How to increase your AdSense CPC

The unfortunate truth about running a website is that web hosting costs money. The ugly, behind the unfortunate truth is that we are pretty much stuck with advertisement to recover the cost. So you set up AdSense and after a while start seeing an ever increasing number of clicks paying in the single digits. Obviously you got some cheapskates hogging your website and no way of figuring out who they are. You do the obvious thing: blocking categories that sound “cheap”, only to make matters worse! Read more ›

Posted in Tips and Tricks

No, sending a confirmation email is not proper validation!

After hitting “publish” on my previous blog post, I had kinda hoped, not having to explain why the lazy-ass “just sent a confirmation mail” option is not a proper method for validating an email address, but apparently, a lot of people seem to hold a different opinion there. So here are my counter arguments: Read more ›

Posted in Rants

Validating Email Addresses with a Regex? Do yourself a favor and don’t

Let’s say you got a simple problem: build a form that allows a user to sign up for a newsletter. Obviously, you need to prevent users from entering junk while still allowing “exotic” addresses.

What does a valid address look like? Intuitively one would say:

Read more ›

Posted in Coding

Does your phone have a lockscreen? If so, why?

Stupid question, right? Your phone has a lockscreen to protect your data, of course! Well, “protecting your data” is an idiot phrase. Catchy, easy to repeat and so abstract that it can mean everything, which in the end means nothing. Lockscreens don’t “protect your data”. That is not what they were invented for and certainly not what they have evolved into since.

When the GSM standard for mobile communication came into existence, it introduced the SIM card as a means to get access to the carrier’s network and to store your address book. The idea was simple: the handset was just dumb periphery. If it broke, you’d simply slot your SIM card into a replacement unit. In fact, the engineers, behind this approach probably still had the 1G phones in mind (bulky things with terrible battery life) which were only mobile in the sense that you could easily transport them in your car. The ability to carry “your phone” around in your wallet was a matter of convenience. If you needed to make a call, you could simply insert your SIM card into anyones handset.  This gave you access to your address book and, most importantly, you’d be charged to yourself. Why was that important? Well, back in the day you could have dinner for the cost of a single call. Your chances of someone else letting you use their phone were practically zero.

The SIM naturally made protection necessary. You neither wanted someone else to gain access to your address book (yes, privacy once mattered) and you certainly didn’t want anyone to make calls in your name. For that reason, you had to enter a PIN code whenever you wanted service from your SIM card. Without it, the SIM’s own processor stayed dead.

Back in the days, this was adequate protection. The average pickpocket did not have the equipment/skills to break into SIM and you wouldn’t continuously check your phone every 5 minutes for new messages. Entering 4 extra digits whenever you wanted to make a call was not very inconveniencing.

Today, the game has changed! Lockscreens are, for most people, little more than a ritual. A mindless task they perform in order to accomplish an abstract goal (“staying safe”) without understanding what they do or why it is pointless the way they are doing it. They simply “know” it has to be done, simply because it has always been this way. Of course, you can quest for a less bothersome method of gaining access, but even suggesting to do away with it entirely is utter heresy.

Now stop, think and wonder. If you are a typical smartphone user, then …

  • you upload your address book to your favorite social network
  • you sync your bookmarks, emails,… across devices (through 3rd party services)
  • you backup your device to the cloud
  • you store your photos on your (removable) SD card
  • you keep credentials for a multitude of internet services (including online banking) on your phone.
  • you have a flatrate for calls.

What the hell do you need a lockscreen for? The traditional reasons no longer apply. Phone bills no longer ruin you financially. Your address book is as unsafe as it can be.  Your “private data” can easily accessed by popping out the SD card and the treasure trove of other things you keep on your device even makes it worthwhile to actually make an effort to try to break into it. Face it: using a lockscreen with a modern day smartphone is akin to putting a $5 padlock on your steel reinforced front door while leaving the back entry wide open with a neon “welcome” sign above it.

If you want security and think that a lockscreen will provide, then you are doing it wrong. Period.

Posted in Security

Explaining “privacy” to the layman (in easy terms)

Andrew has a dog named Chomper. Andrew isn’t as stupid as to use his dogs name anywhere as the answer to a password recovery question, but he doesn’t see why he should keep the name secret either. After all, he loudly calls his pet by name on the afternoon walks for everyone in the vicinity to hear. What harm could possibly come from posting a couple of selfies on the “proud dog owners” group on his preferred social network? Read more ›

Posted in Rants, Security

So, how Google dependent are you?

I just read this story here. In summary: a number of people buy the new Pixel smartphone directly from Google, then immediately resell the device. The TOS clearly forbids doing that (but apparently, nobody read them), so Google terminates the accounts of all offending parties and bans them from future service.

Read more ›

Posted in Rants

…Hey, want to sign up for a “free” account?

… We all have them, friends and relatives that jump for anything “free”. After all, if you don’t have to pay for, what’s the harm? Well, welcome to contract law. By definition, a contract is a formless, but legally binding agreement (between two or more parties). You can enter a contract in lot’s of ways, including (but not limited to: by signing a piece of paper, by handshake (though you better have witnesses for that) or by clicking an “I accept button”. See where this is going?

Here’s an exercise for each and everyone of us (put particularly for those who can’t resist “free” stuff): When being offered to sign up for a “free” account, locate the “terms of service” and the “privacy statement” page. Print both documents, read them. Use a textmarker to highlight all the passages you have trouble with understanding, then sign at the bottom as a reminder that you are agreeing with all of what you just read (including the highlighted passages). Afterwards file the sheets in a ledger. How do you feel now? Still want the “free” account? Glad we talked.

Posted in Security

Do not use fingerprint sensors! Period!

I had this discussion with a friend the other day, who is now the proud owner of a fingerprint protected front door and smartphone, but since fingerprint scanners are creeping into more and more security appliances, it is worth repeating it here. Read more ›

Posted in Security

The pitfall of the digital assistant

Food for thoughts: digital assistants with voice recognition are suppose to save us time: we can simply speak our mind and they already know how to perform complex tasks, thus saving us the hassle of pushing buttons and carrying out multiple steps manually.

All digital assistants are made by companies that want us to buy more stuff. Advertising only works when we spend as much time as possible with the advertising agent.

Do digital assistants really save us time?

Posted in Persepective

Fingerprints are NOT passwords!

The three basic rules for password security are:

  1. Never write your password down. Someone might find your note.
  2. Never use the same password for different services. Otherwise you give the operators of one service access to the other.
  3. Change your password when it gets compromised.

Fingerprints violate all of these rules. You leave them (write them down) whenever and touch a smooth surface. You only have ten fingers, so you’ll end up reusing your credentials for different services. Got a front door with a fingerprint lock and a passport? Congratulations, you just handed the keys to your home to every country, including your own, you visit. Good luck, changing them!

Posted in Security