Discover more from Jon Watson's Death by Tech Newsletter
Adobe Flash killed the railroad star...
Also, how many cows is too many cows and Google wins the limbo, going as low as it can go.
I’m always mystified by people who resign from committees or other roles because they don’t like how things are going. Resigning because the vote didn’t go their way, or because they think the organization will be pulled into disrepute because of its actions does not make me think highly of that person. It’s much harder to make change from without. People who really want to make change don’t give up their seat at the table because that only serves to relinquish all their power to make those changes. Resignation is for chumps.
How many cows?
No. Bad, Jon. Not a good joke.
Back in the day, TUCOWS was the place to download “shareware”, the original digital licensing system where you could “try before you buy”. Software back then was rarely completely free. The Open Source Movement hadn’t really caught on and the internet wasn’t developed enough to distribute software anyhow. Shareware was software that you were encouraged to share because it had limitations. If you decided to pay the licensing fee, everything would be unlocked for you, but the unlocked version could be shared with wild abandon. We call that the “Freemium” model these days, but it’s been a thing for a long time.
Back to my bad joke. TUCOWS was an acronym for The Ultimate Collection Of Windows Software. It predates Linux, and Macs were so rare back then that I had only ever seen one in real life at that point. It belonged to another geeky friend of mine that I met on Nucleus BBS in Calgary, and he ran his own BBS on that Mac using Hermes BBS software. Yes. I am that old.
Sadly, TUCOWS is shutting down. Honestly, it probably hasn’t had a visit in years, so we should be giving Tucows (note the capitalization change) props for keeping it running for so long despite being a money pit. Thanks for all the downloads, cow folk!
Regular readers will know that I love unintended consequences. Our world is interlocked very tightly with far-flung places and people. We’ve learned a bit of that during the COVID-19 pandemic; people home sick in other countries manifests as shortages of supplies in our country. We really are all in this together.
This little story has a nice tech angle to it. Adobe Flash has been an internet security nightmare for years. It is easily the least secure part of our computers and its architecture is such that it is basically impossible to fix. It is so bad that I even wrote an article specifically about how bad Flash is back in 2017.
Well, Adobe finally did the entire world a solid and killed it off. Flash is no longer available and if you still have it installed, it has stopped working (you hope). But this section isn’t about security, it’s about unintended consequences. Like the fact that the railroad in Dalian, China, relied entirely on Flash for its operations and the whole railroad ground to a halt when Flash hit its end of life.
Guess how the railroad techs fixed it. Go on, guess….
They installed a pirated version of Flash!
Yep. I guess they went to the “when someone removes a dangerous weapon pointing at you, it’s best to go find an even more dangerous weapon and point it right back at yourself” school of technology. I can’t even.
Please remove Chrome. I’m begging you
Google’s Chrome browser has been popular for a number of years. It is fast, it is sexy. It is not Firefox. And it is really just another tool Google uses to harvest your private user data under your nose.
Regardless of what you may think Google’s business is, unless you said “advertising”, you’d be wrong. Google derives the majority of its income from selling ads to you while you search and read Gmail, and it is able to sell those ads because it has just oodles of personal data on you, so it’s knows what you want.
How bad is Google? I recently stopped using Google Pay because I found out that Google would tell advertisers when one of their ads was shown to me, and then saw that I bought something related IN PERSON AT THE MALL. What the hell, Google?
I get that reporting that I clicked on an ad and bought something online is an obvious no-brainer that I should expect. But I should not expect Google to take my real life, in person, walking in the mall without even looking at my phone, credit card purchases and give them to some random advertiser. That, dear reader, is utter dystopian bullshit.
Google has taken yet another step down into the irredeemable pit of its own making by preventing users from installing ad blockers in an upcoming version of Google Chrome. Because they sell ads. Get it?
Before you take the seemingly reasonable stance that viewing ads is how you “pay” for content, let me assure you that ads are one of the most highly dangerous malware delivery mechanisms known to man. Seriously…this is such a problem there’s even a term for it: Malvertising. There’s a pretty good chance that the ad you’re looking at is actually malware trying to infect your computer, although much less now that Flash is dead. A much better way to block ads is to do it at the DNS level using a tool like Clean Browsing (disclosure: run by friends, but I am not involved).