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 🙂

 

TRW: Preparation

TRW = The Remote Worker

This is a series that I am going to start and I’ll be adding the prefix “TRW:” to every post related to this remote worker experiment.

This week I will be clearing my desk of the two 21″ 1080p monitors that I have and will work solely from my 15″ MacBook Pro screen. It’s a luxury having two monitors and having that extra screen real estate definitely helps with the work that I do.

The problem is that I will not be carrying two monitors around with me, so I need to get used to working this way before I take off, as I do not want to waste time adjusting when I am already on the road.

Shared post: The Question

The Question – http://wp.me/p8BssP-k

I had to share the above post from a blog that I am following because it totally came in handy once again today!

I was looking at buying a new GPS watch as a “special treat” for after my marathon next weekend. I then stopped myself and asked the question “why?”. 

You see, there is always a justification that comes first to trick yourself into believing that you need something new and shiny. “Oh well I did <insert activity here> so I deserve to treat myself to <insert thingy wotsit here>”. 

I’ve been a somewhat active runner since 2012, but starting on the first of January 2017 I put myself on a 16 week training plan for my first ever marathon! It will be a big accomplishment to run 26.2 miles, but does it justify spending​ anywhere between $300-$600 on a brand new GPS running watch? For a second, yes! But then I revisited the blog post that I shared and I really thought about it and said no!

Back in early 2013 my wife bought me the GPS running watch that I have now, which is a Garmin Forerunner 110. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it and I once ran 4 runs in a week on a single charge and it didn’t even go below 50%. It also does everything I need it to:

  • Tells the time. 
  • Tracks my location & evelation. 
  • Displays my current pace & total running time. 

I know it does a few more things than that, but they are all the things that I care about and get value from. So, why do I need a new one? I don’t and instead of me thinking “I deserve it for all of the hard work!” I am now questioning how many more runs can I do with it? How many more milestones can I reach? How many more goals can I accomplish?

Until the device becomes completely unusable I will continue to use it without any desire to swap it out for no real reason. 

The Remote Worker

Starting on May 2nd I am going to be embarking on a 6 week trip for a combination of working remotely and taking some time off. I have worked remotely before as well as spending time doing so in another time zone, but never for this duration of time.

I have already purchased a local SIM card the country that I’ll be staying in, as my Google Pixel is unlocked, so I will not be paying Verizon $25 for every 100MB of international data I use!!!

The nano SIM that I purchased cost $3 and I’ll probably put $20 on it for safe measure and that should be all I’ll need for the duration of the trip for my phone at least.

My Mac will obviously hook up to WiFi and I doubt that I’ll ever have the need to use my phone as a hotspot because during the times that I will be working I’m either going to be at somebody’s house or the office when I reach that part of the country.

I’m looking forward to the trip and it will be interesting to see if the video conferencing platform that we use works as advertised by making me feel like I never left HQ 🙂

Using my time wisely

To follow on from yesterday’s post here is a snippet from an article I read this morning: 

“While many others were playing guitar and watching movies and drinking (yes, it was a lot like a college dorm), Chris was reading everything he could about starting a company.” 

Here is the full article: https://www.redhat.com/en/open-source-stories/ai-revolutionaries/right-side-robots?sc_cid=7016000000127eZAAQ

It’s a really inspiring story and so now I’m going to find the thing that makes me tick, create a small & simple plan, and be disciplined about sticking to it.