Category Archives: Sufficiently Advanced Technology

‘Smart Referer’ Firefox Extension Blocks Google Two-Factor Authentication

The other day I echoed recommendations on Hardening Firefox that I got from an article by Keith Axline. Since then, however, I’ve learned two things.

First, Axline has changed his recommendations from HTTPS Everywhere to Smart HTTPS for the reasons given in this thread.

Second, I discovered that when I had Smart Referer on, I wasn’t able to use Google two-factor authentication.  Instead,  when google asked me to authenticate via my phone, I got timeouts instantly.

Disabling the Smart Referer extension temporarily (which is easy as it creates a button on the toolbar) allowed me to log in, and things seem to work fine if I re-enable Smart Referer immediately after I log in to my Gmail.  But that may be more annoyance than most people want, especially given that Google two factor authentication is more annoyance than most people want.

Posted in Software, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

Memo to Self re: Hardening Firefox (Updated)

Make sure all of the following extensions are installed on all my computers

Also use 1.1.1.1 for DNS and change default search engine to Duck Duck Go or to Startpage. Full manual DNS settings are:

 1.1.1.1
 1.0.0.1 
 2606:4700:4700::1111 
 2606:4700:4700::1001

As per A Few Simple Steps to Vastly Increase Your Privacy Online.

Note that I already have a VPN, or I’d be suggesting that too.

Posted in Software, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

Pixel One Battery Replacement is Possible!

One of the more annoying things about the Pixel 1, aside from the Google Assistant that I had to disable on privacy grounds, is that it’s a sealed case — so no way to replace the battery. This started to become an issue a few weeks ago. It wasn’t just that battery life had gotten noticeably worse, you expect that after a couple of years, it was that the battery would go from c.20% to dead without any warning.

It turns out, however, that there’s an entire chain of Google-certified phone repair joints with the silly name of ubreakifix that will replace the battery in a Pixel in a couple of hours for about $80. That’s a lot cheaper than buying a new phone. I was afraid the thing would have horrible scars from being pried open, but no. “We have tools” the tech told me smugly, and it indeed there’s no sign the case has been opened, but battery life is 50% greater than it was last week.

So now I’m likely good until Google orpahans the phone, which could come as soon as in October, at which point supposedly they’ll stop doing patches for it. The idea of course is to make me buy a new phone. Sadly, it will probably work. I hope the Pixel 4 is better than the Pixel 3 or I may to switch to Samsung.

Posted in Shopping, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

CDT is Doing Something About Voting Security

This is really cool: the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) is launching VotingWorks — a public interest non-profit that wants to build better, i.e. safe and secure, voting machines. I love it.

VotingWorks aims to shake up the voting equipment market by creating a new non-profit voting systems manufacturer with the mission of being the public works for voting systems. VotingWorks will do this by developing voting equipment that 1) embody the state-of-the-art in usability, security, design, and development; 2) are affordable to maximize any benefit to all sizes of election jurisdictions; 3) allow speedy, efficient voting processes; and, 4) that is extensible to the needs of all types of localities. And all of this will be developed in the open for the public good.

The need here is very real. Election officials often find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place when choosing a new voting system; there are often few expensive choices that come with serious limitations in how these systems can be used, modified, improved, and studied. CDT has advised localities in procurement decisions in the past and contributed to efforts where jurisdictions are designing their own voting systems – such as the Los Angeles County VSAP project – and the common factor in all these cases is the wide variety of needs and requirements that elections present, and how few systems can meet them all.

CDT will serve as a home for VotingWorks until it becomes its own non-profit entity. This partnership means VotingWorks is working closely with the CDT’s experienced team to rapidly ramp up operations and begin in earnest the development of affordable, secure, open-source voting machines for use in US public elections.

Two thumbs up from here.  We need this.

Posted in Law: Elections, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 1 Comment

Three Tech-Related Stories Today

Three things that caught my eye this morning:

Posted in 2020 Election, AI, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 9 Comments

I Guess This Is Progress

Fusion Power is Only 15 Years Away, we’re told. I guess that’s progress since in just the last few years people have said its Always 50 Years Away, or maybe Always 30 Years Away, or maybe formely 30 years away, now its more like 50 years away, or maybe just forever 20 years away, or 13 Years Away.

So ten years away is progress, right? Then again three years ago it ten years away so maybe we’re going backwards?

Or maybe we’re looking at the wrong scientific advance here: what we really have is an odd form of time travel?

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 1 Comment