Tag Archives: google

Thanks for reminding me about AdBlock Plus Google!

So Google removed AdBlock Plus from the Google Play Android store. That is their prerogative, off course, but it does confirm they’re not the cool technology-centric search engine everyone once thought they were. It’s kind of ironic that in December 2011 AdBlock Plus by default enabled the display of “acceptable” ads, a move that seemed to be an attempt to appease (or please) Google.

But whatever way you look at this, Google’s core business (as is Facebook’s) is displaying ads. Sure they try to do that in an intelligent manner. And sure, they have some cool technologies (App Engine, Android, Chrome, …). But at the end of the day they want us to see and click on ads. That makes Google a media company. But whereas traditional media have -at least the notion- of a wall between their editorial and advertising departments, editorial independence does not seem to exist over at Google.

I don’t like particularly like ads, I don’t like widgets snooping on my web-whereabouts and I definitively don’t like Google’s advertising department dictating what applications the editorial team in charge of Google Play should remove. So today I installed AdBlock Plus on all my devices. Maybe you should too?

Introduction to Adblock Plus

Watch this video on YouTube.

Multi-lingual WordPress the Easy Way

Imagine you run WordPress with English as default language, but some posts are in another language. Dutch, maybe? Up until a couple of months ago, you wouldn’t really notice anything about that setup. Google might be slightly confused, but us bloggers aren’t really into SEO anyhow, no? But with the release Safari 5.1, Firefox 16 and especially Internet Explorer 10, support for CSS Hyphenation became (somewhat) widely available and if your theme (WordPress TwentyTwelve or its performance-optimized 2012.FFWD child theme for example) has support for in the CSS, your hyphenation would yield weird results because of the fact that the browser uses the language attribute in the HTML to decide which dictionary to use.

The solution, if your theme is HTML5, is to add the lang-attribute to the article-tag if you have something to check the language with. In my case I just had to copy TwentyTwelve’s content.php and change line 11 into:

<article id="post-<?php the_ID(); ?>" <?php if (in_category('lang:nl')) { ?>lang="nl" <?php } ?><?php post_class(); ?>>

A real simple hack indeed; I check if the article has category “lang:nl” attached to it (which I already used) and set the language-attribute with the correct value if it does. Hyphenation now works for Dutch blogposts and I guess Google will be happier as well that way?

If it looks like a duck; ditching Google Search (again)

Let’s apply the duck-test to Google;

  1. They’re changing their privacy policy without offering users a true opt-out
  2. They severely limited access for Scroogle, the Google-scraper for privacy-nuts, to the point where it is effectively out of service (although apparently Google isn’t the only one to blame)
  3. They have been caught with their hands in your cookie jar, not only bypassing user’s cookie preferences in Safari but also in Internet Explorer

So if Google looks, swims and quacks like it doesn’t care about user privacy, it must be that it … doesn’t care about user privacy.

I on the other hand do care about my privacy, so I decided to put even less eggs in Google’s basket: I’ve switched my search-engine to startpage.com, which is operated by a Dutch company (i.e. one which has to comply with stricter European privacy laws) and which guarantees privacy while being powered by Google.

Startpage’s only downside: they are blocked by our company internet-filter because they provide proxy-services, so as an alternative I also use the less powerful DuckDuckGo (I changed keyword.url in Firefox’ about:config to “https://duckduckgo.com/?q=”). And a nice bonus; DuckDuckGo also has a nice Android-app, which I have installed to replace Google Search on my Sammy SII as well.

Follow-up Friday: Ubuntu Unity, Android security & WordPress Stats

Just a couple of small updates on previous stories to keep you posted really.

We’ll start of with Ubuntu Natty Narwhal; beta 2 has been released earlier today. I’ve downloaded a lot of updated packages over the last few days, so I guess I’m on the second beta as well. The Unity launcher now comes out of hiding perfectly and it scrolls down automatically to show items at the bottom as well. There also was a bug with the menu-items of some applications (e.g. Firefox 4) disappearing which seems fixed. Hope they can get the launcher to behave with Java apps (e.g. my favorite mindmapping application) soon.

On another note: Lookout, the Android app that allows you to locate your handset and -if you have the paying version- remotely wipe it, seems to be getting some serious competition from …. Google. Enterprises who have Google Apps for Business can now locate, encrypt and wipe their Android devices. Especially the encryption is important news, but it really should be available and configurable in the Android OS itself

To finish off with some news about WordPress Stats secretive inclusion of Quantcast behavioral tracking: it seems like WordPress Stats plugin will be replaced by Automattics Jetpack, which according to the site:

supercharges your self‑hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com

Jetpack actually is a “super-plugin” that offers functionality from Stats, Sharedaddy, After the deadline and other previously separately available Automattic plugins. The Jetpack WordPress.com stats module does still include the Quantcast “spyware”, doesn’t disclose this feature and doesn’t provide functionality that warrants Quantcast inclusion (in spite of Matt Mullenweg claiming “We’ve been using Quantcast to get some additional information on uniques that it’s hard for us to calculate”). But there is (some) good news in the Jetpack Stats source code though, because on line 145 it reads:

‘do_not_track’ => true, // @todo

This could mean that blog-owners will one day be able to opt out of 3rd party tracking or it might be that Stats will take e.g. Firefox DNT-header into account for your blog’s visitors. Having both would off course be what I will be rooting for!

Google Security says “Thanks Frank”

A few weeks ago I received the following in a mail from Google;

As a small token of appreciation for helping keep Google’s users safe and secure, we’d like to credit you on our website.

And indeed, yesterday my name was added to the “Honorable Mention” paragraph on Google’s Security Hall of Fame.

I don’t consider myself a security expert by any measure (although I am very interested in web app security) and I discovered that vulnerability in the iGoogle Facebook gadget merely by chance, but it’s nice to see my name (and a link to this blog) up there! Thanks for thanking me Google!

Google Privacy Fail; Asa Dotzler is right

google_screamMozilla’s Asa Dotzler recently rocked the boat when telling readers to use Bing instead of Google because of a shortsighted statement on privacy by Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO. The discussion that followed Asa’s blogpost was interesting on occasion, but harsh and even rude at times.

While we’re all Google fanboys one way or the other and while the idea of switching from “Do no Evil Google” to “Monopolist-Micro$oft” can be a little bit unnerving, there is in my opinion reason to be concerned with Schmidts’ quote. My main problem is with this claim;

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

I don’t know about you, but to me Schmidt seems to imply that if I require privacy, that must mean that I have something to hide which is at least unpleasant and probably even outright illegal. If one accepts this premise, requiring (or enforcing, by means of encryption or anonymizers) privacy in itself is an indication of guilt?

Given that Google has too much data about me (being the avid Google-user I am) and given the flawed reasoning of Google’s CEO regarding respect for my privacy, I cannot but agree with Asa Dotzler. It is time to rethink my use of Google applications, although I’m not switching to Microsoft alternatives just yet. The general idea is simple: stop putting all my eggs in one basket, instead fragmenting my information across multiple independent organizations, hoping that privacy-breaching data-mining will be a bit less efficient that way.

scroogle: how it worksI’m still looking into alternatives for most Google web applications (Serge is right off course; “with microsoft it’s easy, you can switch to apple or linux – the problem with google is that their stuff just works“), but for search I’ve decided to switch to scroogle.org. Scroogle is a not-for-profit secure (as in https) cookie-less search that uses Google (the irony). The site is operated by Daniel Brandt, the almost anonymous weirdo who’s also behind google-watch and wikipedia-watch.

To make sure my Google-friendly browser doesn’t accidentally direct me to Google search, I changed the following things in Firefox:

  • On my “bookmarks toolbar” replace the Google bookmark with a Scroogle one
  • Add Scroogle SSL” from the Mycroft search engine plugin site and move it to the top of the “search engines” list
  • And finally to make sure searches from the “awesome bar” don’t direct me to Google either, in about:config I changed the value of “keyword.URL” into “https://ssl.scroogle.org/cgi-bin/nbbwssl.cgi?q=”

So what Google property should I replace next and more importantly, what with? Any suggestions? :-)