unroll.me and email privacy

The recent mess with unroll.me selling user data to Uber has got me thinking about email privacy again. I’m still using OtherInbox Organizer with my Gmail account, and I still think their privacy policy isn’t unreasonable, but I am also thinking about the fact that it would probably let them do the same thing thing unroll.me did. Mind you, I also don’t think that selling anonymized data to a third-party is a big deal, assuming the data is truly anonymized. And I’m quite surprised about the level of vitriol about the unroll.me thing; I didn’t realize how many people were clueless about how services like that make their money.

I’ve also continued to experiment with ProtonMail. I haven’t had any real problems with either the web interface or the mobile app, so that’s good. I looked into their IMAP plans a bit more too. It looks like their plan for that is to have a “bridge” program that can run on your PC, which will encrypt/decrypt emails on the fly and interface with your desktop email program (Outlook or whatever). That’s good, I guess, but it would mean that you still wouldn’t be able to use IMAP on iOS, if I understand it correctly. I guess there’s no easy solution to that, given the way that their service is set up.

FastMail still seems like the most reasonable alternative to Gmail, and should be relatively secure. I still haven’t talked myself into switching away from Gmail yet though.

trying a vertical mouse

I’ve been using a trackball, left-handed, at work for the last few weeks. I’ve found that it helped with my shoulder problems a bit, and it wasn’t that hard to use. But I never got really good at precise positioning with it. So now I’m trying a vertical mouse (right-handed). I’m using this cheap one from Anker. A friend recommended an Evoluent VerticalMouse, but that’s $90, compared to less than $20 for the Anker, so I decided to give the cheap one a try first. It’s working OK so far, though I’ve noticed that double-clicking is more trouble than with a regular mouse, since clicking the button tends to move the mouse a little, and if it moves between clicks, it doesn’t register as a double-click. So I’m getting used to that.

I may try to switch back and forth between the trackball and the mouse occasionally, just to keep myself from relying on one hand or the other for too long. And I think I might try a trackpad at some point too.

sick days and comic books

I came down with a cold on Easter Sunday, and took a sick day on Monday. I felt good enough to go back into work on Tuesday, and made it through Wednesday and Thursday too. But things started going downhill on Thursday and I called in sick again today (Friday). I went to a doctor, and there’s nothing horribly wrong with me as far as he can tell, so I’m just resting and taking a (hopefully) stronger decongestant.

So this week has been good for comic book reading. On Sunday, I read B.P.R.D.: The Dead Remembered. On Monday, I got through B.P.R.D: King of Fear, and some other miscellaneous comics. Today, I read Baltimore: The Plague Ships and a bunch of DC Rebirth issues. Somewhere in there, I also managed to finish the Star Wars Omnibus that reprinted the first couple of dozen issues of Marvel’s Star Wars comic from the 70s, and start into the hardback collecting Paul Pope’s One Trick Rip-Off and some of his other stuff.

So, yeah, I read a lot of comics. I’m enjoying getting back into Mignola’s universe, but I’m not sure how far I’m going to go with that. On the B.P.R.D. side, I’m done with the “War on Frogs” story now, and “Hell on Earth” would be next, if I decide to go on with it. Hell on Earth runs through 15 trades, so it would be a pretty big commitment. (I think I have the equivalent of the first volume in individual issues, but that still leaves 14 more.) Baltimore runs through seven trades and a prose novel, so that’s a little less daunting, but still a pretty big story (and I’m not sure it’s done yet). And I’ve got a handful of random Hellboy comics to read too, plus the full Hellboy in Hell series.

On the DC front, I’m still enjoying Rebirth, but I also still have some mixed feelings about it. I have the first issue of The Button crossover, but I haven’t read it yet. I was at one point thinking that it might actually be a good point for jumping ship on the whole rebirth thing, but I’ll at least give this particular story a chance. If it looks like it’s leading into something horrible, I’m more than ready to drop it all. I’ve found the current DC books to be nice escapism, but I probably wouldn’t miss them if I stopped reading them.

I was kind of planning on going into New York tomorrow for the NYC version of the March For Science, but I’m clearly in no shape for that. So I guess my support for the march will have to come from my living room couch, in the form of supportive retweets and good thoughts.

1&1 hosting plans

I’ve been using 1&1 for web hosting for a very long time. Their reputation is mixed, but I’ve never had any huge problem with them. An occasional hiccup, but not that often really. I’m currently paying about $6.25 per month for my hosting plan. But I just got an email saying that they’re changing me over to their “1&1 Unlimited Plus” plan, which will cost me $11 per month. This supposedly includes an 8% discount off their normal rate, which I guess would make the normal rate $12.

Looking at their web site, it looks like new customers can get Unlimited Plus for $5/month for the first year, and $10/month after that. So I’m a little confused about how $11/month is a discounted rate. Maybe I’ll e-mail them about that. At any rate, it looks like the new plan might include a free SSL certificate, which I’m currently paying $50/year for, so that would offset the price increase. (Of course, there are other ways of getting free SSL certificates these days, so I shouldn’t have to pay for SSL regardless.)

I don’t really have any intention to move off 1&1, but a price increase is always a motive to look around at alternatives.

no SDCC again

Much like last year, I gave the SDCC open registration system a shot, but failed again to get tickets.

I could have gone to WonderCon last weekend, if I’d really wanted to. I’d done some research on it a few months back, but didn’t really like the airfare and hotel costs, so I decided to punt on it.

It’s not a bad day out today, so maybe I should stop sitting in front of the computer now, and go out for a walk.

The Laundry Files, the Library, and Modesty Blaise

After taking a fairly long break from reading Charles Stross’ Laundry Files series, I picked up The Apocalypse Codex a few weeks ago. I just finished reading it this week. It’s not quite as funny as I remember the earlier books being, but it’s still very good. It includes two characters who are based on Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin. Modesty Blaise was a British comic strip that ran for many years, starting in the sixties. I became familiar with it through reprints published in a magazine called Comics Revue, which I used to read regularly.

Here’s an article about the strip’s creator, Peter O’Donnell, from The Comics Journal, published just after he died. And here’s a more recent article, also from TCJ. Both are written by R. C. Harvey, who knows a lot about comics and who I should really read more often. (In fact, I haven’t actually read these articles yet, just bookmarked them to read later. I’ve been doing that a lot lately…) I stopped buying Comics Revue back in 2008 or so, when I stopped buying comics altogether. (Or at least mostly stopped buying them.) Now that I’ve started up again, I’ve been thinking about picking up on Comics Revue again too. But I still have a couple of unread Modesty Blaise books from the Titan Books reprint series, so I should probably read those before I start buying more issues of Comics Revue.

On a somewhat related subject, I did some spring cleaning last weekend, throwing out some old computer books and getting together some old novels to donate to an upcoming library book sale. I dropped the novels off today, and decided to have a look around the library while I was there. This book sale is not for my local library, rather for the neighboring town of Bridgewater. I’ve always known that Bridgewater’s library was bigger than ours, but I’d never really had any reason to go over there and visit it. Well, I was pretty impressed. It’s much larger than Somerville’s library, and they have quite a lot of books. I browsed through the comics section and the SF section, and found a few things there that I’d like to read. Bringing this back around to the original subject, they have most of the Laundry Files books, in hardcover. So I checked out the next one in the series, The Rhesus Chart. Now I have three weeks to read it. (I’ll have to check and see if I can renew it online, if I don’t get it finished on time. I don’t really know how all this modern library stuff works…)

Organizer and email follow-up

This is a follow-up to my post about OtherInbox Organizer from a few weeks back. They finally acknowledged that they’d made changes, via an email they sent about a week ago. Their main point was that the service is now much faster. I can’t dispute that; under the old version, emails would generally sit in my inbox for a few minutes before being filed. They were, I assume, running some kind of batch process that could only check once every few minutes. Now, it seems like emails are instantly filed. I’m not familiar with Google’s APIs for accessing Gmail, but I’d guess that they’ve switched to an API that’s more event-driven, where maybe they have a callback that gets called every time a new email comes in. Either that, or they just tossed more computing power at their old process, so it runs more often.

The one big annoyance from the recent change is that they stopped applying the general “OIB” tag to every organized email. (I mentioned this in the previous post.) Well, they fixed that as of last night, so I’m happy about that.

They don’t seem to have made any effort to restore some of the other related functionality, like applying a “receipt” tag to emails that look like receipts, or “shipping notice” to emails that look like shipping notices. But those functions weren’t working real well anyway, and I never really relied on them at all, so that’s fine.

In a nutshell, now that they’ve restored applying the general “OIB” tag, I’m pretty happy with them overall and will likely stick with them for now.

On a related subject, ProtonMail just announced some new features. They still don’t have IMAP/SMTP support, but they’re testing it and will probably roll it out before the end of the year. I’ve been messing around with ProtonMail a bit over the last couple of weeks, including installing their iOS app on my iPhone and iPad. It’s a pretty good app. Sometimes, apps for services like this are an afterthought, farmed out to a third-party developer, and the end result isn’t very good. But ProtonMail’s app is quite nice. Visually, it’s well-designed and looks good on both iPhone and iPad. It works well, and includes support for Touch ID. I haven’t quite talked myself into switching over to ProtonMail, but I like what they’re doing and they’ve made a ton of progress since they launched a few years ago.

more JavaScript and TypeScript shenanigans

I’m still working on my fairly ridiculous JavaScript/TypeScript/SharePoint project, which I’ve mentioned previously. I’ve got the Q (promises) stuff all worked out now, I think.

I wanted to be able to read in a standard Microsoft Excel file as part of this project. To handle that, I looked at SheetJS. This looked like it would be pretty straightforward. But I hit a few issues in trying to integrate it into my project. There was a TypeScript definition file for it available via NuGet in Visual Studio. But the way the file was written led me down a rabbit hole of trying to figure out JavaScript modularization standards. This probably isn’t that tough a subject to figure out. I got as far as figuring that I should be using AMD and RequireJS. But, after about 20 minutes of reading RequireJS documentation and some related articles about how to use it in TypeScript, I decided that maybe I was better off skipping the whole thing and sticking with a CSV input instead of Excel.

I assumed I’d be able to read and parse a CSV file pretty easily, with the native JavaScript FileReader and some simple string operations to break up the lines into fields. But figuring out how to parse a CSV file sent me down a rabbit hole too. But it wasn’t a terribly deep rabbit hole. The end result is that I’m using a little library called Papa Parse to deal with the CSV parsing. (It turns out that the kind of CSV files I have will be a little too complex for “string.split(‘,’)”.)

Despite all the little issues, I’m learning a lot on this project. Maybe, most importantly, I’m learning about how far JavaScript development has come since the last time I did any major JS work. I need to do some catch-up work. Time for some more PluralSight videos.

A busy day in New York

I took a trip into New York City today to see a few things. First, an overdue trip to the Met to check out Seurat’s Circus Sideshow. As a young computer nerd, I was always fascinated by Seurat, as his method seemed particularly relevant and even prescient: putting images together pixel by pixel. The exhibit isn’t a general Seurat exhibit, rather it’s an exhibit of one particular painting, and a bunch of related material, some by Seurat and some by other artists. The Times has a good overview article on the exhibit.

I then walked up to the Guggenheim. I wanted to see Jackson Pollock’s Alchemy, and the little exhibit they have related to its restoration. The painting itself is at the very top of their main rotunda. The exhibit about the restoration is hidden away in the basement, and a bit hard to find. But it’s worth seeing, if you’re a Pollock nerd like me. The main exhibit in the rotunda is called Creating a Modern Guggenheim, and is kind of a catch-all exhibit of miscellaneous works from the Guggenheim’s collection. Aside from the Pollock, there’s a bunch of other interesting stuff, though there’s no real theme, other than “look at all this stuff we’ve got.”

Finally, I went to MoCCA Fest. I’d thought about going to MoCCA Fest before, but never quite managed it. I wasn’t really even aware of it this year, until I saw a mention of it yesterday, so I figured I’d stop by. MoCCA Fest is basically a comic con, but without all the low-brow superhero stuff. (I don’t say that judgmentally. I love the low-brow superhero stuff.) So it’s all indie comics and weird artsy stuff. They had a nice little exhibit of Drew Friedman’s art from his Heroes of the Comics books, and Friedman himself was there. I really love his work on those books, but I can never talk myself into buying them. Cliff Chiang was at the CBLDF booth while I was there. The Wonder Woman books he was signing were probably the most mainstream thing at the show. I’m honestly not that familiar with his work, but it does look interesting now that I’m poking around on the internet learning a bit about him. There were a couple of other guests I would have liked to have seen, David Lloyd and Gene Luen Yang, but neither one was around while I was there. I feel a little guilty that I left the show without having bought any books, but I didn’t see anything that I really wanted. I feel like I should be reading and supporting more indie comics, but there hasn’t really been much of interest to me lately outside the mainstream. Anyway, it was a fun little show, so maybe I’ll go back next year.

Overall, a good day, with decent spring-like weather and a fair bit of walking. Now I’m tired and need a nap.