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Showing posts from January, 2019

Defeating location services without killing it

Location data is a valuable commodity, both to consumers and to businesses as they connect with each other. Location services have become an integral part of the smartphone experience, but the other edge of the sword is how location services can track users. The major carriers long ago realized the value of this data and have been selling it, even as calls for a federal investigation mount. We aren't even touching on the subject of what the government could do with this data either.

The value provided by location services to consumers can not be overlooked though. A large part of the power of having a computer in your pocket comes from that computer knowing where you are and where you go, this helps in navigation you and in making meaningful suggestions for you. Turning off location services entirely definitely cripples the user experience.

First, in iOS, location services uses what they call Significant Locations, which allows for useful information in Maps, Photos and Calendar …

The Intellectual Dark Web

The "dark web" typically invokes discussion around Tor and .onion sites, and perhaps Ross Ulbricht and his libertarian politics enter the discussion. In its most recent permutation, the dark web has become intellectual and is far less hidden from view than Silk Road and its ilk. Coined by the mathematician and financier Eric Weinstein, the term intellectual dark web (or IDW) has its base in challenging conventional modes of thought of today, much like Galileo or Martin Luther challenged convention in their day.

Even the briefest of forays into current events shows there are plenty of views being challenged every day; we are living in deeply divided times. It seems as if the IDW was borne out of frustration with the lack of progress on this front. We are wrapped up in hyper-partisanship and raw anger, challenging other views only to score points for our own rather than to seek truth. At its core the IDW is a rejection of political correctness. However, merely being contraria…

Ad blocking without browser extensions

Google is an advertising company first and foremost, lest we forget. They want to create ads people want to see, they say, but I find it hard to trust their motives. It comes as little surprise they want to clamp down on browser extension based adblockers as Ars recently covered.

Fortunately, there are other ways to block ads which are more effective anyway. Every OS has a hosts file, which is simply a plain text file that can route internet traffic from one host to another. In Linux and Mac OS X the hosts file is in /etc/hosts and in Windows it is in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts and editing it will require sudo or Administrator rights.

Once you have your hosts file open, we are going to add a bunch of entries to it that will take traffic from many thousand known ad-serving domains and route it to which is equivalent to a digital trash can. There are options for host file ad blocking. Personally, I use the list from but the list from Steven Black looks even …