QoTD: Russell Coker
Maybe the ability to use a Macbook as a shaving mirror could be handy, but I’d rather grow a beard and use a Thinkpad. —Russell Coker
Firefox's secret shame
Mike Ratcliffe asks, "How well does your browser protect your privacy?" and suggests some Firefox extensions. (One more: RequestPolicy).
But Firefox has a deeper problem. It's what the EFF calls the browser fingerprint.
For historical reasons, Firefox has a User-Agent string—the text that a browser uses to identify itself to the server—that's just packed with information. Seriously. Look at all this detail.
Why is all that crap in there? Some of it is needed to tell some sites that the browser can do certain things. Many web sites do "browser sniff" in order to decide whether or not to offer advanced features. Although there are better ways to deal with this now, the Firefox developers are reluctant to make any changes that would break legacy sites.
Daniel Cawrey writes, in Firefox
Competitive Strategy Must Focus On Privacy,
Since Firefox is the only truly open browser and
its features do not depend primarily on investor
concerns, Mozilla has a unique opportunity to go to
great lengths protecting the privacy of its users
while they are on the Internet.
That's a great idea. How about a compromise? Instead of dropping User-Agent entirely, minimize it to a single common string, one that contains the commonly sniffed information. Start with a privacy option to enable this minimal User-Agent, and give sites a chance to fix their sniffing when the early adopter privacy-hawk users turn it on. When it works for the privacy freaks, make it the default.
(Photo: Dave Young)
Sunday morning links: a little less mindless
(Got the mindless link propagation generator to start putting in "via" links a lot of the time, so join the content curation conversation and stuff.)
Valerie Aurora: Yes, brogrammer culture is pervasive (there's certainly a weird dynamic in the industry where a lot of the jobs that require you to be nice to other people are held by women: event staff, PR, and so on, and a lot of the "elite" <blink>ninja rock star</blink> jobs are held by men.)
They don't make patriotic art like this any more. But if I got this painted on the side of a van, would people even get it? America Guided by Wisdom: A Neoclassical Allegory of American Exceptionalism
Nicholas Carr makes a good point about copying, and what to call it: Beyond theft and sharing. Read the whole thing.
David Maynor on the 0-day market: Who will fight for me? (In the long run, the existence of this market is great news for software QA staff. Companies will have to keep QA people happy, or disgruntled ones will sell their findings elsewhere. I always picture these transations as happening in the back of a William Gibson dive bar for some reason.)
Speaking of transactions... Bitcoin, the Darknet Economy, and the Low Over-Head Revolution (via SiliconANGLE and Center for a Stateless Society)
Making the rounds, so you've probably seen it. Khan Academy is Redefining the Introduction to Computer Science.
Local and worth checking out, even though I have Thinkpad power supplies like most people have cockroaches: Removing Barriers for Linux Hardware
Economics of crowdfunding: Producers Weigh In On Kickstarter Recording Budgets
Red and Yellow cards, and trolls
The Red/Yellow Card project (a way to respond to creepy people at conferences) is a great idea, except for the small problem that trolls might run a scavenger hunt with the object of deliberately getting cards. To reduce the lulz to be had from this, I suggest leaving one of each type of card in the men's room, so that simply holding a card doesn't mean anything.
If you see me at a conference please give me a few cards and I'll help with this. A few men's room users willing to do this would encourage the seeking of lulz elsewhere.
Anyone using old MSIE here?
It doesn't look as if many of you are really
using versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer
before version 8. Up-to-date browsers
q tag, but, as Stacey
Cordoni wrote in 2006,
Because of IE/Win’s
lack of support for the Q tag, the Q tag is not used
by many web designers or web authors.
(You should see the quotation, the part after the comma in the previous sentence, inside quotation marks. On old versions of MSIE, before version 8 fixed it, the quotation marks don't show up.)
It looks like most of my traffic that seems to be from old MSIE is just spam scripts pretending to be old MSIE. Here's a vintage browser:
"Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Digital AlphaServer 1000A 4/233; Windows NT; Powered By 64-Bit Alpha Processor)"
Looks like it just did a GET on the home page and a POST to the comment spamtrap. So user experience in that browser is not going to be a priority.
I know the User-Agent is probably fake, but I almost want to believe in the DIGITAL MARKETING POWER GURU who's actually been running this thing all these years. Maybe the inventor of web comment spam just paid me a call.
Anyway, if you want to use a version of MSIE earlier
than 8 on this site, you will probably start seeing
quoted text that doesn't make sense because of the
q problem. I don't want to join the
browser of the week club, but I want to get rid of
the typewriter quotes, too. It might make sense to
Link frenzy: Web design
(Must fix the layout of this site. In the meantime, a little research...)
Do not anger the grumpy wizards: Avoiding Faux Weights And Styles With Google Web Fonts
Ben Schwarz announces a new, useful reference side on HTML5: HTML5, for web developers
Stu Maschwitz on Gradually
Falling in Love with Plain Text:
In my case,
I practically had to invent Markdown on my own before
I realized how great it was.
Smashing Magazine: New High-Quality Free Fonts
Mainstream Media department: Making of: People Magazine's Responsive Mobile Website, People opens full mobile buffet after years of snacks
Source Sans Pro: Adobe’s first open source type family (in other news, Dmitry Sklyarov still free.)
Interview with author Rachel Hinman.
and invent new and more human ways for
people to interact with information. The
complexity of designing for everywhere
Christian Heilmann: Datatable to barchart without images, libraries or plugins
Hey, kids! Blogroll!
As you can probably tell if you've been reading this site on a browser and not in a feed reader, I've been dorking around with the layout. Right now the whole three-column thing is gone and everything is in one column. I don't know if I'm going to do a media query thing to move stuff into other columns, or just clean up the one-column thing and have it look all minimal and stuff.
Anyway, the blogroll section here has gotten a little out of date, and since I now have a Python script that now pulls in...let's see...3875 feeds, I made it dynamically generate the blogroll based on who's actually posting, and what I've been linking to. Some obvious ones in there ("Schneier on Security", "Doc Searls Weblog") and some not so obvious.
Yes, I know that the grumpy wizards are at work in the blogroll iframe but not on the rest of the page, I'll see what I can do.
Media shoppers rejoice: DRM-free labeling is here
Back in the day, Lydia Kinata at Linux Journal came up with a nifty logo for "Open: DRM-Free Technology", and we got a bunch of stickers printed up, made the logo free to copy and redistribute, and handed them out at LinuxWorld...where they promptly got collected with a bunch of other stickers and stuff and, I guess, forgotten. Even at a technology event, we had to explain to a lot of people what "DRM" is.
I still think DRM-free labeling is a great idea, though, so it's good to see the Defective By Design project now doing a "DRM-Free" logo, which is now in use at Magnatune, oreilly.com, and other places. RTWT for more links.
Bonus link (if you read one article on DRM and business, make it this one): Charles Stross explains how going DRM-free matters to publishers and authors.
Advertising with the wrong signaling, a sighting
Good example of an advertising signaling problem: Chris Castle on BMW’s Response to Ads for Its Brands on Pirate Sites. Somehow, BMW advertising ended up running on an unlicensed album download page, on a site called mp3crank.
Castle writes: "Brands like BMW are in a unique position to both (a) stop the money and (b) demand a rebate from their ad agency or ad network. But then we are always told that none of these ad networks (or ad exchanges) profit from piracy because their contracts say they don’t."
But this isn't just a problem with ads ending up on user-generated content, or user-"generated" infringing content. The power of the ad is in its ability to signal that the advertiser spend money on the ad. An ad on a cheesy illegal download carries no signal at best, and more likely a signal in the wrong direction.
Dalton Caldwell writes about the problem of advertising on inexpensive content here: Hot Dogs & Caviar. He makes the excellent point that the Valley hasn't converted cheap content "hot dogs" into high-performing ad "caviar". Now it seems that we're starting to realize that there is no adtech Holy Grail. Infringing, user-generated, and other cheap content fails to carry the signal that costly content does, no matter how much math you do on it.
Couple of bonus links. This piece, How BuzzFeed is bucking banner ads with curated content and social advertising, has a—well, let's just say "direct"—view of online advertising's effectiveness: "99% of internet users do not click ads and those that do are often members of the wrong audience—older, lower income, basically irrelevant." (They probably drink Thunderbird wine and run Microsoft Internet Explorer, too. Who needs them?)
Interesting post by Bill Lee: Marketing Is Dead. (Maybe the answer is two steps: first stop treating "social" as part of marketing, and second, stop de-skilling customer service jobs, and unblock experienced service and support people's access to social sites.)
News from the patent wars: Don’t Feed the Troll!
Ikea data viz hack FTW: Desk with Meters
I can understand that it wasn't Free from day one, but why not code escrow to protect your favorite applications from being acq-hired into oblivion? The real reason we’re upset about Sparrow’s acquisition
Walkability, Mobility, and Freedom (and you don't have software freedom either, if you don't know how to use it.)
Man, if someone could combine the addictivness of gaming with the benefits of exercise, life would be good. Hope this guy can pull it off: The Most Ambitious Project I’ve Ever Announced
Important DMCA/SEO connection that I'm surprised wasn't there already: An update to our search algorithms
And a response: Paved with Good Intentions
Good demo video, showing email as part of workflow: Alfresco demo showing rule based on lat/lon, Mobile App, & CMIS
I could not sleep after I read this in hardcover: Hugo-nominated sf novel Blindsight available for free
Better than some of the crazy crap they're selling at the Post Office now: How to Save the Postal Service
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
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