Recently Gmail started caching all images sent to its users and by default will now display them when you look at your email. At first glance it seems like a good idea. It protects your IP address, stops the sender dropping cookies in your browser and possibly speeds up image loading for you. What it doesn’t do is stop the sender knowing that you opened the email. Your privacy is at risk if you enable this. Marketing efforts just became a lot easier.
A carefully crafted image filename will let the sender know that a particular user viewed his spam email, even if Google host the file on their own servers. Google has to fetch the file from the sender’s server and that will contain a number or string identifying that user.
As soon as that image is opened by Google the sender knows they have a valid email address.
How easy is it to track usage? It’s simple! I wrote a plugin in 2007 called blog voyeur that could track visitors who viewed my blog through RSS readers if they had left comments here. (I’m not using that plugin any more, don’t worry, your anonymity is safe!)
In some cases, senders may be able to know whether an individual has opened a message with unique image links. As always, Gmail scans every message for suspicious content and if Gmail considers a sender or message potentially suspicious, images won’t be displayed and you’ll be asked whether you want to see the images.
Gmail does a good job of spotting spam but legitimate email can contain these tracking images too. I get promotional emails from companies I’ve dealt with. I would much rather they not know when I open or even if I have opened their emails. If I wanted them to know, I’d tell them.
So, when you see that popup informing you that images will be displayed, click on Settings and disable image loading.
Damn. I changed the unlock pattern on my Nexus 7 and stupidly locked it “to test” the code. Unfortunately I got it wrong each time and now my inbox has 20 emails from Cerberus with pictures of the top of my head and occasionally my eyes.
Panic! Luckily there is a way out. Fail enough times and the device asks you to login to your Google account. It’s supposed to appear after 5 or 6 attempts but I have the 20 Cerberus emails and the “Forgot pattern” message did not appear that quickly.
Nothing easier than logging into Google which I try but it says my email or password are incorrect. I try again. No, nothing. Then it hits me. Two step auth. I had to generate a new application specific password. That worked!
A few minutes later and there’s a notification warning me my Google login has failed. After using an application specific password on the lockscreen I had to login again using my real password. Weird.
tl;dr If you have two step auth enabled use an application specific password to login to Google if you forget your Android unlock pattern. Breath again.
Google Reader, an online app that allowed you to read and be notified of updates to blogs like this, will close on July 1st. It’s unlikely that anyone reading this isn’t aware of that but just in case. Export your data now!
There are a number of alternatives to Google Reader, each one has it’s own quirks and advantages. Gamma Goblin has listed a few on his blog but I’ll recommend my favourite one, Feedly.
After the frankly stale and unmaintained user interface in Google Reader the UI in Feedly takes some getting used to. At first I hated it but in the last few months they’ve improved it. I could try and describe how they’ve changed it but I’m just a user of the service. I notice when things go wrong but when they work right I don’t notice. However, I was reminded by Joseph Scott that Feedly doesn’t have an export option so make sure you backup your data out of Google Reader or you won’t be able to try other services quite as easily as you can now.
Feedly is moving at a great pace. Make sure you follow their blog (in Feedly, or the WordPress app as it’s on WordPress.com!) for further updates.
Also make sure you subscribe to this blog if you haven’t done so already!
Google now has been updated. You can set reminders by talking to your phone. It understood my Irish voice, but then I haven’t had huge problems with voice apps in a long time. It’s quite amazing how will this tech has come on in the last few years.
It’s funny that the first web result is the apple forum, someone complaining that reminders don’t work…
For the last few weeks I’ve noticed unusual floating adverts from superfish.com on amazon.co.uk, focalprice.com and other shopping sites but I couldn’t figure out what was causing it. Turns out I’m not the only one to notice them.
It was an extension I had installed in Google Chrome. I went through each of the extensions I have installed, checking the options for each. Some didn’t have any options page and only one mentioned adverts at all but it wasn’t the Superfish one. With those checked I disabled each extension one by one, reloading Amazon until the advert went away.
I found it. “Flash Video Downloader” version 2.3.5 (id: ggkfikfcbnpfoicfjammigpnakpogebh) was responsible for the adverts. Authors of software want to be paid but this was very underhand. The extension has no options page and doesn’t mention adding Superfish adverts on the extensions page. It’s also a reminder of how much trust we put into the authors of software with access to our personal and private data. Since finding this I found the CNET download page and reviews for the extension. The latest reviews warn of the added malware:
Flash Video Downloader used to be an easy & safe product to download flash-based videos embedded into various websites.
They’ve secretly slipped Adware/Malware into their product (Superfish “Featured Shopper”). Flash Video Downloader obviously tracks your browsing history (that’s how it know’s when there’s a flash video available to download)… who knows where your browsing data is going now that they’ve got AdWare/Malware involved.
Also, Flash Video Downloader recently removed support to download YouTube videos. (I suspect Google/YouTube probably forced that change for copyright purposes.)
With Adware/Malware added to the product and YouTube support removed removed, I suspect most users will no longer find this product helpful or safe to use.
The extension isn’t on the Chrome Web Store. The last time I went searching I couldn’t find a decent one on there but maybe that has changed since. I don’t want to pirate Youtube videos. Sometimes I just want to watch a gameplay video offline!
I have to admit that filling in the inactive account settings for my Google account gave me the shivers. There’s not much that would stop me logging into my Google account for more than 3 months. It would have to be one of the following:
Trekking through a rainforest pursued by secret agents monitoring all radio communications.
Lost on a desert island with only 80’s computer equipment to keep me amused.
In a coma after a botched attack by terrorists who are hell bent on killing open source developers.
None of the above are very appealing options but at least one is as inevitable as, err, taxes, so it must be faced.
I added a trusted contact and was then presented with a popup asking for a subject and email body. Writing that was unsettling but I hope more services do something similar. I’ve heard too many horror stories about Facebook accounts that have been frozen on the death of an account holder.
You can choose what data is or isn’t shared with a contact. Included is Latitude, which has tracked my whereabouts for the last 2 years and will continue to do so. It makes me wonder how my descendants will cope with the deluge of information. It may very well end up as an anonymous zip file on someone’s computer I guess.
The list won’t be frozen in time either. Do I add my siblings? What about my son when he’s older? What age? I should set a calendar reminder for his 18th birthday. I’ll have to warn those trusted contacts because Google sends an email and a text message when the account goes inactive. Like a letter from the grave.
A stereotypical St Patrick’s Day through Google Glass. Call the day Patty’s Day in Ireland and someone will ask you if you want fries and a drink with that burger. It’s Paddy, not Patty!
Aren’t national stereotypes wonderful?
What the video completely fails to show is the bustling crowds, children on their father’s shoulders watching the parades, food stalls, hawkers selling memorabilia and the crush and stress and the “Oy, stop pushing there!” and getting home exhausted. 🙂
As a Resistance agent in the game of Ingress it can be frustrating to see your local city or locality covered in green control fields. Blarney where I live is firmly blue but Cork isn’t so lucky. So when a huge control field popped up extending from Blackrock Castle to the City to Cork Airport to Carrigaline I had to find a way to bring it down.
On Sunday I did just that. The Old Bridge portal was level 4 or 5 and had at least one level six resonator. I took down some of the resonators easily enough but the final L4 resonator proved tricky as OliverIE recharged it remotely while I attacked! The most worrying part of the capture was the group of 13-15 year old boys crossing the bridge who chanted penis jokes behind me! Idiots. One of the downsides of visiting some locations I guess. Oliver will earn a tidy sum of AP capturing the portal back again too. (You’re welcome!)
Ingress is quite limited as a game but it’s a very interesting experiment. The hack/capture portal gameplay is one where you have to cooperate or at least be mindful of the enemy. If your portals are too strong you’ll have a nice set of virtual points on a map but you won’t level up any time soon. The “winning side” in any area don’t get any points for maintaining a huge control field.
When you first start up the game there’s a quick tutorial where the players runs through missions designed to familiarise them with the game. Unfortunately that’s about as far as directed gameplay goes. Hopefully in the future missions will be added with objectives for players. Having said that, if this is a taste of what “augmented reality” games can be like I’d like more please. It’s a good excuse to get out walking if nothing else.
I still think it’s a devious ploy by Google to collect photos and information about monuments, statues and places of interest. We’re also feeding them very useful walking information connecting those places.
What happens when you severely damage a single Ingress portal?
From the logs it appears that 18 links were taken down when I destroyed all but one of the resonators in The Cork Vision Centre Ingress portal this afternoon.
Unfortunately the building was closed so I had to stand outside the gates and the single remaining L4 resonator was at the far side of the portal, away from me. I ran out of time to collect more XMP bursters to finish the job. Still, I think I got about 9,000 AP from that one single portal so I am very happy.
I also walked almost 12km in two and a half hours as I tried to scavenge supplies – XMP and XM to aid in my task. Even a month ago I couldn’t have imagined walking that distance. It’s not that far really but I had neglected my exercise. Making walking a part of a game certainly helped my motivation!
I did capture a portal today, the Flower Pot Man on Carey’s Lane. The actual statue that portal is based on appears to be gone now but I remember seeing it years ago. I broke through to Level 4 doing that!
It’s nice to see that gap in green in the Ingress map of Cork now. It’ll give the Enlightenment something to do over the coming week. They were probably getting bored recharging those portals all the time..
4:29PM donncha destroyed an L3 Resonator on The Cork Vision Centre (88 North Main Street, Cork, Co. Cork, Ireland)
4:29PM donncha destroyed an L3 Resonator on The Cork Vision Centre (88 North Main Street, Cork, Co. Cork, Ireland)
4:29PM donncha destroyed an L4 Resonator on The Cork Vision Centre (88 North Main Street, Cork, Co. Cork, Ireland)
4:30PM donncha destroyed an L4 Resonator on The Cork Vision Centre (88 North Main Street, Cork, Co. Cork, Ireland)
4:31PM donncha destroyed an L3 Resonator on The Cork Vision Centre (88 North Main Street, Cork, Co. Cork, Ireland)
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