Category Archives: Web

Quote of the day: A beautiful, flexible, powerful mess

The web thrives on diversity. It’s the diversity of the web that sustains it and it’s the thing that will mean it’s still around long after all the monocultures, whether they be browsers or Facebooks or Googles, have long since vanished from the online ecosystem.

Scott Gilbertson on the value of diversity and why Firefox still matters

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Rolling back

I noticed that the Twenty Seventeen Theme that I installed on this blog at the start of the year wasn’t playing too nicely with Epiphany. Having lots of links in a post is a bit pointless if you have to hover your mouse over them in order for them to be highlighted.

So I have rolled back to the previous theme which, if I’m honest, looks a lot nicer than all this new-fangled modernity,

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Removing Google Apps from a Fairphone

One of the nice things about the Fairphone is that none of the Google Apps are installed by default. There is a widget that allows you to manually install them and, when I received my phone back in 2014 I hesitated briefly, then tapped it.

This means, of course, that if I want to scrape all of these apps off my phone, the easiest approach is to backup and reset.

It worked, but the results aren’t quite what I expected. I still see apps like the Play Store, Gmail and Google+ on my phone, which leaves me wondering what the Google Apps Installer actually installs. This also means that my phone is still a lot less Googly than I would like and I have simply managed to find the slow way of removing an account.

However, I went ahead and installed F-Droid and started searching for current apps or replacements. This was successful and F-Droid does have everything I want, and more more. The only quirk I encountered was with the iFixit app which was installed by default on the phone. F-Droid tells me there is an upgrade, which I can’t install without first removing the original app. And I can’t remove the original app.

The Fairphone 1 is rooted by default, so I should be able to remove this. But right now, it’s late and I’m going to bed.

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New Year, New Look

With the latest release of WordPress, the Twenty Seventeen theme was also released. And I’ve not only managed to find a bit of time to play around with it, but I’ve also cleaned up some of the sidebar links while I was at it. I’m not entirely sure about the massive header image, but the theme itself seems to work reasonably slickly so I shall see how it goes.

And, as we venture cautiously into 2017, all that remains is for me to with you all the best of luck for the new year.

Congratulations on surviving 2016, here’s hoping we all make it through the next 365 days.

Happy New Year Danbo.
Photo by Leland Francisco. Click image for original.

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Great UI design from LinkedIn

Although I have a LinkedIn account, I don’t often look at it. But today was one of those rare moments that I not only looked at the site but I even tried to leave a comment. And here’s what LinkedIn said:

There was a problem sharing your update. Please try again.

After a bit of experimenting, it appears that LinkedIn has an undocumented character limit. My original 774 characters was problematic, but once I’d cut it doen to 670 characters the problem went away. So I’m guessing there’s a 700 character limit on LinkedIn comments.

But seriously, if this is the problem, why can’t the site damn well say so. “There was a problem sharing your update,” means nothing and telling people to just try again is a guaranteed method of causing frustration and losing attention. Is it really so difficult to say “Please shorten your comment to 700 characters”.

Or, better still, provide a little decrementing counter of the sort you see on the Quitter UI for GNU social.

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Unified hosts file with base extensions

Using the /etc/hosts file to block malicious sites at the operating system level is an effective way of ensuring that none of your applications will access any of these sites, ever, and has the advantage of removing the need for a separate browser plugin for every browser you might possibly use. But maintaining the /etc/hosts file involves doing work and this is where Steven Black‘s hosts comes in handy.

This repository consolidates several reputable hosts files, and merges them into a unified hosts file with duplicates removed. This repo provides several hosts files tailored to you need to block.

Using it is simple. Clone the repository, update the myhosts file with any custom host records you may have, and add any domains you don’t want to block to the whitelist. Then build your hosts file:

python updateHostsFile.py

There are a number of switches you can use (all of which are documented in the readme file) which allow you to control which types of sites to block and whether you want to automatically replace your existing /etc/hosts file.

This all works very nicely indeed, but I’m lazy. So I knocked together a short script to grab any updates from the repository and rebuild my hosts file:

#! /bin/bash
# Automatically update hosts file

# Change to the correct folder and do a git pull
cd /home/paul/Stuff/hosts
git pull origin master

# And update the hosts file
python updateHostsFile.py -a -r

And put it in /usr/local/bin.

This means I can use a systemd service and timer to execute this every Saturday afternoon.

[Unit]
Description=Auto-update hosts file

[Service]
Type=oneshot
Environment=DISPLAY=:0
ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/hosts
StandardOutput=journal

[Install]
WantedBy=basic.target
[Unit]
Description=Auto Update Hosts File

[Timer]
OnCalendar=Sat 14:00:00
Persistent=true
Unit=hosts.service

[Install]
WantedBy=basic.target

And, so far, it all appears to be working very nicely indeed.

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Free subdomains with FreeDNS

Because remembering an IP address is hard.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a private Voxelands server running so that the boys can build and explore in the same world. This works pretty well but it does mean that, as can happen, one of them connects to the wrong server I have to go and look up the IP address so that I can reconnect them.

And then I discovered FreeDNS which, as the name suggests, allows you to set up a subdomain for free. You sign up, select a public domain from the extensive list available, add a subdomain, and point it at your IP address.

It really is as simple and as quick as that.

I’m impressed at how simple and painless they have managed to make the whole process. So much so that, if I do find myself needing a premium service, I will be very happy to go back to them.

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Happy Blogiversary, Inscius

The Weblog of Inscius turned five years old yesterday. This means that it is now old enough to help with the weeding, but not old enough to know the difference between weeds and vegetables.

My blogging has gone down markedly, especially this year, but I am not giving up. I never had a goal, I did not have a glorious five-year plan. I write for my own enjoyment, and others’ enjoyment. Or pity :p

I find my own blogging can be all over the place. There are times when I am posting updates daily and other times when I don’t even look at the blog for a month or more. Ideally, I would like to manage a post per week, but time and motivation often get in the way. That said, though, it is nice to have a small space on the web that is unambiguously mine.

Happy blogiversary, Mikael, and here’s to another five years of text-based dufferdom.

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Facebook: Spying with impunity again

Back in November, a Belgian court ruled that Facebook should stop tracking Belgians who are not signed up to the site or pay a daily penalty of €250,000. This ruling, unfortunately, was overruled on appeal at the start of this month. Not, it should be noted, because Facebook is justified in tracking people who are not logged in or have never sighed up to their site, but because:

Belgian courts don’t have international jurisdiction over Facebook Ireland, where the data concerning Europe is processed.

The issue here is one of jurisdiction, not principle. The data protection and privacy laws invoked in this case exist at the EU level, they have not been challenged and the only question is who gets to enforce them. Since Facebook’s European operations are based in Dublin, that would be the Irish.

A little poking around online led me to europe-v-facebook.org:

Are EU Data Protection Laws enforceable in Practice? This may be the main question that europe-v-facebook.org is now about. The right to data protection is a fundamental right in the European Union, but at the same time very little companies respect it. Facebook is just one of many that have a bad reputation when it comes to the handling of users’ data.

So the question arises if users are just too lazy to do something about it, or if the laws are in practice unenforceable?

We unintentionally landed in the middle of a big experiment after filing 22 complaints against Facebook in Ireland, because of breaches of the most basic privacy rules. We happened to look at Facebook for a number of reasons, but the results are very likely exemplary for a whole industry.

You can follow our journey and the under “Legal Procedure“.

While it is clear by now, that no normal citizen is able to follow through with such a proceeding, we are still working to get our final decision today. We want to know if our fundamental rights are respected and enforced against tech giants like Facebook, or if our rights are only existing on the paper.

You can support them at crowd4privacy.org.

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Putting newsletters in the newsfeed

This is handy:

Introducing email newsletters in your RSS reader.

You can now forward your email newsletters over to NewsBlur and then read your email newsletters right in your browser/phone/TV/tablet.

For me, newsletters fall into two categories. The first is marketing bumpf none of which has any value. These are the mails that I try to avoid signing up to in the first place (always uncheck that “Please send me offers” checkbox). Sometimes I forget, though, which has me either looking for the unsubscribe button or – if all else fails – automatically filtering them out of my inbox and into the trash.

The second set is where Newsblur will (hopefully) come in handy. These are the newsletters associated with accounts I have or campaigns in which I am interested. These are the mails that are not urgent enough for me to want them cluttering up my inbox, but which I do want to read at some point.

I have a Newsblur account and have set up an initial filter. It will be interesting to see the effect of moving a little more clutter out of my inbox and into my RSS reader.

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