Tuesday 17 December 2013
By Philip on Tuesday 17 December 2013, 17:46
A family member sent a couple of pics from a family event through Google Plus. (( i have no idea why! ))
Please notice the orang arrows i added and see how Google cares so much about you and doesn't try to stick G+ down your throat... (( yeah, obvious sarcasm.))
I, being a reasonable techy savy guy, had to read the damn thing three times to realize where i should actually click to see the photos. I wonder if the numbers of members of G+ are actually rated the same as Facebook members by the marketeers and advertisers. At this moment it's more a "number of persons who were conned into signing up" than actual "membership numbers".
By Philip on Tuesday 17 December 2013, 13:51
We can learn a lot from observing this transition of power. It goes to show that social products are just as mortal as the people who use them. They grow old and long for the youth they once had. They become set in their ways and burdened by their legacy. They are subject to the ebb and flow of cultural evolution and the fickleness of popular opinion.
What was cool in the 70s wasnt cool in the 80s. What became cool in the 80s was no longer cool in the 90s. Social networks are susceptible to the same shift in trends and fashion that weve witnessed in society before our social lives extended into the digital world. This is why social networks, like Google+ (where I worked for one year), are struggling even more than Facebook to get a foothold in the future of social networking. They are betting on last years fashion theyre fighting Facebook for the last available room on the Titanic when they should be looking at all of the other ships leaving the marina.
It wasnt too long ago that we thought nothing could stop Facebook. That era has come to an end. There will always be room for new and exciting ways to share and connect with the people that matter in your life.
Google Plus is specially struggling 'cause they're actively forcing people to become a member instead of letting it grow on its own merits. That fact that they don't succeed in in growing by its own merits is simply explained by the fact that they have absolutely no merit whatsoever.
By trying too hard to be a replica of Facebook, you essentially get the same product in different packaging. And if there isn't any specific advantage why would I change? Sure, G+ had 'circles' but that's not an 'advantage' in itself. it's essentially a 'feature', easily replicated by FB in a couple of months. An advantage would be something different that FB couldn't or didn't want to replicate. Like for example anonymity.
It's one of the main reasons why I use Twitter. I don't particularly like the silly 140char limit. Nor the fact that everything is public by default. But for registering with it, I was asked two things: an email address and a username. Not my 'real name', not my job, not my Linkedin profile, not age nor anything. A mail and a username. It's the exact same thing why other platforms such as Tumblr are a strong niche. Despite Mr. Zuckerberg talks about the 'death of privacy', people still expect some sort of privacy. They are okay sharing their nude bodies or intimate thoughts or silly interests, they just want to do it on their terms and in compartmentalised, relative anonymity.
Facebook started as a simple social network space and did this ok. At first the issue of the real name wasn't even an issue. Then it was, but Facebook was still too insignificant to become an issue. Then it ended up not being 'insignificant' at all but it was already too 'ingrained'.
Now G+ is created to contend this space and its first option is to enforce the real name policy not only on G+ but on every associated Goole service as Youtube! What exactly is the advantage of that to actual people using it? It's no wonder why it's failing, even as other smaller networks are actively growing and removing audience and content from Facebook.
I use this nickname of maccouch for a couple of years now. I have, however, other nicknames that i use since the beginning of the 'interwebs'. They are a 'person' on itself, as valid and consistent id as my real name. I just don't like to have it directly attached to me because i like that different aspects of my life remain separated. By trying too hard to enforce the 'real name' feature in order to create a better profile and sell more to advertisers they just end up making people retreat to the same 'social strategies' you employ on real life. Don't tell anyone about your deep issues, don't show that you're in problem, share it only with your closest friends and family.
Now, if that's the point, then why do we need the social networks again? Their advantage was that you could be talking about your issues with anyone else in the world. And/or share your taste of weird Japanese manga about fighting avocado fruits. And do it all without exposing or sharing too much of the other aspects of your life.
Wednesday 11 December 2013
By Philip on Wednesday 11 December 2013, 12:05
By curtailing the powers of the spy agencies, we could restore the internet to its original functionality and openness while maintaining the right to privacy and free speech - but maintaining a 20th-century copyright/IP model at the same time is impossible. Or we could give up our privacy and other civil rights to allow specific protected industries to carry on coining it in. A last option would be to switch off the internet. But that is not realistic: modern countries could not survive a day without the internet, any more than they could function without electricity.
As a society, we're going through the painful realization that we can only have two out of the three options. Different corporatist interest groups would no doubt make different choices but, along with the vast majority of the people, I opt for the internet and privacy as both a free channel for communication and the free transfer of useful information.
Like any social change (the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage), this is also accompanied by heated arguments, legal threats and repression, and lobbyist propaganda. But historically, all this sound and fury will signify...precisely nothing. Maybe at some point, basic civil rights will make a comeback, upheld by the legislature and protected by law enforcement.
The choice is simple: internet, privacy, copyright. We can only choose two, and I know which I choose.
Sunday 1 December 2013
By Philip on Sunday 1 December 2013, 19:26
I really like the way FaceTime was put together, much more than Skype or other video chat alternatives; specially for one factor: the lack of an 'online status'!
Yes, many people have complained about this 'missing feature', but for me it's, in fact, not a bug but a feature! I hate having the 'always seeing eye' that an online status puts on you. When you reach the office and you turn on Skype, everyone on your contact list knows that you reached the office. When you turn it down to go to lunch, everyone knows that you have gone to lunch. If you are late or early or simply not in the mood, your options are simply to go offline, in which case no one can contact you, or invisible, in which case no one knows that they can contact you, or put the 'busy' flag which in work hours is basically redundant and ignored.
FaceTime avoids this by basically being the equivalent of a phone. People don't know when your phone is on or off, or 'busy'. They simply call you. If you want to answer, you do. If you don' want to answer, you don't. That's it. No pesky 'online status', no "why don't you answer me if i just saw you change your status", no nothing. It's, essentially, a video-phone system.
Of course, there's some drawbacks to this, such as not being able to have 'asynchronous' conversations as you have in 'chats'. But that is where Messages enters. There, you can just leave a text message, and I will get back to you when it's convenient to me. And you have all the 'online status' paraphernalia.
I used to read some articles, back when Messages and FaceTime were put on OS X, about why were they two different systems/apps. Back then, not having or using neither, I couldn't really understood this question or essentially why Apple had done it this way.
But now? Really, Apple, great idea! Just leave it like this. It's a great way and a great software to work.
Now, if you could just opensource the FaceTime protocol as you promised...
Thursday 7 November 2013
By Philip on Thursday 7 November 2013, 13:43
Monday 4 November 2013
By Philip on Monday 4 November 2013, 21:18
Gmail is a highly proprietary, constantly changing, email-like product. It is not standard IMAP email, and it will never work flawlessly in standard IMAP clients. (It never has.) Google has always supported IMAP reluctantly and poorly, and that wont change in fact, it wouldnt surprise me if they removed IMAP support in the next few years.
Gmails primary, most important, and best-supported client will always be its web interface, with its own native mobile apps following. Everything else especially standard IMAP clients is a less-profitable nuisance to Google, not showing ads and holding back feature development by not being under Googles complete control.
If you want to use email in a browser and Googles mobile apps, use Gmail. But if you want to use standard IMAP email apps, use a standard IMAP email host.
Tuesday 8 October 2013
Former East German Stasi Officer Expresses Admiration For, Dismay At US Government's Surveillance Capabilities
By Philip on Tuesday 8 October 2013, 00:21
Even the former Stasi agent, despite his begrudging admiration, finds the US surveillance efforts troubling. Schmidt, 73, who headed one of the more infamous departments in the infamous Stasi, called himself appalled. The dark side to gathering such a broad, seemingly untargeted, amount of information is obvious, he said.
It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information wont be used, he said. This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the peoples privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place. You can't justify harvesting this much data if you're not going to use it. And if you can't find anything worth using it for, you'll connect the all-important "dots" until it resembles something... anything. Anything that departs even minimally from the norm becomes suspicious. Using encryption? Probably a threat. Parking too far away from a hotel? Potential terrorist. Find the local water a little tough to drink? Let's get that file started. Unwittingly engage an undercover FBI agent in conversation? Chances are you'll soon be converted into a terrorist.
The US, after years of acting as the world's policeman, has finally revealed itself to instead be the unmarked van that's constantly parked just down the world's street. (And the unexplained "clicking noise" on every US citizens' phone call...) It has the sympathy of several of the world's governments, many of which are directly benefitting from the US's surveillance infrastructure or hoping to construct one of their own. But the citizens of the world are more wary, especially those that who've already been subjected to intrusive, non-stop surveillance by their own governments.
Friday 23 August 2013
By Philip on Friday 23 August 2013, 14:39
Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. In the meantime, Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most.
There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time, Ballmer said. We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our companys transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.
Finally! Maybe after a decade of stagnation in the PC world and Microsoft we will finally get back some direction and alternatives in the market.
Also, pay special attention to the phrase i marked out in bold. Telling.
By Philip on Friday 23 August 2013, 00:07
TPM is a chip that provides control over what software can or cannot run on the computer. The argument is that this provides a high level of user security and industry digital rights management. If only good software is allowed, bad software (such as malware and illegally downloaded videos and software) cannot run. The current version of TPM is selectable the user can choose to opt in or opt out of its use.
The problem with version 2.0 is that it is controlled by the operating system and always on. German publication Zeit Online has seen a number of government documents that indicate growing concern among German federal agencies. The problem focuses on three issues: firstly, TPM 2.0 is default on; secondly, the user cannot opt out; and thirdly, it is controlled by the operating system that is, Windows 8 and Microsoft.
Zeit quotes from a document produced by the Ministry of Economics as long ago as early 2012, which concludes, "The use of 'trusted Computing' technique in this form...is unacceptable for the federal administration and the operators of critical infrastructure." The perceived danger is that Microsoft, a US company, could secretly be compelled either by existing or future US legislation, to hand the TPM keys over to the NSA. That would effectively be giving the NSA a permanent back door to all Windows 8 TPM 2.0 computers that could never be closed; nor even monitored to see by whom or when it was being used.
But Zeit suggests that the potential problems go even further. Quoting professor Rüdiger Weis from the Beuth University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, it suggests that the TPM keys could be intercepted in the country of chip manufacture China. Theoretically, then, any user of Windows 8 with TPM 2.0 could be handing the computers entire contents to either or both the NSA and the Chinese authorities, without ever being aware of it.
Thursday 8 August 2013
By Philip on Thursday 8 August 2013, 23:15
I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot.
This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.
Friday 12 July 2013
By Philip on Friday 12 July 2013, 15:09
It was, in effect, a global expansion of the Stasi, the Ministry for State Security in the Stalinist German Democratic Republic, whose goal was to know everything. But the cellphones, fiber-optic cables, personal computers and Internet traffic the NSA accesses did not exist in the Stasis heyday.
As Snowden told the Guardian, This country is worth dying for. And, if necessary, going to prison for for life.
But Snowdens contribution to the noble cause of restoring the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution is in his documents. It depends in no way on his reputation or estimates of his character or motives still less, on his presence in a courtroom arguing the current charges, or his living the rest of his life in prison. Nothing worthwhile would be served, in my opinion, by Snowden voluntarily surrendering to U.S. authorities given the current state of the law.
I hope that he finds a haven, as safe as possible from kidnapping or assassination by U.S. Special Operations forces, preferably where he can speak freely.
What he has given us is our best chance if we respond to his information and his challenge to rescue ourselves from out-of-control surveillance that shifts all practical power to the executive branch and its intelligence agencies: a United Stasi of America.
Wednesday 3 July 2013
By Philip on Wednesday 3 July 2013, 01:05
The stories of how NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden first contacted journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras (both Freedom of the Press Foundation board members), and how he communicated with the Washington Post's Barton Gellman, have given the public a rare window into digital security and conversing online in the age of mass surveillance.
In response, we've just published our first whitepaperusing the public comments by both Snowden and the journalists involved as illustrationsto show how reporters, whistleblowers, and ordinary Internet users can still protect their privacy online.
The whitepaper covers:
- A brief primer on cryptography, and why it can be trustworthy
- The security problems with software, and which software you can trust
- How Tor can be used to anonymize your location, and the problems Tor has when facing global adversaries
- How the Off-the-Record instant message encryption protocol works and how to use it
- How PGP email encryption works and best practices
- How the Tails live GNU/Linux distribution can be used to ensure high endpoint security
Thursday 27 June 2013
By Philip on Thursday 27 June 2013, 20:00
Just today, a New York Times reporter emailed me to ask about the IRS back payments. And the reporter from the Daily News sent another email asking about a student loan judgment which was in default over a decade ago and is now covered by a payment plan agreement.
So that's the big discovery: a corporate interest in adult videos (something the LLC shared with almost every hotel chain), fabricated emails, and some back taxes and other debt.
I'm 46 years old and, like most people, have lived a complicated and varied adult life. I didn't manage my life from the age of 18 onward with the intention of being a Family Values US senator. My personal life, like pretty much everyone's, is complex and sometimes messy.
If journalists really believe that, in response to the reporting I'm doing, these distractions about my past and personal life are a productive way to spend their time, then so be it.
None of that or anything else will detain me even for an instant in continuing to report on what the NSA is doing in the dark.
Add to this all the other smear that has been thrown on Edward Snowden's direction, and you got a very dirty negative campaign (( even by what i used to consider to be high quality news organs as the deceased, for me at least, Ars Technica )), either orchestrated by the Government and its current supporters, or simply by a very low-quality journalism that goes for the low-hanging fruit of the messenger instead of focusing on the hardships of covering the message.
It's a shame where we are going. Western countries spying on everyone, asylum seekers from* the US and its Allies, dirty tactics that were used only in propaganda based governments of the fascist and soviet led eastern-block. And a present day journalism that's not fit to even claim the name of its profession.
Guess we will see where it ends but my guess is the demise and social collapse of the US, and a major political realignment in Europe, probably with the separation of UK and continental Europe for good. The rest of world, however, will end up stronger, with a better image of itself and laughing all the way to the bank.
Tuesday 25 June 2013
By Philip on Tuesday 25 June 2013, 20:08
And why would they? Post-911 warrantless wiretapping practices are well known, NSA-style data collection was well-rumored, and we all knew the Department of Homeland Security was already scanning emails for red-flag keywords. Of course terrorists would take precautions. Bloomberg elaborates:
In a January 2012 report titled Jihadism on the Web: A Breeding Ground for Jihad in the Modern Age, the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service drew a convincing picture of an Islamist Web underground centered around core forums. These websites are part of the Deep Web, or Undernet, the multitude of online resources not indexed by commonly used search engines.
In 2010, Google estimated that it had indexed just 0.004% of the internetmeaning the vast majority of the web is open for surreptitious message-sending business. Terrorists simply aren't dumb enough to discuss their secret plans over Skype or to email each other confidential information on Gmail.
So, essentially, the NSA is deeply compromising our privacy so that it can do an extremely shitty job of looking for terrorists. Nice.
Thursday 6 June 2013
By Philip on Thursday 6 June 2013, 23:53
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a persons movements and contacts over time.
The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.
An internal presentation on the Silicon Valley operation, intended for senior analysts in the NSAs Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the Presidents Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year. According to the briefing slides, obtained by The Washington Post, NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.
That is a remarkable figure in an agency that measures annual intake in the trillions of communications. It is all the more striking because the NSA, whose lawful mission is foreign intelligence, is reaching deep inside the machinery of American companies that host hundreds of millions of American-held accounts on American soil.
The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple. PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
Dropbox , the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as coming soon.
Stop using US based companies for your data. And start using encryption in every way possible.
By Philip on Thursday 6 June 2013, 01:55
An extremely vocal minority of Android users think they represent the whole, and they express intense, childish entitlement and resentment against developers who choose either not to develop an Android app or to give advantages to their iOS app. This minority demands equality for their platform with the intensity, victimhood, and entitlement youd expect as if it was a civil rights issue.
Fortunately, its not.
Im building a new app this summer, and no matter how much people badger me, I wont go near Android this time. Their promised support and demand never panned out. Ive learned my lesson: no matter what the vocal minority says, the rest of the market wont back them up. Its simply not worth it for this iOS developer to waste any time on an Android port. Your mileage may vary.
Friday 31 May 2013
By Philip on Friday 31 May 2013, 14:45
In case you havent seen yet, check out this video of the Xbox Kinect detecting a persons heart rate just by changes in the colors on their skin. This technology was invented by a group of researchers at MIT, and Xbox Kinect is a great way to showcase the applicability of it. Now, Ive been immersed in the fitness space for the last two years, and one thing we know is the importance of measuring heart rate during physical activity to understand the longterm impact of that activity on an individuals health. Currently, heart rate monitor is not commonplace, but the Xbox Kinect can change that.
The new Kinect is precise enough that you can measure not only the heart rate of an individual, but the Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which can lead to the diagnosis of many conditions, including stress, depression and many other mental and physical conditions. How exciting is it to imagine standing in front of your Xbox to be given a health report?
And there are scenarios that could exist with this new Kinect that simply dont exist today. Here is an idea: How about Kinect takes a picture of your body and its able to compare to previous pictures and detect new moles, skin conditions or even skin cancer? Absolutely possible! The technology will be there in the next couple of years. There are privacy, ethical and legal concerns, and well need to work through those, but the tech will work.
This is what is, truly, known as a Killer App. Seriously, forget about games, Steven Spielberg TV shows, the whole multimedia living room experience. If these scenarios can be done and achieved using a simple "commodity" product that everyone can have in their living room, this is what will make the Xbox One a true, staggering, market-smashing success.
Having an appliance check a skin mole and say that it's has grown or changed shape and colour, warning for a possible skin cancer node; or having it take 3d models of a woman's breasts and comparing it for signs of breast cancer is truly mind blowing. And, seriously, i would buy it just for that. I was never a playstation kind of guy, always preferred to play games on a decent computer, but i would definitely buy it just for the increased safety of daily, in-house health checkups.
How much do you value the health of your wife (or husband or partner)? How much would you pay for having her breast cancer diagnosed in the early ages? Or for noticing something wrong in your heart rate and avoiding a, so common in males, early heart attack? Is two, three or four hundred dollars for this, and for a decade worth of equipment, that much?
Microsoft should really spend some large amount of R&D bucks on the health diagnosis area, biometric data storage, health apps development, and some form of accessory that ensures additional privacy for this kind of applications and put it out there. Seriously, do it! Just pick up the money from the Halo TV Show and spend it on health R&D. The return, for Microsoft, and us, will be tenfold!
Thursday 16 May 2013
By Philip on Thursday 16 May 2013, 13:26
There are two significant points to make from these events. First, it is remarkable how media reactions to civil liberties assaults are shaped almost entirely by who the victims are. For years, the Obama administration has been engaged in pervasive spying on American Muslim communities and dissident groups. It demanded a reform-free renewal of the Patriot Act and the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, both of which codify immense powers of warrantless eavesdropping, including ones that can be used against journalists. It has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined, threatened to criminalize WikiLeaks, and abused Bradley Manning to the point that a formal UN investigation denounced his treatment as "cruel and inhuman".
But, with a few noble exceptions, most major media outlets said little about any of this, except in those cases when they supported it. It took a direct and blatant attack on them for them to really get worked up, denounce these assaults, and acknowledge this administration's true character. That is redolent of how the general public reacted with rage over privacy invasions only when new TSA airport searches targeted not just Muslims but themselves: what they perceive as "regular Americans". Or how former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman - once the most vocal defender of Bush's vast warrantless eavesdropping programs - suddenly began sounding like a shrill and outraged privacy advocate once it was revealed that her own conversations with Aipac representatives were recorded by the government.
Leave to the side how morally grotesque it is to oppose rights assaults only when they affect you. The pragmatic point is that it is vital to oppose such assaults in the first instance no matter who is targeted because such assaults, when unopposed, become institutionalized. Once that happens, they are impossible to stop when - as inevitably occurs - they expand beyond the group originally targeted. We should have been seeing this type of media outrage over the last four years as the Obama administration targeted non-media groups with these kinds of abuses (to say nothing of the conduct of the Bush administration before that). It shouldn't take an attack on media outlets for them to start caring this much.
Wednesday 1 May 2013
By Philip on Wednesday 1 May 2013, 11:43
This format is flexible, it's easy to implement, and Adobe, if you are listening you should really give SQLite a serious look. And if there are any other companies out there wanting to work on this- please get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I'm not married to Acorn's format or table names, but I think it would be a great start.
It's 2013. Wouldn't it be awesome if you could hand off a single layered file format to multiple image editors, and it would just work?
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