers basically pay the search engines (just as any company would) to place their ads at the top of search results. Only these links don’t take you to legit websites, they take you to malicious websites.

I have had numerous people contacting me believing they are victims of ransomware, malware or viruses, only to find that they are actually just being served a fake tech support website. Unfortunately, many of the people (elderly) have been duped into calling the phone number that is presented and conned into providing their credit card information to get tech support.

Why do they do it?

  • Money or PII (Personally Identifiable Information) – Plain and simple. That’s almost all it’s for. Once in a rare while the goal is to add your computer to a ‘botnet‘. But mostly it’s just to get money or personal information (to sell).

The Scenario

Here’s what happens:

  1. A user opens Google or Yahoo (or other search engines) and types in “Amazon” or “Facebook” or anything else that people frequently go to – into the search box.
  2. They then click the first link they see (which is often a malicious ad to a fake company).
  3. The next thing they know, they have an alert telling them they are infected with a virus, malware or that their computer is being held for ransom. In reality, it’s just an image designed to scare them (and it works).
    Tech Support Scams

    Image courtesy

How to prevent this

  • Make sure you have a decent antivirus and that it is updated. Mac users (and I can say this, because I AM a Mac user), don’t be stupid. Of course your Mac can get a virus just like any other computer can. Despite what they (supposed “experts”) will tell you, Macs are actually very guilty of ‘passing’ viruses to the rest of the world because they are convinced they don’t need antivirus. Get something good, like Sophos (my preferred choice), Symantec or McAfee.
  • DON’T BE LAZY – If you know the website address (such as,,, etc.)  don’t be lazy and ‘search for it’, actually type it into the address bar at the top of the screen. That way you know you are going to the real website.
  • NEVER click the first links that say “Ad” to the left of the links.
  • DON’T over-react. The scammers are counting on you freaking out and calling the phone number. Step back, think, take a breath and call a computer person you trust to check it out first. If you’re in the New England area you can always reach out to me (, I won’t charge you anything to just look at it and see if it’s legit.





As a Home User – Should You Move to The Cloud?

As a Home User – Should You Move to The Cloud? 1200 800 Jason Stadtlander

“Technology professionals (and retail software and service providers) have done a phenomenal job of seriously screwing up the perspective of what the “cloud” really is and how it should properly be defined. “

Let me first state that I am an Information Technology Security Professional with over twenty years of experience dealing with everything from high-level multi-site network communications down to the home user who can’t get their iPhone to connect to their computer. I have helped the State Police with child pornography investigations and I have taught foster parents how to protect their foster children online. So, I have basically seen it all.

That being said, when I am approached by my home user clients (most of whom I have known for years) and they ask me “Should I move to the cloud?” I cringe. Not because I have any problem what so ever with my home users, what I cringe at is the fact that this is a much more complicated question than they know.

What is “The Cloud”?

Technology professionals (and retail software and service providers) have done a phenomenal job of seriously screwing up the perspective of what the “cloud” really is and how it should properly be defined.

In short, all “the cloud” really is – is your data existing on someone else’s computer data center. It’s not sitting out there in some mysterious nebula where it has the ultimate protection. It is controlled and managed by humans, albeit humans who know technology better than most people (generally speaking). But there is still the human element of controlling how safe that data is, ensuring that it is protected from viruses, hardware failures, and even natural disasters.

Where In The World Is It?

First, let’s be clear. Your data is out there somewhere, physically. It’s sitting on a computer just like your computer at home but with a TON more power than your computer.

  • Amazon Prime Drive: If you are in the U.S. and use Amazon Prime’s Drive, your data is sitting in a server (or set of servers) in Northern Virginia; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA or Northeastern Oregon. If you are in Europe, your photos and documents are sitting on a server in Dublin, Ireland.
  • Google Drive: If you are in the U.S. and use Google’s Drive feature, your data is sitting on a server (or set of servers) in Dalles, OR; Atlanta, GA; Reston, VA; Lenoir, NC or Moncks Corner, SC. 
  • Dropbox: If you are using Dropbox to move files around or share files, then your data is sitting in one of three data centers in the U.S. or in one data center in Europe. Although I do know the location of these, I am not allowed to disclose the true location. It’s the same situation though, your data sitting on someone’s server in a physical location.
  • Microsoft’s One Drive: If you are in the U.S. and use the free drive software that comes with Office 365, then your data is sitting in Quincy, WA; San Francisco, CA; Cheyenne, WY; San Antonio, TX; Des Moine, IA; Chicago, IL; or in one of two locations in VA. 

There really is no way to know (unless you work at one of these facilities) exactly which location your data is actually calling home. Companies look at your IP address (the unique address that you use to connect to the internet) and determine your approximate physical location based on that. Then they generally try to keep your data physically close to that location, just so that you don’t have very many hops (a distance term on the Internet) to deal with.

Is My Data Safe?

Well now, this is the million dollar question, isn’t it? As evasive as it sounds, your data is as safe as the people operating the facility and the service. These companies are bound by privacy laws just like most companies in the U.S. and Europe. However, being bound to the laws and actually adhering to them are two different things. It takes a lot of manpower and a lot of work to ensure that encryption algorithms are kept up to date and maintained. We all know about the TJX data breach of 2007, the Experian data breach of 2017 and the Marriott / Starwood data breach of 2018. These are just three of the more than 300 data breaches that have occurred within the last 15 years in fortune 500 companies.

Keep in mind, those are JUST the fortune 500 companies. That’s not even looking at the thousands of companies that do not fall into that category. Here is a small list of known data breaches that have occurred just in the last 6 months: 2019 Data Breaches.

My Take on it All.

In my humble opinion, it is one thing for your private information to be stolen or destroyed out there in some corporate breach or disaster. It’s another for your priceless photos or documents to be irretrievable. It is my personal belief that no one can protect my data better than I can. I am responsible for maintaining these files. It is what I cherish and plan to pass down to my children. The photos of them being born, the articles and stories I have written. The interviews I’ve done of my family members on video. I frankly do not trust these irreplaceable files to be sitting in someone else’s hands.

I do have my data on “The Cloud”, but it’s my cloud. (I also happen to hold the data for most of my family as well) I am not oblivious to the fact that there could be a fire in my house or some kind of a disaster, so I work hard to make sure that it is all well protected. I back up all of my data to a special storage server in my home. That server replicates instantly with two other storage servers. One is located sixty miles from me at a friends house and the other is located seven hundred miles away at a family member’s house. I also connect (almost daily) just to make sure security patches are performed and that the data is replicating without any problems. The data is encrypted and cannot be viewed without a special encryption key that only I possess. Also, the people who do back up to my storage solution (such as my family members and friends) are the only ones who can see their own data. If I go look at it, it’s just a bunch of encrypted files that don’t make any sense without the encryption key (password) that is located on each of the devices that I back up.

It’s not a perfect solution, but I know that even if I have a fire or flood, I can still access my data and protect the data of my friends and family. I also have instructions in my will that state how to access the data and deal with it in the event of my own demise. This is the era we live in and it’s important that we understand the impact that a loss of data can have.

What Can You Do as a Home User?

First, check and see how much data you are talking about. Most home users don’t need more than 100GB to be protected. If this is the case, then my advice is – have two backup hard drives that will hold at least three times your data (300GB hard drive if you have 100GB of data). Then back up your data to both hard drives using software such as Acronis or EaseUS and keep one hard drive in a fireproof safe at home and take the other one somewhere that is at least ten miles from your home (take it to work and keep it in your desk or store it at a family member’s home). And here is the most important part: KEEP IT UP TO DATE!! Make absolutely sure you update your backups at least every thirty days.

Lastly, if all this seems too daunting, you can always reach out to me and I can do it all for you 😉

YouTube addition with children

What Your Child is Watching on YouTube Might Surprise You

What Your Child is Watching on YouTube Might Surprise You 2124 1416 Jason Stadtlander

Tech addiction is a serious problem and any parent in today’s age is aware of this. YouTube is the drug of choice for most children. Dr. David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction explains that children (and anyone spending a lot of time on the internet) are often just “Looking for a little bit of dopamine.

If you have a child that is old enough to hold a mobile device, you most likely have a child that watches YouTube. Children are not watching television like we did growing up, they are watching their favorite YouTuber. I’m not going to go off and be an old ‘fart’ and say “when we were kids we played outside all the time and we never would have been stuck to the screen.” for two reasons, 1. It would be a partial lie. One of my favorite past times as a kid coming home from school was putting on the TV and watching HeMan or Transformers. 2. No matter how much any parent wants to admit it, times change and so does the entertainment for children – almost on a generational basis.

Whether you have a little girl or a little boy, nearly all the kids like the YouTube stars that do silly skits, funny songs or real-time video game commentary. Often times (unbeknownst to parents) the YouTube stars (especially the more amateur ones) use inappropriate language or discuss things that are outside the realm of what a child should be listening to (topics, discussions, etc.).

Now there are plenty of YouTube stars out there that are respectable and work hard to make sure that they stick to their audience. It’s very important that parents look at what YouTube shows their kids are watching and that they watch some of them on their own time (at least a few minutes). I also highly advise installing a parent monitoring software such as MobiCip that will let you see what videos your children are watching when you’re not around or that you might have missed them watching. It does cost a little bit of money but it’s a small price to pay to help keep an eye on your children’s technology.

One important note on parent monitoring apps such as MobiCip: Tell your children that you are monitoring them. My son is well aware that I can see what he views on the internet, I don’t hide that from him but I also don’t hover over him either. I respect his privacy and only if I feel he’s being sneaky or might be viewing something he should not be viewing, do I actually go look through the history.

Words of Wisdom

  • MOST IMPORTANT: Talk to your child calmly. Ask them what they are watching and why they enjoy watching it. Diving straight in and stopping them from watching any YouTube is not the answer (no matter how much you might like to do that). That will just force them to go watch something on a friends device (when you’re not around) giving you no knowledge of what they are watching.
  • Google your child’s favorite YouTube stars. You are bound to find an overview of what the YouTuber talks about, what kind of language they use and what their target audience is.
  • There are several good video blocker extensions in Chrome and Internet Explorer that can be added to block specific YouTube channels. If you if you see something your child shouldn’t be watching, block it with one of these utilities.


The Ugly Truth About Google

Protect Yourself: The Ugly Truth About Google

Protect Yourself: The Ugly Truth About Google 1000 667 Jason Stadtlander

The more I learn about this internet giant, the more it’s bothering me. So I wanted to take a few moments and relay some of the truths I’ve found. What do you know about Alphabet, Inc.? If you have never heard of the company, you should take some time to learn as much as you can. It’s the multinational conglomerate behind the largest “search engine” in the world; Google, LLC. Most people have heard the names behind these two entities; Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

The two computer scientists created their initial product, Google, 20 years ago (September 4th, 1998). It was a creation that by the middle of the first decade in the 21st century had become a common verb among the millennials, much to the chagrin of English teachers. Even I have routinely recommended to people, “My advice would be to google it and see what you find.”

In recent months, I’ve been pulling back from that advice. Now, am I going to strike out and say that Google is the evil empire and they are working on a new Death Star on the dark side of the moon? No. Google has its place, I’m just finding the more I learn, the more that I don’t want to be a part of it.

“You should protect your personal information as well as you protect your physical property.”

Their (internal) motto “Don’t be evil” was recently changed to “Do the right thing”, which says in and of itself that those who operate the company know the fine line they walk in all of their data collection.

Let’s look at some timeline facts (perhaps even some you don’t know):

  • Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  • In 1999 the founders tried to sell Google to Excite for $1 Million, but Excite declined the offer 1
  • In 2000 Google launches web searches in 10 new languages 2
  • In 2003 Google Print (which would later become Google Book Search) is created 2
  • In 2004 Google Scholar is created and begins offering scholarly literature and research searching. 3
  • Also in 2004, Google acquires Picasa from Idealab (which would eventually become what we now know of as Google Photos) 4
  • 2006 Google acquires YouTube and creates Google Docs, an online competitor with the popular Microsoft Office. 4
  • 2007 Google launches the Android OS 4
  • 2009 Google Voice launches 4
  • 2015 Alphabet becomes the new parent company of Google after restructuring 4
  • 2017 Google is fined $2.7 billion for breaching EU antitrust rules 4

And now some dark facts about Google:

  • Google has over 251 products, 80% of which are “free” to consumers 5
  • In 2017, Google executive Danny Sullivan laid out the truth that its algorithms are far from perfect stating “We’re not a truth engine.” 6
  • Why are so many of Google’s products (such as Gmail, Google Maps, Google Drive and more) free? Simple: You are their true product. 7
    Here is some of what they are actually learning about you (and what products are revealing this) through these products:

    • Where you browse (Through Google Searching)
    • Where you shop (Through Google Searching & Google Shopping)
    • What you buy when you shop (Through Google Shopping)
    • What movies you like (Through Google Searching)
    • What TV shows you watch and like (Through Google Searching)
    • What photos you are uploading and who is in them (Through Google Photos & Gmail)
    • What kind of car you drive and what type of car you prefer (Through Google Searching)
    • What games you like to play (Through Google Searching / Gmail / YouTube)
    • How you like to spend your spare time (Through Google Searching / Gmail / YouTube)
    • Where you travel (Through Google Searching / Gmail / YouTube & Google Photos [GPS location])
    • What software you’re creating – if you’re a developer (Through Google Searching / Gmail / Google Code / Google Developers)
    • When you wake up (Through Google Alerts / Google Calendar)
    • What books you read (Through Google Books / Gmail / Reader)
    • What music you like and prefer (Google Play Music)
    • What you prefer the temperature of your home to be when you are home and how much you are spending on heating and air conditioning (Google’s Nest Thermostat)
    • The list goes on and on and on…

In short, Google’s products are collecting a MASSIVE amount of data on every single person that is using them. At the moment, most of this data is being used to target advertising to you, provide innovative products that (Google believes) might help you.

I know some of you are thinking, “So what? I don’t have anything to hide. If it makes my life easier, then it’s a small price to pay.” The reality is, that’s not the point. Most people are protective of their physical property; you lock your car, lock your house and don’t leave valuables out in the open unattended at work or at school. You should protect your personal information as well as you protect your physical property. The caveat is, all it takes is for one small mistake for all of this deeply personal information to be under the control of someone else. Anyone using these products is putting an enormous amount of trust in an entity that they truly do not know (or their deeper intentions) to hold a huge amount of personal information about them.

To get a perspective on what Google really knows about you, go here:

So, the big question is; “How do I remove myself from being monitored by all of these products.”

The short answer, it’s not easy. There are a few things you can do to begin the process:

  • You can delete your activity by going to Google’s “Delete Activity” screen:
  • Go to Google’s “Activity Controls” and pause all of their data collection apps:
  • Change from Gmail over to a hosted email platform (such as GoDaddy or 1and1). You will have to pay a small annual fee, but you get what you pay for (the knowledge that only YOU will have access to your email).
  • Purchase a storage device such as a Synology NAS or a Buffalo TeraStation to keep your files, photos, and videos on. All of these products allow you to store your files at your own home and still be able to access them remotely on your laptop, through a browser or from your mobile device (I’ll be happy to help you understand this more if you want).
  • Stay away from to search (which collects your data) or (which gets paid to control it’s search results).
  • Start using a search engine that doesn’t track your search activity such as Duck Duck Go or Startpage.

Not long ago, “big data” companies such as Google found that the best product in the world was “you”. It is understandable and in many ways makes our life easier. I feel, however, that we should have control over how much information we are actually allowing these companies to collect on us.

Our "It's All About Me" Communication

Our “It’s All About Me” Communication

Our “It’s All About Me” Communication 2048 1536 Jason Stadtlander

Humans are very selfish creatures; this is not exactly something new. My good friend Doug Obey wrote in his book “Money and the Human Condition” that capitalism works so well because it harnesses our selfish nature to better our society. As hard is it is to accept, this statement is true.

It is my personal belief that as our technological society advances, our selfish nature is showing itself more and more and there are far too many tools to help us become even more selfish.

It’s About Them

Typically, when I go to text someone, especially someone I communicate with regularly – I tend to (want to) blurt out whatever my question is. I am trying to change this etiquette to embrace a more altruistic perspective. For example, instead of just stating the first thing that is on MY mind “How do I get this to work?”, I try to preface it with “Hello [name], how are you? I hope all is well.” THEN I add my inquiry.

The very nature of email and text allows us to be much more informal than we otherwise might intend to be in a professional environment. And yes, I know what you’re going to say “But if I’m just texting my brother a question, why ask how he is?” etc. The answer; For the simple reason that it is more important to put their needs before yours. From a selfish point of view, being unselfish begets what you want faster. Seeing someone ask how you or stating their hopes for your well being before they ask you a question is more likely to grab your attention than an intrusive question that you would prefer to get back to later. Keep in mind, we send texts and emails because we know they are less invasive, but the fact is, someone is stopping whatever they are doing – even if for only a moment, to give you the attention you are asking. So we need to respect that time that they are taking and begin by asking how they are.

Pause Before You Send

Even when you do not intend to be self-centered, it’s easy to quickly type up something and hit that send button – only to wish you had waited and formulated your thoughts better.
Most email programs have the ability for you to set up a “delay” of a minute or so (which I have implemented on my emails). This delay allows you to reconsider what you sent, go back to your “outbox” and check that the email is worded in a way that will accomplish what you are trying to convey without offending. Unfortunately, you cannot do this with texts. So I urge you (and me) to stop before hitting that send, read through what you have written – it only takes a few extra seconds, and consider how it will be perceived from the other end.
Coming to Terms with Our Digital Past

Coming to Terms With Our (Digital) Past

Coming to Terms With Our (Digital) Past 2000 1333 Jason Stadtlander

We all have ghosts in our closet, whether we want to admit it or not. And the digital age (the last 15-20 years) has created many new elements in our lives including the creation of massive amounts of digital photography, videos, and historic (digital paper) trails.

Hiding Under Your Nose

I recently purchased a NAS (Network Attached Storage), which is just a fancy way of saying “storage server” that holds all of my family photos, videos and every file I’ve ever created. I’m not going to go into the technical side of things with regards to this unit at the moment, but I will say that after combining all my hard drives onto this unit, I now have over 700,000 photographs. Before you freak out, understand that I’m the keeper of our family archives and there are photos going back to the year 1865 on this NAS.

This unit has facial recognition, location recognition, and several other organizational tools on it. In looking through these photos, I found images hidden to me for years (sometimes decades) and I became acutely aware of the fact that there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of pictures of awkwardness; ‘happy families’ now divorced, ex-girlfriends/boyfriends I never wanted to see again, friends that had become enemies and even photos of myself when I was clearly less than happy. I’m not talking about a ton of them, but enough that it makes me stand back and think about things for a moment.

It is incredibly tempting to select all of these photographs and hit the delete key, after all – that is another marvelous capability of the digital age. However, in doing so, I would deny three things:

  1. The ability to see other people that are still very dear to me that are also in these photos.
  2. The ability to look back and for a moment say to myself, “I may not like them, or like the relationship we (or they) now have (or do not have), but at that moment… that brief moment in my life, I was happy with them and they were important enough for me to capture that photo of.”
  3. The fact that one never knows where life will go and what doors may be opened and closed. Many years down the road, do I really want to regret having deleted a photo of this person or this situation?

Coming to Terms

No matter where we go in life from here on out, there are bound to be photos or connections in your collection, someone else’s collection, out on Facebook, on Twitter, news articles or elsewhere. Sometimes you will have the ability to delete these, but most times you won’t. You can choose to ignore these elements that show you (or others you care about) in situations you may not want to remember, but it doesn’t change the fact that they exist. It is in our nature to pretend that elements in our life don’t exist, to ignore them, to cast them aside if they hurt or cause us pain. The reality is, we are only fooling ourselves. To ignore something doesn’t make it go away, it just makes it easier for us to cope.

So I propose this; At some point, you too will go through your old photos, or you will see an article or post online that has you in it. Step back for a moment and instead of ignoring the post, the photo, the video or the connection – instead, ignore the pain. Think about the positive elements that caused you to be a part of that photo, post or article and allow simply to be. It is part of your past, and there isn’t anything you can do to re-write history. Instead, it is how you choose to deal with your past that allows you to handle the present and the future.

Social Media is Building a Culture of Public Judgement

Social Media is Building a Culture of Public Judgement

Social Media is Building a Culture of Public Judgement 2000 1125 Jason Stadtlander

Social media allows us to have the world at our finger tips, news, and information on everything around us including family, politics and natural disasters.

Instant news and instant response is a two edge sword we now live with on a daily, hourly and sometimes minute by minute basis. Not only are we given a chance to instantly (and hopefully relatively unobtrusively) contact someone, but we also tend to feel the need to instantly respond to them in turn. When an event happens, we know about it within minutes, sometimes we know about it in real time.

For example, take the Brett Kavanaugh hearings regarding the sexual allegations toward Christine Blasey Ford. Kavanaugh, who was on the shortlist of nominees for the Supreme Court faced accusations that he sexually assaulted Ford. Within minutes of the story being leaked to the press, it began spreading on Twitter and Facebook. Granted the tumultuous relations between Republicans and Democrats and further fueled by many people’s contempt of President Trump (who nominated Kavanaugh) created a strong burning fire. There is no doubt that this was leaked as a political maneuver.

Immediately as the hearings were going on, minute by minute public judgments were being made and altered before the entire world stage. Even the U.S. president was injecting his opinions before the world on Twitter (without filters).

Do I see a benefit in this? Yes and no. As I said, it’s a two-edged sword. From a fellow U.S. citizen who has very little ability to control any of these situations, it’s nice to be able to see what’s going on while it’s going on, rather than find out after it’s already affecting me. This instantaneousness method of communication allows us as a world citizen to at least feel like we are part of the decision-making process (even if we are not). On the flip side, we can also garner enough people together to indeed make a voice about an issue (take the #metoo movement for example).

Now, on the other side of the sword, social media may impede the ability for jobs to get done because the people making the choices are no longer leading as much as waiting to hear what the consensus is among the people.

Court of Public OpinionMy personal opinion? I don’t like it. It opens up anyone to summary public ridicule and judgments without accurate presentation of evidence. Am I saying that Kavanaugh wasn’t guilty or that Ford didn’t experience what she experienced? No. What I’m saying is that I don’t think it should have been put out there for anyone other than those who can make decisions regarding it. Primarily because it was of a sensitive nature (to all parties) and loops in families with children, spouses, etc.

I think we are too rapidly moving toward a ‘public judgment’ without trial culture with the use of social media.

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