Pi-Hole on a Raspberry Pi 4

Experimented with running Pi-hole on the Raspberry Pi 4 that I have.

5 Minutes in, Pi-Hole showing how tragically ad ridden the modern web has become.

The Set up at least for the more tech inclined is very easy, all you had to do was launch a command line prompt and type this command…

curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash

After running it for an evening. Thoughts and findings so far…

  • Predominantly Does a DNS level block with a blocklist of known advertisement serving IP addresses.
  • YouTube is a moving target whereby ads are served from youtube.com itself and therefore very difficult to (completely) block with Pi-Hole.
  • Mobile devices with Ad laden apps will perhaps see the greatest reduction in ads.
  • The default configuration doesn’t block nearly as many ads as say uBlock Origin installed on Desktop Firefox. This is not a replacement to having Client side ad blocking.

Curiously noticed these appearing in the query-log…

  • www.collab.apps.mil
  • www.gov.teams.microsoft.us
  • www.dod.teams.microsoft.us

Why would Teams try and poll for these addresses is beyond me. It does raise a sufficient level of curiosity that I will be checking this out.

 

Pi-Hole on a Raspberry Pi 4

ProductReview.com.au Australia

Update: 31 July 2020 – Have decided to halt pursuing this matter temporarily given the re-escalation of the situation around COVID-19 in Australia. However, I am still not sufficiently satisfied with the explanations given by either party (ProductReview and the company of the listing in question) and fully intend to be following this matter up with the ACCC and NSW Fair Trading after the COVID-19 situation abates.

This blog post originally documented in detail some personal concerns I had regarding the validity of ProductReview.com.au’s claims, in particular it’s claim of “independence” made via their trust centre if they also happen to supply paid services to the businesses being reviewed on their site. The matter originated from coming across what I feel were some fairly sizeable anomalies (that were too large to simply casually ignore) on a listing during what was intended to be a casual visit to the site.

To add… Looks like someone from a corporate IP address belonging to the company of the listing in question has also been seen frequenting this site (according to the certIficate attached to the IP). If they could please kindly respond to my last private message on ProductReview once they see this or via this form here, it would certainly be appreciated. Thanks.
Update: 20 July 2020 – 21:33 NZST Response has now been sighted, Thanks.

 

 

 

ProductReview.com.au Australia

NextCloud Snap Packages updated to version 18

Just saw a notification that the Snap NextCloud installation I had running had been updated to version 18.0.4. For me this is fairly significant in that you can now self host your own office suite with “ONLYOFFICE” community edition and if you are ambitious enough, allowing the option to move away from the likes of Google and Microsoft (Office 365).

The catch is that you have to set it up yourself by installing the needed Apps.  To do this, go into Profile, then Apps and enable “Hub Bundle” (or at the very least “Community Document Server” and “ONLYOFFICE”)

Upon doing that, I ran into headaches with this vague and unhelpful error message…

Diving into the nextcloud.log… (the location of which is going to be different depending on your installation. Helpful I know.)

"message":"Allowed memory size of 134217728 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 315857416 bytes)

I had to fire up an SSH session and send the following commands (applicable to Ubuntu Linux). One to increase the memory limit to 512 Megabytes and the 2nd one to restart the NextCloud service….

sudo snap set nextcloud php.memory-limit=512M 
sudo snap restart nextcloud

Back in NextCloud’s web interface, navigated back to Apps section and tried Enabling the Hub bundle again. Still got a flipping error!

"Cannot declare class OCA\\Talk\\Migration\\Version2000Date20170707093535, because the name is already in use at xxxxxxxxxxx"

At a loss as to now what to do, I then went through for each App under the Hub Bundle, clicking on Enable one by one and it worked for some completely and disconcertingly unknown reason (No errors happened this time around… have no idea why, sorry.)

After that, I went back to my Files and had a play at creating new word documents… (Success I guess)

Seems to work pretty well for a family user set up, even on the lowest tier VPS plan with my provider. (1CPU / 2GB RAM). Included with the ONLYOFFICE suite is a Word Processor, Spread Sheet and Presentation (slides) application. At the moment, the biggest issue I can see is the lack of a working spell checker on the community server plugin as reported here and here which I feel is fairly fundamental to a Word Processor. Little bit concerning is that the web browser based (core or plugin based) spell checkers don’t appear to work inside of it either.

I think at this stage, for word processing, will stick with using the visual Markdown editor “Text” (by Julius Härtl) and continue trailing out the Spread Sheet application by doing my Tax return on it and then reporting back here.

Despite the messing around and troubleshooting to get it working I’m overall pretty otherwise pleased with the “Only Office” implementation (Community Server plugin) as a proof of concept.

 

NextCloud Snap Packages updated to version 18

FaceBorg – Privacy? How about we talk about the concentration of power?

To be honest, privacy issues aside, I am significantly far more concerned around our continued almost exclusive reliance on Facebook’s products to communicate with our friends and family and subsequently helping Facebook, a sole for profit entity, gain a very concerning amount of control over our lives collectively.

Facebook Inc. aren’t some benevolent entity, they are a business and their first and foremost mandate ahead of anything else (including a head of wider social concerns) is to ultimately maximise profits to their owners.

Decades on, I desperately struggle to see why more of us aren’t concerned about this. Please, can someone enlighten me as to the faults in my thinking here? Please?

Also, Custom Audiences. I know I am alone in this thinking, But I consider businesses uploading my personal client information as part of a Custom Audience List to Facebook a breach of my privacy. You are effectively giving my personal information over to a 3rd party and that is not OK.

Facebook use that information to their advantage by matching up information as to where I have been, where I have shopped, etc.

We really don’t need to be rewarding nor supporting Facebook’s on going track record of behaviour, and we really don’t need to help support such a company (particularly a for-profit one) taking so much power and subsequently control over our lives.

FaceBorg – Privacy? How about we talk about the concentration of power?

.NZ Domain Yearly registration prices are to rise.

The .nz Domain prices are to rise after InternetNZ announces wholesale price increases. Claim is that registrations are falling. Monthly Registration statistics can be found here… https://docs.internetnz.nz/reports/

I believe a lot of the more recent new domain registrations were speculative after the release of the direct second level registrations under .nz and feel that may be it’s just a gradual decline back to the mean.

Increasing prices in my view will no doubt accelerate the so-called decline. I plan to have a look into their financials when I get a chance. (I don’t expect to find any irregularities – though worth checking for my own edification)

.NZ Domain Yearly registration prices are to rise.

New Zealand Rooms of Matrix/Element.io Chat

Update: 23 July 2020 – Riot.IM is now Element.io

So far the known New Zealand specific chat groups (chat rooms) that exist within the Matrix chat federation include…

If there are others that you know of, feel free to advise me or post in the comments below.

If people are looking for a viable alternative for staying in contact with friends and family at home and abroad as opposed to using the common proprietary messaging systems (e.g. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc) operated by sole corporations. Then I implore people to start looking at the federation of matrix.org chat servers.

If you want to start chatting. Go to Element.io, sign up for a Matrix.org account and start joining rooms such as :matrix.org

Similar to how Email is structured, where Joe Bloggs at Hotmail can seamlessly Email his friend, Max Mustermann at Yahoo without needing to be with the same provider. The Matrix protocol is structured the same way for instant messaging and group chat. No one single company / provider has total control of the protocol.

If Joe Bloggs for example, doesn’t like Hotmail for what ever reason, he is able to choose to sign up to Gmail. Matrix.org is the same way, you have a choice of providers. You can even host your own node (like I do).

Like any project the onset, Matrix was pretty rough around the edges, but I feel the development of the system (being the Matrix Protocol together with the available client software) has now matured to a point where I feel Matrix/Element.io is now certainly very usable.

The reason why I favour Matrix over say Telegram, Signal, Slack, Zulip, Mattermost, Rocket Chat, is that Matrix is the only system where you can…

  • Self host a node of your own AND
  • Send messages to users on other servers (Federation) AND
  • Has a usable front end client (Being Element.io available for Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, and others)

 

New Zealand Rooms of Matrix/Element.io Chat

Matrix Messaging Matters

Earlier on Today, Matrix.org had to be pulled off line for emergency maintenance. It’s back up now and Kudos to Matthew Hodgson and his crew for getting it back up quickly.

On other matters, aside from a flurry of activity in the New Zealand Chat channel #nz.matrix.org, I’m still not seeing as much uptake of the protocol as I would like and today, If I search for any other Matrix chat resources in NZ, my out of date (and sorely need of an update / Fix up) Matrix chat sign up guide seems to come up as the first result.

Will try and pull my finger out and actually fix that page up (including the numbered bullet points and new screenshots) some day, though will state up front, I don’t plan on becoming any sort of Community Lead or Evangelist (Defacto or otherwise) for the Matrix chat / messaging protocol in New Zealand… Well at least not right now with my current commitments.

Matrix Messaging Matters

Valve’s Steam gets their own chat

Steam gets their own chat. Adding to the plethora of non-interoperable, walled off, segregated proprietary instant messaging solutions that seems to be a dime a dozen.

Steam Chat interface, that suddenly popped up upon logging into Windows 10

The above window appeared shortly upon logging into my computer this evening. As I haven’t used Steam for ages, let alone gamed for quite some time, will probably uninstall Steam.

Valve’s Steam gets their own chat

Internet use reduction

More of a “Cool Story Bro” type of post… As per an earlier decree, I have begun reducing my time spent on the internet in general during the evenings and weekends  (during my own time) and confining any use to Administrative functions (such as banking, paying bills, some internet shopping) and the keeping in contact with family and friends (where possible, using inter-operable, federated and self hosted solutions). Continue reading “Internet use reduction”

Internet use reduction

Fibre Broadband ONT Installed

Fibre is finally installed after being convinced by a passing Chorus Man in a Van to get connected. So which provider to go with, I wouldn’t know. Still on my ADSL1 copper connection.

Chorus Fibre Termination point.

After a few false (scheduling) starts, the Chorus Technician managed to eventually come along, lay down the Fibre and install the Optical Network Termination (ONT) box. The job he did looks pretty professional overall.

Probably alone in feeling this way, but would be keen to learn more utilizing Fibre’s potential towards improving people’s lives overall, through initiatives such enabling more to work from home and improving of connectedness between friends and family, etc (and perhaps less about it simply being another means of “Feeding the masses a steady diet of Bread and Circuses” in terms of piping passive Entertainment and Professional Sports into People’s homes).

 

Fibre Broadband ONT Installed

Facebook’s Tentacles – Custom Audience Privacy Issue

Update 17/07/2018: I’d expect I will get a few people rolling their eyes in silence at me, particularly from the AdTech crowd, but I feel strongly enough about the issue that I have decided to start contacting each company appearing in the screenshot to ask them to remove my personal details from any “Custom Audience” Ad campaigns.

I am happy for companies I deal with to add me to their direct mailing list to advise me of any running specials periodically through E-mail, but I am not comfortable with that information subsequently being given to 3rd parties such as Facebook (being a particularly “privacy hostile” entity at that), The less personal information that goes to Facebook the better, I feel they have already become too powerful to our longer term collective detriment, by way of them feasting on our information, particularly given their ongoing business conduct.

Original post: After having logged into my Facebook account for the first time in a fortnight,  Today I learn that businesses have been uploading their customer contact database to Facebook.  A trawl over the internet reveals that this has apparently been in place since 2013.

A question is whether or not organizations giving their contact list to Facebook constitutes, “Sharing your personal details with a 3rd party”?

Advertisers you’ve interacted with – Who have added their contact list to Facebook. (often unbeknown to the people on their contact list)

Facebook states, These advertisers are running ads using a contact list they or their partner uploaded that includes info about you. This info was collected by the advertiser or their partner, typically after you shared your email address with them.”

Reading further, it appears more than just your email they can choose to upload. The information that could be included for matching includes things like your Phone number, Birthday, Gender, etc.

If companies are uploading their customer contact lists to Facebook as per Facebook’s Custom Audiences program, in my view, that pretty much lays at least the base, if they have actually chosen to do so, for Facebook to develop the alleged shadow profiles of Non-Facebook users and personally with me at least, this is NOT okay.

They say they drop all the info if there is no match, but after their ongoing antics, who can trust what Facebook Inc. actually says?

Facebook’s Tentacles – Custom Audience Privacy Issue

Internet 2.0, Proprietary, centralized, and locked-in

Update 27/06/18 – Facebook reaches 200 USD per share, Too bad we collectively keep rewarding bad behaviour, Thanks for the cap gains though.

Ironically, have discovered a lot of my time spent surfing the internet in the evenings is for researching about the Internet itself.

For all intents and purposes, It looks like older days of a largely decentralized Internet with inter-operable communication protocols (E-mail, XMPP, RSS) are pretty much going away, replaced by proprietary walled gardens operated by sole businesses for the primary purpose to maximize profits and designed to be sticky (addictive) and lock as many people in as possible so that it’s hard to escape.

Willful ignorance or otherwise, we collectively voted for this. People a decade ago remarked that I was “Oh So pessimistic” to suggest that Facebook would become as ubiquitous and as powerful as they are today. (By the way, Keep the glass, I don’t need it). Just a second while I write another put option on NASDAQ:FB (with the intention to add to my current holdings)

People keep getting outraged at Facebook’s behaviour, yet continues to reward and encourage it by continuing to use their services. While many have pledged to reduce their usage of Facebook (and other services), such actions seem to be nothing more than short lived and amounts to little more than “virtue signalling”, Furthermore, many of those people who say they are leaving Facebook are going on to suggest WhatsApp and Instagram (both owned by Facebook) as to where they will be moving to.  Hold on, let me increase my short put position.

Frankly, a decade ago, I did state that I would prefer to lose my access to the Internet completely rather than submit to Facebook should Facebook happen to take over the Internet to become the Internet. While in truth, it’s still a long way from that, the situation is that the Internet has now become so commercialized with much of it’s power now consolidated into the hands of a few corporate entities.

Anyway, I’ve decided to gradually reduce my use of the Internet in general and should the consolidation of power continue, will probably end up using the Internet rather comparatively sparingly — Keeping any use personally during my own time to Administrative stuff and the keeping in touch with closer Family and friends (using self hosted services where possible) while completely cutting to the bone any superfluous usage such as casual surfing of forums and especially surfing the Internet to research… well, about the Internet.

 

Internet 2.0, Proprietary, centralized, and locked-in

Motivations for setting up my own personal homepage

As mentioned in my Facebook Notice, I had elected to build my own personal homepage for staying in touch with Friends and Family as opposed to relying on Facebook. In short, I prefer staying with decentralized inter-operable web protocols and standards (particularly those that allow me to self-host) where practical as it offers me more freedom and control over my own personal web presence.

While It is acknowledged utilizing proprietary platforms that are singularly owned and operated by sole for profit business entities have their near term benefits (many such platforms are Free of charge), they aren’t “neutral” mediums and are typically run with the natural focus of maximizing profits, ahead of the best of interest of their users or the wider world at large. (Engineering their products to be as sticky as possible, to keep people on their platforms for longer in order to serve advertising, locking them in so that it’s difficult to leave and consequentially, with an increased tendency to cause addiction in quite a few people).

Proprietary platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat are structured in contrast to say inter-operable protocols like regular E-mail where you have a choice of providers. A user on their choice of provider can E-mail another user on a different provider. No one provider controls the protocol.

It is worth highlighting that the more we use, rely, and pressure others to use these proprietary platforms (by way of the network effect), the more powerful these entities will naturally become. In the case of Facebook, it’s already large and still ever increasing influence and power in our lives (be it through through Facebook Original, Instagram, WhatsApp), I see as potentially detrimental thing to us in the longer term in the sense of…

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”

Personally, I desperately struggle to see how so much power concentrated in the hands of any given single entity, especially a “for-profit” one, could ever be considered as a good thing for us in the longer run. While Facebook certainly isn’t alone in trying to get their mittens on everything we do online, there is a concern within me that should we allow the general trend to continue, (along side the gradual erosion of Civic Responsibility) we could see an erosion in our own individual self determination as we collectively cede ever increasingly control and power over our lives to such (non-democratic) business entities whom are ultimately answerable only to their owners and stockholders.

If you wish to visit the possibility of using alternatives mediums to stay in contact with friends and family, please see “Keeping in contact with loved ones” where I’ve listed out what I’ve done and the recommended stepping stones to reduce reliance on centralized, proprietary and commercially run services.

Disclosure

As of February 2017 (About a year ago as of writing this), I am now a direct shareholder in NASDAQ:FB. The reality is I don’t think we Netizens are going to realize the longer term implications of where we are headed anytime soon. I do recall people seven years ago rebuked me as being “so pessimistic” for even suggesting that Facebook would become as powerful and ubiquitous as they are now. People are saying Facebook is dying and while that may now be true in North America for their original main name sake platform, many of those same people go on to suggest Instagram and WhatsApp (both Owned by Facebook), along with Snapchat (whom personally I consider as equally as obnoxious) as examples as to where everyone is now flocking to.


Fergus Young
www.nui.nz

 

Motivations for setting up my own personal homepage

TradeMe – Not necessarily the cheapest place

First, here is something that I mildly found amusing…

Go on TradeMe, tell everyone how you really feel about Facebook…

As an aside, I don’t know about their business model anymore. I can’t say that buying from (or should it be through) them is necessarily the cheapest. While there are still bargains to be had, I have noticed that private individual sellers simply wishing to moved pre-loved goods on are getting fewer and fewer as years go by as they continue to get displaced on the listings pages by International Sellers or otherwise local drop-shippers, who often flood TradeMe with listings at asking prices higher than NZ RRP (Recommended Retail Pricing)… Continue reading “TradeMe – Not necessarily the cheapest place”

TradeMe – Not necessarily the cheapest place

Branding Effects + Roadblocks to Web Decentralization

(This post is a sort of a lead in from my previous post about Meetup.com)

Anecdotally, it seems the majority of groups which have left the Meetup.com platform have moved their group to Facebook. Branding I’ve come to realize is at play here with Facebook’s seemingly relentless march to take control as much of the web as humanely possible.

While I’ve found many people announce that they “Hate” Facebook saying it’s crap, to them, it’s a familiar sort of ‘Crap’, people subconsciously lean to Familiar because Familiar is “Safe”. Another words… “Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don’t”.

Like ‘McDonalds’ is to fast food, People may criticize their food as ‘plastic’, but yet keep coming back to it because there is some psychological guarantee that it will be the same ‘Plastic’ food they they know of. Take this, if you landed in a new country, would you try some unfamiliar food outlet selling unfamiliar food or head straight towards the Big illuminated ‘M’?  This is something that came to my mind when I was setting up a Test Instance of Oxwall and is something us Decentralization / Open web advocates are going to need to consider.

 

Branding Effects + Roadblocks to Web Decentralization

Riot Matrix: Background + Findings

The following post deals with the background, along with my personal experiences and findings to-date with the RIOT/Matrix instant messaging and group chat system. To connect to the Matrix Synapse instance, please refer to the basic guide to get started.

In Late December 2017, some concerns were raised among friends regarding their discomfort with Relying on WeChat (along with other proprietary commercial instant messaging apps) for communicating among ourselves, and subsequently I was asked whether or not it would be possible to add some sort of chat function to my website.

I’m going to be upfront. I don’t believe at this stage that I am ever going to pull the majority of my Facebook Addicted friend base out from the clutches of the Facebook eco-system (FB Messenger and WhatsApp) and at this present time, only aiming this service at Family and a handful of closer friends who have expressed desire to use an alternative instant messaging platform. Continue reading “Riot Matrix: Background + Findings”

Riot Matrix: Background + Findings

Facebook Causes depression?

They say Facebook causes depression. For me, it’s probably not the “Comparing yourself with others” / F.O.M.O (Fear of Missing out) trigger that I keep seeing exhorted in the media (in the lightest way possible, that aspect of Facebook has probably had the opposite effect),

What has instead perhaps “dampened my mood” is seeing the world’s masses getting deeply hooked and dare I say addicted to the platform owned by a corporate juggernaut (which we are collectively responsible for becoming a juggernaut, by virtue of joining the platform and getting our friends to join courtesy of the “network effect”) intent on eating up the entire Internet and irreversibly integrating itself into many people’s lives.

I really struggle to see this as a good thing for us collectively in the longer run. I question our decision to rely on a sole proprietary platform for keeping in touch with friends and family. I continually freak out about how much power over our lives we are collectively handing over to be concentrated into the hands of a single for-profit entity such as Facebook, especially so given their past and present behavior. Have people forgotten about “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”?

I’ve referred to Facebook as “Face-borg” for this reason. It is really the Web’s version of Startrek’s Borg collective, relentlessly assimilating everything in it’s path.

Facebook Causes depression?