UPDATE on 02/07/2020 at 6:38pm PST
Looks like Google is adamant that they do NOT track this way: Google denies Chrome tracking allegation, explains use of ‘X-Client-Data’

As I take steps to extract myself from Google (and others) ubiquitous tracking, I’ve been paying attention to anything related to Google’s Chrome browser. In my news feed yesterday, I came across this threaded discussion in Hacker News:  Google tracks individual users per Chrome installation ID.

I was stunned to learn that every install of Chrome generates a unique ID just for you and it’s possible that Google is using this install ID to track us. As soon as you log in to any Google account with that new installation of Chrome, it’s also likely linked directly to your individual Google profile.

Not only is this completely “evil” on Google’s part if true and they’re using this ID for browser fingerprinting, but it also means it is a complete violation of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR) and would result in massive fines for the company.

In order to get a deeper sense of what was going on, I went out and did a bunch of online searching (using my now preferred search engine, DuckDuckGo, of course). There are dozens of developer and tech site articles and posts that helped me fully understand what is going on, and why developers (and those of us who care about security and privacy) are so upset, concerned, and making a huge fuss to get an answer out of Google.

From LongRoom News:

On Tuesday, Arnaud Granal, a software developer involved with a Chromium-based browser called Kiwi, challenged a Google engineer in a GitHub Issues post about the privacy implications of request header data that gets transmitted by Chrome. Granal called it a unique identifier and suggesting it can be used, by Google at least, for tracking people across the web.”

Even the adblocker software company, Magic Lasso, shared this insight on their blog about the controversy and explained the problem and how this potential tracking occurs:

Each and every install of Chrome, since version 54, have generated a unique ID. Depending upon which settings you configure, the unique ID may be longer or shorter.

Irrespective, when used in combination with other configuration features, Google now generates and retains a unique ID in each Chrome installation. The ID represents your particular Chrome install, and as soon as you log into any Google account, is likely also linked directly to your individual Google profile.

The evil next step is that this unique ID is then sent (in the “x-client-data” field of a Chrome web request) to Google every time the browser accesses a Google web property. This ID is not sent to any non-Google web requests; thereby restricting the tracking capability to Google itself.”

Google needs to address this and quickly. Just about every developer I know has abandoned Chrome and are using Firefox exclusively (as am I).

It’s been years since I’ve gone to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, so had considered doing so this year as I could grab a cheap airfare or would likely just drive there as I’m only 4.5 hours away! With other commitments I found myself unable to go to CES, so this morning I went on the hunt for good videos from the show, and came across ones from CNET at their dedicated CES website.

As much as I was delighted to find that site and it is filled with excellent videos from the tens of thousands of products at CES, I must admit that I’ve got a love-hate relationship with CNET though, even though I fully realize they (like most media companies) are struggling to find the sweet-spot on making money vs. pissing off their visitors to the point they’ll stop visiting:

  • Their websites are a nightmare of popups, snarly ads, and visual noise which are especially bad when reading on my iPad.
  • For years their “CNET Downloads” site saw near-malware installation on PCs and Macs and I spent many hours cleaning (or helping clean) people’s systems who inadvertently trusted them.

So even though their dedicated CES website is organized very well and it’s easy to find specifically what might interest you, instead of the website you might want to go to CNET TV channel on YouTube instead.

If you don’t want to go poke around their site, embedded below is their “Best of CES 2020” recap you’ll likely find interesting:

Thought I’d be helpful since the holidays are approaching quickly. Enjoy this compilation of Saturday Night Live holiday skits with several I’d never seen before:

In January of 1993, I was attending the MacWorld expo in San Francisco. At a furious pace I was hustling down a hallway to get in to a ballroom presentation when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a magazine that looked pretty dang cool. It was the WIRED Premiere publication (issue 1.1) and I stopped dead in my tracks and picked one up.

Quickly leafing through it I instantly knew I’d found exactly the right publication for everything I was doing and thinking as it pertained to the future of technology! Ripping out the subscription card I immediately filled it out to subscribe.

I wish I could convey to you what a big deal this magazine was when it appeared, and how profoundly it covered the big ideas and the overall zeitgeist of that era which birthed the commercial internet, companies like Google and Amazon, and tapped in to the explosion of tech and its changes on the world.

The constant (and sometimes jarring) design, colors and layout choices were often disconcerting, but always pushed-the-envelope in keeping with what they were covering: emerging, disruptive and futuristic tech.

Looking back on that first issue now is also a bit amusing — and I wish I could link to a live copy online but cannot find one — but there is one advertisement I found particularly delightful from Apple, proudly touting the ability to fax from the Powerbook 170 which I just so happened to own at that moment:

Click image for a larger view
The third ad from the front of the magazine was this one from Apple.
Note that the “killer app” for use of this Powerbook 170 is “Fax Transmittal”.

For at least 15 years, Wired magazine was my tech-bible. I devoured each issue and learned a lot along the way, and have used the Wired iPad app to download and read each issue. Unfortunately there is so much tech writing online now, the magazine has become less relevant (dare I say “boring”?) and I reluctantly just cancelled my subscription which will expire with the February 2020 issue.

SOME WIRED TIDBITS

Here are some items you may find of interest:

  • The Internet Archive has TechNation “internet radio show” (the term ‘podcast’ was not yet invented) and you can listen to Dr. Moria Gunn interview the founders of Wired magazine, Jane Metcalfe and Louis Rosetto, and it is very enlightening (This part of the show starts at 32:18). They discuss how “Wired” is different from its predecessors, addressing the complete societal impact of technology and its latest breakthroughs. Other topics include the phenomenal success of “Wired”’s premier issue and why the BBC is “wired” while National Public Radio is “tired.”
  • Lastly, here is the Wired Magazine Promo Reel from the lead-up to the premiere issue that I found at the Internet Archive (which, by the way, I have always found to be THE best resource for anything digitally significant from history):

iPhone 11 Pro Max and Sony RX100 VII

Admittedly I’m a technology snob. I’ve always purchased relatively good DSLR cameras, high end computers and devices, excellent microphones and sound editing gear, and have tried to find the sweet-spot of best quality vs. price.

When it comes to cameras, however, I’m always torn about taking a bag with the camera, two lenses, and a tripod with me to shoot photos. It’s too much bother and fuss, even though the images I can capture are outstanding!

A few years ago we went, as a family, to Italy. I wanted to enjoy the trip and knew that it would be hot and I would not want to carry a big bag with lenses, or even a single, big DSLR camera with one “walking around lens,” an 18-200mm one that would cover what I’d likely need on our trip.

Instead I purchased the best small travel camera on the market at the time (and arguably still the best travel camera as Sony just released version 7), the Sony RX100 M2. While the “reach” of this camera’s lense was not what I wanted, the photo quality was unbelievably good and I got some good photos on the trip.

So with upcoming trips in 2020 — and no desire to carry my big Nikon on any of them — I decided to purchase the Sony RX100 M7 which now does have a better lense, microphone input and other great features. I even had it in my Amazon cart with all of its accessories and the cart total was close to $2,200.

THE IPHONE 11 PRO MAX
Then I watched the Apple September 2019 keynote where the new iPhone 11 series was introduced and I made my decision: I would preorder the iPhone 11 Pro Max with 512GB of storage and NOT buy the Sony RX100M7.

Wait just a dang second Borsch … what!?!

For quite some time I’ve been watching the acceleration of computational photography and have realized we are at (or very close to) the tipping point where smartphones will supplant every kind of photo capture device except for truly high-end, professional cameras.

In fact, check out this paper and the video on this page about 3D rendering and creating a “Ken Burns effect” from *a single image* as it shows what’s possible computationally with photography.

One could argue we are already there, what with camera company sales down trending dramatically, according to a brilliant tech analyst and writer Om Malik. Om wrote this post about the down trending of camera sales and included this graph:

One of Om’s reasons for this decline is the acceleration in smartphone sales and the “good enough” quality of images shot on these devices. While I recoil at the thought of millions of muddy, not sharp, bad color photos being shot by hundreds of millions of us around the world, this is the future of photography whether we “prosumers” or “pros” want it or not.

Having heard this (possibly apocryphal) response by a professional photographer to a novice who had asked, “What’s the best camera I should buy?” and the pro’s response was, “The one you have with you” have made me realize how many times I’ve been somewhere when a great photo opportunity has presented itself.

Yes, this is a glib response to a legitimate question, but one thing is clear: If you don’t have your camera with you, you are unable to take any kind of photo and almost all of us have our smartphones with us all the time. I know I do.

So when I saw the computational photography capability of the new iPhone 11 Pro Max, I knew that I’d have to buy it and not buy the Sony RX100 M7.

By the way, I still often go out with my sole intention of taking photographs and schlep all of my gear with me. But now that I have tripods and a gimbal for my iPhone (and have had them for some time), now that I will be able to take better quality photographs I’ll use these accessories even more.

Food for thought…

In just eight months I’ve had three pair of the $250 (now $199) Bose Sleepbuds. The first pair ‘lost’ connection in the right sleepbud after a few months. I brought the complete product back to the Bose store in the Irvine Spectrum Center in Irvine, CA, and the staff not only didn’t bat-an-eye when I asked if I could exchange them, they glanced at each other and one of them immediately gave me a completely new shrink-wrapped complete product.

I was surprised but pleased. But that super-easy return made me immediately suspect that Bose knew they had a big problem with these sleepbuds and just gave away a new product to anyone who complained.

Two months later I had to do another exchange and get a second new pair and I’m now on my third pair of Bose Sleepbuds which are now unusable. Sigh…

BOSE COMMUNITY
So I joined the Bose Community to see if others had the problem and if there was something I’d not yet done to fix it (as a techie I know to run updates, reset, delete and redownload the mobile app, etc. which I’d already done … multiple times). Nothing would fix it.

Then I posted this as a new thread for discussion and to get some help:

As a techie I am overly careful with devices like my noise-masking sleepbuds (and case) while ensuring that they are clean, charged properly, updated immediately (e.g., case firmware), and otherwise handled with care. I adore what these sleepbuds do for my sleep, but have since learned that they only work for a couple of months.

So when, some months ago, my few-months-old sleepbuds saw that the right bud stopped charging fully. I brought the buds, case and all pieces to the Bose store in Irvine Spectrum Center (Irvine, CA). Told the guys what happened and they instantly returned it and gave me a new one! I was surprised, but quite pleased that they did that.

Less than two months later the exact same thing happened, this time with the left sleepbud. I updated the case firmware and both buds, and everything was fine for a week or so. Then it happened again with the right bud not charging. I took it back to the Irvine Bose store and you guess it … they replaced it *again*!

It’s now been six weeks or so and two days ago the left bud would only charge to 38%. It didn’t get me through the night, but was still workable as I could get to sleep. Did you guess that it now is only charging to 1%? Yep…so my third pair of sleepbuds have stopped working.

This is SO frustrating for a gift my wife gave me that cost her $300. It’s the only Bose product I’ve ever owned that I’ve not been consistently over-the-moon and also a product that lasted years.

I’ve read this community forum frequently trying to figure out what I might be doing wrong, but when I handle this device gently, keep it updated and clean and it still doesn’t perform, I can only surmise that it is just plain bad engineering.

If anyone from Bose is reading this and has any suggestions — and please don’t give me links to support docs since I’ve done EVERYTHING in all your troubleshooting guides — then I’m open to real solutions. Otherwise I guess I’ll take them back to the Bose store AGAIN and have them replace them for me so I can get another 6-8 weeks to find another, reliable solution.

So what did Bose do? One of their “community admins” (moderator) merged it with another thread that supposedly contained the solution … one that did not work for me so I still have an unreliable product.

They did NOT offer me any kind of personal response. There was no link to a post in the private message the “community admin” sent me. I tried to reply to it with a copy and paste of his message to me, but the HTML in it was refused and my 2nd attempt to message did not go through and resulted in an error message that I was “over my private message limit”. Holy shit this is poorly managed.

There is a “Phone Free” mode which seems to make the sleepbuds function … but I lose the alarm and other phone-connected functions (and the right sleepbud still disconnects) so that’s not a great solution.

Taking the sleepbuds out of the case they connect, then disconnect, then connect,
then stay connected for an intermittent number of minutes, then disconnect again!

So I think now my only course of action is to pack up my current sleepbuds and drive half an hour over to the Bose store to return them … this time to get our money back vs. exchanging them. My wife bought them for my December 2018 birthday and it’s been less than a year, so they definitely should refund us.

So Bose … if anyone bothers to read this post, you’ve got to step-up your game and learn how to perform customer support. I know this isn’t a huge sale at $250, but I’m about to go out and buy a sound bar for my expensive Sony 4K TV, and I will not be considering Bose because of this incident and how you handled it. Perhaps it’s time to bury your remaining sleepbud inventory in a landfill.

As you may know from reading this blog, I’ve been using Flickr for my photo albums for years. Once owned by Yahoo, it was sold last year to the family-owned — and very well run photo service website — SmugMug. As you can see from two posts I wrote about preserving digital media here and here, I’m very concerned that photos of family and friends taken today with smartphones will disappear in to the digital ether at some point. If so, they won’t be in some shoebox in the closet 50 years from now for guys like me to scan, digitally clean up, and preserve.

SmugMug will occasionally send me marketing emails, most of which I ignore like I do with most ads of this kind. But I happened to get a marketing email from them and had time to view it and again, SmugMug never spams me so I clicked on the link and ended up on a site called Chatbooks, one of SmugMug’s affiliate partners.

Immediately my thought was, “Oh…just another photo book printer” until I watched the marketing video you see below and found myself laughing and delighted with it. It is an amusing and well-produced video pitching their service called Chatbooks and I smiled just about the entire time the video ran.

The service that caught my eye (and is the subject of the video below) is their Ongoing Photo Book Series which you can set up to publish a new soft or hard cover small book for every 60 photos you take with your smartphone. It’s a no-muss, no-fuss way of preserving photos for future generations, especially if you lose your phone and have never done a backup!!

Of course, I’m not the target market (Moms are for this video) but it still tickled me and made what they’re offering stand out in my mind and seriously consider the book series option. Well done Chatbooks!

President Trump tweeted this morning that “Apple will not be given Tariff waiver, or relief, for Mac Pro parts that are made in China. Make them in USA, no Tariffs!Perhaps he doesn’t know that every time he does something like this we all laugh at him?

Unfortunately, Trump’s basic understanding of technology — and which country has the manufacturing capability to even make the required components for the new Mac Pro — is laughingly ignorant.

According to CNBC, Trump says Apple will not be given tariff waivers or relief for Mac Pro parts made in China:

Apple asked for waivers on tariffs on the Mac Pro. Apple said it wanted to be exempt on some parts it uses for the new Mac Pro, including a power supply unit, the stainless-steel enclosure, finished mice and trackpads and circuit boards.

“There are no other sources for this proprietary, Apple-designed component,” Apple said in a filing.

Apple said in June that tariffs on its products will reduce its contribution to the U.S. economy. In a letter to U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Apple said tariffs would “also weigh on Apple’s global competitiveness” since Chinese companies compete with the products Apple builds. Trump met with Apple CEO Tim Cook in June to discuss trade.

Just a suggestion, @realDonaldTrump, but before you tweet would you at least ask someone in the White House — who has above a grade-schooler’s understanding of technology, manufacturing, and who can even make certain stuff in the USA — what is feasible and what isn’t?

UPDATE July 23, 2019

February 14, 2019: President Trump congratulates his new Attorney General, William Barr

TechCrunch reported today that US attorney general William Barr says Americans should accept security risks of encryption backdoors and this idea is a very, very bad one. There is NO FUCKING WAY that I will allow my devices to have a backdoor in them … ever … and please note: this is NOT about me maintaining my social media, email or chat privacy. This is about protecting MY data and MY personal and client accounts.

If the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Medicaid, Army, Office of Personnel Management, Department of Defense — and companies with their business and reputations at stake — can’t keep hackers out of their systems, how will the government protect a backdoor?

Check out this list of breaches on Wikipedia which starts out with this in the opening paragraphs, and scroll down to see how many companies and governmental organizations have been breached:

It is estimated that in the first half of 2018 alone, about 4.5 billion records were exposed as a result of data breaches. In 2019, a collection of 2.7 billion identity records, consisting of 774 million unique email addresses and 21 million unique passwords, was posted on the web for sale.

If a backdoor is legislated to be put in our smartphones, tablets and computers, I can absolutely guarantee that it will get out in to “the wild” and be used by blackhat hackers, regardless of what NON-TECHIES like Barr and Trump spout off about in rallies or articles.

Like CGPGrey has said, “There’s no way to build a digital lock that only angels can open and demons cannot. Anyone saying otherwise is either ignorant of the mathematics or less of an angel than they appear.” I submit that most leaders are not only ignorant of both the math and why it is not technically feasible to put a backdoor in to encryption, they only care that we can keep governmental (and hacker!) prying eyes out of our most sensitive information.

One glance at my iPhone shows that there are numerous apps that could destroy me financially and potentially provide access to my LastPass password manager … allowing subsequent access to nearly 2,000 passwords for clients and every website I’ve signed in to in the past. For example these apps being compromised:

  • Charles Schwab with access to my entire portfolio
  • Wells Fargo with access to my wife and my accounts
  • My Bitcoin wallet
  • My Apple Wallet with multiple credit cards and Apple Store cards with money in them
  • Signal communication app — which protects our communications when my wife, kids or myself are traveling overseas
  • My LastPass app with connections to my password vault…
  • …and too many more.

I could go on and on but let me have John Oliver amusingly inform you about the realities of having the government put a backdoor in and defeat encryption: