2014-07-22

Fonts in e-mail – please don't!

Friends of mine have remarked on my "boring" plain text e-mails but dear Reader(s) the horror that I try to avoid is the one on the left, as displayed in GMail on Chrome. Through naïveté or bad luck and an ill-advised copying-and-pasting event sequence, this newsletter has turned into a real canine petit déjeuner of text and formatting. I suspect the delusion that formatted e-mail is nice to be fuelled by the mistaken presumption that this is a way of transferring a pretty image from the writer's screen to that of the reader. But the appropriate tool for that is an image or PDF type format! The security and privacy risks around formatted (HTML) e-mail are another topic...

2014-07-20

Die terloopse rak-intimiteit van die Skype-onderhoud

Dit is deesdae heel algemeen dat korrespondente vir internasionale nuuskanale hulle onderhoude per Skype doen uit 'n woonstel- of hotelkamer. Duidelik werk baie sulke mense van die huis af en ek verstom my in die laaste tyd oor wat 'n mens op hulle rakke sien, selfs op die relatief ernstige videokanaal van die Wall Street Journal: 'n prentjie van Che Guevara, 'n 3/4-vol bottel vreemdsoortige donker drank ens. Was dit nie anders en meer statig in die dae van Tossie Lochner, Italië, nie?

2014-06-05

The opposite of steganography?

Hiding secret messages in pictures or other writing is called steganography. The exact opposite could be observed for over 20 hours from yesterday in the presumably frequently read Wikipedia entry on the Capital asset pricing model as the telephone number for one SU Khan defaced the entry. I am really a bit surprised that it did not get fixed earlier but perhaps others (like myself) were simply too bemused by it to do anything. In any case, fixing the vandalism does not delete the message since the revisions are available on the history page for the entry. My first impression is that defacing a Wikipedia page could be a fairly reliable way to leave a message in such a way that the collection of the message (which amounts to reading Wikipedia) would not necessarily arouse much suspicion and where leaving the message requires little skill and involves very little risk. Another job for the data facility in Utah?

 

2014-05-31

Bad fat statistics

Breathless reports in the online Wall Street Journal this week and on the WSJ video channel about the obesity "epidemic" featuring Dr Ng, one of the authors of a study in The Lancet with well over 50 authors. One of the reported key findings:

"More than 50% of the world's 671 million obese people live in 10 countries, the study said, ranking them in order: the U.S., China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia."

But according to my calculation, close to an even 50% of the world's population lives in six of those countries: China, India, the US, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan. The only countries in the population top-10 not in the obesity top-10 are in fact Nigeria, Bangladesh and Japan and for what I would say are very obvious reasons. Ditto the "big three" of Egypt, Mexico and Germany – pretzel, taco or subsidised bread anyone? Reporting the blindingly obvious as news is not new but one has to wonder whether this is the best or the worst of The Times... BTW, they "cited South Africa as an extreme case: 42% of women are obese" which you can learn by stepping off a plane (or often, just on an SAA plane).

2013-10-15

Meer privaatheid met twee webblaaiers

Ek is vroegaand dié week by 'n vriend se huis toe my Google-selfoon my daaraan herinner dat ek so vier minute nodig het om by my volgende afspraak uit te kom. Hoe weet Google, Facebook en ander so baie van ons en wil ons iets daaraan doen? Oor die selfoon kan ek nie veel sê nie maar ek glo dis daar 'n hopelose saak, soos Richard Stallman onlangs in 'n lesing by Wits verduidelik het. Op 'n gewone rekenaar het 'n mens egter 'n bietjie meer hoop. Die beste is om TOR te gebruik vir Internet-toegang maar in my ervaring is dit dikwels maar stadig.

'n Baie eenvoudiger manier om jouself 'n bietjie minder te laat naspoor is om eenvoudig twee verskillende webblaaiers (byvoorbeeld twee van Google Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Safari of Internet Explorer) te gebruik. Op die één, sê maar Google Chrome, gebruik 'n mens alles waarvoor jy moet aanteken, byvoorbeeld jou GMail en Facebook. Moet dan geen ander webbladsye in Google Chrome oopmaak nie! Wanneer jy dit sou doen, kan GMail en Facebook baie inligting oor jou bekom en die webbladsy wat jy besoek kan ook. Gebruik eerder byvoorbeeld Opera om ander webbladsye in oop te maak, insluitend jou bank. Jy sal sien dat daar dan geen +'e van Google of Facebook-boodskappe wat jou vertel wat jou vriende van hou meer in Opera gaan verskyn nie. Hierdie werk omdat webbladsye wat jy in Google Chrome oop het slegs inligting van en oor ander webbladsye in Google Chrome kan kry of uitruil maar nie daarbuite nie. Alles wat jy dan in Opera doen hoort dus nie direk deur Facebook of Google aan jou gekoppel te kan word nie.