Posts From Category: tech

Using server alerts to generate Todoist tasks

I manage a few different servers (including this one) for several different friends and clients. As part of managing each server and site hosted on it, I’ll typically receive alerts for errors, common tasks or downtime. For a while I had settled on filing these alerts into a separate mailbox to keep them from overwhelming my inbox.

This works for a while, but I’d occasionally miss an important alert or message from one of the servers. In an effort to manage my responsibilities I had started using Todoist to track my responsibilities. I set up an alias pointing to my email to inbox Todoist address, tuned the server alerts for volume and importance and routed them to this new alias. Now, if I get an actionable alert for, say, server downtime, it’s routed to my inbox with all the relevant details to resolve the issue.

Why do we keep using Facebook? »

Dylan Tweney:

Facebook offers a terrible bargain: It gives you the connectedness you crave, but it’s unfulfilling and leaves you wanting more. It’s like drinking Coke, or eating McDonald’s, except you don’t even have to pay for it. No wonder we guzzle it down, when all the evidence, and even our own eyes and hearts, show us how bad it is for us.

RSS still beats social media for tracking news »

David Nield, Gizmodo:

Whether you’ve never heard of it before or you’ve abandoned it for pastures new, here’s why you should be using RSS for your news instead of social media.

Gizmodo has a simple explainer on why RSS still beats social media for news. If you don’t currently use an RSS reader, check out the post and the services it recommends.

The Equifax breach is a disaster »

Mike Masnick, Techdirt:

At some point, we need to rethink why we’ve given Equifax, Experian and TransUnion so much power over so much of our everyday lives. You can’t opt-out. They collect most of their data without us knowing and in secret. You can’t avoid them. And now we know that at least one of them doesn’t know how to secure that data.

Data is a toxic asset »

Bruce Schneier:

We can be smarter than this. We need to regulate what corporations can do with our data at every stage: collection, storage, use, resale and disposal. We can make corporate executives personally liable so they know there’s a downside to taking chances. We can make the business models that involve massively surveilling people the less compelling ones, simply by making certain business practices illegal.

Data is a toxic asset. We need to start thinking about it as such, and treat it as we would any other source of toxicity. To do anything else is to risk our security and privacy.

This piece by Bruce Schneier is worth revisiting in light of yesterday’s Equifax breach. We’re in the middle of a fresh wave of outrage over it but, as that fades, we should remember that we can do better than this. Companies and organizations that hold and collect our personal information can do better than this1.

There will be more breaches and we’ll have to deal with the fallout, but we shouldn’t be apathetic about it. Any company that collects that much data about the public should be held to higher standards when storing it (or, better yet, shouldn’t store it at all). An insincere apology and a free year of some service provided by the company that failed to protect our data in the first place isn’t good enough.

  1. They might consider starting by patching nine year old vulnerabilities before they’re exploited

Comcast continues whining about net neutrality »

Via Techdirt:

… we wouldn’t all be stuck on this idiotic hamster wheel if Comcast and other major ISPs would simply accept the will of the public and stop trying to undermine the health of the god-damned internet. While it’s at it, Comcast and its hired policy flacks could stop incessantly lying about how the relatively-basic rules were an apocalypse for industry investment.

FCC continues to completely disregard public opposition to net neutrality repeal

Karl Bode via Techdirt:

Let’s not mince words: the FCC’s plan to gut net neutrality protections in light of severe public opposition is likely one of the more bare-knuckled acts of cronyism in modern technological and political history. That’s because the rules have overwhelming, bipartisan support from the vast majority of consumers, most of whom realize the already imperfect rules are some of the only consumer protections standing between consumers and giant, uncompetitive companies like Comcast. Repealing the rules only serves one interest: that of one of the least liked, least-competitive industries in America.

Jacob Kastrenakes via The Verge:

Even after millions of comments arguing that internet protections are needed, it’s entirely possible that the commission will go ahead with its original, bare-bones plan to simply kill net neutrality and leave everything else up to internet providers to sort out.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has, for the entirety of the net neutrality comment period, shown a willful disregard for public comments and interests. The FCC appears determined to repeal the rules in a decision that would only benefit companies that already occupy abusive duopoly positions in the market. Even worse, those make the decision seem perfectly willing to accept comments supporting their position that are clearly fraudulent.

Jon Brodkin via Ars Technica:

Despite a study showing that 98.5 percent of individually written net neutrality comments support the US’s current net neutrality rules, AT&T is claiming that the vast majority of “legitimate” comments favor repealing the rules.

The Federal Communication Commission’s net neutrality docket is a real mess, with nearly 22 million comments, mostly from form letters and many from spam bots using identities stolen from data breaches.

Sarahah uploads your contacts without permission »

Yael Grauer, writing for The Intercept:

Sarahah bills itself as a way to “receive honest feedback” from friends and employees. But the app is collecting more than feedback messages. When launched for the first time, it immediately harvests and uploads all phone numbers and email addresses in your address book.

This behavior seems to be all too common lately and, while most apps ask for permission to access contacts, it’s worth bearing in mind that they may not need that access. Additionally, once that access is granted, it isn’t always clear what’s actually done with the data.1 If an app asks for access to sensitive data, it’s worth considering what they intend to use it for and how securely it might be stored should they copy it off of your device.

Update: apparently the app is going to be updated to discontinue this behavior. Better late than never, I suppose.

  1. This all assumes the app actually adheres to the platform rules requiring that they ask for permission to access this (or any other) device data. 

Ajit Pai accused of conflict for helping former client »

Via Ars Technica:

A prisoners’ rights group has accused Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai of having a conflict of interest because he used to represent a prison phone company as a lawyer.

Under Pai’s direction, the FCC dropped its court defense of rules capping the intrastate phone rates charged to prisoners. The decision helped prison phone companies—including Pai’s former client, Securus Technologies—continue to charge high prices.

Nothing to see here.

EFF argues border agents need warrants to search digital devices »

“Our cell phones and laptops provide access to an unprecedented amount of detailed, private information, often going back many months or years, from emails to our coworkers to photos of our loved ones and lists of our closest contacts. This is light years beyond the minimal information generally contained in other kinds of personal items we might carry in our suitcases. It’s time for courts and the government to acknowledge that examining the contents of a digital device is highly intrusive, and Fourth Amendment protections should be strong, even at the border,” said EFF Staff Attorney Sophia Cope.

It’s ludicrous that a warrant is not currently required for these searches. If a search is truly necessary, the authorities in question should be able to obtain a warrant with ease.

FCC is ignoring public interest in net neutrality repeal »

Via Ars Technica:

Although ISPs have claimed that the net neutrality rules harm investment, the cable industry’s top lobbying group recently boasted that US Internet speeds are continuing to soar and that the cost of data per megabit has gone down. ISPs have also told their investors that the rules have not harmed network investment, an important factor because publicly traded companies are required to give investors accurate financial information, including a description of risk factors involved in investing in the company.

ISPs and the FCC have been pushing this misleading argument for the entirety of the current debate around net neutrality. You can’t argue to the FCC that net neutrality has harmed investment while making the opposite claim to investors. Proponents of repealing title II regulations are either lying or being deliberately disingenuous.

Without the rules against blocking and throttling websites and online services, ISPs “will be subject to economic and political pressures to choke off unpopular conversations or speed up viewpoints supported by the politically dominant,” Democrats wrote.

ISPs are already guilty of consumer-hostile behavior, even with the current rules in place. Their abuses would only get worse should those protections be rolled back.

While the Republican-controlled Congress recently eliminated privacy rules that protect consumers from ISPs, the Title II authority over common carriers that the FCC uses to enforce net neutrality rules still imposes some basic privacy protections.

This goes without saying, but losing even more privacy protections only benefits ISPs. Invasive tracking and advertising is bad enough without granting large companies the freedom to take it further.

The net neutrality rule that forbids ISPs from charging websites for faster access to consumers is important for small businesses that won’t be able to afford paid prioritization, the Democrats wrote.

This is, perhaps, one of the most compelling arguments for leaving net neutrality protections in place. ISPs should not be able to hamper new potential competitors that depend on network access simply due to their market position. If ISPs want to compete against, say, Netflix they should make a service that actually appeals to consumers.

You can add your comment opposing net neutrality repeal at the FCC’s site.

We Should All Care About Encryption

Andy Yen, via TED.com:

If we squander privacy by allowing back doors or building illicit vulnerabilities into encryption tools, there is nothing to protect us from prying corporations, spying governments or even criminals bent on abusing our data. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a back door that only lets the good guys in.

Data must always be encrypted, end-to-end, period — before it leaves your computer. Privacy is a fundamental right. Let’s not squander it in the name of security.

Lawsuit seeks records of FCC net neutrality discussions

Via Ars Technica:

“The FCC has made it clear that they’re ignoring feedback from the general public, so we’re going to court to find out who they’re actually listening to about net neutrality,” American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said in the group’s announcement of its lawsuit.

They’re listening to ISPs and their lobbyists — they could care less about the public.

Lawmakers blast FCC net neutrality rollback

Via Motherboard:

“To date, most of the FCC’s actions have ignored the needs of consumers,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, the New Jersey Democrat. “Too often, when given the choice, this FCC has sided with large corporations to the detriment of hardworking Americans.”

“Chairman Pai, in the time you have been the head of this agency, we have seen an agenda that is anti-consumer, anti-small business, anti-competition, anti-innovation, and anti-opportunity,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, the Pennsylvania Democrat. “I am deeply concerned that the FCC is on the wrong a path, a path that will hurt small businesses, regular people, and some of the most innovative sectors of our economy.”

The current incarnation of the FCC is entirely pro-industry and anti-consumer in its approach to regulating the market it oversees.

Chairman Pai’s argument is misleading at best, particularly given the admission of ISPs that the current net neutrality rules have not harmed investment. Should the current rules be repealed, ISPs likely won’t materially increase their infrastructure investments. Instead they’ll use the lack of oversight and regulations to line their pockets at the expense of competitors that require access to their networks and consumers that have no other choice but to pay for their service when selecting an internet service provider.

Via Ars Technica:

“Although you stated the [September 7] hearing was an inquiry into the ‘Internet ecosystem,’ you once again failed to recognize how important the Internet is for consumers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, political organizers, public interest groups, and people looking for work,” Doyle and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) said

Verizon argues throttling isn't throttling

Via The Verge:

“Video optimization is a non-discriminatory network management practice designed to ensure a high quality customer experience for all customers accessing the shared resources of our wireless network,” a spokesperson said.

Throttling is throttling. The justification on Verizon’s part doesn’t matter — they should be passing through traffic without filtering it.

Senator attacks ISP and FCC argument for net neutrality repeal

Senator Edward Markey, via Ars Technica:

ISPs are quick to tell the FCC and the public that Title II is harming network investment, but they have presented a much rosier view when talking to investors.

ISPs are already investing in infrastructure with existing regulations in place. They want net neutrality restrictions repealed so that they can more freely continue their existing abusing and anti-competitive behavior1.

A better fix for this problem would be to encourage more competition in the market, rather than shred regulations covering existing companies with near-monopoly positions and an extensive track record of anti-competitive and customer-hostile behavior.

  1. If ISPs are threatened by Netflix, they should try competing by creating a service that doesn’t suck. 

Misleading Arguments Against Net Neutrality Abound

Via Techdirt:

… anybody that actually cares about net neutrality should support the simplest and easiest way to protect consumers, startups and small businesses moving forward: keep the existing rules intact.

Comcast’s argument that gutting existing net neutrality rules will help members of protected classes is totally disingenuous. The best way to protect consumers and the open internet across the board is to leave the existing rules intact. Comcast has only its best interests in mind, not those of their customers or any other consumers.

Comcast continues to whine about net neutrality

Via Ars Technica:

Comcast’s claims about network investment clash with what ISPs have told their own investors; even Comcast’s chief financial officer downplayed Title II’s effect on investment in December 2016.

This is, of course, nonsense as the article goes on to explain. Comcast and so many of the other players in the net neutrality argument appear to either miss or intentionally bury the point: in the absence of competition, consumers and the open internet need net neutrality protections. Failing that, customers need dramatically more choice in selecting an ISP.

Comcast would love to gut those protections, double dip by charging competitors for access to its network before then passing those costs on to its reluctant customers. If Comcast is frustrated at losing revenue to new competitors it should make products people actually want to use and that compete rather than focusing on strong arming regulatory bodies intended to protect consumers from exactly this kind of behavior.

Senate push for encryption legislation falters

Via Reuters:

Draft legislation that Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Intelligence Committee, had circulated weeks ago likely will not be introduced this year and, even if it were, would stand no chance of advancing, the sources said.

Fantastic news. This bill (and the push behind it) was ill-conceived at best and would have caused untold damage were it to pass.

Google's new obsession with your photos »

The Ringer:

Sergey Brin says that Google wants to be the third half of your brain,” [Pedro] Domingos says. “But now think about it: Do you really want the third half of your brain to make a living by showing you ads? I don’t.

GOP advances plan for ring-free voicemail spam »

Recode:

The GOP’s leading campaign and fundraising arm, the Republican National Committee, has quietly thrown its support behind a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission that would pave the way for marketers to auto-dial consumers’ cellphones and leave them prerecorded voicemail messages — all without ever causing their devices to ring.

It’s like a U2 album release — but for annoying political crap.

FCC and ISPs begin campaign to gut net neutrality while pretending to protect it

Techcrunch:

… don’t pretend that a bill from Congress pretending to “save” net neutrality will actually do so, when it’s quite obvious that the bills being offered will undermine our internet, help big broadband screw over users, and diminish competition.

Ars Technica:

Nine Republican US senators yesterday submitted legislation that would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from ever again using the regulatory authority that allowed the commission to impose net neutrality rules. The “Restoring Internet Freedom Act” would prohibit the FCC from classifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act and “from imposing certain regulations on providers of such service.”

All this amounts to is ISPs attempting to irreperably harm the internet in an effort to prop up businesses that would otherwise not be competetive. Strong net neutrality protections are absolutely vital to the ongoing health of the internet and companies that depend on it.

Protecting your privacy

Via Unroll.me:

I can’t stress enough the importance of your privacy. We never, ever release personal data about you. All data is completely anonymous and related to purchases only.

Nonsense. If you’re not paying for the service your data is being monetized in a way that benefits the interests of the company providing the service, not you.

DHS Boss Calls For More Fear, Less Encryption »

Techdirt:

This is wonderful stuff if you’re a fan of authoritarianism. Shut up and show your support. It’s a message that’s been sent several times by the new president. Now, it’s being echoed by his top officials.

Yet another ill-considered power grab in the name of safety.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Don't like systematic privacy violations? Stop using the internet

Via Ars Technica:

That’s when Sensenbrenner said, “Nobody’s got to use the Internet.” He praised ISPs for “invest[ing] an awful lot of money in having almost universal service now.” He then said, “I don’t think it’s my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make the choice.”

We desperately need to stop electing officials that have no understanding of the impact of the legislation they help pass.

Silicon Valley fights to preserve net neutrality »

Recode:

The internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition and innovation online,” the group said. “In other words, existing net neutrality rules should be enforced and kept intact.

I sincerely hope that net neutrality is preserved in its current form. Voluntary commitments from companies with the appalling track record shared by most ISPs are simply not going to be enough to preserve the internet freedoms we’ve become accustomed to.

Lawmakers want to require border agents to obtain a warrant for smartphone searches

Via Recode:

“By requiring a warrant to search Americans’ devices and prohibiting unreasonable delay, this bill makes sure that border agents are focused on criminals and terrorists instead of wasting their time thumbing through innocent Americans’ personal photos and other data,” [Sen. Ron] Wyden said in a statement.

I’d love to see this implemented, but I just can’t see it happening.

Internet privacy rules repealed

Bob Quinn (an SVP at AT&T):

“If the government believes that location data is sensitive and requires more explicit consumer disclosures and permissions,” he continued, “then those protections should apply to all players that have access to location data, whether an ISP or edge player or search engine.”

No, customers should be able to expect that their data remain private and, the fact of the matter is, customers typically have a choice who they provide their data to (whether that be Facebook, Google — you name it). Where most people in the U.S. live, there’s often only one ISP for customers to get a connection from — they shouldn’t be forced to have sensitive data exposed to that company purely for the benefit of that company.

If ISPs are upset about perceived competitors having access to different data sets than they do, they should come up with a competitive service that people actually want to use that can actually compete. Or maybe they’ll keep buying failed tech companies and mashing them together in a hilarious rebranding effort.

Senate chooses ISPs over customer privacy

Via The EFF

ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn’t be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent.

I truly wish I could be shocked or surprised by a move like this coming out of the senate but, lately, congress appears to be dedicated to making decisions that actively harm their constituencies in order to benefit entrenched business interests.

This action needs to fail in the house. ISPs occupy a privileged position that gives them detailed access to customer data and they should not be able to freely exploit that data for financial gain.

Spotify begins to gain leverage in its relationship with labels

Via TechCrunch:

But now that Spotify has grown to 50 million paid subscribers and a huge base of free ad-supported listeners, it’s emerging from the streaming pack including YouTube / Google Music, Pandora, Apple Music, and Amazon so rights owners can’t just favor them instead. Spotify has begun to gain some leverage over the labels so that it can make money without them and they need it to have a hit record.

Spotify has done a lot to make music more accessible and available since it first launched. It’s spent a lot of time since its launch beholden to labels and content providers so anything it can do, at this point, to gain leverage over those providers is only going to benefit it, and its users, in the long term.

I stopped buying digital music quite a while ago and, while I occasionally spend money on a vinyl release, I spend essentially all of my time listening to music on Spotify’s streaming platform. Everyone I know listens to music primarily via one streaming platform or another and Spotify is chief among those — gaining leverage and diversifying the content it offers is going to continue to be key to Spotify’s longterm viability as a platform. If that all happens at the expense of labels, I can’t help but think we’ll all be better for it.

iPhone spam call blockers

I’ve tried all of the apps Marco calls out in this post and I agree with his assessment of all of them. I liked Nomorobo a lot and it worked reliably, but I’ve settled on a different app that wasn’t called out in this post. I’ve been using Callblock for the past week and like that its database extends beyond the robocallers covered by Nomorobo. It’s already blocked a few calls and nothing that shouldn’t get through has gotten through.

Via Marco Arment.

The Internet belongs to the people, not powerful corporate interests »

Chuck Schumer, via Ars Technica:

The Internet is an invaluable platform on which we depend to spur innovation and job creation. Our economy works best when innovators, entrepreneurs, and businesses of all sizes compete on a level playing field. Ensuring that the playing field would be level was the basis for the FCC’s decision to protect net neutrality by properly classifying broadband as a telecommunications service.

FCC chair offers poor excuses as he seeks to strip consumer protections

TechDirt:

Eliminate functional regulatory oversight and refuse to address limited competition? The end result is… Comcast Corporation and its record-shatteringly-bad customer service, high prices, and usage caps.

The Verge:

… net neutrality opponents are sticking with the same arguments they used two years ago: the rules rely on law that’s too old, they’ll hurt investment, and they’ll leave internet providers uncertain of their fate.

The Verge:

[Ajit] Pai has been chairman of the commission for just over a month now, and in that time, he’s already begun chipping away at net neutrality in a few different ways: approving zero rating, scaling back transparency rules, proposing to halt major new privacy requirements. After this speech today, it’s evident that Pai is just getting started.

Net neutrality was nice while it lasted, but it looks like it’ll be gone soon. More and more this issue seems like something congress should settle definitively but, given the current political makeup of both houses, any decision made likely would not be at all consumer friendly.

The EFF:

Republicans in Congress are planning a much bigger assault on the Internet, by making it illegal for the FCC to protect consumer privacy online.

Internet Privacy Rules in Part Face a Halt at the FCC

Via NPR:

Consumer advocacy groups have argued that the ISPs have a broader capacity to collect data on people than websites and digital services, given that ISPs connect users to all those websites and services in the first place. ISPs might use the collected data for their own promotions or sell it to data brokers for marketing or other uses.

Rolling back privacy protections for consumers is only good for ISPs. This move reflects the current FCC chair’s willingness to work for the interests of the businesses his agency should be regulating over those of consumers.

All this amounts to is a violation of customer privacy in order to allow ISPs to better market subpar products that exist only due to their existing, near-monopoly positions in the marketplace.

The sooner ISPs become dumb pipes, the better.

Securing your personal devices and accounts »

Jonathan Zdziarski has a detailed write up on personal, technical security that you should read and consider implementing (particularly given recent events).

With the current US administration pondering the possibility of forcing foreign travelers to give up their social media passwords at the border, a lot of recent and justifiable concern has been raised about data privacy. The first mistake you could make is presuming that such a policy won’t affect US citizens.

The next big blue collar job is coding

Via Wired:

Politicians routinely bemoan the loss of good blue-collar jobs. Work like that is correctly seen as a pillar of civil middle-class society. And it may yet be again. What if the next big blue-collar job category is already here—and it’s programming?

I couldn’t agree more with this article. There are ranges in every profession, but development is filled with rich opportunities that more people could benefit from with the proper support.

Senators warn against net neutrality repeal

TechDirt:

In light of a Congress that long ago made it clear that it prioritizes telecom cash contributions over consumers, the best “solution” for net neutrality at this juncture would be leaving the existing rules – and the FCC’s authority over broadband providers – intact.

The unfortunate reality of the situation is that the current administration will always prefer the vested interest of corporate telecoms and lobbyists over those of the consumers they serve. Reversing net neutrality will be harmful to consumers and to any number of businesses — here’s hoping that net neutrality is, somehow, able to survive.

Trump FCC chair begins dismantling consumer protections and subsidies

Via Ars Technica

“The Federal Communications Commission’s new Republican leadership has rescinded a determination that AT&T and Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules with paid data cap exemptions. The FCC also rescinded several other Wheeler-era reports and actions.”

We’re barely two weeks into the new presidential administration and it looks like net neutrality will be yet another casualty of this administration’s drive to strip away consumer-friendly regulations.

If a ruling or judgement is good for telecoms or ISPs it is very likely bad for customers. This is one of those cases.

The FCC also took steps to scale back benefits provided by the Lifeline program to low income consumers:

“Regulators are telling nine companies they won’t be allowed to participate in a federal program meant to help them provide affordable Internet access to low-income consumers — weeks after those companies had been given the green light.”

Donate to the EFF.

The year encryption won »

Via Wired:

It’s not a firm guarantee, and who knows what a Trump administration will bring. For now, though, it’s enough to appreciate the gains encryption made in 2016, and be hopeful that 2017 will only build on them.

Throwing together a blog

I’ve been working on this site for longer than I’d care to admit (years at this point). It’s been through a few domains, two content management systems, multiple versions of those content management systems, countless designs and several different hosts. I’m really happy with where it’s at and what I’ve learned putting it together.

I started this site off running Kirby on shared hosting. It’s served as a design and development playground for me as I’ve learned and applied new things. It started off without being version and now the source for it is stored on Github and now runs on Statamic.

I started off writing the CSS and JS for the site manually, before generating a Grunt build process, breaking out the styles to be more modular and rewriting them in SCSS. Dependencies are now sourced from npm and Bower.

Instead of running the site on shared hosting, it now runs on a LAMP Digital Ocean box using PHP7 and mod_pagespeed, both of which have made a tremendous difference in terms of site performance.

As it stands now, I’m thrilled with where this site sits, but I’m curious to see how else I can continue improving it.

DOJ takes war on encryption to WhatsApp

Via The EFF:

The government’s theory, that the All Writs Act gives it the power to compel American companies to write code and design products to ensure law enforcement access to encrypted content, is virtually without limits. No devices, and indeed no encrypted messaging services, would be safe from such backdoor orders. If the government wins in San Bernardino, it could even force companies to give it access to software update systems, and send their users government surveillance software disguised as security patches.

The government is taking its war on encryption to WhatsApp’s front door. This is, perhaps, even more terrifying than their effort to force Apple to hamstring its device security. It’s one thing if the government can force its way in to devices but, oftentimes, services used on secured devices have their own, additional layers of security. This is the government attempting to compromise security further by making inroads in to security provided by messaging (and other) service providers.

Chilling.

Dutch government on encryption

Via Ars Technica:

…forcing companies to add backdoors to their products and services would have “undesirable consequences for the security of communicated and stored information,” since “digital systems can become vulnerable to criminals, terrorists and foreign intelligence services.”

Exactly.

Backdoor password in Juniper's firewall code

Via Ars Technica:

On December 17, Juniper Networks issued an urgent security advisory about “unauthorized code” found within the operating system used by some of the company’s NetScreen firewalls and Secure Service Gateway (SSG) appliances. The vulnerability, which may have been in place in some firewalls as far back as 2012 and which shipped with systems to customers until late 2013, allows an attacker to gain remote administrative access to systems with telnet or ssh access enabled.

This is exactly why creating back doors in to encryption is a really bad thing. We don’t need a ‘Manhattan-like project’ to create more security holes like this one — if you create backdoors, even for legitimate purposes, you’ll simply be increasing the likelihood that incidents like this will continue to happen.

Scotch Box for local LAMP development

Scotch Box is a preconfigured Vagrant Box with a full array of LAMP Stack features to get you up and running with Vagrant in no time.

If you spend any amount of time working on LAMP stack development projects you should take a look at Scotch Box. It’s a full-featured Vagrant Box and is far easier than fiddling with setting up a server directly on your dev machine.

Moving to Bitbucket

I recently moved all of the repositories for my personal and client development projects to Bitbucket. I had been paying for Github’s micro plan to manage a few projects that I didn’t want public, but made the decision to switch after exploring a bit more and seeing that, well, Bitbucket provides the functionality I was paying Github for for free.

Making the switch itself was painless. I added a key to my Bitbucket account, switched the remotes out on my repos and pushed each repo to its new home on Bitbucket. Switching remotes out is as simple as:

git remote set-url origin REPO-URL

Github is, of course, an incredible resource but, for my purposes, the switch made too much sense not to carry out.

Hypebot Hosts LA Music Tech Meetup July 23 »

Spend an evening with the bright minds and brilliant talents of LA’s music industry and technology scene. Make connections, swap ideas, and build community.

If you’re based in LA be sure to come out to the meetup and say hi!

Exploring OS X mail clients

I’ve been using Fastmail for over a year now and have been exploring email clients the entire time I’ve been a subscriber. Until recently, the best client I’ve been able to find has been Fastmail’s web app itself (whether that’s in the browser or in a Fluid instance.

I’ve tried Airmail, which is fine but isn’t as flexible as I’d like (despite having a really extensive preferences pane) or as lightweight as I had hoped1. I suffered through using OS X’s Mail app and, though the Gmailinator plugin made it somewhat bearable, it frequently exhibited odd behavior that had me wondering just what the app was doing at times. I tried using Mailmate on several occasions but would get hung up on the minimal nature of the app’s designed and overwhelmed by it’s flexibility and featureset.

I circled back to the Fastmail web app, but didn’t love the idea of using a different web app for each of my email accounts (I have secondary Gmail accounts and would prefer a unified interface for all of my accounts). Frustration with using multiple web apps led me to give Mailmate another chance2.

I downloaded Mailmate and settled in to the idea of giving it a long term trial. I enabled the app’s support for Gmail keybindings and went to work modifying the app’s badge settings and creating custom folders I might find useful. I created a smart folder for tasks and assigned it to a dock and menubar counter3. The tasks folder I created looks for emails from task management systems and messages I manually apply a todo label to (this isn’t mapped to an IMAP label or folder — I don’t typically handle tasks on the go and don’t feel the need to reference this folder on the go).

I created several other helpful folders:

  • A folder that lists all git commit messages for projects I’m working on.
  • A folder that collects development meetup messages in Los Angeles so that I can decide which, if any, I’d like to attend.
  • Individual folders for my Fastmail accounts so that I can filter through my inbox based on which alias a message was sent to.

Once I had folders set up in Mailmate, adjusted to the UI and began to memorize keyboard shortcuts, I was sold. The app is extremely lightweight and responsive, it’s endlessly configurable and the app’s bundles feature is extremely useful. I also really enjoy it’s composer view and Markdown support (being able to email fenced code blocks is extremely useful). I think I’m finally done looking for a new email app. Finally.

  1. In fairness, this is a subjective judgement, but the app doesn’t feel quite as smooth or as responsive as I had hoped it would. 

  2. This decision was, in part, prompted by Gabe Weatherhead’s and Brett Terpstra’s posts about the app. I assumed there must be slmething I was missing. 

  3. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be using email as a task management or todo system, but I find it helpful to have a running tally of messages I need to act on. 

Streaming Music Has Left Me Adrift »

The New York Times has published an interesting piece on streaming music and the transition from analogue listening, CDs and other physical media. What I find most interesting is the author, Dan Brooks’, point about the effort involved in collecting music as versus now simply being able to search streaming services for available releases.

When getting into a band became as easy as typing its name into a search box, particular musical tastes lost their function as signifiers of commitment. What you listened to ceased to be a measure of how much you cared and became a mere list of what you liked.

I used to be (and suppose I still am — to some extent) a fan of heavy metal. Almost all of the bands I listened to released records through small labels or independently with small print runs for each release being the norm. At the time, half the fun was not only finding new bands but actually finding their releases so you could even listen to them. No band is all that great if everyone can listen to them and all that — exclusivity is king and all that (there was a sense of ownership or being in the know that came along with finding a new band and being able to refer fans of similar music to them).

Streaming services have eroded a lot of the excitement inherent in the old process of discovering new music. Now you can follow playlists or immediately stream just about anything anyone recommends to you (there are some notable exceptions — one of my favorite bands, Canadian punk act NoMeansNo, only has a greatest hits compilation distributed digitally). As silly as it is, I get less excited about finding new bands now and I tend to over-listen to releases I’m excited about, burn out on them and move on. As fans, we’re less invested in what we’re listening to because we didn’t make the effort to discover it and the financial investment in a physical release or digital download to really attach us to it. Sure, we are paying for music inasmuch as paying a Spotify or Beats is paying for access to music … but we’re not directly supporting artists by buying those releases, by seeing the artwork, by having to go through the tea ceremony of pulling out a vinyl record and putting it on a turntable.

We have more access to music now than we’ve ever had, but we’re much less invested in it. Maybe streaming proponents are right and streaming services will raise the money spent on music consumption in the aggregate, but I can’t help but think we’re losing something in the process. We’ve gained so much in the way of convenience and lost a lot with respect to the experience.

My record collection is no longer a lifestyle, a biography, a status. The identities that I and a generation of fellow aesthetes spent our lives fashioning are suddenly obsolete. They turned out to be mere patterns of consumption, no more resilient than the patterns of production that provoked them.

Streaming has made music distribution far easier for artists and, really, I’m not advocating against streaming or somehow going back to any one physical medium (although I do enjoy collecting vinyl). I just feel as though streaming has stripped something special out of discovering and exploring new music. I hope, sincerely, that that experience is replaced by something else (perhaps music fans will go to more shows — I try to) or maybe streaming services will evolve in a way that produces a unique experience all its own. I’m not disappointed that we’re moving past music in its traditional physical form, but I do have nostalgia for the years I spent ordering odd CDs from European metal distributors and anxiously awaiting their arrival in the mail.

ISPs secretly furious at Verizon

Via Ars Technica:

“Verizon seemingly won a huge victory in January when a federal appeals court struck down network neutrality restrictions on blocking and discriminating against Internet content over fixed broadband connections. But Verizon’s lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission could backfire, with the commission now considering even stronger rules on both fixed and wireless networks.”

That’s good news if I’ve ever heard it (though I suppose I shouldn’t be overly optimistic). Anything that upsets ISPs and, ultimately, leads to stronger net neutrality rules is a win for consumers.

Standard Markdown

Via Joe Steel:

This is about legitimizing their fork over all the others. Not just another fork here, this one is named “Standard Markdown”! — Joe Steel

Front on email

Via Front:

I can’t help but agree. There are a number of great messaging solutions out right now but none are as ubiquitous, reliable or open as email. The chat / messaging space suffers from a lack of all of these attributes — chat is becoming increasingly fragmented as companies battle for dominance and revenue.

I would gladly trade Hangouts, GroupMe, WhatsApp, Line et al for a unified, open chat / messaging standard.

Ben Thompson on net neutrality »

It’s not enough to insist that a position is morally right; it behooves us who believe in net neutrality to work through how the US can balance net neutrality with the need for ongoing broadband investment, fashion a case for our position, and then build a political movement that makes our plan a reality. That is being serious.

This is a fantastic piece on net neutrality by Ben Thompson. This is a balanced, realistic look at net neutrality and the issues surrounding it. It’s refreshing to see a pragmatic and informed discussion of the topic. Well worth the read.

Dumb pipes »

Smart devices were ultimately the downfall of the wireless carriers when all the value moved to the handset and its ecosystem rather than their own proprietary ecosystem. This is the fear that some cable companies must face. Could smart devices eventually do the same thing to them? We can only hope.

I can’t help but agree with everything Ben Bajarin has to say in this post. Carriers and broadband providers acting as “dumb pipes” is the best outcome for consumers and I can’t help but cheer every time a provider gets a step closer to that role.

I don’t want any services tied to my cell or broadband providers’ ecosystems. I want them to provide me with the fastest connection at the most reasonable price possible and then get out of the way.

Changes coming to Droplr »

Droplr began as an idea between two geeks who wanted an easy way to share files with each other. So we set aside some weekends and evenings and built an app that could do just that. Over the last few years what began as a simple free Mac App, has grown into a great company dedicated to creating the best possible way to share files.

If this helps Droplr grow and continue as a successful business, I’m all for it. I use the service daily to shorten links, share files and post images.

The irrelevance of Microsoft

Via Ben Evans:

Windows 95 was the moment of victory, but was also the peak: it came just at the moment that the Internet started taking off, and Microsoft was never a relevant force on the internet despite investing tens of billions of dollars.

Great piece by Benedict Evans on the gradual, continuing decline of Microsoft.

Publishing to Kirby using Drafts workflows

I have recently begun publishing content to my Kirby powered site using workflows from the endlessly-customizable Drafts. The workflows I use send text formatted for my site’s notes / blog template to Textastic. I then place the resulting text file in a folder named for the URL I want to assign to the post and push the folder to the appropriate content directory on my site.

My notes template uses four different text file names to differentiate between published content types and I have created a Drafts workflow for each name.

Text post workflow:

'textastic://x-callback-url/new?name=note.text.txt&text=Title:%20[[title]]%0D----%0DDate:%20[[date|%m.%d.%Y]]%0D----%0DText:%20[[body]]'

So, for example, if the following were placed in to a draft …

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

Consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse imperdiet ullamcorper accumsan. Duis et rhoncus odio. Vestibulum rhoncus nisl diam, non malesuada odio condimentum in. Morbi ut nisi nec erat viverra blandit at dapibus nibh.

… the workflow above would create a text file in Textastic named note.text.txt that contains:

Title: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet
----
Date: 08.20.2013
----
Text: Consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse imperdiet ullamcorper accumsan. Duis et rhoncus odio. Vestibulum rhoncus nisl diam, non malesuada odio condimentum in. Morbi ut nisi nec erat viverra blandit at dapibus nibh.

Link post workflow:

This would output the following …

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

Consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse imperdiet ullamcorper accumsan. Duis et rhoncus odio. Vestibulum rhoncus nisl diam, non malesuada odio condimentum in. Morbi ut nisi nec erat viverra blandit at dapibus bibh.

… as:

Title: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet
----
Date: 08.20.2013
----
Link: http://google.com
----
Text: Consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse imperdiet ullamcorper accumsan. Duis et rhoncus odio. Vestibulum rhoncus nisl diam, non malesuada odio condimentum in. Morbi ut nisi nec erat viverra blandit at dapibus nibh.

It’s worth noting that this particular workflow is a bit messy inasmuch as I’ve included an arbitrary number of Drafts line tags to account for any additional paragraphs of text after the first. Using the [[body]] tag in this instance would result in the “Link: http://google.com” line being included with the text.

The final two post types / work flows I use are identical to the first aside from the name of the file they supply to Textastic. They are as follows:

Image post workflow:

'textastic://x-callback-url/new?name=note.image.txt&text=Title:%20[[title]]%0D----%0DWhen:%20[[date|%m.%d.%Y]]%0D----%0DText:%20[[body]]'

Gallery post workflow:

textastic://x-callback-url/new?name=note.gallery.txt&text=Title:%20[[title]]%0D----%0DWhen:%20[[date|%m.%d.%Y]]%0D----%0DText:%20[[body]]

Using these actions to publish content from Drafts to your Kirby-based site should be as simple as changing the file name sent to Textastic in each workflow. If you run in to any problems or have any suggestions for improving these workflows feel free to let me know.

Many thanks to Alex Duner and Nate Boateng for the Statamic Drafts workflow they provided to get me pointed in the right direction on this.