Categories
Computers

Chrome Privacy

New changes to the way Google’s flagship application, Chrome, make it easier to stay on top of what Google is getting, and what you may be revealing to third-party sites. Another feature to be ignored by the masses, and questioned by people who still don’t trust them.

While, on their face, these changes make Google Chrome a little closer to other browsers in the privacy aspect. It still doesn’t feel like a genuine attempt at helping the user. It just so happens that keeping others away from their users, while still giving them privileged access to their data is something that dove-tails with their goals, for the moment. Still, they’re trying something Firefox and Safari take very seriously. Who knows where this will end up.

The Ecosystem of Google

Within Google’s sphere of influence, there is a lot to like for your average user:

  • Single sign on to lots of different first and third-party applications, like Docs, Drive, Gmail, GSuite and more
  • High quality web-based applications
  • User account data sync when you use Chrome or a Chromebook including passwords, extensions, preferences, wallets, subscriptions, etc.
  • Integration with your Android Smartphone
  • And much more

I won’t say that I haven’t been tempted to jump ship and join up with Google. I have an older Chromebook, and when I was signing into Google services, it was amazing. I could blow the thing away, and be back up in short order, everything back in place. If I weren’t so enamored with Linux and the Libre software movement, I can easily imagine me being either a hardcore Apple user or a hardcore Google user.

By and large, Google has ‘won’ this generation of smartphone, browser, search and advertising systems. The literal billions of users tied into those systems is no small feat. Even organizations like Mozilla and Microsoft often have to bend slightly to accommodate Google’s whims. This is a really weird time.

While no man lives forever, the same can be said about Google. They’re constantly killing services that don’t provide enough user telemetry or subscribers. Often, it feels like a gamble to use any one of their services because it’s just as likely to be killed a few months down the road. Other than their bread and butter, it’s a hard sell to build a business off of anything Google does.

Shiny Chromium

It’s hard to say that Chrome is a bad browser. The architecture, based on Apple’s WebKit (which, itself, was begot by KDE’s KHTML engine), and is screaming fast, well integrated on most platforms and can be used without the same UI. A feat that Mozilla has only weakly attempted in the past. The support for web standards (driven by a cabal of browser makers, such as it is) is pretty top notch.

The biggest problem with being such an 800lbs gorilla is that everyone starts to ape you. Sites target Chrome-features only, or support only Chrome are becoming more commonplace. A chilling throwback to the days of IE vs Netscape Navigator. The old beast has been felled, long live the new beast?

As I mentioned before, even titans like Microsoft bend to Google on occasion. In an attempt to hang on to browser users and tie them into their own ecosystem, Microsoft released Edge with the launch of Windows 10. A new browser, better, different and faster than their absolutely decrepit Internet Explorer (which still sees regular use in enterprise…). Try as they might, they could not edge out this competitor like they did to Netscape before. In this new Microsoft, they’ve adopted Chrome’s “Blink” engine and rebranded it as the new Edge. Same as Chrome, but different packaging.

History makes ready to repeat itself. What are we willing to do to make it fair, open and available to all? Firefox used to be all the rage, can we make it that way, again?

Categories
Politics

Encryption Bad, Police Good; Upvotes to the Left

I am exhausted. This whole anti-encryption rant is such a crappy straw man that I am actually surprised it works on people. Barr should drop the shtick and tell people what is really going on: The Government want unfettered access to anyone’s device on a moment’s notice. Granted, this is prohibited by the constitution, but why not try anyway?

Honestly, we live in times when encryption is the rule, instead of the exception. It’s in all of our tools, on all of our machines, wrapping all of our traffic and it comes in a tremendous number of flavors. Saying encryption on iPhones is bad is like saying curtains in houses are bad because they stop you from seeing in. It’s a stupid argument because the premise is stupid. We have a right to private communications, we don’t have to let government in.

Exploitative FBI

This comes at a time when some iPhone hacking groups and exploit — ahem, I mean, security groups are not buying new iPhone exploits because they claim they have a surplus of them. So how is it that the FBI, a national agency that has connections to the NSA, CIA and more cannot get into an iPhone they have physical access to when there is a glut of iOS exploits in the market? Does this make sense?

Of course not.

Hmmm…

They want the access because they don’t want to have to pay for exploits, or the talent to find them. Maybe they’re behind? Maybe it’s just a power play to grab more rights back from the people. I don’t know. It’s odd they haven’t mentioned any Android devices or the BitLocker encryption on millions more devices that should, in theory, be as hard to access, and yet no word from AG Barr on those devices.

I’m honestly glad that they’re being so blunt about it. It’s easier to see the real intention behind it. Though people will still fall for it. I see no end to the “Punisher Skull”/”Thin Blue Line” stickers on people’s vehicles. People want to be told what’s best for them, rather than looking for themselves. Including those ninnies who show up to various state capitals, protesting stay-at-home orders, heavily armed (“open carry”) because they can’t get their hair cut.

Categories
Awesome Computers

DuckDuckGo on a Billboard!

DuckDuckGo in the LOCAL AREA CODE!
Categories
Computers

IndieWeb

As the tech giants attempt to consolidate control of everything from logins, services and the way we communicate, small pockets of resistance have emerged. Tools like WordPress, Jekyll and other blogging platforms have long been the mainstay of online publishing. Allowing the common man to get a presence online. Now the task before us is to expand this pocket of freedom. Enter: IndieWeb.

IndieWeb is a series of tools and concepts designed to allow for the creative expansion, promotion and even the authentication of user content. These components allow you to build an ever growing spider’s web of content that all links together. This web provides ways for other users to see what you’ve posted, follow you in different locations and generally “authenticate” your work by providing links to and from it back to other content you control.

IndieWeb Authentication

Another method of controlling your stuff is signing in through your own identity provider. IDP is not a new concept. Services and protocols like OpenID, Kerberos, Shibboleth, LDAP, and Oauth have been around for a while. Many of these tools are either defunct, hard to setup and maintain, or are not really suited for web-based Single Sign On (sso). Enter IndieAuth.

IndieAuth allows for you to setup your own Oauth (kind of) setup that authenticates you against your own domain. For instance, if you use the WordPress IndieAuth plugin, you can use the built-in login tools in WordPress to log into other sites. You’ve probably already seen this in action with “Login with Google/Facebook/Github/Twitter/Microsoft/iCloud/etc”. The concept is the same, but now you control it.

Microformats

In part, all of this functionality works by implementing Microformats. These bits of information, invisibly embedded in the HTML of your site, provide extra information to other tools. Some of these tools will parse out your contact information, if provided. Others will parse out article information on your blog, or parse out connections to where the content has been posted elsewhere, like on LinkedIn or whatnot.

Like IndieAuth, Microformats are from days past. While they’ve evolved into a much more rich framework of properties, I was implementing them in the early 2000’s on Florida Coastal School of Law’s website.

Why I Don’t Use It

Excuse me? I’ve just gone on, gushing about how good the IndieWeb is and how we’re taking back the power from the man. What gives?

Simply put: I don’t need it. Most of my posts on social media are just short thoughts that don’t deserve blog level exposition. I don’t access any services that allow for IndieAuth logins, and honestly tearing apart twentytwenty to implement proper Microformats is enough to make me want to do actual productive work on something else.

I personally endorse the IndieWeb. It needs more people, more eyeballs and more implementations to succeed. The tools it has are well done, but could use some polish. Microformats, Semantic Linkbacks and other features are awesome and, if you’re up to it, not hard to simply add to your site (YMMV). If I were setting up a static site with one of those newfangled generators, I’d totally implement as much as I could. It’s easy. The problem for me is that I’m lazy, old and too pragmatic to break something that isn’t broken.

Categories
Games

PnP Games Madness

I’ve been on a kick lately. Printing and playing games, designed by random people on the Internet with just PDF resources and what I have on hand. These games are lower budget than your boxed systems, have less fancy mechanics (generally) and usually aren’t multi-player.

That is often okay for me. I have a really high tollerance to game fatigue, which many of the people I live and visit with do not. Often it’s enough to crack open one semi-complicated game, or two less complicated ones and have a short evening of fun for them. For me, I could play for hours and with some of my friends in town, I often do.

One of the print and play games I like is this social/economics board called “Austerity”

This style of games suits me nicely, because I can pick up a game, start playing it. “Pause” it while I do something else, and come back to it without having missed a beat. No turns to figure out and watch other people play through. Just me, some dice, maybe some meeple, a pen and some time.

Saving on Games Prints

Recently I decided that I wasn’t going to foot the bill for all the ink and paper usage for these things. My little home Brother MFP was not going to cut it. Besides, Kinkos is right down the road and can also laminate, give me a wide variety of paper types (including water proof!). They also save me the hassle of having to print them, and muck with them. Someone else does that. They’ll even call me if there is an issue with the look or the print.

While they may not be cheaper than DIY, it certainly isn’t expensive. I had Austerity (board and cards), Bargan Basement Baythsphere (of Beachside Bay), Utopia Engine, and Under Falling Skies printed, laminated, etc, for less than $20. They were ready the next day and looking great.

Not bad. Though I printed (and laminated) the low ink version of Utopia Engine by mistake…

While I’m not isolated in these times, it’s nice to know that I can do the equivelent of a nice Sunday crossword, but more my speed, when I have a bit of time to myself.

Going Foward

I think once I’ve played these games, I’ll go and get a couple more put together. I already have Supermarch√© and Four Against Darkness. Ada Lovelace: Consulting Mathematician looks like a great teaser and there have been really good reviews about Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden. These should all be relatively easy to pick up and get going.