Tag Archives: opera

Perhaps a return, and migration

The ‘Lancer has been on hiatus since mid-summer. It now takes tentative steps to leave that status behind.

Those that have read regularly for some time may wish to know why. Honestly, I would rather not say; however, I feel that the owed courtesy of an answer outweighs my enormous reluctance, and I am well aware that my silence is not the expected behavior for handling distress. Most people would have hosed the whole blow-by-blow onto Facebook all along, in the modern trend of forcing the emotional finger down one’s throat in the most public possible way (being sure to take selfies). If that works for them, very well.

The more bothered I am, the more silent I grow and the fewer people I tell. This is because talking about it harms rather than helps me, and also harms those to whom I talk, none of whom deserve to hurt. It would hurt them because–as seems obvious to me–it would further harm me, and thus their reward for honest caring and kind intentions would be to see me feel worse. In some cases, they might compound that disappointment by faulting themselves for what is simply a personality quirk of mine. I care enough about my friends not to put them in a position where we both hurt more.

Basic principles: don’t ask for help you don’t want, and don’t lead people on to try and help you if your personality won’t let them succeed. Simple humanity, at least by my lights.

But just to reassure everyone, there is no terminal illness, no sudden death or disability in my world, no horrific physical injury, no marital disaster, nothing like that. Suffice to say: I have just spent this time dealing with some issues. I now begin to feel like talking once more. I hope this will suffice, and will be received with the same compassionate acceptance you all have generously shown. And for all those who follow, and did not unfollow, thank you.

What this also means is that I find myself thinking about posting on Facepalm again. For months, I have not felt like engaging the world on any but my own terms. That ruled out online forums; simple logic says if you don’t want the reactions, don’t say the things. And I then began to delete my Facebook wall postings. It felt kind of good, and I decided to keep going. In fact, I decided not to start posting new ones until I had wiped out the accumulated mass of, what, nine years of posts. I’m only done back to 2013, so I see completion as some way off, but within reach. I don’t regret it. I regret some photos and images I removed rather than hid from the timeline, but that’s it.

Onward to actual content.

A side effect of this process has been to realize that it’s time to split the sheets with Firefox. It has become turtle-slow, and bringing my outdated version current will break most of the extensions that make it worthwhile to me. Safari and Chrome are out of the question, as is Irrelevant Explorer (or whatever it now calls itself), so I settled on Opera.

This is not a simple process. Opera works differently, and in some ways I much dislike. I’m sure some of the speed improvement has to do with using fewer extensions and blockers, but maybe I didn’t need that many. The big privacy discovery was PrivacyBadger, a nifty tool that lets you block a lot of the crap they throw at you, then add them back one by one until you find the one key item that un-breaks the site just enough to get what you want. Between that, Ghostery, Disconnect, UnTrackMe, and Privacy Protector Plus, I think I’ve got this aspect where it needs to be.

I’m not sure what could possibly pierce the anti-junk armor of five different add-ins, but each one seems to catch a number of intrusions, so unless they are reporting redundantly, they’re all doing some good. The downside to Opera is that fewer add-ins exist for it. There will be compromise.

What Opera still needs in order for me to uninstall Firefox: a good weather add-in, a good reminder add-in, an easier way to block cookies from certain sites, a better bookmark menuing system, and for me to figure out the RSS feed. I guess it’ll be a long goodbye to Firefox, but not an unhappy one. One wonders if its open-sourceness and popularity led to a critical mess of clunky code. I don’t know. It and I are done now.

Now, if I can figure out how to block Google’s geolocation, that would be ideal. Right now that seems like herpes: no cure, and evidently no one even trying or wanting to try. But we’ll see.


My current privacy array

I’m fairly sure I’m at the right asymptote of ‘willingness to go through headaches and try new things in order to thwart people’s data gathering just because.’ The tools for this are in a state of constant change, so this might be a time for an update.

My basic browser is Firefox 16.0.2, not because I want to be on that version, but because I was forced by sunsetting to upgrade from a previous version. FF has heavy memory leaks, and has become clunky, but a) it has the most add-ins, b) I hated Safari, c) there is no way I’m going to let Chrome have its way with me, and d) these days, if you use Internet Explorer to do anything but download a real browser, your friends will stage an intervention. “Jonathan, we’ve all come here because we care about you. Your use of IE has affected my life negatively in the following ways…” For all FF’s flaws, it has the most dynamic privacy tool authoring community, and that’s what matters most to me.

It begins with Adblock Plus, which hides just about all the advertising, everywhere. There is a certain irony in all the efforts I exert in order to ruin Facebook’s data mining, when I don’t in fact see their consequent advertising. ABP is low maintenance. It has the added benefit of allowing me spot removal of any image I happen to find offensive and just don’t need to see again.

NoScript is a very helpful package that doesn’t let JavaScripts run unless I say so. It probably also accounts for most of the headaches and tweaks I go through, because it goes by site, and some pages have scripts from fourteen different sources (some of which you only learn of after unblocking this other one). Which one is the one needed in order to do what I came to the page to do? At times I have to turn it off temporarily, but I usually just enable scripts one at a time for the session.

FlashBlock is easier than NoScript because it shows a ‘play’ button on the screen where the Flash content is. Usually it’s a video. Do videos automatically play when you go to a page? Not for me, they don’t, and that’s how I want it.

TACO is wonderful, because it does the best job on cookies. For example, I can accept Facebook cookies on Facebook and on the one game that I play, while blocking them everywhere else. I have to do that one page at a time, but once you do it for the pages you visit most, it’s less necessary every day. That also lets me blow away Google’s ubiquitous cookie-mongering. There is no reason either of those sites needs to set a cookie on my browser just because I visited, say, CNN. That visit, and what I did there, is neither Google’s nor Facebook’s business. While TACO also blocks most web trackers, it doesn’t do it as well as…

Ghostery. In addition to cookies, many sites use beacons/web trackers to keep tabs on what you do. Ghostery blocks nearly all of them by default. If it finds one unblocked, you can choose to add it to the list. Very easy to use, and very satisfying.

GoogleSharing partly convinces Google that I’m somewhere else. Currently, Google News thinks I’m in Austin, TX. Once in a while, I believe when GS resets to a new ‘location,’ my GN shows up in a foreign edition and I have to change it. Although if it’s a language I understand, sometimes I’ll do a bit of reading first. GS says that it anonymizes my search results in some way; sounds good to me.

TrackMeNot spams Google with spurious searches on mundane things. The effect of this is to bury my actual Google searches in a sea of irrelevant crap. Slight downside is that sometimes it gets a little zealous, and Google makes me do Captcha in order to search, announcing that it has detected a lot of traffic from my IP address. This is rare.

WebOfTrust assigns reliability/safety icons to links, especially in Google searches. This mainly keeps one from blundering into sites that attempt to emplace spyware or viruses on your machine. Foolproof it’s not; helpful it is. Part of the problem is that the color of the icon could mean anything from ‘naughty pictures’ to ‘unsafe due to spyware,’ and you have to hover the mouse in order to find out. Part of the problem is that the safety rating of a page comes mainly from user input, so it’s possible that a given page was given adverse ratings simply because a bunch of people wanted to hurt the page’s owner. Use it with some discernment, and it’s helpful.

What are the downsides?

The biggest one is the need to selectively enable JavaScripts until a page works. I admit that sometimes I just punt and use another, unshielded browser. Since I don’t go from place to place with other browsers much, the dossier they compile from them is a tiny fraction of my web surfing. It’s also pretty much impossible to know which script unlocked what I wanted, unless I do it one at a time, which is often more futzing that I desire.

Second biggest is needing to go into TACO each time I go to a new page and block/delete all its cookies. You’d be amazed how many sites stick you with Firefox or Google cookies; WordPress and Yahoo are also frequent offenders.

Third would be the inability to save Google search settings because I won’t take Google cookies on their search page. At times, the non-evil folks at Google break Google search for people who do this–I’m convinced it’s to teach us a lesson.

Fourth would be that you have to use Firefox, which isn’t a very efficient or robust browser compared to others. For games, I use Sleipnir, Opera and/or Maxthon. Sleipnir and Maxthon are very robust. Opera is lousy, but it’s good to have some backup without resorting to IE. Maxthon’s update nags are very annoying; haven’t found out how to get them out of the system tray. At least I can ignore Opera and FF’s update nags.

Anyway, if you want to try browsing my way, there are all the links. Enjoy.