Free online education

The invention and widespread use of computers has had a massive impact on how things are done. I grew up with computers and it can be quite amusing to hear about the way my father used to do things and how much more difficult it was back then. For example, when I did a literature review, all I had to do was go online, search for some keywords and download the relevant papers. He spoke about books with lists of article titles that used to be mailed to universities. He had to find the relevant titles, order them and wait for the copies to be delivered before he could see if they really were relevant. When I did referencing I just put everything into a reference manager which then inserted, formatted and arranged the reference list as required. Before computers it all had to be done manually. Continue reading

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New tools for privacy

On-line surveillance, whether by companies, criminals or governments, is a worrying reality of our present time. A recent survey showed that feelings around government surveillance are quite mixed, though I’d say too much in favour. The same survey’s results on privacy (generally not related to government surveillance) seem more heartening but show large disparities between different countries.

In this context of widespread surveillance, I think it is important to have some idea of tools that can help protect oneself while on-line. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released a new tool, Privacy Badger, which aims to help protect against third parties tracking your browsing across multiple sites. This should help protect against “canvas fingerprinting” which records your information about your computer (and in Slate) and settings which may allow it to be identified on different sites. Continue reading

Spying leftovers

Sorry for the sparse posting. I’ve been spending time with family and friends over the Christmas/New Year’s period. I was away for New Year’s with some of my family and am currently away again, staying with a friend. I will be home later this week and should then be able to start posting regularly again.

Over the past few months, I took note of a number of stories regarding how the US and UK were spying on essentially everyone. Many of them have already been posted (see here, here, here and here) but I still have a couple more that were not always focussed on the spying themselves or which were particularly interesting in light of the NSA’s actions. I’m posting all of them together here. Continue reading

Things to consider when using social media

I’ve really been neglected this site lately. I’m now longer busy at university, and will be graduating next week, but the biggest distraction has been Dota 2. I’d been hearing about it for years and finally got access. It’s a lot like the original and while some aspects are undeniably better (controls) others leave a bit to be desired (match set up) and a few things are just strange (non-game items). But this post isn’t about Dota, I want to draw people’s attention to two interesting videos on Youtube.


Continue reading

Updates on US spying

Snowden’s leak of top secret US documents has been described as the most serious breach in US history. And it’s constantly brought up that it’s made the US more vulnerable to attack. It’s not often brought up, at least by the US, that their actions made everyone else more vulnerable or why US interests outweigh those of the rest of the world. While one could at least understand the risk of terrorist attacks (although to hear grown ups talking seriously about enemies does seem a bit like what you’d expect on a junior school playground) it’s a lot harder to take seriously the need to spy on allies. Continue reading

The UK porn block and the concept of obscenity

I made a passing reference the to the UK’s new plan to block all porn but I decided that it, and obscenity in general, required a more thorough examination. In short, David Cameron feels that UK internet service providers need to block all porn by default to protect children. In short, again, that idea is stupid. It’s stupid partially because it will not work and partially because the mindset behind it is one that should not be accepted. Continue reading

Quicklinks: Borders, dolphins and spying

Garry Davis, a man who renounced his American citizenship and declared himself a citizen of the world died on the 24th of July. His “citizen of the world” idea is quite appealing and it’s interesting how it hasn’t caught on. I see little value in patriotism and it’s hard not to draw comparisons between passports and the pass laws of Apartheid South Africa. The pass laws were based on race but if they were instead based on where one was born, how would they really differ? I think any differences must be minor.

There is a post on WEIT dealing with India’s ban on captive dolphins and public opinion of the issue in Spain and Italy. I also saw a story where an American aquarium was recently denied permission to import Beluga dolphins. Related to both incidents, new research shows that dolphin memories can last at least 20 years! (covered in ScienceNow and Nature News)

Lastly, Edward Snowden has been granted one year’s asylum in Russia. This is excellent news for him considering Bradley Manning is facing up to 90 years in jail. Hopefully these cases, particularly Snowden’s, will send a message that large-scale monitoring and cover-ups of military actions are not acceptable. In the time, here are a number of ways to minimise data surveillance and generally increase your online security.