Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (March 2022)

Flag of Ukraine

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing the cyber-war alongside the disinformation war and of course the physical blood shed of war in the Ukraine from Vladimir Putin. It makes delivery drivers dancing for likes and Tinder changing prices based on personal data look even more pathetic.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with the incredible resistance from the Ukraine people along with People leaving Facebook, enzymes eating plastics and  Android getting tracking protection.


Thoughts about the digital public sphere

Ian thinks: I still find re-reading Bill Thompson’s entry into the book “Building a European digital public space“, still full of wisdom and insight for the future of the digital public ecosystem.

The rush to virtually own your home has started

Ian thinks: On the face of it, it seems like a load of nonsense but the harms are clear as you read further and consider how the big tech corps always buy the smaller startups.

Mozfest’s grand webmontization tipping experiment

Ian thinks: Adding tipping to Mozfest is going to be a interesting dynamic for the mainly virtual festival this year. To take part you just need one of the pay what you like tickets.

O’reilly’s thoughts on Web3, interesting technology but get ready for the crash

Ian thinks: Tim O’Reilly has been asked a few time for his thoughts and this piece for CBS, certainly has put the cats in with the NFT pigeons.

The technology is questionable but the community is real?

Ian thinks: I do find something of hope in this article, as it explores the community side of the web3 hype. If the community spirit can outlive the huge speculation, that might make it worth while?

The deep worry of the fact checking systems

Ian thinks: Following Facebook fact checking the British medical journal, I found the EFF thoughts spot on. Saying you are fact checking isn’t nearly enough. Sadly a lot of people assume that is enough

Faster internet isn’t the panacea for a better society

Ian thinks: Although the paper seems slightly different from the news piece, The notion of faster internet as ultimate end is a bad mistake. Infrastructure is only part of the solution not the panacea.

Friction can be a good thing

Ian thinks: Last year I gave a talk about friction-less design and how it was partly to blame for the lack of control people have on the internet. This piece adds even more impact to the lack of friction.

Synthetic biology and needs a public entity?

Ian thinks: Amy’s new book The Genesis Machine, sounds far reaching but Amy raises a lot of points about who is driving synthetic biology? I kept wondering about a public entity besides Governments and Corporations.

Matrix’s swarm mode is truly terrifying (spoilers)

Ian thinks: There is so much about Matrix 4 which speaks about the current and future state of technology and society. Clearly swarm mode activating sleeper bots from a therapist who manipulates our feelings says plenty


Find the archive here

Roughly 4 days of app tracking with Duck duck go’s app tracking

4 days of app tracking with Duck duck go's app tracking system

Following the post a couple of days ago about Duck Duck Go’s app tracking system.

I had planned to make an update to the original post but after reading a few other pieces about it, thought it deserves another post.

So here is 4 days of data, and there are some really questionable tracking in there. For example I didn’t open my ereader prestigio app over the last 4 days but there was a tracking call to Google. Oura and Beeper are sending a lot of tracking calls. Wasn’t pleased with the calls to Facebook from Orfi and surprised OKCupid and POF apps were not tracking more.

I am thinking about maybe installing another app which does similar but unsure if I trust them as much duck duck go right now. Oh and I got my invite for Duck Duck Go’s mail tracking today too.

Trying out duck duck go’s app tracking protection

Duck duck go's app tracking protection on Android

I was in the queue to get access to the Duck Duck Go’s app tracking protection and yesterday caught a invite on my old Pixel 4 phone.

Its only been one day but you can see above there has been 1650 tracking attempts. Many from Beeper app, which is my instant messaging app of choice. I can forgive them as beeper is under heavy development and segment & functional seems to be a customer/feedback data platforms.
This is similar to Oura and I can see why Google would be tracking as I do connect it to Google Fit anyway.

On the annoying side, Orfi is a app which my volleyball teams have switched to from using facebook events. The Facebook and Google trackers is worry some but its only when the app is open, which isn’t most of the time. Likewise the Philips Hue app tracking is annoying, as I do have that open a lot for controlling my lights. Plume is a tricky one but I will look through the settings to see if there is something which could be turned off.

Frankly its all really interesting to see and funny enough, the battery life of my Pixel 6 has completely changed. Usually its at about 75% after a day but today its at 85%. Not much different but the apps using the most battery power has completely changed.

Of course this is all after one day, so I expect I’ll see what happens over time and likely write a follow up.

Duck Duck Go are on fire and we need to see more of this…

 

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Jan 2022)

Mozfest 2022

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed thinking about the security & privacy of live facial recognition, Qualcomm’s always on smartphone camera and the erosion of community over convenience.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with seeing the work around better AI pictures, Lush closed down its social media accounts. and even Elon Musk & Jack Dorsey’s doubts about Web3.


Mozilla Festival 2022 tickets now available

Ian thinks: There is so much to love about the Mozilla festival and 2022 will include a virtual mozfest and a more distributed programme over months. Its exciting to be part of something special.

App tracking via tunnel technology

Ian thinks: I always found tunneling technologies like VPNs powerful ways to understand the characteristics of networks. Duck duck go’s app tracking uses the technique to shine a light on app surveillance on Android devices.

WordPress Matt’s humble thoughts on saving the internet

Ian thinks: Personally I find Matt Mullenweg one of the most humble and thoughtful people out of the valley. I would never underestimate him and the open interconnected services he’s creating. I find this profile of him clearly one to watch.

Technocultural through the eyes of black technology

Ian thinks: This talk by Dr Andre Brook is a strong talk given at Microsoft with a lot of pointers to positive alternative technologies and approaches which benefit all minorities.

1000 true fans, back with a vengeance?

Ian thinks: Kevin Kelly’s original blog was well thought out and this follow on looking at coming technology does give Kevin’s original blog a lot of legs.

Sleep walking into an advertisers dream

Ian thinks: Although very much early days, the studies so far are alarming and needs a lot of consideration. They had me, as someone who tracks their sleep every night.

Calculating the true environmental impact of AI

Ian thinks: Quantifying the carbon impact of different aspects of our lives is critical. What I like about this is not just applying it AI systems but the different practical methods being developed.

Could Filecoin be used for more public service purposes?

Ian thinks: Within this interesting discussion, there is aspects which could be useful for the public service internet. Shame Kevin pulls Mikeal off talking about it in detail.

The Economist’s 2022 look ahead has a couple of good points

Ian thinks: These prediction type things are everywhere at the start of the year. However I did find 2 stories about African fashion and Hybrid work, had some good points.

The last word on Meta

Ian thinks: This Vice documentary pretty much sums up everything to be said about Facebook/Meta. Even includes Lawrence Lessig along other smart people.


Find the archive here

Google’s material you: be together not the same

Android: Be together not the same
I spent some time in the spa recently and listened to a conversation about Android vs iOS in the stream room. I didn’t partake but found it interesting to hear how people were describing both and their dis/advantages.

There was a point when one person mentioned the customization of Android vs iOS, something like “you only just widgets last year”

But there is something which I have been thinking about in that general space.

Most phones are super similar and the software is what makes it different, its why I stick to the Google phones. I’m not keen on the Samsung opinionated software choices, although I understand people do find much comfort in the per-installed software and decisions. I think of it like Debian vs Ubuntu (of sorts). When Ubuntu came with Unity, I always installed Gnome Shell. It was easy enough to do, but its very difficult to do on a phone (replace Samsung’s UI with plain Android).

But back to phones…

The customization is key… I was originally concerned when Google was following Apple’s approach a while ago but then they seemed to understand the power of Android being yours and leaned right into customization.

Having upgraded to Android 12 a couple of days ago, I really like the system. Material you is surprising and is just right even in dark mode.

I am using Yatse remote which changes the background of my phone depending on what I am watching.That change will persist till I watch something else. I thought it might cause a clash but it doesn’t and still manages to look good always. The colour palette works no matter what. What would Joney Ive and Steve Jobs make of this design approach? Can’t imagine they would be a fan. Its one of the rejections I had about objectified the film/documentary is the lack of customization.

I found this video which sums up what I’m thinking. I look forward to seeing Material you on my new Pixel 6 soon.

 

Why is Slack storing passwords in plain text on Android devices?

https://mas.to/@cubicgarden/105712244073779967

I posted about Slack’s bug on mastodon. I knew this was going to be a pain the ass changing all those passwords, even with them all sitting in my password manager and most using 2fa.

However some of the users of Mastodon asked the question, why does the Slack app store the passwords on the device at all?

I thought about this and they are right. The app connects to a remote server and should request the user login. Once logged in, it should provide some kind of secure key/cookie/hash on the device not the actual password. On top of this, it certainly shouldn’t be in the form of plaintext.

Mistake, bug or not, this should not happen.

Schedule messages on Android

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Happy to see Google messages getting schedule messages at long last. Its been a long time in coming after Gmail’s schedule send last year.I have been using the beta and enjoying sending messages at 1am for a quite some time now.

Be great if Signal also added scheduling, although I did buy tasker to solve the scheduling of text and signal but haven’t sat down and played with it yet.

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Oct 2020)

the social dilemma

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing the endless press about Bytedance’s tiktok distracting us from the more important developments.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this happening with people rethinking systems they are using such as Zoom for Education and android without google.


The net of a thousand lie in full

Ian thinks: Cory pretty much covers Surveillance Capitalism but then turns to focus on the problem of monopolies as the heart of the problem. He’s got a real point which he builds very nicely on throughout this free book. I know Cory’s kickstarter for the next little brother book could do with some support too.

The start of a manifesto for digital autonomy?

Ian thinks: This sums up a lot of the issues people have with technology today by seeking to empowering people, focus on privacy by design, increase legibility and avoiding lock-in. Its version 0.1, and can learn more in their talk.

Mozilla CEO urges EU Commission to double down on a better internet

Ian thinks: Mozilla’s interest in Europe is clear to see. The recommendations from Mitch Baker are well reasoned although I haven’t heard much since. One to watch for the future.

Ransomware isn’t just painful its a killer

Ian thinks: Its clear the ransomware wasn’t deliberately sent to kill but the death in Germany does raise a possible scary future. Man slaughter, murder, what would you call this?

The thriving and wilting worlds

Ian thinks: Been recently discovering Anand Giridharadas and this brave talk to the wealthy Aspen Institute criticising them is where his book winner takes all started.

How Tiktok works and how it fits with the splintered internet

Ian thinks: I wasn’t going to talk about Tiktok but I found this Vox video documentary raised much deeper profound questions about the splinternet.

Refreshing look at Citizenship

Ian thinks: Its always refreshing to hear important discussions in different places. Citizenship discussed on the guilty feminists podcast is a mix of fun and deeper conversations. Well worth listening to, always but especially this one.

New open source tool for Tracking Disinformation

Ian thinks: Mozilla are regulars in my public service internet notes and for good reason. The Social Media Analysis Toolkit (SMAT) could be extremely powerful to shine a light on the social dilemma we all face looking at in our timelines. On a related note is data futures lab launch.

Our social dilemma?

Ian thinks: Good Netflix documentary, however I felt like it wasn’t as good as the HBO’s after truth. The family sections make it more tangible but I felt the dilemma was being told the problem by creators and investors of the problems. Problematic? I’m not the only one. Also worth listening to Team Humans writer Douglas Rushkoff’s thoughts too.


Find the archives here

Only 5 months later and face unlock is fixed

Its one of those things which I wasn’t happy about with my Pixel4. Who on earth over looked the fact you could use the face unlock without your eyes open! It doesn’t take a lot to think about the abuses including spouses with trust issues.

Finally over the last few days Google rolled out a fix which requires your eyes open if you enable it! Only 5 moths later

It was the first thing I did when I installed the update. Till that point I’ve been enabling lockdown mode when going through sensitive areas like airport security

/e/OS: The beauty of open source

/e/os on a phone

I was quite impressed with the /e/OS project. I hadn’t really heard of it before but as I’m considering the balanced of google service and data in my life; especially with the plans to move UK citizens data/accounts outside the EU.

Taking the AOSP Android Open Source project and removing all the google parts is quite impressive. A real testament to the power of open source.

The interview with itsfoss is a good read, starting off with the question of what and why

Why did you create this Eelo or /e/ project in the first place?

Gael: In 2017, I realized that using Android and iPhone, Google and many mobile apps was not compatible with my personal privacy.

A later study by a US University confirmed this: using an iPhone or and Android phone sends between 6 to 12 MB of personal data to Google servers, daily! And this doesn’t count mobile apps.

So I looked for reasonable alternatives to iPhone and Android phones but didn’t find any. Either I found options for hobbyists, like Ubuntu Touch, that were not compatible with existing apps and not fully unGoogled either. Or there were alternative ROMs with all the Google fat inside, and no associated basic online services that could be used without tweaking the system.

Therefore, an idea came to mind: why not fork Android, remove all the Google features, even low level, such as connectivity check, DNS…, replace default apps with more virtuous apps, add basic online services, and integrate all this into a consistent form that could be used by Mum and Dad and any people without tech or expert knowledge?

I’d be interesting in what apps run on the operating system, as Google really have embedded Play services into everything now. When I first got my recent e-reader, it came with its own app store till you enable play services. That store was super small but it doesn’t have to be that way if you look at F-droid for example.

If I still had my Nexus 5x, I would likely give /e/os a try. I could run it on my Nexus 5 I guess but the screen is maybe too broken.

I have been thinking, following my use of Firefox multiple account containers use. Maybe something of a mashup of Blackberry’s Android profiles (anyone remember this?) and Firefox containers.

This certainly feels like a design challenge which could be massively beneficial to many, and showcase the beauty of opensource

Do I like my Likebook Mars ebook reader?

Likebook mars ebook reader
Warning: There is a lot of Like puns ahead!

I recently bought the Likebook Mars ebook reader to replace my ENERGY SISTEM ebook reader. Why did I do this?

Well I liked my energy sistem as it was my very first android eink reader and fore-filled almost everything I was wishing for in a ereader. Its a great device but I found my reading habits changing. I mainly consume longer media content via audio or video rather than textual. I like text for reference, storage, retrieval and share ability. But my consumption was mainly aural. The Enegry sistem has no audio support at all, meaning I would use my phone for audio and occasionally look at the eink screen.

If I could have a ereader with audio too, that would be great for syncing and keep a track of things. Hence when I saw the Likebook (yeah I think its a silly name too) I consider it and bought it a few months later. Of course I’m selling my old ereader on ebay if interested.

After my research I knew I could do everything my previous one could do but also with the updated Android 6 operating system and more power might be able to run some apps which didn’t install or run previously. Its a very good device and the audio is spot on with my bluetooth headphones and a fallback analogue audio jack. At first I had some difficulty getting the google play store working but before I checked out the tutorials, I stumbled on the right settings, logged in and that was that.

The next problem wasn’t to do with the ereader but wallabag, which returned a error every time I synced. Finally after exporting then deleting a lot of archived pieces. This took a long time to diagnose and get sorted hence the long silence during the start of December on this blog.

Google play store on the likebook

Finally its all running correctly and I have almost everything on it.

I really like the fact there is now a lock screen because the previous one didn’t and I had to restrict a lot of its operations just incase. For example I disabled Gmail & Gdrive on it just incase. I know some of you will scream its running Android 6, so its game over anyway. But the previous one was running Android 4! I have taken care with the likebook but feel better about drivebys (as such). The amount of internal memory really helps as I can now stick ebooks and audiobooks on the same drive. Theres also a SD slot if more memory is ever needed. I can even put my VPN apps on it which is fantastic news.

Its a good device and now its settling down to its weeks of battery life after all the wallabag syncing.

IMG_20191220_191755

The only thing I miss really is the size of the device is 7.8 inches instead of 7 inches which makes it too big for my pockets including my jacket pocket. Weirdly enough, it almost fits in my headphones pouch, providing some protection from scratches in my laptop bag.

I like it so far… not quite over the mars about it but its growing on me.

A unscientific test: 90hz displays does it matter

I found this from Android Authority pretty good, I turned off 90hz display on my Google Pixel 4 ages from day one to help with the battery life. Its likely my good eyes would tell the difference but is it worth more than the battery life of the phone?

I think not… of course the comments begs to differ…

Google Stadia early reviews

There’s been a rash of reviews about Google Stadia but I found Android Authority one of the best video reviews. The verge have good coverage if you prefer to read.

I found data usage quite surprising…

Stadia data usage at 720p

When playing Stadia on my Windows PC through the Chrome browser at 720p, Stadia used between 12 and 20Mbps. In contrast, a Netflix stream used about the same amount, but Netflix can buffer content to stop streaming constantly. Because Stadia is always pulling data and can’t buffer, it will use a lot more data.

You could technically use Stadia connected to a mobile hotspot, but I’d strongly advise against it if you have a limited data plan. Playing Stadia at 720p used about 7GB per hour.

Don’t expect to be playing Stadia at your local coffee shop without some comments or a lot of lag. I wonder if most of the cheap routers can sustain bandwidth like that anyway?

Could a hybrid smartwatch be a replacement for the pebble?

fossil hybrid HR smartwatch face

I was reading about the Fossil hybrid HR smartwatch recently, and on the face of it (pun intended) it looks like a good smartwatch with all the features I would be after to replace my pebble smartwatch.

What’s the difference between a hybrid smartwatch and a regular smartwatch? In the hybrid category, Fossil’s Hybrid HR mixes physical watch hands with an always-on display that shows information and notifications. It almost feels like an old-school Pebble watch fused with an everyday analog-style watch.

I always swear by eink for these type of things, and I’m happy to hear its using eink too.

Keeping a smartwatch charged is incredibly annoying. Fossil’s newest line of hybrid smartwatches may have found an answer, and it’s E Ink. The Hybrid HR’s added display feels less like a screen and more of an extension of the watch, the sort of basic readouts that you might expect on a digital watch. Or, like what Google’s Wear OS watches offer, but in E Ink. To be clear, though, this isn’t Wear OS. It almost reminds me of what the TicWatch Pro tried for by layering an always-on display on top of a feature-packed smartwatch, but the Hybrid HR looks a lot nicer.

Earlier this year, Google reportedly paid $40 million for Fossil smartwatch technology that could enable hybrid watches. The Hybrid HR looks like it is, indeed, the watch tech that earlier reports thought Google was interested in… and it’s here now.

I will be keeping en eye on this category, because although I like the Hybrid HR, I’m not so keen on round faces and I’d need to get a sense if theres sleep tracking support? Or more so if theres going to be a standard for watch apps like WearOS and the Pebble OS.

Pebble 2 smartwatch won’t re-connect after Android 10

Pebbles growing in work

I like many Google Pixel users recently got the Android 10 upgrade. It was smooth and everything was in order except there was a notification that the Pebble/Rebble smartwatch software may need to be upgraded as it might be incompatible with the Android 10.

What follows was a long painful process trying to pair the Pebble 2 with my Pixel 2 phone. It took forever and ended up with me unpairing both rebooting both and repairing the whole lot again. Nothing was lost in the process but its a real painful process and I thought, once its done, its done forever.

However I was wrong. It seems like this happens every few weeks? Others have suggested it happens when the Pixel doesn’t see the pebble for a little while. Someone started a bug issue with Google, thankfully and I added my own comment to the growing list.

If you are having similar issues, do add a comment to show Google there is a problem and maybe the Bluetooth LE stack might be at fault? Although I’ve not had a problem with my Motiv Ring yet?