Thanks, Apple, But I Think I’ll Pass on Yosemite

I have computers on Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux.  Various levels and flavors of all of the above actually.

There’s always the question as to when or whether to upgrade them.

Linux is pretty simple – when your distribution changes, give it a week or so and listen to the chatter.  If the chatter is clear, go for it.  I’ve never had a problem here.

Windows.  I have a Windows 7 machine that won’t get upgraded because it’s an old Core 2 Duo machine.  It will either die before Windows 7 does or it will get given away.  Windows 8 became Windows 8.1 as soon as it was offered to me.  Windows 8 was an abortion, Windows 8.1 is manageable.  Just add Classic Shell and it cleaned up almost all of that Modern/Metro hideousness and pushed it aside.  Classic Shell made that ugly block land go away and replaced it with all the desktop land goodness that I need to get things done.  It’s still there, lurking under the hood, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I had to use one of those ugly blocky programs that Microsoft mistakenly thinks I need to slice, dice, and make julienne fries.  Other than network access which the Modern/Metro interface gets in the way massively and then drops you back to a desktop app to actually get the job done to disable and enable things.

I don’t.  ‘Nuff said about that.

Then there’s the Mac.  I always liked the sleekness and the design of them.  Beautiful hardware, a well thought out interface.  When I need to use my Mac, it is almost always a pleasure.  I got the thing, installed Snow Leopard, and it purred.  When the Mavericks upgrade was offered, it was free so why not?  I noticed no real problems there, and since I am a lightweight user of my Mac it’s fine.

I’ve heard reports that Mavericks slowed memory access from the prior version, Lion, but like I said: I’m a lightweight user so I don’t notice.

They put out a new operating system, Yosemite.  Since I knew about the memory speed issue, I thought I’d wait.  Let the experts go after it.

I’m glad I did because there are some privacy issues that made me uncomfortable with things.

Everyone likes having search functions on their computers and generally don’t think twice about how things are done.  What happens is that that information you are looking for is sent back to the program to check its indexes and report back to you when it finds what it thinks is the right answer.

That was all well and good back in the good old days when it was enough just to search this current computer.  Some smart people decided that they’d go out and do a search on the internet to give back more content.   It’s a built in function on the desktop called Spotlight that phones home to Apple and does that search. 

Fair enough if you’re actually doing an internet search.  But why do you need that search to go back to Apple if you’re just looking for a file on “this” computer?  If you are searching for movie information or maps, it’s going to send back your current location, as well as the current device you are on, and anything else that it thinks is pertinent such as language settings and what apps you have used.

To be fair to Apple, you can turn this off, but I have done enough support to know that unless someone turns that sort of thing off for you it won’t get done. 

The flip side to that is that if you have turned it off, location services are one of those things that get rather naggy to have turned off.  Your searches get a helpful prompt asking you to turn on location services and eventually you wear down and just leave them on.

Checking my Android phone, location services is turned on there, and we know that all that sort of thing goes on there with Google.  If you want a smartphone these days, you are either going to have Apple or Google put their hand in your pocket and watch over every move you make that they believe they need to, it’s part of the game.

The idea of having big brother was scary enough when I read 1984, but the reality is that we all now have that big brother in our own pocket and don’t think too much about it.

Nothing to see here, keep moving on.

All this was reported in the Washington Post’s technology blog a while back, and apparently Apple has been taking heat about their decisions to make these changes. 

There is a website called fix-macosx.com that promises to give you information how to take back some privacy and turn off some of Apple’s data collection.

This all is a change of heart since the old days where the Mac was more privacy friendly.  Now, they’re going all in and sucking down all this info while you happily go along with it.  Since Apple is notoriously tight lipped about what they do internally, I suspect that it will be a long time before we find out just exactly what they’re doing with all that data.

No thanks, I’ll pass.

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Google’s Privacy Changed, Worried Yet?

On March 1, today, Google unified it’s policies toward privacy.

Basically, if you use any of their sites, they’re going to use that information to build a “better profile” of you so they can serve ads that are better targeted to your experience.

From their side of things, it makes sense.  If you’re worried about that, then stop using their sites.  All of them.

Go ahead, we’ll wait.

You see they’ve got quite a few of them.  This blog is hosted on Blogger, and that is one of their sites.  Obviously, I’m not moving this along any time soon, so there are a few things you should be aware of.

First you’re too late.  If you do searches on Google, you have a web history.  I don’t that I know of since I turned mine off ages ago.  You can do that by surfing http://www.google.com/history and poking around.  Mine is empty, and I did that by clicking the box to pause web history.

Why do I say it’s too late?   Think of it this way.  You have an “IP Address”.  Don’t switch off here, think of it as your “Internet Telephone Number”.  Every time you use that desktop computer your number says “Hi, here I am, Gimme Stuff”.  Web pages for example.  You surf, then the page starts to load.  If you’re like 99% of us out there, you don’t have much security enabled.

Second: Consider your cookies.

Most of us don’t understand what a Cookie is.   Simple, it’s a little file with your preferences.  Some people think it’s a good idea to use a cookie to remember their passwords.   Do you shop online?  It’s helpful not to have to remember your passwords and the cookie will do that.

Now, lets see, most of us will get broken into at some time in their lives.  That PC you’re reading me on right now?  It’s one of the most likely things to get stolen.   Your cookies will let that person get into your favorite websites and buy up a lot of crap for you… er them.  You really don’t want to have cookies stick around.

Now there are two types of cookies.  One is from that web page.  You go to a website, and it saves your preferences.  Most people have ads show up on their pages.  I block that as a rule, ads are distracting, but they also give you something called a Third Party Cookie.

That is a cookie that is not from you, it’s not from the website, but it is from the company that puts ads up on the screen.  That company puts ads up on many web pages, it’s just the way it’s done… but they can read those cookies on the second and third and fifth website that you hit and build a profile of what you’re doing.

How to fix that?  Well I use Firefox.  There are ways to set it on Internet Explorer and Chrome, but I’ll leave those browsers to you.   The steps are simple on Firefox:

  1. Start Firefox
  2. Click on Tools, Options, Privacy
  3. Un-Check the box under “Tracking” that says “Tell websites I do not want to be tracked”
  4. Un-Check the box that says “Remember Search and Form History”
  5. Un-Check the box that says “Allow Third Party Cookies”
  6. Check the box that says “Clear History when Firefox Closes”

It will be less convenient for you to use Firefox now, but it won’t remember what you did basically forever.

Mind you, that internet “telephone number” thing?  You really can’t stop people from saving information on their own servers that say that “you” came to their site.  It is Their Site after all, it isn’t yours.  Anything you type into Their Site is basically Their Property.

All that cookie stuff?  Well it’s only going to slow them down.  It’s also good practice for you not to have that info stored on your PC.  Write your passwords down if you can’t remember them – but don’t put the web site name next to the password, it is just as bad as storing the passwords.   Stick that piece of paper somewhere nobody will look like in the “Family Bible” or inside an old VHS tape of “The Speeches of Estes Kefauver” or something like that.  Much safer.

Now if you really are concerned about having all your searches show up in a database somewhere linked to your “Internet Telephone Number”, there are other things you can do.

Install an ad blocker like Adblock Plus and use it.   It speeds up your surfing too.

Make your home page a different search page that doesn’t use Google.  Use that new one to search.  Suggestions are:


http://www.startingpage.com
http://www.msn.com
http://www.msnbc.com
http://www.yahoo.com
http://www.bing.com

I’m still using Google for now.  That may change, but since I use Gmail, google sites for web development, Google Analytics, and other sites I may as well.  They’re going to get you one way or another but at least you know to think before you type.

After all, you really didn’t mean to go to that X Rated Site did you?