Ghostery – protecting your privacy online

I’ve been using the Ghostery extension in both Chrome and Safari for awhile now. It sniffs the web pages and blocks requests for the douchey stuff that tries to track you online. It lets the good stuff through, but prevents all of the creepiness from executing. It also reports on how many tracking items are attempting to worm their way through it on each page you visit. Eye opening.

It’s free. Runs in Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and IE. There’s also a custom browser for use on iOS, but I haven’t tried it yet.

For instance, on my blog, it shows that the embedded twitter code I pasted on a previous post triggers some tracking funkiness. It blocks it automatically. And it also shows that there aren’t any analytics or other trackers running here.

It’s a small thing, but makes the web feel like more of an opt-in exercise, rather than an uncomfortable walk through a street lined with scammers etc…

iPhone photo apps

I’m a sucker for messing around with photo apps on my godphone. I go through phases where I need to try out apps that totally mess up photos, and then I revert to wanting more realistic captures. Lather, rinse, repeat. Lately, I’ve come back to Instagram, simply because it’s so fracking fast at processing the photos. Very little delay between shutter and moving on – I’ve really wanted to like Infinicam, Hipstamatic, and ShakeItPhoto, but they are frustratingly slow to process the photos.

Now, I’m playing with a couple of new apps. Camera Awesome is a new (free) app that adds some funky filters and composition aids. Seems like a very cool app, and is fast enough in workflow, but slow at saving the processed photo to the phone’s Camera Roll. It can also export quasi-automagically to a bunch of third party services, but not WordPress.

The other app I’m playing with, Decim8 (app store link, because their website kind of sucks…), goes in the opposite direction, away from faux-retro-analog, and into exploring what kinds of funky digital artifacts can be generated. It’s also dog-slow at processing the photos, but the effects can be kind of amazing. Like Tron meets Matrix. And you can mix and combine effects and save custom presets, which are all rendered fresh each time, so the exact effect is never the same twice. Ephemeral glitches. Awesome.

And then Snapseed, which looks like a really powerful photo app, with much more control over the effects… (thanks to a nudge from Michael Smith to give that one another shot…)

The apps are fun, but still aren’t optimal. What I need is an app that is quick to load, quick to process, and automatically saves the processed photos into the phone’s Camera Roll (bonus points for background processing). I don’t need built-in sharing or anything. Just shoot, process, save, repeat…

on a blog as a deadman’s switch

I’ve been thinking about what would happen to my online stuff, when I eventually kick off (hopefully not for several decades, but still…). This whole Reclaim stuff would mean that my online artifacts would disappear rather abruptly. That’s partially mitigated through things like the newly-minted Hippie Hosting Co-op, but what happens to my various account info? How would I hand that off, and send a message after, well, you know…

That’s where the idea of the internet deadman’s switch comes in. A bit of code that monitors for signs of life from me, and after I stop doing stuff it assumes I’ve kicked off, waits a predetermined period of time, tries to nudge me by email, and then sends off an email to my family.

It’s the kind of thing that probably used to be done through a hopefully-updated piece of paper filed with a will or stored in a safety deposit box. But it feels like it’s something that could be done rather trivially with some code.

Alan posted something along these lines this morning:

and that’s not a unique service – there’s also Dead Man’s Switch and likely a few others. But I’d rather not put that kind of info on someone else’s server – who knows if their server will still be running in a year, or 5, or 20. And who knows how many people would have access to the information on their server in the meantime.

That’s where the Next of Kin WordPress plugin comes in. It uses my blog as the deadman’s switch. If I haven’t done something on my blog in 3 weeks, it’ll send me an email to ask if I’m still around. It’ll wait a week, then send another, as well as one to a family member. After another week, it’ll assume that something rather dire has happened, and will send an email that I will have prepared in advance. Rather tidy. No fuss. All self contained here.

Of course, this assumes that I’ll still be using WordPress sometime in the future, and hosting my own blog. Safe assumptions for the near future, but who knows what happens if the plugin becomes abandonware and WordPress moves on without it. Or I move away from WordPress. Or this whole internet thing turns out to be just a fad after all…