WT:Social – a realistic alternative to Facebook?

WT:Social – a realistic alternative to Facebook?

Logo for WT:social website

Is WT:Social better?

I’ve signed onto WT.Social  to see if it’s a viable alternative to Facebook. Like many, I’m experiencing a growing distaste for Facebook’s uninhibited support of hate groups and trolls. It’s not a matter of it being out of control – there doesn’t seem to be any attempts to stem the tide. Reports of blatant racist or violent rhetoric are often met with the standard Facebook response that the group/person didn’t violate community standards. Even calls to hang the Prime Minister of Canada are met with indifference from the powers at FB. They don’t see it as a violation of their own community rules that clearly state “Expression that threatens people has the potential to intimidate, exclude or silence others and isn’t allowed on Facebook.” The site is rife with examples.  Facebook is creaking under it’s own weight of inaction and implicit support for openly violent groups.

That has led to many to look around for alternatives. Jimmy Wales, of Wiki fame, has tapped into that need with a new initiative WT.Social. I signed up the other day to see what it’s all about. Although it’s a bit frustrating at times, I’m going to stick with it because I like their philosophy of going beyond click bait titles and encouraging people to look at the issues.

Let’s deep dive into the pros and cons of WT:Social

It’s growing quickly. I’m already seeing an increase in articles and quality content.
Many articles are lengthy pieces designed to encourage discussion rather than troll comments.
Lots of new groups to explore.
Easy to create a group.Easy to find groups to join.
Isn’t dependent on farming user data. 
Directly addresses the elephant in the room:

The social giants have a lot of problems we think a people-driven platform can solve. Fake news and clickbait are both endemic issues that can’t be fixed with a myopic focus on ‘algorithms’ and ‘engagement’.
But the issues go deeper than that. Nazis, bigots, harassers, trolls – no mechanism currently exists to effectively combat that. With how large an ecosystem internet is, no mechanism can perfectly combat it.

There is a learning curve. The site will evolve with time, and hopefully people will allow the changes to happen as they are needed. I often find people become wedded to a design or layout and get heated when changes happen. Change is part of the internet and will be important to WT:Social’s survival.
No mechanism to report trolls or fake news so far. I’m sure this will change, but I already came across a group promoting pedogate with the same tired pro Trump lies.
Friend requests don’t always work. I’ve had to accept the same person 4 times before it worked.
The site has grown so rapidly, it can slow down and stall out.

So what’s my take on WT:Social? Patience is needed because it’s a work in progress. What’s exciting is being on the ground floor of a new platform that invites us to help it evolve. Here’s hoping it succeeds beyond our wildest dreams.

Join me on WT:Social

If you’d like to join me over at WT.Social, head to Bitter Grounds or if you are interested in stamps Philately – looking at stamps from around the world. The first philately group on WT.Social!   I encourage you to participate in both groups 
You are welcome to leave comments or post an article you think might be of interest to myself and my readers.  Hope to see you there.

Tech Gifts for Women – not the usual pinkification

Tech Gifts for Women – not the usual pinkification

I’ve been looking over tech gifts for women lists and keep having the same visceral reaction to many of them. The pinkification is alive and well in the tech industry. Ideas  seem to end with “and cute” too often.  Many lists are simply insulting and out of touch. Women do not possess a hive mind and a shocking number of us loath pink & decorative tech. Here’s a list I culled from various sources this morning:

  • A piece of smart jewellery – “that looks cute’
  • A pair of wireless headphones that “look cute”
  • An instant camera – “even has a selfie mirror so your leading lady always looks her best”
  • Smart watch “If you know a girl who likes cutting-edge tech and sighs longingly while walking through the smartwatch section”
  • A “pretty charging cable”
  • A “beautiful” or “cute” or “pretty” iPhone case
  • Commute Laptop Sleeve can be “carried along with her cash, cards, lipstick, and other necessities in this convenient clutch”
  • Blinq Ring “in pink”
  • Carry on luggage “in pink”

So many lists seem to think women are only interested in tech if it’s made to “look cute” or has a function to help us “look our best”.  I’m not against people purchasing pink stuff or something that makes you feel pretty or cute. My objection is the forced diet of pinkified shit. It’s like a stroll down the toy section in any store. You have all the “boy toys” in neutral packaging and then the wall ‘o pink.  So, my response is to explore tech gift ideas for women that don’t pander to the notion we all want to look pretty and take selfies. It’s a list for everyone.

Tech gifts for women – and everyone else in your life.

Things are a better, in regards to tech for women, than it used to be. A growing number of gift ideas are eschewing the stereotypical “pink & pretty” for practical, fun and functional.  So I’m going to start my recommendations with one of my favourites – a knapsack I bought over a year ago.

Today’s gift is a great idea – a knapsack with slots and pockets.

Not strictly speaking a tech gift, but everyone could use help carting around tablets, cameras, rechargers etc without the hassle of digging through a mountain of stuff. The Tamrac Tradewind 18 camera bag is perfect. It has adjustable slots to keep everything organised, a separate slot for a notepad  and a tablet or 13” laptop and it’s water resistant.  This bag is lightweight and holds more than you think

Try the Tradewind Backpack 18

Tradewind Backpack 18 - tech gifts for women

An off the shelf Tradewind 18

Unzipped Tradewind Backpack 18 showing compartments - tech gifts for women

Lots of adjustable storage compartments

The main thing I looked for when I was searching for a replacement bag, was adjustable slots. Depending on what I’ll be doing, I can change them up to fit my camera, battery chargers, snacks, cables, computer components and everything else.  Supper handy.  The top compartment is big enough to hold a windbreaker and a bagged lunch.

The back of the knapsack serves as a zippered sleeve large enough to securely carry a note pad and 13″ laptop or pretty much any tablet. One thing I don’t worry about is slipping and falling in the winter, I know the tablet is well protected in the back.

Make it unique

The bag is in a neutral grey/black so it’s the perfect canvas to express your personality. Here’s mine, all kitted out to suit me. My favourite button and badge store was a victim of gentrification so now I’m a little short on fun buttons. I’m still in mourning. My bag has had some hard knocks over the last two years and still looks like new. It’s very hard wearing.

My Tradewind Backpack 18 complete with patches - tech gifts for women

Some buttons, a few patches and it’s personalized

Tradewind Backpack 18 showing filled compartments - tech gifts for women

Velcro compartments make it easy to adjust

The internal slots are fully adjustable. Strong Velcro keeps the slots in place so there are no worries about them slipping or detaching. After a lot of use, they are still a bugger to pull off and rearrange. The middle divider can be unzipped and all the slots removed if you need a full sized bag instead of compartmentalized one.

The mesh side pockets are handy, but they aren’t good for holding a large water thermos. If you lean over, it’ll come crashing to the ground. I solved the problem with a few cheap clips I picked up at the local Dollar Store. Staples carries them as well.  Look for carbiners.

A couple of dollar clips are great for securing water bottles

A couple of dollar clips are great for securing water bottles

Tradewind Backpack 18 showing mesh pockets holding water bottle

Two mesh pockets come in hand

The bag itself is lightweight and the padded straps make it comfortable to use for hours.

Tech gifts for women, don’t forget the extras

I’ve added  a few extras to my bag. The local Dollar Store carries bike lights that clip on to the loops and straps. At night light up like a Christmas tree.  I also grabbed a bunch of small string bags to keep items sorted.

Small cloth bags to keep items sorted

Dollar store cloth bags to stay organised

One bag carries phone re-charger, headphones and a spare USB cable. The second one carries loose change and a third one … okay .. it carries hot sauces because you never know when you’ll have a hot sauce emergency. If I’m off to a client’s place, I can grab a fourth bag that holds extra flash drives and batteries. Any small string bags help keep everything in place.

The bag retails for between $78 to $100. I bought mine on sale at a local camera store for around $60. Tamrac has a number of knapsacks and shoulder bags that might fill a need so wander yonder and check them out –  https://www.tamrac.com/ Don’t be put off by the notion they are camera bags.  Think of them as the ultimate organisational tools.

I’m going to be reviewing and writing about more tech gift ideas, some I’ve actually tested, many I have on my wish list so keep checking back for ideas.

Open letter to James the would be phishing scammer

Open letter to James the would be phishing scammer

A customer just sent me this email. I’ve blocked out what they wrote along with the 6 lines of cc: email addresses for obvious reasons:

Screen capture of a badly constructed phishing attempt by a spamer

Not sure if they should be arrested for phishing scams or the egregious use of upper case letters.

It is eye-wateringly bad.  Oh James, James, James! This is what happens when you don’t pay attention in class. You end up spending your life writing unreadable phishing scams and living in a cardboard box, wondering why no one is taking you seriously.  I don’t understand the wretched use of upper case letters. I mean, what did the alphabet do to deserve this level of abuse from you. And don’t get me started on the basic construction of the email.

Hi, This Is James Tyron,  From PC CARE  SOLUTION And The Reason You Are Receiving This Email Because We Will Like To Inform You That The Services Which You Have Signed Up With Us Has Been Expired. So, The Services Will Be Automatically Renewed In 2 Days And The Renewal Charges Will Bei599.00$(USD) For Lifetime Technical Support Contract And It Will Automatically Debited From Your Account Because You Have Signed A Contract With PC CARE  SOLUTION For The Auto Renewal Contract However,  If You Dont want To Continue With Our Services Then You Can Call On Our Customer Helpline Number:+1 (321) 351 6089  This Is Our Cancellation Department’s Number And Ask For (James Tyron) PC CARE SOLUTION  To Cancel The Services And after That You Need To Fill Up A Cancellation Form In Order For The Services To Get Cancelled and We Will Like To Inform You That The Services Which You Have Signed Up For The Computer Protection. I Hope You Remember That You Called Us when You Were Facing Problem And Errors in Your computer And Printer And Fixed That Problem And You Paid Us Certain Amount And The Invoice Of That Contract Was sent To Your Email.So Kindly Call Us On +! (321) 351 6089  If You Wish To Cancel The Contract Otherwise The Contract Will Be Renewed Automatically and The Money Will Be Debited From Your Account.




The only thing missing on this letter was a huge neon banner reading “THIS IS A SCAM”.

Look James, at least master the basics of BCC before diving into the criminal pool. Save yourself the embarrassment now. Or better yet, try a job at MacDonald’s. I’m sure the abuse piled on you there will be far less than than the ridicule you’re receiving for this laughably bad phishing attempt. Plus you will get a pay cheque in return.  Maybe cold cheese burgers at the end of your shift.  What I’m trying to tell you James is … well … you just don’t have what it takes to be a criminal. I’m not sure you have what it takes for MacDonald’s but give it a try.

“Dear CEO” scam is still hanging around

“Dear CEO” scam is still hanging around

If you own a website, chances are high you’ve received the Dear CEO scam email:

A scam letter trying to trick the user into replying

This scam has been hanging around for over years.

It reads:

Dear CEO,

(It’s very urgent, please transfer this email to your CEO. If this email affects you, we are very sorry, please ignore this email. Thanks)

We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in China.
We received an application from Hua Hai Ltd on May 14, 2019. They want to register ” _______________ ” as their Internet Keyword and ” _______________ .cn “” _______________.com.cn ” ” _______________ .net.cn “” _______________ .org.cn ” ” _______________ .asia “domain names, they are in China and Asia domain names. But after checking it, we find ” _______________ ” conflicts with your company. In order to deal with this matter better, so we send you email and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China or not?

Best Regards


Mike Zhang | Service Manager

Cn YG Domain (Head Office)

This one came via a customer last week. It’s a bog standard scam designed to trick the reader into responding out of fear.  The “Dear CEO” scam appears to be warning the web owner, they may have issues with their domain name. The sender buries the reader in a bunch of useless information making it difficult to parse what the message is actually saying. In fact, it’s just one more piece of junk hitting your inbox. I posted a podcast covering a few details about it here so, give it a listen.

But, the short answer to your question “should I be worried” is “NO. Delete it and move on with your day”.  Email scams are a dime-a-dozen, but they are getting far more sophisticated, so use a lot of caution when dealing with any unsolicited email.  If in doubt, don’t respond and ask for a second opinion. You can always copy and paste the message into Google to see if it pops up as a reported scam.

Mouse scrolling disabled in Win 10 – last ditch fix

Mouse scrolling disabled in Win 10 – last ditch fix

I’ve been plagued by an irritating problem for the past 2 weeks. After a Win 10 update, the mouse scrolling was disabled. I did a deep dive into settings and couldn’t figure out why a second HID device kept popping up. No new mouse had been purchased or installed but there it was.

Screen capture of mouse drivers installed

Hey, where did the second mouse come from?

No matter how many times it was uninstalled, the driver popped right back.  When the second driver auto installed, the scroll feature stopped working. I upgraded the driver, installed new ones and nothing. In a fit of desperation I decided to disable it to see if that helped. Bingo – the scroll feature worked.  So, if you’ve hit the end of the line with ideas, give this a try:

Hold the Win key down and press X to open a quick access menu and click Device Manager

Screen capture of a menu

Double click on Mice and other pointing devices. If there are two mouse drivers, right click on the second entry and choose Disable device. Wait a couple of seconds and then test the scroll feature. It should work.

WeatherCan – Environment Canada’s weather app now available

WeatherCan – Environment Canada’s weather app now available

Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan iconEnvironment Canada’s new app WeatherCan is a must have for Canadians. Last week  the app moved out of beta testing and is now available in the Apple Store and Google Play. A quick note: this is an app geared towards Canadians and not applicable outside of our borders.

I’ve been using WeatherCan for a few months now, since it was in beta. It’s run on two phones – both budget smartphones –  and worked flawlessly.  I’ve played around with dozens of weather apps over the years, usually tearing them out quickly because they are resource hogs or heat the phone up (on two occasions, dangerously so). I’m pleased to say this one does neither.  It’s fast response time, even on a low end phone, was a surprise. Another positive, WeatherCan doesn’t drain the battery, even when allowing notifications and real time updates.

 There isn’t a lot to be said about the app – it works, it doesn’t crash, and it’s pleasing to look at. The visuals are crisp and easy to understand. If you’re familiar with the Environment Canada website it’s pretty much the same. The big bold images, and lack of clutter makes WeatherCan one of the better weather apps out there.

Screen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan app showing current temp

Screen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan app showing hourly temp changes

WeatherCan packs a lot of information on each screen. 

Screen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan appScreen capture from Enviroment Canada's WeatherCan app

The only flaw I could find is the lack of ability to turn off weather notifications for other regions/provinces. For a few weeks, I was hammered with weather alerts for Sask. On the upside, I learned to appreciate how truly bad Sask. winters can get. Maybe it’s part of Environment Canada’s cunning plan.

Look for the WeatherCan app in Google Play and the Apple Store  or go directly to Environment Canada’s page   –  WeatherCan. If you download the app, drop a note in the comments and let me know how it runs on your phone.