Back To Firefox From Chrome

After my daughter’s school started using Chrome, it seemed that the browser wasn’t big enough for the both of us. So I switched back to Firefox.

In a way, my switch away from Chrome was prompted by the success of Google for Education, and of Chromebooks. At school, my daughter Maddie uses one of the over 50,000 Chromebooks purchased by Montgomery County, Maryland, for use in K-12 schools.

Maddie has to sign in to her school Chrome account to do some of her homework. She does so on the office computer, otherwise known as dad’s laptop. When she started doing this, strange things happened to my browser, to the extent that Chrome no longer seemed like home to me. At first I thought about coexisting in Chrome, and set up a Chrome account for myself.

Then I considered switching to a different browser, and came up with multiple reasons for switching back to Firefox. It would be simpler to use a different browser from the one Maddie uses. I’m still a little annoyed at Google for discontinuing Google Reader. I was curious about what had happened in Firefox while I was away. Some recent browser comparisons favor Firefox over Chrome and other browsers.

Firefox this time round? So far, not bad.

Lightning Strikes Internet Twice

Last Wednesday evening, a big thunderstorm passed over Bethesda. I mean very big, and I mean right over. I mean that a deafening crash of thunder was accompanied by power going off for a second or so.

Then most electrical stuff came back to life. But internet service was conspicuous by its absence. The kids were horrified to be deprived of streaming TV shows. We don’t have TV as such, but with internet and wireless, the amount of TV content available is staggering.

6084075796_b8a072cabd_bIt turned out that our fioS box was fried. So lightning can strike twice. Or rather, it can strike our internet service twice, without having to strike the same location. A storm knocked out our internet service at our previous house; the photo shows where the cable came into the house, and the lightning’s attempt to come in as well.

Verizon has now replaced the fried internet box, and the damaged wireless router. A few other things were also fried by last week’s storm: a desktop PC; a couple of LED lamps; a USB hub, attached to a laptop (but not the laptop itself); and either a printer or the cable connecting it to the laptop (haven’t had time to check it yet).

But we can relax now, since a third internet-destroying storm cannot possibly strike us…


KSlogoOne of the problems with restarting posting is that there are so many things I intend to post about. Kickstarter is more appropriate than most for the restarting phase. KS is “a funding platform for creative projects.”

I have backed a few projects on KS, most of them in the Tabletop Gaming category (i.e. boardgames or cardgames, videogames go in the category next door). One of my first was Eight-Minute Empire: Legends. As its KS project page shows, it met its funding goal of $10,000, and so was produced. It also met several stretch goals, attracting over $40,000 in funding. So I feel a little foolish that one of my reasons for funding was to make sure this worthy project got produced. Another reason was to get an early copy. Yet another was to get extra boards, and so I went up to the funding level at which they were included.

TanStatesMore recently, I backed Tangram States, in the Illustration category. I’ve always been fascinated by maps, and this one seems particularly cool.

Kickstarter is an example of crowdfunding (links to Wikipedia and to Forbes). Comments on KS, or on crowdfunding in general, are welcome…

Aaron Swartz and Carmen Ortiz

Aaron Swartz is dead. It appears that he took his own life. He was facing prosecution, and the possibility of jail time. I didn’t know him personally, but I am grateful for much of what he accomplished in his too-short life. I knew of him best for his co-founding of Reddit, but obituaries and other accounts of his life show that his energy and achievements went far beyond software development and entrepreneurship.

One of the outcomes of Aaron’s death has been a petition to remove from office Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, “for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz.” The petition is directed to the Obama administration, which appointed Ortiz.

I have signed the petition. I did not do so lightly. It first occurred to me to sign when I read the following quote from Ortiz in a recent Guardian article.

Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away.

My reaction was (and is) that if Ortiz said this in the context of the Aaron Swartz case, I don’t want her anywhere near such a case. It is alleged that he copied documents. Copying documents, leaving the originals intact, is not the same sort of taking as stealing money, leaving the victim poorer. To introduce a economic term, copies of documents are not rivalrous goods.

Notice the if in the previous paragraph. It occurred to me that Ortiz may have been misquoted. I didn’t want to jump to the conclusion that she had said something so ridiculous. So I Googled the above quote. One of the many sources I found for it was a web page with the title “USDOJ: US Attorney’s Office – District of Massachusetts”. So the web site of Ortiz’s own organization “credits” her with that exact quote.

My objection to Ortiz as US Attorney is manyfold. First, she is actually responsible for the ridiculous statement quoted above. Second, she sought to have someone convicted of a felony and imprisoned on that ridiculous basis. I’ll stop here, partly because I am in no position to measure Ortiz’s share of the blame for Aaron’s death.

Contacts, and the Management Thereof

If only there was a good way to keep track of people and organizations. The good news is that there is. The bad news it that there are many such ways.

This post focuses on three web-based services for managing contacts: Highrise, Nimble, and Contactually. To be more specific, the focus is on free web-based services for managing contacts. You may not need such a service to be web-based: indeed, you may find an address book, made from dead trees, to be more than adequate. You may have decided that your email service gives you all the online contact management you need. But the premise of this post is that you want a contact management service other than the service provided by your email.

Each of the three services (again, that’s Highrise, Nimble, and Contactually) is freemium: there’s a free version, and one or more versions for which you pay, and which give you more than the free versions gives you. I focus here on the contrast between the free versions. I’m trying them out for contact management. So I provide here a view from the low end of the target spectrum, since they are mainly services for Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which the respective vendors are selling into businesses.

Highrise is Simple CRM by 37signals: that’s how 37s describes it. I’ve been using the free version for contact management for a while. I haven’t had problems, but will bump against the 250 contact limit for the free version if I use it in earnest. 37signals is keen to upgrade me to a paid option such as Plus (20,000 contacts, $49/month) or its suite, in which Highrise is one of four services.

Nimble proposes that you “Turn Your Social Communities into Customers”. It brings together contacts, calendars, and conversations from services including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The free version allows up to 3,000 contacts, which will be more than enough for me to be going on with; the paid version is $15 per user per month. Nimble was recently written up at TechCrunch and elsewhere, since it raised $1m in funding from notables including my former colleague Don Dodge.

Contactually (also recently at TechCrunch) is the newest of the three CRM/contact management services. It proposes that you manage relationships “right in your [email] inbox”. I haven’t had time to use it much yet. I should note that I emailed support soon after singing up, and receiving a helpful and friendly reply a few hours later, in the early hours of the morning. That’s not due to a different timezone: Contactually is a local (to me) business, being DC-based.

Now, I should stop writing this, contact some contacts, and look out for any comment you might wish to post here…

Andrew Examines Identity Online, Unceasingly

So, you’re on the web (or you wouldn’t be reading this) and you need to identify yourself to various web services and to various web readers, many of whom are real human beings. I was enthusiastic about OpenID a few years ago. But OpenID resonated with only a small and rather specialized subset of people.

Most people want to use an online identity they already have, or are already considering having, rather than forging a new “one identify to rule them all”. That cuts the field down rather drastically.

Maybe you want an identity that is lightweight, in the sense that it doesn’t carry the burden of private information. That’s an argument against Facebook, which seems to want to be your identity and to gather somewhat private stuff about you.

Fred Wilson argues that the lightweight criterion suggest Twitter as identity provider.

Twitter is default public and everyone knows that’s what it is. Your Twitter identity is the lightest weight, most public, and therefore the best identity on the web.

I’m inclined to agree with Fred. How about you?

ReadWriteWeb Acquired By SAY Media

In the years I’ve been blogging about social media, even before we thought that Web 2.0 was a cool and cutting-edge term, ReadWriteWeb has been among the feeds I follow. So I knew (or at least emailed and otherwise interacted with) Richard MacManus when he was an ambitious and hardworking blogger. I continued to follow RWW as it became a new media property (whatever that means) and added staff, such as Marshall Kirkpatrick.

I’ll continue to follow RWW as it moves into the third stage. Having been a blog and a media property, it’s now part of a media empire. RWW has been acquired by SAY Media.

Richard, sincere congratulations. I hope that this is a very profitable event financially. I also hope that it is not an exit from RWW for you as a blogger.

Threadless, Reddit, and Other Social Veterans

It’s time to stock up on t-shirts, and also time for a sale at Threadless. The sale end is due to end at the end of tomorrow (Monday), and the design is “Larry the Fox Doesn’t Feel So Clever Anymore.”

I see that today is the 6th anniversary of my very first Threadless order. Back in 2005 I lived in Boston and had only one kid; now I’m in Bethesda, Maryland, have two kids, and have seen a lot of other changes in those years. So has Threadless, although still has its community rate the submitted shirt designs.

Another social media site so old it can remember when Web 2.0 was a trendy term is Reddit. I see that I’ve been a redditor for 6 years. Mu current favorite subreddit is Breaking Bad, to which members submit links relevant to the excellent TV show of the same name.

The image shows one of my favorite recent submissions. It turns out that the original was sold on Etsy, “the world’s homemade marketplace”, and another older-than-6 social site. By the way, I did search for Breaking Bad t-shirts, and there are some out there, but none of them edged out the shirts I liked at Threadless.

This very blog is currently hosted at, which is run by Automattic, another social web company that passes the rather arbitrary 6-year test. Congratulations to the four above-mentioned veteran firms, and to other who have been around that long: it’s been a long and interesting passage of time.