Ben Tasker's Blog

Removing Ads from my Sites

(It occurs to me that publishing this on 1 Apr isn't the best move - rest assured this is genuine)

I've long felt uncomfortable with the privacy trade-offs of having advertising on my sites.

Shortly before GDPR came into effect, I wrote a post detailing how I was, once again, revisiting the decision of having ads on my site.

The decision then, as before, was that the ads were a necessary evil as the revenue they generate contributes something to the running costs of this site, helping keep over a decade's worth of work online.

Today, however, I'm changing that decision and removing Google's Adsense from all of my sites

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Automating Our Heating

A little while ago, I wrote some musings on Home Automation and made reference to our heating setup.

As it's had a bit of time (and some poor weather) to run and be improved upon, I thought it might be helpful/interesting to lay out a bit more detail on the setup I'm now using.

We got a NEST thermostat during an unexpected boiler replacement, unfortunately it's smart features didn't live up to expectations, trying to overcome that led me down the path that I'll describe in this post.

Requirements

My intention was that the eventual system should meet a few basic requirements

  • Certain rooms should be able to call for heat when needed (not supported by the NEST product line as they don't currently have radiator heads)
  • Boiler/Heating usage should be minimised where comfortably possible
  • Decisions should be auditable - ok, the heating came on, but why?

 

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So Long WhatsApp

For years, I refused to install WhatsApp messenger because I had customer contact details and other information on my phone.

Eventually, I made a concerted effort to clear all that out, with the side effect that I could then install WhatsApp, based in part on their promise that personal data - names, addresses, internet searches or location data - would not be collected, much less used.

When WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook, it was inevitable that that promise was going to get broken. Something all the more apparent when one of the WA founders left Facebook as a result of a disagreement about privacy.

So disappointing as it is, the recent news really was quite inevitable.

WhatsApp have pushed a notification of a change in their terms and conditions - the new changes allow them to share data with Facebook, including (but not limited to)

  • User's phone numbers
  • User's contact lists (see below)
  • Profile information
  • Status information
  • "Diagnostic data"  - what phone model you're using, what networks you're on etc
  • Location data
  • "User content"
  • Details of purchases made with businesses using WhatsApp, including Financial Information
  • "Usage data"

These changes will come into effect from 8 Feb 2021 - if you disagree with the changes, then the only recourse is to delete your account before then (which probably isn't GDPR compliant, but Facebook tend not to worry about that).

 

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Launching the "House Stuff" blog category

Not the most exciting news I'm sure, but I'm adding a "House stuff" blog category to my site.

I've been feeling a bit... meh... of late, partly because I've not had opportunity to write anything here in a while. Part of the reason for that is that I've been focused on various home improvements/tweaks, not all of which fit well into more tech related sections (though there is some overlap).

The aim of this category is to give me a cathartic outlet, even if I'm just reinsulating or building a door.

 

Musings on Home Automation

I've dabbled with elements of Home Automation in the past.

In a previous rental, we only had storage heaters, so I equipped each room with an Oil Radiator and an energenie RF plug socket (like these https://www.amazon.co.uk/Energenie-Remote-Control-Sockets-Pack/dp/B004A7XGH8) using a Raspberry Pi and the Energenie remote control header board to set up an effective heating schedule.

However, aside from that, and mild "wouldn't it be nice too..." ideas, I've not really been overly interested into it until relatively recently.

Having spent a bit of time dabbling, I thought I'd write a post on my experience - not least in case it helps people with some of the things I struggled with.

 

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