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Archives for : November2014

Final vice

It is with great reluctance that after nearly 20 years, I’m going to try to give up smoking next year.

Many of you will associate me with smoking.  The person who always carries a lighter.  The trouble is, it’s just too expensive.  In the last few years, the prices have been jacked up and up and it’s reached that point where it’s just not economically viable.  I can no longer continue with my last remaining vice.  My last smoke will be on New Year’s Eve.  Of course, for the time being, vaping is still an option.

I’ve been vaping more and more since trying it almost a year ago.  I’m still getting the nicotine in my system, but it’s far better for me.  Smokers are now looked on almost like lepers, but if you know me, you’ll know I really don’t care.  On face value, vaping can look similar, but in reality it has little in common. For one, it’s healthier for both the person vaping and the people around them.  The ‘second-hand smoking’ issue is immediately rendered moot.  Keep in mind, this is water vapour.  You get vapour from hot food, showers, baths, coffee, tea etc.  When you consider holding your breath while holding a cup of coffee, or holding your breath in the shower, you start to appreciate how absurd it really is.

The nicotine levels are easier to control.  They range from 24mg down to nothing at all.  Yes, that’s right, some vapers (people who vape) are using liquid/juice that is completely nicotine free.

It’s unfortunate that the media have branded vapes as “electronic cigarettes”.  E-cigs and vapes are very similar, in that they both use liquid, rapidly heated so it becomes vapour, which is inhaled.  But, in reality, they’re closer to nicotine inhalers than anything else.

Of course they must been seen in a negative light, partly because they can look like smoking, but I think it’s mostly because David Cameron needs his insanely high levels of tax currently on tobacco products.

Vape UsersThe media scaremongering will try to tell you that people will take up the craze because it “looks cool” or is fashionable.  Mass hoards will go out to buy these devices and the liquid to fit in, and more people than ever will be addicted to nicotine.  In truth, the Office of National Statistics prove only 0.14% of vapers have never smoked.
What’s not mentioned is the nicotine levels in the e-liquid used by this group.  I’d be amazed if any nicotine was found at all.

So, hopefully you’ve learned a few truths about vaping.  As I mentioned, quitting smoking is not something I want to do.  I’ve never wanted to be a quitter, but with prices as they are, I’m left with little choice.

Safer smoking

People all over Great Britain have been, and are, quitting smoking or reducing their smoking via electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and vapes.  [The only difference is the e-cigs look like cigarettes].  They use batteries to charge a coil.  The coil heats up the liquid, turning it to vapour which is then inhaled.

Vapes can contain different levels of nicotine, from 24mg down to none at all.  [I know people who use nicotine free liquid as they want to quit the habit but not the experience.]  It’s also better for everyone else as the second-hand smoke issue no longer exists.

The trouble is, as the Guardian highlights, USB chargers (for anything) aren’t always safe.  Aside from the batteries heating as they charge, there’s the risk of malware.  This can turn your nice new PC in to anything from a host for annoying adverts (are they any other kind?) to a means of giving unknown levels of control of your data to someone half way around the world.  However, the solution is simple.

Any USB hub can remedy this for you.  Grab yourself a cheap USB hub, take it apart and cut the middle two cables.  Leave only the red and black cables intact (1 and 4).  Put it back together again and your USB hub can charge your devices without any data being transferred.  If any adware/malware/Trojan horses or viruses are hard-coded into the charger, they can’t go anywhere.

Of course, the alternative is to never charge anything from your PC, but we don’t always have that option.

Weaker passwords

So many web sites, so many passwords.  Unless you’re willing to risk using fewer than ten (or possibly only one) password for every site you use, you probably have the browser save the passwords and use a random password generator.

There are a number of apps which will generate passwords for you.  You can set the password strength and it will give you a unique password each time you ask for one.  If you’re hoping to get the same one twice, you’re probably going to die before it happens.  The apps give you nice, strong passwords.  Other apps will save the details for you, password keepers.

It’s not often, but from time to time I’ll come across a site which doesn’t allow the 40-50 digit passwords I tend to use.  Sometimes I’ll add a more, sometimes take a few off.  When I exit the app, the contents of the phone’s clipboard are sent to the PC.  From there I’ll often drop the password in to a .txt file and save it in Spideroak.  For those who don’t know, Spideroak is much like Dropbox but is fully secure, only decrypting the contents at the user’s device.

For the first time I’ve come across a web site which not only limits the length of the password, but doesn’t allow most of the special characters (for example !£$%^&*{[]}@’#~<>?/`¬\|etc.).  Eon Energy only allow the basic 0-9, A-Z, – and _.  For the first time since using password generators I’ve been effectively told my password is too strong, please use a weaker password, twice!

We’re living in a world where everyone is using stronger and stronger passwords.  Those with Microsoft qualifications need at least two special characters in their lengthy passwords.  Google, Twitter and Dropbox are amongst many sites using 2-step security, requiring a password and a code either generated by / sent to your phone.  These sites don’t require payments or personal information to use them, but they still offer 2-step security.

I didn’t sign up with Eon.  I was tempted to type in ‘password’, but in the end I was afraid it would be accepted.
Eon - too longEon - invalid format

In App Purchases

In app purchases

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of in app purchases (IAPs).  People have had issues with them not transferring to new phones, upgrades, replacements, and secondary (usually work) phones.  I much prefer to buy a separate unlock key/app.  This way you know it’s tied in to your Google account and not something like your IMEI (the handsets serial number) which will almost certainly change over time.

I saw something last night which both shocked and appalled me.  A game by Disney with a medium rating showed IAPs ranging from £3.08 to £61.63!  That’s around US$98!  This is something that my seven year old son would positively love to play but if I told him it would cost him over £60 to buy part of the game, and unless he paid it he wouldn’t be able to play that part or buy something he’d need, even he would say it didn’t matter.

Only recently, Amazon was sued by the USA’s regulators over child IAPs.  The European Commission and the EU regulatory body asked Google to stop calling apps containing IAPs free by the end of September.  Apple say they promise to tackle it, but offered no date by which they must do this.

After looking at Google Play and Apple itunes it’s interesting that while the Play store charges £61, Apple’s iTunes charges nearly £70! (US$111.10)

We all know that Disney has faced hard times.  Their reputation diminished hugely, which possibly influenced them to buy Pixar.  They simply haven’t kept up with modern times.  Their merchandising may have no shame, but this is disgraceful.  It’s disgusting and looks thoroughly extortionate.

At £60 to £70 this is the most expensive IAP I’ve ever seen.  Considering Disney is associated with young children I can’t see how they could possibly think their demographic could afford to pay it.