Just massive. From retailers selling on your grocery purchasing decisions, your phone reporting your location every few minutes, government and corporations sniffing your personal e-mail and text messages, it’s all whacked. On the surface level, it’s just creepy. At worst it can be used to commit crimes in your name. I’ve been dabbling with my various ‘devices’ and, while just scratching the surface, have learned a few things which I’ll elaborate on further in days to come:
Don’t Put Anything Into Electronic Form you absolutely don’t want somebody else to see. Certainly not on a computer that connects to the internet. There are a whole host of folks, from hackers in dingy basements to corporate and government departments around the world dedicated to ‘stealing your stuff’. Sounds paranoid but it only takes a glance at those nerdy technology news sites to confirm. I was once told an unprotected computer plugged into a cable modem would be malware infected within a minute. I was told this by the cable company’s own tech support. No, really.
Given The Choice, Use Open Source Software even if you don’t understand it. Chances are somebody else does and has taken a look ‘under the hood’ and made sure it’s not booby trapped to report your every move. You give up little as modern open source software is often slick and sophisticated. And free. Nothing is guaranteed, but at least it’s scrutable.
Have a Glance at “App” Permissions because there are strange things afoot. Many ask for access that is not needed to function and is present solely to gather information about you. There are ways to deny an app access to your personal data. More later on this…
Don’t Eat Web Browser Cookies as they, like their real world brethren, are seldom good for you. They can have legitimate functions, but many are there simply to track your movements. Install something like Ghostery to see just how many companies are watching your every move.
Turn off location reporting on your device unless you are using it for the GPS function. Some platforms try to fool you into thinking you have turned it off, only to turn it on in the background when you’re not looking. This sucks.
Encryption is a huge topic itself. Think of it as the envelope on your electronic letter. From what I can tell, anything in a commercial package is presently suspect. People (sometimes are forced to) put in back-doors to allow access on demand. Some agencies, often known only by acronyms, feel the need to read everything you write. They may break laws and lie to the public, courts and government in order to do so. They too, are the suck.
People Can Still Dig Through Your Garbage and may do so in order to steal your identity. They may even call, posed as a service, and request your passwords or other data. Shred sensitive documents (our cats love the shredder, it’s a thrilling Saturday night for the entire family). Offer to call back anybody that contacts you requesting personal information. If it’s a sensitive matter, ping the company at their main number first to validate the contact.
Remembering Complex Passwords Hurts My Brain, but there are other ways to go about keeping your virtual locks fresh. Sure, a constantly rotated bazillion digit unique upper/lower/numeric/symbol/non-dictionary password for each account may be ideal, but some modern research suggests long strings of ‘random’ words can be too. Stick in a couple of ‘lett3rs as num3ers’ gags and a caPitaL or two while you’re at it. Just not ‘TheRainInSpainFallsMainly” or something else ridiculously common (pausing here for an Audrey Hepburn moment… …aaand done). There are also “password managers” out there that encrypt all your passwords under one other ‘master’ pass phrase. Kind of a ‘AllY0ur3ggsIn0neBasket’ approach. I am old and confused enough now that I’m looking at this technology in order survive a slow but certain decent into dementia, whilst enabling access to the barnyard and pet videos I love so dearly.
Tinfoil Hats Can Be Comfortable and with some effort in securing your electronic world, cruising the morass of modern communications should be more relaxing. After all, you’ll have done all you can to protect yourself from various digital rashes.
Funny how ones views change over time. Once I liked having a big-ass desktop replacement, in order to do previs work on set (and play an hour or two of Eve Online). Then it became more about portability than power, a 8 inch ultra-light to do web page updates from SIGGRAPH. Now it is all about code. So, typing.
What a selection to choose from! Despite this, there was not one perfect match for my wants. Keyboard, it became all about finding the perfect one. Most did not have the tactile response. Most did not have full sized shift keys. Some had problems with linux installations (boo!). Windows 8 was kinda dumb without a touchscreen. Touchscreens are kinda dumb unless on a tablet or convertible
Something had to give. Could I live without discreet graphics in order to get a decent keyboard? Did I have a choice? Not really. Not and compromise elsewhere on my wishlist. Enter the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist (review on Notebookcheck).
The trackpad is crap. Battery life middling and the unit is overall a bit on the fugly side. The hard drive it came with was slow and quickly replaced with a fast SSD which transformed performance. But it has the best keyboard I laid my fingers on in weeks of testing lightweight laptops. By far. Some Haswell-based unit will come out next week that trumps it, but I think I will be happy for a couple of years.
Just as I was (thinking about) getting serious about learning Houdini, the company that makes it started a contest. A “Cookoff” where you could produce up to 30 seconds of animation on a food related theme. Here’s when I ended up:
Am I happy with the result? No. I spent far too much time getting over Houdini’s learning curve, tracking down technical issues and render glitches (some of which are still in there). Almost all artistic concerns went out the window with the effort it took to just finish what’s there.
Next time should be easier, now that I’m over the initial curve. And I have to say it was a good crash course on the overall application. But ouch!
A shout out to Sam (IHoudini) Hancock, P. Quint, CMIVFX, Digital Tutors, P. Bomar, Paul Debevec and the Houdini online community for sharing their brains with me. Seeing as how I learned most of this from them, in a way, this is mostly theirs. Not that they’d, umm, want it or anything
Took a couple of days and travelled to the top of Vancouver Island from Vancouver. A nice ride to Port Hardy. Here is a video of the road from Port Alice to the highway. Rain and some slippery leaves made for a sedate ride….