My Infrequently Updated Blog. The web-based journal of M. Forde, computer nerd, endurance athlete, and DeLorean owner


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    13 Mar 2018

    Tenth Runniversary
    Today is my tenth runniversary. It's been a decade since I first stepped on that treadmill. Like my first day running, I ran on the treadmill while listening to br\oken. I've had some set backs in my recovery. Not properly rehabilitating the atrophy in the left leg has caused some problems with the muscles around my hip. Listening to my trainer only made it worse. But now I'm taking care of it properly. Like that first day ten years ago, I have a goal I am working toward. This time it is the Dublin Marathon in October. This will be marathon number 13. I don't expect to PR. I think 10 minute miles are a much more reasonable goal at this point, but frankly I'll be happy just to cross that finish line. It's been a long, hard road out of Hell, but God has been by my side and put some amazing people in my life to help me along the way. I have to thank the Giraffes for today. I have to thank the Giraffes for much of my life this last decade. I was heading for an early grave, and they changed that. Giraffes, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I look forward to running the LTC and many other races with you in the next decade.

    [/running] [permanent link]

    12 Mar 2018

    Take back your privacy
    Recent surveys have found that 76% of [the most visited] websites in the world cotain trackers from google and 24% contain trackers from facebook. This has been reported by CNBC, PC World, The Verge, Fortune, and Breitbart.

    Almost anywhere you go on the internet, they are following you, building a profile on you, and selling that information, your information, to the highest bidder. Even if you don't have a user account for google or facebook "services," they've built a profile of you using this surreptitiously collected data.

    It turns out there are some steps one can take to prevent these companies from following you wherever you go. It's not perfect, but it helps a lot. First, don't use Chrome. Second, install ad-blocker plugins for your browser. Third, use your firewall.

    It turns out Google and Facebook are large enough that they have their own Autonomous Systems (AS) composed of numerous subnets. Google owns AS 15169, while Facebook owns AS 32934. Using a little bit of shell, it's relatively easy to look up all the subnets owned by these companies.

    whois -h whois.radb.net -- '-i origin AS32934' | grep "^route:" | awk '{print $2;}'
    whois -h whois.radb.net -- '-i origin AS15169' | grep "^route:" | awk '{print $2;}'

    That's a lot of subnets. Because I have different operating systems on different computers and still want to block traffic to and from all those IP addresses, I've written some simple scripts to add rules to various firewalls. I have scripts for IPFW on FreeBSD, IPTables on Linux, and the Windows Firewall that should work from XP SP3 through Windows 10. I've only tested it on Windows 7 and Windows 10, and it worked in those.

    All of these scripts can be found in this directory. The IPFW and IPTables scripts are self-contained. For the Windows command shell batch files, the *ips.txt files are also needed.

    I have to say, the internet looks very different with these firewall rules in place. There are noticeably fewer advertisements and pages load faster. Embedded YouTube videos and Instagram photos don't appear. Sometimes the frame disappears, sometimes you get a "failed to connect" page appearing in a frame in the middle of a page. (Yes, these rules block YouTube and Instagram; they are owned by google and facebook and reside in the subnets owned by those companies.) On a relatively rare occasion, I come across a site using some sort of javascript or css or something hosted by a machine in one of those ASs and that will be blocked. Sometimes the site handles that gracefully, sometimes it stops being functional. A small price to take back your life.

    Update: Twitter has trackers on a decent amount of sites out there too, so I've added scripts to block Twitter's AS 13414 as well. Those scripts are in the same directories as the others.

    [/musings] [permanent link]