Internet Challenges

To answer Gill’s question, no. But I will say this. If you’re the type of person who would set yourself on fire or eat a Tide pod in the name of internet glory, go ahead and do those things. In fact, do them at the same time just to make sure they work.

From the well intentioned to the deadly here are some challenges that have been produced for the world to see.

  • 1 The cinnamon challenge – This is why we don’t allow fourteen-year-olds to get really bored. You are supposed to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon for this choking hazard.
  • 2 The ice bucket challenge – This was for a good cause. Participants would be surprised by a full bucket of ice.
  • 3 The fire challenge – Again bored plus fourteen is not a good combination. Participants would literally set themselves on fire.
  • 4 The what’s in the box challenge – This is the most recent of the list. Participants get a series of boxes with a series of items, sometimes animals, other times slimy gooey stuff.


Do you care about internet challenges?

Be My Eyes Launches A Specialized Help Feature, Which Will Be Amazing If Enough Companies Go Along With It

If you’re a smartphone having blind person and you haven’t used Be My Eyes, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that your life is at least a little more frustrating than it needs to be. And if you’re a smartphone having sighted person and you’ve spent any time at all volunteering as a helper, thank you for making our lives a little less frustrating than they used to be.

In the years that it’s existed, I’ve either used or seen it used to do everything from identifying details about a package that’s stumped the automated scanning apps to making sure medicine is mixed correctly to getting registration numbers off of electronics to reading room numbers in hotels to answering some of the dreaded questions about lights and silent error messages that the blind kid can’t possibly answer for the friendly tech support agent.

Long story short, there’s not much it can’t help with. But even so, it’s still trying to make itself better, and if enough companies get behind this new plan, it could be a hell of a thing.

As you know, Be My Eyes is here to help you tackle a wide range of visual challenges as you go about your day. Until today, Be My Eyes has randomly connected you to a volunteer to solve daily tasks. Some tasks, however, require specialized assistance.

Contacting customer support through email or by phone isn’t always ideal. Direct communication with a business’s customer support agent could be a more vision-friendly alternative and less time consuming for you. If someone from the company could see the issue in real time, issues with their products or services could be resolved more efficiently.

So we’ve strategized a way to better assist you: enlisting the help of representatives from companies whose products you use all the time. It’s our sincere pleasure to introduce Specialized Help. This new feature means that a trained company representative is available to answer questions or help you tackle issues with speed and in-depth solutions. Maybe you need help figuring out how to use an unfamiliar product, or you might want to interact on a company’s app or website while on the phone with their representative. With Specialized Help, it’s easy to get in touch with businesses and organizations when you encounter a challenge with their products or services. And as always, it’s completely free.

The next time you update your Be My Eyes app, there will be a second button added to the main screen to take you to the Specialized Help Menu. Clicking “Specialized Help” will lead you to the list of companies with representatives available to answer your call and assist you through a live video connection. Each business profile will include descriptions of their services, hours of operation, and supported languages.

So far the only company officially announced as participating is Microsoft, but the hope is that over time that list will grow. To that end, if you have thoughts about companies you would like to see added, Be My Eyes is looking for feedback. You can write to them at I’ve already suggested internet and tv providers as a priority, but maybe you have an idea that’s just as good or better.

I Hope You Drop Your Stupid Phone In Your Stupid Selfieccino

I should stop typing right now. I should pay this no mind. I should move on and let it die like I hope happens to anyone who legitimately thinks this is a good use of money and bandwidth. But sometimes my get off my lawn impulse shouts down my if you ignore them they’ll go away impulse and we all wind up with posts about some asshole paying eight dollars to print photographs into his goddamn cappuccino foam.

Hello magazine reports that the Tea Terrace cafe on the top floor of London’s House Of Fraser department store has a special printer that allows imprints of photos in cappuccino foam. Customers send a photo to the barista, who then prints out the image in foam using a fine art printer. Many people are going with the tried-and-true selfie, hence the name. But the machine can also upload pictures of a beloved pet, for example, which you may enjoy looking at right before you drink its foamy head off. The visual drink costs £5.75, or about $8. Tea Terrace owner Ehab Salem Shouly explains to Hello: “Due to social media the dining experience has completely changed. It’s not enough to just deliver great food and service anymore, it’s got to be Instagram worthy.”

To each his own and all that, but this sounds like a really good way to become my former friend. I still haven’t been able to accept people who would rather film their food than fucking eat it, and now we’ve managed to make it worse. Seriously, just go away.

True True False False Share Share Like Like

After all these years, I’m still not on Facebook. There are plenty of reasons for that, not the least of which is the company’s seeming inability to keep its fucking hands out of people’s timelines. Say what you want about Twitter, but for whatever faults it may have, it does get that right. You choose who you would like to see tweets from, those people tweet things, those things appear in order. It’s a completely reasonable adult way to treat customers, even if some of those customers have trouble with the whole reasonable adult thing. But Facebook just can’t help itself. It has to screw about with this and that, trying to solve the world’s problems regardless of whether or not those problems actually exist.

It’s latest crusade is against fake news, which to be fair is a problem that does exist and is one that Facebook had a not so small hand in making worse, so it does arguably have a role to play in shutting it down. But the route it appears to be taking to that end according to a recent issue of Broadcast Dialogue is a pretty foolish and ultimately fruitless one, I think.

Facebook began tests in the U.S. this week prioritizing news from “publications that the community rates as trustworthy,” as part of an ongoing effort to reduce fake news and clickbait. Users can still decide which stories appear at the top of News Feed with the See First feature. For publishers, the move means publications deemed trustworthy by users may see an increase in their distribution, while publications that do not score highly could see a decrease.

What could possibly go wrong, right? I mean it’s not like anyone could ever find a way to game that system through bots or well coordinated campaigns. And the United States, naturally, is the perfect place to test this. It is, more than any other country on Earth, the very definition of a united front. Its government is as honest as the day is long and would never think of starting silly wars with the media, which in turn would never dream of bending facts or outright making shit up in order to push a corporate overlord’s preferred narrative.

Anybody with a clue should be able to figure out how this is going to end. When you make the news into a popularity contest painted up as some sort of online democracy, the only thing that’s going to suffer is actual democracy. People are going to go on believing and spreading whatever they like, facts be damned. It was that way before there was a Facebook. Facebook just made it easier. Sure it would be nice if Facebook could find a way to make it harder, but doing that is going to require some very tough decisions that a lot of people aren’t going to like and that may hurt Facebook’s bottom line, at least in the short-term. There will need to be fact checkers and ground rules and ways to distinguish satire from lies. Do Facebook’s users have a spot in this equation? Of course they do. But it’s so much more than just clicking true or false on a never ending multiple choice test. It’s all about media literacy and critical thinking, and try as it might, Facebook can neither teach those things or instill them into people at will.

I know you Heavy Black Heart Emoji, But If You Use Too Many, I Loudly Crying Face And Your Post Becomes A Smiling Pile Of Poo!

Oh my god this is amazing, and I wish I’d written it. But since I didn’t, I’ll just link to it and give it a +1000.

Emojis are cute and they are everywhere. Some of them are quite amusing and I have learned about a few new ones over the years. I don’t mind a few here and there. But, when people’s user names, tweets and Facebook posts are encrusted in the things, it gets old really fast.

Look at the title of this post. Those are actual examples of some of the written out descriptions of emojis that we read whenever you put up a little face. Imagine if every time you came upon a given username, you had to listen to a million of those descriptions before hearing what they had to say. Now imagine if that username was also in a thread of tweets that you were reading. If you had to do that, would you actually stay around to hear what the user had to say? It’s especially frustrating when the tweet is shorter than the long and winding mess of emojis that is the username. Here’s a recorded example of just such a tweet.

Yes, one of those tweets just says “here’s a thumbs up gif.” Imagine having to wade through the globes, rainbows, avocados, masks representing the performing arts, just to hear “Here’s a thumbs up gif” and see a link to a video.

The short version is emojis are great and the descriptions let us in on the message you’re conveying with those little pictures. Every now and then, I still see a new one that cracks me up. But please, please, please use them sparingly. You don’t need a bunch of them in your username. Also, in a given tweet or post, you don’t need blue hearts, yellow hearts, green hearts, purple hearts, and pairs of hearts revolving, all in the same message, to convey your love for something. One heart would suffice.

Aside: People seem to use “heavy black heart” to convey something is very loved or close to their heart. I would assume if you have a heavy, black heart, you’re one miserable human. Am I wrong?

There Is A WiFi Hair Brush Because The World Is Kind Of Garbage

It’s not the stupidest unnecessarily smart gadget I’ve ever seen (I think that honour goes to these socks), but the Hair Coach is way up there.

Yes, it is a hair brush. A hair brush with sensors in it. A hair brush that has it’s own app. A hair brush that communicates through Bluetooth. And WiFi. And it can give you personalized advice from experts. And somebody please kill me.

Experience the world’s first smart hairbrush that empowers you to track and improve hair health over time. This product results from a collaboration between Kérastase and L’Oréal, who bring worldwide hair expertise, and Nokia, which brings state of the art sensors and app connectivity to everyday products. The resulting innovation is a brush that syncs seamlessly to your smartphone to provide valuable insights that can help revolutionize the home beauty routine.

Hair health analysis
Follow hair elasticity and learn how to avoid dry hair
Measure cuticle damage to help ensure moisture retention
Optimize sebum distribution and avoid tangles
Force & rhythm
Get insight into how to avoid damaging hair
Gesture analysis
Understand and improve brushing habits
Stroke count
Detailed information on how use impacts hair quality

All you have to do is brush your hair — Hair Coach does the rest
Designed for optimal care and ease of use
With a sleek, lightweight handle and a high density of professional-grade boar & nylon bristles, Hair Coach provides an ideal brushing experience while taking the best possible care of your hair.
Seamless synchronization with the app
The brush detects when it is being used and begins data collection automatically. As soon as you complete your brushing session, all data will be sent automatically to your phone via Bluetooth® Low Energy or Wi-Fi.
A complete hair diagnosis without leaving home
Get an instant assessment of your hair health daily
Create a personalized care routine and get curated tips from Kérastase
Follow your hair health progress over time

It was set to begin shipping in the Fall of 2017, but as I sit here in December that timeline is still listed on the website, so I can only assume it hasn’t. Not that any of you really care when it ships, because you’re all too smart to buy one. Right? Right?

Don’t Throw Away Your Scam Emails. Send Them To The Re:Scam Bot Instead

I’m all about anything that makes online life a little bit harder for scumbags and a little bit safer for everyone else. And if everyone else can have a little bit of fun in the process, even better. So yes, I shall be doing my best to remember to forward my next email from the friendly Nigerian prince who administrates the lottery to Re:scam.

It’s a new bot created by the New Zealand-based nonprofit Netsafe that replies to all your spam emails for you, tricking scammers into thinking that they’re hooking a victim. Except Re:scam simply asks each scammer more and more questions, engaging them in a never-ending conversation until they give up. All you have to do is forward your scam email to and let the bot do its work.

“Do you wish to be a member of the great illuminati family? Do you want to be [sic] payment $5,000,000 weekly? Let us now [sic] if you are interested in success,” says one scam email featured in a video about Re:scam’s skills. The bot’s response? “Dear Illuminati, what a wonderful surprise! I’d love to join your secret club. Do you do a bingo night?”
When the scammer responds that there isn’t a bingo night and prompts the respondent to send their bank details, the bot responds with glee, “Terrific! But to avoid detection I’m going to send my bank account details through one number at a time,” predictably driving the scammer crazy.

I have no idea how they’re training this thing, and wisely, they aren’t saying. But I think we can all agree that it’s nice that they are.

Don’t Update To Firefox 57 Just Yet, Blind Kids

In a couple of weeks Mozilla will be releasing an update to Firefox, my current browser of choice. It’ll be version 57, it’ll go by the name Quantum, and according to the makers of JAWS and NVDA it’ll mess up your screen reader something fierce and you probably shouldn’t use it if you plan on ever getting anything done on the internet again. Here’s part of FS’ explanation.

On November 14, Mozilla is expected to release a new version of its Firefox web browser. Firefox 57 represents such a significant technical and performance change that it’s going to be known as Firefox Quantum. Mozilla and mainstream reviewers of the beta code agree, the browser is much faster and more memory efficient.
The reason why mainstream users will see such a significant speed increase with Firefox Quantum is that it is switching to a multiprocess methodology. Unfortunately, Mozilla in their switch to multiprocess for Firefox has chosen an accessibility approach in which each call for JAWS to obtain information takes orders of magnitude more time.  We are disappointed that Mozilla has not at this time adopted the highly performant approach that Google took with Chrome to increase security while at the same time allowing screen readers to access information at unparalleled speed without needing to make any changes.
For now, we recommend switching to the Extended Support Release (ESR) of Firefox as work on the accessibility issues continues, because even when you are running assistive technology that supports Firefox Quantum, performance with Firefox will be much worse than you are used to. We’re working with Mozilla to improve the situation and are hopeful of further improvement.

If you want to grab that Extended Support Release, it can be found here. Just ignore all the stuff about businesses and it not being for individuals.

Otherwise, it might be time to give Chrome a try. It’s come a long way since the last time I played with it, that is to say that it actually seems to be usable now.

I’ll be curious to see who gets new Firefox support sorted out first. My money’s on NVDA because anyone with expertise can contribute to it, they seem to have working relationships with just about everyone and because god would it ever be hilarious to watch FS explain their way out of getting smoked by an outfit that survives on grants and donations from guys like me rather than extortionate upgrade policies.

Update (November 9th, 2017): Based on this post on Marco’s Accessibility Blog and the comments underneath it, I’m feeling pretty confident about my NVDA prediction. Seems that fixes are already in the works before the trouble evenb starts.

From the post:

For users of the NVDA screen reader, some of these changes may initially seem like a step backward. To make the accessibility features work with the new architecture, we had to make some significant changes which will initially feel less performant than before. Especially complex pages and web applications such as Facebook or Gmail will feel slower to NVDA users in this Firefox release.
Improvements in the pipeline
Fortunately, NVDA users will only have to put up with these slowdowns for one Firefox release. Firefox 58, which will move to beta the moment Firefox 57 is being released, will already improve performance so significantly that most smaller pages will feel as snappy as before, larger pages will take a lot less time to be loaded into NVDA’s browse mode buffer, and web applications such as Gmail or Facebook will feel more fluid.
And we’re not stopping there. In Firefox Nightly, then on version 59, performance improvements will continue, and more big pages and web applications should return to a normal working speed with NVDA.

And this, from a comment responding to a reader question.

Furthermore, we’ve provisioned for an optimization that hopefully will make it into an NVDA release soon that will speed certain things up from their end, too. The pull request on that is awaiting review and merging as we speak. So, stay tuned!

There’s some other worthwhile reading there as well, including how we can all help maybe move things along even faster. It has me curious as to how bad this is really going to be, and thinking that maybe I won’t be as quick to switch to the ESR as I originally thought I might. Hell, I spent much longer than I should have using a complete piece of shit, so who knows, I may not even notice a problem.

You Are Commenting Because: A: You Agree. B: You Respectfully Do Not. C: You Wish To Babble Like A Friggin Imbecile

Generally speaking, most of the people I hear from because of this site are very nice. The rest are mostly made up of people trying to convince me to participate in dubious-sounding content partnerships with them or people threatening me with legal action by pretending to be lawyers who do well to spell words like legal and action correctly. But every now and then I’ll get something that’s totally befuddling. Somebody will get angry about a post and go off about it, which is fine. I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I say even though I’m usually right. But what I do expect, perhaps foolishly, is that before someone disagrees and goes off, that they’ve at least taken the time to read what I actually wrote. Those times, especially combined with instances when I make the mistake of looking at other people’s comments sections (I’m looking at you, YouTube), make this seem like a very interesting idea.

Two weeks ago, NRKbeta, the tech vertical of the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, published an explainer about a proposed new digital surveillance law in the country.
Digital security is a controversial topic, and the conversation around security issues can become heated. But the conversation in the comments of the article was respectful and productive: Commenters shared links to books and other research, asked clarifying questions, and offered constructive feedback.
The team at NRKbeta attributes the civil tenor of its comments to a feature it introduced last month. On some stories, potential commenters are now required to answer three basic multiple-choice questions about the article before they’re allowed to post a comment. (For instance, in the digital surveillance story: “What does DGF stand for?”)

They settled on the quiz function because they thought it would ensure that commenters had at least read the story and had a common set of facts on which to base the discussion. NRKbeta also thought that the quiz functionality might help keep the discussions on topic.
“We’re trying to establish a common ground for the debate,” Arnesen said. “If you’re going to debate something, it’s important to know what’s in the article and what’s not in the article. [Otherwise], people just rant.”

They’ve apparently made this functionality into a WordPress plugin, a fact I will keep in mind in the event that one day you all suddenly forget how to behave yourselves.

Time To Patch Your Krap

Tricky as it might be to exploit, as far as internet security vulnerabilities go I’m not sure it gets much worse than Krack. Thankfully Carin and I are above buying shit like kettles and cookie jars and socks that require connectivity, so we’re probably good once we Windows Update the computers, upgrade the iPhones to iOS11 and our ISP pushes a fix to our modem. But boy, what a mess. One that, no matter how good we all are about patching, could very well screw up the internet in all sorts of fun and exciting ways for years to come. Good times.

A VULNERABILITY IN Wi-Fi encryption has sent the entire tech industry scrambling; the so-called Krack attack affects nearly every wireless device to some extent, leaving them subject to hijacked internet connections. In terms of scope, it doesn’t get much worse—especially for the Internet of Things.

The extent of the Krack fallout remains to be seen. Security analysts say it’s a tricky vulnerability to take advantage of, and major platforms like iOS, macOS, and Windows are either unaffected or have already been patched. But given the millions of routers and other IoT devices that will likely never see a fix, the true cost of Krack could play out for years.

Whatever advice you may have heard for dealing with Krack, only one actually has tangible benefit: Patch your devices. (You can find a running list of companies that have provided one here.)

If you have an iPhone, Mac, or Windows computer, you really should patch right now. If you have an Android device, an update’s in the offing, though it may take some time to reach you if you have anything but a Pixel or Nexus. But after that, you’re all set! Those are in good shape.

But your router? Your security camera? Your internet-connected garage door? Get comfy.