So the UK government seems to have launched a new public awareness campaign dubbed #cyberstreetwise  (evidenced by posters in the Tube I spotted this weekend). The campaign’s web site is : https://www.cyberstreetwise.com. Bonus points for a https URL. Negative points for choosing a “.com” domain instead of a more appropriate “.co.uk” or even “.uk” domain. So first of all, I was confused initially about who was supporting it. The logos at the bottom left panel include HM Government but also the more recognizable Facebook and Twitter logos (without explanation) which seems (to me) to mean “this is being sponsored by the government, Twitter and Facebook” or possibly “this is a government initiative with sponsorship provided by Twitter and Facebook.” In fact, reading the web site, it appears that neither Twitter nor Facebook have any formal role, so the presence of their logos is somewhat mystifying. I Suppose they just mean “we are on Twitter and Facebook” but honestly, these days who isn’t? [Side note: what is up with random Facebook and Twitter logos on things?  See my Twitter update on this topic that seemed to “go viral” earlier today.] But putting this to the side for a second, I really don’t know what to make of this campaign. On the one hand, it’s exactly the kind of public awareness campaign thatI feel is needed. People need to start getting more aware of the the web basics, especially around privacy, e-safety, scams. use of strong passwords, installation of updates and use of security software. So yes. Great. But the …

Mixed Feelings About the UK Government #Cyberstreetwise Campaign Read more »

#HTML5  goes to "Rec." Definitely worth celebrating. But also, Web Standards are messy. This CNET article by +Stephen Shankland really does a good job of peeling that back. Bonus points for featuring a #w3cmeme . #blogthis  ? The World Wide Web Consortium finishes an update to this seminal Internet technology, but with two organizations in charge of the same Web standard, charting the Web’s future is a mess.

According to The Verge, the “Anonabox” Kickstarter is Trying to be a One-Stop-Shop for Internet Privacy. So the hacker in me loves the idea of this, but actually I think it’s probably over-kill (and an over-promise) for most people’s web privacy needs. First of all, if you want to surf the Web through the Tor network you just have to download an install the Tor browser bundle (https://www.torproject.org/download/download – also see this Guardian article from last year: http://gu.com/p/3k569) . This application download actually pairs a heavily customized (with additional anonymity-enhancing features) Firefox browser with the Tor networking software. But even that is overkill for most casual “private browsing.” If you are just trying to search privately (for example, for medical-related topics that you don’t want showing up in your ads the next time you search the web) then the private browsing modes that now come as standard with modern browsers (Chrome calls it “incognito”) are perfectly fine. What these modes don’t protect you from is your network provider (ISP) snooping browsing. Tor does encrypt your network traffic (to the Tor service) but it comes with major downsides such as slowness. Because of the way Tor works, routing your traffic around the Internet until it finally pops out onto the public Net at an “exit node”, your traffic will also appear as if it’s coming from another country than the one you live in. So for example if you live in the UK you will find BBC iPlayer will not work through Tor. Also if you run …

“Anonabox”: One-Stop-Shop for Internet Privacy? Read more »

Just playing around with the new “hand off” (I guess this falls under) feature in IOS8 / Yosemite. If you have a phone number in a web page suitably marked up as <a href=”tel:…”>link</a> and visit that page with Safari, clicking on the link will automatically send you to the FaceTime calling application which will start calling the number from your (i)phone with the audio piped through your Mac. Very neat trick!

This article from The Next Web is a good write-up of different options available for creating your own URL shortener. I’m a big fan of short URLs, but I think one of the draw-backs can be that they create a more “brittle” web – that is, if the URL shortner service (such as bit.ly) you use goes out of business then all the URLs you’ve shortened and shared through various means become useless. Conversely, sites such as the NY Times and BBC have created their own short URL mechanism, on top of a domain they own (nyti.ms and bbc.in respectively), to facilitate sharing. This allows those organizations to keep the short URLs they mint active as long as the organization (and the Internet) continues to exist (which is about as much as you can hope for). Making it easier to host your own domain name shortening service and to own your own short URLs can only be a good thing. But URL owners still need to remember that once a URL (short or otherwise) is out there in the wild it needs to be maintained, even if a site’s structure changes. CF “cool URIs don’t change”: http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/URI

So I get a notification on my phone today that my (relatively newly installed) Nest Protect smoke alarm is going off and there is “smoke in the hallway.” This happens to be the day we have a cleaner in in the morning and nobody else is in the house. Going into the app, I saw that the alarm had been “hushed” (presumably by the cleaner) so I immediately suspected that house was not, in fact, burning down. Got in touch with the cleaner and she reported that there was no smoke but that the alarm kept going off. Luckily I was able to come home and check out the situation. Indeed, when I came home the alarm was freaking out and the air was completely clear. I took the unit outside just to be sure and it still kept going off. I turned the unit off and then on again (channeling the IT Crowd) and still the alarm was going off. So I called customer service. I found the customer service number buried on their web site (and also a US number with no dialing prefix so I had to know how to dial it – not ideal for a UK customer). Once I got through to an agent, they were super-helpful (even though it was the middle of the night for them), took me through a check-list and swiftly arranged for a replacement unit to be sent out to me. I’m still not sure whether the unit was faulty or if it was something the …

Fun with the Nest Smoke Alarm Read more »

I am starting to really love +Quartz! Here is a news provider that is reporting on stuff I'm interested in, as a fantastic well-designed (responsive, #html5 ) Web site with innovative features such as infinite scrolling, links to their sources, provides easy to copy short-links to all their articles, comments and annotations on individual paragraphs… They are really pushing the Web platform as a for #journalism in an interesting direction. My wish list includes better support for off-line capabilities, push notifications on platforms that support them, more video, deeper social integration (see what people are saying on Twitter/etc.. right now about this article), better performance on mobile browsers and on the editorial side more in-depth analysis. #blogthis? Quartz is a digitally native news outlet for the new global economy.

One of my main hopes for 2014 is that things should start working better. In many ways, I feel that both iOS and Android have taken a step backward in achieving this ideal this year. One notable example I ran into was in trying to get photos off of my wife’s Samsung Galaxy (Android) phone and into iPhoto on the Mac. Intuitively, it should just work. You should be able to plug a Samsung phone into the Mac via a USB cable and iPhoto should just start importing the photos. This is how it would work if you plugged in a Samsung (or any other brand) camera. When I took to Twitter with this issue I was told by some Googlers (“Oh – it’s easy! Just download Android File Transfer for Mac!”). Riiight. That’s kind of missing the point. There already is a perfectly good way of doing this – a way that “just works.” The introduction of a new step, or series of steps, or new pieces of software, move us away from that ideal. How exactly are regular people supposed to use this stuff? How would I, as a non-technical user, know that I am supposed to download this special application, which is not mentioned anywhere on the phone’s interface? If the answer is “you just have to download XYZ application and install it, then go through an extra set of procedures whenever you want to get photos off of your phone into iPhoto (which is the Mac application that most people use to …

Can More Things “Just Work” in 2014? Read more »

This was originally posted to Facebook – now I am posting a summary post here, as it relates to a previous post I’ve made on this same issue on the G+ service (“Shared Endoresements”): As reported in the NYT over the weekend, it seems like Facebook is about to expand the use of personal “likes” and endorsements on ads it shows to other users. If you “like” something, your image could appear next to an advertiser’s message if one of your friends sees that ad – and now they are planning to extend this practice to ads placed on sites outside of the Facebook site itself. As far as I can tell, you can opt out of this by visiting your Facebook settings, clicking on “Ads” on the left-hand navigation bar and clicking “Edit” to set the setting to “no-one” for both “Third Party Sites” and “Ads and Friends.” Personally I have chosen to opt out as I am not comfortable with my image being displayed along side of an advertiser’s message just because I happen to have “liked” a company or product in the past. I’m also not happy with the lack of communication about this new service from Facebook to its users. Google have rolled this out as well on Google+ as “Shared Endorsements” and I’ve also opted out of that – but at least they offered some clear instructions on how to opt out. For this, I’ve got to read about it in The New York Times? (http://nyti.ms/1bKYAxB) The subtext here about teens being …

Facebook’s Price Hike (and How to Opt Out) Read more »