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!

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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.

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 🙂

The Internet of Thingy Wotsits

Just as we started to heal from the overused term “cloud computing” we now have to deal with “IoT”, which if you didn’t already know stands for the Internet of Things. 

The blog fomotogo.wordpress.com outlines the way I have been feeling for the last 6 months or so, which is the feeling of being overly connected. 

I have been thinking about this so much that at the beginning of the year I was so sick and tired of owning a smartphone that I almost got one of these

However, I have to be more realistic and rather than shut myself completely out of this digital world I need to strengthen my willpower and work on the terrible habit of needlessly pulling out my phone and checking it every 5-10 minutes. 

I’ve already started to form a new habit of immediately plugging my phone into the charger on my nightstand when I get home and forgetting about it until the kids are in bed. It’s helped me shut off from work and wind down whilst we have dinner, then go through the bedtime routine of reading a story and talking what hammerhead sharks like to eat 😂 My eldest is really into sharks right now!

However, this window of time where I am not using my phone is typically only 3-3.5 hours out of the day, so I have started to wonder if I can extend it. One thing that FomoToGo has really helped me to consider is asking myself “Why?”. If it was typing up this blog post right now I would have been perusing articles online about the next Google Pixel and iPhone, so that I can start anticipating months in advance which phone I should get next… Why!? What else could I be doing in that time? Let’s think about this for a moment…

I already have ~3 hours off, but I usually stay up a further 3 hours on top of that, so what could I do in three hours?

  • Read a book
  • Learn a new language
  • Start an online class
  • Tackle some jobs around the house e.g. things that need fixing, as I already do the regular stuff (laundry, dishes, etc) once the kids are asleep 😀

You get the idea though. In the world that we live in the good side of technology enables us to do more than ever before, but without asking “Why?” It’s easy to let the Internet of Thingy Wotsits overrule our lives by becoming a big distraction to us. Things like social media, binge watching, the comments section etc. 

I need to take a more disciplined approach to this like I have done with my marathon training. My marathon is only 2 weeks away and I have been training since January 1st. It’s required a lot of focus and dedication and it has taught me a lot about myself. Once the marathon is over I’ll have even more time on my hands and the last thing I want to do is immediately slip back into old habits. 

One unintentional benefit of me switching to Android and using Google services in general is that once I have run this Pixel into the ground I don’t plan on getting the latest and greatest smartphone that money can buy. On the other hand I’m certainly not going to buy that LG Revere 3 either 😊 I’ll get a capable device that checks enough boxes to not leave me in the dark ages, but not so good that I feel the need to be attached to it all the time. 

Similarly to the phone I also have a desire to do the same with my computer. Work provides me with a laptop, but a part me wants a very basic device that, again, is capable, but not high end. It just needs to be good enough for a bit of browsing and have an SD card slot to upload pics from my SLR. I’m not sure what kind of laptop this is yet, so I’ll be doing some more research over the coming weeks. Part of that research will also involve asking “Why?”, especially when our household already has a 2013 MacBook Pro, two tablets, and three smartphones! 

This is going to be one of those ongoing things, so I’ll tag each post with “FomoToGo” if you’re interested in following my progress. 

Happy New Year!

Howdy folks! It’s your friendly neighborhood Platform Agnostic Technologist here wishing you the happiest of new years!

To kick-start the new year I have switched to a Google Pixel phone and started over with an entirely new Google account. 

I didn’t want to instantly upload all of my files and photos because there’s a lot of clean up that needs to be done and if I don’t take this opportunity now, then I know I’ll get lazy and never take the time to do it properly. The only thing I have imported, though, is my music collection from iTunes into Google Play Music. 

The switch to Android did make me nervous I must admit. My entire family and nearly all of my friends use iOS, so I would miss out on the ease of sharing photos via iCloud Photo Sharing, simple messaging via iMessage, an email account I have used since the days of .Mac, the integrations between iOS, watchOS, and macOS as well as just the plain and simple fact of learning something new. 

I have dabbled with Android in the past when I had borrowed a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 running Android KitKat and then my ISP sent me a Samsung Galaxy Tab running Android Lollipop just for being a loyal customer. I still use the Tab here and there, but neither of them felt compelling enough for me to switch to Android full time. 

What appealed to me about the Pixel was that like the Nexus devices of years past it would be running pure Android and it would be the first Android device to be running version 7.1 of the new OS codenamed Nougat. However, unlike the Nexus devices the Pixel was designed from the ground up by Google. HTC is the manufacturer, but there is not a single hint of HTC on the device itself or when you compare it to other HTC phones out there. 

Another cool thing is that I was eligible for a free Daydream View VR headset! I’ve played around with it quite a bit and I have to say I absolutely love it!! More on this another time. 

The main reason for the switch was to finally break free of my iShackles. Now, I don’t want this to sound like I’m bashing Apple and that I am 100% against them because that is not the case. The problem I’ve always had when trying to live a plagtech lifestyle is that I’ve always ended up right back where I started, so this time I need to make a big change. 

When you look at the history of this blog most of the changes I have made were related to applications that I used and if I did switch between Operating Systems it was at the desktop level, but historically I have always stuck to the same mobile OS. This is where I think I have failed to commit to any of the other changes, which is why this time I decided to switch up the phone I am using and see where this takes me. 

One major benefit of Android over iOS that I like already is being able to use VLC player. We have a number of movies on DVD that we purchased legally and rightfully own that I ripped into digital format. I’ve always had to rely on VLC on my laptop to play them because VLC player was short lived on iOS. Well on Android this is not a problem because VLC player works perfectly fine and seeing as my Pixel has 128GB’s of storage I have more than enough room to store the movies, especially the ones that keep my son happy 🙂

The other benefits to switching to a Pixel is that I get the benefit of pure Android without having to change carrier, updates come directly from Google, the monthly installments are 60% cheaper than what the iPhone 7 would have cost me, and I get unlimited storage on Google Photos for full res pictures and 4k videos.  

One of the other reasons/benefits of making the transition to Android in general is that in the next 2-3 years when it’s time to get a new phone I have the freedom to explore multiple manufacturers. One thing I am already envisioning is that I could buy a phone from WileyFox outright as well as unlocked to use in other countries versus paying my current carrier an arm and a leg in international roaming and data fees. As everything is tied to my Google account I am not restricted to one type of phone anymore. The same goes for Android Wear too, but I’ll hold off on mentioning wearables until Android Wear 2.0 is released. 

Lastly, before I wrap up this wouldn’t be a true plagtech post if I didn’t end with a list of the apps I currently use, so here goes:

  • Email = Gmail
  • Calendar = Google Calendar
  • Browser = Google Chrome
  • Photos = Google Photos
  • Music = Google Play Music
  • Movies = VLC, Netflix & Netflix VR
  • Messaging = Messenger (native Android app), Facebook Messenger & Slack
  • Notes = OneNote
  • Health = Strava, Garmin Connect, MyFitnessPal & Google Fit

Fedora 23

I have been reading through a number of my older articles and a couple of things stood out. There are multiple “I am back again!” posts, which just means I am insane and can’t stay away from plagtechism.

A second thing was my previous attempts to use Linux as my primary OS. These experiments were cool and even though I ultimately came back to OS X I want to try it again with Fedora 23.

I have my SSH keys setup properly and ready to use with my jump host, the git server, and my knife environment is all good to go for Chef.

This time around I have opted to use Google Chrome as my browser of choice for both work and personal browsing. I like being able to switch between the two profiles in one browser whereas Firefox currently only lets you sync with one account.

One of the reasons I think my previous attempts failed is because I would was using a really old Dell D420 that was a slow Core2Duo with 2GB’s of RAM. I no longer have that laptop and now have the Dell E6430, which has a Core i7, 8GB’s of RAM, and an SSD.

Screenshot from 2015-11-22 11-55-13