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All Things Internet™ since 1999


Is Google is ruining the Internet?

Spy-Jaron-Lanier-631“To my mind an overleveraged unsecured mortgage is exactly the same thing as a pirated music file. It’s somebody’s value that’s been copied many times to give benefit to some distant party. In the case of the music files, it’s to the benefit of an advertising spy like Google [which monetizes your search history], and in the case of the mortgage, it’s to the benefit of a fund manager somewhere. But in both cases all the risk and the cost is radiated out toward ordinary people and the middle classes—and even worse, the overall economy has shrunk in order to make a few people more.”

- Jaron Lanier on the failure of Web 2.0,

What Turned Jaron Lanier Against the Web?“, Smithsonian Magazine

Worth a read for an interesting view of who bears the risk and who reaps the rewards on today’s Internet.


10 Years Smoke Free

proud_to_be_a_quitter_10_years_poster-r4700a99942ff4dd0964fe757395ae757_i0t_400Its been 10 years since I had my last cigarette.

That’s a pretty good start.

For some background on my struggle to quit, check out my last post on the subject.

Since then, I’ve ridden my bike across Canada, through Death Valley and set a world record for the fastest crossing of Ontario by bike. We’ve moved twice and our wonderful son Rowan has entered our lives. I’ve lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of perspective (and gained a few more pounds since…).

I think I might even be comfortable calling myself a non-smoker now.




I watched “Looper” tonight.

After, I wonder who the female lead was – Wikipedia says Emily Blunt.

For some reason, I’m reminded of an early 90′s film “Beautiful Creatures“, no…. “Beautiful Things”. No, that’s not right…

Crap, Google comes up empty.

I remember the lead actress was Kate Winslet whose film bio says the movie was actually named “Heavenly Creatures“. Now I’m back on track. The leads were Kate and Melanie Lynskey who also played Gloria in “Coyote Ugly“. Side-trip – Kevin Smith (yah, that one) was an uncredited writer on Coyote Ugly. In fact, most of the writers on Coyote Ugly were uncredited – by choice.

So anyways, Coyote Ugly starred Piper Perabo who, get this – plays Joe Simmons paramour in Looper.


Screen Shot 2012-12-16 at 1.24.56 AMUpdate; And to complete the fluke, I thought I’d follow Looper up with “The Dark Knight Rises“. Sheesh, will it ever end? I swear, this is all by happenstance… I’m not nearly steeped in pop culture enough to organize any of this.


The 2012 Top 15 Search Terms on Byte.org

This blog gets a lot of traffic referred from Google Searches. Google is cool enough to share those searches and WordPress is cool enough to report on them. Here is a list of the top 15 most common terms that people search on before clicking through on a link that brings them to byte.org from Google.

I offer them with no explanation, because frankly, some of them don’t make a lot of sense :)

  1. layne staley
  2. byte
  3. ross rader
  4. filez and warez
  5. this is bullshit
  6. 10 point timeline
  7. twitter 4
  8. i don’t like twitter
  9. i really like twitter
  10. jim grey cira
  11. sopa greed
  12. customer service face to face
  13. microsoft clippy
  14. did pornhub get shutdown?
  15. gates vs jobs


Not comfortable with that…

i treeWhat’s with the trend of leaving out the personal pronoun in written communications?

Noticed a while ago that I do it too. Not sure where I picked it up from. Doing my best to stop.

Is this a recent trend or has this been creeping into our communication for a while?


Home Internet

my_crappy_internet______y_u_no_by_dragon122-d3lhb2oProtip: Don’t buy a house in the country unless you check out the internet connection first.

I didn’t take this advice and I’ve regretted it every day since we moved.

3 years ago, we moved to a  beautiful property in the country, just north of Toronto. Lots of room, lots of fresh air and unbeknownst to me, no internet. That means no DSL and no cable. Until recently, we used a 3G based service from Rogers. Until Rogers decided to uncap our monthly bill and charge us $10/GB over 10GB of usage per month. My monthly Internet bill skyrocketed from $126 per month to a whopping $700 per month.

Needless to say I called them and worked out a slightly better payment for the overage (nothing). Once I got the right people on the line, they were really gracious about it although I still think it was really unfair of them to start charging these rates with no notice. And worse, I had no alternative service I could look to.

I decided to try their 4G/LTE service because it would give me 30GB of transit for just $150/month and I’d only have to pay $5/GB over the first 30GB. I figured that at most I’d be paying $190 per month for home Internet.

That didn’t work either. Their new 4G/LTE devices don’t support an external antenna which I need to catch a signal where we live. Sigh. So I cancelled that today and took my very last option and signed up with Xplornet. Their service looks promising enough. Up to 5mb/s satellite Internet, 60GB of transit for just $90/mos. It all sounds really good on paper, except I’ve heard lots of terrible stories about their service. I hope that it isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. If it is, we may just have to move.

There’s a catch though. The installer won’t be here for another two weeks. That’s two weeks of no Internet at The Bunker. I think I have a solution though. I found that if I perch my iPhone just right on the back of the couch, I can catch a 3G signal. That’s just enough to drive a low-speed “Personal Area Network” using the iPhone’s tethering features. I’m getting about 600KB up and 50KB down. I won’t be doing any massive torrents or anything, and it should be enough for me to grab my email and mess around with Twitter here and there. In any event, I could use a break so if you don’t see much from me in the next week or so, you’ll know why.


Another reason to use Jetpack to post from WordPress to Linkedin

LinkedIn is making some much-needed changes to its timelines and profiles. New features include more ways to connect and build relationships and the ability to showcase presentations, video and documents. It also means that some of the features that you might be using in your old profile or timeline might disappear.

Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 8.14.30 AMOne of these features is the ability to showcase content from your WordPress blog in your profile. The old profile allowed you to add a widget which displayed all your blog posts. This worked just fine, although it was ultimately made redundant by features in the timeline. I stopped using the profile widget ages ago and now exclusively post my blog updates using Jetpack to the LinkedIn Timeline. The benefit of this approach is that everyone who is in my network will receive my update, where the older approach only showed my blog posts to people who visited my profile.

Although this a small step for LinkedIn and I think it’s a step in the right direction and I’m really looking forward to checking out the new timeline and profile features. I’ll post an update with my thoughts when I get a chance to check them out.


Futureshop: 27 questions isn’t a survey, its a penalty

Futureshop needs an intervention. Their idea of a post-purchase survey is to threaten their customers with 27 questions. I hold a world record in long distance cycling so I like to think I know a thing or two about endurance events.

This survey definitely qualifies as an endurance event.

The punchline is pretty good too.

Its been 12 days since my order and my item is lost in transit somewhere. They’ve charged my card and I don’t have any merchandise. The courier knows where it is, and Futureshop doesn’t. Their customer management system assumed that the merchandise had been delivered and automatically asked me about my order experience.

Their system would be a lot more effective if it sent out a “Thanks for your recent order, our records show that you have received your order, did everything go well and according to your satisfaction?” and only when they were sure that the transaction was complete and I have received my order they could send out a survey.

A much shorter and direct survey that is.

Here’s the survey in its entirety. If you plan on reading all the questions, pack a lunch…


Using Jetpack to Share Blog Posts on Twitter and Facebook

For the longest time I relied on a hodge-podge of web services to post alerts to twitter and Facebook when I updated my blog. Today I made the jump to using Publicize through Jetpack. Jetpack is a set of services provided by Automattic that just make WordPress better. One of those services, Publicize makes it easy to share your site’s posts on several social media networks automatically when you publish a new post.

This post is a bit of a test post to see what gets posted and how.

If you are already using JetPack, setting up Publicize is pretty straightforward. Just sign into your WordPress account and click through to JetPack and select “Configure” in the Publicize card. From there, you can authorize the services you want to post to when you update your WordPress blog. Publicize is nicely integrated with WordPress and notices go out almost immediately. When you write a new post using the WordPress editor, new options appear in your right sidebar that allow you to customer what gets pushed out to your social networks.

Previously I had been using Twitterfeed which works extremely well. Its main drawback is that it relies on parsing the RSS feed for your blog on a scheduled basis, pushing out updates to your social networks according to a schedule. My main challenge with it was that I was always forgetting which service was doing the posting to my blog, making it a challenge to tweak my settings when I got the urge.


My Email Workflow: IMAP & Filters

Screen Shot 2012 12 08 at 3 20 28 PM

I get a lot of email – hundreds per day. I also believe in having an empty inbox and I like to make sure that every message finds its home in my email archive before the end of each day. Over the years I’ve developed a specific approach to making sure that I’m on top of my email and that my email stays organized. Everyone has a different email workflow and I thought it might be helpful to share what works for me.

My first line of defence is IMAP. I primarily use Mail on OS/X and IOS and I have mailboxes configured on at least 3 different devices – my home workstation, my work laptop and my iPhone. IMAP makes its really easy for me to get access to my email from almost anywhere with very little time wasted on replicating a new setup. I use server-side filtering to organize my email into general folders which the email client loads remotely. This has the benefit of showing me my email in exactly the same way no matter which mail client I use.

IMAP also comes with the benefit of storing all of my mail “in the cloud” without forcing me to use webmail. I have gigabytes and gigabytes of email going back to 1999 when I first dropped POP in favor of IMAP based email. I never have to worry about backing up this email, deleting old messages to save on storage space or trying to remember if that important email got downloaded at home or from work. IMAP really is the only option for email in today’s multi-machine, highly mobile email environment.

The structure of the server-side filters is important as well. I filter only on source and I don’t bother filtering email from people, topics or keywords. For example, I receive a small amount of email from mailing lists. Email from each of these lists goes into its own folder. I also receive a number of work-related automated reports and status updates. Each of these gets filtered into their own folder – all the automated balance notices go into one folder, customer feedback into another, account activation and sales reports into yet another. I have dozens of folders as a result – all of which only exist on the server.

Most importantly, I don’t bother filtering people, topics or keywords. If you send me an email, you’ll probably end up in my inbox. I have tried filtering messages based on whether I was cc’ed, bcc’ed or directly addressed and found it was just too much to keep track of. Simpler is better. These filters create a pretty clean inbox for me to work through each day.

The rest of my email “processing” is all manual. I’ll follow this post up describing how I set up my email program to encourage my focus and avoid distractions and another describing how I decide which messages to answer, which to file, which to delete, and so on.