the interweb

A point, a click, waste of time.

Have you ever left your car lights on, or noticed when someone else has? Just last week, I left my van lights outside the coffee-shop one morning, and was grateful that someone passing by both noticed and popped in to let me know. Likewise, I appreciate it when people remind me of the keys I might have left on the counter, or of the dropped item as I pass by. In turn, I try to do a good turn myself when the opportunity arises; plugging an expired meter from time to time, holding open a door, letting people into traffic, etc.

Lately, I’ve added another “act of kindness”, although it might ruffle some feathers. When I find open accounts on unsecured wireless networks, I login and leave a message to let the account-holder know that they really ought to be more careful. The most pointed example of this has got to be Facebook; I simply assume the open account, and change the holder’s status to something like: “(Name Here) has just realized how potentially dangerous it is to surf on an unsecured wireless account.”.

I don’t dig further. I record nothing, and if anything, do my best to avoid actually knowing who the account holder is. That’s none of my business. If I saw a car driving down the door with their gas-cap unscrewed and flapping in the wind, I’d signal them and point their attention to it, not wait for them to pull over and then siphon their gas.

Maybe a few of my readers are still hung up on the whole technical aspect of how this works. In this modern networked world, if you don’t know what a packet sniffer is or how it works, it’s just willful ignorance. Suffice it to say that if you are connected to an unsecured wireless network without engaging some other specific encryption and/or security protocols, then anyone within typical WiFi range, using pretty much any other wireless device (laptops, tablets, phones, and some portable game consoles) can have basically unrestricted access to whatever you are sending/receiving. Yes, that’s perhaps an oversimplified explanation, but it’s basically correct, if not technically robust.

It’s not my intent to be mocking, harsh, or harmful; I just want to make people a little more aware of the privacy they are freely (if unknowingly) giving up.

Another Facebook redesign, and another wave of hysteria. Good grief. The pattern has become too frequent, to predictable, and altogether too insignificant.

First, if it really sucks so bad, if it really harms your life, if you’re really afraid they’ll change the profit model and “force you to pay”, then just leave. Get out. Take off. I don’t know of any friends on Facebook who have actually voted with their feet on this one and actually left. Well, honestly, maybe I do, and just didn’t notice them leave; I don’t miss them on Facebook, and apparently they don’t miss me, at least enough to drop me an email (yes, email, that loathsome snailmail of the FB generation).

Secondly, this is the first redesign that actually seems focused on improving privacy and the control thereof. Personally, I’ve had all my FB settings on “Friends Only” since it first became an option, several iterations ago, and as such, this newest “upgrade” really changes very little for me. If anything, I do believe things are improved a little, in that I can now (partly) defeat the “smart feed” and actively pull more content from people I want to see more from.

Thirdly, these “services” are really products, bought and sold in a marketplace. You’re dumping almost everything about your life into private servers owned by private companies driven by strong private financial gain. Worried about paying for Facebook? Google? Hotmail? These companies are already profiting by mining your personal information. In return, they are offering you a “free” service, which you are under no obligation to make use of. Is this nefarious? Not at all. When Google reads my email in exchange for excellent “free” webmail service, I consider that a fair trade.

Lastly, and most importantly, you cannot lose what you have not got, and in this case the lacking item is an expectation of privacy in a glaringly public place. No, I’ll correct that: in a glaringly private space, albeit owned by someone else. Right now, someone somewhere is sitting at their laptop, on an unsecured and/or public wireless network, uploading some scathing and virulent critique of Facebook’s privacy abuses.

Those of you readers who plainly perceive the irony at play understand all too well, while those of you who don’t probably never will.

I’m putting together a new website for dirty yardrat D.I.Y. sailors. The goal is to provide a community resource for experienced and inexperienced alike, a place to trade ideas, find help, and get motivated.

I started out being a boatyard pest myself, long on enthusiasm and short on experience. Now I’ve become one of those grubby jaded shipwrights who rolls his eyes when I see just such a greenhorn coming with questions of their own. The new website will, hopefully, be a forum to bridge that gap.

Leave a comment if you have ideas on how or if you think this might help you or your friends with their own projects.

Over the last year on Facebook, I’ve been seeing increasingly frequent ads for, and invitations to join, online browser games such as Mobsters, Mafia Wars, Vendetta, S.W.A.T., etc.

In addition to being able to join and play these games, Facebook also gives you the option to either “like” or “report” these ads/invites. These ads come emblazoned with taglines such as “crime pays big!”, “steal a car!”, “get your guns!”, etc. All are an obvious and extreme glorification of casual violence.

For several months now, whenever I see one of these ads/invites, I’ve taken a moment to report them to facebook. From facebook’s dropdown menu, I usually choose “offensive” as my reason for doing so, although when I’m feeling wordy, I choose “other” and then enter “disgusting glorification of violence” as my reason.

Yes, I’ve played violent video games before, and spent many many hours of my life playing at traditional fantasy RPG’s. However, I’ve never gone down to the local mall, stood on my soap-box, and encouraged passers-by to “Kill or be killed”, etc. I’m blindly hoping that Facebook somehow limits these ads to age-appropriate viewers. Even if so, I am offended, and will continue to resist this blatant glorification of violence, just as I vehemently support a nursing mother’s right to publish a photo of her feeding her baby. I hope you will too.

« Older entries