Website Updates!

Finally getting some money from Patreon (Thanks Everybody who helped!), I’m implementing a plan to get rid of complaints about bad downloads.

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The most common problem seems to be that when the zip file is extracted you are missing two directories.  You should be seeing this:

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In an effort to do everything I can on my side to fix these issues. I am recompiling new versions of every file and doing the following things:

  1. Using the latest version of Renpy (7.3.2) to create all new builds for the game. These will NOT be updates, so no need for new downloads if the game you downloaded already works, but should work better on systems that struggle with the current downloads.

  2. Upgrading my download server to Mediafire. This is what many indie game producers use for their downloads, and it seems to work better than the one I am using now.

I’ve managed to do this for every version of every game, including all the foreign language ones.

The hard part was the Android versions as Google insists on a new format for icons on apps, meaning I had to create new ones to avoid generic Renpy ones. Renpy also creates three optimized android files, I am linking all three on the English DA and SITA. If there is a demand I can do it for foreign versions as well.

I’ve added an android version for SITA Portuguese, so the only version of any game that doesn’t have android is Rachel Meets Ariane, and that takes a bit more work because the pictures are too big.

If it is still not extracting properly, it’s got to be the extraction software you are using, or over aggressive virus scan software. Native Windows 10 (Right click on Zip and Extract to…) works perfectly fine.

Virtualunderworld.net is gone

The old website domain which has spent the last year just going to arianeb.com, will soon no longer belong to me. I put it up for sale at https://auctions.godaddy.com/  There was some demand for the domain from a Chinese based gaming company, so I thought I’d try selling it.  If it doesn’t sell I will just abandon it as it expires next April, and I don’t need to renew it.

State of the Internet: Filled With Fraud

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In the last year, I wrote about government interference in the internet, and corporate interference of the internet, but there is another group that has to be acknowledged, the users themselves who often use illegal means to make money online.  This group is decentralized and located all over the world.  The internet is filled with fraud.

Advertising Fraud

Hucksters infected 1.7 million computers with malware that remotely directed traffic to “spoofed” websites — “empty websites designed for bot traffic” that served up a video ad purchased from one of the internet’s vast programmatic ad-exchanges, but that were designed, according to the indictments, “to fool advertisers into thinking that an impression of their ad was served on a premium publisher site,” like that of Vogue or The Economist.

Views, meanwhile, were faked by malware-infected computers with marvelously sophisticated techniques to imitate humans: bots “faked clicks, mouse movements, and social network login information to masquerade as engaged human consumers.”

Some were sent to browse the internet to gather tracking cookies from other websites, just as a human visitor would have done through regular behavior. Fake people with fake cookies and fake social-media accounts, fake-moving their fake cursors, fake-clicking on fake websites — the fraudsters had essentially created a simulacrum of the internet, where the only real things were the ads.

Increasingly sophisticated scam artists are stealing millions from advertisers trying to get the word out to legitimate potential customers, whose ads are actually going to robots pretending to be interested customers.

According to New York Magazine where the above quote came from, about 40% of users on the internet are bots using a number of different schemes to steal advertising revenue.

It is not just malware, it is legitimate apps doing it too.

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Amazon Fraud

For sellers, Amazon is a quasi-state. They rely on its infrastructure — its warehouses, shipping network, financial systems, and portal to millions of customers — and pay taxes in the form of fees. They also live in terror of its rules, which often change and are harshly enforced. A cryptic email like the one Plansky received can send a seller’s business into bankruptcy, with few avenues for appeal.

Sellers are more worried about a case being opened on Amazon than in actual court, says Dave Bryant, an Amazon seller and blogger. Amazon’s judgment is swifter and less predictable, and now that the company controls nearly half of the online retail market in the US, its rulings can instantly determine the success or failure of your business, he says. “Amazon is the judge, the jury, and the executioner.”

Amazon is far from the only tech company that, having annexed a vast sphere of human activity, finds itself in the position of having to govern it. But Amazon is the only platform that has a $175 billion prize pool tempting people to game it, and the company must constantly implement new rules and penalties, which in turn, become tools for new abuses, which require yet more rules to police. The evolution of its moderation system has been hyper-charged. While Mark Zuckerberg mused recently that Facebook might need an analog to the Supreme Court to adjudicate disputes and hear appeals, Amazon already has something like a judicial system — one that is secretive, volatile, and often terrifying.

A recent article on The Verge called “Prime and Punishment” documented the cut throat underbelly of fraudsters undermining legitimate businesses using any tactics they can to get to the top of the search results.

For example, people used to buy five star reviews to get high on the search results, but then Amazon started deleting accounts that paid for five star reviews, so now some merchants are buying five star reviews for their competitors, then reporting their competitors and getting their competitors kicked off of Amazon. Read the full article for other dirty tricks.

This reminds me of the craziness that occasionally happened in Second Life‘s virtual marketplace for virtual items.  Every week new drama emerged on the forums of a new fraud attack. It comes with the territory of online sales.

But Amazon has become so big, they need more than just automated processes to settle billions of disputes.  It is making the worlds largest shopping site completely untrustworthy.

One could make the case that these are individuals using the site to be fraudulent to others, not the fault of Amazon.  But Amazon is far from faultless when it comes to being honest in business.  Just look at their underhanded fleecing of government in the “headquarters 2” debacle.  It’s like they are encouraging fraud.

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App Fraud

The last week there were headlines about a version of the Facebook app that monitored everything you do on the phone.  They paid teens $20 a month to use it.  This violated Apple’s terms of service, prompting Apple to block Facebook’s enterprise license, deactivating all beta versions of Facebook app being used internally.

But it is not just Facebook, a day later Apple did it to Google as well.

In both cases these license revocations only affected beta versions of apps that might be released in the future, not the popular apps used by most people.  Apple determined that both companies were distributing these beta apps outside the company, and that is what triggered the terms of service locks.

Meanwhile, it seems every few weeks there are articles like this one about popular apps that do a lot more than what they are supposed to be doing.

Fraud seems to show up a lot in the app stores.  If you search for “Messenger” thinking you will get Facebook Messenger, you will likely get instead one of a number of ad filled message monitoring apps that will cause unwanted pop up ads all over the place.

You know those Flashlight apps?  You don’t need them. You can turn on a flashlight on your phone very easy without an app.  Ditto apps with Q code and bar code readers. Your phone’s camera does that automatically without an app.  Then there are popular religious apps with bible quotes.  All of these are filled with ads.

Worst are “free” security apps like software cleaners and virus protection and “anti hacking” apps.  If you are not paying for a service, your phone is being flooded with ads.  These will hack your home screen and are sometimes very difficult to remove.

While I am on the topic, let me point out the fraud of “Freemium” games that Facebook was illegally pushing on minors at their parents expense.  Gaming fraud deserves a post all its own.

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Millions Lost

These are three areas where the internet has become the wild west.  It seems there is no software to protect yourself from fraudsters that isn’t itself also a fraud.  Promises of easy money online are just that: promises.

Want another example? Here is an article about defrauding kickstarter campaigns by publishing articles “for a fee”.  I wouldn’t be surprised if similar scam artists are defrauding gofundme pages of people trying to fund life saving medical treatments.

For every person who has gotten rich off the internet there are dozens that have lost.  It’s like in the movie Ready Player One, where if you kill a player, you collect all their gold, and the dead player has to start over at square one.  It’s a very good metaphor for internet based businesses today.

It seems that everyone has a scam to sell, and the internet has grown so thick with these scams that many actually support government and corporate take over to get rid of it.  Then only the big boys will make money online, and the economic hopes of the internet will be lost.

I’ve already lost hope that the internet would be the Great Equalizer that was promised. I suspect that what we will see is the continuous rise and fall of internet based empires.  If you want to play in this environment, my best advice is to watch your back.

Porn Bans Are Just The Beginning

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This month the most popular unfiltered social media site Tumblr has banned porn, nudity and any other sexual content starting December 17th 2018.

Of course sites have every right to ban whatever they want, I’m not that upset about the ban itself, although it likely means I’ll be off the platform in the future.

I maintained a couple of pages on tumblr including Rachel Spahr’s modeling portfolio mentioned in Something’s In The Air,  a few of the pics have already flagged for nudity.

Even though the nudity doesn’t involve actual human nudity, the new Tumblr Community Guidelines now include this line: —this includes content that is so photorealistic that it could be mistaken for featuring real-life humans (nice try, though). 

The thing that upsets me is how this came about.  Despite there always being rules against it, the site was used by criminals to share very illegal child porn. Tumblr shut it down as soon as it was reported, but the incident caused Apple to remove Tumblr’s app from their app store.  That was enough to trigger the ban.

In other words, one company forced another to change its rules. That to me is a bad sign for the future of the internet.  No it is not the first time something like this has happened, but it is the biggest case I can remember, and likely to be the first of many.

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Corporations influence on the internet

Tumblr is not some indie site. It was when it began, but then they sold out to Yahoo, who in turn sold out to AOL, who in turn sold out to Verizon.  Such is the nature of the internet right now.

My last post on the status of the internet was primarily about government policies negative effects on the internet, but the status of the internet is also heavily affected by corporate interests.

Websites need advertisers to generate revenue, and advertisers are getting picky about the websites they are willing to advertise on.  One of the biggest losers of this is You Tube.  Once a great place for smart and talented people to make money, it is not that way anymore.  One such star Comic Book Girl 19 breaks it down like this:

Corporations don’t like to advertise on controversial parts of the internet. The good news is that far right wing websites are losing a lot of money as advertisers pull away.  The bad news is that LGBT friendly websites like You Tube and Tumblr are forced to become less friendly to that community as well.

Targeted Advertising is crap!

Another thing I pointed out last time is that “targeted advertising” which is the buzzword of Google and Facebook for the last two decades is proving to not be as effective as promised.  I really think it is a scam like blockchain and bitcoin.

I visit a lot of tech sites, and as a result, tech ads follow me around.  I also visit a lot of entertainment sites, and what shows up? Tech ads.  When I go back to the tech sites, I get a bunch of entertainment ads.  To Google I ask, “How is this more effective?”  To advertisers I ask, “How is this more bang for your buck?”

It seems to me a much better way to “target advertise” is to advertise on sites that potential customers are likely to go.  That way there is no incentive for Google, Facebook, and other associated scammers to collect personal information.

VC Money is out! Consolidation is in!

For the last decade or so, the main source of income from the internet came from investors looking to get in on the next big thing.  It seems that VC money is drying up, thanks to too many lost investments, and that means you have to make money by selling a service, selling advertising, or getting bought out.

The biggest trend right now is that internet media sites are consolidating, or closing their doors.  The ones most successful at it, like Vox, Vice, and Buzzfeed are moving into multimedia and offline content.  The less successful ones are closing their doors and putting up “for sale” signs.

The overall health of the internet: Bad!

While researching this page I came across a report by Mozilla about the health of the internet. Between personal data collection, bots, “fake news”, fraud and abuse online, and a number of other factors, it looks pretty bad.

Click here for the full report.

What can be done about it? That’s a whole other post for later.

 

Thanks to Governments: A Radically Different Internet Is Coming!

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The battle for Net-Neutrality, which despite of what you heard is still ongoing, seems to have changed government regulators attitudes towards the internet on what they can and cannot regulate and censor.

I knew this is where it would go.  As soon as you let Government change how the internet works, you open the doors to all sorts of shenanigans.  All those “Libertarians” who were saying that “Net Neutrality is government interference” even though I have been saying it is the exact opposite for years, well they can just go fuck off, because their ignorance is guaranteeing government interference.

The wild west days of making money off the internet are very much numbered now.  The internet as it looks today will likely be a distant memory within 10 years, even if we somehow get Net Neutrality back.  Big changes are coming, some I might even agree with, but their ultimate effects are unknown.

How Europe’s New Privacy Rule is Reshaping The Internet

Let’s start with one I kind of agree with.  With all the concerns over Facebook sharing data with political data miners Cambridge Analytica with ties to Russia, it seems something needs to be done on the privacy front.  The EU has new rather tough new laws regarding what web sites are allowed to gather about you.  The penalties are big enough that even major companies are changing their policy.

Have you been noticing a lot of “This site uses cookies” pop ups lately? This EU regulation is why.  Also, data collection websites like Google and Facebook have to be open about what data they collect on you, and you have the right to opt out.

Because much of the internet traffic flows through Europe, the EU’s regulations affect everybody, unless you are an American ISP collecting data about your own customers, which the GOP forced through last year.

Meanwhile in America, Law Enforcement Can Access All your Data Just By Asking

Slipped into the must pass budget was the CLOUD Act.  A piece of legislation actually supported by data collection companies, because it basically allows them to wash their hands of the whole issue:

As we wrote before, the CLOUD Act is a far-reaching, privacy-upending piece of legislation that will:

  • Enable foreign police to collect and wiretap people’s communications from U.S. companies, without obtaining a U.S. warrant.
  • Allow foreign nations to demand personal data stored in the United States, without prior review by a judge.
  • Allow the U.S. president to enter “executive agreements” that empower police in foreign nations that have weaker privacy laws than the United States to seize data in the United States while ignoring U.S. privacy laws.
  • Allow foreign police to collect someone’s data without notifying them about it.
  • Empower U.S. police to grab any data, regardless if it’s a U.S. person’s or not, no matter where it is stored.

And, as we wrote before, this is how the CLOUD Act could work in practice:

London investigators want the private Slack messages of a Londoner they suspect of bank fraud. The London police could go directly to Slack, a U.S. company, to request and collect those messages. The London police would not necessarily need prior judicial review for this request. The London police would not be required to notify U.S. law enforcement about this request. The London police would not need a probable cause warrant for this collection.

Predictably, in this request, the London police might also collect Slack messages written by U.S. persons communicating with the Londoner suspected of bank fraud. Those messages could be read, stored, and potentially shared, all without the U.S. person knowing about it. Those messages, if shared with U.S. law enforcement, could be used to criminally charge the U.S. person in a U.S. court, even though a warrant was never issued.

This basically allows police states to trace web activity of individuals all over the world. Bottom line, as I wrote a year ago, is you will need to be even more vigilant with your online privacy than ever before!

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The Horribly Misguided War on Internet Porn

Last year, the Tory Government of the UK attempted to regulate and censor the internet.  Then they had an election which effectively killed those plans (so far).  Meanwhile, in the US, Congress passed legislation that may be more draconian than UK’s attempt.

The U.S. Senate just voted 97-2 to pass the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865), a bill that silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users. As lobbyists and members of Congress applaud themselves for enacting a law tackling the problem of trafficking, let’s be clear: Congress just made trafficking victims less safe, not more.

Lately, there has been a lot of action to stop sex trafficking.  Sex trafficking is basically organized forced rape of its victims, and unfortunately it is rather prevalent around the world.  Everyone should be against sex trafficking.

Here is the cynical problems with this approach:  1. Somehow conservative politicians equate escort services with sex trafficking.  “Escorts” are in the profession by choice, can choose their clients, and reserve the right to say no.  They are not sex traffickers, no are they part of the sex trafficking industry, but they are low hanging fruit that lawmakers can exploit to say they are doing something about it.  This reduces resources to investigate and stop the real sex trafficking industry which has many real victims including children.

Problem #2: This is a back handed way to implement SOPA.  SOPA in case you don’t remember was a mandate for websites to self police themselves. It would force websites to closely monitor all posts for copyright violations, and other illegal content. It would have effectively closed down major websites that allow user created content unless they hired thousands of people to monitor all content that goes on the site.  FOSTA forces websites to self monitor for sex trafficking.  Because of this Craigslist was forced to shut down the personals section of its website.  No big loss there as far as I am concerned.

The problem is there are legitimate websites used by escorts to safely find clients that are likely to be affected and shut down, this will drive web traffic of this nature further underground and make the sex trafficking problem even worse.

But a bigger fear is that law enforcement will use FOSTA as a way to regulate web traffic of all sorts, and once government’s foot is in the door on this, the next step is to break down the door.  How long before government goes after all porn in the name of stopping sex trafficking?

UPDATE: FOSTA results in raid of Backpage.com. To quote from the story:

Some in the sex worker industry say that removing Backpage from the Internet takes away a safe mechanism for screening clients and that the ads will simply move to sites outside the country or to social media.

There are already governments like the state of Rhode Island proposing taxes on internet porn.  How such legislation could possibly be enforced is troubling. There is no porn on/off switch on the internet.  There exist VPN services designed to block content so that concerned parents can think their kids are safe online, but making everyone use these unless they pay a $20 fee with a picture ID and a written statement saying you want to watch porn, is downright fascist.

Would you be willing to pay a $20 fee and register yourself as a porn watcher just so you can go to legitimate websites that are not “kid friendly”?  Such decisions are likely in our future.

The House of Cards that is Online Advertising

Combining Governments new concern for online privacy with the fiasco that targeted advertising created in 2016 with the Brexit vote in the UK and the Trump election in the US, “targeted advertising” via data collection is getting a bad reputation.

I have been thinking for years that companies that advertise online probably are not getting as much out of it as they think.  Especially those clickbait sites that steal material from other sites, slightly rewrite it to avoid copyright, post it online saturated with ads, then buy ads on Facebook to get people to come to their ad saturated sites, and somehow turn a profit.

Google and Facebook are two of the biggest companies in the world, and they pretty much make all their money on supposedly “targeted advertising”.  Companies looking to sell stuff buy ads on these platforms in hopes that they will be seen by people likely to be interested in their products.  Is the advertising working? Obviously it is working at least a little bit, or nobody would be making any money.

Here’s the problem: it’s not working as well as it used to.

Popular websites struggling

Sites that depend on online advertising for revenue are not doing as well as they used to. Even major sites like Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Reddit seem to have low profit margins if they make a profit at all.  They try to bolster those profits by adding more ads to their sites which of course just annoys readers.

One of my favorite sites was Cracked.com which I visited frequently mostly for their entertaining videos.  On December 6, 2017 Cracked.com’s parent company laid off all the people responsible for those videos. What is left of the site is a skeleton crew that is likely going to turn into another clickbait site.

You Tube Channels are struggling

Making money on You Tube got really big when word got out that some You Tube stars were making millions annually in ad revenue from the site.  This of course started a flood until newcomers were finding out that making original content videos was hard and only the most popular were making the big bucks.

To make matters worse, advertisers on You Tube were upset to learn their ads were appearing on You Tube channels with controversial content. So You Tube started flagging channels with such content. The controversy started with racist and sexist alt-right hate channels, but You Tube also flagged channels that support the LGBT community.

Some of these channels launched Patreon pages which seeks financial help from viewers in the form of small monthly donations. This has helped small operators make money lost on declining advertising revenue.  There was a policy change on Patreon last December that threatened that as a source of revenue, but fortunately it got reversed.  Still it is a lesson that trying to make a living online is a very insecure and unreliable source of income.

Paywalls and More Paywalls

If you are like me, you are going through your facebook feed and reddit news clicking on links that look interesting and finding more and more that they are blocked by paywalls.  With the decline of online advertising, the only way for news sites to stay profitable is get subscribers.

We internet patrons are already paying a lot for our internet connection. How many web sites and Patreons and Twitch channels can we subscribe to realistically on top of that?

The internet has a financing problem, and I’d says we are one recession away from losing thousands of websites and content creators.

The Future looks like Amazon.com

If regulation shuts down social media sites, and declining advertising and subscribers shuts down news sites, we are probably looking at a future internet that looks like Amazon.com.

A board member of Google pretty much said as much in an interview:

Google has competitors in all of tech’s largest companies, but the one former CEO Eric Schmidt is watching the most is Amazon.

“Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo,” he said during a visit to a Native Instruments, software and hardware company in Berlin. “But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon. People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon.”

Schmidt noted that people are looking for a different kind of answers on Amazon’s site through the slew of reviews and product pages, but it’s still about getting information.

Is that where the internet is headed? Who knows, the future is very difficult to predict, but don’t be surprised if your favorite web sites disappear or radically change in the months ahead.

The Internet Is Becoming A Very Scary Place!

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In the past year, the Internet has changed. It is not as friendly as it once was. It has become a battleground that is threatening all of its users, and the companies that do business here. Worse, many rules we used to live by to protect ourselves, no longer apply.

There is a lot to write about here, and plenty of topics to cover, the links in the last paragraph all lead to really good articles about NEW issues and challenges facing the Internet today, and I recommend reading them.

But I am not covering those topics in this post. Instead, I decided to start with the one that is on everybody’s minds thanks to an amazing piece of stupid legislation here in the US: PRIVACY!

ISPs and FCC Chair Ajit Pai celebrate death of online privacy rules

There is absolutely no reason to give Internet Service Providers (ISP) like AT&T and Comcast the right to sell users browsing history. First of all, They are a self enforced monopolies that charge way too much for access already and don’t deserve other revenue streams.  Second, the selling of your browsing habits is already a major industry worth billions of dollars a year.  It is basically the primary revenue stream of both Google and Facebook, as they use user searching and liking data to sell targeted advertising.  Third, they still cannot sell browsing history of individuals, or history that can be tied to an individual, so all they can really sell is bulk group data which is useless, see reason 2.

I’m pretty sick of it, and I hope you are, too, because I am going to present some ways to stick it to the data brokers, especially the ISPs as they are the ones that bought and paid for the Republican Congress to pass the legislation.

Keep in mind that sniffer software, spyware which looks at the streams of data that is coming from your computer, is becoming more common as a hacking tool, sticking it to the ISP’s is also sticking it to spyware. So even if you think you have nothing to worry about with your ISP, it doesn’t hurt to protect yourself from others listening in looking for passwords and answers to security questions.

1. Use HTTPS Everywhere Cost: free, effectiveness in privacy protection: high, technical know how to implement: easy.

How it works: Your ISP doesn’t have ANYTHING that you do on a secure HTTPS web page. They only know which websites you visit, but not what you do on them. Once you have connected to an HTTPS server, your connection is encrypted, and only you and the website will know what you are doing.

This is why more and more websites are converting to https, this is why arianeb.com is now https.

Note: Some unprotected websites will not work with this browser plug in. These are probably the websites you want to avoid, but if you must, you can always temporarily disable it.

2. Use a 3rd party DNS server Cost: free, effectiveness in privacy protection: some, technical know how to implement: medium to high.

Domain Name Servers or DNS are computer servers that translate yahoo.com into “98.138.253.109” which is the actual internet address of yahoo.com. 97% of the users use DNS servers controlled by their ISP.  This is how ISP’s know which websites you are visiting, so by using a 3rd party DNS, you are making it a lot harder for them to get that information. This however does not stop spyware from knowing where you are going.

Using a 3rd party DNS server requires some technical know how of getting in your router and changing some settings. Yes, it is doable even on routers provided by ISP’s, but it may require some digging into the settings. Chances are the ISP support staff will not be helpful. (I highly recommend learning the best way to factory reset your router first, in case you screw up badly.)

Those two combined are pretty effective, but for real browser privacy:

3. Use a VPN service! Cost: free to reasonable priced for individuals, effectiveness in privacy protection: very high, technical know how to implement: easy to medium.

Virtual Private Networks are like mini internet services. Practically every business with more than 2 computers probably have their own VPN, and if you work from home you probably connect to work via VPN. VPN for personal computers, phones, and tablets are practically non existent as there has been very little reason to use them. But with the need for privacy solutions increasing, VPN may be the answer.

VPN + HTTPS = near complete encryption the entire length of your internet connection. Even the CIA can’t get past good encryption.  That is part of the reason China has made VPN’s illegal.

The biggest source of protection VPN’s offer is hiding your IP address. Websites like this one  can track your location sometimes within a few feet if you have an unprotected IP address. The truth is EVERY website can track your location the same way.

With a VPN service, you share an IP address with everyone else on the VPN so you are impossible to track, and the location data will be that of the VPN server which can be located in a different state, different country, or on the other side of the planet. There are hundreds of VPNs to choose from, though if that list is intimidating, here is a list of the more popular ones reviewed by PC Mag.

This of course will mess with many websites that rely on location data. I now use a VPN and can locate my IP address in any of over 30 countries. Switching my VPN to Mexico and going to Google gives me Spanish language Google based out of Colombia. Switching to Canada lets me watch Space TV, where many of my favorite sci-fi shows air before they get to America. If VPN’s become commonplace, it could ruin the business models of most of the major internet sites, which makes me fearful that other countries could follow China’s lead.

I recommend staying away from FREE VPN servers as they tend to slow your internet service and limit your bandwidth. If you are serious about privacy and security spend a little money. Some offer additional bonuses like server based ad blocking that cannot be detected by websites. They cannot block site based ads, but they kill the notoriously bad ones.

4. Use STARTPAGE as your search engine. Cost: free, effectiveness in privacy protection: keeps your search history out of the hands of Google while simultaneously using Google, technical know how to implement: easy if you use Firefox, more difficult if you use Chrome (which insists on real Google) or Edge (which insists on Bing)

Ixquick is a search engine company based out of Netherlands. Their search engine gives the same results as Google because they use Google to provide the results (yes Google is aware of this and there are contracts involved), BUT they cut off your searches from actually reaching Google where they can track you and push targeted ads at you. It’s a very nice loophole, it is sort of the search engine equivalent of a VPN.

5. If you need Facebook on your phone, use mbasic.facebook.com in the browser. Cost: free, effectiveness in privacy protection: its still Facebook, but its not always running in the background watching your every move, technical know how to implement: fairly easy but unfortunately not as easy as just using the app.

Facebook may know you better than you know yourself. It’s pretty much their business model.  Want to find out what Facebook has on you? Log into Facebook and click here to find out.

The majority of the people use the Facebook app on their phone to get on Facebook. It is probably the biggest piece of spyware known to exist, and definitely the most distributed. If you want real privacy, don’t even use it. A bare bones interface to Facebook can be found at mbasic.facebook.com. It is designed for older phones that can’t handle the latest html standards, or lack memory for cookies, etc.

Another important privacy tip if you are using Facebook: NEVER “COPY AND PASTE”, ALWAYS SHARE! More and more viral posts ask you to “copy and paste” into your status instead of share because it supposedly makes you harder to track, but guess what, it is the opposite! Data brokers can search for key words and find who copied and pasted a post, thus making it easier to categorize people and sort them for advertisers. Sharing is much safer and shared posts can be deleted if they turn out to be false.

Of course if you REALLY are serious about privacy, stay the hell off Facebook.

6. Close your Yahoo! account. No Really! Their security record is abysmal. They have been hacked 3 times in the last 4 years and waited months to report it to users, leaving their accounts vulnerable. Here’s how!

Since Congress passed the anti-privacy bill, I have done most of these. It hasn’t slowed my internet down and I haven’t been blocked from doing what I want online.

The Power of Privacy

This is the new ARIANEB.COM

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That’s right, we moved! My wordpress blog is now my main site. A few months ago I added a lot of the main content from the old site to this site, accessible by the menus at the top.

Want info on Date Ariane? click the button at the top. Links to download are there, as well as the international versions, and my other games.

You can leave comments on any of the pages, something you couldn’t do before, and this site is more secure than my old site. Also as a WordPress site, there is a mobile version of this site now.

The old site is still available for now at http://virtualunderworld.net/arianeb/. Once I move everything over here, I will probably drop that site (this one is cheaper).

I’m sure there are plenty of broken links to fix. Tell me what you think.

The Age of Facebook is Over

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As my last post documented there is a plague on the internet that is having a negative affect on civilization as a whole.  Facebook is the leading cause of this plague, and despite many opportunities, has completely failed to do anything about it.  Pretty much every open group has been taken over by trolls and spam and it is impossible to have any intellectual discussion.

Social Media is the New Television

Fahrenheit 451 is a book by Ray Bradbury which is often mistaken as a tale of censorship. In fact it is a tale about how television has destroyed intellectual discourse.  I thought about this recently upon reading a couple of different articles.

First is an article “Social Media Is Killing Discourse Because It’s Too Much Like TV” which correctly identifies social media as an entertainment platform rather than an actual discussion platform. It is this decades new TV:

The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.” (Emphasis added.) And, Postman argued, when news is constructed as a form of entertainment, it inevitably loses its function for a healthy democracy. “I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?”

Social media not only does this, it makes it worse.

Social media, in contrast, uses algorithms to encourage comfort and complaisance, since its entire business model is built upon maximizing the time users spend inside of it. Who would like to hang around in a place where everyone seems to be negative, mean, and disapproving? The outcome is a proliferation of emotions, a radicalization of those emotions, and a fragmented society. This is way more dangerous for the idea of democracy founded on the notion of informed participation.

I attempted to join a Facebook group that would challenge me intellectually, it didn’t work. In fact it will never work on Facebook. The problem is that there is no mechanism for moderation on Facebook, because it would go against its business model.

Our Changing “Internet” Minds

Second is an article “Are humans evolving beyond the need to tell stories?” which starts with the observation that “novels” are a dying art form, replaced by visual storytelling that is less satisfying to our mental development.

My view is that we’re deluded if we think new technologies come into existence because of clearly defined human objectives – let alone benevolent ones – and it’s this that should shape our response to them. No, the history of the 20th century – and now the 21st – is replete with examples of technologies that were developed purely in order to facilitate the killing of people at a distance, of which the internet is only the most egregious example. Our era is also replete with the mental illnesses occasioned by such technologies – sometimes I think our obsession with viewing violent and horrific imagery is some sort of collective post-traumatic stress disorder.

The article is more broadly directed at tech and internet culture as a whole, and I am not convinced of the thesis, but as I have documented time and time again, the internet does change us and our ability to think rationally.

So stop reading blogs and pick up a book.

TV News is something you don’t need

Facebook is not the source of “fake news” and misinformation, it is the conduit for its dissemination.

TV news should take a lot of the blame for what is going on in society. We watch it because it is the quickest way to become “informed”, but it is not really informing us. Many people have decided that in the age of Trump, TV news is no longer worth watching.

The news isn’t interested in creating an accurate sample. They select for what’s 1) unusual, 2) awful, and 3) probably going to be popular. So the idea that you can get a meaningful sense of the “state of the world” by watching the news is absurd.

Their selections exploit our negativity bias. We’ve evolved to pay more attention to what’s scary and infuriating, but that doesn’t mean every instance of fear or anger is useful. Once you’ve quit watching, it becomes obvious that it is a primary aim of news reports—not an incidental side-effect—to agitate and dismay the viewer.

What appears on the news is not “The conscientious person’s portfolio of concerns”. What appears is whatever sells, and what sells is fear, and contempt for other groups of people.

As I stated in my last post, I blame the media for creating and promoting Trump. I see the exact pattern happening with “Brexit” in Britain, and the rise of the radical right all over Europe. The fear-mongering of the media is creating false fear in the general population.

If you really want to be informed, dig deeper. There are sources out there, find them.

The Need For a Course Correction

I have decided I need a change from this culture of meme and misinformation and troll trash.

For now, I have found it in Reddit, where the upvote/downvote tends to self moderate. There are still problems, especially since a lot of people like a lot of stupid crap, but I have found it to be quite a few IQ points above facebook.

The internet is a big place, and for every problem there are solutions. Reddit is not the perfect solution, but it is a start.