An image of a green fedora hat, which serves as the logo for this site.Gordy's Discourse

The Infowars debate and a website's whims

Infowars is complete nonsense in my opinion but it raises a bigger question: the rights a privately-owned website has to determine what content they allow. I argue that their right to choose what content they show and who they allow to post on their site is absolute, as long as it's legal.

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Five good books I’ve read in 2018

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Five fiction books I've read in 2018 and would recommend, along with very brief reviews. 'The Good Daughter' by Karin Slaughter, 'The Outsider' by Stephen King, 'Norse Mythology' by Neil Gaiman, 'How To Stop Time' by Matt Haig and 'Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine' by Gail Honeyman.

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Why reading beats video for information and instruction

I like to read and I firmly believe that, most of the time, written articles are better than videos or podcasts for imparting information and instruction. This article represents my dubious attempt to justify that position. I'm not against video and audio per se - indeed I love watching films or listening to music - I'm talking about things like help texts, how-to articles and similar.

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Advertising accurate broadband speeds in the UK External link icon.

I'd missed that a regulation had been introduced to force ISPs in the UK to advertise more accurate broadband speeds. It seems "up to" speeds must now be accurate at least 50% of the time.

The article reports:

BT, EE, John Lewis Broadband, Plusnet, Sky, Zen Internet, Post Office, SSE, TalkTalk, and Utility Warehouse previously advertised their standard (ADSL) broadband deals as up to 17Mbps.

The new advertised speed is now more than a third lower at 10Mbps or 11Mbps.

TalkTalk has completely dropped advertising speed claims from most of its deals.

Vodafone has also changed the name of some of its deals: Fibre 38 and Fibre 76 are now Superfast 1 and Superfast 2.

I can’t say I’m surprised as I think most of us will have often seen speeds lower than the ones advertised for the packages we bought.

Whilst they’re at it, they could take a look at the so-called ‘unlimited’ data packages. These invariably come with small-print limitations that are along the lines of: “It’s unlimited until we decide it isn’t.

OmniFocus review

Rating star.Rating star.Rating star.Rating star.Rating star.
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There are many list taking and mild project management apps for Apple products. I've tried a few of them but OmniFocus remains my favourite. In this article I review OmniFocus 2 for macOS and 3 for iOS, the latter of which finally brings proper support to the iPad platform. I really like this app and it would have a five star rating if it wasn't for a couple of features in the iOS app that particularly bother me.

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Google plans to comply with Chinese censorship External link icon.

There isn’t a lot of meat on the bones of this story yet but Google said:

We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like JD.com.

But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans.

If this story turns out to be true then it essentially means:

  • 2010: Google shuts down China search engine because they believe in free speech.
  • 2016: Google realises it’s leaving lots of money on the table and CEO Sundar Pichai says “Google is for everyone - we want to be in China serving Chinese users.
  • 2018: Google decides financial gain trumps free speech and plans the release of an app conforming to Chinese censorship.

Just a reminder that Google’s 2004 IPO prospectus said:

Don’t be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served—as shareholders and in all other ways—by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.

Hmm. I’m looking forward to seeing how they justify this one (if, indeed, there’s any truth in the story).

Controlling your own creative content and IndieWeb

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I've long bleated on about why you should have your own website rather than use the so-called 'corporate web' and I bleat on about some more here. I do feel this is a really important issue and it's the only way to protect your own words, photos and videos, immune to the whims of the likes of Facebook, Google, Tumblr, Blogger and similar. I also point to IndieWeb in this article as they provide an excellent blueprint for doing just this.

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Clamp down on fake news, says MP External link icon.

Whilst I quite agree that genuine fake news probably needs some sort of regulating, we have to be careful. There’s a trend for politicians (and others) to simply brand anything they dislike or disagree with as ‘fake news’.

The lines are very blurry with this sort of thing and one has to be careful to separate something written as opinion from something written as fact.

Social media — and Facebook in particular (once again) — gets it in the neck a lot in the above article. Normally I’m quite happy to blame social media for many of society’s ills but some of the ‘spin’ from the regular press could also be seen as fake news and maybe that’s a consideration too.

Although the irony of politicians berating others for lying is not lost on me.

Flying cars are as likely as flying pigs in the UK External link icon.

I applaud the companies creating these things. It’s the way we should be going. Granted the flying car in the article linked to above only has a top speed of 6MPH and a battery life of just 20 minutes, but it’s a start.

Our transportation systems seem to be getting worse instead of better — slower instead of faster — and that seems at odds with a so-called “advancing technological society”.

We have no commercial supersonic flight since Concorde’s demise, the roads are congested and speed-limited to the nth degree and the railways often just don’t run at all, either because of things like timetable changes or an endless series of strikes.

So props to any company trying to improve our transportation system.

The problem, though, will be the regulation. I’m convinced that driving, if it was invented now, would simply not be allowed and I dread to think about the reams of regulation that’ll be necessary to allow us to take to the air on a personal level. It would take governments — ably assisted by hoards of money-grabbing lawyers — decades to come up with the rules, and they would be aplenty. And that’s if it was even allowed at all.

Please excuse my pessimism here. It’s not the scientists, technologists and engineers I doubt, it’s the government and the law-makers.

Apple WWDC 2018 summary External link icon.

The Next Web provides a useful summary of Apple’s 2018 Worldwide Developer Conference.

If I’m honest, a lot of it doesn’t interest me too much. Emojis (or Animojis or Memojis) are a gimmick I never use; I don’t have an Apple Watch or Apple TV; I’m not a parent so I’m not interested in restricting app use time; and I rarely use Siri. I appreciate these things may be of interest to others, though.

Even the things that did interest me only did so vaguely.

iOS 12 is going to have improved photo sharing options and notifications will be grouped so that they can be swiped away more conveniently.

Mojave is the nomenclature attached to the new release of macOS. It’ll have a ‘dark mode’, a new Finder view called ‘Gallery’ and a screenshot feature like iOS.

The most interesting thing to me was the planned improvement to Safari to stop more tracking by websites. This I welcomed, although I suspect it’ll start a tracking war and Facebook — one of the organisations Apple is specifically targeting with this — will probably figure out ways to track things regardless.

Over all, though: meh.

Infernal Windows 10 updates

Windows 10 is a lemon of the most lemony order. In my latest battle with it, it has the temerity to reenable the Windows Update service, despite me disabling it, and then it completely fails to install the update it so urgently wanted anyway. The ultimate solution to this failed update is, it says, to reinstall the entire OS. What a crock of shit.

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Washington Post doesn’t quite get GDPR right

If you're in the EU, GDPR has been everywhere recently. I'm basically in favour of it as a stepping stone to my ultimate desire here, which is for us to have full control over our data as a commodity. I explain a bit more about this here and particularly look at what's right and what's wrong with the way the Washington Post seems to have handled GDPR.

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The Drake equation and the search for ET

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The Drake Equation, which estimates the number of planets currently inhabited by intelligent life in our galaxy, can vary greatly depending on the numbers you plug into it. The thing is, there isn't a lot of agreement about what those numbers should be. It makes the whole thing rather pointless and I have serious reservations about the usefulness of this equation but, just for fun, I plug my own numbers into it.

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Tech companies should have more email support

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I have recently had a fair amount of communication with Apple regarding a support issue and this has reminded me how many tech companies shun email support. I think this is a bad idea because it's the most efficient and convenient method of support in a lot of cases. This is a particular issue with me because I'm partially deaf and being forced to use telephone support makes things quite difficult. Technology companies in general need to offer more email support.

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How did Google get so big? External link icon.

A CBS News article by Steve Kroft in which Gary Reback, an anti-trust lawyer, is interviewed about Google’s search and search advertising monopoly.

The thing is, Google’s job is to become dominant and maximise it’s profits and shareholder value. That’s what businesses do. You can’t expect them to voluntarily do anything that might damage their own earnings.

Government regulation is the only way you’ll ever tackle this sort of thing. The EU seems fairly keen on this sort of regulation and has already hit big tech with a number of fines. The US, however, doesn’t seem to have the stomach to take on the big tech companies.

The importance of backing up your computer

As someone who worked in IT for 35 years I often get asked to help out with the computer problems my friends and relatives have. One common thing I get asked is if I can get back some data that has been deleted. I then ask if they have a backup and the answer is often a disappointing no. It is essential you take backups because you'll most likely need them at least once. This article just gives the basics of how I think you should backup your computer and what data you should back up. I'm going to point all my friends to it.

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Google Chrome to flag insecure websites External link icon.

Chrome currently specifically flags secure (https) websites but it’s going to be changed so that it specifically flags insecure (http) websites instead.

The trouble with this is it’s a blunt instrument. Take this site, for example. It's statically generated and has no forms through which to submit personal data, so the http protocol is fine. There are no relevant security issues.

This site does, as it happens, support https and I encourage the use of it as a basic principle. Indeed, this site redirects to https automatically.

So I shouldn’t really have an issue with this but I’m not keen on Google becoming the sole arbiter of what’s secure and what isn’t. I’m particularly not keen on the use of the https protocol as the only security factor under consideration because a lot of sites are certainly not insecure when accessed via http. It’s just not true and by incorrectly flagging sites as insecure, Google could be damaging their business without justification.

What does a Bona Vacantia freehold mean for leaseholders?

I live in a complicated situation at the moment. I bought my flat from a company in receivership and the receivership process has been running all the while I've been here (over two years now). The freehold recently went bona vacantia, which means it's now owned by the Crown, and in this article I pass on what I know about this situation.

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Medium demonstrates why you should publish independently External link icon.

An article by Jon Russell at TechCrunch reports that:

Medium has abruptly pulled a feature that allowed publishers to operate paywalls on its platform, leaving some independent media scrambling for alternative options to maintain a crucial source of revenue.

This highlights something I’ve mentioned before. If you hand your content over to a third-party publisher you’re entirely at the whim of their policies, and they can change those policies whenever they choose.

I maintain that it’s always better to publish your own content via your own website. Use third parties to market that content by all means but link back to your own internet property.

Is it illegal to do something someone might 'take offence' to? External link icon.

I know the world went mad in the early 90s but sometimes it still astonishes me.

In the above article a Staffordshire police spokesman said:

We've received no complaints about signage outside J W Ash and Son butchers in Leek. However, the local chief inspector did advise the owner to give careful consideration to what was written on the boards in case anyone took offence.

There are a few problems here. If nobody complained, why are the police involved? Why, regardless, is a chief inspector involved in something so trivial? Why can’t the police see the context of this; that it is just light-hearted humour?

The big one, though, is when did it become illegal to offend someone?

If it’s now illegal to say or write something that someone might take offence to, we’re finished as a society. There will be no more discussion.

People should be free to say or write potentially offensive things and likewise people are free to take offence and respond as they see fit, but we can't go around silencing people just because what they say might be offensive to someone somewhere.

There is of course sometimes a fine line between ‘offensive’ and ‘illegal’ but context always needs to be considered in such cases and common sense should prevail (erring on the side of permissiveness in my opinion).

If however it is now illegal to give offence, then we can get rid of the Kardashians, Kayne West, Donald Trump and about a billion other people whose very existence I find offensive. Perhaps a chief inspector would look into that for me.