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.
A article in The Guardian this morning tweaked a bit of a Kraftwerk binge. Revival of Trans Europe Express ‘key to EU’s carbon neutrality also reminded me of past train trips. Mostly in Europe but also a memorable one from Thunder Bay to Calgary after a stint of tree planting. There were half a dozen of us, many engaged in crafts or reading. I spent a lot of my time with a mutual crush (alas we both had a partner back home). It was really rather romantic.
Also in the news were a few articles relating the (welcome) news that various governments policies towards the pandemic are finally beginning to relate to the actual science. A spring 2020 article on particle transmission stated “safe social distancing” should be thirteen feet. Indeed “twelve feet” is a suggested unmasked distance guideline in the province of Ontario and is now being put forward in France. The article also reminds us that good “home made non-medical” masks are only about 70% effective (properly fitted medical up to 95%). So distancing of six feet should be mandatory unless medical masks are worn. As they already should be in workplaces where staff cannot maintain distancing.
Now if I could only figure out how to not fog up my glasses while wearing a mask (and no, nothing suggested has worked so far). It’s OK, everybody looks better with a little defocus anyway ;-).
Two incident over the last month have reinforced my views on free speech, end-to-end encrypted private messaging and hatred of bullies. Growing up as foreign-accented mouthy kid in prairie Canada, I saw a lot of the latter first-hand.
The first incident was in a coffee shop just before Christmas. A staff member seemingly wanted to talk to a customer but was literally shouted down by another employee. The offender let off a endless verbal barrage intended to purge the room of any other speech. I can’t imagine what they thought justified the behaviour or the motivations behind it but reactions in the room varied from uncomfortable to outright horrified.
The second was a article released today by The Guardian: Woman jailed for record 43 years for insulting Thai monarchy. I thought I misread the headline at first. It’s sad to think governments are so repressive (and “the west” is not immune. Business use SLAPP tactics to silence criticism, governments give themselves permission to assassinate their own citizens and reporters are routinely murdered worldwide.)
While the scales are vastly different, both of the examples above were intended to end discourse.
To prevent constructive (edit: changed from “free” in light of recent events) speech and suppress any further attempts.
Objecting to something on legitimate grounds is something to be encouraged. To discuss an issue in an open and fair manner. The matter may never result in agreement, but to prevent the conversation in the first place is:
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…
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 @firstname.lastname@example.org if you do sign up.
“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”.
Listening to: Tom Tom Club - Genius of Live Photo: Home on a Sunny Day (built around 1913)
The CBC has an opinion piece posted “Digital privacy law is being updated for the first time in decades, and it’s imperative we get it right” about the upcoming digital privacy bill C-11. It’s important.
People’s lives are their own and they should have control on who has access to the details of it. Let’s not let the corporate mono/duopolyies decide.
Listening to: Negative Scanner - Nose Picker
Photo: Fraser River Park
Stanley likes digging a hole at the beach, dropping his ball into it then barking at the ball for a spell. Dig another hole, move the ball, bark at the ball…
Brain the size of a pea, I swear.
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.”
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: