Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Privacy Unions: an idea

August 7, 2013

I have been kicking this around for a few months now.  The idea is to use a federation of software that controls  what information is shared about a user  (Ad-block, No-Script, Firefox, Tor) in combination with some sort of higher level group or organization of people that sign up-and-in by installing the software package in their browser. Lets call this a “Privacy Union.”

In rough, hand-waving terms you could use this concept/software package to strike a deal between the union and one of the many corporate entities that are interested in mining your data. There could be levels of tiered access, so that if you give away more data you would get more from the company.

What could you get? What could you possibly demand from a Google? Well for one thing you could ask them for your profile. Yeah google, tell me what you’ve got on me. Show me the “me model.” This might actually be good for something like Google, especially if you enable some kind of interactivity where the user can edit the profile to express their actual interests.


I have recently discovered that Mozilla Labs seems to be pursuing a project that would let users share specific interests with websites.

This idea is in that same direction, except it would take back some of what is already shared by users instead of giving out more. Privacy unions could be a valve on the outflow of information about you, your habits, and interests. I suppose you could volunteer more information (similar to above) to sweeten the pot.

To start (as part of the install) you could use something like Vortex a gamified tool to scramble your information

You could also potentially add email aliasing to the mix. The union provides you with “unlimited” email aliases that you can use to sign up for different services, make purchases etc. So when emails come back to you via that alias you know who sold your information. (not sure exactly how to work this last part in)

Browsing history, search profiles, purchase history, contacts, posts, etc. This information, in aggregate, is worth a lot of money. And most people are giving it away for free.


Giving away ideas

August 7, 2013

Its 08/07/13 ? Already?!  Its time to breathe some life into this thing. My inspiration? Well I keep this little notebook full of ideas for phone apps, science projects, schemes for taking over the world, etc. Some are great (hopefully), some are stupid, and some are impossible. Yesterday(?) Google was granted a patent for a customizable screen unlock  and this idea was in the notebook.

“So what? All someone has to do is panic-fail while unlocking their phone in an effort to capture a baby panda yawning at the zoo and they would have this idea.”

Yeah thats true. But I wrote this crappy little idea down in my notebook back in 2010 and it hasn’t done me a damn bit of good since.

“What good are ideas that you do nothing with?”

Yes, thats my thinking exactly. At worst I suppose they are a waist of energy. So this is what I’m going to use that now patented idea for–motivation. If I do something with just one item in this notebook–even give it away–then that is better than nothing (i’m trying out en dashes).

Idea 05/11/10

Android app: “Super Unlock” The way you unlock the phone launches an app. e.g. “C” for camera. Programmable.

PS I would like to give a nod to Charles Stross whose Accelerando I read (in 2003?) on a Palm Pilot while sitting on a throne of broken servers (literally). Here is to *freeing* up some ideas.

And also a shout-out to my buddy Bryan, for telling me to blog about some of my ramblings. Here goes.

My favorite LibreOffice extensions

April 10, 2011

#1 I have yet to test this feature in LibreOffice but calc2latex is one of the most useful extensions I have ever encountered. What does it do? Simply, it takes a table created in the spreadsheet program and converts it to a Latex table. If you have ever made a large latex table by hand then you can appreciate what a HUGE time saver the calc2latex extension can be. It is fantastic.

#2 A while back (two years ago?) I was delighted to find that OpenOffice has a presenter console that lets the presenter see his notes, a timer, and the upcoming slide separate from the presentation being given. This is extremely helpful if there is a lot of detail or some difficult to remember phrasing that is not meant for the audience. This feature has been available in Microsoft Office and Keynote for some time but it is one of those features whose addition to LibreOffice gives a strong professional touch.

Kubuntu KDE 4: Where da plasmoid?

May 12, 2009

Several months ago, excited to try out the shiny new KDE 4, I upgraded to Kubuntu 8.10. Within 5 minutes (thanks to some interesting word choice on a properties menu) I had managed to delete the taskbar (the bar at the bottom) and the system tray and program launcher along with it. Unfortunately I couldn’t seem to hit the right keyword combination in my internet searching to find instructions on how to bring them back without removing my ~/.kde directory (not desirable).

I had an idea about putting a new ~/.kde folder under revision control using SVN and deleting the taskbar to see what file controls the plasmoids. Fortunately my friend in the next cube knew about bazaar (a distributed revision control system) which has an extremely low overhead compared to SVN and is very easy to use. Between the two of us we came up with the following procedure which allowed us to discover that the ~/.kde/share/config/plasma-appletsrc file controls the presence/absence of plasmoids for KDE 4.

This is what we did:

  1. Rename the ~/.kde directory to ~/.kde_bak so that a new one is created when you log out and log in. This will restore the panel at the bottom.
  2. $ cd ~/.kde/share
  3. $ bzr add .   #with bazaar installed
  4. $ bzr ci -m “Hunting for plasmoid control.”
  5. Once again delete the panel at the bottom.
  6. $ bzr status
  7. From the files that were reported as being modified we identified “plasma-appletsrc” as the likely target.
  8. $ bzr diff config/plasma-appletsrc   #that looks like the one
  9. $ bzr revert config/plasma-appletsrc
  10. Copy the prestine version of plasma-appletsrc into ~/.kde_bak/share/config
  11. Remove the current ~/.kde and restore ~/.kde_bak to its rightful place as king!
Lots of containment definitions missing from the plasma-appletsrc file corresponding to the missing task bar.

Lots of containment definitions missing from the plasma-appletsrc file corresponding to the missing task bar.