CloudFlare launches 1.1.1.1, Their Answer to Private and Secure Consumer DNS

CloudFlare has unleashed their new DNS service that's faster and more secure for the user than those currently on the market. Switching was a fast and easy decision.

From their post on the release:

We began talking with browser manufacturers about what they would want from a DNS resolver. One word kept coming up: privacy. Beyond just a commitment not to use browsing data to help target ads, they wanted to make sure we would wipe all transaction logs within a week. That was an easy request. In fact, we knew we could go much further. We committed to never writing the querying IP addresses to disk and wiping all logs within 24 hours.

Switch over now using the easy-to-use instructions on the 1.1.1.1 website.

What Would Happen if a Nuclear Bomb Went Off in Your Town?

This simulator from Outrider shows you just how far the disasterous effects of a nuclear explosion would reach if such a bomb was dropped in your zip code.

Earlier this month, Vladmir Putin boasted about a new arsenal of transcontinental warheads that may or may not exist. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the Russian Federation possesses 7,300 nuclear weapons, 4,500 of which are essentially on stand-by. The United States is continuing to build up their own stock in response. We're looking at a new Cold War here.

The simulation gives you a select few bombs to test out on yourself and your neighbors within the blast zone. The largest is the Tsar Bomba (USSR) which had a 50,000 KT yield at only half its potential power. 65,777 would die if that landed in my backyard. 1,854,811 in Washington DC. This was the largest nuclear test ever detonated, but the B83 has a 1.2MT yield (1200KT) and is sitting in the US stockpile today.

Hug your dog today.

It's Time for an RSS Revival

Brian Barrett for Wired:

The modern web contains no shortage of horrors, from ubiquitous ad trackers to all-consuming platforms to YouTube comments, generally. Unfortunately, there's no panacea for what ails this internet we've built. But anyone weary of black-box algorithms controlling what you see online at least has a respite, one that's been there all along but has often gone ignored. Tired of Twitter? Facebook fatigued? It's time to head back to RSS.

I've been an RSS user for many years now and as my interest in reading and writing waxes and wanes, my reliance on it does also. RSS is a great way to get information directly from lots of places in one centralized location. It saves time. RSS has been like this from the start and has changed very little. Still, the readers and feed management solutions on the market today lack modern nescessities that weren't even considered at the height of Google Reader's reign. For instance, feed filtering.

Here's Brian's rundown on the most popular services on the market today:

Still, Feedly has plenty to offer casual users. It has a clean user interface, and the free version of its service lets you follow 100 sources, categorized into up to three feeds—think News, Sports, Humor, or wherever your interests lie. It also shows how popular each story is, both on Feedly and across various social networks, to give you a sense of what people are reading without letting that information dictate what you see.

For more of a throwback feel, you might try The Old Reader, which strips down the RSS reader experience while still emphasizing a social component.

Power users, meanwhile, might try Inoreader, which offers for free many of the features—unlimited feeds and tags, and some key integrations—Feedly reserves for paid accounts. "I would say that at the moment Feedly is ahead of us in terms of mass appeal design look and UX, which is something we will try to tackle with our upcoming redesign," says Victor Stankov, Inoreader's business development manager. "Hardcore nerds love us way more than Feedly."

And those are just three options of many. The point being: In 2018, it's easy to find an RSS reader out there that suits your needs. Which, in hindsight, is no small miracle.

I've used all of these services and many more over the years trying to find one that suits my needs.

As the editor of a blog dedicated to logging the history of one musician's career, I subscribe to dozens of feeds that focus on hip-hop, pop, and industry news. Naturally each of these outlets churn out five to fifteen news stories a day. Factored out, that's a lot of headlines to surf. It's impossible to catch every passing reference to a singular topic in that much text. That's where filtering comes in.

There is FeedRinse, who has been promising a 2.0 launch for a few years now but still offers their old service in the meantime. There you can import your feeds and setup filters using keywords, author, tags as criteria and export them to a single new feed, but this isn't sustainable when you're consistently adding new sources. I've had issues with the exported feeds missing things as well. I'm looking forward to the relaunch, but meanwhile I've had to look elsewhere.

Beyond finnicky made-to-order python scripts that parse and filter feeds, I've found just two other pre-built options for cutting the fat from my feeds. Newsblur and Inoreader. Niether have beautiful interfaces, but do cater to an audience more savvy and reliant on RSS than your typical reader.

Newsblur boasts about six thousand premium users and an equal number of free users. They offer unique training features that highlight topics you are more likely to be interested in, but the keyword filtering isn't quite as robust as I'm looking for. Inoreader has the capability but an even worse interface, as Stankov alluded to above. I've tried their premium service a few times and I'm pretty happy with what comes through my filters, but exporting my cleaned feeds to my day-to-day RSS client Reeder 3 makes for messy metadata.

In the end, my setup for specialized topics generally consists of numerous services chained together, removing and adding metadata as it passes through filters and aggregators until it reaches my device. This isn't ideal and it only mostly works.

I don't think that RSS has necessarily died off as a result of Google Reader, but become more fragmented. There are few realms of this sort of technology that remain unstandardized in how it is consumed, something podcasters wish to maintain. In podcasting, which piggybacks on RSS, this has lead to a number of highly-featured clients. What exists in RSS readers is lacking in comparison.

I think there is major room for growth in this area and as more people spend less time on social networks, they'll likely revisit more analog options for news gathering. As the number of outlets increases, I hope that the major players in the RSS market will address my needs for topic-based filtering as well.

I'm open to any solutions worth testing.

Amazon Smile Redirect Extensions

Surely, if you’re a dedicated Amazon user, you’ve seen advertised or used Amazon Smile, the Foundation that donates 0.5% of the purchase price to a charity of your choice with every transaction. I’ve been a Amazon Prime member for almost 5 years and an Amazon Smile user for 3. In those years only 8 of what is probably hundreds of transactions have counted towards Amazon Smile. Why? My blasted memory.

The catch to this wonderful Amazon service is that your browser must be directed to smile.amazon.com for the purchase to count. When you click a link from a Google search or shop from the app, amazon.com is the default, making it difficult to really make use of what the foundation is offering. There are solutions for absent-minded yet conscientious people like me though. To start, there is a bookmarklet that you can add, but you still have to remember to click it and then search for what you wanted. Amazon offers a more advanced assistant that will redirect you to Amazon Smile but this won’t help with links or Google searches. It’s not a bad tool for the frequent Amazon shopper, but you still have to remember it's there.

After a bit of searching, I’ve found browser extensions for each of the three primary browsers that simply redirect any link heading to amazon.com to smile.amazon.com without any further input nescessary. To start, I recommend making sure you’re logged in to Amazon Smile, then follow the directions for each extension below.


Smile Always for Google Chrome

After waffling between Safari and Chrome again last year, I ended up in Google’s playpen once more. The best option for Amazon Smile redirects here is Smile Always by Josh Haimson and Dan Elitzer. Simply install the extension from the Chrome Web Store and you’re good to go.

KeepOnSmiling for Safari

Inspired by Smile Always, Craig S. Bosma created a similar plugin for Safari users with the same goal in mind. KeepOnSmiling is a small plugin that avoids the annoying page reloads of similar Safari extensions in just three lines of Javascript.

To install, visit Craig’s github and download the folder and proceed with the following directions.

  1. Go to Safari->Preferences->Advanced
  2. Check “Show Develop menu in menu bar”
  3. Go to Safari->Show Extension Builder
  4. Click on the “+” on bottom left and choose “Add Extension…”
  5. Choose the KeepOnSmiling.safariextension folder which you download from GitHub.
  6. Choose “Install”

Smile Redirect for Firefox

This add-on for Mozilla’s browser is as simple and direct as the name. Download T. Scott Barnes’ extension from Mozilla’s add-on directory and you’re ready to go.


If you don’t have a charity in mind, but like the idea of donating through your purchases at Amazon, consider donating to HHT Foundation International Inc. as I do. This mission of this foundation is to find a cure for Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia while saving the lives and improving the well-being of individuals and families affected by HHT. I chose this foundation before losing a friend to HHT a few years ago. More information about the disease and the foundation can be found here.