Saturday, June 30, 2018

Breaking free of Google

More and more, Google's founding mantra -- "Don't be evil" -- strikes me as a bad joke. If having a corporation spy on me around the clock isn't evil, I think we need a new definition of the word. (Perhaps Pope Francis would like to have a go at that?)

Still, it's hard to break out of Google's grasp. Its Chrome browser has long been my favorite, for the slick interface that frees up my screen for the vital stuff. But recently I discovered Brave -- clearly modeled on the same platform but promising "Secure, Fast & Private" browsing, with built-in blocker for advertisements and cookies. Great! All the advantages with few or none of the disadvantages. (I do have one or two websites where I must enable cookies or give up the service. The ad-blocking hasn't yet caused a stumble anywhere. I'd forgotten how intrusive and sometimes disturbing those ads are!)

Google Search was a tougher substitution. For six months or so I used Microsoft's Bing, but heck, do I really believe that Microsoft is any saintlier than Google? So now I'm trying out the weirdly named DuckDuckGo with its motto, "The search engine that doesn't track you." Like Bing, it's pretty good but not quite as good as the Evil version, so for emergency use I keep a link on my Home Page to Google Search. (Similarly, I have a link there to the so-far unmatched Google Maps.)

The biggest challenge, though, is getting out from under Gmail. I've played about with ProtonMail -- located in Switzerland and offering end-to-end encryption when both sender and receiver use the service. There's a free version and a subscription that rents for €4 a month. I can access the service using Thunderbird on my computer, and I have an app for my iPhone though not yet for my Fire tablet. In time I probably go with the paid version (about $56 a year), but I still have some work to do.

Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Thanks, guys, for the help"

Whatever you do today (if you haven't done so already), you should listen to Captain Tammie Jo Shults as she flies a half-crippled Boeing 737 to a safe landing in Philadelphia. What a pilot! When she first reports an engine fire and the need for an emergency airfield, she sounds less excited than the earthbound flight controller. When she switches to a new frequency, she politely signs off with "Good day." And at the end of all, with the plane safe on the ground, she says, "Thanks, guys, for the help." Captain Shults was one of the first women to enter military flight training, and one of the first to take the controls of a supersonic F/A-18 Navy fighter.

Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Golden Mikaela

I suppose it helps that a victorious young woman is holding it, but to see the American flag displayed with such zest still makes my eyes tingle. I'm also impressed by the way skiers -- American skiers, anyhow -- manage to display the flag while also keeping their sponsor's skis front and center. Do they have a training program for that? (And for the flag, come to think of it. It's not intuitive, to hold an object with the field of stars at the left and top when it's behind one's back!)

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Three cheers for Elon Musk!

No, that's not Mr Musk at the wheel of the red Tesla roadster, but he is certainly taking a victory lap today. His company SpaceX has successfully launched the Falcon Heavy, the largest rocket to hoist a payload beyond the earth's atmosphere since the Saturn of half a century ago. And he did it with private money!

On Twitter (where else?), Mr Musk tells us that the Tesla roadster is heading for the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.

The main rocket, alas, crashed upon landing back at Cape Canaveral yesterday. The two boosters however did gracefully return to their designated landing spot. That the rockets should be reusable is an important element of the Space X business plan.

I was curious as to where the names "Elon" and "Musk" come from, so I checked his biography online. He was born in South Africa, and his father has some Afrikaner (i.e. Dutch) in his background, while his mother is Canadian. What a triumph for merit-based immigration!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A pleasant sight

This is a shelf at the Maxwell Air Force Base library. Not only are there five copies of Flying Tigers on offer, but there appears to be a sixth copy that has been checked out. (Thanks to Ward Rogers for the photo!)

Friday, September 01, 2017

Trigger warning: this is a blog. Blogs contain opinions!

Really, this is the trigger warning to end all trigger warnings! (And wouldn't that be a wonderful outcome?)

Ken Burns, who reinvented the documentary with his great Civil War series, has now turned his attention to the Vietnam War. (As Americans call it. The Vietnamese call it the American War.) Wars, of course, involve at least occasional violence, and most of them involve atrocities on one side or the other, or more likely both.

Television and online programming begins on September 17 and continues for the next nine Sundays. But I just got an email from New Hampshire Public Television informing me that for $10 or so I could actually attend a preview in a theater. Not only that, the email promised, but the screening would be accompanied with this bonus:

Screenings will include trained facilitators to ensure a safe, welcoming, and inclusive conversation.
Isn't that the height of 21st Century culture? The Good People have invented war with a safe space! 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Texas triumphs

What a great photo! I am generally skeptical of militarizing the police, but Houston yesterday showed us that SWAT teams have other uses than breaking down doors and deploying armored vehicles against civilians. Here Officer Daryl Hudeck rescues Connie Pham and her son from their flooded home. If the photo doesn't win the Pulitzer Prize, there is no justice!