I think I have finally done it for realz this time!

I know. It wasn’t that long ago that I thought I had achieved plagtech nirvana, but this time I am convinced that I have arrived! I have seen the light!

It all comes down to Google Chrome. Previously I always made these huge leaps between various vendors and their respective platforms. For instance, a year or so ago if I had switched to Chrome I would have eventually switched to all of Google’s services for mail, contacts, calendar, photos etc.

This time around even though I am signed into Chrome with my Google account, I only do this to continue building upon the great collection of bookmarks, keep my passwords in sync, retain my maps history, and Youtube playlists. At work we used to use Google’s GSuite, but now we use Office 365, so there is no need to have multiple Google profiles in Chrome. Under a single profile I now have complete harmony for all my browser needs whether it be personal or work related. When I am not using a Mac I get the best iCloud.com experience on Chrome when running Windows or Linux too.

Because of this it really, really, really doesn’t matter which desktop Operating System I use. As for mobile, I am using Chrome on my iPhone 8 Plus, which works perfectly fine, but there are certain apps/actions where you cannot control which browser will be used when tapping on a link. I live with the fact that I may sometimes use Safari or if I can be bothered I’ll copy and paste the URL into Chrome. It’s a small price to pay considering all of the other benefits that I get from being an iOS user.

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I think I may have finally done it!

Without blabbering on too much I think I may have finally found the winning plagtech combo. Before I explain, here are the two key pieces of tech that I have now standardized on:

  1. Browser = Firefox
  2. Productivity = Microsoft Office 365

Using Firefox & Firefox Sync to keep all of my browsing history, tabs, usernames, and passwords together I can literally use any desktop or mobile operating system and have everything in one place.

Similarly, for Office 365 I now have a seamless experience for Outlook across any desktop or mobile operating system as well as full access to industry standard applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc. (as not all online application systems/companies accept Pages or GDocs) on any platform at any time!

I will continue using iOS and my iCloud account, as my Apple ID is tied to a lot of iTunes/App Store purchases, iCloud Photo Library, and iMessage. As for which computer I use it literally doesn’t matter anymore! LITERALLY… DOESN’T… MATTER!!

I love Microsoft’s productivity tools and they really do make a difference with regards to how I get things done and with Firefox as my browser there is no bias to a particular system e.g. it’s no surprise that Safari is only available on macOS and iOS or that Google Chrome works extremely well with GSuite.

It’s 10:14pm PST on April 27th 2018 and my time starts… now!

Plagtech’s role in online anonymity

I have always been an advocate for online privacy and started using tools like DuckDuckGo in 2008 and later on the Ghostery plugin for my browser, but since the whole debacle surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica as well as the fantastic Tweet from Dylan Curran I have finally found myself pushed over the edge.

I’m not jumping on the #DeleteFacebook bandwagon, because I am OK with posting the posts that I do and sharing the pictures that I share. However, I think it’s wrong that they hang on to your data even when it’s supposed to have been deleted.

Another major issue I have are all of the trackers out there and the fact that Facebook & Google can still collect data on you even if you aren’t logged in to their respective services _or_ even have an account whatsoever!

These guys and many other tracking services make huge amounts of money by monitoring your online habits and selling that data to other companies, so that they can target you for their goods & services. It would be like 100’s of people following you around the super market taking notes of every move you make and every product that you look at, so that they can run off and find somebody who would be willing to pay for the fact that you potentially wanted to buy some Ragu!

With all of this going on (and most likely more that we still don’t know about!) I feel like I am finally in a position to take more control of how I utilize the Internet. It would be foolish to think that one can simply cut themselves off from the Internet altogether, but having these new tools to your disposal will allow you to have a much more pleasant & stalker free experience.

Having been testing the waters of a vendor neutral digital lifestyle for many years I finally feel as though this has all of a sudden come together. As of today, in true Plagtech fashion, here is my current setup:

  • Operating System = Tails 3.6.2
  • Browser = Tor Browser 7.5.3
  • Hardware = 32GB Kingston Data Traveler
  • Email = ProtonMail

Tails is installed on the 32GB Kingston Data Traveler USB drive, which I currently have plugged into a Lenovo ThinkPad T440s and it works splendidly! I haven’t had to do anything fancy with regards to installing the right drivers to get the system operational. Also, I have setup the remaining disk space on the drive as an encrypted persistent storage volume, so that any data I save on the drive can be transferred to the next device that I use it on and should I lose this USB drive the docs will be unreadable. It works on a Mac, which is great as I also have a 15″ MacBook Pro as well.

This means that I am truly platform agnostic as well as truly anonymous. The web session I have to WordPress right now is routing through France, Singapore, Switzerland, and then out to WordPress. When I start a new browser session the network path will be completely different!

Also, with the extensions that come preinstalled with the Tor Browser I discovered that some sites use HTML5 canvas images to track who you are and the extension kindlt provides an option to block them, which I did! Also, when I went to maximize the Tor Browser to fullscreen I was warned not to because some sites/trackers are able to identify the type of machine you are using based on the screen resolution!! This is all within the first few minutes of using Tails & Tor Browser!

I’m so glad that I have started using Tails, as I can now carry my fully encrypted digital life on my keychain and use any hardware to fire it up and do what I need to do. It doesn’t really get any more platform agnostic than that!

Sure, when I need to I can still login to my iCloud.com account and funnily enough when I did Apple’s 2FA said that a login from Zurich wanted to access my account, so I know the anonymity is defintely working! However, I do plan on utilizing ProtonMail going forward for the communications that I care about with friends and family. Of course, to get the true benefits of ProtonMail both the sender & receiver should be using the service, but even when the other side is not using ProtonMail I still have the peace of mind that all of my email is encrypted on their servers hosted in Switzerland, which has the strictest privacy laws in the world.

If you are interested in learning more about this and getting yourself setup here are some useful links!

Now it’s time to get back to watching The Fifth Estate 🙂

 

Factory reset

The fact that my phone stopped crashing after removing the Uber app must have been a sheer coincidence because the frequency of crashes started to increase the following day.

I have since done a factory reset and the time stats show just over 10 hours, so we’ll see how it goes.

Also, I am only going to use the stock Android apps for at least 24 hours of uptime, then I’ll start introducing third party apps one at a time because I officially start working remotely tomorrow. The first app that I’ll have to install will be Slack, but for everything else I am going to use Chrome as much as possible (which is what I am using to type this post).

Updates! Updates! Updates!

This post will be short, but after going through the hassle of the Uber app I noticed that once again the Google app is asking to be updated. It seems to be the same update though because it still shows that it was last updated one week ago.

However, in addition to that there are three new updates waiting to be installed as well, so I am putting my foot down and will hold off from new updates for the time being.
Screenshot_20170512-073738

Is the Uber app causing Android to repeatedly crash?

I’m wondering if I am not the only person who has had this issue, but so far I have not found anything online describing the problems that I have been experiencing over the last two days. 

In the one week that I have been overseas I let my app updates stockpile to 22! That’s a heck of a lot of updates for one week, so finally I tapped “Update All” and let the Google Play Store work it’s magic. 

After doing this my phone would just randomly reboot. I witnessed it happen at least a dozen times, but it’s possible it could have rebooted more times whilst sitting in my pocket or back pack. 

I booted my phone into Safe Mode and the issue went away, so now my mind was in Sherlock Holmes mode and I started using the power of deduction to troubleshoot which of the 22 recent updates had royally screwed up my phone!

Luckily I didn’t have to do much!! After rebooting back into regular mode I noticed there were two pending app updates: Google & Uber.  

Under Google it said one week ago, but under Uber it said 13 hours ago. I figured that either a failed Google app update caused it or Uber has very quickly identified and resolved an issue with yet an even newer update. I installed both updates, but the issue continued, so I left my phone alone for the rest of the afternoon. I am on holiday after all!!!

When I started to settle down for the night I noticed that there was another pending update and sure enough it was from Uber. Under the entry it said “Last updated 6 hours ago” and so now I really started to question this app. Of course, I installed the update and unfortunately the issue persisted, so I uninstalled Uber and thus far I have not had any more issues!

Has anybody else experienced this issue on Android? If so, please leave a comment. 

This is the hardware and software that I am using: Google Pixel (5″) running Android 7.1.2.