Firefox Addons

Firefox Addons

Thursday, Jan 21, 2021

Listening to: Dream Nails - Dream Nails
Photo: pic taken with my first digital camera, the Olympus D-360L (bought 1999 in New Orleans). Still works!

I use Firefox. One of only a small percentage of people who do these days. The market is dominated by Chrome and it’s derivatives. I could go on about how a mono-culture on web access is dangerous, or how that it would be headed by what is effectively an ad firm/data broker with little sense of ethics, but I’d be digressing.

This is about add-ons. Mostly so I don’t forget what I’m using. You’ll probably want to go back to doing something more relevant to your life at this point (videos of goats cavorting is my go-to).

uBlock Origin - blocks lots of ads* and crap. Makes the web faster to browse.

Privacy Possum - reduces and/or falsifies data gathered by tracking companies.

Privacy Badger - learns to block invisible trackers.

Firefox Multi-Account Containers - lets you run each website in isolation.

Facebook Container - wraps Facebook automatically and generally screws with their tracking elsewhere on the web.

Decentraleyes - Messes with CDN (Content Delivery Network) delivery. Third parties that host web content and may monetise your data.

ClearURL’s - Removes tracking elements built into links and URL’s themselves.

HTTPS Everywhere - Just removed this one as the feature is now built into Firefox. Warns you when you load insecure websites (any password would be transmitted as plain text).

*I have no problems with seeing ads. I ran a site for a decade that depended on them for revenue. But those were topical, self-hosted and did not contain any trackers. Alas, many modern ad services are kinda shitty about that stuff.

2 minutes read
Mobian

Mobian

Monday, Jan 18, 2021

Listening to: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Coma Girl (video)
Rule: every time I do something “brave”, I get a delicious treat. As a result, I don’t eat much pastry.

Well, that didn’t work out. Previously, I’d started “dog-fooding” Ubuntu Touch on the Pinephone. Not quite ready, had some issues with connectivity, both wi-fi and cellular. Almost there but receiving messages reliably is a must.

Just flashed Mobian. It’s not only reported to be the most mature of the options, but it’s also presently shipping as a special edition of the Pinephone (I’d say “get one, it’s only $150 USD”, but expect a bit of nerding over the next few months).

Round #2. Let’s see how it goes…

1 minutes read
Signal Down Enter The Matrix

Signal Down Enter The Matrix

Friday, Jan 15, 2021

Listening to: Aerial East - Running Up That Hill
Photo: I hate sleeping alone. Inanimate anthropomorphic objects are not an acceptable substitute.

After WhatsApp’s recently announced policy changes (now “delayed” three months), a lot of folks are trying to switch to Signal. Which is awesome. But Signal is struggling with the influx of users at the moment (read: it’s down).

Another option, one I use, is Matrix. It’s easy to get going, just install one of the many Matrix Apps on your device and there is usually a wizard to step you through signing up. You may get a choice of servers to use and there are… thousands. Do the research or just accept the default. They are all independent but communicate with each other. It’ll be fine.

Matrix is arguably more powerful than Signal, and is also IP based (so you need a data plan or WiFi). No need to hand out your phone number thou (umm, don’t), in fact most logins just require an e-mail address for verification and password resets etc.

ping me @flay@ubports.chat if you do sign up.

ps. I use Fluffychat but Element is a good bet for most users. Hell, try a few.

1 minutes read
Dog Fooding

Dog Fooding

Thursday, Jan 14, 2021

Listening to: Joan Jett - Crimson and Clover (video)
Photo: Old phone takes pic of new phone. In a saucepan. Classy.

“Dog Fooding” is a strange term I only heard a couple of years ago. In this context it refers to using a technology full-time while still in development. Bugs and all. Beta testing full-time.

My old phone had died (well before it’s time, grrrrr!) so I’d purchased a used Google Nexus 5 and flashed it with a series of alternative operating systems. Ended up on one called “Ubuntu Touch”, a version of linux for mobile devices originally created by Canonical then taken over by the “Ubports Foundation”. It’s been great. But the phone itself is growing old now and the battery isn’t lasting long. Not being an easily replaceable part (also grrrrr!), the next step had to be researched.

Enter the PinePhone. A device created by Pine64, a non-profit collective, for the express purpose of open-source operating system development (“build the hardware and they will come”). I bought in early with an edition simply known as “Braveheart”. There was no shipped OS but several were in development, none yet ready to be a used on a daily basis. Over the last year over half a dozen usable operating systems have appeared. Later versions of the device had updated hardware so this Braveheart version only runs a couple of projects well. One of them being the same OS, Ubuntu Touch.

Switched the SIM card over today. While not yet ready for the general public, it’s good enough for my day-to-day use. Let’s call it “quirky” at the moment. The camera isn’t presently reliable but otherwise it seems to work fine. I often carry a Panasonic G85 about anyway (it goes in a small sling bag with a couple of lenses).

And will order the motherboard update so it can run some of the other projects built for later Pinephone versions. Oh, did I mention? The Pinephone (and indeed most of what Pine64 creates) is entirely user repairable and up-gradable. They even guarantee part availability for five years. The later version will also work as a (low power, albeit) desktop computer if you connect it to a available dock, keyboard and monitor. That’s called “convergence”.

Neato.

2 minutes read
Mr. Flay and "Gormanghast"

Mr. Flay and "Gormanghast"

Monday, Jan 11, 2021

Listening to: Personality Crisis - Mrs. Palmer

Photo: Snowshoeing on Seymour with Stanley

The domain “Flay.Com” seems to get a lot of attention. Not the content (though I’d be flattered), but the name itself.

“Flay” is derived from one of my favourite trilogies, “Gormanghast” by Mervyn Peake. The first, “Titus Groan” was published in 1946 and the second “Gormanghast” in 1950. Some think they are on the level of better known authors like Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. I do. The first two books are unique in that, while certainly fiction and often classified as ‘fantasy’, they don’t actually contain much in the way of fantastic or supernatural elements. Full of ponderous description, if you’re a reader that visually imagines the scenes described, it’s chock full of wonder.

Mr. Flay was the Lord’s personal servant in the series, one of the core characters. I finally got to see the BBC film adaption of Gormanghast years ago when I bought the DVD set. Christopher Lee played the part of Mr. Flay along with a well chosen cast. Worth a watch IMHO.

If you visit the official site, mervynpeake.org, you can find some of the original character sketches and more information on his writings and life:

“Mr Flay appeared to clutter up the doorway as he stood revealed, his arms folded, surveying the smaller man before him in an expressionless way. It did not look as though such a bony face as his could give normal utterance, but rather that instead of sounds, something more brittle, more ancient, something dryer would emerge, something perhaps more in the nature of a splinter or fragment of stone. Nevertheless, the harsh lips parted. ‘It’s me,’ he said, and took a step forward into the room, his knee joints cracking as he did so. His passage across the room - in fact his passage through life - was accompanied by these cracking sounds, one per step, which might be likened to the breaking of twigs.”

2 minutes read
Shopping For Alternatives

Shopping For Alternatives

Sunday, Jan 10, 2021

Listening to: Girls With Knives - Handsome Men

Because they’re not advertised, lots of folks are not aware of free or open source software packages, often suitable as an alternative to commercial products. Not that they are copies, in fact some features of commercial packages are first developed in open source. It goes both ways.

Here’s a short list of packages for common tasks although there are far, far more:

1 minutes read
News Alligators (Or How RSS Makes Browsing Easier)

News Alligators (Or How RSS Makes Browsing Easier)

Sunday, Jan 3, 2021

Listening to: Kate Bush - Live at Hammersmith Odeon (video)

RSS readers. I just spoke to somebody who didn’t know what one was and said I’d write it up (hi there!).

What

An app which pulls in an overview of articles recent posted from any number of sites. Saves a bucketload of time as you can just click open the full text of interesting items to read and skip the chaff. Podcast apps use a similar structure.

How

RSS ICON Many sites, especially personal blogs like this, will have a square icon with three curves in it (mine is over on the navigation box). Clicking will open up a page of dork code or what looks like garbage text (it’s really called XML). Entering that page URL into a RSS Reader will give you content and update it every time you open your app, looking for new posts. That’s the manual method, each platform and app will have it’s own style. Some organisations even have a nice index page of all feeds by subject https://www.cbc.ca/rss/ and clicking on one will automatically add it to some readers.

Where

It’s common software for any platform and I’m sure a quick search will turn up a few for whatever you’re running. There are also sites which act as portals for your feed (read the fine print). I’ve never found a need to pay for one, but use open-source software. Your call. If you do go free or open source, perhaps kick beer money to the developer if you’re flush. They like that.

WTF?

Sometimes a site will “lose” the link to the feed, taking the icon off the site. It doesn’t mean the feed isn’t being generated, but that somebody thought it didn’t make enough money screwed up the coding. If you look in “common places” you’ll often find it there anyway. /index.xml, /rss/, /feed/ etc. Some search engines will pull the direct URL up as well.

Many big sites have eliminated them despite almost every CMS (content management system) supporting the feed structure. Reasons vary, but many want you to surf the site so they can monetise your visit with ads or by selling the personal data you generate.

More info: Wikipedia RSS Entry

2 minutes read

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