Happy New Year! the 2017 edition

2017 begins today, so it’s a great time to start using some basic privacy tools, make sure your browser is up to date, update all of your passwords, and setup two factor authentication wherever you can.

This site’s top five items last year were Modern Aircraft Accident Investigation Equipment and Techniques, Custom Fonts Without Plugins for WordPress Themes, RWBY: Anime Beauty and the Beast?, Fix for Stuck Health App (iOS 8), and Internet Archive: Smart 404 Handler, so I guess those old items really do have some staying power. ūüôā

We’ll need more people sharing their voices, the news, and their experiences this year, so please considering launching your own site with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or start posting again if you already have one!

Basic Privacy Tools

A few years ago, I wrote about security, privacy, and resetting the net. We’re still in very interesting times as far as that subject goes, and if you haven’t taken steps to protect your privacy, now might be a good time to reconsider that.

One of the easiest changes you can make is to use DuckDuckGo instead of a major search engine. DuckDuckGo doesn’t store your personal information and doesn’t track you, so using it instead of a major search engine is a great way to start cutting down on your digital footprint. Also, if you’re making the switch to DuckDuckGo, but still using Chrome (which is made by Google), now might be a great time to try Firefox instead.

While we’re talking about search engine tracking, you might as well put a stop to all of the other trackers too. If you’re already using Firefox, you can switch on already built-in tracking protection with their Test Pilot program (this can also be enabled manually by toggling privacy.trackingprotection.enabled to true under about:config). Try uBlock Origin for most other browsers, or for more control in Firefox, and try Firefox Focus for iOS devices.

For the communication end of things, consider switching to Signal for your messaging needs. Signal is fully encrypted end-to-end, so the only two people who can read the messages are the sender and recipient. For email, consider switching to ProtonMail, which is also fully encrypted, and hosted in privacy-friendly Switzerland.

Additionally, you’ll probably want a VPN to keep you safe, at least when you’re on public Wi-Fi. This is where things get a bit tricky. You’ll want to choose a VPN that either doesn’t log your activity, like TunnelBear, or one that’s not based in The Fourteen Eyes, like these. You’ll also want to make sure that your chosen VPN supports both your desktop and mobile devices. For added security in extreme situations, keep a copy of Tor Browser around (use Onion Browser for iOS devices and Orfox for Android devices).

These are just some basic steps to protect your privacy online. They’ll provide some layer of protection, but if you want to lock things down even further, visit Privacy Tools and PRISM Break.

If you want to do even more, please consider supporting an organization that will fight for your privacy, like the Electron Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Don’t Blame Greens for Gore’s Loss in 2000

voteThere is a trend lately on social media and even some news outlets to blame the the Green Party for the loss of the Democrats in 2000, essentially handing the White House to the Republicans. In a time when the current top two nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have secured historically low approval ratings, it’s easy to preemptively assign impending failure to someone else, like current presumptive Green nominee Jill Stein or current Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, but the notion itself is irresponsible and undemocratic.

Did people vote in 2000 for the Green Party nominee, Ralph Nader? Obviously. Could the Democratic nominee, Al Gore, have won if those votes went to him? Some experts say yes. But as far as blame is concerned, the 2.74% of voters who voted for Nader pale in comparison to the 61% of Democrats who didn’t vote, and the 11% of Democrats who actually voted for the Republican nominee, George W. Bush.

Blaming a group of voters for placing their votes for the nominee who represented their interests and values is about as undemocratic as you can get. Presidents of The United States are elected by a democratic process. Each nominee has earned the votes they receive. If you plan to blame Green voters for not abandoning their nominee to back the Democratic nominee, you might as well also blame the Republican voters for backing their nominee.

An important election is coming up in November, and you should vote for the nominee who matches your interests and values, vote your conscience, cast your vote for who you know will take the country in the direction it needs to go. We live in an information age where you can search for almost any information on any nominee, and sites like iSideWith make it almost fun to see how you relate to them. This November, place an educated vote for the nominee who represents you.

Since some might ask, I definitely won’t be voting for Trump this November, he is further from my interests and values than any nominee in my lifetime has ever been. I haven’t made up my mind about the other three though, I still have 104 days to learn as much as I can about each of them.

Update: The same comparisons are being made with the results of the 2016 election, so here are the facts. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral Collage to Donald Trump. Based on exit polls, 2% of Democrats voted for a third-party candidate, while 9% of Democrats voted for Trump, and 40% of registered voters didn’t vote. I’ll update this bit with more numbers as they become available.

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Earth Day, 2016

Today is Earth Day, a day to reflect on this planet we call home, a home that we sadly worsen each day. One day, we’ll leave this home and journey to the stars, but until then, perhaps it’s a great day to start saving the environment for free and donating to The Conservation Fund.

In addition, consider ways in which you can help the environment yourself, like switching out your lights for LED bulbs, walking or biking to closer destinations rather than driving, planting a tree or two, and even properly separating your recyclables from your trash.

Please spend some time outdoors today, enjoy this 4K view of the Earth from International Space Station, and do your part to help our planet thrive.

Happy New Year! the 2016 edition

2016 begins today, so it’s a great time to make sure your browser is up to date, update all of your passwords, setup two factor authentication wherever you can, start a blog with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or start posting again if you already have one!

MacManX.com had a great 2015, and I’m sure you’ll have a great 2016!

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Earth Day, 2015

Earth Day is upon us, as it is every April 22nd, which means it’s a great time to at least start saving the environment for free and to donate to The Conservation Fund, my favorite environmental charity for many important reasons.

Want to do more? Is the environment more important to you than a few clicks and a few dollars? Then start doing more at home with this list of fifty ways to help the planet.

Now, get out of your home or office and spend some time outdoors! Or, if it’s not too hospitable outside today, at least watch this video.

Happy New Year! the 2015 edition

2015 is upon us, so it’s once again time for¬†those resolutions that you waited until today to start (and you should really ask yourself why you waited too)! If you don’t have anything planned for this year, why not make¬†sure your browser is up to date, update all of your passwords, setup two factor authentication,¬†start a blog, or start posting again if you already have one?

MacManX.com had a great 2014, and I’m sure you’ll have a great 2015!

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Net Neutrality

The internet today is a battleground between the internet service providers who want to charge more for faster access to certain sites and the lawmakers who want to make sure everyone has equal access. I could spend several paragraphs describing to you how your internet service provider (who already charges you for fast internet access) wants to charge more for guaranteed fast access to certain sites, like YouTube and Wikipedia, or how lawmakers against Net Neutrality are being financially backed by the internet service providers themselves, but no explanation will even come close to this from John Oliver.

If you watch any video today, make this 13-minute video it, and then join the battle for Net Neutrality.

Identifying with your Political Party

As of 2014, 42% of Americans claim to identify as something other than Democrat or Republican, yet the Untied States is still largely ruled by¬†these two political parties¬†since they still represent the vast majority of registered voters. Why do so many identify with political parties other than the big two, yet still remain registered with¬†the big two? I don’t know, I’m not a political scientist, but common sense makes me want to see the 42% who identify as something else¬†actually register as something else.

This Independence Day, take some time to consider if the ideals of your political party still match your own, and re-register if necessary. Stand with who you are supposed to, not who you were told to.

Don’t neglect the smaller political parties either. It is becoming clear that the United States¬†needs a strong third party if any significant legislative progress is to be made these days. Without a third competing force, we’re left with two organizations who spend most days blocking each other’s progress since they are practically¬†the antithesis of each other.

If you are either unsure or strongly unwavering in devotion to your current political party, take this quiz. You should know that I never advocate making decisions based solely on quizzes, but this one will give you a great start to your own research.

Security, Privacy, and Resetting the Net

Accusations of online surveillance by government entities are rampant. By now, you have all seen or heard of at least one clandestine government program, like PRISM, designed to spy on citizens by circumventing what was once considered to be fundamental security.

The validity of these accusations and programs are in question, as would be expected. Is there really a threat? If so, is it really as bad as described? Are those spreading the accusations seeking only to undermine the stability of their governments? Are those defending their governments simply working for their governments or living in fear of them? I doubt we’ll ever know the truth, but why should we let that stop us from protecting ourselves regardless?

Today, over 12 thousand people joined together to reach over 12 million followers to Reset the Net by promoting security and privacy. Companies like WordPress.com are already promising better security by the end of the year, and you can protect yourself now by adopting the use of many security-focused apps and privacy-focused alternatives to popular web services, like using DuckDuckGo instead of Google. By making ourselves more secure users, we promote a more secure and private internet. Whether online surveillance by government entities truly exists or not, how could you say that a more secure and private internet is a bad thing?

Now, get out there and promote a more secure and private internet! Don’t underestimate the power of your voice online. Be the change you want to see in the world.