Blocking Ads, Protecting Privacy

I was surfing the web last week when I hit my advertising limit. It was brought about by what was at first a unobtrusive little square ad for a mans wallet. How it came to be attached to what I was surfing for is a mystery. A small wallet ad, is what sent me on a search for a whole new level of ad-blocking.

It was at first a small perhaps almost two inch by two inch ad. After a some web pages, I realized this little ad was following me from web page to web page. The ad placement was subtly changing. The ads location initially starting in the top right corner towards the top center of every web page.

Then the ad became more obnoxious. The little brown wallet, in all its two inch by two inch glory, started shifting from side to side. A web page or two later, and it was quivering right in the top middle of the page. Finally, when I reached the point of enough the ad had morphed from quivering to shaking to traveling around the page top third of a new web page.

Enough was enough. I decided in that moment, I have had it with advertising on web pages. Well, almost. As I changed from whatever I was surfing for to looking for ad blocking, I came across a blog that shared my feelings about ads. The owner stated that on his blog, advertising was limited to a banner on the top of the page, with no more than 140 characters. In my anti-ad state of mind, this seemed more than reasonable.

The result of about 20 minutes on a web portal. 203 ads and 9 invisible trackers trackers blocked.

The next day, I opened my web browser, the articles it collects on its main page seemed to be at an all time high. Usually there seemed to be three to six articles waiting for me. Today there was twelve to fifteen articles waiting. I looked at a few I was interested in, and realized they all contained ads. The article started out like any typed article found in a word processor. After a few seconds, ads started popping up running the gamut from barely noticeable to overwhelming.

This from a web browser, who claims they want to make the Internet more usable. It seems they found a way to capitalize on ads from those companies that pay to be shown in the browser. Whether this is true or not, is unknown, but in my new view of hating ads, it felt more true than not.

I added my favorite web blocker to my browser. I had not really noticed before, but there were ads present while using it. My favorite ad blocker seemed to let ads through. I went to their web page to investigate. I found that even feel, ‘some ads, are acceptable, depending on their location’. That wasn’t enough for me, I wanted all ads gone.

I read about a hardware fix called a Raspberry Pi running a program named, Pi-Hole. After reading about the Raspberry Pi, I decided to give one a try, as they are fairly inexpensive, and sounded like a lot of fun if ad blocking didn’t work out. So I purchased a Raspberry Pi, added Pi-Hole, changed my router settings as suggested, and off I went into the wild blue world wide web.

Creeping through the web, would be an accurate description. I was amazed over the number of web pages that were being blocked due to advertising. I felt waves of relief! Finally, I can surf the web ad free. I did notice a few ads slipped through, but they were well behaved. Some time later I noticed it felt like three-fourths of the web had now become non accessible. Looking for particular information meant, clicking on ten links to find all ten links were blocked by Pi-Hole.

This was ad blocking taken to the extreme. I shut down Pi-Hole and went back to a browser add on solution. After some trial and error, I have ended up using my favorite web browser with two Add-ons. The first is, “U Block Origin”, which can be reviewed on Wikipedia as its web pages are blocked by U Block Origin. U Block Origin I read in a review, stated that there was no good ad. My type of ad-blocker.

The second add on, I mentioned in a previous post, is Privacy Badger. Privacy Badger by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, blocks invisible trackers and gets smarter as you use it. The Electronic Frontier Foundation itself has been around almost thirty years and, bills itself as, “… a champion of user privacy….”, among other things.

These browser Add-ons have slowed loading web pages down as most ads are blocked from showing on the screen. How slow depends on how ad saturated the web page is. Even web portals are brought into line. You can check them out by clicking on these links:

UBlock Origin  and  Privacy Badger

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UBlock_Origin and https://www.eff.org .

ESL Using a Dictionary Simplified

I developed this chart below, to help English as a Second Language (ESL) Students find words in a dictionary faster and with less frustration. I remember learning how to use a dictionary as a child, and it was a slow time consuming process. I remember continually going through my ABC’s in my head for each word, to find its general place in the dictionary, and then in each section.

Simplify Learning the Dictionary

ESL Students have different needs. For many ESL Students, their goal is learning to converse in English as quickly as possible. Learning ABC’s is a lower priority. However, different Students have different needs. Either way, using the letter and word chart below, speeds up Student’s progress, and takes away some of the frustration.

The row of capital letters is delineated between M and N, roughly representing the middle area of the dictionary.

If wanted, the row of small letters is for the second letter of a word, showing where the word will be in relation to the middle of each section. If used, this binds the top row and the letter/word sequence below it together.

The letter/word sequence shows what word is in the approximate middle position of each section, also split by front-half and back-half.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M     N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

a b c d e f g h i j k l m     n o p q r s t u v w x y z

A    anal       B    black     C    cockle     D    dilate     E    entwist     F    flirt

G    glam     H    hex         I    inflow       J     jive        K    kiln           L    lief

M    metes

N    nicole    O    oporto    P    planer   Q    quartet  R    reseat       S    snap

T    tipster    U    unique    V    vesico   W    whid     X    xero          Y    yelp

Z    zig

Let’s pretend to look up the word, ‘Truck’. Looking at the top row of letters, we see, T is about in the middle of the second half of the dictionary.

Optionally, looking at the small letters, we see the letter r, means Truck will be in the second half of the T section.

Looking at the letter/word sequence, in the T section, we find the word, Tipster. We have reinforced the word Truck, will be in the back half of the T section, after the word Tipster.

While, there is no substitute for learning our ABC’s, using two rows of letters and the letter-word combination, helps relieve a Student’s in class stress, and make the process of using a dictionary easier and faster, until confidence and mastery are achieved.

When introducing the Dictionary and how to use it, I provide a printout of the section above, and I show examples of how it can be used. I hope you will find this concept helpful if you are teaching languages or language arts. I left extra empty space on the top and bottom of the chart in case you want to copy the section for your own use.

MX Linux, Patito fio is a Great Linux Distribution

My new Dell Computer with Windows 10 installed is quite picky about its neighbors. I would say it downright doesn’t like any neighbors. When I first bought this computer, the only Linux Distribution that would run on it was Ubuntu or an Ubuntu flavor. In my case Xubuntu.

Ubuntu is a great distribution, but it and the flavors are so well made, they fall into the category of well, boring. Except for the desktop choice, which adds its own flavor.

I bought my current Dell desktop in November. I have used Windows less than a few hours total in all that time. I decided it’s my computer and I want it my way. My Windows 10, no longer has a vote in who its neighbors are.

I also found a home for my old desktop. It is going to someone who rarely uses a computer. If you have ever filled the role of family admin, you know what that means. Every other day there is a new and exciting Windows error, problem, or virus. If left to their own devices, the user/owner has the computer all but bricked in a month.

As long as I was changing my choice of Linux distribution, I decided I would find one that makes me happy and meets the need of a new user. That distribution turns out to be MX Linux, Patito fio.

Great everyday Linux Distribution for any level user.

 

I only added a few programs (obviously Plank is one) and added the Home and Trashcan icons to the desktop. Those programs I don’t use, I can remove from the menu with the included menu editor. How slick is that?

But wait, it gets better. I was going through my pile of USB sticks looking for a few to donate with my old computer. I found four that were no recognized by Linux, my Mac, or Windows. I remember suddenly having flaky USB sticks some time ago. I think it had something to do with Windows, but who knows.

I was about to throw them away, when I came across a blip about saving seemingly broken USB sticks using, Live USB Maker. I had not looked at the program. and assumed it made a live USB out of the running MX Linux system. The blip caught my attention because it mentioned repairing broken USB sticks.

I ran the program, popped a broken USB stick in, and there it was, listed and waiting for me! I chose to format it. Live USB Maker works like a dream. Even one USB stick that was divided in two formatted back to one complete USB stick.

For the person getting my old PC, they will have a solid platform on which to learn the joys of addictive computing, excessive browsing, and playing a few games well into the night, without a crashing operating system.

That is as long as they remember if they click on a program in the menu, and they are asked for the ‘root’ password, they are starting down a slippery slope. Even then, if they manage to really hurt MX 19 Linux, and I can not fix it, I can use that slick little, ‘Live USB Maker‘ program and have them computing again in no time.

Needless to say, I am very happy with MX 19 Linux overall. Unlike Xubuntu which I was using, MX Linux has glitched a few times while using Thunar File Manager. I am not sure where the problem lies, and may be operator induced. Time will tell. Nothing serious happens, Thunar suddenly closes up. When reopened everything is as I left it.

I am sure, the MX Linux group would like you to take their new pride and joy for a spin. If you download it and try it out, leave a comment about your impressions. Also sharing is nice, as once you install it, you can tell your friends about your experience and lend them your ISO copy. If you think it’s the best thing since ice cream, you may wish to throw a few dollars their way.

A Different Slant on New Years Resolutions

This is different slant on New Year Resolutions. Instead of making a few vague rules about what you want to do different, I offer a change to a more fulfilled life. If you are happy with your life, I do not think you would be here wondering what I have to say. Welcome.

I am happy and content these days, living my life mostly in the moment, but I worked hard to achieve this state. I thought writing about my path may help you improve your life. Of all the lessons I have learned over my lifetime, there is one lesson that is bigger than the rest. That lesson is, we are more alike than different. The way I was and the who I am now is something people before me and people after have done and will do. You can do it too.

If you see yourself in what I write below, be patient. Know your life will change, and you will find happiness and contentment. If nothing I write below relates to your life, know that for many people, loneliness and despair is their normal life state. Reach out and touch them. They want you to see them.

Be part of the world, it is easier

Isolation can be overcome, you can do it.

It happened to me either one New Years Eve or possibly New Years night many years ago. Maybe it as early as Christmas. It certainly wasn’t later than the first week of January, as I would have my emotions under control [again] by then. This particular incident happened sometime after one in the morning, probably after two. My days and nights ran into one another in those days. Living life slowly and relaxing was for other people.

I was living out west, in the mountains. From a good vantage point, it was possible to see more stars than could be counted in a lifetime. I was walking home late at night, down a dark street. I didn’t have a car. The little town I called home didn’t have lighted streets.

Walking home, this night for some reason was different. Everything I looked at was overly sharp and vibrant. This time of night my world and thinking should have been cloudy and hazy with loosely construed thoughts. I looked up and saw a sky full of galaxies, millions of stars. I was alone in all of it. I was separated from everything and everyone. Family, friends, people in general lived in the same plane as me, though in a different dimension. We inhabited the same space separately, or so it seemed.

I remember looking to the sky that night and thinking, ‘if I could go to anyone of those living stars, I would still be an outsider, on the outside, looking in. I felt I didn’t have anything in common with the smallest speck of dust, or any of the people who cared about me and were my friends. I couldn’t have a heart to heart talk with them as none were close enough for me to confide in them. Most of all, I never felt happy and normal like people around me seemed to feel and act.

That period of my life happened so many chapters ago in my book of life, I can no longer feel how invisible I felt; how alone, how distant. When I think about my life back then, it feels like it was someone’s life I have memories from. It isn’t the me. These days, I am content. I am happy, almost abnormally so. Yet, I can’t think of single event in my life I would go back and change, because changing anything might change who I am now, I really like who I am now.

I also know that feeling so distant and separated from everything isn’t unusual. What was different for me, is I didn’t know other people felt the same. We are all very good actors. I did believe with certainty, and outside of rational thinking, there was a life ahead of me much better than the life I was living. I only had to go forward with my life and find it.

I held on to that belief through those years of my life. I watched a few friends and acquaintances destroy themselves and their lives, and the lives of those closest to them in the process. Drinking, drugs, loneliness, depression, most made it through, but a few gave up and selfishly cashed in their life. I was lucky, I, “Kept my eyes on the prize”, to almost quote a line from an old hymn.

I still have difficulty with too much idle chatter. I think more varied thoughts than most people around me. I wonder about other realities, the universe and everything in it. I think about the future and the past. The visible and the invisible.

However, I have lived a mostly honorable life. Though I may have been lost longer than I should have been. I now make my life fun, only now not at other people’s expense – that was a hard lesson to learn. People weren’t real to me, and their feelings didn’t matter to me. I wasn’t mean or vindictive, I just could not relate closely to people and their problems.

Of course I did some things I shouldn’t have done. I hurt people that didn’t deserve to be hurt. I intentionally hurt people I thought deserved to be hurt. I hurt them not knowing they were already damaged beyond anything I would ever do to them. In those early years, I lived with one way relationships, my way or no way.

I lived each day one step from letting the worst of myself lead the way. Preferring to having the best of myself shine through and lead the way. Now, “Life is good!”. I hope I don’t get sued for that comment, I hear the phrase is copyrighted, but it is the best and simplest way to say it.

I am here now, and I am better than I have ever been before. I have left most of my bad habits behind me. The few bad habits I have left, I will have forever. I made through to the other side of life, and you can too.

If you see yourself in what I have written. If you feel you have reached a point where you can’t go on anymore; If you feel so distant, alone and forgotten that you will never be found, take this on trust, life will get better and you will come to love yours.

Isolation happens on the inside and radiates outward. We isolate ourselves without realizing it we have shut everyone out. After a time, we forget we had human connections. Family, friends, people in our life, people we meet all care about is, and give us exactly what we project out.

People will sense our isolation and project it right back to us, because isolation is what we are putting out there. We humans have a polished expertise. With laser focus, we reflect back to the people what we see in them. If you doubt this think of the homeless. How do you think of them?

If you feel isolated and alone, people in your daily life will help you feel more isolated and alone. If you feel like you aren’t understood, (this is normal sometime), you think people do not understand you and your life, be patient. Live life your way, and don’t expect or need anyone to understand you. This is your life, be selfish with yourself. This is something you have to work out on your own time frame. Give other people the same leeway and respect, they have their own problems they are dealing with.

If you are like me, and like to think about serious things, do not expect people to want to talk about them with you. We are all trying to pursue a state happiness. Lighten up and talk to people on their level. Practice makes perfect. You may find you enjoy it and are good at it.

If your dress is unusual or unique, how many people do you see each day like you? How many parents with their children do you see looking like you? How many financially successful people look like you? Zero? If this is you, there are two real choices for you. Change your dress and try to fit in, or find somewhere to live where everyone else is more like you.

If you are looking for a friend or partner, it really helps to ask yourself, who are you trying to attract? Do you want a flakey fly by night friend or partner because they can relate to you in the moment, or do you want someone who will make you life better for years to come, to make you proud, and be a good parent to your future children. Life is not a movie fantasy.

What feels better to you, being alone and refusing to change, or starting to build a life you will be happy with and proud of? I am thinking you want most of what you see going on with people around you. You want real relationships, and you want to be happy too.

I started my journey with a few words written on a piece of paper pinned to the wall, placed where I would see it most of the time. Those letters were: IGTDSBIGTBSF. Quite a handful, and I would always get a questions about it: “What does that mean?” I would say, “I’m going to die someday, but I’m going to be somebody first”. Obviously by my choice of wording, I didn’t feel like someone back then.

I refused to keep the same behaviors I was comfortable with, because they hadn’t done much for me over the years. I thought any change in my behavior was an improvement over my old behaviors. Change came slowly, good change, healthy change. Life got better. Life became great!

The world is far from perfect, but the world of all is a lot better than living life in a world of one. Your life will get better, if you only let it. Let people in, listen to them, and be empathetic when they tell you their problems. Be their friend, and let them be yours.

Get out there and talk with people and find common ground with them. They need you, and you will find you need them just as much. Just don’t expect any one person to be your everything, be happy for the part of your life they fill, more people are on the way, as long as you are willing to let them in.

You will find the hollowness you now feel will slowly retreat until one day you realize, a new kid lives on the block. The old you is a vague memory. And you will wonder if that was someone else who inhabited you body and lived your life all those years.

Easy OS, Breaks New Ground In a Small Package

I downloaded a copy of Easy OS from Barry Kauler to see what the new innovations are of his latest creation. Rather than going through my list and hoping I mention all the innovation, of which there is a lot of, here is a link to the Easy OS Website.

Here is a second link on how and why Easy OS is different and trending towards the leading edge. Easy OS how and whys of differences. Honestly, everything Easy OS has to offer is over my interest level. To me, Easy OS looks and somewhat behaves as Puppy Linux, with a few obvious exceptions.

Easy Os screenshot

The newest in a long line from Barry Kauler

To backtrack, there are a few obvious differences, at the starting line. Easy OS does not arrive as an ISO. Easy OS arrives as an IMG file. FWIW, Balena Etcher on my iMac did not know what to do with the file. Once I moved it to my Linux box, Balena Etcher took off and copied it to the USB stick. Not sure what that is, other than my Mac Balena Etcher version is an older version which I seldom use.

Secondly, when booting Easy OS, I needed to turn off UEFI. As I seldom use Windows, this was not an issue for me. However if you are a casual user, booting into your BIO and making changes may be something you are not comfortable doing. If you are in this group, you aren’t missing anything.

Saying that, I did not even scratch the surface of what Easy OS is capable of, hence the above links. If you are a general user as I am, I doubt you will find a lot of value from Easy OS. If you are more of a computer gear head, Easy OS claims to offer a world full of changes and options which should delight a technical user.

I really like Puppy Linux, and I imagine I could live with Easy OS. As I mentioned I am only a casual user, and I want things to be simple, as in one of the mainstream distributions. That being said, if you are comfortable in your bios, and want to be challenged with new opportunity, give Easy OS a try. Stop back and leave a comment about your pluses and minuses with Easy OS.My hat is always off to Barry Kauler and those like him, who are never content  with the norm. As for me, I will cruising the Web, or looking into nerdy type topics only a few people really have an interest in.