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 🙂


GTD Simplicity

I never thought of using it before, but now I am in love! Google Tasks within Gmail makes organizing my tasks super easy by simply just listing them! <BOOM> Mind blown!!!

I used to think I needed really sophisticated and featureful software to manage my todo’s and projects, but the reality is that putting all the work into managing the tasks takes away from the energy and the effort to actually get the task done!

One thing I am taking advantage of is the Google Tasks extension, which is pretty much an iFrame of the same Google Tasks list in the Gmail window. That keeps things simple, but much more accessible too.

The goal now is just to do tasks in the order that they come in without worrying too much about which task to do and delaying everything that is on my list! Unless of course something absolutely critical comes up, then I’ll have to re-prioritize, but on a typical day my new GTD strategy will just be “Start from the top”.

Opera browser & utilities

So, within 24 hours I am now all about the Opera browser and the mobile app utilities that they have created as well.

On my Lenovo running Fedora 25 I have the regular Opera browser installed (not Opera Neon) and on my Pixel I have both the regular Opera browser and the Opera Mini browser too. I like the simplicity of the Opera Mini browser and there are more data saving options too.

In addition to the mobile browsers I have also installed the Opera VPN and Opera Max, which is a utility that lets you take complete control over how much data your phone uses.

So far I am loving the experience and I am using the Opera browser on my Pixel as a replacement for the dedicated social media apps that I use as well. The true test will be when my next cell phone bill arrives, as this month we went over our data allowance of 7GB’s and was charged $15 for an additional 1GB of which we only have 0.26GB left for the next 8 days before being charged again 😦

Opera browser

Stop! I know what you’re thinking. However, this is just a test drive I promise! The thing that attracted me to trying Opera again was the fact that it now has a built-in VPN for more security and it’s very own ad blocker.

In addition to that I have also made DuckDuckGo the default the search engine and installed the Ghostery add-on as well for additional protection against online tracking.


Minimalist Plagtech

Gosh darn it I just can’t help myself! I think I have to live with some level of platform agnosticism to prevent myself from going completely crazy!

This time I want to take a different approach though. Yea, yea, you’ve heard it all before, but hear me out please…

Rather than taking the all or nothing approach I am going to figure out what is the bare minimum of platform agnosticism I can accomplish to satisfy all of my technological needs. 

The main reason for the switch is that I am primarily using Windows 7 Enterprise at work and I need all of my bookmarks available. In the past I tried using iCloud sync for Windows, but it wasn’t all that good and it doesn’t sync passwords stored in iCloud Keychain. 

Starting with the very basics I am going switch my browser to Firefox and revive my Firefox Sync account. I will use Firefox for both work and personal use, as it is now available on iOS and is a better alternative compared to Google Chrome on iOS. Firefox is PAT certified and will work better and more consistently than using different browsers on different platforms. 

The second is moving off Apple’s Notes application and back to OneNote. Again, OneNote is PAT certified, as there are native apps for each desktop and mobile platform whereas using the browser on Windows to access Notes via iCloud.com was very clunky. OneNote also has a very cool Apple Watch app too!

So, that’s all the changes for now. There’s no need to go overboard and switch everything up on day 1 because I don’t need absolutely everything to work across all platforms. I need just enough conformity to get by on the different platforms I use without compromising the user experience and my day-to-day workflow. 

Chrome OS

I have successfully convinced myself that I could get by in the Post-PC world using solely an iPad as my primary device. This was a good learning experience and I know now that I could easily get away with spending $499 on an iPad versus $1,299 on a MacBook Pro. 

    How does being a platform agnostic technologist work in this world of mobile/tablet devices that are bounded to an ecosystem of app stores?

    With iOS I am getting by with all of the Google based apps. Likewise, on Android those apps are stock, so nothing to worry about there. On the desktop I have learned that everything I ever need can be obtained by simply installing the Google Chrome browser. 

    If I can get everything I need from a browser, then why couldn’t I get by with Chrome OS? There are many hardware options with Chrome OS with price tags ranging from $199 to $1,299. I still have my Google Chromebook CR-48 prototype, but it is so old and slow. It probably won’t even run the latest version of Chrome OS, so I am going to look online and research some of the different options out there.