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Category: Tech

Why I'm Deleting My Facebook Account

Posted by – 6/3/10

I joined Facebook several years ago because I was getting fed up with Myspace. I wanted a place to post a few interesting things—quotes, photos, and the like—and I wanted it to be on a social network that didn’t look so haphazardly put together. I hated how poor code and ridiculous profile themes continuously crashed my browser. I hated how long it took Myspace pages to load. I hated how public it all appeared to be: I just wanted to share information with friends and know exactly how public that information became.

One of the things I really liked about Facebook was that it was inherently more private. At the time, only those with an email address provided by a university could join. It was more exclusive, and it fostered a fairly widespread assumption that Facebook meant connecting with people you actually knew in real life. It wasn’t Myspace: you didn’t just request to be a friend with someone because you liked their profile picture or thought their quotes were hilarious. If someone wasn’t a friend, they couldn’t see your stuff.

This was the assumption anyway, and it was an assumption we all had because, well, Facebook’s Privacy Policy promised us our information wouldn’t be available to anyone but those with whom we had a specific connection on the social network. Our information was available explicity: we knew exactly who would get to see it. But over the last 5 years, Facebook’s Privacy Policy has revealed that the company who runs Facebook isn’t who we thought they were. They’re not at all committed to our privacy, despite their earlier promises. They’re interested in harvesting our data and selling it to the highest bidder, our consent be damned. Check this scathing blog post for great background information on Facebook’s assault on users’ privacy along with a Top 10 list of why you should delete your Facebook account.

This company’s behavior proves them to be completely irresponsible with their users’ data, and it’s not a mistake. It’s a major character flaw for the whole organization. They tried Beacon, their first siege against users’ privacy. More recently they’ve added Instant Personalization, another major privacy coup. Whereas Beacon would post to Facebook your activities on other websites (did you hear the unfortunate tale of the boyfriend who bought an engagement ring on Overstock, only to find it published to his friends’ News Feeds?), Instant Personalization sends your Facebook information to third-party sites without your consent. That’s right: another breach of information privacy from which Facebook makes it hard to opt-out.

Every time Facebook has made a major change in the way it uses your information, it has done so with a total lack of transparency and in a way that defaults to the most public settings available. The problem isn’t that they’ve unwittingly released users’ information; clearly their network isn’t as secure as even they think it is. But as the EFF notes, this pattern of behavior just proves Facebook doesn’t care about your privacy in the slightest and doesn’t feel bound at all to keep its promises:

Viewed together, the successive policies tell a clear story. Facebook originally earned its core base of users by offering them simple and powerful controls over their personal information. As Facebook grew larger and became more important, it could have chosen to maintain or improve those controls. Instead, it’s slowly but surely helped itself — and its advertising and business partners — to more and more of its users’ information, while limiting the users’ options to control their own information.

They can apologize all they want, but those of us who uploaded and shared things over the years under the impression that Facebook would remain true to their promises have been burned. This is a classic bait-and-switch: they promised us that we’d have ultimate control of our information, and once we took them up on their offer and they possessed our data, they changed the rules of the game. That’s completely unethical.

Will this public outcry mean the end of Facebook? Probably not. Most people won’t switch because there’s not a more attractive alternative. Most users aren’t thinking about the possibility that every single thing they post to Facebook might affect a future relationship, a job interview, a lawsuit, ability to get insurance coverage, etc. Most people, sadly, don’t care about their own privacy.

But I do. I never wanted my Facebook profile to be this public. Twitter is different. Twitter is an inherently public messaging network with a single, refreshingly simple option for privacy– Protect my tweets: Only let people whom I approve follow my tweets.

At this point, it’s time to delete my account, and that means my public Facebook page (which I set up for the public stuff) goes out the window with it. I can’t support a company that treats its users like this, and I can’t recommend or encourage anyone else to be part of the social network either. I’ll be advertising this all over Facebook for the next week, then my profile will go black. I highly recommend you join me. Don’t just deactivate your account; they’ll retain all your information. Delete it.

(If you do want to delete your account, you cannot try to log in for the following 14 days or Facebook will reactivate your account. After the 14 day delay, the account is permanently deleted along with, so they say, all of your information.)

If something else comes along to replace it, like Diaspora, then great. If not, maybe I’ll enjoy seeing all of you in the real world.

Update: In case you hadn’t heard, recent IMs uncovered from the early days of Facebook reveal Zuckerberg calling us all “dumb f***s” for just handing over our info to him. Does this sound like the kind of guy you’d trust your information with? And trust to collude with other websites to automatically share your web activity (buying gifts, renting cars, making travel plans that reveal you won’t be home)? This isn’t the behavior of someone who believes “very much in transparency and the vision of an open society.” If that campaign rhetoric were remotely true, he wouldn’t have promised his users privacy and then changed the rules of the game many, many times in the last 5 years.

Learn from Facebook’s own history, friends. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. Don’t be insane.

Twitterrific, A Massive iPhone Battery Hog?

Posted by – 1/16/09

So I’d suspected an issue with Twitterrific and my iPhone’s battery life, but this morning’s behavior confirms it. I checked Twitterrific last night, put the phone back on its home screen, and then went to bed, leaving my iPhone charging all night. At about 6am today, I put the iPhone in my pocket and got to work. I’ve literally not even taken the phone out of my pocket in almost 3 hours, yet the phone is blazing hot and at less than half a charge.

Ridiculous. Twitterrific, you’re being removed.

Perhaps this is some change I can believe in…

Posted by – 11/6/08

Take a look at this: Change.gov

No, that’s not a joke. Jokesters can’t get ahold of the .gov top level domain name.

It’s very well-designed, easy to navigate, aesthetically pleasing. And this is for the President-elect, not a candidate. Could it be that an Obama Administration will do away with the embarrassingly horrible websites currently representing our national government? Please!?

(For an example of the innerwebs blasphemy, check out the ironically-named Usability.gov)

UPDATE: Hmm. I can only hope this page is simply a placeholder. The coming administration doesn’t honestly think there are not service opportunities, do they?

What do you even call this?

Posted by – 5/26/08

I love Apple products… typically. But the problems I had with my last Macbook Pro and now the problems I’m having with the new one are completely unbearable. Especially for someone who relies on his computer for his livelihood.

This morning I woke up and opened my laptop to find this:

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What the…? What do I even say when I call in to AppleCare? “It looks like my computer zoomed in on the letters ‘n dun’ and won’t zoom out? And then the screen freaked out on me?”

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I’m sure they love such detailed complaints. But really, what else do you call this?

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I was able to see the cursor, and clearly things were changing on the screen. Can you see the dock? Lovely, isn’t it? I pressed the power key in hopes that I could get it to restart instead of just killing the power, but too many programs were open, and I’m assuming it was asking me if I wanted to save all of it. Yes. I do. But I can’t seeeeee you.

I should mention that this is my second Macbook Pro, the first one having been replaced by Apple after I started to have a better relationship with the AppleCare support techs than with my own family.

I’d been thinking about upgrading to 4gigs of RAM, but now I’m worried that I’d have to keep the old RAM around for fear of some loon at the Green Hills Genius Bar accusing all my woes on the third-party RAM.

From what I’ve heard, this is the state of Apple products now. I’ve got friends who still have old Powerbooks and iBooks and have never had a single problems. What’s the deal with Apple’s Quality Control. How much do they test their new products? Or is the obsession with releasing new, smokin’ gadgets before anyone’s even heard of them causing Apple to relax their standards? PLEASE, Steve, I beg of you– the reason we all love Apple so much is because they’re not supposed to be a hassle. They’re supposed to “just work.” But it looks like the new era of Apple, Inc. means generation after generation of faulty computer products. Get with the program, Apple.

Ditch Cable?

Posted by – 11/30/07

So I’ve been working for some time now on devising a media system for my home that could potential replace cable. It’s a pretty sweet little setup. I’ll be tracking my progress here to let people know what I’ve got in my setup and any roadblocks I run into in the process.

  1. The Mac Mini This is the big one, the center of it all. I went with the Mini for several reasons:  
    1. Media Server My Macbook Pro is great, but I got mine a year ago– back before Apple upped the storage capacity in their laptops to 250 gigs. Mine has a measly 100 gigs. (Seriously? More than doubling the capacity in just a year? Wow.) And I’d like to have a place to not only store all my music and video, it would be great to be able to play them on the big screen with the great speakers.I also want to be able to sync my laptop with the media server for everything but videos (I’ll just keep the tv shows and movies on the Mini), but I’ll show you how to do that later.
    2. Backup Server This was one of my reasons for purchasing the Mini, but for now it doesn’t look like it matters. In the months before OS X Leopard was released, Apple had advertised that the new Time Machine backup application would be able to perform backups wirelessly (as long as the drive was HFS+ formatted and communicating over the network via Apple Filing Protocol). Apple yanked that feature from Time Machine shortly before launch. There’s still the possibility that the feature will come with a future update, but there are no guarantees.Here was why the Mini was crucial: there really are only two ways to meet the requirements of both HFS+ and AFP with network attached storage. There are some NAS server solutions that allow you to format the drive HFS+, and some others that allow the Apple Filing Protocol to be used, but only one that does both. Apple’s Airport Extreme. But that’s a pretty expensive router, and I already have a solid router that’s given me very little trouble. The only other option is to just share an HFS+ drive on another Mac. Hence the Mini. (Certainly too expensive if that’s all I was buying it for, but given all the uses the Mini has, I think it’s worth it.)
    3. Print Server Basically, I hated always being in the living room when I needed to print something and having to walk into my bedroom, connect the USB hub, print one page, and then eject the three harddrives that are also attached to the hub. I just connected the printer to the Mini and shared it. Bingo.
    4. TiVo Alternative Definitely the biggest reason I got the Mini. Don’t get me wrong, I love being enslaved to Comcast’s lackluster performace and more-than-impressive monthly bill. But something about the possibility of an endless supply of storage for tv show recordings, the ability to export them to iPod/iPhone format, and the ability to watch them anywhere in the world really caught my attention. Meet elgato’s line of eyetv devices. I’ve got the EyeTV 250, the predecessor to the EyeTV 250 Plus. I can receive any of the analog channels from the standard cable package. It’s a great system, but there’s still room for improvement. I’ll review it soon in a separate post. I’ll just say that I’m impressed, I hope more features will come soon, but I’m not yet ready to ditch the DVR box we rent from Comcast.
  2. EyeTV 250 The second biggest piece to the puzzle, and I’ve already mentioned it above. I won’t go into much detail, that’s for another post. Basically mine accepts analog channels. The updated EyeTV 250 Plus also accepts over-the-air HDTV (called ATSC, the HD equivalent to the classic “rabbit ears” setup). EyeTV also packages their software with the HDHomeRun, a dual-tuner that accepts both over-the-air HDTV and cable-based HDTV (called Clear QAM).
  3. Buffalo WHR-G54S I like this router because it’s both cheap (you can find it for $30-50) and potentially powerful. I flashed it with the much more powerful DD-WRT, which allows more options in the configuration. Recently Buffalo even teamed up with DD-WRT to release an officially supported, pre-flashed version of this router. There are definitely more options for the super-user. It even pings the DynDNS server to let them know you’re current WAN IP. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry. It’s definitely a nerd feature you’d just need if you wanted to watch all those TV shows anywhere with Internet access.

It seems I’m not alone. Randy over at Ditching Cable is currently involved in a very similar experiment, trying to rid himself of the over-priced, under-performance that most of the monopolistic cable companies bring to the table.

localhost not working after Time Machine restore

Posted by – 11/29/07

So I use my Mac for web development, and I just use the Apache web server that’s already present in OS X. Anyway, everything was dandy and working smoothly. My hard drive was filling up in my Macbook Pro, so I beefed it up with a 250 GB drive installed by CompUSA. (For only $29.99 by the way, and it stays under warranty. Sweet.)

Anyway, I thought it’d be a great time to test the Time Machine backup system. I had a backup to the Time Machine disk in case there were still issues with the Time Machine restores, but it seemed to restore everything perfectly. That is, until I tried to load back up some websites yesterday. Since then, I have spent probably 12 hours trying to figure out why http://localhost/ and http://127.0.0.1/ came up in Safari as if the server were off. Well, that’s because it never started, and here’s why…

Time Machine, for whatever reason, did not restore a crucial folder that Apache needs to write its error logs. Specifically, it’s the folder /private/var/log/apache2. If you’re having this same problem, open up Console and notice the errors popping up. Apache’s trying to start up, and it halts everytime with an error that looks something like this:

11/29/07 4:00:22 PM org.apache.httpd[1257] (2)No such file or directory: httpd: could not open error log file /private/var/log/apache2/error_log.

Anyway, the fix is simple. Open up Terminal and type this:

sudo mkdir /private/var/log/apache2

You’re welcome.

The first OS X virus?

Posted by – 10/31/07

In reading about why it seems so difficult for Microsoft to develop an OS that isn’t full of security holes, I came across this. OSX.Leap.A. The very first virus on Apple’s OS X operating system? Wow. I mean, I knew, it would happen eventually. Especially as Macs are becoming more and more popular and consumer-friendly.

As far as viruses go, this one seems pretty tame. Technically, it’s not even a virus. It’s a trojan. Very low risk. I don’t even think it’s around anymore. It utilized a very specific vulnerability in iChat to distribute itself, and only on Intel-based Macs, but there were less than 50 known infections.

According to Mac360:

The two known examples of Trojans, (Leap-A and Oompa-Loompa), required the user to accept and download a compressed zip file, open it, and double click on the file inside, then type their password in order for their Macs to be compromised. This is not a “well written” trojan, but a simple matter of Social Engineering, fooling the end user with a promise of something for free.

So, 114,000 for Windows, still 0 for OS X.

Update: Here’s a new one at DMiessler. And a good explanation for the major difference between this kind of threat for OS X and viruses for Windows.

Unlisted Leopard Mail Feature!

Posted by – 10/31/07

Actually, it is listed, but Apple doesn’t really fully describe what it does.

Archive Mailbox
Create an archive of your mailbox to back up important messages or to transfer your mail to another computer.

Yeah, so you can create an archive of your mail. But Apple doesn’t use a proprietary archiving method. This actually is just a simple export to the standard mbox format. Woo!

In Tiger, the previous version of OS X, Apple switched from using the mbox format–which stores emails in one monstrous file–to a single-email-per-file system using an emlx extension so that Spotlight could search the emails individually. But this also left people wanting to switch from Tiger’s mail (or simply backup their emails) out in the cold rain. Nearly every other email system uses the mbox format, so you’d have to employ the dodgy method of converting emlx to mbox with Cosmic Soft’s aptly named emlx to mbox converter. It worked. Uh… sometimes. There were always gitches.

It’s nice to see this unannounced feature in Leopard Mail!

XAMPP on Startup with OS X

Posted by – 10/30/07

I searched and couldn’t find a method for autostarting XAMPP upon startup for Mac OS X. I’ll publish this method, and I can definitely say that it works. I can’t promise there isn’t a more efficient way. This uses AppleScript to run a shell command. Open up Script Editor from Applications > AppleScript. Insert this command:

do shell script "/Applications/xampp/xamppfiles/mampp start" user name "YourUserName" password "YourPassword" with administrator privileges

Of course, replace YourUserName with your OS X username and replace YourPassword with the respective password.

Save the script as an application (through the Save As… menu), and in System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items, include the new little application you just made. (I also chose to hide mine. It shouldn’t really matter, once the application is finished running, it quits.) It’ll start XAMPP upon startup, and of course, shutting down your computer will automatically stop the XAMPP server. You’re welcome.

If you didn’t really understand most of this little tutorial, then you probably shouldn’t be messing with XAMPP anyhow.

If anyone knows how to run a shell command at startup without going through AppleScript, please let me know. I’m sure it’s possible, I’m just not skilled enough to figure it out on my own.

Finally! Gmail with IMAP!

Posted by – 10/29/07

Just in time for Leopard. I’d been wanting to switch back to using Apple Mail because of all the coolness that’s been promised in the new version, but managing Gmail through mail.app is like a low paying part-time job. Once you read everything in mail.app, it still comes up as unread in Gmail’s web interface. Well no more. By using the IMAP protocol rather than POP, your local collection of email stays in sync with the web version. Which makes reviewing old emails and composing offline possible while staying in sync with the server.

Basically, it’s gonna make things much smoother. And here’s an unannounced bonus to Gmail with IMAP…

Goodbye GMail Loader!
For some time, folks have been cooking up ways to get their entire email archive into the Gmail web interface. Why? I don’t know, maybe for archive purposes? Maybe so we don’t have to worry about keeping copies in our old mail program? Let’s face it, if you really want to keep all your old emails, it’s much easier to have them all within the same interface so you don’t have to go hunting around between the several different email programs you used to use and the webmail you now use. It simplifies the search.

In case you didn’t know, you can literally just drag an email from your local folders to the IMAP folders inside Mail.app. It will copy that email, with sent and received dates intact, to the server as if it had always been there. It solves the timestamp issue that the GMail Loader encountered. With the GMail Loader, you can get all your old emails uploaded to Gmail’s servers, but they would show up in the interface list as if they’d just arrived (because it had… it had just arrived on the Gmail servers). When reading the email itself, it would show the actual sent date. Kind of an ugly problem.

Something else I’ve noticed. The way Gmail interacts with IMAP is strange, mostly due to the unorthodox “label” method that Google designed for Gmail instead of folders. Since messages could have more than one label applied, that translates to having the appearance of being in more than one folder inside your IMAP client (obviously I use mail.app). So when you delete a message from one of the IMAP “folders” you are really just removing the label from the message. That is, unless you’ve opted to have your IMAP client store deleted messages on the server (instead of using a local trash bin on the computer).

Apple Mail IMAP Example

This is why Google recommends you don’t select that option. It ruins the ability to remove labels from your messages because then when you delete a message, it actually deletes the message. (They’d also like me to not select ‘Store Junk Messages on Server’, but frankly, I’ve not found a bug in letting mail.app work hand-in-hand with the Spam label/folder on Gmail’s servers.)

Of course, if you’re not going to use the Gmail labeling scheme, selecting this option would make your IMAP client behave more like you’d expect. Anyway, just something I thought about, tested, and confirmed.