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DogHouseDiaries on social media’s simmering privacy policies

DogHouseDiaries on social media’s simmering privacy policies

Social Media is an important way to interact with friends and colleagues, and in many cases, with colleagues, customers and suppliers. It can be a powerful tool, but it can also be an incredible productivity sinkhole.

It is also a fact that many of the major social media services have progressively and slowly evolved (eroded) their terms of service to decrease privacy.

Today’s DogHouseDiaries comic beautifully expresses this.

Personally I minimise my time on social networks, sticking mainly to Twitter and LinkedIn. I use Google+ and Facebook selectively, and then only in dedicated (read: sandboxed) apps, or in a browser that I only use for these sites. I don’t access Google or Facebook from my main browser.

International Fleet Review in Sydney

International Fleet Review in Sydney

This coming Friday, 4th October, marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival into Sydney of the first dedicated fleet for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) [1]. The RAN was actually the first of the former Colonial Dominion navies to become independent of the Royal Navy.

To celebrate this milestone, the Royal Australian Navy is conducting an International Fleet Review this week. Thursday (3 Oct) will see an entry by a fleet of around 16 local and international tall ships, whilst Friday (4 Oct) will see the Ceremonial Fleet Entry of around 40 warships – including 19 Australian and 18 international vessels [2]. This should be a spectacular affair.

On Saturday (5 Oct) the Governor General, joined by HRH Prince Harry, will conduct the Ceremonial Fleet Review. This will be followed by a Spectacular event, and then ships open days on the Sunday and Monday.

In the following days, there will be a number of events around Sydney, including Freedom of Entry parades in Parramatta (HMAS Parramatta’s crew) and Mosman (HMAS Penguin) and a Combined Navies Parade along George Street, Sydney.

This should be a spectacular week in and around Sydney. There will be marvelous photo opportunities around the harbour and at the various parades and events. It is also a great way to celebrate a milestone for our Royal Australian Navy, and the men and women who serve and have served.


  1. The RAN was actually formed in 1911 using the various vessels of the former Colonial navies, but 1913 marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the dedicated fleet.  ↩

  2. Unfortunately the international participation is slightly reduced from the original plans due to Russia re-tasking its vessels to the Mediterranean, and the Canadian participant suffering a mishap en-route to the Pacific.  ↩

Brief Thoughts on Ocean Warming

Brief Thoughts on Ocean Warming

Clown Anemone FishAccording to The Conversation oceanic warming is leading to changes in marine life distribution and spawning patterns. While there are people who still hold onto a disbelief in climate change science, there is clear evidence from the oceans, nature’s power house that things are indeed changing.

As temperatures warm, marine species are shifting their geographic distribution toward the poles.

For those of us who dive in temperate waters, this might at first sound interesting – maybe we will get an opportunity to dive with species that have traditionally been associated with sub-tropical and tropical waters, closer to home. But given that the coral reef ecosystems that support much of this life take decades, if not centuries, to grow there probably won’t be suitable habitats to support the marine life on the scale it needs to exist at.

Essentially, these findings indicate we are seeing widespread reorganisation of marine ecosystems, with probable significant repercussions for the services these ecosystems provide to humans. For example, small fish of southern origin are increasing in the North Sea but concurrent declines of large-bodied, cold-water commercial species are likely to result in social and economic impacts.

Fish supply the greatest percentage of the world’s protein consumed by humans. The impact is likely to be felt most in countries with the lowest GDP. A September 2012 report by Oceana found that losses of up to 40 percent of catch potential can be expected in the tropics.

There are many wonderful initiatives to improve our carbon footprint. Energy efficient lightbulbs, hybrid vehicles and carbon credits are all critically important. But I wonder sometimes if the oceans are the proverbial elephant in the room that few want to talk about when it comes to environmental protection.

Quick Site Update

Quick Site Update

Just a couple of quick notes about the Des Paroz On The Go website.

  1. Firstly, I’ve moved the site over to Squarespace. I have been planning to do this for a while, and finally bit the bullet. This is the third site I personally have on Squarespace, plus I manage two others hosted there. It’s a very integrated service, and the native Markdown support is certainly a bonus. This is my first live site thats on Squarespace6. SS6 certainly provides a lot of additional flexibility and functionality, but does take some getting used to. I am getting to like it a lot.

  2. I’ve killed the old RSS feeds that were using Feedburner. I’ve moved away from the free Google offering to a paid offering at uri.lv. Looking good so far. All old feeds should be redirecting seamlessly. Let me know if you get any issues in the comments.

  3. I am moving my link blog back to a simple Pinboard setup. I have the latest 5 links in the sidebar here, or you can visit Des Paroz on Pinboard

Anyway, just some housekeeping, but hope it’s of interest.

2 Factor Security

2 Factor Security

Following the attempted security hack on Evernote, I determined that I would:

Use only reputable services that provide 2-factor authentication for cloud storage of personal, sensitive or confidential data

With more and more services like App.net and Apple joining Google, Dropbox and Facebook in enabling 2 factor support, I thought it would be cool to have a list of the online services that support 2 factor authentication security.

Let me know if you find updates or note any missing services.

RSS Feed for this site

RSS Feed for this site

With the move by Google to discontinue Google Reader (the “GReadier Debacle”), I am moving any mission critical, non-paid services away from Google.

As part of that, the Feedburner feed for this site is no longer going to be the default feed, and at some point it is likely to be discontinued.

Although it will continue to operate for existing users until that time, can I suggest you unsubscribe and resubscribe to the RSS feed for Des Paroz On-The-Go, which is at www.desparoz.com/feed/.

New MacSparky Field Guide for Markdown

New MacSparky Field Guide for Markdown

Since the dawn of this weblog, I’ve undertaken different approaches to my writing. I’ve used different content management systems (it’s currently a self-hosted WordPress blog, but I also have Squarespace and Scriptogr.am sites), and I’ve used a variety of tools and apps to making writing for this blog easier. Although I have a reasonable handle on HTML, I am not a coder, and hate writing in it. It’s a poor format for editing, and an even worse format if I want to re-use my writing for other purposes.

My current writing process involves Multimarkdown Composer and Mars Edit on OSX and Byword and Poster on iOS. I could just use the WYSIWYG interface on MarsEdit or Poster, but find that I like to write first in plain text so that I can edit and re-use. Frankly, the HTML rendered through most WYSIWYG tools is pretty clunky.

The “glue” that binds these disparate sites and apps together, however, is John Gruber’s Markdown syntax, which makes writing easy, regardless of whether I start in Drafts on iOS or nvAlt on OSX and then continue in Byword/Multimarkdown Composer, or start straight in Byword/MMC. Every time I start, I start in Markdown.

Markdown is quite easy to learn, but it is still a little “geeky”. It is also cool because most non-geeky people could read a text document in Markdown and get it. And it renders well in a variety of outputs – HTML obviously, but it also works nicely for written publications.

David Sparks of MacSparky and the Mac Power Users podcast has published his latest MacSparky Field Guide – this one being the MacSparky Markdown Field Guide, co-authored with Eddie Smith. It follows on from his wonderful Paperless Field Guide, which is one of the best resources for Mac users (in particular) who want to move to a paperless lifestyle.

I saw David’s post today announcing the release of the new Markdown Field Guide. I immediately downloaded it from the iBooks store (it’s also available as a PDF book) and will start reading it today. I may review it in detail later on, but if my experience with the MacSparky Field Guide’s and Markdown is any indication, this is one that any writer (particularly for the web) will want to download today.

The MacSparky Markdown Field Guide is available for A$9.99 from the iBooks Store, or from the MacSparky website.

Wishful thinking with the Dropbox-Mailbox merger

Wishful thinking with the Dropbox-Mailbox merger

Perhaps its wishful thinking, but I wonder if I am alone in hoping that following the acquisition of Mailbox by Dropbox, perhaps Dropbox will launch email hosting as part of its suite of offerings[^1] .

I love Dropbox – it’s a vital tool in my personal file management, and I am proud to have been a paid customer for several years. I have implemented many features – shared folders (I have many of them), 2 factor authentication (one of my must-have features in an online service) and integration to a variety of iOS and OSX apps.

I must admit, one of the things I like about Dropbox is the fact that I am customer. Being a paid service, Dropbox benefits out of maintaining my business, which means providing me with a stable product that best meets my needs, and not using me and data they glean about me, to sell advertising (or sell to advertisers).

I’ve been enjoying using Mailbox on my iPhone, and it provides me with some features that are great – easy ability to clear my inbox down to what’s important, then make it zero by clearing those things out. It also has a way of making things come back later, perhaps when I am in a better place to deal with them.

But there are one or two things that bugs me – Mailbox is effectively an extra point of failure between me and my mail. If their servers are down, I can’t get my mail through the app – although at least I can get the mail through normal Gmail means. It also relies on Gmail, and like many people I am nervous about relying on gmail following the GReadier debacle. It’s also a free app, so I’m nervous about trusting it – but at least I have workarounds.

If Dropbox were to build a new email system from ground up, and use the front end features of Mailbox as a guide to the “UX” (user experience), this could make for interesting days. I’d love to see it as a paid service, part of the Dropbox Pro offering. Obviously the ability to map your own domain would be a necessity, but could be for a further premium.

This may be speculative and wishful, but it makes more and more sense as I think about it. I would move off Google Apps in a heartbeat if there was another offering that was similarly feature rich, but without the creepiness factor.

Google announces closure of Reader service

Google announces closure of Reader service

In the week that I discussed moving back to Google for some of my usage, including RSS feeds, Google has announced that it is killing Google Reader.

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

I like the way Google snuck this announcement in as the fifth bullet point on a post about spring cleaning aimed primarily at developers.

As Brett Terpstra said in a post on App.net:

“Usage of Google Reader has declined” = tons of people using it for sync, but we can’t put ads in that

Google Reader was free to we users, meaning we were the product, not the customer. Brett is spot on – if the majority of users access through apps where Google can’t control advertising, then the service isn’t viable.

It’s one reason why I initially moved to Shaun Inman’s Fever – having a self hosted, paid platform meant that I was the customer, and that the provider would not be in a position to simply shut up shop and go away.

I moved back to Google Reader solely because apps like Reeder and Mr Reader don’t support other RSS reader platforms, like Fever 1. I wanted more than a browser interface, particularly on iPad.

So, we’ve got a bit over 3 months for the developers of Reeder and Mr Reader to support other RSS platforms. I hope that Fever is first among them. I will move back as soon as there is a good iPad app – which I fully expect will happen in that time.

I also wonder whether the App.net social media platform will have a foundation upon which developers can build an alternative RSS service.


  1. I realise that Reeder 3.0 for iPhone does support Fever. I moved back to Google Reader because I need iPad and OSX support for it as well. Browser based access was ok, but not powerful enough for my usage. 

My return to Google

My return to Google

In June of last year (2012) I posted about how I was concerned about how Google was becoming “creepy”. At that time, I decided that I didn’t want any one company to have all my data. This would prevent Google (or anyone other company) having a complete picture of me, and also it would mean I wouldn’t be too exposed if any one company was to go away.

I was also concerned that as a user of Google’s services, I was more of a product than a customer. This may be the case for the free versions of those services, but as a paid Google Apps user, I may have over-thought this a little!

To achieve my move away from Google, I moved my email, calendar and address book to iCloud, and I moved my RSS feeds to a self hosted Fever installation. I also started playing around with alternative search engines, including DuckDuckGo and Bing. I thought’d it be interesting to check in with how that process has gone.

Let’s start with search. I found DuckDuckGo and Bing to both be excellent – I was particularly surprised by Bing, which I didn’t think would hold much chop. At this time, Bing is my default search engine on my iPhone, while Google plays that role on my iPad. It’s not possible to make DuckDuckGo the default search engine in iOS, but I do use the app, and have made it the default on my MacBook. All are good, but in general I do tend to find that Google continues to excel in giving accurate, fast and relevant search results. I’d say 70%-plus of my search goes to Google.

As for RSS, I continued to happily use Fever for sometime, but the lack of choices for quality apps, particularly on iPad and OSX continued to grind. Navigating the web interface on iPad was bearable, but clunky. Reeder for iPhone was and is an excellent choice, but interestingly Reeder for iPad and OSX has yet to be updated to include Fever support. In the meantime, other apps were released to support Google Reader, but none have Fever support.

Notably, MrReader became more and more recommended by many power users, and my curiosity grew. In particular, it’s support for URL schemes made it compelling. So around New Years, I made the call to switch back. It was nothing to do with the excellent Fever platform, but with the lack of quality front end app support. I may well switch back if app support for Fever takes off. 1

The most recent switch back has been to move all my email, contacts and calendar back to my paid Google Apps account. There were three things that gradually became show-stoppers for me with respect to Apple’s iCloud:

  1. The lack of ability to host your own domain with iCloud. I don’t want a me.com or icloud.com email address when I have my own domain. I want my contacts and calendar fully integrated with my email, so they all travelled together.
  2. iCloud calendar sharing outside iCloud is difficult, at best. I want to share calendars with colleagues easily. Google App’s systems are generally more open.
  3. Security. I am of the opinion that any online site which I use for storage of personal, sensitive, business-in-confidence or confidential information needs to have more than simple password security. A minimum of 2-factor security is my requirement, especially since the security attack on Evernote.

I know that there are other options for hosting my online world, but with a paid Google Apps account with 2-factor security enabled, I believe this is the best option for me, going forward.

As for my documents, these are for the most part in Dropbox. I have a small number of files in iCloud’s Documents in the Cloud service. These are a small number of iWork and specialised documents for which I really appreciate the fast and seamless syncing. But since most of my writing is in plain text using several different apps for iOS, OSX and the web, these best live in Dropbox. I am not considering using Google Drive for these.

Any choice of services utilised is a fine balancing act, considering a range of factors, including security, open-ness and functionality. At this point in time, Google offers the best options in the email, calendar, contacts and RSS for me. I also consider Google the primary option for most search requirements.


  1. Update on 2013-03-14: Google announced the closure of Google Reader, effective 1 July 2013. I will definitely be moving back to Fever between now and then, probably as soon as either Reeder or Mr Reader supports Fever on iPad.