DuckDuckGo flies from the top rope

Long time readers of this degenerate blog will know I take data and internet privacy issues pretty seriously.  But I guess this will be the first time I state that for over a year I haven’t used Google for internet search.  I use DuckDuckGo, who’s been around a long time, and makes it a point not just to not track you but help you understand who is tracking you and how they’re doing it.

In the year I’ve used DuckDuckGo, I haven’t noticed a decrease in my capability to internet search.  It’s widely acknowledged Google has the most proficient search algorithms in the business, but what do I care?  I’m not searching for details of obscure string theory research by some mad scientist in Belarus.  DuckDuckGo finds what I need like 99% of the time.  When they fail, I don’t go to Google, I try Bing next.

Now DuckDuckGo is making their tracking data more public, so you can see who are the real big time data offenders.  No points for guessing who the two worst assholes are:

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You might be surprised to see Adobe on this list, but remember they own/operated Adobe Flash Player and have been in the imbed business a long time.  This graphic confirms what many in the privacy business are coming to realize, an established consensus, that anything Google touches, to include Android, essentially functions as spyware.

Enjoy your day!

your car knows when you’ve been bad or good

As we’ve written previously on this degenerate blog, it’s in your interest to read most of what Geoffrey A. Fowler writes. Your smartphone has your DNA on file. Amazon knows what toothpaste you use. Google has a complete list of things you have nightmares about. Now your car is in on the game.

When I renewed my auto insurance policy Allstate tried to get shovey with me and do the driver monitoring program. Supposedly if you drive safely (I don’t) you get a discount on your insurance bill. The discount is probably like $5 a month. In exchange Allstate (and other auto insurance companies doing the same thing) probably go ahead and sell all your personal data for $15 a month. Naturally, I declined.

But all these auto insurance programs run via the app on your smartphone. In the future, it’s the car itself that will spy on you.

Fowler wanted to determine how much data and what kind of data a car was collecting. This (of course) was not an easy task:

But for the thousands you spend to buy a car, the data it produces doesn’t belong to you. My Chevy’s dashboard didn’t say what the car was recording. It wasn’t in the owner’s manual. There was no way to download it. To glimpse my car data, I had to hack my way in.

That’s right folks! The law is so loose and the Giant Octopus is so brazen that the only way Fowler could figure out what personal data was being pulled and sold was to hack the freaking car.

They also hacked another car computer they bought off the Internets:

For a broader view, Mason also extracted the data from a Chevrolet infotainment computer that I bought used on eBay for $375. It contained enough data to reconstruct the Upstate New York travels and relationships of a total stranger. We know he or she frequently called someone listed as “Sweetie,” whose photo we also have. We could see the exact Gulf station where they bought gas, the restaurant where they ate (called Taste China) and the unique identifiers for their Samsung Galaxy Note phones.

Maybe we should all just get it over with and let the Giant Octopus put the monitoring chip in our brains? It’d be quicker in the end.

The only other option is regression. Want a car that doesn’t spy on your without your knowledge? Buy a 1995 Ford. Want a fridge that doesn’t track what tasty food is contained therein? Buy one of those neato 1940’s fridges from the movies.

We’re doomed. We work for the Giant Octopus and most folks don’t even know it, or care.

Enjoy your day!

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a discovery process that is actually easier than attempting to read and understand a privacy policy

beware the Internets

More and more the Internets can turn into a nightmare.  Granted, it’s like being hit by a car.  For the most part, everybody goes online and it’s just fine, you get to see happy cat videos.  But if you get your identity stolen or your bank accounts drained (while your circumstances are rare) it’s an absolute nightmare that can temporarily ruin your life.

I’ve personally known folks who had their data ripped which resulted in ruined bank accounts, they couldn’t use a credit card, buy a car, do their taxes, etc, etc, etc.  It’s a nightmare folks.  You could see the daily stress on their faces.

When the Washington Post isn’t busy shaming itself and mortgaging its remaining credibility by banging on the incessant defeat Trump at any cost bandwagon (regardless of impartiality or honor) they still do some no kidding real hardcore journalism.

I don’t normally do this here, but you dear blog reader need to read everything that Geoffrey A. Fowler writes for the Post.  He knows the Internets, he knows how to get into the face of questionable Internets companies, and he knows privacy values.  You can find his latest piece on browser extensions here.  I don’t use browser extensions for these very reasons, but apparently millions of people do.  If you personally do, stop, please get away while you can.

Be sure to click on his author name too and read some of his other Post pieces.  You can then indulge in the true mess of the Internets where you (the customer) are basically just a doomed farm animal as bad people make money off of spying on you without your knowledge or consent.

There might be a reckoning, eventually, for all of this.  I say might because asking Congress to accomplish anything useful is like asking a rabid panther to walk your dog safely.  But there might be movement, witness Facebook’s disastrous introduction of its evil Bond villain digital currency recently.

But, until then, it’s truly the Wild West out there folks.  You can’t arm yourself with a revolver, so you’ve got to do it with knowledge.  Learn.  Protect yourself.  Beware the Internets.

break the cycle – revisited

Okay, first off here’s a picture of a happy emu to set the proper discussion mood.

[[original picture removed at the belligerent, touchy request of the original photographer; I have hundreds of my own photos posted to this blog; anybody can use them for any reason, take em, I don’t care; but I guess others do; for whatever reason]]

Of note, never approach an emu, they’re insane.  If you look between the lines, this happy emu smile is also the same form of smile an evil billionaire gets when they mash the “fire 2,384 employees” red button.  But for the purposes of this post, I’m going with the emu is happy and having a good day dammit [shakes fist at sky].

Per our prior post, I essentially checked out of the news for one solid week.  I only read the print edition of the Economist and got their morning Espresso updates.  So if somebody had nuked somebody else I’d have found out eventually.  I also managed to avoid seeing even one frame of television news which was especially awesome, though because the news is on everywhere this took some careful footwork.

Observations:

1) I did not miss reading the news or politics, pretty much at all.

2) I discovered that when online to check e-mail at home or at work, that muscle memory was compelling me to check the news several times a day without even thinking about it.  I had to stop myself in the moment of typing, it was weird and unsettling.  Eventually I got it to stop.

3) Originally, the idea was I needed to read then news every day to stay informed.  This is the idea of my Dad reading the print newspaper cover to cover every single morning.  It was a man’s responsibility to stay informed about the world.

4) This has now crossed over into the Internets world where the quest for knowledge has now been overcome by the emotional side that folks ascribe to politics and the second-to-second melee that is the social media world.  Additionally, even the most professional of news sites also contain a not unsubstantial amount of straight clickbait in order to increase revenues.  I don’t want this, and I don’t need this.

Conclusion:

a) I’m going to transition to the newspaper format in getting my news.  I will read my online news once in the morning and be done with it.  I won’t logon for the rest of the day.  If I giant mutant blue whale starts assaulting a major city, somebody will just have to text me and let me know and then I’ll login.

b) I think this will be a good balance, a return to the traditional balance of news my family had growing up with paper newspapers.  Get your news in the morning, process it, and then get on with your normal day, your life, without the distractions or the noise of the planet.

c) After all, the news and politics is just information.  For the most part I can’t do a damn thing about any of it.  I’ve got my own life with my own problems and my own responsibilities.  That’s where more of my focus belongs.

the establishment hasn’t caught up with the reality of our new distributed planet

Yesterday a judge blocked the online publication of blueprints for a 3D printed gun.  The States who filed the complaint called it, “a bell that cannot be un-rung”.  The judge said, “There are 3D printers in public colleges and public spaces and there is the likelihood of potential irreparable harm,”.

So apparently all these folks don’t understand how the Internets works, haven’t heard or understood the word Torrent, and don’t understand the reality of how the planet currently works.

To borrow their term, I can guarantee you that 3D printing of firearms is going to be rung.  And it’s going to be rung very, very soon.  Soon it’ll be possible for anybody with access to cash to print any kind of gun they want, handgun, shotgun, assault rifle, whatever.  It’s going to happen.  That’s one of the fearful miracle implications of 3D printing, fueled by an Internets that enables the distribution of any knowledge whatsoever.

For over 15 years terrorists have been capable of teaching 19 year old disgruntled street urchins from Paris and Brussels how to make nail bombs.  All of this knowledge is easily accessible online.  It’s never going away.  If the establishment thinks 3D printed handgun designs will be any different because some judge says so, they’re hopelessly naive.

As another example please kindly gaze upon the disaster that is killing more Americans than cars in oxy and fentanyl.  The cops, judges, and legislators went after oxy because it was stacking five figures of dead Americans each year.  But then fentanyl materialized out of thin air.

If you haven’t heard, there’s a new villain in town called carfentanil.  It’s even more powerful than fentanyl.  The number of American overdosing each year is higher than ever.  Would you care to take a bet on if the number of dead is going to fall, or if you think carfentanil will be the last drug created out of thin air and pushed on the streets?

The establishment hasn’t caught up with the reality of our new distributed planet.  This is the reason Trump was elected, not Russia.  But understanding that our planet has changed irreversibly is really fucking hard to grasp.  It’s a lot easier for folks to demonize Putin (a cardboard cutout well deserving of the asshole appellation) and move on.

But the opioid epidemic is an example of a massive problem that the establishment cannot solve.  Folks want results and government can’t or won’t deliver.  Because government hasn’t adapted to a changed world.

What to do?  Well, for the drug problem this belligerent degenerate blog has always been about legalizing absolutely everything.  Because the government is never going to be able stop drugs.  Especially in an age where you can factory manufacture lethal opioids in a lab like it’s aspirin.

Let folks get high, who gives a damn?  Treat addiction like the disease it is.  Let folks shoot up or drop pills in clinics where they can get help when they inevitably OD and can get advice and support on how to quit.  Treat the problem, don’t criminalize it when criminalization hasn’t worked for over 100 years of drug crime fighting.

For 3D printed guns, I don’t know, I haven’t gotten that far yet.  But my guess is the answer is probably in the ammunition.  I have no idea, but I’m guessing it’s probably a lot harder to make ammo from nothing than to 3D print a gun.  Put since the establishment isn’t thinking things through (again) all they’ve got is the order of some judge to try and stop it.  It will fail.

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Behold that which cannot be stopped.

an arrest record one can be proud of

If you’re like me and try to read the BBC every day you’ll realize that at any given time, probably 1/3 of the links on their News main page is pure clickbait.  I’ve always found this weird and kind of shameful for what should otherwise be a professional news organization.

But I guess every website feels compelled to use clickbait now.  There’s a charity that helps cure malaria in children, and on their web page front and center is a link that says: “You’ll never guess what job can increase your happiness this much!”.  Hint, it’s undertaker.

Hey speaking of death, the BBC got me.  I’m so ashamed.  I couldn’t help myself and dove into this clickbait headline:

Ethiopian ‘prophet’ arrested after trying to resurrect corpse

Essentially this dude had folks dig up a corpse and he tried to bring said dead body back to life:

Getayawkal Ayele had tried to revive the corpse of Belay Biftu by lying on top of him and repeatedly yelling “Belay, wake up”.

When this didn’t work (for whatever reason) the guy’s family started to beat up this false god.  For his efforts, Mister Ayele got himself arrested for messing with a dead body, which is apparently a crime even if you received the family’s permission to do it.

We at TAP have a few conclusions to draw from this most consequential of today’s events.  Please bear with us as we display only keen insight and brilliance.  Your cooperation, as always, is truly appreciated.  We truly desire to keep liquidation to an absolute minimum.

1) What did the family of the deceased expect to happen?  I’ve seen some pretty crazy shit in my life, but I’m pretty sure there are some things you can bet your life on.  For example, unicorns don’t exist.  Did the family really expect that they would be the first folks to experience something that has never, ever happened before in all of human history?

2) What did Ayele expect to happen?  Either he’s insane, was intoxicated, or what?  But did this guy actually expect this to work?  Usually a grifter has a backup plan.  When he discovered that he could, in fact, not actually resurrect the dead what was his next move?  Was he just going to run away in a puff of smoke ala the Roadrunner?

3) This is an arrest record one can be proud of.  If you’re going to get wrapped up by the authorities, it should be something you can be proud of.  “I got taken in for drunk driving”, makes you sound like a dick and a loser.  “I got taken in for trying to resurrect a corpse”, instantly makes you the most popular dude in the bar.

4) Fuck Netflix’s The Frankenstein Chronicles.  So bad.

5) This will not be the last time in your lifetime you see an attempt to resurrect a corpse.  Soon, they’ll be growing human hearts in a lab.  And a guy or gal will have a heart attack and essentially, well, die.  Then they’ll rush that corpse to the ER and instead of calling it, the doc will try and put a new heart in the person and essentially bring them back to life.  The social and religious implications of this are astounding, but it’s going to happen.

6) “My mum found my first grey hair at seven.”  Hmm, that sounds weird.  Maybe I’ll click on that, and so [eyes glaze over], no, No, NO! [waves hands around head as if shooing away flies]

7) The title of this blog post was intentionally clickbait.  Did I get you?  If so, I’m not sorry.

PS, I really am sorry.

Godless – this was good

Netflix has rolled the dice on an awful lot of content.  They’ve placed their faith in a business model where they generate their own stuff and not show other people’s stuff.  In short, they want to be HBO, not a distributor like Blockbuster [cue scene of creepy cemetery with Blockbuster jingle playing in background].

The problem is as they’ve transitioned to this model they’ve ended up producing or contracting a large amount of garbage.  In other words, Netflix is no longer infallible and falls into the same trap as other content creators.  Sometimes things work out, sometimes they’d don’t.

If you’re looking for one where Netflix mostly succeeds, you can safely go with Godless.  This was good.  It wasn’t great, but good.  With all the recent Netflix failures I’ve had, I’ll take good, and be happy for the experience.

As Western’s go, this one’s pretty straightforward.  The plot almost doesn’t quite matter.  What you get is incredible acting, set design, costumes, etc.  And you can then check out your brain and enjoy the experience.  The plot isn’t magical, but it works and works well.  You care what happens to these people.  You’re invested in what’s happening on screen.

Where it nearly comes off the rails is in tone, which is why I can’t consider it great.  I could list several examples.  Instead I’ll just list one:

Is this a shocking, horrific Western like Unforgiven?  It certainly starts out that way.  The very first scene is a town massacred with a child hanging from a church.  But, then later in the series they seem to forget about this horror and it becomes some kind of cooky Western where in a battle where thousands of bullets are flying they won’t allow themselves to show one horse shot (because everybody loves horseies) and an important villain comically gets shot out a window into a pile of flames.  Not the biggest of problems, but often in Godless the tone just didn’t make sense.

My biggest two positive takeaways:

1) They take their time.  Did you ever think a modern series would take 15 minutes of screen time just to show how a cowboy tames a wild horse?  I didn’t.  And I loved it.  In a world where studios think the viewer’s attention span is eight seconds this idea is to be supported.

2) Jeff Daniels.  I don’t get why people don’t think Daniels is one of the great actors of our time.  This is a dude who can play an outstanding role as random dude (a), George Washington, a comedy idiot, a Civil War general, and here in Godless an absurdly creepy villain.  Daniels is simply amazing.  Godless is worth it just to see him go at it.

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This was good.

our extended review of Netflix’s The Frankenstein Chronicles

Sean Bean dies.  Again.  In a comical, near note-for-note recreation of his death at the end of Game of Thrones Season 1, Bean’s character is falsely accused and publicly executed for a crime he didn’t commit.

But it’s okay, because The Reaper was going to get him anyways.  For in the show Bean also has terminal syphilis.  And so no matter what happened, you knew Bean was going to die.  Again.

And the viewer is made to bathe in the awfulness of non-redemption and malaise.  Again.

It looks great though.  All the setting and clothing and steaming hard cider booze mugs and authentic draft horses look great.  So at least there’s that.

Oh, and in the last 15 minutes Bean’s down-on-his-luck grizzled cop (who is explicitly referenced as Richard Sharpe in all but name at least a half-dozen times) becomes Frankenstein and the last two minutes of the show have organ music playing.  I shit you not.

Do not bother.

We give this comical disaster 2 out of 5 stars.

exlpoding planet recommendation 2

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“Oh, hey there lads.  What’s that?  I gotta die again?  Well, that’s the breaks I suppose.  Long as the gig pays well.”

Facebook continues to win

Hey remember when everybody hated Facebook since it trashed their privacy?  That was all of three weeks ago.  Remember THAT?  No?  Apparently folks don’t.  Nobody cares anymore.  Facebook understands that the planet’s attention span (largely because of the internet) is about eight seconds.  So Zucky had to keep his cool, talk like a robot, play it safe, and eventually it would all blow over.

It certainly helped that all the rich, self-inflated, but ultimately dumb people in Congress couldn’t tell the difference between a Facebook algorithm and a ham sandwich.  These are the guys and gals with the power to regulate Facebook so it doesn’t sell your personal data to a KGB backed hedge fund or a bunch of alien overlords who will one day enslave you using Zucky as the turncoat Emperor of all Humanity.

But Zucky banked that Congress is so gridlocked, and so incompetent that he could ride it out.  All he had to do in front of Congress was not stand up, give them all the finger, both barrels, and say, “Fuck you all.  I might be the most powerful man on the planet.  Do your worst.  Foools.”  But since he didn’t do that, Facebook continues to win.

After Congress let Zucky handle them like a seven figure donor, coincidentally Facebook’s stock went up north of 5%.  That means Zucky’s performance over a two day span increased his personal net worth by over $3B.  Never has one human in all of history made so much money so quickly by saying so little to people so incredibly dumb and ineffective at their jobs.  It’s the perfect harbinger for where the planet is headed.

It gets better because of a number of tidbits that STILL inexplicably came out during Zucky’s testimony.  It goes to show you how easy it would have been for competent questioners to hand Zucky his ass.  The guy just doesn’t know how to deal with people getting in his face.  It’s why he (I’m not kidding) walks around with a personal security detail close in number to that of the President.

First, whoever you are, Facebook has a profile on you.  Whether you have a Facebook account or not, Facebook has a profile on you and is tracking you.  They do this in case one day you create an account they already have a head start.  But they really do this so they can connect you into the network of networks which involves your friends, family, coworkers, etc, most of whom have Facebook accounts.

The network of networks is what Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc will need to truly let the future AI algorithms do their magic.  The idea is that the AI knows what you want for breakfast before you know what you want for breakfast.  I’m not joking.  It’ll be the digital voice assistant which is the ultimate end game to engage with you on this.  Whoever can get to you first, gets your money and loyalty.  That’s why the arms race of AI is so hotly contested.  As is the race to get ever more amounts of your personal data into one bag.

Second, Zucky emphasized that he sees Facebook as an international company and not an American company.  He essentially punted on the “only in America” idea when directly asked about it.  As in, Zucky doesn’t believe in the idea that the freedom, entrepreneurial spirit, and rule of law that Facebook was afforded by America makes Facebook an American company.  If he’d been born in China or Egypt or Poland he seems to think Facebook would still exist.  This is kind of a shocking statement from a guy who runs a company that is (in theory) bound by American law.  Especially for a guy who is said to harbor political ambitions.

Third, Zucky also refused to answer Congress on whether or not Facebook tracks its users when the user is not physically logged in.  Zucky said he didn’t know.  Which was of course a blatant, shameless lie.  Facebook tracks its users when they’re not logged in.  Similar to how Google tracks its users credit card purchases via a backdoor agreement with many national retailers.

Again, Facebook needs their user’s offline activity tracked because it further feeds the AI networks.  But since Congress doesn’t understand any of this, and can’t do basic tasks like pass a budget on time, don’t expect things to change.  Facebook will continue to win.

I think folks are waking up to this, that Facebook can’t be stopped.  And in one of the first dominoes to fall is the resignation of Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp and for the last four years an employee of Facebook.  Koum has battled with Facebook’s leadership for years over monetization, ads, WhatsApp’s privacy and encryption, you name it.  He’s leaving now.  And most of those who see things his way will undoubtedly follow.  Then Facebook can finally have its way with WhatsApp.

So if you use WhatsApp (as I unfortunately have to do at the moment overseas; I’ll be deleting it one day after I get home) be prepared for some major changes as the program becomes more invasive, less secure, gets ads, and otherwise further links itself into the Facebook hive.  But it’s okay, because in the end it isn’t about you, it’s about the people who will further own your life.

Take Koum for example, he might have lost the battle with Facebook, but in terms of winning the war of life?  He has won.  Quote:

“In his Facebook post, Koum said he would take some time off from technology to focus on other pursuits, “such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee.””

There are serious, long term concerns to the future of humanity with regards to what the internet is going to do to us all.  But to Silicon Valley, in the end, it’s about success.  As in, money.  To Koum, he might genuinely share the same concerns I do about these matters.  But in the end, to Koum, it’s all about those air-cooled Porsches baby!