Reviving Splash Panel Reviews

Quite a long time ago, I joined up with Khaled Abou Alfa (who is now bringing his considerable skills to Moon Racket!) to share reviews of graphic novels on Splash Panel. I contributed eleven reviews overall, but it’s been quite some time indeed, and the site is now just a parked domain, after passing hands between a splog or two.

I thought the reviews were gone for good, besides those stored by the Internet Archive of course, but while cleaning out my backup drive today, I stumbled across backups of all my old reviews!

I have been thinking of some new content for my blog here, and I think I’ll start by polishing and re-publishing those old reviews. Unfortunately, I donated most of the eleven graphic novels to various people/places over time, so I’ll have to figure out what to do about those pre-HiDPI scans in a post-HiDPI world, but I’ll take my time and republish them as best I can.

Why am I writing this first? Well, it will give me something to link on all of the re-published reviews, and it will pretty much force me to actually follow through with this plan. 😉

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.

WordPress 4.7 Released

WordPress 4.7 has been released! This release introduces Twenty Seventeen as the new default theme, tons of Customizer improvements, thumbnail previews for uploaded PDFs, per-user Dashboard language settings, REST API content endpoints, and more!

482 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Helen Hou-Sandí. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.7 has been out for about 4 hours, and has already been downloaded 573,149 times!

All users can now safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

Presenting: I Support New Music

leviathan600Do you like hearing new and original music when you go to orchestral concerts, rather than the same works from years gone by? Then head on over to I Support New Music, where we have the crowdfunding campaign you’re looking for!

We’re crowdfunding for a full professional recording of Sarah’s 25-minute concerto for 6-string electric violin, EWI, Synth, and orchestra: Leviathan. We have lots of rewards available at various levels and are running the campaign ourselves, so there are no fees and no end date (the campaign is done when we get what we need for this project).

The site is powered by WordPress and Give, hosted by Pressable, and so far everything has gone smoother than expected. I’d also like to offer a huge special thanks to the folks behind Give for offering some help, and for featuring us in their Stories. They’re great to work with!

Assuming this current campaign does well, we hope to find some way to extend this to other composers looking to crowdfund their projects, but most importantly we’re learning a little bit more each day and having fun while doing it. If you’re a fan of new music, don’t miss out on I Support New Music!

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Automattic Meetup 2016

This year, Automattic went to Whistler, British Columbia, my first time in Canada for more than a layover. We had almost 500 employees spanning the globe, suddenly just spanning 2 hotels for the week. It’s always great, if not perhaps just a tiny bit overwhelming, to see everyone in person once a year, and it’s wonderful to build great things in person.

A fair amount of such great things were indeed built, so keep your eyes on the WordPress.com Blog, Jetpack Blog, and WooCommerce Blog for news. Meanwhile, here’s my customary chunk of photos.

For more photos, visit colleagues Stephen McLeod Blythe, Lisa Schuyler, Kathryn Presner, Dan Hauk, Naoko Takano, Ryan Cowles, and Pam Kocke. If any of this looks interesting to you, we’re always hiring!

WordPress 4.6 Released

WordPress 4.6 Streamlined UpdatesWordPress 4.6 has been released! This release introduces a streamlined plugin and theme update process, native system fonts in the Dashboard (no more remotely-loaded Open Sans), improved link validation, browser storage content recovery, and more!

272 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Dominik Schilling. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.6 has been out for just a little over 1 hour, and has already been downloaded 150,337 times!

All users can now safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

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 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. 2% of Democrats voted for a third-party candidate while 9% of Democrats voted for Trump.

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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.

WordPress 4.5 Released

illustration-short-inlinelinksWordPress 4.5 has been released! This release introduces inline linking and more formatting shortcuts to the editor, responsive previews and custom logos to the customizer, and more!

277 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Mike Schroder. At the time of writing this, WordPress 4.5 has been out for only 4 hours, and has already been downloaded 415,873 times!

All users can now safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

Internet Archive: Smart 404 Handler

internetarchiveContinuing our series on the Internet Archive, you may recall the last part on the Wayback Machine. Well, today we’re going to go over one more extension of its power that was big enough to get its own part, the smart 404 handler!

If you have your own site, you have probably deleted a page or post by now. Whether on purpose or by accident, you can control what’s on your site, but you can’t control the links to it that already exist elsewhere. When those links direct to your deleted content, the visitor sees a boring 404 Not Found error. But, what if I told you that you could use the Wayback Machine to offer those disappointed visitors a glimpse of the content they missed?

A few years back, the folks behind the Internet Archive debuted their smart 404 handler for free use, and it still works great! Simply add the code from the earlier link to your custom 404 page, and it will work like magic. If you have a WordPress site, your theme more than likely has a 404.php file. If you have not already, now is a great time to start a child theme, so your changes aren’t lost if the theme is updated. Now, simply find where the content of your 404 page ends in the 404.php file (the content you visibly see on the page, not the entirety of the code), and add the code right below it. Here’s how the relevant section looks in the Sorbet theme’s 404.php file:

sorbet404

You won’t see anything if the former page or post wasn’t archived by the Wayback Machine. If you did it right though, and you land on one that has been archived, you’ll find a welcoming message with a link to the most recently archived version. It will look something like this:

404

Thanks to the smart 404 handler and the Wayback Machine’s over 462 billion archived pages, the experience of missing out on lost content could be a thing of the past.

This bring us to the end of our series on the Internet Archive, for now. If you enjoyed your brief tour, don’t forget that they need donations to be able to provide all this for free. Until next time, enjoy everything the Internet Archive has to offer!