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      Elois and Morlocks, from another work of fiction co-opted into a user manual for the 1%
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      RT @inkslinger The fan theory that the Jetsons and the Flintstones are actually contemporaneous to one another -- the Jetsons' sky cities being the land of the wealthy (or formerly wealthy, perhaps, since capitalist wage relations still exist, even in a world with literal robot servants) and the Flintstones being the descendants of the poor […]
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Archive for the 'Google' Category

How To Use OpenStreetMap with Thunderbird’s “Get Map” button

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 9th October 2012

Thunderbird’s address book has a “Get Map” button to show an address location on a map. By default, Thunderbird uses Google Maps to display a location. Wouldn’t it be nice to use OpenStreetMap in Thunderbird instead? Here’s how!

OSM

OpenStreetMap

OpenStreetMap uses Nominatim to search for and display a location. The Wiki tells us the URL query is processed left-to-right, and the example shows the address elements from greatest to least resolution:

http://nominatim.openstreetmap.org/search?q=135+pilkington+avenue,+birmingham&format=xml&polygon=1&addressdetails=1



Thunderbird

Thunderbird

The Thunderbird Knowledgebase for Mail and News settings gives us the following address-related parameters:

Substitution variables:
@A1: address, part 1
@A2: address, part 2
@CI: city
@ST: state
@ZI: zip code
@CO: country

Now we combine the two in Thunderbird’s configuration file prefs.js:

user_pref("mail.addr_book.mapit_url.format", "http://nominatim.openstreetmap.org/search.php?q=@A1,@A2,@CI,@ST,@CO");



If you prefer not to edit the pref.js file, here’s a step-by-step procedure to do it with the graphical interface.

If you’re using Linux, select Edit, Preferences from the Thunderbird menu. On Thunderbird for Windows select Tools, Options. Click on the Advanced toolbar button, then the General tab.

Screenshot of the Preferences window, Advanced tab

Click on the Config Editor… button.

Screenshot of advanced configuration warning

Click on the I’ll be careful, I promise! button.

Screenshot of Thunderbird advanced configuration window

Type mapit in the Search field,

Screenshot showing the mail.addr_book.mapit_url.format setting

Double-click on the line for the mail.addr_book.mapit_url.format parameter.

Screenshot of input dialogue

Delete what’s there, and type http://nominatim.openstreetmap.org/search.php?q=@A1,@A2,@CI,@ST,@CO

Screenshot of input box with OSM value

Click OK, close the about:config window, and close the Preferences window.

Now we need to find an address book entry with enough data to generate a map.

From the Thunderbird menu, select Tools, Address Book, and double-click on an entry. Click New Contact if there’s nobody in your address book (and you can enter your own address).

Screenshot showing address book general info entry form

Click on the Private or Work tab to show the screen for address entry.

Screenshot showing address book work info entry form

At minimum, fill in the Country field. Adding State/Province, City and Address will improve the resolution of the map. If you do fill in higher resolution fields (Address or City) then you also need to fill in the lower-resolution fields (State/Province and Country), or the Nominatim search won’t work.

Note that the Nominatim URL query doesn’t include the @ZI variable, so the ZIP/Postal Code field isn’t used to create the map.

When all the data is entered, click OK.

Screenshot of Thunderbird Address Book showing Bob Jonkman

With any address field filled in, the address book entry now displays a Get Map button.

Go ahead, click it!

Screenshot of OpenStreetMap

And there we have it! An OpenStreetMap of the address in the Thunderbird address book.

If you’ve done this, or have suggestions for improving these instructions please let me know in the comments or by e-mail at bjonkman@sobac.com.

–Bob.

All screenshots taken by Bob Jonkman, and freely available for re-use (CC0CC0).

The new OpenStreetMap logo by Ken Vermette from http://blog.osmfoundation.org/2011/05/13/new-openstreetmap-logo/, used under a Creative Commons LicenseCC BY-SA license.

The Thunderbird Logo and Wordmark are used according to the Mozilla Foundation Visual Identity Guidelines for Thunderbird.

Maps © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC BY-SA

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Posted in FLOSS, Google Free, How To | Comments Off on How To Use OpenStreetMap with Thunderbird’s “Get Map” button

IxQuick and DuckDuckGo, alternative search engines

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 30th April 2012

Screenshot of IxQuick in Mozilla Firefox

IxQuick search engine

A friend mentioned that

I’m concerned about Google having a monopoly on search, and tracking their users for search terms, and much more.

So use another search engine.

I’ve been using IxQuick on-and-off for years, and almost exclusively for the last six months: https://ixquick.com/

First, I set the default Search Bar plugin to IxQuick from one of the many selections at the Mycroft project .

Then I also set Firefox’s address bar to do keyword searches on IxQuick:

  1. type about:config in the address bar
  2. Acknowledge the potential for damaging your system
  3. Search for the keyword.URL entry
  4. Change it to https://ixquick.com/do/metasearch.pl?query=

Now any keywords you type into the address bar will be looked up by IxQuick.

IxQuick is a metasearch engine, which searches All the Web, Digg, Qkport, Ask/Teoma, EntireWeb, Wikipedia, Bing, Gigablast, Yahoo, Cuil and Open Directory. Almost everything except Google. IxQuick claims that it does NOT collect or share your personal information, and keeps logs no longer than 48 hours.

All in all, I’ve been very pleased with the results IxQuick provides.

Screenshot of Firefox displaying the DuckDuckGo home page

DuckDuckGo search engine

DuckDuckGo (https://duckduckgo.com/) is another alternative search engine that claims it does not collect or share personal information.

To put DuckDuckGo in the Search Bar, browse to the DuckDuckGo site, pull down the list of search engines, then click on “Add DuckDuckGo”.

To set up DuckDuckGo as the default search engine for the address bar:

  1. type about:config in the address bar
  2. Acknowledge the potential for damaging your system
  3. Search for the keyword.URL entry
  4. Change it to https://duckduckgo.com/?q=

I haven’t used DuckDuckGo much at all, but I’ve only heard favourable reports…

Note that there are many other references to Google in the about:config settings, so if you make only these changes you’re still not Google Free.

–Bob.

Screenshot images created by Bob Jonkman, and released to the Public Domain

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Posted in Google, Google Free, Internet, privacy, search engines | 3 Comments »

Google Spyware considered harmful

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 16th April 2012

Google wordmark in a "No" symbol

No Google

One day I was asked:

Hi IT Peeps,

I was wondering if I would cause major havoc if I downloaded google chrome? Will it mess anything up? Any recommendations?

My answer:

What problem are you trying to solve? What’s the question that gets answered “Install Google Chrome”?

Google the company is becoming ever more pervasive in our Internet lives. Google’s business is not providing a search engine for free; Google’s business is to sell our demographic information to advertisers. They gather that demographic data by luring us in with relevant search results, free e-mail and slick looking browsers.

Google collects personal information, including information that was voluntarily given to Google (for instance, by signing up for GMail or Google Plus; posting a video on YouTube), information that was collected anonymously (eg. when you perform a Google search or watch a YouTube video and Google records the search terms, your IP address, and leaves a cookie on your computer), and information that Google collected as it does its web indexing (comments you’ve left on a newspaper site, Tweets you’ve made, messages you’ve posted to public mailing lists). Google then correlates all this data based on IP address, cookies, e-mail addresses, your name, geo-location (finding out where you are based on your WiFi connection or IP address).

As of 1 March 2012 Google changed its privacy policies to combine data mining from all its holdings – the search engine, YouTube, Picasa, Google Maps, Google Plus, Google Mail, &c. I didn’t think too much of that, since I had thought that Google had always aggregated its data. According to an article I read[1] that’s actually a new development. Google used to keep all its data mining separate, in fact, kept it so separate that it didn’t even correlate its adwords between different messages in GMail. With the new privacy policy that’s all changed, and everything is now aggregated, correlated, and retained to be sold to the highest bidder. Google says we’ll never sell your personal information or share it without your permission, but you grant that permission every time you agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies when you sign up for Google’s services.

Remember the Google Toolbar? Every search request, every URL, and every local file you opened in a browser with the Google toolbar installed was sent to the Google servers. There was a report of someone who opened confidential company documents with IE and the Google toolbar, only to find those reports cached on Google’s servers. Google Chrome is far more invasive than a mere toolbar.

Google Chrome does not have the same set of security-related add-ons that Firefox offers. For your best privacy protection and security, use Firefox with the NoScript, AdBlock Plus, HTTPS-Everywhere and Force-TLS extensions. See my article on Browser Security for details on installing and configuring them.

–Bob, who will be getting fitted for a new tinfoil hat at lunch…

Footnote 1: I wish I knew what article that was. To my recollection, the author said he wouldn’t trust Google with his data again. He had visited the Googleplex some years earlier, and was told how Google kept the data from its different projects in separate silos, so that profile aggregation was next to impossible. Data silos were so extensive that although one GMail message might trigger certain AdWords, there was no tracking between messages. I read the article in March of 2012; if you can provide me with a link let me know in the comments.

Update 8 Nov 2012: A similar quote about data silos from Google’s Vic Gundotra appears in the CNN article Google exec: We won’t break users’ trust.


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Posted in considered harmful, Google, Google Free, Internet, privacy | 2 Comments »

The Verdict on Google Plus: Mostly Harmless

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 13th October 2011

Don't Panic, They're Only Vogons

Don't Panic, They're Only Vogons by Patrick Hoesly

After dissing Google Plus I was persuaded to try it out for a while before rendering a verdict. So now it’s been over two months, and my verdict is: Mostly Harmless.

When I get home after a hard day of working with a computer, I sit down for a pleasant evening of relaxation with a computer. I read my e-mail, read the news, and read the microblogs. I subscribe to 55 people on Identi.ca, and I follow 84 people on Twitter. Those 139 people generate sufficient 140 character messages to keep me reading until bedtime and beyond.

But on my Google Plus account, I have 27 people in my circles. Those 27 people create a lot of large messages. In fact, they generate a lot more content than my 139 Identicats and Tweeple, since Google Plus puts no limit on the size of messages.

22 of the 27 people are in my Tech Circle. But instead of receiving only technical content from these people, they’re posting messages about vacations, favourite bands, philosophy, and yes, pictures of cats.  Now, this happens on the microblogs too, but on a microblog it’s limited to 140 characters, and I can ignore them.  On Google Plus the posts are much longer, have pictures attached, comments from other people, and those ubiquitous “John Q. Public originally shared this post” and “Click to +1 this post”.  Google Plus does not have the tools to filter messages by content, or even a method to collapse a conversation thread.

There’s no Atom/RSS feed, so I can’t use my preferred feed reader to analyze, sort and organize my Google Plus message stream. And I don’t know of any third-party applications to read, write and manage content on Google Plus. Google Plus does allow the export of all its content, under Account Settings, Data Liberation. Contact info is in the standard vCard format, suitable for importing into addressbooks.

Kudos to Google for giving users useful control of their data. Still, Google also has access to that data, and continues to collect ever more. In the past I’ve recommended Google Mail as a preferred no-cost e-mail host. Recently Google has taken to verifying new users by requiring them to supply a phone number. Google then sends a text message for the user to enter into the registration form. This is a level of data collection that I find creepy, and so I no longer recommend Google Mail.

Finally, to top it all off are the Google Nymwars. Much has been written about why Google’s policy of requiring real names is wrong-headed. Some people whom I might follow have stopped using Google Plus because of the nymwar controversy. I think I’ll be joining them in disdaining Google Plus.

  • Google Minus: Banality of user content (not Google’s fault)
  • Google Minus: Lack of management tools
  • Google Plus: User control over data
  • Google Minus: Google control over data
  • Google Minus: Nymwars

I think that Google Plus is not the Facebook Killer the folks in Mountain View want it to be.



The image 740 – Towel Day – Pattern by Patrick Hoesly is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

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Google Plus considered harmful

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 29th June 2011

Google Plus login screen, with errors

Google Plus Screenshot

Google Plus is available.

I won’t be using it. Google has too much of my data already.

For gushing, sycophantic reviews see Mashable and Techcrunch.


Update 8 July 2011: Someone pointed out that I should probably investigate Google Plus before dissing it, so I’m licking the Google salt block. There will another blog post with the results of this investigation… In the meantime, Circle Me!


Update: 13 October 2011: The Verdict on Google Plus: Mostly Harmless

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