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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Drydock marine corporation

Take 10: Keeping boats safe from the high seas

SOUTH YARMOUTH — When the waters of Cape Cod turn warm and boaters return to the seas, Dry Dock Marine Corp. gets hopping.

The boat hauling and storage business keeps about 200 vessels on 5 acres at its Old Town House Road facility and, for the most part, sees its busiest seasons right before and after summer as its dry-docked boats move on and off the yard to head nearly anywhere across the Cape.

“We handle a lot of big stuff from a lot of all the major boat yards. We’re probably one of the biggest boat haulers on the Cape,” said Frank Richard, who bought the business with his wife, Marie, in 1977 and continues to work there with his son, Skip, who has taken over the day-to-day operations.

The business allows boats to be stored on trailers in the yard, too, so during the summer there’s a steady stream of customers coming in and out to take their boats on the water for the day. The business also allows owners to work on their boats while they’re in storage, giving them an edge on the marinas that typically provide less access during the off-season.

Video: Dry Dock Marine Corp. in South Yarmouth

What is the biggest component of your business? Skip: Boat hauling is our primary business.

How long have you been in business? Marie: We started in August of 1977. We moved to this location in March 2006.

What did you do before? Skip: I’ve been involved in the business since I was 10 years old.

How big is your staff? Marie: Six.

How has the market changed since your business started?Skip: The size and price of the boats. Our customers are a lot more demanding. We’re still a do-it-yourself yard; we do some work, the owners do some work, they get contractors to do some work. It’s a lot more picky. The boats are a lot cleaner, the boats are lot more expensive. Frank: We hauled a couple of boats to the Boston Boat Show this year that were worth $1 million apiece. And they sold it. Some of the stuff we move, it’s high value.

What are your plans for your business’ future? Skip: Who knows? Possibly a little more inside storage.

What’s your most memorable moment with this business?Skip: I’d probably say moving up here. Frank: The old shop, we had three-quarters of an acre (and) we had outgrown it by 10 or 15 years easy. We were in an old barracks building that was converted. Skip: Now we come here, we don’t have any more dirt, we have asphalt and rock, a wash basin for the bottom-washing and water and electricity all over the yard for the customers. It’s just a nice facility.

What advice do you have for someone starting out in business? Frank: They’ve got one tough nut to go. If someone went to start this business up in the position we’re in right now, I’d hate to think what they’d have to have for money just to start off with. Skip: Stay small. You don’t always have quality people working for you.

What’s the biggest challenge about having a business on Cape Cod? Skip: Employees. You can’t find the quality here. Marie: We had a guy come in on a bicycle for a driving job. He didn’t have a license.

What’s the best thing about having a business on Cape Cod? Skip: In this business, it’s being independent. Our business slows down for the summer, so we can enjoy it a little bit more.

— Follow Sean F. Driscoll on Twitter: @seanfdriscoll.

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

How to stop your devices from listening to (and saving) everything you say

Yes, voice technology is amazing. You can ask your phone a question. You can talk to your speaker system and book an Uber. With the right setup, your voice can lock the doors, dim the lights and change the thermostat. All across America, people are embracing their oral fixation.

But while virtual assistants are handy, they’re always listening. As more manufacturers and developers jump onto the audio tracking bandwagon, you may wonder how much your devices are recording. And what happens to the audio files they gather?

Worst of all are the apps that use ultrasonic data to profile you. You don’t hear the tones, but your device does. (More about that later.) Some regular apps are designed to spy and report back recordings. Click here for five spy apps that could be watching and listening on your phone right now.

Creeped out? Lots of consumers don’t trust their virtual assistants and wonder how to switch them off. If you're worried about the privacy risks of your smartphone's always-on microphone, here are tips for turning it off.

More on this...

Facebook

When you install the Facebook app on your phone, it asks for access to your microphone. Why? Because Facebook needs to record your voice when you shoot live video. But some people are wary of this. Does the app record you only when you’re on camera? Or is Facebook “listening” to you all the time?

Facebook denies it’s always listening — and there’s no evidence that it is — but you are absolutely welcome to sever the tie between app and microphone. Many people have no use for this access anyway, so there’s nothing to lose by switching it off.

If you are an iPhone user, go to Settings >> Facebook and slide the Microphone switch to the left, so it turns from green to white. That turns it off. Alternatively, you can go to Settings >> Privacy >> Microphone, then look for Facebook and do the same. Note that you can toggle the mic on and off for other apps, too. For Android users: Try Settings >> Applications >> Application Manager >> look for Facebook >> Permissions >> Turn off the mic.

If you decide to shoot video later on, just return to those settings and re-establish the connection to your mic. You can switch it off again when you’re done.

Amazon Echo

Is Amazon Echo always listening? Alexa is activated when it detects one of its wake words: "Alexa," "Amazon," "Computer" or "Echo." You'll know the device is ready for a command when the outer ring at the top glows blue. But before that happens, Alexa always has open ears, waiting to be addressed.

When activated, Alexa allows you to search the web, play music and control smart home devices you've added to your home network. For example, with the right smart gadgets, you can turn off the lights in another room, lock the front door, turn up the thermostat, etc.

The downside is that Amazon keeps an audio recording on its servers of every voice command you give to Alexa, along with a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word. The recording ends after the command has been processed.

I was surprised when I checked my Amazon Echo recordings. In one recording, I was explaining why I wasn’t taking a deal on a commercial building that I had for sale. You should take a moment and check your recordings. Click here to learn how to hear all your Amazon Echo recordings, and how delete them too.

Siri

Like the Echo, Siri is always attentive, even when you’ve forgotten your iPhone can hear you. With iOS 8, Apple introduced the "Hey Siri" wake phrase, so you can summon Siri without even touching your iPhone. If you turn this feature on, this means your iPhone's mic is always listening, waiting for the phrase "Hey Siri."

Apple says this is processed locally on your iOS device, and it does not start recording until it hears "Hey Siri." Once your request is recorded, it uploads the audio file to Apple's servers for processing.

But that may still give you the willies. Luckily, you don’t have to disable Siri completely to stop the “Hey Siri” feature. Here’s the easiest way to turn off "Hey Siri": Navigate to your iOS device's Settings >> Siri & Search, then toggle off “Allow Siri When Locked.”

Google

Google recently released its latest masterpiece, “OK Google,” the wake prompt for Google Assistant on Google Home speakers, Android smartphones and the Chrome browser.

Every time you use "OK Google" or another voice-controlled function, your request is recorded and the snippets are saved to your Google account.

Luckily, Google introduced a new My Account tool that lets you access your recordings and delete them if you want. You can also tell Google to stop recording your voice for good.

Here’s how to turn off the "OK Google" wake phrase: On Android, go to Settings >> Google >> Search & Now >> Voice and turn “Ok Google” detection off. 

Want a shocker? Click here to hear everything you’ve ever said to Google.

Cortana

Finally, there is Cortana, the voice-activated system from Microsoft. The wake phrase is "Hey Cortana." Like the others on this list, it can answer questions, do searches, set appointments and open applications. Also just like the others, Cortana has raised some eyebrows.

Here’s how to turn off "Hey Cortana": Open Cortana on your Windows computer, select the Notebook icon in the right column, click on Settings and toggle "Hey Cortana" to off.

Ultrasonic Technology

Brace yourself, because ultrasonic technology is hard to fathom. Some ingenious programmers create apps that can track high-frequency sounds that humans can’t hear but certain receivers can.

Your smartphone or tablet can spy on you by using sound waves you don’t even know are there.

Why would anyone want to collect these ultrasonic sounds? Because marketers can use the information to tailor their advertisements. The apps are looking for “beacons,” tiny auditory clues that suggest where you shop and what you like to buy. Marketers then pair browser cookies to track your behavior across multiple devices.

In fact, hundreds of Android apps are already using ultrasonic sounds to track user behaviors, including physical location and TV viewing habits. Click here if you want to know more about this new tracking.

In response, Google has announced that Android apps that use ultrasonic tracking will be banned or suspended. Developers will have to prove they adhere to Google Play Store's updated privacy policies, which require developers to disclose an app's ultrasonic features and ask for permission before accessing your gadget's mic. So, if you're worried about ultrasonic tracking, check the permissions before you install an Android app.

Cutting off your microphone may give you peace of mind, but remember: Disabling mics make speakers and virtual assistants much less useful. The ever-listening nature of these smart virtual assistants is what makes them compelling. Hopefully, developers will soon find a good compromise between security and ease of use.

How else can you protect yourself from cybersecurity issues? Call my national radio show and click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

Copyright 2017, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hey Jones act rebuttal for the what it's worth department

American Maritime Industry Fights Back Against False Claims on Jones Act and Relief Efforts in Puerto Rico

Workers unload containers of shipping company Crowley from a Jones Act container barge after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria at the port in San Juan, Puerto Rico, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

The American maritime industry is firing back against harsh criticism of the Jones Act in the media and by certain lawmakers in Washington amid the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

Attacks on the Jones Act intensified after the Department of Homeland Security seemingly denied a request to waive Jones Act requirements for Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurrican Maria on Tuesday, saying a waiver was not needed at this time because there are enough American ships bringing supplies to the island.  

“The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability,” a spokesman for the DHS said Tuesday.

On Wednesday, however, the DHS said it had not made up its mind on the issue and it was still considering a request by members of Congress to waive theshipping restrictions, but so far it had not received any formal requests fromshippers or other branches of the federal government to waive the law.

“We are considering the underlying issues and are evaluating whether a waiver should be issued,” a senior Homeland Security official told reporters on Wednesday.

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, aka the Jones Act, is a federal law requiring goods shipping between two ports in the United States be carried on American-built ships that are mostly owned and crewed by American citizens. The law applies to ships transporting goods between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico, although not the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

To get the facts straight on the Jones Act’s impact on hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, we reached out to the American Maritime Partnership, a group representing more than 400 U.S. maritime companies from Alaska to Puerto Rico.

“A steady stream of additional supplies keeps arriving in Puerto Rico on American vessels and on international ships from around the world. The problem now is distributing supplies from Puerto Rico’s ports inland by surface transportation,” said Thomas Allegretti, Chairman of the American Maritime Partnership.

Since Maria hit, American maritime companies have moved approximately 9,500 containers of goods in Puerto Rico to help the territory and its residents with the recovery. Foreign-flag vessels are also arriving at the island as they normally do when transporting goods not coming from the United States.

Allegretti offered another statement later in the day amid reports that thousands of shipping containers loaded with vital supplies were stacking up San Juan:

“Earlier today, the President responded to a question on the White House lawn regarding the need to waive the Jones Act for the recovery in Puerto Rico.  He mentioned that the shippers are not in favor of waiving the Jones Act. He is right and here is why.  What we are seeing clearly on the ground is thousands of cargo containers piling up at the port of San Juan, filled with essential goods that the Puerto Rican people desperately need, but not nearly enough trucks and clear roads to distribute the goods.  So, the problem at the port is a lack of trucks and delivery routes, not a lack of vessels. 

The President was also right when he said that we have a lot of ships out there right now. Much needed cargo has been delivered to the port, and an armada of U.S. and foreign vessels continues to arrive.

We continue to work hand in glove with the FEMA and the rest of the Administration to help find solutions to get the goods distributed from the ports to our fellow Americans, and the men and women of American and Puerto Rican maritime, along with foreign shippers, are answering the call.” – Thomas Allegretti, Chairman, American Maritime Partnership

In response to numerous reports in the media claiming that the Jones Act is somehow hindering relief efforts in Puerto Rico, the AMP provided the following fact check to hopefully set the record straight: 

Claim: The Jones Act prevents cargo from foreign vessels to reach Puerto Rico.

False. Any foreign vessel can call on Puerto Rico. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted in a 2011 report that two-thirds of the ships serving Puerto Rico were foreign ships. 55 different foreign carriers provided imported cargo to Puerto Rico in a single month, as cited as an example by GAO. Foreign shipping companies compete directly with the American shipping companies in an intensely competitive transportation market.

Claim: Import costs are at least twice as high in Puerto Rico as in neighboring islands on account of the Jones Act.

There is no study that supports this statement in any way. In fact, anecdotal evidence about rates indicates that the opposite is true. For example, one analysis shows it is 40% more expensive to ship goods from the U.S. mainland on foreign vessels to the U.S. Virgin Islands (not subject to the Jones Act) than on Jones Act vessels to Puerto Rico.

Claim: Jones Act vessels lack sufficient capacity to reach communities impacted by Hurricane Maria.

In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, one hundred percent of the island was without power, and roads were blocked by downed trees and debris. Goods are arriving to the island on vessels but bottlenecks on the roads are limiting arrival to the communities. The largest bottleneck is not getting goods to the island, but delivering goods once they arrive.

Domestic maritime companies have the equipment at their terminals to handle the throughput at the terminals without overwhelming the shoreside and inland infrastructure. Domestic maritime roll-on/roll-off barges can immediately discharge cargoes while work is performed to restore power for cranes and other equipment at the terminals. Domestic maritime containerships can deliver cargoes from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico in three days.

Claim: A Jones Act waiver would add efficiency to the delivery of essential cargoes to impacted communities.

Because of infrastructure challenges, a Jones Act waiver could hinder, not help, relief efforts. A Jones Act waiver could overwhelm the system, creating unnecessary backlogs and causing confusion on the distribution of critical supplies throughout the island. Already there are logistical bottlenecks for Jones Act cargoes as a result of the inability to distribute goods within Puerto Rico due to road blockages, communications disruptions, and concerns about equipment shortages, including trucks, chassis, and containers.

Claim: The Jones Act adds significantly to the cost of goods in Puerto Rico.

Over the last decade, a parade of politicians and “experts” have attempted to estimate the so- called “cost” of the Jones Act in Puerto Rico. Because the estimates have been wildly contradictory, in 2012, Puerto Rico Delegate Pierluisi asked the GAO to determine the true “cost.” The GAO studied the issue for more than a year and debunked the previous estimates. First, the GAO said there are far too many factors that impact the price of a consumer good to determine the supposed cost related to shipping, much less the Jones Act. Second, the GAO said, one could not truly estimate the cost unless one knew which American laws would be applied to foreign ships if they were allowed to enter the domestic trades, which would certainly increase the cost of foreign shipping.

Claim: Changing the Jones Act in Puerto Rico will help the island, especially considering its current economic crisis.

A GAO study on Puerto Rico listed a number of potential harms to the territory itself if the Jones Act were changed, including the possible loss of the stable service the island currently enjoys under the Jones Act and the loss of jobs on the island. Moreover, American domestic carriers are making some of the largest private sector investments currently underway in Puerto Rico by investing nearly $1 billion in new vessels, equipment, and infrastructure. They employ hundreds of Puerto Rican American citizens on the island and on vessels serving the market, providing highly reliable, low-cost maritime and logistics services. These private sector jobs and reliable services are important to the long-term recovery of the Puerto Rican economy and would be jeopardized by changes to the Jones Act.

“The men and women of the American maritime industry stand committed to the communities in Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria, where many of our own employees and their families reside and are working around the clock to respond to the communities in need,” said Allegretti. “As our industry has done in past natural disasters, including most recently Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we are actively working with the Administration, FEMA, MARAD, and relief organizations to deploy quickly and deliver essential goods like food, fuel, first aid supplies, and building materials.”