New year, more privacy

Over the course of the past couple of months I’ve become more aware of the privacy issues of the modern internet. I’m not paranoid, but I’m also not a fan of big corporations tracking me and trying to sell me stuff.

Back in the day, I left Hotmail and signed up for Gmail, when it had a 1 GB storage limit that far exceeded most other services as well as probably the best spam filter around. I liked the company with its “Don’t be evil” motto – and somehow, over the years, I came to rely on it for a big part of my online life, especially after switching from the original iPhone to Android (because I’d gotten tired of having to jailbreak after every update just to get functioning video recording and of having only 4GB of storage).

However, recently I started to feel that it was more than a little creepy, how much Google knew about me – plus I got sick and tired of having ads in my email. So I made some changes, and now I can say that the only Google service I still use regularly is Youtube (mostly because that’s where the ASMR videos live *g*) and the Android app store on my phone.

This might not interest anyone, but here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • switched from Chrome to Firefox, which seems to best option if one doesn’t want to go full on Tor… I’d also considered Opera, but there seem to be privacy concerns as well.
  • signed up with Protonmail, a Swiss-based encrypted mail service – they do have a free option, but I chose to pay, because I wanted several email addresses.
  • signed up with a Nextcloud provider for calendars/contacts (easily set up to sync with my phone) and the Collab online office suite. Nextcloud can also be self-hosted (for full privacy and control), but that doesn’t work on my shared hosting (plus I’m not sure my tech skills are up to scratch), and I don’t need a lot of space, so the free options suffice for now. I figured it can’t be worse (and is probably better) than saving files in Dropbox, for example.
  • installed F-Droid on my phone, an open-source app store alternative,

Additionally I’m checking out Mastodon, a federated Twitter alternative. You can find me on the mastodon.cloud instance.


Egypt

Okay, so obviously I totally failed my first attempt at NaBloPoMo. Bad blogger! 🙂

On a more serious note, however, I’m currently glued to the internet (more than usual, that is, or at least in a less frivolous fashion *g*) following the protests in Egypt after Tunisian protesters managed to oust their long-term dictator. Some serious change seems to be in the air in the Middle East as populations reach the point where they no longer accept living under undemocratic governments. The violence is shocking, and my heart goes out to the mostly youthful protesters. I don’t know how long this will go on – but hopefully it will at least result in the Western world stopping its support of dictatorships in the name of stability in the Middle East.

I get most of my news from Al Jazeera’s English coverage, with video, liveblogs and tweets from correspondents. Despite internet and mobile networks being mostly blocked, there’s also quite a lot of updates from protesters.

All of this immediacy is the biggest difference from how it used to be, I think – like during Iran’s Green Revolution we get to feel as if we’re a part of the situation, as if we know those people. The protests don’t happen somewhere far away, tiny images filtered by newsreporters, they’re going on RIGHT NOW, happening to people just like us, people that use Facebook and take videos on their phones. This is a good thing – it definitely makes spin-doctoring much more difficult as both sides are able to get their voices heard, not just those in power.




My latest weakness

After discovering Sockdreams last year, this past few weeks I’ve fallen prey to the temptations of Etsy – turns out, there’s heaps of beautiful jewellery at great prices, and not too much shipping. This pretty jade rose ring is my latest purchase:

New ring!

And yes, I will have to stop shopping so much soon, especially because I’m in the process of reducing my work hours. But I can’t help it, it’s therapeutic! 🙂


What had me all riled up yesterday

After enjoying church and a nice Easter meal with my parents, I came back online to find that Amazon.com had removed sales rankings from many LGBT-themed books, making it impossible to find them with a normal Amazon search. An automated response to complaints stated that those books had been removed because of “adult content” – however, not only did many sexually explicit heterosexual books keep their ranking, but completely non-explicit books like lesbian parenting guides, LGBT- themed books for young adults or autobiographies by gay men and women didn’t.

Needless to say, my head exploded with RAGE. 🙂 By now Amazon has backpedalled, stating the whole thing was caused by a “glitch”. I find it quite reassuring that online outrage (for example, we google bombed the term Amazon Rank, making it #1 in Google search results) resulted in an immediate reaction.

amazon fail

The image links to an overview of the whole issue by an author who was affected by this all the way back in February. I also found this recent AfterElton blogpost summarising quite nicely what bothers me so much about the whole thing, glitch or no glitch. And now I’ll go back to enjoying my day off…


Oh HAI, American elections…

Have been on a bit of a Jon Stewart kick the past few days. I’ve gotten into the habit of listening to audiobooks on my way to and from work, as I can’t read on the bus into town – and one of the books was America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction by said Jon Stewart, which totally reminded me why I love that guy and his brain. (I get ‘brain crushes’ sometimes, on seriously smart and funny people like Stephen Fry or Neil Gaiman.)

So I decided to see if I couldn’t find a place to watch The Daily Show, which I’d caught in New Zealand a few times (it aired on the music channel C4 there, on the same day as the US, thanks to the international date line) – and ‘lo and behold, you can actually watch the episodes on the show’s official website, no matter where you live! See, that’s why I love the internets… 🙂

And following Jon Stewart of course also means following Obama – I actually remember hearing about Obama’s speech on race on The Daily Show in March:

And, because it’s less than one week until the elections are finally here, let me be the last person on this planet to post the “Yes We Can” video, because it’s a lot of fun to play “name the celeb” (and because it is a seriously awesome speech, too):

Okay, enough politics for this blog, I promise! (Actually, in the past – during the 2004 elections, as a matter of fact – I caught serious flak from an “online friend” because I dared to have an opinon about American politics – but, although I’m not American and don’t live in the US, I think it’s safe to say that American politics affect the whole world. Sometimes with… rather tragic consequences.) Umm yes. This was supposed to be a simple squee post about Jon Stewart, but there you go. *g*


Two very awesome but totally different YouTube vids

Because I still haven’t gotten around to that proper post with photos and news and everything, have at least these two videos that made me smile today:

First, there’s the dorktastically fantastic “It’s Almost Halloween” song by Panic at the Disco that had me falling off my chair laughing.

And then there’s the International “Stand By Me” from Playing for Change, which simply blew my mind – musicians from all over the world playing together, each one in their home country…