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It’s two and a half years since my father passed away. I’m thankful that the memories of his final years have faded, and keep his spirit alive every day in whatever way I can, usually one of his catchphrases. 🙂

This post by Tavis Ormandy about password managers and how they integrate with browsers has been sat in my reading list for a while, mainly because I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

Yes, I understand what he’s saying about the way most password manager apps are hooking into desktop browsers, and how that could be subverted. But then I look at how things work on iOS (and Android) where it’s done at the input level. If there a fault here, I’d say it was with the browser makers rather than the password manager makers.

And while built-in password managers are pretty good nowadays, you’re only skirting around the weak points at the UI level. And if you’re using different browsers on different devices, then you’re stuck unless you use a third-party password manager to store that data for you.

Lawrence at Just Use Email recently posted a lengthy article about Hey Email where he takes apart their marketing of the service’s features. This line in particular resonated with me:

This always happens when someone tries to make an “email killer” app: they create what works for them and then try to charge everyone money for it. Trust me: it’s better to learn how to just use email and then create your own workflows and rules to make it work for you.

I got a feeling of dĂ©jĂ  vu reading through this article, as I recalled the other ‘fixes’ I’ve tried over the years: Gmail’s smart Inbox, SaneBox, Airmail and more. I eventually abandoned each and every one, partly because they created more problems for me than they were supposedly solving, but mainly because I realised that they were trying to fix problems I didn’t actually have.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been online now for over three decades, and using email in one form or another for almost as long. Perhaps it’s due to my autism and aversion to being overwhelmed. I certainly wasn’t taught how to use email, I just figured it out for myself. And it definitely wasn’t the case that email was somehow simpler back when I first got online — the basics have remained pretty much the same for ages.

I wonder what changed to make so many people consider email ‘broken’? I suspect that the answer is that they just haven’t been shown how to use email in their work or home life, instead being left to figure it out for themselves. Combine that lack of knowledge across several billion people, add in abuses like spam and phishing, and the frustration levels rise.

People are infrastructure too, my friend, and in need of constant investment. People are what the economy is supposed to be all about. Put money into us and it will recirculate. Assets are worth nothing more than what a person is willing to pay for them. Put more money in people’s pockets and stock prices will rise, based on earnings and efficiency.

Dana Blankenhorn, Labor Shortage

Nicola Nye, Fastmail’s Chief of Staff:

We strive to make Fastmail’s privacy-first email service available to as many people as possible. We received an order from the Russian Government to comply with their data laws, and we challenged that order in Russian courts. Unfortunately, like many other email and internet service providers, we lost our case. As a result, new Fastmail subscriptions will no longer be available for purchase in Russia.

[…]

Many email and digital companies worldwide have had to deal with this situation over the past few years, with similar impacts and outcomes, such as NordVPN, ProtonMail, Tutanota, Mailfence, and StartMail.

It’s hard not to see this as a “heads, I win; tails, you lose” for the Russian Government. Those who choose to pull their services out of Russia leave people there stuck with a choice of those who chose instead to aid and abet the control of Roskomnadzor.

Gabe Weatherhead:

I have a couple of little projects that have me thinking a lot about blogging. One of those projects is to groom and optimize my RSS feed reading. Crazy, right? I don’t like reading most mainstream news and I definitely don’t like Apple News. RSS is a good way to see new information that is generally relevant to what I want to think about.

As I groomed my RSS list, I’ve been thinking about the value of each site and the type of content they post. Within my collection I’ve identified four overlapping themes that help me evaluate if I want more of that content.

Gabe’s categories line up pretty well with my RSS reading experience over the years. Of course, some sites fall into more than one category, sometimes all four! Those tend not to stay in my feed list for long, unless I find a way to filter out just the stuff I’m interested in.

Like Gabe, I find myself gravitating towards those blogs that are Explainers with a distinctive Voice. Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of Explainers that are also Hustlers, which makes it hard to take their advice seriously. And a Voice can change over time and start to grate on my nerves.

A company you’ve probably never heard of caused half the internet to go dark

Swaths of websites went down on Tuesday morning after an outage at the cloud computing services provider Fastly. Internet users were unable to access major news outlets, e-commerce platforms, and even government websites. Everyone from Amazon to the New York Times to the White House was affected.

At around 6:30 am ET, Fastly said it applied a “fix” to the issue, and many of the websites that went down seemed to be working again as of 9 am ET. Still, the outage highlights how dependent, centralized, and susceptible the infrastructure supporting the internet — especially cloud computing providers that the average user doesn’t directly interact with — actually is. This is at least the third time in less than a year that a problem at a large cloud computing provider has led to countless websites and apps going dark.

Fastly is a content delivery network (CDN), which maintains a network of servers that transfer content quickly from websites to users. The company, which counts Shopify, Stripe, and countless media outlets as customers, promises “lightning fast delivery” and “advanced security.” The nature of such a network also means that problems can quickly spread and affect many of those customers at once. In the case of Tuesday’s incident, Fastly says it “identified a service configuration that triggered disruptions” around the globe. It took about two hours from the time the problem was identified until a fix was implemented.

I encountered this earlier today across several news sites as well as on Bandcamp. What I found most infuriating was that it looks like there wasn’t anything in place to at least — as Cloudflare does — drop to a page with a plain-English explanation that there’s a problem. Instead, I was left with curt error messages that didn’t indicate the source of the problem. I only found out that Fastly was to blame from today’s issue of Dave Pell’s NextDraft newsletter.

The scale of Tuesday’s outage — and frequency of large outages like this one — is what’s really worrisome. Last July, connection issues between two of the data centers operated by Cloudflare ultimately took many sites, including Politico, League of Legends, and Discord, briefly offline. Then, a data-processing problem for Amazon Web Services last November caused problems for sites like the Chicago Tribune, the security camera company Ring, and Glassdoor. The Fastly outage shows the trend continuing, especially as most of the web remains increasingly dependent on cloud providers.

Now I’m wondering if it was a wise move to use Cloudflare to secure and cache my websites.

I was a relative latecomer to the world of mobile phones, only getting one in the early 2000s so that I could call people if I was running late.

The first phone I has was one of the classic Nokia ‘candy-bar’ phones, the 1100. It was resolutely 2G, with a black-and-white LCD screen, but that was just fine for my needs.

I swapped that for a Nokia 6230i phone in 2007, which had the same form factor but a colour screen and slightly more features, including a rudimentary camera, and the ability to use ringtones. That last one was a source of much joy for me, as I had the Brylcreem advertising jingle and the intro to Felix The Cat as my SMS and call ringtones respectively. 🙂

In late 2009, I got my first feature phone, the INQ1. That was also my first contract phone, as I’d previously been pay-as-you-go (PAYG), and a switch from Vodafone to Three as my provider. It was definitely cheap and cheerful, and I was even able to get it working with Twitter thanks to its Java ME support. But its lowly specification, along with the relative paucity of 3G coverage at the time, meant that I only used it sporadically as an Internet device. Sadly, its cheapness also meant that it didn’t last long, and I eventually had to throw it away.

The phone that I picked to replace the INQ1 was the HTC Wildfire, my first foray into the world of Android devices. While it wasn’t a speed demon, the fact that it ran Android app made it a great deal more useful to me! With added memory card, it could double up as a podcast and music player for my commute to and from work. But the lack of upgrades from Android 2.2 Froyo meant that it eventually succumbed to forced obsolescence. (I didn’t feel brave enough to try and jailbreak the phone.)

By this point, I’d had an iPad for a few years, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that I was tempted by the iPhone 4S. That has the distinction of the phone I’ve used for longest to date. I loved that phone! ♥ Aside from a brief dalliance with the Lenovo PHAB2 phablet phone a few years ago, I’ve been in the Apple ecosystem ever since. My current refurbished iPhone SE will probably see me through another few years, and equal the 4S for longevity. And after that? To be honest, I don’t know yet. I’m hoping that Apple keeps at least one smaller phone in their line-up, as I definitely prefer being able to reach across the entire screen.

Yesterday I cancelled the renewal on my CleanMyMac X subscription, deactivated the licence and removed the app from my Mac. (Hazel helpfully popped up to sweep up the support files and drop them in the Bin.)

I’d blogged back in March that I was cutting back my usage of CleanMyMac X, partly because I no longer have a pressing need to recover disk space, but mainly because doing so sometimes caused problems with other apps, particularly when trimming language support and Universal binaries.

I’ve nothing against the product, or its maker MacPaw. But paying annually for something that I no longer need made this an easy decision.

Norton antivirus adds Ethereum cryptocurrency mining

In a surprise move, one of the world’s best-known anti-virus software makers is adding cryptocurrency mining to its products.

Norton 360 customers will have access to an Ethereum mining feature in the “coming weeks”, the company said.

Cryptocurrency “mining” works by using a computer’s hardware to do complex calculations in exchange for a reward. 

It is not clear what the business model for Norton Crypto is, or if Norton will take a cut of earnings.

The company pitched the idea as a safe and easy way to get into mining, an “important part of our customers’ lives”. 

In a press release, Norton LifeLock – once called Symantec – said: “For years, many coin miners have had to take risks in their quest for cryptocurrency, disabling their security in order to run coin mining.” 

That is true, in so far as anti-virus software packages such as Norton itself often falsely identify widely used mining programs as dangerous, and the antivirus software often needs to be deactivated to continue the mining process. 

Norton also warns of “allowing unvetted code on their machines” and the danger of storing earnings on a hard drive which could fail.

Totally not sketchy at all. /sarcasm

As the article points out, cryptocurrency mining has serious implications for the energy usage of end-users, the lifespan of their computers, and — in the USA — taxes liable.

It looks to me like they are enticing people who’ve had Norton 360 trial software preinstalled on their computer to cough up for a subscription with the promise of free money in return. Makes me wonder what state the company’s finances are in.