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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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Is Geek Squad ‘Inadvertently’ Stumbling Across Images? They Say ‘Yep’. I call ‘Bullshit’.

Photo courtesy Electronic Frontier Foundation

Though I’ve been following this story at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website (see Geek Squad’s Relationship with FBI Is Cozier Than We Thought) it was today’s Ars Technica article that really got my blood boiling (see Best Buy defends practice of informing FBI about child porn it finds).

“In a statement sent to Ars on Tuesday, Best Buy wrote that it continues to “discover what appears to be child pornography on customers’ computers nearly 100 times a year. Our employees do not search for this material; they inadvertently discover it when attempting to confirm we have recovered lost customer data.”

Inadvertently? Bullshit.

While I’m the last guy to defend anyone who has child porn they’ve gathered and stored on their computer or device the big issue is this: Best Buy **must be** using forensic tools to actively search the entire hard drive — including cached images — and then Geek Squad humans ARE ACTIVELY VIEWING every .jpg, .png, or raw image on the computer or device and getting paid to do it!

Otherwise, how else could they possibly determine something is “child porn” without looking at it?

On my main computer (and external hard drives) I have nearly 50,000 images I’ve taken, scanned, or my family has taken and I’m storing them in a central location (and, before you ask, there is NO porn…child or otherwise). If you were a Geek Squad worker, there is no way you could be recovering one of my hard drives and have a clue what those images are, unless you looked at them OR had a forensic tool that enabled you to find every image on a computer or device so you could skim through them.

That EFF article had this to say about Geek Squad using forensic tools (my emphasis):

But some evidence in the case appears to show Geek Squad employees did make an affirmative effort to identify illegal material. For example, the image found on Rettenmaier’s hard drive was in an unallocated space, which typically requires forensic software to find. Other evidence showed that Geek Squad employees were financially rewarded for finding child pornography. Such a bounty would likely encourage Geek Squad employees to actively sweep for suspicious content.

Even if a computer owner inadvertently ends up on a website that has such images — by following some link and then takes their computer in for Geek Squad service — those images are in the browser cache so that person could be instantly branded a child porn lover or pedophile and turned over to the FBI. Unless you are smart enough to use FileVault on the Mac or TrueCrypt for Linux or PC and encrypt your drives (like I do), they can see anything-and-everything once recovered.

What if a rogue Geek Squad person looked at your important documents? Maybe copying down account or social security numbers, poking through email text files, or otherwise digging through all your digital files when your computer or device was in there for repair? 

Remember: Defending against illegal searches and seizures means forcing law enforcement to abide by the Constitution and get a warrant. Not pay-off or otherwise coerce a company’s employees to do the FBI’s illegal forensic for them.

Especially when everyone knows that if an illegal search and seizure is labeled an investigation in to “child porn” or “terrorism” then the stupid usually rollover and let law enforcement do whatever they want unless you, like I do, find this practice and Best Buy collusion an illegal search and seizure (especially since the FBI paid them to do it) and get mad about it and take some action.

For more see these:
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Shooting Smartphone Video: A Great Solution is Available Now

I’ve been shooting iPhone X video with a $15 app called Filmic Pro using my Steadicam Volt (though with Filmic Pro’s stabilization feature, I can capture almost the same quality doing it handheld without the Steadicam). Sure wish I had this set up five years ago!

The video I can shoot with my iPhone X is absolutely stunning but, unfortunately, capturing good audio from any smartphone’s internal microphone alone sounds horrible. I have a cheap lavalier microphone but doing an interview — or setting it up so my wife can easily and quickly do one on her own with her iPhone X at trade shows — is simply too hard. One would need two lavalier mics and the gear needed to have two audio feeds going in to a single iPhone input. This is not something she can do nor I want to do.

There is good news though: Today I found an audio solution — JK Audio’s BlueDrive-F3 — and read a couple of reviews about it. Though it’s a butt-ugly adaptor, the buzz from a videographer buddy of mine is that “it just works”, has great battery life (6 hours) and has no Bluetooth-like latency so lips stay in sync with voice-audio.

I already own the best-selling mic in the world (Shure SM-58) which will work flawlessly with this device. Check out the video below, especially to hear the “with BlueDrive-F3” and “with just the iPhone internal microphone” so you’ll know the impact that good audio will make in your next iPhone video.

The BlueDrive-F3 is essentially the same price everywhere I looked ($236.55). If interested in this kind of a solution, watch the short video on the page to learn more.

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Save on Cyber Insurance with Apple & Cisco

This just in from TechCrunch:

Apple and Cisco announced this morning a new deal with insurer Allianz that will allow businesses with their technology products to receive better terms on their cyber insurance coverage, including lower deductibles – or even no deductibles, in some cases. Allianz said it made the decision to offer these better terms after evaluating the technical foundation of Apple and Cisco’s products, like Cisco’s Ransomware Defense and Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Mac.

There is no question in my mind that Apple is inherently more secure than Android, Windows and other technologies. The operative word here, however, is “more” since there really isn’t any truly secure device. Or security is only as good as what we each are savvy enough NOT to do…like clicking on links in emails, inadvertently trusting a website that’s actually a phishing scam, and so on.

That announcement in Apple’s newsroom includes Aon as well: Cisco, Apple, Aon and Allianz today announced a new cyber risk management solution for businesses, comprised of cyber resilience evaluation services from Aon, the most secure technology from Cisco and Apple, and options for enhanced cyber insurance coverage from Allianz.

This is good in many ways but sure won’t hurt Apple and Cisco’s businesses, that’s for certain.

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What the Film ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ Meant to Me

When I was in high school in the early 1970s, Robert Redford’s film Jeremiah Johnson came out. Even as a teen I would oftentimes prefer living (or just being) in the wilderness than surrounded by human-made stuff, and the movie seemed to connect directly to my soul.

The movie’s meaning to me became clearer as I would watch it over-and-over-and-over again as the years have gone by. After the DVD came out in 1997 (and the BluRay in 2012 which I also own) my watching increased, especially as I traveled more, my jobs grew increasingly stressful, and I would constantly find ways to physically, mentally and spiritually escape to wilderness.

The plot is about this man, played by Robert Redford, who is a Mexican War veteran named Jeremiah Johnson. It starts out with him taking up the life of a mountain man, supporting himself in the Rocky Mountains as a trapper, and all the things that happen to him on this adventure.

But that plot description doesn’t do justice to the impact it made on me since it transported me to the mountain wilderness. It also doesn’t really zero-in on the essence of the film itself, though later on the director, Sydney Pollack, said this in a video interview:

“It’s a picture that was made as much in the editing room as it was in the shooting,” said Pollack. “It was a film where you used to watch dailies and everybody would fall asleep, except Bob and I, because all you had were these big shots of a guy walking his horse through the snow. You didn’t see strong narrative line. It’s a picture made out of rhythms and moods and wonderful performances.

THAT is the essence of the film: “a picture made out of rhythms and moods and wonderful performances” and why it connected with me. I could smell and sense the places depicted in this film and the movie filled me with a sense of peace (though native people’s struggles against the encroaching Europeans have always filled me with sadness about the injustice, and this movie depicted that well too).

The connection was so strong that in 2013, on one of my many road trips to experience places and take photos, I sidetracked to go up to Robert Redford’s Sundance resort in Utah. I’d hoped to find some of the filming locations in the nearby park, but the ranger told me that they were never publicized in order to keep people from disturbing the areas. Still, it was a place I wanted to be since the quiet, peace and serenity of this resort was evident from the moment I began walking the grounds.

So thank you Robert Redford for making this film. You, and Minnesota’s own Sigurd Olson (see Listening Point and Listening Point Part 2) are what allowed me to maintain my inner sanity during a 10-15 year span of time when I was internally struggling to “be” in wilderness while living in the hustle-and-bustle of a human-made world.

Check out the movie’s trailer:


Download a large version of the movie poster here.

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Is This a Scam by Symantec?

Can’t help but think that “Norton by Symantec” is trying to scare the beejeesus out of website owners with something that sure smells like a scam to me…or at least a really spammy marketing effort to bolster their contact lists.

One of my businesses, Innov8Press, recently began rebuilding a long-time client’s new website. Before the rebuild started we moved the client to a new webhost as their existing one wasn’t up to handling what the new site will require for technical resources.

This is a site we had built (but were not managing at the time) and is one we cleaned up after a hack two years ago and it has been clean ever since. FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS Google says it is clean. Sucuri says it is clean. The premium Wordfence security suite says it is clean.

So imagine my surprise that, after we’d moved the site, we saw this at the new webhost’s dashboard:

Then I go back to Sucuri — which again, had shown the site to be clean for TWO YEARS until we just moved it last week — and now this appears:

We’ve now invested a couple of hours:

  • Creating an account at Norton Safe Web
  • Interacting on the community forum (basically to ask, “WTF?”)
  • Downloading the verification file
  • Uploading it to the site’s server
  • Requesting a verification as the “site owner”.
SCAM OR JUST SPAMMY MARKETING?

Every fiber in my being tells me this is a spammy attempt to get website “owners”, whether the actual owner or developers like us, to signup for their services. At the very least it’s an attempt to identify website owners so they can email the shit out of us.

If Norton starts spamming us I’ll create a filter in Gmail to instantly set all their emails to “spam.” They’d better not think they can market to us in this fashion like some no-scruples startup, and basically waste the time of website owners like this.

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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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Cord Cutting is Devastating Comcast. Will They Be Disrupted or Save Themselves?

A site I follow, Cord Cutters News, had this interesting article today about a Comcast Executive Vice President gave a warning to investors, “…that the company expects to report losses of 100,000 to 150,000 video subscribers in the third quarter 2017. That is a massive swing of subscribers because just one year ago in the third quarter of 2016 Comcast added 149,000 video subscribers.

Comcast, and other cable companies, are being disrupted by all the online streaming TV offerings and especially DirecTV NOW. Since our family has an AT&T Unlimited Plan, we “cut the cord” with Comcast (plus we’re selling our home and downsizing anyway) and signed up for the DirecTV NOW basic service with HBO added. The total cost is a measly $15 per month.

We also ditched TiVO and their $20 per month DVR pricing so we’re saving well over $100 per month on TV. Yes, we have Netflix, Hulu and a subscription to AcornTV (we love British television) so our total outlay is higher but still under $50 per month.

How could we NOT cut the cord? Especially since DirecTV NOW will soon have a recording capability and a new user interface (sometime this Fall). Our kids are now adults but are classified as Millennials and they, especially, don’t care at all about having cable TV options. They want streaming, on-demand, and binge-watching options and neither of them care about sports options which cable TV companies basically force us all to pay for monthly.

WHY ISN’T COMCAST / XFINITY DOMINATING STREAMING?

Comcast could argue that they are in this space as they provide an Xfinity Stream app. The issue is that this app’s service pricing is not even close to being competitive to other offerings (e.g., SlingTV; DirecTV NOW) and its pricing is almost identical to an Xfinity cable TV subscription.

Those streaming TV “deals” come with the same old cable TV-like pricing games: You sign up for a “first 12 months” — for what appears to be a somewhat competitive price — only to have it jump by 50% after the “deal’s” first term ends. (e.g., in my home area of zip code 55347, a streaming TV app subscription for 140+ channels is $49.99 for the first 12 months but leaps to as much as $75 per month once the term ends AND you are locked in for that entire term).

On that deals page under the “Add to Cart” button, there is a Pricing & Other Info link. Clicking it reveals this text in the popup:

Offer ends 10/29/17. Restrictions apply. Not available in all areas. New residential customers only. Limited to Digital Starter service. 1-year minimum term agreement required. Early termination fee applies if all XFINITY services are cancelled during the agreement term. Equipment, installation, taxes and fees, including Broadcast TV Fee (up to $8/mo.), Regional Sports Fee (up to $6.50/mo.) and other applicable charges extra, and subject to change during and after the promo. After applicable promo, or if any service is cancelled or downgraded, regular rates apply. Comcast’s monthly service charge for Digital Starter, ranges based on area, from $52.49 to $75.49 (subject to change). Service limited to a single outlet. May not be combined with other offers. Limited Basic Service subscription required to receive other levels of service. On Demand™ selections subject to charge indicated at time of purchase. Not all programming available in all areas. 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee applies to one month’s recurring service charge and standard installation up to $500. Call for restrictions and complete details. ©2017 Comcast. All rights reserved.

So you can see that it’s basically a cable TV subscription but through an app. You also cannot end your cable TV subscription and immediately subscribe through the app (New residential customers only). Also, there will be all sorts of associated fees and taxes — like the “Regional Sports Fee” whether or not you even care about sports — a fee that you do not have to pay with competing services.

My wife and I got sick-and-tired of having to go to the Comcast/Xfinity ‘store’ near our house every six months or otherwise our cable TV subscription would often jump-up by $60 or more. Numerous times over the last decade we’ve suddenly received a Comcast bill that was more than double our “reasonably priced deal” monthly subscription. We refuse to play Comcast’s game so we said goodbye a couple of months ago.

Comcast absolutely could own this streaming TV space but their streaming app subscription is virtually identical in cost to a cable TV subscription, so being competitive (and stopping their game-playing with pricing) means they would have to decimate their own TV business which they’re not likely to do.

Why would Comcast not cannibalize their own cable TV business?

Harvard Business School professor and author Clayton Christensen, wrote a best-selling book called The Innovator’s Dilemma (which The Economist named as one of the six most important books about business ever written). Its premise is that successful, outstanding companies can do everything “right” and yet still lose their market leadership – or even fail – as new, unexpected competitors rise and take over the market  (book at Amazon).

The reason Comcast will quite likely lose their leadership (or fail) is because they have so many contracts with TV providers they’d have to unwind, cable TV subscriptions they would lose to cord cutting, and top-line revenue they would have to replace, that it’s probable they will fail.

I, for one, will be happy to say goodbye to the cable TV gaming when it comes to their pricing models (and, hopefully soon, the cable TV company internet-service-provider monopoly, but that’s a topic for another post).

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Healthcare Costs: No Transparency and Ready for Massive Disruption

Healthcare costs are out of control and, in particular, negatively impact those of us whose healthcare is individually insured in the United States (the U.S. Census Bureau states that approximately 9% of we 323.1 million Americans are individually insured or uninsured).

There is no pricing transparency and healthcare is not a free market.

Whether it is the wildly differing prices of an MRI to our costs for pharmaceuticals being among the highest in the world, the fact that there is no transparency, near-zero alternatives, little power to drive costs lower as consumers, and that most of the health-insured in America don’t shop around since they are only responsible for a low co-pay amount, this is a market ready for massive disruption.

This massive disruption may start with Amazon inserting itself in to the drug supply chain and disrupting it as you’ll see below.

My post from yesterday about Why Trump and the GOP’s Healthcare Approach is a Barrier to Entrepreneurs compelled me to add something today about healthcare costs, specifically because our current president and Congressional leadership are doing nothing about controlling costs of pharmaceuticals, wildly different prices for procedures, and positioning consumers to shop around for lowest prices in order to create an actual free market.

This Wikipedia article points out why U.S. healthcare costs are so high and that it’s not a free market and outcomes are lacking:

Unlike most markets for consumer services in the United States, the health care market generally lacks transparent market-based pricing. Patients are typically not able to comparison shop for medical services based on price, as medical service providers do not typically disclose prices prior to service. Government mandated critical care and government insurance programs like Medicare also impact market pricing of U.S. health care. According to the New York Times in 2011, “the United States is far and away the world leader in medical spending, even though numerous studies have concluded that Americans do not get better care” and prices are the highest in the world.

As patients we generally do not have access to pricing information until after medical services have been rendered which is fundamentally flawed and goes against everything I believe in when it comes to the free market.

Would you buy ANYTHING if the manufacturer or retailer didn’t tell you until AFTER the purchase how much it would cost? Of course you wouldn’t. But that is EXACTLY what happens when you have a co-pay and figure that you’ll let the insurance company and provider fight it out over price since you only have to pay some nominal amount.

Here’s one example which, if you had to buy it yourself (like I would since our family is individually insured), is a reason I’m so up-in-arms about healthcare costs: A chest MRI in Minneapolis (where I’m from) is available from standalone MRI businesses for $460. One hospital here charges $2,026 for the same MRI! (from this article).

It gets worse with pharmaceuticals but maybe Amazon will come to the rescue.

[Read more…]

 

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