Facebook Fatigue?

Wherever I look, the papers, my RSS feeds, Twitter, … Facebook: it’s people complaining about Facebook. But to me it seems a bit like people that binge-drink every night complaining about beer.

There are many problems with Facebook currently, particularly when used the way most of us seem to use it. And apparently using it the way most people do, causes them to take leaves of their senses and yield autonomous control over how they use it altogether.

So, here’s my tips on how to get control of your life back, without having to go full on attention prossie and drama royalty and threaten to leave your mates:

You don’t want to be notified

The primary vector for addiction on Facebook are the reactions, but the real kicker is the fact that you keep getting buzzed for each reaction posted.

You’re probably someone who says they’re on Facebook to know what their friends and family have been up to and maybe to find fun events or kill some time when you have nothing better to do, right? You don’t need your phone or your web browser to remind you to come back every couple of minutes.

So go into your phone’s settings, and turn off all notifications for the Facebook app. Don’t leave it up to the app itself, just shut it out altogether – you have literally no need for those notifications and you can catch up in your own time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And tell your web browser the same, no notifications – if you don’t know how, an easy way to double check all the stuff you told Facebook not to bother you with comes up if you get rid of your Facebook cookie (see below) and then this:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

‘Block’, surely.

You can use a password manager

Unless the basic concept of using a computer is still quite daunting to you, you can use a password manager like everyone else. Lastpass, Keepass, you name it.

What does this have to do with Facebook? Just go on Facebook and check Settings – Apps and see how many applications you’ve authorised to get (some of) your info from Facebook. In many cases, you will have authorised them because you wanted to use Facebook to log you in automatically. It’s convenient, sure, but it also requires that you are always logged in for it to work smoothly.

(note that many will be apps on your phone, others will be websites – I’m only talking about the websites here, because some apps may even require you to log in using Facebook. Check them carefully though. Do you even use those apps?)

I cannot stress enough how important and frankly ridiculous this is. We complain about Facebook threatening our privacy, but most of its users are always logged in to it from our web browsers. You’re willingly giving your information to Facebook with every site you visit. Do you just close the Facebook tabs when you’re done, or do you log out first? Do you even know where the link to log out is? (It’s at the bottom of the menu with the little arrow, all the way in the top right)

With a password manager installed, this is what I’m greeted with when visiting facebook.com:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Always being logged in on your browser means Facebook can see where you’re browsing, what sites you visit and depending on how deeply they are integrated with sites you’re not even logged in to, even what you’re buying or looking at. And the only reason you’re logged in is because you’re either too lazy to set up a password manager once, or to click the ‘log out’ link on your way out.

If you don’t have two-factor authentication on your Facebook, you can also choose to install a browser plugin that just deletes the cookie for a website you’re on (like this one https://goo.gl/7Arruy) – having one of those is a good idea anyway. If you’re on Facebook and you hit the button, it logs you off and forgets all about you and that site.

But doing this also causes your browser to forget that you told Facebook you don’t want two-factor authentication every single time. So, you have a choice to make. But please don’t disable two-factor over this – I’d recommend you keep using it and either enter it every time you want to get on Facebook (if you don’t want it bad enough to enter the number, why are you even going there?) or just use the menu ‘log out’ option.

A reality check

You don’t just have to believe me either. Your paranoia alone isn’t the best adviser, so why not go and check for yourself? Let’s say you’re reading the NY Times. Who’s reading along. If you use Chrome, like I do, you can just click the lock icon (with ‘secure’ next to it in friendly, glowing green letters):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Whoa, 160+ cookies huh? (and that’s after a few reloads, I started out with over 300) And sure enough, if you open the long list, Facebook is in there. You’ll find that Facebook stays in there, even if you removed your cookie, but if you look at the information that’s on that specific cookie, your personal information will no longer be there. Now you’re just a part of the faceless masses – still getting tracked, but at least you have some anonymity back, for what it’s worth.

Try this on sites you visit regularly while logged in to Facebook and you’ll start to get a sense of exactly when Facebook is hitching a ride and looking over your shoulder.

You probably don’t have to use it

Many apps present you with an easy Facebook login button. It’s tempting, I know, but frequently there will be an option to just sign up for the app using your e-mail address instead. Go through your list of apps (Facebook web page, down arrow at top right, Settings, Apps on the left) and just check them. Do they really require Facebook as a login?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You may not mind for some apps and services, but don’t assume you have to use it if you’d rather Facebook didn’t know about your use of the app. And if you switch from using a Facebook login to using an account specifically for that app, remember your password manager (don’t reuse passwords, reusing passwords is bad, m’kay?) and remember to remove the app’s permissions from Facebook – they sure won’t do it for you.

Logging out on the phone?

If you want to use the Facebook app on your phone (have you considered just getting rid of it and only browsing Facebook on your tablet or PC?), logging off every time is likely too much trouble – it is for me, and I do use the app. But at least you can limit how intrusive the app is.

And if you do use the app, consider getting rid of other Facebook apps, like Facebook Messenger. Signal is good. Or maybe Whatsapp (also owned by Facebook, but at least it’s somewhat properly encrypted and doesn’t track the content of what you’re saying) are good alternatives. Just compare the level of access the Facebook Messenger demands from your phone to what these apps require and decide for yourself. And ask yourself: do you really want this company reading along with everything you’re saying and everything that’s said to you?

Permission denied

And speaking of permission: does Facebook really need that permission to read your location or listen to your microphone? Of course, if you specifically use features like checking in or recording audio fragments, it will – but the problem with almost all smartphones is you grant this permission either not at all, or completely. So, you have no way of telling easily when Facebook is keeping tabs on where you are (or, according to some, what sounds are around you, although I’d take any stories like that with a grain of salt).

The point is: if you don’t need Facebook to have these permissions, take them away. You can always grant them later. See the slides under ‘You don’t want to be notified’ for the location of the setting.

Questions?

Please do ask, I’d happily update this page if something is unclear about it, or if you feel I’ve missed an important option or setting.

 

A handy solution to a disarming problem

The puns may get me some w(r)istful looks, but after Simone took a 9-year old kamikaze pilot to the pedal bike, we’re in dire need of some light-hearted humour to lift our spirits…

DSC_1543_m

That ‘sprained’ wrist turned out to be broken. In two places, in fact, the radius and the tricky scaphoid. So that cast will stay on for six weeks minimum, and hopefully no more than that.

Of course, typing is a real pain with this whole situation, even though she’s lucky that it’s her left hand and not her right (mouse) hand. We immediately scoured the net for some easy solutions for one-handed typing, but most relied on dodgy software or text-prediction with half-assed dictionaries.

Luckily, Max Baker, back in 2008, had the same idea and scrounged up a super-useful AutoHotKey script for one-handed typing by a forum user known as ‘mbirth’. I have found AutoHotKey to be one of the most generally useful pieces of utility-software on the planet anyway, and it did not disappoint on this account either.

The script causes keys on the keyboard to be mirrored onto the same position on the other hand (if you’re a standard blind-typist).

Max needed something for the left hand (a nice solution if you don’t want to let go of your mouse), but of course Simone needed a right-handed solution. The script is well-written though, so it was as easy as flipping the original and mirrored key definitions around. I then figured a one-size-fits-all solution would include both left and right hand and would just flip the whole keyboard.

I like Max’ suggestion of flipping the key caps, but it’s less practical on a laptop, so a few dollars spent at a news agent and a Sharpie-scribbling session later, we managed to get around the problem of remembering key positions as well.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Problem. Solved.

(whole solution for download here, if you need it – get AutoHotKey from their own site)

Australia as you’d imagine it

When talking about our Australian adventure, non-Australian people tend to respond with some envy and tell us how they would love to live in Australia for a while and what a great country it is. I frequently get the sense that when this happens, two things are conveniently forgotten: #1 – Australia is mindbogglingly huge and, as a result, most of it is about as far away as any typical holiday destination in Europe would be. #2 – we’re not actually on an extended holiday here, so most of the time, Australia is just a strange country with a strange culture in which we work and have our daily lives; not the wonderful beach, diving, outback and jungle experience that the word ‘Australia’ evokes in people’s minds.

However, recently we treated ourselves to a bit of exactly that and chose to ignore the distance for a bit. We headed out to the west coast, through Perth and up to Exmouth for a diving and snorkeling trip that turned out so much better than we’d hoped for. And hopes were high, because we weren’t going out there alone. My sister Trudy and her husband Eric were along for the ride – for them, this was the final leg of a long trip that took them up the east coast, including the Great Barrier Reef and this was to be the grand finale.

The Ningaloo Reef is an amazing place. Remote, relatively untouched and fairly close to the West Australia coast. Exmouth is a town of 2,200 people, although at the height of the tourist season, its population will swell to about 6,000. With a few 100 more in Coral Bay, that’s pretty much all the people in an area 200 km long and 50 km wide, with most of the reef just off its coast. Just the flight in offers views of a land that really resonates with that National Geographic stereotype of Australia we’re familiar with.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We went diving and snorkeling on the Muiron Islands to the north of Exmouth, as well as on the Oyster Stacks to the west and in the Coral Bay, but the absolute highlight of the trip must have been our experience with the humpback whales. This is one of the very few places in the world where you can actually swim with them, something the local diving outfits are trialing for the very first time in West Australia – and we were lucky enough to be on board for a trip that had even the crew jumping for joy at the end of the day. Whales swimming underneath us, next to us and rising to the surface to greet our boat, almost inviting us to swim – we had several opportunities to literally look these wonderful creatures right in the eyes.

After all that, Trudy and Eric left and would soon after return to Europe. Between them and Simone’s parents earlier this year, that was likely the end of family and friends visiting from Europe as well – we’re out here by ourselves and just Australian friends and colleagues for some time now.

Simone and myself weren’t quite done enjoying Ningaloo though – Sail Ningaloo took us on the Shore Thing, a catamaran with a crew of two and up to eight guests. Us and four other guests were taken out onto the Indian Ocean, to parts of the reef that are too far for the day-tripping diving outfits to visit. A diving trip straight out of your dreams, 5 days and nights of every need being taken care of and just great diving on untouched sites with lots of life and variety.

Most days, Australia is just a country, where you need to work, shop for groceries and take care of everyday jobs. But every now and then, we find the time to be reminded why Australia is high on the list of countries people would like to visit. And it can really deliver, if you accept its tremendous size…

Perfect Dark

Sometimes the best things about a place are about what’s *not* there – like light pollution. http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html

IMG_0974

St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival Brisbane

It doesn’t quite feel as much like summer without a nice music festival. St. Jerome’s Laneway started out as a Melbourne affair, but has spread to all of the major Australian cities including Brisbane and features a great lineup of promising and established talent with a modern sound.

We got a chance to see Methyl Ethel, Majical Cloudz, Japanese Wallpaper, Diiv, Health, Big Scary, The Internet, Battles, Violent Soho, Grimes, Chvrches and Purity Ring.

It was great getting back (or at least closer) to that old Lowlands vibe (thank the heavens for chips in cups!). From the poppy and booming Grimes to the experimental and attention-demanding Battles. With amazing performances like the drumming in Health, Battles and Big Scary to the promising talent and enthusiasm of young acts like Methyl Ethel. And unlike Lowlands, rain is actually a welcome refresher in the Brisbane weather.

And it’s nice to be able to fit in some personal favorites like Chvrches. More so because they were virtually exploding off of the stage with a performance that takes them from promising indie band to self-assured power act. It’s a rare thing when a concert feels both personal and fun, but also energetic and larger than life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What stood out as typically Australian: a smoker’s section (no smoking in the concert tents); no sweets – just deep-fried and BBQ and a bit of ethnic food, but all savory; far less drunkenness, probably because of prohibitive alcohol prices; a distinct lack of weed smells; slightly more polite and generally happy looking audience; horrible Australian fashion sense extending to festival outfits, with many (too?) revealing outfits added on top for women; hotpants are back in full force; Australians clean up after themselves in daylight, but when night falls they make up for it.

Cinematic futurism in games in retrospect – Syria drone footage

The horror of this video is self-evident and though it’s impossible to ignore, it’s not what I wanted to share.

What’s interesting to me is that this montage of drone footage offers a view of an environment that’s reminiscent of video games. Not just because many video games will offer views of devastation and war unlike most of us ever seen in real life. But also because of the camera positions and mobility a drone affords.

In recent years, I sometimes got annoyed at the artificial feel of cinematic sequences in games, because they allowed the camera freedoms that were simply not achievable in reality, not without CGI. They break the suspense of disbelief and certainly don’t work for anything that’s intended to evoke a sense of realism. However, now that sentiment is flipping – some of those cinematic sequences appear simply ‘ahead of their time’, foreshadowing the cinematic acrobatics of drone-borne cameras.

Watching the (very interesting) movie “The Double” (2013) by Richard Ayoade, I got a similar sensation – many camera standpoints and the visual storytelling seem to break away from traditional cinematographic conventions and instead speak the language of the cinematic cut scene in computer games.

Have a watch and let me know what you think, anywhere.

Classic T&T

Now that we’ve had a taste, we can’t wait until it’s 19 October. And we won’t wait until then either before we pour ourselves another G&T, or T&T as the local bottle shop would have it. And thanks to the amazing Hong Lan asian supermarket for the sweet limes.

T&T BeforeT&T After

An even more belated gin & tonic for a belated birthday party – cheers Cath! Better late than never, right? Right?!