Site News

New Content Incoming, Site Privacy Downgrade

A small programming note as they might say on TV or whatever.

I’ve been doing a terrible job sticking to my New Years Resolution to write a blog post every week. Not the biggest deal, resolutions are aspirational.

Anyways, I’ve come up with a new type of content I want to try writing in the coming weeks.

I intend to start posting a roundup of my Twitter bookmarks, focusing on Winnipeg/YIMBYism/urbanism. I find that I come across quite a lot of great content on Twitter, original research and other cool stuff. But due to the ephemeral nature of Twitter it just kind of gets lost.

I’m hoping that by logging these in a property categorized, SEO optimized blog post they’ll be more searchable and easier to find in the future. For example, say I want to find a post about value per ha of a given area of the city, we’ll it’ll be here in my blog, instead of a complicated advanced Twitter search.

Also the results of my car coop experiment will ready next week.

Privacy Downgrade

In 2021, I took steps to improve your privacy when viewing my site (read all about it).

Unfortunately, in order to start featuring Tweets on this blog I’m going to want to take advantage of Twitter’s embed feature. The embedded tweets are just so much easier to read.

This means that – on any page featuring an embed – you may be subject to any (undisclosed) tracking that these embeds might include. The rest of the site should still be tracker free and you’re always welcome to use browser extensions to improve your privacy. I’m not tracking anything and I don’t want to know who you are if you don’t want me to know about you.

Sorry. I wish there was something I could do about it without degrading the reading experience.

Site News

privacy on

May 2023 Update: I’ve decided to re-enable cloudflare.
Three reasons:

  1. To my knowledge, they are still privacy respecting and have solid security record.
  2. While I’ve never written this blog for an audience it is nice to have a general sense of how many people are reading. I like the passive stats you get by enabling CF.
  3. The bot and DDOS protections are sure to save me at some point.

    March 2023 Update: I’ve opt’d to disable the “embed privacy” plugin. I am planning on featuring more Twitter content and it just won’t be quite the same without the embeds.

    In terms of your privacy, be aware the provider of an embed (twitter, youtube, etc) may be tracking you on any pages featuring an embed. In some cases this could be the homepage.

    Inspired by Cory Doctorow I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to make this WordPress blog surveillance and tracker free. Internet privacy is something I’ve always cared about, I’m not really sure why it never occurred to me to bring my blog in line.

    Here are the steps that I took:

    1. Disabled Cloudflare:
      Cloudflare has a good reputation and I trust that they’re taking the right steps to protect users’ privacy. But after refreshing the backend of the site with the help of SpinupWP I no longer feel like I need Cloudflare’s caching services.
      [my DNS is still hosted with CF, however I am bypassing them for this CNAME]

    2. Disabled Jetpack:
      Jetpack has become a bloated beast of a plugin suite. I noodled around with the settings for about 3 minutes to try to figure out how to disable the tracking – I couldn’t so I just decided to nuke the whole thing.
    3. Disabled Google Fonts
      It almost certainly tracks your IP and possibly other information. So I’ve disabled it. System fonts only.
    4. Installed Embed Privacy Plugin:
      I’ve installed Embed Privacy to block all spotify, youtube, twitter, etc external embeds on page load. Users have to explicitly click the content to see it.

    5. Disabled Comments:
      Not really a privacy reason to disable these per se, I just haven’t really found much comment engagement since approximately as long as Twitter has existed.

    The main side effect of these changes seems to be a blazing fast site! Sure I’ll miss out on some stats but I’ve long stopped caring about those.

    Culture Random

    Services Should Help Us Remember

    With the beginning of a new year decade everybody is posting retrospectives on anything and everything. For the most part, these retrospectives have to be complied manually by compiling data from different sources. I’d argue that our lives would be more interesting if more services give us easier ways to reflect on the content we’ve posted over the decades.

    In fact, services could probably get away with collecting more sensitive data if they surfaced it for us in interesting ways. For instance (despite my better judgement) I’ve had Google’s location tracking fully enabled for the past 3 years. The Google Maps timeline generates this map of everywhere I’ve been that is just totally fascinating to me. I can’t bring myself to turn if off.

    Everywhere I’ve been in the past 3 years according to Google. It’s actually missing some data and I’ve never been near Detroit. So that’s somewhat comforting in a way.

    An Experiment

    This week, I started an experiment where I will be logging every single interesting link I come across online in a public twitter feed.

    It would be cool to see what happened if browsers tried to include a feature like this using your local browser history. (I’m getting deja vu, was there a web 2.0 era browser that did something like this?)

    WordPress Historical Posts

    A few years back I created a WordPress plugin that surfaces old posts in dashboard and sidebar widgets (you can see it in the footer of my blog if you scroll down). IMHO any blogger with more than a couple of years of content could benefit from this plugin. I love seeing what I posted a decade ago. Occasionally it spawns new or update post ideas.

    The plugin is called Historian, you can download it from the plugin repository.

    Other Services

    I know the photo services have started adding “on this day” and “then and now” features to their main products. I personally enjoy those quite a bit. Seeing my kids grow up is an acceptable of inherently anti-piracy facial recognition.

    I mentioned Google Maps Timelines as another acceptable reasons to leak private data. But I actually think Google could do more with this data, especially on Android. It would be cool to automatically see all the times I’ve been at my current location and any photos or related data that I’ve logged there. Google Health could have workout data (and analysis) automatically available when I’m at the gym. Stuff like that.

    Are there other services that have interesting retrospective features?

    Would you be more open to giving up private data if services gave you interesting or useful data and analysis based on you private data?

    Random Tips & How To's

    How To Use Your iPhone to Stalk Yourself

    It looks like the privacy hippies were finally right about something, your mobile phone really is a pocket sized tracking device.

    Turns out that as of iOS 4.0, iPhones have been tracking your physical movements and logging it along with the phone’s backups.

    A small team of researchers have discovered these logs in iTune’s backup files, they’ve released a handy little app that collects all the data from your user folder and plots it on a map. and further information available here.

    Here is the visualization of everywhere I’ve been since Sept 28, 2010:

    You can see lots of activity in and around Winnipeg (including trips up to the Gimli and Victoria Beach), a flight to Toronto and subsequent travel around southern Ontario and a road trip to Minneapolis. It’s fascinating.

    I’m not sure if this is a terrifying privacy hole or a neat little hidden feature. I’m leaning towards neat feature, since the data is stored locally on your computer and can be encrypted automatically by iTunes.

    At this point in time a method for disabling the “feature” does not exist. I expect Apple will be responding in short order.

    Canadian Tech News

    Canadian Tech News: October 19th – Why US Apps Hate Canada, Toddler Photos, Windows Phone 7, dot-ca

    It’s been over a week since the last Canadian tech news roundup, so I’ll jump right into it:

    Michael Giest: Why are U.S. net services slow to migrate north
    There are countless examples of web services that take years to get here and even more that never make it. Michael Giest has an interesting column in The Star discussing why he believes US web services take so long to migrate north of the border. He says 1) “Canada’s geographical advantage is lost in the online world”, 2) “[bandwidth] caps, which are far more restrictive than comparable caps in the U.S” and 3) “a third factor appears to be licencing requirements.” His first point is something I haven’t considered in the past – he’s saying that the internet levels the playing field putting the Canadian market on an equal footing with other larger markets. While I agree in theory, this fact doesn’t explain why many of these US services (Netflix for example) expand to Canada before other larger markets. On his second point, I almost completely disagree. Bandwidth caps seem to be an Eastern Canada issue, as far as I’m aware most of the Central and Western Canadian ISPs do not have restrictive bandwidth caps. I’ll try to do a follow-up post comparing current bandwidth caps of the major Canadian ISPs. On top of that, I don’t believe bandwidth caps something the average consumer actively considers when making decisions about signing up for online services – assuming they’re even aware of the concept to begin with.

    84% of Canadian Toddlers have pictures online
    Another one of these FUD-inducing surveys from an anti-virus vendor; AVG released the findings a survey of mothers regarding their behaviour regarding posting photos of their children online. As a parent I can’t see this as anything more than a lame publicity attempt, there’s nothing specific to be worried about online. That said, I do find the stats themselves to be quite interesting. 84% of Canadian children have photos online, 3% higher that the average in countries surveyed and a full 8% higher than the USA. 7% of babies and toddlers have email addresses created for them, 5% have social network profiles – I’d actually kind of expected that to be the reverse. 25% of babies have sonogram photos posted online before they were born – this actually seems a little low to me. Canadian mothers were also least concerned about the data they share.

    Windows Phone 7 Phones coming to Telus, Bell, Rogers
    Windows Phone 7 is coming to Canada at same time as the US, as far as I can tell. At this rate Rogers will have Windows Phone 7 before Android 2.1 *sigh*.
    Phone breakdown as follows:

    These phones most certainly look like viable competitors to iPhone and Android. I for one welcome the competition.

    New .ca registry goes live

    In domain name news: the Canadian Internet Registration Authority has rolled out a “…redesigned and streamlined domain name registration system.” As far as I can tell, the main feature here is an API and the ability for registrars to auto-renew domains through this API. Congrats, I guess.

    BTW, people who like Canadian Tech News: also like the Canadian Tech Roundup podcast. Look for a new episode later this week.