Categories
Future

Facebook Free

Google and Facebook are not good for the planet.

It really is as simple as that. Climate Change and Surveillance Capitalism are the two most important issues of our time.

The scariest part is that a single individual can’t really do much about it. That makes it hard to effect change. In the same way that littering once won’t destroy the ocean, scrolling your instagram feed doesn’t have any real effect on its own.

But I don’t want my kids to reside in a world destroyed by pollution, or have to sneak around in an Orwellian nightmare. I figure that if we can all pitch-in for a Plastic-Free July, then we can do the same for a Facebook-Free August.

Here’s how I removed the ever-watching eyes of Facebook and Google from my life:

Phone: I use an iPhone. Apple have a strong track record on privacy, built-in hardware encryption, and incentives aligned with keeping your data private. Android captures every little detail about your life and send it to be processed and stored indefinitely in the cloud.

Browser: I prefer Safari, but many also like Firefox. Since I’m on Mac, Safari has some great native features which I find it hard to live without.

Search: DuckDuckGo is an easy winner here. No search saving. No hidden trackers. No filter-bubble. On your phone, just go to Settings > Safari > Search Engine > DuckDuckGo, and you’re done.

Email: I use FastMail, but many also like ProtonMail. These are paid services, but then, so are reusable shopping bags. Gmail reads your emails and uses them to influence what you see online.

Social Groups: I’ve been Facebook free for a long time, and I don’t miss it. When more people are willing to be a squeaky wheel when it comes to Facebook’s “groups” feature, we’ll see alternatives become more mainstream. You can use Reddit for news and advice on specific topics. Discord is another great alternative, for communities with real-time chat.

Social Sharing: Again, this is something you can probably live without. Send photos directly to family members in an email, blog post, or iMessage. For sharing great photography, try VSCO. For beautiful video, try Vimeo. Or for inspiring digital art and design, I love Dribbble. For longer form content, create a self-hosted WordPress blog (I love Flywheel for this).

Video: There aren’t any great alternatives to YouTube. My solution was to repurpose the time I would have spent consuming video content, and use that time to be creative, instead. If you absolutely can’t live without YouTube, you can always visit it anonymously (no account needed to watch videos), and use your browser bookmarks to save your favourite channels.

Chat: iMessage is great for those with iPhones. Outside of that, consider starting a Slack or Discord for your friends – my friends have a Slack with channels for our favourite topics like VR, robotics, books, and lego.

Calendar, Contacts, Notes: I love Apple’s Calendar, Contacts, and Notes apps, with (encrypted) iCloud syncing.

Maps: Google Maps isn’t as far ahead of Apple Maps as it used to be. I’ve been using Apple Maps as my daily driver for years with barely a hitch. The Israeli startup Waze is lots of fun, but unfortunately it’s owned by Google.

News: Reddit is good here, but not as good as a variety of reliable local news. In Australia, SBS + ABC is a good combo if you can overlook a bias to the left.

Docs: Leaving Google Docs was the last and hardest step for me. Thankfully, I found Quip – which has great collaboration features, which is most of what I’m looking for. I’ve also used Apple’s Pages / Keynote / Numbers trio which have a collaborative editing feature – even in browser!

Cloud Storage: I bought a NAS, and I sync my important files to it using Synology’s CloudStation Drive app. This way, all my data is stored locally, but accessible from anywhere in the world. It’s an expensive alternative to Cloud Storage, but when you have as many photos as we do, it actually works out cheaper after about 2 years. iCloud Drive is another great option.

Video Chat: For 1:1 calls, I always prefer FaceTime if possible. Zoom is also fantastic.


Bonus: Here are some other tools I use to keep me safe and private online:

Ads: I block ads and trackers using 1Blocker (on both Mac and iOS). This only works with Safari, but it’s super-fast, efficient, and effective.

DNS: In Australia, ISP’s store all of your DNS queries, so it’s important to switch your ISP from the default. Cloudflare offer a much faster, private, and free alternative, which is so easy to setup that everyone should be using it.

VPN: I found a good deal with NordVPN, and quite like their software for Mac. Many also like ProtonVPN, which would be a great combo with a ProtonMail account.

Categories
Measure

2018 Film & TV Roundup

This year I saw 73 movies (down from 111 in 2017), and 25 full seasons of television (up from 18 in 2017).

Interestingly, the quality of the movies I watched was nearly identical between years. My average review score increased from 73% to 75%.

Top 5 Films of 2018

These are movies I watched, but weren’t necessarily released, in 2018.

5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

I went into this movie without having seen any trailers, and not knowing that it was the first of two parts. Besides the stunning visual effects, I left the theatre shocked at how it ended! It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realised there would be a “resolution” to follow-up in 2019.

4. Call Me By Your Name (2017)

A touching film about an Italian Jewish family, and a coming-of-age romance. This was the first full film I experienced in a virtual theatre, through Bigscreen.

3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

I’ve avoided Spider-Man movies, because they’re generally poorly reviewed, and I know that if I watch one, I’ll have to watch them all. It took a while for my eyes to become accustomed to the 12 FPS animation style, but once they did, this film was sensational. I can’t wait for Talia to see it, because I think she’d just love the art-style.

2. Francs Ha (2012)

Talia and I watched all of Noah Baumbach’s films this year (in chronological order), and Frances Ha is my favourite of the lot. Greta Gerwig will always be Frances to me. If you haven’t seen it yet, please add this one to your much watch list (great for a date night!).

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2018 was the 50th year anniversary of the Stanley Kubrick’s pièce de résistance. This is the greatest film ever made, by the greatest filmmaker to have ever lived. I saw this movie twice this year: once on an old 70mm reel full of dust and scratches, and once on Christopher Nolan’s remastered 70mm film.

I also got to meet Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood (the astronauts Dr. Dave Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole) in person, and got their autograph on a limited edition 2001 art print.

Top 5 Television Seasons of 2018

5. Legion (Season 1)

You wouldn’t know that this mind-bending sci-fi / thriller / horror series is set in the X-Men universe. It is bizarre, hilarious, and sometimes even scary. The best part is Jemaine Clement as Oliver Bird (Jemaine usually is the best part, isn’t he?), who brings a little levity to an otherwise serious endeavour.

4. Black Mirror (Season 4)

Who could forget the USS Callister – my favourite episode of any TV series I saw this year. This season was consistently dystopian and harrowing, which is what I love about Black Mirror. The bonus Black Museum episode was a nice touch, too.

3. The Expanse (Season 3)

The best sci-fi on TV right now. I’m a huge fan of James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse book series, and delighted to see such a great adaption for the screen. Shockingly, Syfy announced it would not renew The Expanse for a fourth season! Fans (including me) petitioned on-demand services, and in the end, Amazon picked the series up for additional seasons.

2. Star-Trek Discovery (Season 1)

Whether you’re a Trekkie (like me) or not (like Talia), Discovery is a great, modern take on Star Trek, which stays true to the original vision of progressive positivity. I couldn’t have hoped for a better start to a contemporary refresh (visual style, not story) on Trek.

1. The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel (Season 2)

Is this the only non-sci-fi title in my top 5? I guess so! If you haven’t seen it yet, this Amy Sherman-Palladino series is just hilarious, though it’s not that same brand of slapstick comedy as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or The Office. Think Gilmore Girls, but Rory is Jewish and grows up to be a comedienne.

Categories
Uncategorized

2018 End-of-Year Trivia

Every year, Talia and I have a tradition of creating a quiz for family and friends, testing their recollection of current-affairs and events over the past 12 months.

Here’s the Trivia questions for 2018. There’s a link to the answers below.

January

English cricket captain Joe Root was hospitalised during the fifth ashes test with what condition?

February

Which movie release, about an African Prince, became the highest grossing film by a black director?

March

The Guardian and The New York Times broke a story about a political consulting firm illicitly harvesting user data from Facebook and using it to manipulate the 2016 US election, and Brexit vote. Which consulting firm was it?

April

Which city where the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in?

May

The European Union’s data protection and privacy regulations came into effect on May 25. What is the regulation called?

June

Saudi Arabia changed a law allowing women to do what for the first time?

July

Which country won the FIFA World Cup?

August

Scott Morrison was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Australia. Including ScoMo, how many Prime Ministers has Australia had?

September

Apple announced three new iPhones. Name all three.

October

The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in which city?

November

Which former U.S. President died?

December

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe, whose mission is to obtain a geological sample and return it to earth, arrived where?

Categories
Work

Block Lab!

I’m super excited to announce the launch of a project I’ve been working on for a while now…

It’s live!

This has been a labour of love since July. I first had the idea during WordCamp Sydney – I was taking questions after my talk on Gutenberg, and somebody asked whether there was an easy way to build Gutenberg blocks.

The short answer is no. Building custom blocks isn’t easy at all. Even seasoned WordPress developers are required to learn a whole new skillset. Imagine then, where this leaves regular site builders.

One of the plugins that inspired Block Lab is Advanced Custom Fields. ACF makes it super easy for site builders to add custom meta data to posts, making it much easier for their clients to build out content.

But WordPress is moving away from a custom fields paradigm, and toward a block based way of thinking about content. That’s where Block Lab comes in. Block Lab makes it super easy to create custom blocks, with a Gutenberg-first focus.

A custom block in the Gutenberg editor.

Block Lab is a collaboration between myself, Rob Stinson, and Rheinard Korf. Going forward we’ll even introduce you to a few other WordPress developers who are keen to get involved.

So, if you’re somebody who builds sites for a living, take a look at how Block Lab can help you build better.

Categories
Future VR Work

Joining a video chat from VR

My team at work has a weekly call, codenamed “Strategy Sync”, where we chit-chat and play a few rounds of Rocket League. This week, I joined the call from the metaverse via Bigscreen, which allowed me to beam my colleagues onto a giant screen in my virtual lounge room.

The best part was, they could see me, too! Well, my virtual avatar anyway. Here’s how I set it up.

What you’ll need

How to use Bigscreen camera as a webcam

  1. Install OBS Studio and OBS-VirtualCam
  2. Launch Bigscreen
  3. In the Bigscreen menu, select Tools > Camera > Capture Mode
  4. Launch OBS Studio, and select Tools > Virtual Cam
  5. Turn on Horizontal Flip, and press Start
  6. Launch your video chat application (I used Zoom), and select OBS as your webcam

Back in Virtual Reality, you should see your Bigscreen environment, and a selfie stick camera. This camera is now be your virtual web cam!