TimeMachiner. Tech, culture, nostalgia. By Aaron Crocco
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👋🏻 Hi everyone.


2021 is drawing to a close and this will be the final issue of TimeMachiner this year. THANK YOU to everyone who has subscribed.


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1. I have opened up access to the first issue of The Longform to everyone. It's a lovely nostalgia trip that I think many of you will enjoy. You can read it here for free until Jan 1. After that, it will once again be available only for Time Traveler members.

2. I have put together a free bonus PDF highlighting the Top 5 Feel-Good Stories of 2021 You Probably Missed. I know the year has been difficult for so many and I thought something uplifting would be a nice way to round things out. This PDF is only for you, my subscribers. It's one way I can show my gratitude. Get it here.

Thank you all again for reading TimeMachiner. I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and a happy new year. I'll see you in '22.


Embracing The Ring
December 18, 2021

Sometimes a company has a monumental screwup so big that they simply want to move on. Never look back and never talk about it again. For Microsoft, that is certainly the 2007 "Red ring of death" debacle during the days of the Xbox 360. That video game console had a green ring surrounding the power button. However, if it turned red and remained that way, the console was dead.

This "red ring of death" was immensely infuriating to gamers. The system would brick due to a design flaw and it would come out of nowhere. The system was basically overheating and no matter what a person did with their system, it would eventually 'red ring'. Now, we fast forward to 2021 and Microsoft is giving a weird nod to this flaw. Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica has more.

Microsoft is now selling $25 "premium posters" to commemorate the "Red Ring of Death," a systemic hardware failure in early Xbox 360 consoles that cost the company over $1 billion to fix. The posters are part of a marketing push commemorating the 20th anniversary of the original Xbox, a campaign that includes a six-part documentary called Power On. Despite being made and marketed by Microsoft, the presence of an entire episode about the RRoD debacle suggests that it's not intended as a hagiography.

Ars Technica

Whether this Power On documentary is good or not remains to be seen. It consists of six chapters and the entire 5th installment is dedicated to the 360's flaw. However, it's fascinating to see Microsoft sell posters of this blemish on the Xbox's history. I could never see Apple selling a kernel panic shirt or Google selling a poster showing the ungodly amount of resources Chrome uses up.

YouTube TV Loses The Mouse
December 18, 2021

For many cord-cutters out there, YouTube TV has been a good option as a replacement service. The Alphabet-owned streaming service carries a bunch of live channels for $65 a month. Unlike cable, there's no contracts or hoops or bundling or any other nonsense. One thing however that has carried over from cable-land are disputes with networks.

As of today, YouTube TV lost access to all Disney channels it was carrying. Jon Brodkin as more at Ars Technica.

YouTube TV was seeking a most-favored-nation (MFN) clause from Disney. "Our ask to Disney, as with all our partners, is to treat YouTube TV like any other TV provider—by offering us the same rates that services of a similar size pay, across Disney's channels for as long as we carry them," YouTube TV said at the time.

Ars Technica

The list of channels lost is quite lengthy given how many Disney owns. It includes the ABC channels and ESPN's bundle too. Unlike cable companies though, YouTube TV is actually doing something for their customers because of this. They're lowering rates automatically by $15 a month for as long as the dispute is happening. When was the last time a cable company did that?

The saddest conclusion to draw from this all is the fact that cord-cutting has gone from a simple alternative away from expensive cable to a system that is equally or more expensive than cable. It has the same drawbacks of channel blackouts, disputes, and price increases. Even worse is the nickel and diming of people who need to subscribe to other services as well in order to watch exclusive content. TV is not cheap these days. The original idea of cutting the cord, once so elegant, is now a bunch of companies fighting over a different pie that sucks almost as much.

Verizon The Spy
December 18, 2021

There are two types of companies most people can agree we all hate: cable / ISP companies and cell phone carriers. Verizon, being both, doubly-sucks when news broke of its data collection it's beginning to turn on. They are rolling out something called "Custom Experience" which collects data about your apps and web browsing activity to help “provide you more personalized experiences with Verizon.”

Even worse: Verizon is opting in everyone by default. Yes, if you do nothing, you are giving them permission to collect everything they want on an ongoing basis. Emma Roth at The Verge has more details about this nonsense.

[Verizon] might use your information to, say, present you with an offer that includes music content, or give you a music-related option in its Verizon Up reward program if it knows you like music. Verizon explicitly states that for the more invasive Customer Experience Plus tracking, you “must opt-in to participate and you can change your choice at any time.” Signing up for those Up Rewards, or other promotions with consequences buried in the fine print may have opted customers in unknowingly.

The Verge

Screw that. You can opt out, which of course Verizon doesn't want you to do. Here's the steps you need:

  • In the My Verizon app tap the gear icon.
  • Scroll down and select “Manage privacy settings”. It's under the “Preferences” section.
  • Turn off “Custom Experience” and “Custom Experience Plus.”
  • Go a step further and delete everything Verizon scooped up already. Simply tap “Custom Experience Settings,” and hit “Reset.”

Trafficking in data is big business these days. Many times it can be more lucrative than the product itself a company is selling. Verizon is double-dipping because they are charging subscribers for their service AND also using this data collection to make even more money. It's wrong. Opting in everyone by default is inexcusable.

Cooking Gasless
December 18, 2021

Little by little, cities and towns across the US are enacting stricter regulations to help the environment. Sometimes they offer incentives to builders to construct better spaces. Rebates and tax credits are a big part as well for getting alternative energy into real use. On the opposite side is eliminating the use of machines and devices that pollute. New York City has come close to making that reality this past week.

Emily Pontecorvo over at Grist has the details.

The New York City Council voted to pass a bill on Wednesday that will address the Big Apple’s biggest source of planet-warming emissions: the fossil fuels burned in its buildings. The new law will prevent building developers from installing fuel-burning systems in new buildings and most gut renovations starting in 2024, forcing them to instead design buildings with all-electric heating, hot water, and cooking appliances. Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the legislation and is expected to sign it.


It is not as widely-known as it should be that gas stoves are not the wonder appliances they're cracked up to be. In fact, burning natural gas inside your home has a large drawback. The exhaust remains in your home. The Atlantic covered this last year. It is law that if you have a gas-fired HVAC system in your home that it exhausts to the outside. Your gas stove? No such regulation exists.

Heating and hot water systems alone are the source of about 42 percent of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions. They also produce significant local air pollution. A peer-reviewed study published in May found that fuel combustion in buildings in New York City led to an estimated 1,114 premature deaths in 2017, the most recent year for which data was available, and cost $12.5 billion in health impacts. 

That 42% amount is bonkers. The size of NYC is nothing to shake a stick at. (I should know since I've lived in NY all my life). When nearly half of the city's greenhouse gas is from a single source, it makes perfect sense to work to curb it. So not only is natural gas awful for the environment, it is also not good for your health.

Blinding Lights
December 18, 2021

Have you noticed lately that every single time you're driving at night, you can't see behind you? No it's not from fog or heavy rain or even someone moving your mirrors out of alignment. I'm talking about cars with headlights so bright they nearly burn your retinas out of your skull. Finally, something is about to be done with that.

Peter Holderith writing for The Drive explains that a provision buried in the recently-passed infrastructure bill is a provision to address the scourge of blinding headlights

The text that enables this change is relatively straightforward. Under section 24212 of the bill, which is appropriately titled "HEADLAMPS," it's stated that "Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall issue a final rule amending Standard 108"—that's the transportation regulation pertaining to headlight design. The bill states that this section of the code should be amended "to allow for the use on vehicles of adaptive driving beam headlamp systems." In a nutshell, once H.R.3684 gets passed, the transportation secretary has two years to make adaptive headlights a thing in the United States. It could happen sooner, but that's the maximum timeline. 

The Drive

The idea of adaptive headlights are not new, but apparently this has been illegal until last month. The infrastructure bill's signature into law has reversed this. The headlights on a car with this technology can change their state based on the conditions. Someone in front of you? The headlights can dim. Same with being on an empty road and someone comes along in the opposite directions. One thing that exacerbates these blinding headlights are SUVs vs sedans. The height of trucks basically blast their beams directly into the mirrors of lower cars.

As the text says, it'll be most two-years before we see any movement on this, but hopefully some sort of retrofit can come to the market too. Personally, I enjoy being able to see at night when I drive.

What did you think of this issue?

Photo of Aaron Crocco with his Delorean
TimeMachiner is written and produced by Aaron Crocco
In the past, I wrote some books. Now, I’m putting my words down here.

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