oda: Chrome tab with a sad face on blue-violet field field (degoogle)
Prying myself out of the cloud is hard when I've continued to be too ill to get much usable time in the day. So I'm going for ambient effects. It's kind of morphing into a general 'why aren't we doing proper backups anyway?' project, too. The backup coverage is not as tragic as all that -- Dropbox and other cloud services are pretty good for covering the gaps, and my raw photos all end up in a locked flickr stream, but there's a definite dependence on external cloud services that I don't want to fix by just paying a new cloud service. (Even though that would at least be a matter of aligned interests.)

So... let's see. Thunderbird still seems useful, but I'm mostly using it for archival and not really reading mail in it. That's probably not a plus, but to be honest I'm not reading/replying to a lot of mail at all. I've noted the presence of a portable Thunderbird, which means it can be run out of a crypted space or cloud synced share or both, and that's very interesting. A synced/encrypted Thunderbird that can live in a dropbox and/or memory stick is about as handy as Gmail without being web-based, and it's very flexible about who it will talk to. The person who kindly hosts my mail has been busy, so no IMAP there yet; I imagine I will want to use Thunderbird a lot more once there's IMAP for my main mail.

I like Dropbox and I liked Mesh before it stopped working on XP, and in general I like multi-way sync, especially with versioning. I do not know if I like Dropbox enough to pay for it, especially with the privacy concerns, even with tack-ons to encrypt the contents (I would rather give money to people who get it right, as a point of principle.) I've been comparing to Spideroak for a while now... but haven't tried the Spideroak sync yet. I think I want to play around with Spideroak sync and then decide. I prefer Spideroak's ethos, and it's a true backup solution with sync tacked on, which may be more what we need anyhow. Where Dropbox really shines is around shared files, so I need to see if Spideroak can be usable that way as well.

Spideroak does seem to work pretty well, with the exception of some cruftiness with iTunes, which is the major reason I use it -- it builds up a lot of copies and I have to go in and manually delete them to make room. What I'd like to do is set up a policy to only keep certain ones, like a tiered incremental plan. It also seems to back up the entire library over and over again, rather than doing change-only partial backups as promised. Possibly because it's almost always open and iTunes isn't a very polite app and may not play well with being rifled while open? I wouldn't put it past iTunes, which has been a cranky beast since the day I installed it and hasn't really gotten much better. I do not have the brain cells to play with other music management right now, though, so I'm stuck with it.

I have also looked at Zoho -- in a very cursory manner at their mail, and deeper at their spreadsheets, which aren't a bad replacement for Google Docs, though they're showing a few buggy bits and aren't as well developed. From there I sort of toppled sideways into Creator, which I gather is a kind of Access-like (I have never seen Access so I'm not sure) forms creator which has some nice integration with Sheet -- you can export a set of records to Sheets and then operate on it in the spreadsheet. Anyhow, it seems functional and cool. I haven't looked at the plain writing app yet because I mostly write into text files. I haven't played with sharing yet. The major alternative to something like Zoho would be some sort of versioned sync that lets me share spreadsheets with my honey, since that's a major thing we do with Google Docs.

I'm actually pretty close to looking at some sort of version control like git or svn -- I've only used them in a very rudimentary fashion in the past (and mostly rcs and perforce) but version control speaks to my former-sysadminly heart in a way I cannot deny; being able to roll back to older versions was great at work and it's sort of a basic need whenever you have two or more people with their paws on the same files, even if they're both reasonably careful about it. (Google Docs and Dropbox bake that in.) Either that, or backing everything up/repositing everything on a version controlled file system, which I'm not sure is easy to do with the kind of shoestring budget I have. (A handful of random old PCs running Windows, and no brain budget to switch to a UNIX. Plus shell access to a remote UNIX box with web/mail/ssh but no PHP.)
oda: Chrome tab with a sad face on blue-violet field field (degoogle)
My health is still on the really bad side, so I haven't been doing much more than skimming and collecting links.

Some dribs and drabs of progress on the De-Googlification front:

  • Inspiration: I reread Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, to get into the mood.... (the deadtree edition, not the free ebook, as when I'm sick I have less trouble with paper than with screens.) It holds up surprisingly well.

  • Search: Am doing just fine on DuckDuckGo. I love that it's customizable, though the default look is good enough for me. It's exactly what I want in a search engine, especially with the lack of tracking, and if I want different results it will run the same search again through another engine -- proxying to hide the tracking info. It's kind of startling what the world looks like outside of the filter bubble. Noisier, yes, but more evenhanded.

  • Subjot: Yeah, I'm counting this. Subjects and comments really hit a sweet spot for me. It's a for-profit startup but the dev team is amazingly responsive and doesn't seem to want to do anything evil; their ideas in the way of advertising etc. all make sense to me, and they may even end up with a dual-track ad-supported/subscription model like LJ. After DW/LJ this is the most pleasant place I visit every day, though Diaspora is quite nice (the partial implementation of Markdown and lack of collapsing of reshares makes D* a little too cluttery to be soothing.) I have even gotten oda there. Anyhow, this counts because it's a social site I actually enjoy.

  • Meanwhile, I have finally hit my last straw with Facebook. I'm tired of all of the reactive privacy, having to opt out to their brilliant new changes. I'm tired of people having to expose serious security issues in Facebook to get them to fix them. This "push sloppy changes and see who screams" strategy is old. Also, the current UI is a horrendous mess. Clearly a fine time to leave, and I'll be out of there by the end of October (allowing for the two week period of removal.) Of course that doesn't mean anything is actually deleted, just tagged as deleted. Feh. In the meantime I've also set up some AdBlock plus filters to be more aggressive about them.

  • Proxy options: I've been trying out TOR and VPNReactor. The former is a little more obfuscated, but any non-SSL content is in the clear for the last exit router, so I'm leery of using it for anything that's not fully encrypted or for read-only browsing -- session-based HTTP seems risky. VPNReactor will let me use my iPod on hotspots without worrying about my sessions getting hijacked by Firesheep. Sadly it doesn't work for my Android so I will want to use that only on trustworthy wifi networks and not open hotspots (my phone has unlimited, if slow and cruddy, 3g so this isn't exactly the end of the world; the iPod support on the other hand is lovely to have for my wifi-only critter, though I'm less likely to use that on hotspots now that I have a phone.) TOR will show Facebook in a satisfactory if slow-as-a-slug manner, and the Browser bundle was easy to install and use.

  • Email/GMail: My kind friend who runs my site for me is working on getting an IMAP server (Dovecot) up and running there. I've been using mutt for years and the approach is primitive and clunky. I only back up my mail to GMail so I have some flexibility on what I can do, but I need something web accessible so that my husband doesn't need to install anything to see his mail from work. So the options are either to find an email provider with a webmail UI and forward a copy of our mail to that, or to find a sturdy webmail server for my FreeBSD site. (This would actually be my ideal as it means edit operations happen on the live archive instead of the backup. Husband would much prefer to use a web interface for his email activity.) I've had no energy for assessing webmail providers and a general suspicion of PHP, so there's a lot of friction on this one.

  • Email/GMail, Part 2: Thunderbird. Finally got around to getting it ready and am using it to grab stuff. It's a little obtuse but works all right so far, though appears to have some issues with DNS leaking if combined with TOR. It also has the advantage of, if set to copy full messages down, providing a local email backup -- this means that if I get IMAP+webmail on my server I can stop forwarding a backup. If my husband likes this client all right, then he's willing to use this and his phone as clients and can put up with not having webmail access, woot.


I've also been playing around with accessibility extensions, but that's another post.
oda: zombie face on a blue-violet plane (personal)
What I have been up to:

Not a lot.... Health issues, mostly, have had me at basic day to day. Which isn't bad, really, but it means I haven't had a lot of cognitive surplus. I want to be doing more, but pushing it won't help, so I am not.

Because it's mostly busywork and hence can be done as a bear of very little brain, I've done a major cleaning of my Facebook account, because I am still using it (for now) to keep in touch with family, but I don't think their privacy is going to get any better either. So: fixed a lot of settings there, and deleted all of the fluff from my Wall, likes and things, and tried to zap everything that my name points to in public. Ruthlessly deleted anything I'd posted that no one had touched. While none of it is earth shattering in the least, I am not really fond of having a bunch of "I like pie" trivia under my full legal name.

I am not hardcore enough to do some of the things described in danah boyd's post on how "Real Names" Policies Are an Abuse of Power like deactivating my account when I'm not actively logged in, or scrubbing everything off my wall even if other people have commented, or scrubbing my comments off other people's posts. That feels like it's going too far.

Not sure how I feel about Google+ right now. It's a marathon, not a sprint. And hard to think clearly about when I'm on a bad part of my particular health curve.

I would like to be able to think of social networks as only fun and only about the people, and not about the enormous amount of work it takes to have a modicum of privacy, because it wasn't designed in from the beginning. The privacy issue is enormous, and bigger than these sites, and it's going to quietly (and not so quietly) hurt people and a lot of people don't even realize it yet.

I wish it were easier to get my family over here, where I actually feel comfortable, welcome, and included. I like the community on Diaspora, a lot, but still have concerns about the privacy. I like the vibe and community on Subjot. It's short-form and fully-public now but will including private later, and it has delicious topics, just like I wanted baked into Google+. Oh yes, that's another thing I'm trying out, Subjot, but it's been so low-key and easy that I find it's very natural. Though now I tend to reach for it instead of twitter. Longer form than twitter with topics and real comments and a restful UI? Yes, please. I was only going to look but I thought I'd just post one thing and there I still am; I like it a lot.

I've also switched to DuckDuckGo, which is hardly even-minded of me as I didn't try the other alternatives, but I tried it, liked it well enough, liked some features very much indeed, and stopped. Even just switching search engines is a pretty big change for me right now.

The amount of rambling I am doing is probably some indication of why I haven't been posting anything structured lately.
oda: droid icon on blue-violet field (android)
My husband has agreed to be a guinea pig!

What does this entail?

Well, he got a GMail account when we got our Android phones a few months ago. He's been using it just for GMail, Android Market, and Docs access. He has fewer apps than I do, and no Google+ posting history, so in short he has less to lose, though losing access to his Android Market purchase history can cost us some real world money. He is worried, having already grown fond of his phone, but resigned to his fate.

He is going to sign up for every Google service we can think of, and do some minimal amount of user activity where meaningful, to have a basic state of being an active Google user on all of them. We will document what that looks like.

Then he will downgrade his Google Profile and see what happens, and screenshot the results. Of particular interest, of course, is what happens to his phone.

This of course happens as we have time and energy, and he is undergoing a Work Crunchâ„¢ right now, so it will occur in the usual slothlike question. If anyone is faster than us and wants to try this themselves, please post your results! They might actually end up varying, based on prior evidence. Please don't try this if you've spent a lot of money on Android phone apps and weren't intending to leave anyhow, as it could possibly lose you access to your apps.

Since Google is giving inconsistent information about what exactly is attached to Profiles, let's do a black box test and find out. If anyone has experiences which differ, then we will know that it's probably another bug and can raise that issue with even more urgency -- and perhaps even hope for data recovery on any improperly affected users.

(Mirrored to Google+)
oda: droid icon on blue-violet field (android)
For everyone who is voluntarily doing a takeout, but wants to keep their Android phone: talk to your app vendors first and see if you can have them switched to a new GMail account, or you will lose your paid-for apps forever. If you are in your grace period on a suspension, requesting a review can get you shut down long before your grace period ends.

It's not warned about anywhere on the data liberation page, but one item of data you cannot liberate is your ownership of any Android apps you've bought.

"Data liberation? What data liberation? Where? Oh.... you’ll graciously allow me to have content I actually created, but not the things I bought and paid for; silly me, here I thought you actually MEANT it. (You’d think I would have learned by now, eh?)" -- Bonnie L. Nadri

Google Checkout does not liberate personal info either.

At least, my name and address remain welded to Google Checkout, even if I delete the credit card. I can't do squat with those fields if there isn't a valid credit card attached. If I add the credit card it auths it then and there to make sure it all matches and won't let me change the address to something that doesn't match and then delete the card.

<extra sarcasm> The place where I most want to see flaky privacy behavior and only a partial removal of personal information is the one attached to not just my wallet name, but my wallet contents. </extra sarcasm>

Current status on my own Android apps:

App vendors have gotten back to me. One didn't get the possibility of losing access to the account so tried to be helpful by trying to tell me to use it as a secondary account. I think they will probably let me move the apps to another account if I lose access, though. But I am not sure if I can go Amazon with them; I need to check and see if they're in the Amazon store. (An app move might not work as well if I've already lost access.) Another vendor has offered me the choice of Amazon or a fresh Google account, which is a fair pick. I don't think there are any independently authed app stores, more's the pity.

Because of the lack of ability to move apps between accounts, this must be done ad hoc for each app vendor, and they are basically doing it out of their kindness of their hearts if they do it at all; nothing is making them do it other than good customer service and decency. So it's heartwarming to see them be accommodating here, and I want to recognize that they are going above and beyond. (In this case it's the makers of Ultimate Todo List and iSyncr.)

Todo:

Check purchased apps against Amazon store. Dither a while about which I want. I am going to have to do a full migration either way.

Pros of Amazon: Google doesn't get a cut. I won't get cut off from Amazon for using whatever name I feel like. They will probably get better in response to complaints.

Cons of Amazon: Reputed to treat devs worse than Google does. Requires network connection to use any Amazon apps at all (nng). Slower review process so it can take much longer for updates to trickle through. I am going to have to have a Google account for some functions anyhow. Store is limited in selection and hard to search and people game the reviews even more than Google Market. (Kind of a surprise because their physical stuff shop is fine.)

(Mirrored to Google+)
oda: diaspora* icon (stylized asterisk) on a blue-violet field (diaspora)
I really love Diaspora, but I have some significant reservations about recommending it to any users who are concerned about the privacy or integrity of their data. I would be thrilled if I were confident enough in it to be able to recommend Diaspora freely. However, I do not yet know enough about its internal structure to feel that I can do it in good faith.

Right now Google+ is having a great many privacy issues and is suspending users right and left in the #nymwars, which means that there are many people looking around for a new home. Diaspora is a strong contender. It's got great basic functionality and a clean UI that Google+ seems to have cribbed from. The privacy model on Diaspora is also great. It's the security that I'm worried about. Users need to know that their data can't be read by anyone they haven't authenticated to read it, and that it can't be deleted or modified by anyone but themselves.

Personally, I also love Dreamwidth, but I know that some people want the ease of commenting that Diaspora has, where all of the comments are kept in a stream, unlike Dreamwidth's more post-centric model. So I want to have somewhere to send people who want that instead, or who want to be able to run their own servers.

We're almost a year out from the Security Lessons Learned From The Diaspora Launch. How is the software doing now, security-wise?

When I go look at The Official Diaspora Wiki there is an empty red link pointing to Security Architecture Proposal. This is not exactly comforting. When is the Security Architecture Proposal due to be posted?

I know that the problems exposed in the review have since been patched, but is Diaspora moving forward in a way that avoids new problems? Has anyone examined the inter-server protocols for security flaws? Where would I go to look for more information on this? I'm not a coder, so I can't simply read the code, but I can usually follow higher level reviews done by coders or architects, and I would love to see a newer security review if such exists.

In my experience, security is immensely easier to maintain if it is built into software from the ground up. This is from the perspective of a system administrator, not a developer, but I have always found it easier to maintain software that started out with the intention of being secure. One example is sendmail vs. postfix. Sendmail started out very permissive, and as abusers figured out how to manipulate it, it became more secure in response. However it has always been troublesome to maintain and more likely to need patching, because that security wasn't part of its core design. Postfix was designed for security from the ground up, and is much less difficult to maintain.

Another issue that was exposed in the early code review was the lack of a design document or commented code. Again, I am not a coder, but I know that documentation is the heart's blood of any team project, and absolutely critical for being able to maintain code. Where is Diaspora as far as documentation goes?

(Mirrored to Google+) (Mirrored to Diaspora)
oda: Chrome tab with a sad face on blue-violet field field (degoogle)
I really haven't been getting much done, but I got a little bit done tonight, at least.

Here are some links to excellent blogs by people also doing the same thing:



Another very helpful tool is the Dashboard, which can show you where Google is storing your data.

Google Checkout

On the plus side, this had a nice little summary of all of my Android purchases, so I ended up not having to dig through my gmail box as I had feared.

On the minus side, I cannot fully delete my data! I tried deleting my credit card, and while it deleted the credit card number it refuses to delete the address and phone number attached to that card. If I try to edit it, then it tells me I need a valid card number to do so. I tried various permutations including re-entering my card to see if I could then remove the address data, but it does a credit card verification against the number, so I simply cannot edit the data away or delete it. Did anyone ever test card deletion? This is a serious privacy failure.

I'm going to leave this on hold here with the credit card still in place, since I might end up getting credits as part of my app transfer process, and come back to it later.

Android Apps

Having received my app summary via Google Checkout, I used the 'Contact Vendor' links to send mail inquiring the best way to transfer an app off of a Google account, so that I can re-download it even without the account attached on my phone and still receive future updates. This has to be done individually to each vendor.

New Google Account

Given that I might need to transfer apps to a new Google account, I have set up a new GMail account so I have a place to send them. I used an invite and didn't need to authenticate SMS. Remember to check 'Always use HTTPS' under General settings. I also like to turn chat off and set it to only let people chat with me if I explicitly allow it.

Buzz: It appears to be turned on, but I don't yet have a profile set up. It throws a 404 if I try to disable it from GMail without a profile.
oda: Chrome tab with a sad face on blue-violet field field (sadchrome)
The Bad News: Another crash day so not a ton of progress, though I got the weekly chores done at least. This is probably where my weekly 'still life with farmers market' would be going if I felt like I was actually welcomed by this service. I was planning to keep doing posts-as-usual, but sadly it feels a little like a farce to continue so I will probably be posting even more boring single issue stuff and less of the rest. It is not as if pictures of what I eat or digressions about my dog are super amazing content anyhow, but while I'm waiting for the next hammer to fall I just don't feel comfortable with it anymore. I will continue documenting my slow dawdle away from disentangling my life from this particular cloud giant.

The Good News: I'm still feeling very engaged with people here, though, and love to read what they post. The gaming community here in general is thriving and beautiful. So I still hope the horse will sing, though that hope seems more silly with each new development. I'm a ways from gone unless I get suspended, so I'll try to grab people's twitter/blogs/etc. on my way out. Feel free to post them here! I have an RSS reader and am on Dreamwidth and Twitter, though the latter in a not very active sense.

Email and Docs Research: I've done some reading up on Zoho and didn't see any egregious wails and lamentations in response to my basic searches for reviews, so I will be trying them out when I get more spoons. They also offer web mail and it is supposed to be very solid. I'm trying to decide between that and a solution that offers me a local store that I then can index. I don't actually know of any good desktop/unix based mail indexing solutions, though. Another solution is that I am planning on going to a different provider soon and they will offer email as well, so I could use them as my back/mirror/archive. Email is actually the least of my problems since I host my own, but Zoho offers Docs replacement as well. Heck, depending on their setup I may be able to do some things I wasn't able to do with Sites.

Phone: I keep staring balefully at it and not wanting to start untangling it. It's enough of a hairball that I am procrastinating. I think the solution is to try to pry my apps out of the marketplace and deal individually with their vendors. I don't have that many paid apps. Or find an alternate marketplace of some repute. I'm not happy with Amazon Marketplace though I like them for other services, so not sure what good alternatives are. Another alternative if I can't find a good marketplace is to try to get the app vendors to re-auth my apps onto a new Google account. Except I'm pretty sure they're all going to force real names all the way through at some point, so I'd prefer having them tied to Google as little as possible. While I don't mind a vendor knowing my full name (they're getting my credit card, after all) I do object to my full name popping up on reviews. Static pseudonym is fine.

Wiki Ruminations: I've also used wikidot which in its paid/ad-free form is pretty sweet. It's pretty ad-infested in its free form, but it's a good general purpose wiki and I don't have to keep patching it or removing spammers, which is the general issue with self-hosted wikis. I can host static content in theory (in practice I probably haven't edited a static webpage since 2006, so while it is up there it isn't getting maintained) but running wikis has historically annoyed me, so having that hosted seems plausible as long as I can export it at will. More research, probably. I won't really miss Sites, as it is is Not Quite A Wiki and lacks some features that I keep really wanting.

Mirrored from Google+
oda: Chrome tab with a sad face on blue-violet field field (degoogle)
I thought it would be useful to have a presence here as I retreat from Google+.




(De-Googlefication; see original link for comments and elaboration.)

Taking the recent policy changes as the closest thing to a declaration of intent we seem likely to get, Project Googlefy which I had started prior to my testing of Google+ is now starting a 180 into Project De-Googlefy.

Why? Because as a prior Buzz/Picasa user affected by the fiat policy change, I am dissatisfied by a company that feels that it can make major changes to pre-established user privacy simply by introducing a new service. I would rather be more firmly divested in case they turn those policy changes loose on Gmail, and I'm generally very slow at making changes so need to get started now so I can pick at it in my slothlike fashion and don't end up falling off my comfortable tree-branch if it gets sawn off by future changes that I simply no longer trust Google to refrain from.

Yes, the horse can learn how to sing. But I am not holding my breath waiting for it to do so. As long as some groups of people receive disproportionate harassment and/or outright violence merely for being a member of that group, I am not interested in having a lot of my services tied up with a company that has clearly exhibited it simply does not understand privacy, or that it values privacy less than it values the appearance of conformity. (Especially as I am personally a member of at least one of those groups.)

So, step one: identify services.

  • Gmail: Been using it as a searchable archive/backup to my primary mail, an HTML mail reader (since I am text-only on my primary), a way to skim attachments, etc. I've already identified a potential alternative. There will be not inconsiderable pain in migrating an older archive like mine, given that the tools for migration are throttled down to moving only a few hundred messages at a time (IIRC; hopefully I'm wrong in that and I can let it run unattended.)

  • Docs: Collaboration with others, online spreadsheets. This has been a pretty good solution so far, and only improving as they add features, but I've already identified some alternatives. I don't have a huge store of docs, though some are rather crucial to our workflow, so this ought to be easy to migrate once I find a new home. Version controlled cloud storage could also be a solution here.

  • Android: Well, if I want to use the Android market (and to be honest, Amazon's market is a highly inferior alternative) I have to have a Google account. I guess I need to take a harder look at other smartphone OSes for future phone upgrades? Also I am a lot less excited than I was a month ago about having an Android tablet if apps on it can go suddenly defunct based on a random policy change. I might end up having to hold my nose and go Apple, who is at least predictable in its bad policies, or wait until there's another alternative. I'd been holding off on buying a tablet anyhow until the hardware improved, so this is not a priority. Luckily we are not locked into plans on our android phones, so the cost of switching phones is not excessive if that later becomes necessary. There also may be ways around the android market, by buying directly? Not sure; I haven't done a ton of research here yet.

  • Sites: Honestly I have found the site building software to be inferior to other solutions I've tried, though lower maintenance. I won't miss it very much. It might still be a pain to transition off. I'm glad I stopped adding data into that set when I started testing G+, because it's less to have to remove later.

  • Reader: Surely there is a cloud synced RSS reader solution out there somewhere. I just need to research it. Worst case I can probably run something out of cloud storage of some sort.= Calendar: See Reader.

  • Picasa: Had some sharing options that were pretty unique (or at least not readily available on Flickr), but I probably just need to look harder to replicate them. Will miss the ease of synchronization with a local store, but there might be desktop software out there that syncs readily with other solutions.

  • Google+: There may not be a decent substitute yet, but I can cope. I'll stay on while I document my progress at de-googlefying at the very least, and might stay on past that in the same way as I use facebook: exclusively to keep contact with a few people who are only there, and with my own data sequestered/segmented. Still thinking about where to draw the line on this one.

  • Chrome: This one is a sadness as Chrome puts up with my tab abuse and wimpy out of date desktop far better than Firefox does. Might hang onto this one to the bitter end, hoping Firefox solves some of its issues before I make the leap. Might decide it's all right to hang onto stuff that doesn't require any PII.

  • Search: Left off the original post, and it's important. Also: Ads (which I don't use but other people do) and Groups.
  • July 2012

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