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Google’s Motto ‘Do The Right Thing’ is for Them and Not Us — Especially with Chrome 69

UPDATE on September 25, 2018
Looks like Google blinked since so many of us were SO upset about what they were doing. While this is good news, I’ll be sticking with Firefox for the foreseeable future:

“Chrome 70 Will Allow Users to Opt-Out of Controversial Automatic Sign-in Feature”

For years I’ve been a staunch supporter and trusted Google, loved their services like Google Suite, Gmail, Google Voice, and others, all while admiring their machine learning and artificial intelligence research. One thing I specifically trusted was Google’s Don’t Be Evil motto which was baked in to their Code of Conduct for the company.

Then, back in May, I became troubled when they removed Don’t Be Evil and replaced it with Do The Right Thing. At the time I joked with a friend of mine asking him, “Is ‘do the right thing’ for us, or for Google?

It appears the motto change was focused on Google.

The biggest shift away from that “Don’t Be Evil” motto that Google has ever done just happened. Though this thread started on Hacker News a few weeks ago, a cryptographer and professor at Johns Hopkins University whose blog I follow, Matthew Green, wrote a post entitled, Why I’m Done with Chrome. In it he said:

A few weeks ago Google shipped an update to Chrome that fundamentally changes the sign-in experience. From now on, every time you log into a Google property (for example, Gmail), Chrome will automatically sign the browser into your Google account for you. It’ll do this without asking, or even explicitly notifying you.

Green also sees this move as having serious implications for privacy and trust. Do you think!?! My trust-level in Google has plummeted. So much so that I have now shifted 100% back to Mozilla’s Firefox browser and away from Chrome. I will no longer use Chrome until they change the way they infiltrate my privacy.

SO WHAT EXACTLY DID GOOGLE DO?

Google’s recent update to Chrome (browser version 69) has done something unprecedented in their history:

a) Once you login to Chrome as a user, Google can (and does) track EVERYTHING you do in the browser. Every site you view, every login. The change? If you login to any Google service in the Chrome browser, Google will log you in to that browser to give them access to everything you’re doing within Chrome.

b) As a user you can no longer delete ALL the cookies in your browser. Google’s cookies remain no matter what you do. (Hat tip to Christoph Tavan for discovering this breach)

c) Google is increasingly using “dark pattern” user interfaces in their services to hide or obfuscate what something does when you check, uncheck or choose an option. In ExtremeTech’s article Chrome 69 Is a Full-Fledged Assault on User Privacy, they describe how Google’s dark pattern user interfaces obscure their intent to get you to enable them to do the right thing for Google:

These changes are all part of what’s known as a dark pattern. If a pattern is defined as a regularity in the world (designed or naturally occurring) that repeats in a predictable manner, a dark pattern is an attempt to trick users by designing interface options that look like the options users expect to see.

I, for one, don’t want to research, study or figure out how a company I trust might be trying to trick me in to do something that is in THEIR best interest…and not mine. I’d rather pay for offerings and am growing tired of “being the product“.

FOR MORE
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The World Wide Web’s Father is Disappointed in His Child

The promise of the World Wide Web and the Internet was the democratization of information and the ability for the people to participate. In many ways it has devolved in to a tool for mass surveillance, hacking and monetization that is unrecognizable from what the Web’s founder, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, envisioned…and he’s not happy about it.

Vanity Fair has a great piece that is definitely worth a read:

I WAS DEVASTATED”: TIM BERNERS-LEE, THE MAN WHO CREATED THE WORLD WIDE WEB, HAS SOME REGRETS. Berners-Lee has seen his creation debased by everything from fake news to mass surveillance. But he’s got a plan to fix it.

I’ve always wanted to meet him and still hope to do so one day. I’d let him know all the ways his creation has changed my life and the positives FAR OUTWEIGH the negatives.

Because this is a fun-fact-to-know-and-tell, below is the original NeXT machine Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web on in 1991 and used as the world’s first “web server”:

This NeXT workstation (a NeXTcube) was used by Tim Berners-Lee as the first Web server on the World Wide Web. It is shown here as displayed in 2005 at Microcosm, the public science museum at CERN (where Berners-Lee was working in 1991 when he invented the Web).

The document resting on the keyboard is a copy of “Information Management: A Proposal,” which was Berners-Lee’s original proposal for the World Wide Web. The partly peeled off label on the cube itself has the following text: “This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!

Just below the keyboard (not shown) is a label which reads: “At the end of the 80s, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web using this Next computer as the first Web server.” The book is “Enquire Within upon Everything“, which TBL describes on page one of his book Weaving the Web as “a musty old book of Victorian advice I noticed as a child in my parents’ house outside London“.

This image is a new upload by Coolcaesar of the original JPEG file on en:September 22, en:2008 directly to Commons in response to continued vandalism of the original. It has been re-published on Connecting the Dots under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

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A Bug in the Apple Store App on iOS “Removed” a Gift Card from My Apple Wallet

It is likely that I discovered a bug in Apple’s Apple Store app for iOS that could make one of your Apple Store cards in your Apple Wallet vanish.

Two days ago I had three Apple Store cards in my Apple Wallet with varying amounts on them which were pretty close to the total amount of a new HomePod with tax — only $6.21 wasn’t covered by the Apple Store cards in my wallet so would, of course, be paid for using my archived credit card on file with Apple — so I decided to try to order the HomePod using the Apple Store app on my iPhone and go and pick up the unit at a nearby Apple Store in Southdale Mall (Edina, MN).

To my surprise the charge to my archived-at-Apple credit card for $6.21 kept failing! The credit card is used all the time so I tried the transaction three more times. It kept failing so I called my credit card provider Chase who told me that the card was just fine.

I then reached out to Apple Support and they basically had no idea what had happened. They did offer to order it for me or suggested I go in to an Apple Store. Of course, that completely misses the point that there is some sort of bug that disallowed me from using my credit card do I decided to give up and deal with it this coming weekend.

But here is where it gets REALLY WEIRD… [Read more…]

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Wavebox – Finally…All Of My Web Apps In One Place!

Whenever I come across an app or method that can radically streamline my workflow, I not only embrace it but have to share it with friends, family and write about it as it might help you too.

To say I was excited to find Wavebox is an understatement. Wait until you see what it can do for you and, most importantly to me, it’s open source so there are no shenanigans going on with backdoors and such.

First some background. My workday consists of wearing several “hats” and I need to have multiple web applications instantly available all day, every day:

  1. My own, personal stuff with my Gmail account as the ‘hub’ with calendar, Google Voice, and a ToDo list in Google Keep
  2. My secure Protonmail email account
  3. A postmaster email account for my server
  4. Two Google Suite email accounts for one of our businesses and a third Google Suite email account for yet another of our businesses
  5. My SteveBorsch.com Google Suite account and website
  6. My primary Slack account
  7. …and several other web applications I need to have available to me at the click of a mouse.

Using multiple Google Suite accounts within a single browser meant that ALL of them were active all the time AND, for anyone who uses multiple accounts in a single browser, you know how unworkable that is on a daily basis.

Each email account and calendar had to be open and ready. If you use Google Chrome to manage multiple Google accounts within the same Chrome instance, you know how problematic it can be to know which Google Account’s calendar you’re in at the moment!

After discovering apps that would let me generate site-specific browsers (SSBs) — which are essentially “clones” of Google Chrome and Safari but completely self-contained — I ended up with about 20 SSBs and each had multiple tabs open. (e.g., Fluid App; Coherence 5; Unite).

Fortunately my iMac has 32GBs of memory, but I was always maxing-out on memory since each tab in each browser has a “worker” process running in the background, consuming LOTS of memory on a machine. It was getting pretty crazy so I began the hunt for a solution that would be better.

Enter Wavebox…  [Read more…]

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Stay Secure With The Always Improving Signal App

Staying secure with our communications is finally easy and, only recently, Signal added a computer-client for Mac, Windows and Linux which ties to your smartphone’s Signal app and works flawlessly.

Using encryption for your critical communications has always been a challenge, even for those of us who are hard-core technoweenies. But all that changed when an American computer security researcher and cypherpunk named Moxie Marlinspike created the Signal protocol and later an app called Signal (which is available here for iPhone, Android or desktop/laptop computers).

Signal is widely regarded as the most secure and easiest to use encrypted texting and calling application. It’s a vital tool for journalists, whistleblowers, and ordinary citizens. But it is also so good that the U.S. Senate approved the use of Signal by its staffers due to its end-to-end encryption and bulletproof security.

Even WhatsApp, the communication app that boasts well over 1 billion users, leverages the Signal protocol as the underpinnings of their wildly successful messaging platform.

Why should you use it? With Signal you can send high-quality group, text, voice, video, document, and picture messages anywhere in the world without SMS or MMS fees (obviously you need an internet connection on your phone or computer). But rather than re-hash all the reasons why you should use it, take a peek at a post I wrote in October of 2016 that will detail Why You Should Use the Signal App.

Don’t just take my word for it though:

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Note to Online Publishers: STOP THE AUTOPLAY VIDEOS AND BLARING AUDIO!!

Ever been in a public place, go to a web article in your browser, and suddenly AUDIO STARTS BLARING FROM AN AUTOPLAY VIDEO!?!

Me too. All it does is PISS ME OFF so I will immediately tweet to leadership of whatever publication is the offending one. They never reply. As it turns out, the tech industry is doing something about it as is a new Coalition for Better Ads.

Hopefully publishers will wake up and realize that if they make the experience all about them and their advertisers WE, the readers, won’t come back….ever.

I don’t use ad blockers in my main browser as it interferes with web work I do. Sometimes I forget to mute my audio which, of course, I don’t want to do since I might miss notifications on my work machine.

How to stop this autoplay and unable-to-exit popups crap? There are a few ways suggested in this article:

The interesting thing is that advertising groups are furious at Apple for blocking ad-trackers and Google has warned the industry that they’re going to be adding an ad-blocker next year in their Chrome browser.

Again, publishers are their own worst enemy and unless they wake up and change their approach, the tech industry will do it for them.

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Be Aware of the Biggest Change in macOS High Sierra: APFS

After upgrading to macOS High Sierra on my MacBook, I also
converted my 512GB SSD Time Machine backup drive to APFS

Upgrading to macOS High Sierra? There are enough new features that it certainly seems worthwhile, though you’ll actually notice little difference in the upgrade since most of the changes are under-the-hood in car-speak and not necessarily visible.

Though mostly hidden from view, you do need to be aware that Apple has implemented APFS — the Apple File System — and it’s a ‘mandatory’ change when you upgrade if your Mac’s internal drive is a solid state one. (NOTE: If you have a Fusion or spinning hard disk drive (HDD), an upgrade to macOS High Sierra will not update your drives to APFS but the new operating system will be installed).

What does this change in the file system mean for you? It’s the wave of the future for Apple and works with iPhones and iPads so sharing files will be more seamless in the future. APFS is also a ‘modern’ file system optimized for fast, solid state drives (SSDs).

If you upgrade any Mac with an internal SSD, the Apple File System will automatically convert your drive and its contents (and yes, it will preserve your FileVault encryption if implemented since APFS fully supports FileVault). Like magic it just happens and the upgrade was surprisingly fast.

As far as I can tell (or from what I’ve experienced thus far) there are no “deal killers” by upgrading to macOS High Sierra, but you should be aware of what changing to APFS means.

Here are some things you need to know if you are upgrading:

a) Apple: Prepare for APFS in macOS High Sierra

b) OWC’s blog post: Translating Apple’s New High Sierra & APFS Compatibility Document

c) For those more technically-minded, here is an Apple File System Guide on Apple’s developer site that gets in to more detail.

d) Still on the fence about upgrading to macOS High Sierra or want to know a lot more? Ars Technica has the best in-depth analysis of the new operating system I’ve read yet.

At this point I’ve upgraded my MacBook to macOS High Sierra but not my main, production iMac since I cannot afford any hiccups with it. Still, I’ve seen absolutely nothing yet that would deter me from doing so, but on my main production machines I always wait at least a week to ensure there aren’t any “gotchas” with a new OS release. It’s likely by early next week I will have upgraded my iMac to macOS High Sierra too.

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Make Your Own Site-Specific Web Browser “App”

Need to tell you about a very cool Mac app (Windows version coming soon) that has transformed how I manage my online work and even social media interactions.

The app is called Coherence, now in version 5, which I hadn’t heard about until I stumbled across it this past week and downloaded the trial version. I liked it so much I purchased the Family License 20 minutes later!

The app allows you to create site-specific web browsers that function as their own self-contained Chrome browser application. Why would I want to have a bunch of separate web browser apps on my Mac instead of just opening up 10, 15 or 20 tabs in my Chrome browser? Besides slowing down Chrome and using up lots of my computer’s memory, I have a need to keep things separate:

  • MANAGING ACCOUNTS: With four GSuite accounts (a personal one and three for our various businesses) I could just log in to all of them in my main Chrome browser, but that would mean choosing accounts before going in to Google Drive, calendar, or other GSuite apps, a huge pain in the butt and often confusing. Having one site-specific browser for each GSuite account is fabulous and makes managing all of those accounts a breeze!
  • DEVELOPMENT: With our Innov8Press business I’m constantly logged in to multiple accounts and like to keep everything contained as I work, especially since I’m often logged in to a client’s web services (e.g., Mailchimp; Salesforce; Dropbox) and using a Coherence-made browser makes it simple to not have to login and logout over-and-over again as I go through my workday.
  • KEEP TRACKING TO A MINIMUM: Rather than use a plugin to keep Facebook (and others) from tracking my activities all across the web, Facebook has its own browser and everything runs within it. I even have a “Media” browser with bookmarks to publications I view in order to again, make it harder for third-party tracking companies to follow me around while I browse and use the web.
  • UNIQUE, DISCRETE APPS: I often play Pandora in a browser on my desktop so it’s really nice to be able to do so in a separate browser app vs. having to have the highly insecure Adobe Flash installed so I could run Pandora’s Adobe Air app. I also have a browser app for YouTube/Netflix/Hulu streaming apps as well as one to use with UberConference. Again, it makes my workflow so much more manageable.
  • EXTENSIONS: One last, highly useful aspect of of Coherence 5 is being able to load extensions. For example, in most of the Coherence browser apps I’ve created I’ve included my LastPass password manager extension. That way I can login to a client’s sites (or my own) as needed. Since sometimes I also need to view a client’s site from the standpoint of a user in the U.K. or countries in the E.U., being able to connect a given site-specific browser via the Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN to one of the PIA servers in one of those countries really helps (especially being able to perform Google searches in those countries in order to tweak SEO).

There are lots of other use-cases I’m sure you can think of, or will soon discover, on your own and, at the very least, it’s definitely worth considering. You will find the pricing here:

  • Coherence 5 for macOS 10.10 and Above – Single License $4.99
  • Coherence 5 for macOS 10.10 and Above – Family License (5 Licenses w/ 10 Activations) $24.99

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NOTE: I should mention that I have used FluidApp for several years, the site-specific browser creator which makes a Safari-like (i.e., WebKit) browser. There are some features in it I like, but it’s not as flexible as Coherence 5 and I find being able to add extensions and use a Chrome-foundation browser meets my needs better.

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Listening Point – Part Two

Listening_PointIn the summer of 2014 I made my first visit to Sigurd Olson‘s Listening Point and wrote about it here. On my 2016 road trip and photo adventure I made another pilgrimage to Listening Point, this time in attempt to be there by myself with no, or minimal, interruptions. I wanted to just “be” and listen…exactly how Olson described his experience of this place in his book of the same name.

It was a success (except for the guy across the lake who fired up a chain saw just before I left) and I’d love to be able to stay in the cabin one night…but that’s out of the question. Still, it was enough to stop there and experience this place, and think about Olson and his legacy, one more time.

Below is a video of the place so you can get an idea of what it is like and a link to my Flickr photo album of Listening Point.

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Taking Photos? Use a “Real” Camera Instead of Your Phone

lakesuperiorUsually my annual “Steve’s Road Trip” adventures are out west to the mountains, or down to the desert southwest, but for the second summer I’m headed to the north shore of Lake Superior before summer gives way to the fall. I’ll also go up to Ely for a day (and stop at former National Geographic photographer, Jim Brandenburg’s gallery) and so I can also head over to Sigurd Olson’s Listening Point and take some photos. (You can read my 2014 post about my first visit to Listening Point here).

When I mentioned my trip to a buddy of mine he asked, “Are you going to shoot with your iPhone?” I thought he was joking, but in the past we’ve talked about the “photography revolution” since smartphone shooting has essentially killed the “point and shoot” lower end camera market, and ad campaigns like Apple’s Shot on iPhone make it seem like anyone running around with their iPhone will get National Geographic-worthy photos (reality check: you won’t).

So that begs the question: Do you shoot important photos with your smartphone? [Read more…]