About Amazon’s Dirty Kindle Books

Amazon’s Kindle books are dirty. All of them. Every single one.

I don’t mean dirty in the Fifty Shades of Grey sense. I mean coal-mine dirty.

Amazon buys the energy for its data centres from providers who burn coal to produce it. The company has no plans to change this.

Google and Apple, on the other hand, use almost entirely self-produced renewable energy to power their data centres.

In their 2015 Click Clean report, Greenpeace identifies Amazon as being “stuck in [a] dirty energy past”. Apple and Google are “green internet innovators”.

To buy a Kindle book from Amazon is to support an environmentally-catastrophic, coal-energy supported system.

Yet Amazon dominates the electronic book market. Forbes estimates that 65% of electronic books sales are Kindle. (About 30% of all book sales were electronic in 2014.)

The internet infrastructure is invisible. When we buy goods electronically, there are really only two things that govern our decision making process: the experience and the price. We want cheap, and we want easy.

The fact that we’re supporting the single biggest source of air pollution in North America doesn’t factor into our decision making.

But it should. We should refuse to purchase books, or any electronic product for that matter, that isn’t powered by clean energy. Consumers should recognize the impact that their electronic purchasing decisions have on our environment.

About Apple’s Bandwidth Brute: Photos

Last week Apple released a new version of Yosemite, the operating system that runs on Mac computers. Setting aside its small technical improvements, this release sports one major upgrade: an app called Photos, which is designed to replace the aged iPhoto.

If you’re a Mac user you probably use iPhoto. When you upgrade to the new version of Yosemite, your Mac will try to coerce you into migrating your iPhoto library to Photos. I recommend you do this.

For the most part, Photos is a significant improvement over iPhoto. The app is more fluid, intuitive and has a modern design. I much prefer it over its predecessor.

But there will come a point in the migration process from iPhoto to Photos where the new app asks if you want to use Apple’s iCloud Photo Library to store your photos and videos in the cloud. I would strongly caution you against enabling this option. There is a tremendous risk associated with using Photo’s iCloud Photo Library. Continue reading

About the CRTC’s Campaign Trail Fodder for Northern Conservative Candidates

The CRTC did this morning what federal bureaucracies will do when they’re feeling their oats and issued a stern-sounding press release with a grand title (CRTC lowering rates for Internet services in northern Canada) but little real substance.

Instead, the government regulator outlined some half measures that will have very limited impact beyond handing northern Conservative candidates a pitch-perfect campaign trail boast: “Harper’s Conservatives lowered internet rates in the North!” Decide for yourself where that statement manifests within a politician’s fifty shades of brown.

Really, the CRTC just swung a Nerf bat in the general direction of northern Canada’s monopoly telecommunications utility, then shook its fist in the air menacingly… and walked away. Continue reading

About Yukon’s fine tradition of driving drunk

Yukon doesn’t lead in a lot of areas, but there’s one where we excel: Yukoners proudly consume alcohol at almost double the average rate of our country, which is itself a global vanguard in boozing it up.

And considering how essential the automobile is for getting around up here, this morning’s CBC article confirmed some feelings I already had about impaired driving in Canada. Continue reading

About Transferring Files Between Cloud Storage Services

If you store a lot of files in the cloud using services like Dropbox and OneDrive, then you know what a hassle it can be to move your stuff between them, especially when it’s en masse. You have to download it all from Dropbox, say, to your PC or Mac, then upload it all to OneDrive. This is not only a time-wasting hassle, but it can be expensive if you have limited bandwidth available to you and get penalized for over use, as I do.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do it that way. There are services available that offer direct transfers of files between cloud storage services. And, oddly, some are free.

I’ve found two companies that enable you to move full directories, or “folders,” of files between service providers: Mover and MultCloud. Of the two, Mover is more robust and better designed. It offers a free tier of service with some limitations for personal use, and paid tiers for businesses with multiple users or lots of data. MultCloud is totally free and, as far as I can tell, unlimited for any type of use. The only drawback to MultCloud is that the user interface isn’t quite as well designed.

Both companies basically let you set up large file transfers between cloud services, then close your browser and walk away. None of your bandwidth is used and the transfer takes places directly between the cloud services without your involvement. You just get an email when it’s all done.

If you want to transfer individual files back and forth between service providers on the fly, JoliCloud offers that service for a fee of about $7 a month. JoliCloud doesn’t permit full directory transfers, though, just files.

It’s worth mentioning that JoliCloud has a free tier of service that’s pretty useful, too. It lets you “manage your digital life” by consolidating all your social media and cloud accounts in one browser window. That way you can browse and manage them all simultaneously.

Many of us have been hesitant about storing too much stuff in the cloud for fear of being trapped with one service provider. It’s expensive and time consuming to move files back and forth from your devices to the cloud. So it’s nice to see this “cloud migration” industry mature, enabling us to simply move stuff around up there.

Essential Functionality in OS X Photos: Data Throttling

I’ll state this one plainly: the single most essential feature of the new Photos app in Apple’s Mac OS X is data throttling. That is, Apple absolutely must give us the ability to control how heavily our internet connections are used – and abused – by the app as it transfers photos and videos between our devices and the cloud.

Apple’s current standard photo app, iPhoto, is a data brute. Immediately after photos are imported into its library, it consumes all available internet bandwidth in a gross, clumsy effort to upload those photos into the iCloud Photo Stream. It’s ugly. More importantly, though, it can be very expensive. Continue reading

Samsung SmartTV an ‘absurd’ privacy intruder, Ann Cavoukian says

Samsung SmartTV an ‘absurd’ privacy intruder, Ann Cavoukian says

I was speaking to a group of seniors a little while back about just this issue. The “Internet of Things” is a growing industrial movement with limited practical utility and an undefined demand from consumers. More and more devices that we bring into our lives can track, watch, listen to and monitor us, yet we don’t know why and we don’t know what happens to the information they collect. Intended to seem intelligent by being responsive to our most natural methods of communication, it turns out that their “smart” qualities are really about surveillance (case in point: Amazon’s Echo). More often that not, they’re so badly designed (I’m looking at the Microsoft Kinect perched atop my TV as I write this) that they really offer us no usefulness at all and are instead just great data harvesters. The “Internet of Things” is a classic example of the tech industry putting the cart before the horse. We’d all do well to exercise caution with these so-called “smart” devices that are a thread in the “Internet of Things” mesh before that horse drives that cart over us in its blindness.