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Keyhole
Working in the advertising business, I’m privy to a lot of online “services” which are dedicated to tracking your every move on the Internet. Their hope is to figure out who you are, learn all about your interests and activities, tie all that information to your public records and finally sell a frighteningly detailed and accurate personal profile to anyone with literally $39. So, as a public service, here are a few things you can do to thwart these nosy bastards. Services like Intellius.com, BlueKai , and RapLeaf and a host of others are creepy as hell and, frankly, dangerous to everyone who’s not a stalker or identity thief (in which case these services are super convenient). Here’s a great explanation of how and why online tracking happens . For even more detail, read the EFF ’s page about online tracking. So what can you do? The first thing you can do to protect your privacy online is to use a non-commercial browser like…well, there’s really only one: Firefox . As a product of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation (and entirely open-source), Firefox isn’t trying to study your web habits or sell your personal data (although they DO get a cut of any Google search you do through their in-browser search field, a small price to pay for a top-notch, free browser). Once you download and install Firefox, you should quickly install a few addons: NoScript (or Ghostery or BeefTaco, all three do about the same thing, I just prefer NoScript). They basically prevent “javascripts” from running inside your browser (including viruses!) which would allow those damn third-parties to gather your personal data. When you visit a site nothing happens until you “allow” each script you want to let run. NoScript then builds a white-list of approved sites so you don’t have to keep allowing the same scripts every time – it’s kind of annoying at first, but it gets better over time. Other recommended addons include AdBuster (blocks ad networks), CookieMonster (manages browser cookies), and especially BetterPrivacy which manages your “super cookies” (aka “ flash cookies ”) the most insidious and eternal tracking method. Firefox also has a Do NotRead more »
French mime
Shocking only to those who have never met anyone from France, the results of a recent competition revealed that the French are the World’s Worst Tourists. Yet this “scientific” survey surely begs the question: How did America not sweep this award? If there’s one area where America still excels, it’s in grudgingly visiting foreign countries and treating the locals like backwater rubes. Still, this national loss needs some context.Read more »
Did I mention that American Airlines sucks?
This recent holiday, I flashed back to a Christmas past. The year was 1999, or maybe 2002, whatever, I don’t remember. And it’s not important. What is important was how I felt that holiday when American Airlines flew my new wife and I home to New York to spend a few precious days with my family.Read more »
TripAdvisor
Before you go on your next vacation, cruise or anything anywhere in the world, check your accommodations out by visiting the one website that’s purpose-built to find you accommodations that won’t suck.Read more »
A while back, one of the geniuses at Pacific Gas & Electric tripped over a wire and plunged most of North Beach into the stone age. We were forced to rub PalmPilot’s together for heat and forage for arugula. Cappuccino-makers ceased making that whooshy, foam noise. The area was paralyzed for hours. White-collar workers stepped out onto the street and rubbed their eyes as if they were seeing the sun for the first time. Many others, stranded without internet connections, committed suicide rather than face a bleak and frightening convenience-less world.Read more »

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