Tag Archives: internet

Tidbits Recently Found On the Internet That Caught My Eye

Been away from the web for a few days– never a bad thing, but it does take a little time to catch up again.  Here a couple nice tidbits, in the order I was attracted to them:

Lots to do today, so not much time to talk, but check out the new photos in Oshkosh, and here are the shots from Michelle’s birthday:

Mint and My Paranoia

If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware that I am something of a nutbar about digital security and the dangers of the Internet.  Maybe it’s just because I read enough scary stories about it, or at least scary comments about it, that keeps the vast majority of my private or even quasi-private info OFF-line.

This is why the incredible convenience of spilling your virtual guts to some strange server you’ll never meet drives me insane.

Case in point (and one that I think of around the first of every month) is Mint.com.  This is not the first time I’ve brought it up, and I’m sure I haven’t heard the last of it, either.  I may have been moved to action over the summer when Gina Trapani brought up her struggles with handing a THIRD PARTY YOUR BANKING PASSWORDS in a blog post.  It really sounded like she had similar security concerns and comparable complaints about the inefficiencies of her previous system.  That, and the tools within the Mint service seem pretty tough to beat.

I still need to talk myself into it, or get someone to offer additional endorsement, but I’m going to strongly consider the Mint option.  After all, I was willing to concede my email server to the Googles after a 4.5-day Internet outage at my house, and I’m contemplating a more tangible presence on Facebook, so maybe I’m warming up to the idea of my personal 1’s and 0’s flying aroudn the tubes.

I have a lot of reading to do with Mint’s privacy policies and data storage methods, but maybe it will save me some time next month and in the future.

You're Saying You Didn't See This Coming?

Gina from Lifehacker had a post yesterday about Google’s dominance of her personal online data and her [late, futile] attempts to stop it.  Well, basically, it’s a post about how Yahoo! search is more or less just as good as Google, but my summary of her motivation is accurate.

I’m not saying “I told you so,” or anything like that, because I am every bit as guilty of feeding the Googles as most average internetters.  To be honest, there is just too much that they do too well to justify NOT using a lot of their (free!) services.  To only come to grips with the risk inherent in giving one company control of so much information at the three- or four-year mark seems oddly shortsighted, though.

Have we just buried our heads in the digital sand up to this point, innately aware but consciously ambivalent about this course of events?  Is it possible we’ve reached a social tipping point, and this may signal the start of a mainstream Google backlash?

Greatest Hits

Nothing in and of itself particularly bloggable today, but I did run across a few interesting tidbits on the tubes today that you might find interesting in case you missed ’em:

  • I was drawn in by the spectre of New Scientist’s title, “Could the Net Become Self-Aware?” but you should also stay tuned for the rest of their 8-part series.  Interesting stuff…
  • Brett’s gonna come back again.  Oh, yes he will.  But I do think he proved last year that 2007 will gone down as his last great season.
  • Tons of kids staying home from school next week in the metro-Milwaukee area, what with the bacon disease.  Hey, remember when we were kids, and there would be a chicken pox outbreak, and if you hadn’t had it yet, your mom would make sure you went to school, with instructions to lick all doorknobs trade pencils all your itchy friends?  Yeah, I remember that, too.
  • Don’t know if they’ve changed much in Amarok 2 since I was last using it a couple months ago, but I will say this: the album shuffle seems to be doing a better job.  I wonder if there’s anything else I can do to optimize the tags on my tunes..?

OK, well, I’m gonna eat some dinner and get ready for a party that Michelle and I are headed to in a couple hours.  Yes, I know it’s already 8:30.  The party goes until 3 AM.  Seriously.

What Is the Problem With Netvibes?

Don’t know if you’ve been keeping up or not, but I’ve been using Netvibes as my chief RSS aggreation service, in part because it has the flexibility to pull in all sorts of different data/feeds/sites (text, podcasts, videos, misc news services, etc.), but right now, we are knocking on a 24-hour period where the site has either been down or just unable to load my customized page.

How long do you wait on a web-based service like this before you write it off as too unreliable?  I don’t think a day is long enough for me to do that, but I will definitely scout around the webs for other options (I will have some normal news-reading time on my hands, after all).

This sort of occurrence always leads me back to my position that if you want to rely on the Internet, you’re better off hosting it yourself.

PS – If anyone actually knows what’s up with Netvibes in general right now, by all means, do tell…

Is It Too Late for Anyone to Take Anything Back?

I stumbled across this link to The Consumerist’s post about Facebook’s revised terms of service earlier this evening, and I also read a few of the responses to it, and the responses to those responses.  Suffice it to say, even though they claim they would never do anything to hurt you, the loyal user, I am glad that I have never “uploaded” anything to Facebook.

The question that this fiasco raises for me is this: are we COMPLETELY deluding ourselves to think that there is any information left out there that we can share with nearly anyone, in nearly any capacity, that is also still somehow under our control?  With the possible exception of information you share with your lawyer or with a medical professional, what hope could you possibly have?

The fact is, creating a profile about yourself, the things you like, things you do, and places you go, but also desiring anonymity are mutually exclusive ideas.  You can’t have both, and you sort of need to get over that.  While I have railed against the Facebook in the past, I don’t begrudge the people that are on it.  But as a user, you have to know that you have not only ticked a checkbox to an agreement that you never actually read; you have also signed a social contract that says, “OK, world– I don’t have much to hide.  You’re going to find certain things out, and I’ll have to deal with the consequences.”

Every one of us who has talked on a cell phone, or filled out a survey, or used any sort of web-based service has given something up.  We’ve passed the point of thinking we can get it back.  If that makes comfortable, it’s a life lesson; but that person is no victim.  Make no mistake; the world is shrinking.  There is less you can keep hidden all the time, and so if that’s what you really want, be diligent about it.  But if you sign up for a FREE service whose goal is to CONNECT PEOPLE WITH ONE ANOTHER, then you are surrendering some of those rights to complain.

Sometimes I teeter on the edge of saying “to hell with it, just take all the data and information that I have, there’s no way I can protect it.”  But another part of me wants to toil in the face of futility, and that part takes comfort in the fact that I could unplug my server tomorrow.

Newspaper Delivery by COMPUTER???!?!?!?

Kyle stumbled onto this fantastic (and ancient) piece of TV news from KRON in San Francisco, circa 1981.  It talks about those days in the distant “future” when newspapers will be delivered to “home computers” by the magic of the telephone! I think my favorite tag in the story is when they are interviewing user “Richard Halloran: Owns Home Computer”

Here is a link to the post from whence it came.

So Far, So OK

A big part of my “productivity scheduling” was to choose to significantly limit the amount of random computer BS time that I would allot myself at home.  I probably screw around on the Internet plenty while I’m at work, so I’ve put just about an hour and a half to be on the computer for Internetting and/or random tweaking and looking at… stuff.

It’s amazing how much more focused my surfing is, even this first morning.  Oh yeah, did I mention that?  My allotted Internet time is first thing when I get up (5:15, or later if I choose to waste the time in bed) until 6:40, when I absolutely have to start getting ready for work.

I think sticking to the schedule will be easy enough for the rest of the weekdays, but I also have to come up with a plan for weekend days.  And after a weekend, I’m hoping I’ll be able to slide right back in on Monday.

Meanwhile, though, I really want to know when Ubuntu is going to update Amarok to version 2 in the repository, so I only have about 45 minutes to figure that out… later!

Swallow It

In case anyone was curious, I thought I would offer an update on the issues I was having recently with a mandated switch to web-based mail at work.  To sum up: it means I have to give up Thunderbird as my mail client, and also choose a new RSS delivery system.  I ended up going with the Netvibes option after I discovered an easy way to import an .opml file that had feed information.

As I play around with netvibes a little more, I’m coming to realize that it really is a powerful and flexible system for aggregating syndicated web content.  I was previously using the bare minimum of options, and just checking out a few of the other possibilities helped me to think through still MORE content I could move to this page (beyond my RSS feeds).

If I discover anything exceptionally fantastical or noteworthy, I’ll probably let you know (even if you haven’t asked, because that’s what blogging is about).

Eat It

I find myself in a quandry as my place of employment changes over to a completely web-based email and calendaring system.  For about 4 or 5 years now, I have used my email client (either Outlook or Thunderbird) as my RSS aggregator as well.  I’ve been quite happy with this setup, because I like having browser windows open for Internetting, not really for mail, or word processing, or all the other crazy crap that seems to only be in “the cloud” these days.  In my mind, the beauty of RSS was that is could take the Internet and deliver it to me like mail.

One other issue that I have to admit has started to crop up in Thunderbird is that, since I read feeds in a few different places, I end up with repeats of “new” content, or subscriptions that are out of sync.  So, even though I could probably just stick with Thunderbird and use it only as a feed reader (and I might), I am entertaining other options.  Here are a few of the things that I’d like:

  • I want a reader that I don’t have to pay much attention to. I’m gathering the feeds because I want my cage rattled when there’s something to read.  Even if I’ve gathered a number of feeds in one spot (to avoid traveling to all those sites), it’s still not worth it to me if I have to actively go and look at that page.  So, I need a fairly concrete and active alert system.
  • Which items are new should be completely obvious. This might seem like a “duh” request, but I note it largely due to the RSS functionality built in to Firefox, which, while simple to use, doesn’t have a very intuitive display scheme, and it doesn’t notify you when there are new items.
  • Syncing all my subscriptions would be nice. But it’s not necessarily required.

Soooo, the options that are immediately clear to me are the following (do you know any others?):

  • stick with Thunderbird
  • use the live bookmarks feature in Firefox exclusively
  • pull all my feeds into my netvibes page
  • start using Google Reader
  • download a completely different RSS client (fat chance)

There must be options that I’m overlooking, or things I’m not thinking of, so if you have a comment, by all means feel free to share…

firing from the hip since 2002