Done With Flickr

I want to congratulate Yahoo on a fine job of destroying an asset that was once something really great. I have two accounts with Flickr, my old Pro account which I have been paying for many years and a free account with the new 1TB limit. The option to purchase pro accounts is gone. One of the features in the pro account that was worth paying for was photo stats. In fact this was one of the few reasons I paid for a Flickr account. This feature is removed from all new accounts. And the community is worried that it will be retired from current accounts down the road. Additionally it seems the information from the stats is no longer accurate anyways. So with no reason for me to continue to use Flickr I might as well save my photos on Facebook. Again I want to congratulate Yahoos fine management of Flickr. Some might call it inept or incompetent but clearly those people fail to see Yahoo just wants to kill the service off.

I am so done with Brita Water

It is getting harder and harder to justify the expense of using Brita water filtration. Looking for evidence and sources that conclude it makes any real difference on the quality of drinking water is non existent outside of company sources. Further more, I live in a city with some of, if not, the cleanest tape water in the world. I have decided to yank out the inner portion of the container which houses the filter and use just straight tap water. Doing it this way nets a lot more water to in the container. I have never had a problem with the taste of tap water in metro Vancouver. I do like very cold water. And suspending water in the fridge helps kill off what little chlorine is left from the water. What I do find amazing is how much information about how bad water is but from sources that all sell water filtration systems. I can’t help but notice the incredible biased point of view of these companies that claim_MG_3631mesabar1 tap water is bad while selling products to “clean” tap water. Lastly I was totally disgusted with the bottom of the water container. I have not been tearing it apart cleaning it often enough. I suspect many people neglect that being its not easy to take apart the inner section that holds the filter. And may wrongly assume its just filtered water so you don’t have to clean it often. What ended up on the sponge was disgusting…. I can’t believe I have been drinking from that container with that kind of gross buildup of whatever it was. I only have myself to blame for not cleaning it more often. But still, I think I am going to just stick to tap water for now, save money and the environment because honestly those filters is just another consumable and disposable product that is added to waste disposal when we really don’t need to use it at all, at least not here.

Additional

There is some valid evidence that depending on age and construction of a building the water quality can suffer due to the pipes. In such cases maybe a filtration system can make a difference. Reverse osmosis would be my first choice in such a case. I still see little value in Brita which the basic filters only removes chlorine. I also live in a rather new building so the pipes are not a concern for me at this point either.

A Deep Dive into Data Privacy: It’s Not Just Big Companies, Folks

This is a good article on the issues of data privacy and the issues companies face protecting it. The good is that most companies really do want to protect personal data. The bad is most don’t have any ideas how to do it effectively

Article: A Deep Dive into Data Privacy: It’s Not Just Big Companies, Folks

The Great Canadian Copyright Giveaway: Why Copyright Term Extension for Sound Recordings Could Cost Consumers Millions – Michael Geist

Randy Bachman, the well-known Canadian musician, found himself embroiled in a public fight with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last year when Harper used his song “Takin’ Care of Business” as a theme song for a major speech. Bachman said he probably would not have granted permission to use the song, since “I don’t think he’s taking care of business for the right people or the right reasons.” Bachman was singing a different tune yesterday as the government released its budget and apparently took care of the right people – record companies. Despite no study, no public demands, and the potential cost to the public of millions of dollars, the government announced that it will extend the term of copyright for sound recordings and performances from 50 to 70 years. For that giveaway, Bachman was quoted as saying “thanks for the term extension PM Harper, you really are taking care of business.”While the government lined up industry supporters to praise the term extension, the decision is unexpected and unnecessary (it also announced that it will accede to the Marrakesh copyright treaty for the blind, but that should not require significant domestic reforms). The music industry did not raise term extension as a key concern during either the 2012 copyright reform bill or the 2014 Canadian Heritage committee study on the industry. Experience elsewhere suggests that the extension is a windfall for record companies, with little benefit to artists or the public. In fact, many countries that have implemented the extension have been forced to do so through trade or political agreements, while signalling their opposition along the way.Canada will extend term without any public discussion or consultation, yet other studies have found that retroactive extension does not lead to increased creation and that the optimal term length should enable performers and record labels to recoup their investment, not extend into near-unlimited terms to the detriment of the public. For Canadian consumers, the extension could cost millions of dollars as works that were scheduled to come into the public domain will now remain locked down for decades.

Source: The Great Canadian Copyright Giveaway: Why Copyright Term Extension for Sound Recordings Could Cost Consumers Millions – Michael Geist

Installing Skype on a 64bit Debian Box

Installing 32 bit Skype on a 64 bit Debian Box

Skype only comes in 32 bit so for any one that installs Debian 64 bit they will need to do a little work to get Skype up and running.

First thing you want to do is obtain Skype. You can do this at skype.com Go to Downloads and select “Choose your distribution” and pick from the drop down menu “Debian 7.0 (Multiarch)”

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.44.51 PM

 

After you have it downloaded you need to open up Terminal

su (so you are root, you will need your root password)

dpkg –add-architeture i386 (You need to add support for i386 since skype is only a 32 bit application)

apt-get upgrade (This ensures everything is up to date)

dpkg -i “skype-debian…..” (hit tab to complete it. Or type the entire file name out that you downloaded. )

If you have a error about un-met dependencies which occurred for me then run this command

apt-get install -f

Now run

dpkg -i “skype-debian…..”

After it is done installing you will find it in the Internet Folder ready to use.

 

Microsoft previews Windows 10 today

Microsoft will let the cat out of the bag today with new details about the next Windows operating system known as Windows 10 today.

Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 in September but is expected to share a lot more today which will be streamed at 9 am pacific time. Some of the expected speakers at the event include CEO Satya Nadella; Terry Myerson, Joe Belfiore and Phil Spencer.

Windows 10 will follow Windows 8 skipping the name Windows 9. We should be able to welcome back the missed and loved start menu which was torn away from Windows 8, which in my opinion lead to a lot of people not upgrading to Windows 8.

It is my hope Windows 10 will address many of the problems found and created in Windows 8.

http://news.microsoft.com/windows10story/

 

Methods to save on the mobile price madness

I start this post with a gripe. Mobile prices in Canada are to high. Actually, they are not in Manitoba and Saskatchewan which both have provincially owned mobile competition. You can get unlimited Canada wide calling and 5GB of data for under $60.00 in those provinces.

My second gripe, is with the phone manufacturers. Eight years ago when the iPhone came out, it was fat. Fat compared to today’s standards. Back then it was thin. Battery technology of the day gave you about 5 hours of heavy usage time vs today with super skinny, dare I say Anorexic phones which give you about 8 hours of heavy usage time. The thing is I would gladly accept an obese phone if it gave me at least a entire solid day of very heavy usage. Skinny isn’t always the most desirable thing, in people and in technology.

imgresSo here is the problem. I can pay nearly $100.00 a month in my province of British Columbia for a anorexic phone that puts out for half a day of heavy use. I can attempt to cheat the system by getting a phone originally intended for Manitoba and Saskatchewan and do a number change after the fact but still suffer from the terrible battery life of modern phones. Or I can kill two birds with two devices.

ZTEZ222_slider-01Recently I picked up a Chatr mobile phone and plan. I have had to find ways to live cheap and unlimited calling for $20.00 a month is about as cheap as it gets for calling. In addition I decided I was tired of bad battery life on a phone. And honestly smart phones have never been the best phone. They have not been the best internet device either. They are ok phones and ok internet devices. The form factor makes them convenient to carry. Have enough battery life for most of the day. Can do most internet things acceptably well with a small screen. And can preform as a phone acceptably well lacking tactile feedback and sometimes lag from forgetting to close apps or because you happened to be in the middle of something else like watching netflix or using GPS navigation. And this is all smart phones, blackberry, iPhone, Android and Windows alike.

So I bought a simple flip phone from back in the day with the plan. A ZTE Z222 to be exact. Its a nice phone that does exactly what it needs to do. It acts as a phone. It connects to my car via bluetooth for hands free calling. It has physical buttons for tactile feed back when you want to dial a number while driving in a province or state that allows it. Has built in short cuts that make it really quick to place a call. Like after partially dialling a number it auto fills the rest for the only possible number it could be in the address book. I forgot how wonderful purpose built phones are. Its designed to be a phone and thats all it is. Texting sucks but I will address that in a minute. And the battery life, well lets put it this way. I plug it in the charger every 3rd day.

So what about Facebook, iMessage, BBM, email, and millions of useless apps. This is where a cellular enabled tablet comes in handy. My flavour is a iPad because of the iOS ecosystem.  Most of my friends are on iMessage and I prefer iOS. But regardless of if you use a iPad or Android tablet, as long as its in the 7″ form factor it is a great tool to carry around for all the internet needs. And more important the flex data plans start off as low as $10.00 a month and scale up to $35.00 a month for 5GB of data with Fido.

iPadMini-Press-02-623-80The larger screen makes a tablet a better internet device hands down for surfing the web and watching content. The bigger battery provides much more usable power for the device. I can go days with out plugging my iPad in just like my phone now. Every app you would have on a cell phone generally speaking works better on a larger screen anyways.

So I solved two problems with two devices. Each dedicated for its purpose built tasks making a great phone and a great internet device with great battery power for a great price. Instead of spending nearly $100.00 a month for a single device that can’t make it through a entire day on heavy usage I now spend between $30 to $55 a month with two devices that give me days of usage between charges.

For those that say well this isn’t a great plan, you have to carry more then one device. This is true. I actually carry 3 because I have a iPod for FM radio and music too. But I always travel by transit with my packsack. And when I drive the car can easily hold that extra device. So it has been no impact on me at all. The benefits of not worrying about battery life, and the better user experience has easily trumped any issues of carrying multiple devices. For the very light internet user a regular smart phone with a low data plan might make as much sense. For some one that only talks and avoids texting and does not use internet, I strongly advise a Chatr talk plan.

urlWhat about Wind Mobile and Mobilicity? Bluntly they suck. I can’t be any more blunt. The service coverage of mobilicity is lacking. I mean common, you don’t have coverage over Delta, parts of Richmond, parts of Surrey, a very narrow area of Langley is covered and forget Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. Its just not viable of most people who live in the lower mainland. And while Wind has coverage the phone call quality is poor from very high compression used to save bandwidth and data speeds are so atrocious I almost had a nervous breakdown. Chatr is Rogers. Its a solid network, solid quality and solid coverage. Nuff said about that. I do have high hopes that Wind will become a viable option down the road. But in order for that to happen the company needs access to more spectrum to have the bandwidth it needs to offer a good service. Currently they don’t have that.

So to recap, pay $100 a month for unlimited calling and moderate data options on a single device that is ok at being a phone and ok at being a internet device with just acceptable battery life or pay $30 to $55 a month for 2 devices that excel at being a phone and being a internet device with exceptionally good battery life.

 

Google Drive and Google Scanning

I’ve been scanning all my paperwork I have collected for YEARS so I could toss out the paper copies and go to digital copies for reference if I ever needed. I just looked up an old document I made on Google drive which happens to be the place I decided to store my scanned documents. Now these are PDFs but basically photos. No optical recognition used in the scan. Google parsed every PDF and used OCR on them because when I search for stuff some of those PDFs with matching words come up in the results. I tested a couple words that would only be in the PDFs scanned. Sure enough they came up. So that means Google is performing an index scan and using OCR technology to parse the files for relevant and useful information on anything you upload to Google Drive. In one way this concerns me, mostly because I didn’t know, though I should have assumed it. This as a side benefit that is really useful for me because I scanned over 2300 documents and didn’t title them or sort them (yet) so being able to search is very beneficial.

A friends gaming channel on youtube (Endorsement)

This is a endorsement for a friends gaming channel. He seriously won’t stop bugging me until I help spread the word. So here it is.

 

Slipstar Gaming

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4FVXD3aZxzXd0WS1b5lCpw

A gaming channel by 3 friends! Content includes Call of Duty games like Black Ops 2 and Advanced Warfare, Grant Theft Auto V, other games, and upcoming giveaways!

They are looking for more subscriptions.

Internet Usage and Security

Privacy and Security

 

I will be blunt. People don’t think about their privacy or security. Why should they? We live in a complacent society with expectations installed into us by the media and advertisements of governments and companies. Our upbringing comes from  family and friends and the institutions that taught us like public education. The core of society is the belief in the institutions that make up that society and that kind of thinking translates down to every level of our lives. We trust the institution of education. We trust the institution of law and justice. And some of us even trust the institution of government, and while many of us don’t fully trust it, we accept it as is. We trust the people we interact with are not going to steal from us or kill us. We trust the person driving the bus is a professional and will not get us killed. Society can not work without some level of trust. And it is for this reason most of us do not second guess what is.

 

When we turn on a computer we trust that the computer is not spying on us. When we go to a website, we trust that the website only collects the information it needs to provide us with a service. We trust the company or the man behind the website has no ulterior motives. When we provide our credit card number for an online purchase we trust that information will get from our computer to the seller safely.

 

We trust too much…….

 

The sad fact is simple, if money can be made by stealing your information then someone out there is going to try and steal your information. And the digital age has made this so very easy. Most people only think about the credit cards. They don’t think about information such as your address, phone number, name. And lastly, passwords and usernames!!!!

 

I am not going to go into much detail about what people can do with this information. For that you can google it. The biggest concern I have for my clients is the usernames and password. This is the key to our digital lives. With it unscrupulous, profiteering criminals can take your digital lives away from you. You can lose access to all the photos you have collected over the last decade stored on a website. They can read your emails, cut you off and even pretend to be you. You can lose your reputation, money, respect, memories, history, and convenience. They can harm your non digital life by damaging your credit. Stealing from your friends. A stalker could even cause physical harm against you or someone you love. Frankly the what-ifs are endless.

 

So are the methods of attacks to gain your information, username and passwords. And while no one is perfect and no technology is perfect, there is a lot of room for improvement. Simple choices and simple tools that change the entire scope of your vulnerability to the criminals.

 

Here is the important part. It is the finding of a good balance between protection and convenience that matters for the common person. You have security geeks that lose sight on the ease of use and convenience factor that most common people would rather have over super tight and complex security that offers the most protection. For the security geek there is no compromise and honestly it really should be this way.  But that isn’t how it is. Most of us choose to expose ourselves and our information for the trade of simplicity and convenience. So I am writing this on the premise of what the majority will choose to do vs what we should do.

 

Lets talk web browsers. The first step in security is the first tool you interact with for using the internet. For this it will be either a Generic or company branded Microsoft Windows computer or Apple’s Mac computer on the computer side and then on the mobile side a bunch of products between iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari make up the majority of internet browsers for both the desktop space and mobile space. I am mostly going to talk about the security on the desktop space. What I am going to say about laptops, and mobile devices is you should not be doing anything secure at all, period, ever, when connected to an Internet connection shared by other people. In other words, a connection that is not your own that you set up at your house. And if you must, I highly recommend not using wifi. Turn that off. Use the mobile internet that is provided to you by your cell phone provider. So back to the browser. The only viable options for secure and safe usage of the internet is to use a secure and safe browser. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari fit that definition. Internet Explorer does not. The first thing I will say is do not use Internet Explorer.

 

Summery

 

User Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s Safari. Do not use Microsoft Internet Explorer.

The next critical step is in how we use our web browsers. Time and time again I see the same from users. They do not know the URL (Address) of a website they want to visit. Or they do but they do not type in the address. We have become a search engine society. And modern browsers do not help with this by integrating the search function in with the address function in the same place. Sure it’s convenient to just type “TD Canada Trust” into the search bar and let the search engine give you a list of choices with a clickable link. Its easy.

 

ITS DANGEROUS!

 

One way sites steal usernames and passwords is by registering domains that look like the one you want to go to and make a fake site that looks like the site you want to go to. It is easy to make a visible link, for example www.hotmail.com that really takes you to www.hotmall.com. It is easy enough to make a fake website that looks like the real thing just to collect your login information. This is phishing. The attacker that collects it can then go to the real site and do bad things to you.

Additionally other problems include links that take you to the non secure version of a website which then redirects you to the secure version of a website.

 

Good practice is to know the place you want to go and to type it in. Do not rely on a search engine except for when trying to discover new things. If you don’t know the address to your banks website then call the bank and ask them. Or look on your bank card it will be listed there. Do not type GMAIL into the search bar then click a link to Gmail. Put in the address https://www.gmail.com. And let me be clear here. Not www.gmail.com. I included the https:// for a reason which I will explain next.

 

Almost no one ever puts in the http or https with a website address. Mostly because people don’t even use website addresses any more they prefer to search and click. But lets just assume you don’t do that or you are going to follow my advice above and stop doing that and start using the address. Web browsers will fill in the missing http:// on its own. But they default, to http:// and not https://. All websites accept http but not all can accept https so this is the reason. Web browsers do not want to default to something that might not work and result in complaints, and support issues. It does actually matter for your security though. Almost all interaction with secure connections from users to websites come from a redirect. You put in paypal.com and then your browser adds the http:// to it to make http://paypal.com then when you reach http://paypal.com the site redirects you to https://www.paypal.com.

 

Whats wrong with this? The http is not secure, the https is secure. When you go to the http site before getting redirected you can be hijacked and instead of getting redirected to a real https connection you end up with an attackers version of the site while the server thinks its secure with you. This is referred to a man in the middle attack. If you share an internet connection with a landlord, or you use public or open internet connections or you share a network with a roommate or family member, these man in the middle attacks are easy enough to setup. For those that know what tor is, it is not that hard to compromise an out connection this way. Moxie Marlinspike, a creator in one kind of attack tested it with a tor connection and proved very well that he could get credit cards, user names and passwords from the traffic coming out on his tor node. So type in the address, include https and if its a site you visit then bookmark it.

 

Summery

 

Use the real address, type it in. Don’t search and click it. And when it is a secure site type in the https:// with the address. This is easy to do and not a burden to users. And don’t login in to sensitive stuff on other peoples networks you dont or cant trust.

Passwords and usernames

I say this as an absolute not a suggesting. Use a different password every single website. Never use the same password twice. I don’t care much about easy to guess passwords vs making sure you don’t repeat it. The most common way to get a password is through social engineering. That is tricking the user to give it up freely. I send you an email pretending to be your bank. You click on the link in my email and go to a fake website and put in your username and password thinking you are at your bank. Now that I have the password, I can test the username, email and password on other sites like your email account. This is where the chain starts and next thing you know you are locked out of Twitter, Facebook, gmail and so on because you used the same password everywhere. Use a password manager to store the passwords. Write them down in a book, but don’t lose the book or let people have access to it. Never share a password with anyone. Some websites don’t use encryption for passwords which leaves it wide open for anyone to find with simple tools. So a different password for every site is best. This is where I get yelled at by the all or nothing security geeks. I suggest using an online password manager like lastpass. Its given up some personal control and security for a convenience. But in this case its a convenience that means you will use a different password for every site which I feel is more important than using an online service that gives someone else some control over your personal data. This is a compromise moment between die hard security and something being easy enough to use to use it. An alternative is managing a local program to store passwords. But generally speaking people stop using that after a short time because they don’t like having to go in and copy and paste. A plugin like Lastpass just fills in those fields for you. There is other advantages in regards to keyloggers and spyware but I am not getting into that with this article.

 

Summary

 

Don’t share passwords. Use a different password for each site and record it. Preferably with a key management program like lastpass that makes use of random different passwords very easy.


Additional Safety (Setup and Forget)

 

Setup opendns for your devices and house and set it to block known malware sites and otherwise bad sites. Its a blacklist, it will only protect you from what they know. But its a good start.

 

Use the plugin Https Everywhere, it is a white list of known https sites and will default you to the https version of the site. But if you are typing in the full address anyways you shouldn’t need it. But its useful if you forget to or if you are going to a site and dont know if it has https.

 

Security die hards would suggest using noscript or something that blocks javascript. I find for most people they don’t know how to use it. It breaks to much and they end up just allowing scripts to run anyways. So I don’t advise that. I will get yelled at for that one. But really if you dont know what you’re enabling and blocking and things stop working like videos that wont load up then people won’t use it right and that defeats the purpose.

 

Use the lastpass plugin to manage passwords and put them in the fields for you.

 

I like using adblock, while its not so much a security protective device it does hide you from marketing companies, and gets annoying ads out of the way and speeds up the general internet experience. Potentially reducing memory usage too.

 

I also like the WOT plugin which marks websites as green, yellow and red in google searches based on community input. If its a safe sight its green. If its dangerous in some way its red. It lets you know before you click it.

 

This article only covers Internet usage. There is a lot that should  be done to secure a computer as well because a single virus can defeat everything listed here. But assuming your computer is in good health, how you use the internet is a very big part of things. And a few simple tips like this will go a long way at providing better security without it being a burden. I would love to convince everyone to use encrypted email but some technologies are more of a pain to use then its worth for the common person and requires mass adoption to be effective. And we are not there yet.

 

Links to some of the technologies I described in this article and some interesting videos on the subject

 

HTTPS Everywhere https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere

WOT https://www.mywot.com/en/download

Lastpass https://lastpass.com/

OpenDNS https://www.opendns.com/

 

Interesting video about hacking SSL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFol6IMbZ7Y

 

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