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
Misc

Link Expiry

We all know it. You search for an issue, or topic you’re interested in, click a few links and boom. Dead end. The page no longer lives there, the domain is gone, or the server ended up at the bottom of a river. Even my website is no exception.

While hypertext documents shouldn’t change, we all know they can, and will do so often. Which is why we have such interest int tools like archive.org and the Wayback Machine. These tools regularly scrape, or have users submit interesting material for archiving. It’s frequently used to ensure a particular version of a page or site is preserved.

I started thinking about this because I read an article about strategies for linking to obsolete websites (thanks Beko Pharm). One was to use a periodic link checker to find stale or broken links on your site. Optionally swapping out outdated references with fresh ones, or with links into the Wayback Machine. While this is all well and good, I think it might be more useful to self-archive sites. Use something like wget to pull down the document and associated resources and host it yourself (statically), or at least provide an archive for people to download and inspect.

Has anyone given this any further thought? It doesn’t sound like a technically complicated project, but I’m sure someone has already trodden down this path and came to some sort of outcome or reason it’s not worth it.

Categories
Education Misc

The Mile

I catch a lot of crap from people I know for trying to learn and use the metric measurement system (as well as the Celsius scale, for temperature). Despite most of the known world using it, and science using it exclusively, it’s hard to change the opinion of hundreds of years of Imperial measurement being drummed into our heads, as Americans.

Recently, I came across a short article about the history of why the mile is an awkward 5,280 feet, versus the easily convertible 1000 meters to a kilometer. The article keeps on giving, though, with different measurements, like the Nautical Mile and the Pound. Much of what we know (at least, again, here in America) for measurements is based on arbitrary and generally inaccurate measurements of a given area or volume. Some of these measurements are hundreds, if not thousands of years old. The history, however, is fascinating.

I’m going to keep on learning how to Metric and Celsius, despite it all. I find they’re much easier to identify and convert between. I do, however, find myself converting to miles or Fahrenheit for family and friends frequently, though. It’s and uphill battle, but I just have to take it one step at a time.