Firefox Relay vs DuckDuckGo email

I signed up for DuckDuckGo’s privacy relay email service (https://duckduckgo.com/email) as soon as i could. Aside from their little dust up about them sending some of your info to Microsoft (https://thenextweb.com/news/duckduckgo-microsoft-tracking-sparks-backlash) they’ve got a good track record re: privacy. I signed up for some CNet and PCMag newsletters and found that DuckDuckGo removed a few trackers from every email they sent. Yay DuckDuckGo! But one of the things I don’t like is they don’t provide a dashboard – I can’t see what duck aliases I’ve created and used.

So, I signed up for a paid Firefox Relay account cuz they do have a dashboard! What’s more, you can associate each email with the website or service you’ve used it with! Major yay! I signed up new Relay email addresses for CNet and PCMag newsletters and began comparing the duck emails with the relay emails. Relay isn’t removing ANY trackers!?! I emailed Relay support and got a fairly prompt response however it wasn’t terribly satisfying. The relay folks are being very responsible and making sure that the trackers they remove don’t break the email – yay them! I’m continuing to correspond with Relay’s support on this topic. In the meantime, I suggest you go with the free DuckDuckGo email relay service if you want a little more privacy in your newsletter traffic, dashboard notwithstanding.

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Google’s AI has achieved sentience? Nonsense!

This has been bouncing around the ether for a week or two now. I found it laughable then and still do. But I’m not an AI guy. Here’s the opinion of someone who is – Gary Marcus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Marcus). The TLDR? He calls bullsh*t. Read the article https://garymarcus.substack.com/p/nonsense-on-stilts?s=r.

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Getting set up with Chrome OS

I’ve had chromebooks for quite a while but it’s only within the last year or so that I’ve thought it was ready to be my primary tool. My Acer Spin 713 has an 11th gen Intel i5 with 8GB RAM and 256GB disk and it’s quite fast and capable! I run a Debian Linux and have a number of Android apps installed. It’s my “daily driver” as some call it – the machine I reach for and use far more than any other. And I got it on sale for less than $500.

It can be a chore getting set up for the first time but I came across https://github.com/mikeroyal/Chrome-OS-Guide which has some good information to get set up. And if you’re interested in doing more than just getting set up, it has some useful info on expanding your Linux environment and preparing to develop. I recommend it.

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I’ve been warning about this for years

I haven’t said anything about the Log4j issue here but this article from the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/01/14/open-source-bugs-present-an-extermination-problem-government/) that discusses the recent meeting at the White House about securing open source software shows that people are finally waking up to the fact that open source needs to be patrolled better. Far too many developers pull in open source packages without regard to their exposures and those places that makes sure the packages are vetted often miss the packages that are pulled in as dependencies.

I’m not putting down any of the open source contributors but I’ve been a contributor and code reviewer and it’s just TOO easy to miss a vulnerability. Sure, automated processes can catch a lot but if someone is intent on introducing a vulnerability, it can be done without a lot of extra effort. No, I don’t have a solution but I’m certain the open source community can come up with some good ones.

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“You don’t own web3”

Jack Dorsey tweeted this a few days ago (https://twitter.com/jack/status/1473139010197508098) and it caused quite a stir. I don’t completely disagree with him but I think it’s a little different – web3 belongs to those with cash. You see, every transaction, every webpage loads, every search has to be paid for in some way. Why? It’s the cost of owning your own privacy and is the linchpin of web3. No, it generally doesn’t cost a lot but you have to pay in REAL money by way of tokens or cryptocurrency. Want a web3 domain? Sure! Get one at https://app.ens.domains/ for only $5/year. BUT you’ll need to pay the “gas” (i.e. pay for the energy expended to register your domain on the Ethereum blockchain. How much is that? Well, how much does ETH cost? Right now, it’ll cost about $100 to register that $5 domain. Quite a lot different from those deals you can get from “regular” registrars (for .com and .org, etc).

So, which is it? Pay with money or pay with your personal information?

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Switching to a chromebook

I’ve been using a Mac for the past few years a work. It was an opportunity to learn and use a Mac at no cost to myself and, well, honestly, the corporate addons for the Mac were considerably fewer than those for a Windows machine. At home I was a die hard Windows and Linux user. Linux couldn’t do everything I wanted easily – too many distros, too many packages, too difficult to upgrade to a new version – and Windows did pretty much everything I needed (especially with the new Windows Terminal and WSL/WSL2) for my use here at home. When it came time to replace my work Macbook, I was offered my old Macbook at a very reasonable price so I took it and began using it for my stuff here at home. What made me move to it as my primary machine? Windows updates! I use a Windows laptop and every time I picked it up the battery was dead because Microsoft had decided it needed to wake it up and install the latest updates! So I eventually moved all my home stuff over to the Mac.

I’ve had chromebooks for a few years and they’ve been OK as an occasional use platform. The best part is you have a real desktop browser in Chrome on them. So, with a small-ish chromebook (10-12″ screen) I could easily and quickly pull up a desktop site on a fully capable browser. Over the years Google has added the ability to run Android apps and even host a full Linux (Debian) distro, complete with full GUI access…and support for Windows is just around the corner (it’s already available for Enterprise customers). So I’ve been on the lookout for a new chromebook, which I found in the Acer Spin 713 with an 11th generation Intel i5 on sale at Best Buy for a tad over $500. That’s what I’m writing this on. It’s still on the small side – 13″ screen – but plenty powerful. And, honestly, I can already do 95% of everything I need on it now AND I can run the Android apps that I use every day as well as Progressive Web Apps. This is now my go-to machine. The one I keep nearby and reach for whenever I need to do something…pretty much anything that requires a decent keyboard and/or a larger screen and/or a desktop browser and/or multiple windows.

Feel free to reach out to me with questions or comments. Honestly, I can’t recommend this enough and I may consider getting a chromebox to replace my little Linux server.

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