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Beeeeeeeeeeeee!

Outrage over Zoom app user tracking, what about all the other apps?

Everyone is being outraged over Zoom app tracking users and sending data to Facebook right now. And I’m siting here scratching my head like, guys, this is not a new thing. ALL the apps you use, whether on Android or iOS are absolutely riddled with this tracking garbage.

Google Analytics, Crashlytics (also from Google), App Measurement (also Google), Branch Metrics, AppsFlyer, Facebook Graph, Facebook Connect and that’s just what I can read from the top of my blocking logs that were running for few days.

Here is an example of my blocking logs only for my Apple mobile device…

MobileAppsBlocking.png

From 22nd March 2020! That’s just 6 days worth of logs and Facebook Graph is actually the most lenient. I only have few ten entries that didn’t even make to the Top Blocked domains list. But it’s there even though I don’t use Facebook AT ALL.

Crashlytics and App Measurement are both among top offenders. I don’t use anything from Google. Literally NOTHING from Google. And yet there it is, pinging whatever crap back to Google. Or at least trying since I have it blocked. Something apps never mentioned at any point or something I never signed up for. And it’s just there, tracking me.

It’s actually really weird how Apple keeps on talking about privacy this and privacy that, constantly obsesses over how apps operate on their App Store yet they don’t seem to care about all this tracking and telemetry junk in pretty much all apps that users can’t really obviously control or even know about. Zoom was a problem on App Store and iOS and Apple only dealt with it in THIS particular case. What about all the others? This needs to be addressed and users need a clear control over this. Preferably on a device system level like blocking apps below do, because my trust in app makers to honor it is somewhere between 0 and ZERO.

Current solution?

Until vendors like Apple does anything about this globally on all apps, there are few options that you can use to prevent all this garbage to leak data about you to big corporations…

Blokada (Android)

Disconnect Privacy Pro (iOS)

NextDNS (Android & iOS)

Basically all these work as virtual VPN on the device so it intercepts traffic on a local level and not like VPN’s usually work, allowing them to filter all this tracking and analytics junk.

So, until Apple starts giving a damn (I have no hopes for Google to kill their own garbage on Android) and controls this, use the above apps and solve it yourself to at least some extent. You’ll save battery and also data. Not to mention privacy. I know it’s not “save it all” approach, but you have to start somewhere and this is a good start.

Doom Eternal is a complete disaster

I never thought I’ll witness this day, but thanks to Bethesda, I have… They managed to cock up Doom.

Remember how Doom used to be a synonym for going guns blazing, holding fire button down without taking a break until trails of dead demons were piled behind you? It’s a game franchise that inspired entire genre around it with games like Serious Sam, Bulletstorm and many others. Well, lets just say none of that is in Doom Eternal. Some jackass thought it would be a good idea to give you ridiculously tiny ammo carrying capacity (you can carry total 16 rounds for a shotgun and 40 for machinegun!) so they could shoehorn stupid chainsaw mechanic into the game. So you end up in this stupid perpetual cycle of shooting few rounds, then you’re forced to use moronic chainsaw mechanic close up to replenish the ammo so you can shoot those few rounds again. And while you’re chasing demons to chainsaw them down, you’re getting hurt hard because you need to be in their faces all the time and you can’t even keep them at distance which was the whole point of this genre. Hordes that you keep away with the power of lead, explosives and hot plasma.

Then you realize even the lowest tier demons hurt you like hell, but when you melee bash them, it feels like a gentle nudge. I don’t get it, I apparently have a retractable blade on my left arm, but it’s never used unless it’s a specific glory kill. Constantly being without ammo, with no unlimited ammo basic pistol like in Doom 2016 and with entirely useless melee attack, this game is such an incredible chore to play because you’re constantly forced to use this annoying dumb chainsaw mechanic and I only played it for 1 hour before refunding this hot garbage. Couldn’t risk giving it a “chance” and losing ability to refund this crap. Like, my god Bethesda, how did you manage to fuck it up so badly with a single gameplay mechanic. HOW?!

And to make matters double worse, I said, while I’m waiting for a refund, I’m gonna try Doom 64 that I got as a pre-order “gift”. Fire up Doom 64 and for fucks sake, what absolute jackass designed keybinding menu? I literally couldn’t bind basic move forward/backward and strafe left/right to arrow keys which I always use to play games. It kept insisting to have turn left/right and strafe left/right on same keys. So in game I ended up always turn strafing to one or the other side in a really bizarre way. How does one fuck up key binding so badly for fucks sake. And the more I wanted to change the keys, the more keys just kept stacking up under one action instead of clearing existing one like in every other game.

This has to be the worst release of this year easily and possibly even this whole decade. Do NOT buy this game. It’s nothing like fantastic Doom from 2016. It’s not even anything like Doom… I might give it another chance and force my way through stupid chainsaw ammo replenishing mechanic when it’s in a bargain bin for 5€. Shouldn’t take long to lose its value given how they cocked it up…

Manufacturers, stop hiding screws under rubber feet of devices!

I’m a very technical person and if something is broken, I’ll give it a shot and try to repair it before declaring it dead. It can be something as simple as cleaning dust from the inside of a laptop to re-lubricating its fan to avoid replacement, replacing a broken or dead component with a new one with basic repair by doing a component swap to more fine ones like replacing a swollen and leaking capacitor by re-soledering a new one. It’s nothing deep level electronics, but I’ve fixed quite some devices with next to none expenses. Laptops, LCD monitors, graphic cards, hair clippers, vacuum cleaners, you name it.

And one thing I’ve noticed over the years of doing this is how manufacturers keep on doing this asshole design thing where they hide screws under rubber feet or device stands. You unscrew all the visible screws and you start prying the device housing apart and you see there is still some absurd resistance somewhere. And then you tear off the rubber feet and behold, more screws underneath. I’ve seen that on almost every single laptop in existence and it’s so god damn infuriating. There is already 8 screws visible, why is there a need to HIDE 6 more under the feet? Just recently I took apart my HP laptop that has two long rubber strips as laptop feet underneath. One strip had 4 screws hidden underneath and other one had 2. On top of like 5 visible screws. Why HP? WHY?!

Then I was fiddling with my ASUS router. 2 visible screws and 2 screws underneath rubber feet. Again, why ASUS. WHY?! Couldn’t you just place the screws NEXT to the rubber feet so I don’t have to tear them off and fuck up the double sided tape used on them?

Third, every single frigging mouse that I’ve ever had. Oh, you want to clean all the dust and grime from hands out of the crevices and wheel on the mouse? Sure, you can open it. Except fucking screws are always UNDERNEATH the mouse glide feet (mouse skates). If you take them off they’ll be deformed and essentially fucked up, essentially ruining the mouse. No one cares if screws are visible underneath. They are on mouse belly. They can be visible for all I care, at least I could take it apart and clean it properly without destroying it.

Fourth, this one is outside of computer world, but still an absolute asshole design. I wanted to take apart my old Reminton HC5600 hair clipper that I was using for my beard. Granted, it’s old and Li-ion battery in it could hardly survive two beard trimmings, but I thought, I’m just gonna buy a new Li-ion cell and replace it. Yeah, that would work if device wasn’t designed by an asshole. Yes, it was waterproof which I expected to make things more difficult, but not with the outer shell. It had outer plastic cosmetic shell with actually sealed shell for motor, circuitry and Li-ion cell within it. But getting to this internal water proof shell required you to unscrew 1 screw on the outer shell next to the charging port to get inside. Which was hidden underneath a plastic cover that I couldn’t dig out even by digging a flat screwdriver into the plastic and literally digging it out several millimeters in depth of the case and I still couldn’t even see that screw. The outer shell screw was essentially sealed under several millimeters of plastic. So I said, fuck it and tore it apart. It broke off exactly where I was suspecting the screw was. What’s most ironic, you need to fuck up the outer shell because of asshole design just to reach internal waterproofed shell that is put together with 2 screws and has a rubber sealing around it and all that easy to access jazz. WHY?! Why the hell would you make internal one this convenient to take apart, but make outer shell impossible to open without fucking it up beyond being usable again? Why Remington, WHY?!

I’ve been reading all this EU “right to repair” news for smartphones and how they want to make them easier to repair. I sure as hell hope this bill or law or whatever it’ll be called will affect other devices as well, not just smartphones. I want these hidden screws under rubber feet to be gone. And I want these asshole case designs that are purposely made so that you can’t repair it without destroying the device. I had to throw away a device that only required replacement of a Li-ion cell that I could easily do it myself. Instead I ruined it because it was impossible to take the case apart without destroying it. And don’t get me started how many times I broke off or cracked something plastic on laptops because screws are in most asshole places on purpose? Coz there is no way in hell anyone would put them there because it would make sense. They put them there coz they are assholes and they don’t want you to repair things yourself.

I really hope EU pushes this through and forces manufacturers to stop doing this shit. And I really hope it won’t be only for smartphones, but for all electronic devices.

Hey Canonical, why such hard separation of Ubuntu and Kubuntu?

I’ve always been a Windows guy, but had a soft spot for Linux because it’s a viable alternative that has come a long way. And it’s perfectly free. And Ubuntu is probably a front runner here, being one of the most popular distros in existence today, excluding Android.

What is strange to me however is the whole Ubuntu and Kubuntu deal. And it’s a bit baffling actually. Debian is probably the most widely used Linux foundation and Ubuntu is the most popular distro within Debian family. But the desktop (interface) Ubuntu is running is such absolute trash that should be exterminated with orbital nukes.

It just wastes so much screen estate and is so incredibly clumsy for multitasking I have no idea how it can be a thing people actually use. It’s so incredibly bad, for real.

And here is the funny part. Till just few days ago I thought Kubuntu was a 3rd party fork of Ubuntu with KDE desktop instead of Gnome and I was generally avoiding it because I don’t like micro distros that are a fork of a fork of a fork etc. They tend to have crappy support and as a result crappy general experience. What I didn’t know is that Kubuntu is actually Canonical’s (makers of Ubuntu!) own fork of Ubuntu! The very maker of Ubuntu is the maker of Kubuntu as well!

That’s right. They get new releases at the exact same time, Ubuntu and Kubuntu are identical down to very last bit, except the desktop interface on top. Ubuntu runs Gnome and Kubuntu runs KDE.

I just don’t understand why Canonical is doing this extreme separation of both to a point people might think they are entirely different distros like I have. I just can’t understand why Canonical doesn’t list Ubuntu and Kubuntu on same webpage and just gives users option to pick between both types of desktop interfaces on same page instead of running two ENTIRELY separate entities on entirely separate webpages that hardly mention they are actually “sibling” distros and not “cousin” distros. And also making it ubundantly clear (see what I did there? 😉 ) that they are the same thing everywhere, so people know it right away instead of having to dig out this information across various Wiki pages. Coz only identification of them being related is mention of Canonical at the bottom of Kubuntu webpage. Something anyone can so easily miss.

It’s really a shame because Ubuntu is super popular and a great foundation, but Kubuntu is just a better experience thanks to KDE. It’s just weird why Canonical is pushing Kubuntu on the side when it’s actually a much better version of Ubuntu. Without any downsides of being a 3rd party fork of Ubuntu like many others…

Come on Canonical, give Kubuntu same love and endorse it more. A lot of other distros like Manjaro offer choice of Gnome or KDE on same webpage and you just pick whatever you like the most. Where with Ubuntu and Kubuntu, they are separated so hard you can’t even know they are related without doing some extensive info digging.

Is it really so hard to add “Don’t like the Gnome desktop interface? Here is our Ubuntu alternative named Kubuntu. Same thing, different interface”. And just point the link to Kubuntu page. Then do the same on Kubuntu webpage, just for Ubuntu. And make it clear they are sibling distros. It would greatly help the popularity instead of people who dislike moronic Gnome just turning away entirely. Like I have for so many years…

Ubuntu (Gnome desktop) – ubuntu.com

Kubuntu (KDE desktop) – kubuntu.org

AVIRA Antivirus 2020 got new interface

I’ve been lurking around MalwareTips forums when I noticed someone posted about AVIRA getting new interface in their paid Internet Security package. Turns out, AVIRA Free also got a facelift. So I gave it a spin…

Main reason I did so was because AVIRA literally had the worst interface of all antiviruses in existence for literally decades. It was cumbersome, clumsy, fat, outdated and just plain terrible. It was so bad I avoided AVIRA like plague despite constantly scoring highly in tests. New interface looked promising, but I still had doubts knowing AVIRA and their almost legendarily terrible interface designs. Well, here are the findings in regards of new interface facelift.

What’s new?

Biggest change is ditching of weird “modular” launcher AVIRA insisted on for so long. The main interface now looks more like latest versions of AVG or avast!, even in color scheme. Which is not necessarily bad. It actually looks pretty ok and is quite logically organized. On the left there are categories and when you select them you have options on the right side.

What isn’t so new…

What isn’t so new are some of the old interface elements that got carried over from old interface dating as far as 15 years back in time. Yeah, I’m not kidding here and AVIRA seriously needs to step up the game now they finally done the main interface right. Luke Filewalker scanner is still around, old settings panel is still around and detection popup all look exactly the same as they have back when Windows XP was released and “Luna” theme design was a thing. Yeah, it has Windows XP vibe all over the place and it just feels wrong almost 20 years later.

Screenshots

AVIRA_Main.png
Main interface panel
AVIRA_Security.png
Security panel
AVIRA_Scan.png
Protection options panel
AVIRA_Settings.png
The “new” old settings panel
AVIRA_LukeFilewalker.png
Good very old Luke Filewalker…
AVIRA_Detection.png
“New” detection popup with Luna style close and Details buttons…

Additional info

Manual removal of some components in Programs and Features is required to get rid of things that are annoying and you don’t need, but get installed automatically. Like AVIRA Software Updater, AVIRA VPN and AVIRA Cleanup tools. They are all paid features that won’t have any purpose except eating resources and space as some dig into Explorer context menus and run constantly and eat absurd amounts of memory. Software Updater component for example was eating 450MB of RAM. I have 32GB of RAM, but it’s still absurd and serves absolutely no purpose as it’s paid only feature.

Verdict

New AVIRA interface is certainly a step in the right direction. It’s still not perfect, but it’s at least bearable now. And they need to seriously work on modernizing and integrating old panels and settings into new interface and make it a complete, consistent looking package. If they do this, AVIRA will become a serious competition with good detection and good looks. It’s already half way there and I can finally recommend it as an option.

Give it a try and let me know how you like it. Or just comment on screenshots. Do you like the new design or not?

Windows 10 Bluetooth connectivity sucks donkey balls

Just like many things with Windows, I can’t understand how can Bluetooth in Windows be so bloody unreliable. Relative bought a soundbar and wanted to connect it to laptop via BT. Yeah, good luck with that. First they had hard time even connecting it and then it said it was actually paired and connected and nothing worked. Paired same soundbar to phone, connected correctly in no time. Every time.

I’ve bought AirPods 2. Which are essentially just bluetooth earphones. They work on Windows just fine. After you manage to connect them. And it’s the same ridiculous bullshit on ALL devices. 2 laptops and desktop with USB BT dingle dongle.

The initial pairing using the case is painless and works every time. Actually connecting anything is another thing. I have to turn Bluetooth ON and OFF several times. Sometimes it connects on first try, sometimes it connects after 5 tries and sometimes it just flat out shits its pants entirely and you need to delete all Windows Bluetooth drives in Device Manager and re-pair AirPods 2 with the dumb Windows. And then you’ll be just repeating the process described above. Fix your shit Microsoft, this is just fucking embarrassing.

Are people having same bullshit problems with other bluetooth devices or are speakers the only type that’s all screwed up?

Some explanation of avast! data selling drama

I want to explain some things in regards to this thing. People seem to be freaking out like it’s end of the world and I have a feeling 3/4 of them don’t even understand what’s going on, they are just jumping on the rage bandwagon. For TLRD, scroll down and skip the next two paragraphs.

I do have to admit this is pretty bad fuckup on avast!’s end and it was just a question of when it’s going to happen. I’ve been long time avast! supporter since it’s quite early days when it was still a relatively small company. It felt like family run company, team was super invested into actually listening to users and while it had some issues like unusual fancy interface and detection that wasn’t the best of the best, everything felt genuine and their top priority was product quality and user satisfaction. Fast forward to now and all their company seems to care is profits, profits, profits and again profits. I guess that’s what always happens when you get investors from outside, all they care is money and they always do it in most desperate ways. Selling user data is one of them…

As evident from investigation by PCMag and Motherboard. avast! of course responded with their official response and blog post, but I don’t think this will fix much. Damage has been done and to my surprise, they don’t seem to understand or care how quickly you ruin your reputation that took decades to build up. Coz if they cared, it wouldn’t even cross their mind to do it like this. Or have a whole freaking subsidiary that deals with data selling.

TLDR

So, yes, they were selling user data and although they say it was anonymized, it was a dick move. But there is no need to be totally freaking out and uninstalling avast! like it’s end of the world. After all, avast! does have a very good detection and that’s what we use antiviruses for.

  • If you were/are only using avast! Antivirus without any browser extensions, you are NOT affected.
  • If you were/ are using avast! browser extensions, but you have disabled Data Sharing in extension settings, you are NOT affected.

So, chances are, some users who weren’t using their browser extensions or had data sharing disabled, it’s like nothing happened. It’s a black mark in their rap sheet, but I’d still consider their antivirus. One coz they can’t afford another such fuckup and second, because it’s good and if you opt out from data sharing like I’ve always done, it’s still a good option. I never understood or liked sharing of data beyond protection one in antiviruses. Be it avast!, Kaspersky, Bitdefender or any other.

But ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to stay in this “relationship” or use something else…

EDIT 2020-1-30:

I got some extra info from a Reddit user that data collecting was also involved with antivirus alone through Web Shield component (at least per their EULA which I haven’t analyzed to such depth). Which means users not even using browser extensions could be affected unless data sharing was also disabled in antivirus itself. Which is what I’ve always done right away after installing avast!, but I can imagine millions of casual users not doing that.

EDIT: 2020-2-14

I just got a reply from avast! employee on their forums that Web Shield in desktop versions of avast! was not involved in data collection. Data collection only affected mobile version of avast! Web Shield assuming you had data sharing enabled. If you didn’t, then you weren’t affected either.