In recent days a family in the Dutch town of Dronten became news as they shared how they have been the target of harrassment and threats for years, because the geo coordinates of their house happen to be near to the geographic midpoint of the country. People trying to trace the location of an IP address often get referred to that midpoint when there is no actual location known. This likely happens because services that provide location services for IP addresses use software that can’t handle unknown locations, so the midpoint of a country is entered as default. With detrimental consequences for whoever happens to live at that midpoint.
Years ago the Washington Post had a story of a house in Kansas that in a similar way was provided as the location for some 600 million IP addresses. The probability of someone being pissed of enough at someone running one of those IP addresses to send them a piece of their mind in the mail is 100%.
It also reminds me of an anecdotal story (I can’t find an online reference) I heard when shopping for a CRM system for my then employer some 20 years ago. CRM systems were gaining in uptake, and they of course have fields for zip codes. Many systems made adding zip codes to addresses mandatory, because of course if you want to send someone mail, you need the zip code. At the same time many contact records that get entered into these systems are incomplete, just a name with a phone number and company name etc. So what happens if the zip code is mandatory? Most people it turned out would type 9999 ZZ. That is a postcode allocated to Stitswerd, population 45, in the very north of the Netherlands where the nearest post office started receiving suspicious mountains of mail. The postcode 9999 ZZ isn’t actually used with an address (this Dutch article describes how the author went to have a look, with photos), it’s allocated to a road through the fields that has no houses. So in the end the Dutch mail sorting centers started sorting 9999 ZZ out, to prevent Sitswerd becoming the dumping ground of every unsollicited piece of direct mail in the country.
Lazy coding and design choices can wreak havoc.
Two bookmarks, concerning GDPR enforcement. The GDPR is an EU law with global reach and as such ‘exports’ the current European approach to data protection as a key citizen right. National Data Protection Agencies (DPAs) are tasked with enforcing the GDPR against companies not complying with its rules. The potential fines for non-compliance are very steep, but much depends on DPAs being active. Various DPAs at this point, 2 years after GDPR enforcement commencing, seem understaffed, indecisive, or dragging their feet.
Now the DPAs are being sued by citizens to force them to do their job properly. The Luxembourg DPA is sued for the surprising ruling that the GDPR is basically unenforcable outside the EU (which isn’t true, as it could block services into the EU, seize assets etc.) And there’s a case before the EUCJ, based on the Irish DPA being extremely slow in starting investigations of the Big Tech companies registered within its jurisdiction, that would allow other national DPAs to start their own cases against these companies. (Normally the DPA of the country where a company is registered is responsible, but in certain cases DPA’s of the countries of residence of the complaining citizen can get involved too.)
The DPAs are the main factor in whether the GDPR is an actual force for data protection or an empty gesture. And it seems patience with DPAs to take up their defined role is running out with various EU citizens. Rightly so.
For a little over a year I’ve been a monthly supporter of the Internet Archive. I’m doing this because the Internet Archive is a very useful resource to me. Both to find back things I’ve linked to in the past, since taken offline but preserved in the Archive, and as a neutral way of providing proof something was said somewhere online at some point. You may have noticed that Wikipedia increasingly routes all their internal links through the Archive, because it preserves the linked site as it was referenced, thus maintaining the integrity and the verifiability of that reference.
This month I received a thank you mail from the Internet Archive, and in part it said….
Wait, what? They have only 4000 monthly contributors? For a global service like that? There must be more people out there able to make a monthly donation, that can help build a solid fundament underneath the Internet Archive. Especially if you use the Archive regularly as a tool, it is worth considering if you would like to make a recurring donation.
I see my own donation as a subscription rather, part of rearranging where I spent my money and changing some spending habits. In the past months I stopped spending money with Amazon if I can help it. Part of that flows to independent book sellers, part of it flows to independent online services I use, such as the Internet Archive. More deliberately ‘voting with my spending’ of sorts.
A few months ago I posted about being aware of what of your surroundings you could reach within 60 or 90 minutes by car or public transport. Towards the end of that posting I posted a map of my reach from home for 60 and 90 minutes. It was a bit of work to find a service that could make such isochrone maps for me.
Today Open Street Map volunteer Rory pointed to CommuteTimeMap which provides isochrone maps for any location in the world, based on Open Street Map. That’s very cool.
Of course I immediately compared CommuteTimeMap with the maps I had made before. What I used before didn’t allow for doing this for public transport (just walking and cars iirc), and CommuteTimeMap does. However the underlying data about public transport may be incomplete (just buses perhaps), as the map for 60 mins of public transport shows a very limited range, where the actual range is more or less the full size of the image (Zwolle, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Apeldoorn, Ede all within range). Or it simply isn’t set up for multimodal transport, and it assumes I’d take public transport from the bus stop nearest to me, where in reality I would cycle the 7 minutes it takes to the nearest railway station. Taking the bus to the railway station would cost significantly more time.
my 60 min public transport range, according to OSM, more pessimistic than in reality
On the other hand, the map for my reach by car in 60 minutes seems a little bit optimistic, covering most of what on my previously made map is shown for 90 minutes of driving. In general it provides a similar contour though, and a lot more detail (such as excluding car free national parks).
my 60 min driving range, according to OSM
my 60 and 90 min driving range, according to what I previously used
I’m definitely using this from now on.
I’m in the process of migrating to a new Mac. It is proving surprisingly cumbersome to do so. The Migration Assistant I tried in peer to peer mode stalls as soon as one of the laptops (and then both) falls asleep, and does not resume when woken up. Giving it expects to take several hours to copy everything it isn’t viable to stay next to it just to keep both machines awake. I set both up to not fall asleep, but those are system settings within a user account it appears, and it logs out of those when doing the migration. I could migrate from my Time Machine to the new laptop, which also needs the Migration Assitant however, which loops me back to the falling asleep bit.
So I’ve decided to do the migration by hand. That’s actuallly not entirely unwelcome as it allows me to ignore the accumulated detritus of working on the old laptop for 7 years. It’s just a lot of work to think of how to copy over certain databases, licenses, settings of specific tools etc. It will have to happen in stages, and partly as needs arise.
All the software I intend to keep using is installed (Evernote nor Things are making the move with me). I’ve copied over my documents archive, and connected the new laptop to my Nextcloud cloud. Next steps are setting up my e-mail and calendar accounts in Thunderbird, and migrating my Alfred snippets. After those I’m good to go for working on the new laptop. Anything else is non-essential, and can be dealt with in stages. This includes image and music libraries, book collections, etc. It likely will be a good while until I’ve added the various tweaks and twiddles to reduce friction in my workflows, to mirror 7 years worth of tweaks on the old system.
From copyright infringement…
Last week I received a copyright infringement notice, which I didn’t see until today as it arrived in a mailbox I didn’t check while my laptop was away for repairs. Back in January last year I posted about a new word ‘Citrix traffic jams’ (traffic james caused by Citrix security issues, meaning usual home workers went to their organisations offices en masse causing a much bigger morning rush hour). I added a screenshot of the news article to my blogpost, showing the title with that novel term ‘Citrix traffic jam’.
What I didn’t pay attention to was the image on which that headline was superimposed. That image of course was made by someone, in this case the Dutch Pro Shots news photo collective. My screenshot was intended as a quote of that headline, but contained the full news image. For that I received an invoice last week. At 120,- Euros it wasn’t cheap, certainly not relative to this being a personal blog with very limited readership, but they are of course within their rights. After checking out the company functioning as an intermediary for the photographer to see whether it looked legit (the mail they sent was somewhat spammy, equating copyright infringement with theft which is total BS), I paid. Mea culpa. I paid only for the past use of the image, and not for further use, so I deleted the screenshot from my blogpost.
…to copyright claimant
Then I remembered that in the summer of 2019 I had come across the unlicensed use by a commercial news site of one of my images, an image of my late mother. My images are generally available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use that requires attribution and sharing under the same conditions. That wasn’t the case here (though they did attribute the image to me). So I sent them an invoice, which was never paid. A few days later, using TinEye.com I found several other news sites that had the same content, although they belonged to different commercial entities.
So, after paying my invoice for infringement, I have now created an account with Copytrack and submitted claims to three commercial sites for using my image in 4 different publications (there is another I remember, but I can’t find it back yet).
With a bit of luck, those commercial users of my image cough up enough to financially compensate for my mistake from a year ago.