Please Don’t Fake Vacations To Impress Your Fake Friends

It almost makes me want to cry that I have to tell adults this, but I suppose this is where we are now.

It’s nice that you want people to have a high opinion of you. To a degree, you should. Life is somewhat easier when people actually like you. But if you’ve gotten to a point where you’re worried that those around you are going to think less of you because you can’t go on glamorous trips or don’t have all of the newest, fanciest crap, you maybe need some therapy, and you definitely need better friends and a whole lot less social media. Image-obsessed people are faking vacations with professional photo editing

Looking to live the glamorous, well-traveled life, and stir envy among your Instagram followers, but can’t afford it? Well now you can have a photo of yourself digitally altered to make it seem like you can.
A Nebraska-based photo-editing service named Fake A Vacation lets users send in snapshots to have them superimposed onto fake backgrounds. Options include a sandy beach in Maui, the rushing waters of Niagara Falls, even the Grand Canyon at sunset.
It may seem like a joke service, but lying about travel is a far more common practice than you may think.

According to a study released Wednesday that surveyed over 4,000 American adults over 18, flight cost-comparison Jetcost concluded that 14 percent of respondents fibbed to others about their flashy vacations. Ten percent of that pool even went the extra mile to post a fake on social media.

The reason? Participants claimed they felt embarrassed and wanted to impress others — such as the parents of their friends or partners, and colleagues.
But there are other reasons.
“They fake it … sometimes because the actual vacation is too expensive, so they plan this way or sometimes they do it to get others envious,” says Tom Eda, who leads marketing and support for Fake A Vacation, adding that others have purchased faux vacation pics because they had to cancel their trip last-minute.

Walking Around With My Head In The Clouds

Is this really something worth celebrating? Human brains could be connected to the internet in ‘next few decades,’ scientists predict

I like thinking. I like not knowing everything and having to figure things out for myself, even if sometimes all that means is Googling a few pages deep. I like discovering things by accident. I like having an imagination. I like entertaining myself. I like having creative, original thoughts. I like having thoughts that belong only to me. I don’t want those thoughts being the subject of the next data breach. I don’t want to have to install firewall and anti-virus in my skull to prevent the compromised brain cloud from harming me. I don’t want to get some kind of wasting disease from the implant they thought was safe. I don’t need technology solving every problem. That doesn’t mean don’t solve any, it just means I’ve been around long enough to understand that for every problem it solves, it creates plenty of new ones. I don’t want us all to be perfect, because what even is that? I don’t want people to no longer have different perspectives, because conversation and debate are healthy, necessary things. To me, being a human of the future means being a little smarter than I was yesterday. If it’s supposed to mean being connected to a 24/7 real-time network and gradually losing my sense of self, you can count me out.

A new research study suggests that human brains could be merged with technology significantly sooner than many expect, perhaps “within decades.”
Known as the “Human Brain/Cloud Interface” (B/CI), researchers at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing in California have suggested that nanorobots could be implanted into the human body and connect to a network in real-time.
“These devices would navigate the human vasculature, cross the blood-brain barrier, and precisely autoposition themselves among, or even within brain cells,” the study’s senior author,  Robert Freitas, Jr., said in a statement. “They would then wirelessly transmit encoded information to and from a cloud-based supercomputer network for real-time brain-state monitoring and data extraction.

The research was published in the scientific journal, Frontiers in Neuroscience.
First proposed by futurist Ray Kurzweil – who has also suggested that computers will be as smart as humans within a decade – the concept of B/CI would potentially allow people to simply think of a question and be answered instantly, as opposed to looking for it in a search engine, similar to how information is received in the popular sci-fi “The Matrix” movie series.
“A human B/CI system mediated by neuralnanorobotics could empower individuals with instantaneous access to all cumulative human knowledge available in the cloud, while significantly improving human learning capacities and intelligence,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Nuno Martins, added in the statement.
Aside from obtaining “direct, instantaneous access to virtually any facet of cumulative human knowledge,” there are other potential applications, the researchers wrote in the study. These include the ability to improve education, intelligence, entertainment, traveling, as well as “other interactive experiences.”

Let’s Fix Security By Breaking It. That’ll Show ‘Em

Maybe PluginVulnerabilities.com runs a great service. I don’t know. But I also don’t care, because chances are solid that I’m never going to use it. Why? Well, because irresponsibly endangering the entire internet as a form of protest is an extremely dumb, unprofessional thing to do even if some of your gripes might be legitimate.

A security service called Plugin Vulnerabilities, founded by John Grillot, is taking a vigilante approach to addressing grievances against WordPress.org support forum moderators. The company is protesting the moderators’ actions by publishing zero-day vulnerabilities (those for which no patch has been issued) and then attempting to contact the plugin author via the WordPress.org support forums:

Grillot claims that moderators have deleted his comments, covered up security issues instead of trying to fix them, and promoted certain security companies for fixing hacked sites, among other complaints.
In response, Plugin Vulnerabilities has published a string of vulnerabilities with full disclosure since initiating the protest in September 2018. These posts detail the exact location of the vulnerabilities in the code, along with a proof of concept. The posts are followed up with an attempt to notify the developer through the WordPress.org support forum.

We Updated WordPress

Since I talked about not doing it, it only seems right to bring it up again now that it’s been done.

Yes, we’ve made the switch to WordPress 5, but no, we’re not using the new editor. I haven’t heard anything more about progress on the accessibility front, but what I have heard are several recommendations for the classic editor. So since it’s generally good to be on the latest and greatest from a security and plugin compatibility standpoint when possible, I thought we’d give it a go.

So far I’ve only written one post with it not including this one, and it appears to be working exactly as it should. In fact, had I not been the one pushing the buttons, I likely wouldn’t have even realized we’d upgraded.

If you’re running a WordPress site of your own and want to join us and the other 3 million plus people doing things this way, here’s the Classic Editor. Be sure you have it activated before updating.

Classic Editor is an official plugin maintained by the WordPress team that restores the previous (“classic”) WordPress editor and the “Edit Post” screen. It makes it possible to use plugins that extend that screen, add old-style meta boxes, or otherwise depend on the previous editor.
Classic Editor is an official WordPress plugin, and will be fully supported and maintained until at least 2022, or as long as is necessary.

By default, this plugin hides all functionality available in the new Block Editor (“Gutenberg”).

Morespace

Poor Myspace hasn’t had a whole lot going for it for quite a while, and now, thanks to what may or may not be an oopsie, it has even less.

Myspace, the once mighty social network, has lost every single piece of content uploaded to its site before 2016, including millions of songs, photos and videos with no other home on the internet.
The company is blaming a faulty server migration for the mass deletion, which appears to have happened more than a year ago, when the first reports appeared of users unable to access older content. The company has confirmed to online archivists that music has been lost permanently, dashing hopes that a backup could be used to permanently protect the collection for future generations.
More than 50m tracks from 14 million artists have been lost, including songs that led to the rise of the “Myspace Generation” cohort of artists, such as Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys and Yeasayer.

The site now has a banner at the top of the site telling visitors: “As a result of a server migration project, any photos, videos, and audio files you uploaded more than three years ago may no longer be available on or from Myspace. We apologise for the inconvenience and suggest that you retain your backup copies. If you would like more information, please contact our data protection officer.”

That bit about backup copies is really rubbing it in there, guys.

But there’s a good lesson in here about the dangers of entrusting large portions of your life purely to online technology and business and thinking it’s going to be ok. Trust us, it isn’t. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say something like “I don’t have to save this picture, it’s up on Facebook if I need it,” but I cringe a little whenever I do. If something is important to you, take the extra time to make sure it’s safe.

Not Burying Yourself Under A Never Ending Avalanche Of Stupidity Is Good For You

I was never as hooked on social media as a lot of people, but even I can tell you that the last few months of limiting my already limited exposure to everyone’s garbage opinions and constant stupid outrage even further has me starting to feel a bit better. I’m no less informed (you should see my RSS), and I can still find out what people I actually like are up to by pulling their timelines now and then. When I do get the urge to glance at the home timeline, it usually takes only a few short minutes to remember why I generally don’t bother doing that and return to normal. I’ve never felt the need to completely deactivate as Bassey Ikpi did, but I understand the impulse and I recommend it if you don’t have enough self-control to ignore things on your own.

Being off Twitter specifically has been a blessing. Over the last year, the constant influx of political news and random outrage had me in a constant state of anxiety. The anxiety was so prevalent that I didn’t notice I was constantly trembling with nerves.
The last three months, I have avoided being inundated with tweets by Toupee Fiasco and then the hurricane of responses and analysis of his tweets or actions. The need to know something as soon as it happens has lessened. I assume that if we are in a nuclear war, someone will tell me or text me or post a selfie on Instagram with an inspirational caption and fitting hashtag.
There’s no real reason for me to watch every single false alarm and frenzy.
What I also appreciate is the conversations I have with friends about current events. I’m not completely out of the room, but I have a moment to process information and remember nuance before firing off a 140-character (wait; it’s like 400 characters now, right?) half-formed thought. I can really sit with and develop an opinion without the hurried, pressurized “Tell me what you think about this RIGHT NOW.”
It helps me avoid stating how I’m supposed to feel based on the opinions around me and instead gives me a chance to actually process nuance and context before I decide what I think. I also get the benefit of hearing other opinions and voices and weigh them against my own. I’m not as prone to performative outrage as I was.

I appreciate and often miss the variety of discourse offered by social media, but I don’t miss the constant influx of not just opinions but also the level of toxicity and outrage that is just too much for me these days.

You Can Now Get Help From Google’s Disability Support Team Directly Through Be My Eyes

It took a while, but another company has finally joined Microsoft as part of Be My Eyes’ Specialized Help feature. Hey, Google.

We’re pleased to announce that Google is the newest company onboard the Specialized Help platform! Specialized Help enables blind and low-vision users to connect directly with company representatives through a live video connection. Blind and low-vision users can now request assistance from the Google Disability Support team through the Be My Eyes app for questions about assistive tools and accessibility features within Google’s products.
Getting connected to the Google Disability Support team through Be My Eyes is easy. Start by accessing the Specialized Help menu from the Be My Eyes home screen and select Google from the list. From the Google profile, you can make a call directly to the Google Disability Support team. Making a Specialized Help call to Google works just like any other Be My Eyes call, except that you’ll get connected to an official Google representative, who can help you with troubleshooting or other questions on accessibility features within Google’s products or services effectively.
Please note that the Google Specialized Help option should only be used for questions or issues concerning assistive tools or accessibility features within Google’s products or services. You can make calls to Google through Be My Eyes Monday through Friday 8AM-5PM PT. Currently in English only, from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Carin Is Presenting At CSUN!

She ran out of time to mention it herself or maybe she’s just shy, so I’ll do it.

As I type, Carin is on her way to the CSUN conference. Her work sends her most years, which is pretty cool.

“Carin, please let us fly you to better weather and pay you to hang out with smart people and play with all sorts of new technology.”

Yeah, she’s not turning that down.

But this year she’s going to do more than just take it all in. She’ll actually be presenting!

“Don’t Make Me Do This!” A Ninja Screen Reader User Implores Web Developers

Session ID
IND-051
Date & Time
Thursday, March 14, 2019 – 9:00 AM PST
Location
Grand GH

This session will present a nuanced view of web accessibility and demonstrate how users with diverse expertise levels perceive web accessibility differently.
Presenters
• Sambhavi Chandrashekar
OCAD University
• Carin Headrick
D2L Corporation

I’ve seen bits of this presentation. If you have a website and wonder why people don’t seem to like it very much or you’re about to build one and want to maybe not have that problem, it’s one you should check out.

And say hi to Carin if you see her around. She’ll be somewhere or other conference-related from later today until sometime Friday. She’s fun to talk to, and you’ll even get to meet the Shmans!

Nope, Still Not Signing UP For That Facebook Account

Generally speaking, 2018 was a pretty decent year for me. But you know who can’t say the same? Facebook. THE 21 (AND COUNTING) BIGGEST FACEBOOK SCANDALS OF 2018

“Of 2018.” Not of all time I again remind you, “of 2018. Jesus Murphy on a stack of lawsuits, that’s no good at all.

December 2018: Another Times investigation finds Facebook shared lots of personal user data with large companies
Just when it seemed no more scandals could break, on December 18, The New York Times published an investigation that found the company shared troves of personal user data with more than 150 companies—including major players like Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, and Spotify—long after Facebook said it had cut off access to that kind of information. The big takeaway from this latest news seems to be: Despite Facebook’s claims that users have “complete control” over their data, the company has, throughout its history, traded on data access in order to grow the business.

Enjoy FarmVille or whatever it is people do over there when they’re not liking and sharing news articles that have no basis in reality.

Bell’s Everything Tracking Is Back And Very Slightly Less Creepy

It appears Bell is taking another crack at the tracking every customer’s every move thing that went so well a few years ago. And though the end result still sounds like a whole lot of garbage from a consumer point of view (there’s still nothing in it for customers aside from ads the company thinks you’ll like more), it’s at least not as much of a surface level privacy nightmare as the last one. All that basically means is that you’ll have to opt in instead of out and that Bell claims not to be selling your data to third parties directly, but hey, it’s something, I guess.

Canada’s largest telecommunications group is getting mixed reviews for its plan to follow the lead of companies like Google and Facebook in collecting massive amounts of information about the activities and preferences of its customers.
Bell Canada began asking its customers in December for permission to track everything they do with their home and mobile phones, internet, television, apps or any other services they get through Bell or its affiliates.
In return, Bell says it will provide advertising and promotions that are more “tailored” to their needs and preferences.
“Tailored marketing means Bell will be able to customize advertising based on participant account information and service usage patterns, similar to the ways that companies like Google and others have been doing for some time,” the company says in recent notices to customers.

If given permission, Bell will collect information about its customers’ age, gender, billing addresses, and the specific tablet, television or other devices used to access Bell services.
It will also collect the “number of messages sent and received, voice minutes, user data consumption and type of connectivity when downloading or streaming.”

“Bell’s marketing partners will not receive the personal information of program participants; we just deliver the offers relevant to the program participants on their behalf,” the company assures customers.

It’s interesting that Bell’s entire justification for such a massive data grab essentially seems to boil down to well, Facebook is doing it, so why not us, completely ignoring the fact that Facebook isn’t having the best time at the moment. This really isn’t a great look for a company that isn’t exactly well known or beloved for its treatment of customers, to put it mildly.

I hope customers are savvy enough to ignore this program to death. Failing that, I hope Bell does absolutely everything right so I won’t have to write about the inevitable data breach or the part where Bell gets caught doing things they say they’re not doing.