Facebook hands over your privacy to Booking.com and a number of other websites

Today, all my alarms about internet privacy (or rather lack thereof) rang out loud. I was checking my Facebook wall when I came across one of those ads we’re getting of late: it was Booking.com advertising hotel rooms available in Nazaré (a tiny little village in Portugal). Nothing to worry about, if it weren’t because last night I had been searching for hotels in Nazaré via Booking.com. I was not logged in; my Booking.com email is different from the Facebook one; both emails are not linked in any way… Obviously, then, it was not a coincidence: there is one chance in a million for getting an ad of the same forlorn place I had been checking last night. To my knowledge, there’s only one way this can happen: Booking.com and Facebook.com are interchanging cookies, crossing databases: i.e., they’re telling each other about our private information, so that they can sell us something. I know we’re in the era of zero privacy, yet this is the most shameless and blatant case of handing over private information without consentment that I’ve ever come across. So, beware out there, internauts. They call it “interest-based advertising”.

Howto fix: black screen / adjust brightness after resume (Linux)

In some computers with Intel graphics (maybe others as well), I’ve often come across this problem: when resuming from sleep (standby) mode, I can’t adjust the screen brightness. There is a very well known fix for this: to pass the “acpi_backlight=vendor” option to the kernel at boot. However, in my two last KDE installs, this workaround broke the wake up from standby, bringing up a stubborn black screen (no backlight).
I don’t know if this is KDE related, but I’ve experienced this issue with both Kubuntu 12.04 and Aptosid-KDE, whereas I didn’t with a parallel Ubuntu 12.04, all three of them in the same computer and same kernel versions. I was astonished to find out that both *buntu distributions behaved so differently in this matter, as I have always taken for granted that Ubuntu and Kubuntu were “synchronized”; but, apparently, developers in both *buntu branches don’t talk to each other. 🙂
So, after a lot of checking around files and packages, I finally came across the difference: the standard Ubuntu install includes a file which is not present in the Kubuntu version, and which doesn’t belong to any particular package; it’s just there: /etc/pm/sleep.d/20_wakeup. Ahd this is the file that has fixed (for me) the black screen after resume problem. Maybe it will also work for you, whatever your hardware and distribution is. The content of this file is as follows:
case “$1” in
#do nothing
echo 2 > /sys/class/backlight/toshiba/brightness
exit 1
exit 0
Hope this will help somebody out there. If you have any constructive contribution to this post, please feel free to add your comment.

Howto fix: Linux (Mint, Ubuntu) install from USB failure, drops to busybox.

More often than not, when trying to install several Linux distributions (or releases) via a USB stick created from the downloaded iso live or install image, I’ve experienced the frustration of being dropped to a busybox (which is the Linux way of not ending up in a Windows-like blue screen, but exactly as useless. Who on earth knows what to do in such cases with a busybox?)
After lots of googling and reading dozens of posts where people report the same problem and nobody offers any useful solution, I finally found a very easy workaround that, at least for me, fixes the problem: when booting off your created USB, at the first splash screen with the typical boot options, hit the Tab key for inserting kernel boot parametres and write the following one: LIVEMEDIA=/dev/sdb1. Then hit Enter. That’s it: many chances are that now your install USB will boot correctly.
Note: The Merry Ubuntu Crew say that this problem is because of a “buggy BIOS”, but I think that this is crap. My BIOS may or may not be buggy, I don’t know; but the fact is: other distributions’ USB sticks (Debian, Aptosid, Arch) boot perfectly in my machine; therefore, what other distros implement for being able to boot in “buggy BIOSes”, Ubuntu and Mint could also do. Why they don’t? It’s not that difficult.
I hope this post can help someone out there. If any constructive ideas, please feel free to comment below.

Get rid of Acrobat's upgrade notification popup


Are you tired of the annoying “update acrobat” Acrobat icon popping up in your screen’s lower right corner every time you switch your computer on, or access any pdf document?

For getting rid of it, you can go to the heart of the problem and get rid of it once and for all… until you need it. The “updater” is a small application called AdobeARM.exe which is sitting in the folder: c:Program FilesCommon FilesAdobeARM1.0 (or whatever your version number is). You only need to go there, spot the application and chage its name (for example to AdobeARM.backup) This way, it will not distract you again with its popups and, when you want to upgrade Acrobat reader, you can just rename the file back to its original name.

Hope someone finds this helpful.


gstatic.com makes websites slow


For the past week or so, I’m experiencing a sensible slowness in my browsing experience: recently I often don’t manage to open Google maps, and at the same time some other websites, having -theoretically- nothing whatsoever to do with Google, slow down to a crawl. What the hell’s going on?, said I to myself.

Then, I noticed that, when browsing these “suddenly slow” websites, the status bar got stuck with a message saying something like “waiting for maps.gstatic.com”; and this is the hint that put me on the right track. Hmm…, thought I, that “g” in “gstatic” is very suspicious. Hang me if it doesn’t belong to Google. So I checked it down and, in effect, it does: gstatic.com is Google. Now, connecting both facts (maps.google.com being very slow, and maps.gstatic.com slowing down some websites) was easy: whenever Google servers, for whatever reason, become slow, any other website running scripts that involve these servers becomes also slow.

But what on earth is gstatic.com, and what has it (therefore Google) to do with certain websites? After doing some research, I concluded that this annoying gstatic.com thing is, among other uses, just one more controlling tool by Google. (For other example, check this post: Google Getting Greedier.) I’m very much afraid that Google is the greediest “creature” on the planet. They want to control about every single click you do, website you visit, email you send/receive, phonecall you make, contact you have, document you write, or anything you do in your life involving internet, computing or telecommunications.

And the truth is, if it didn’t slow down my browser, I wouldn’t care that much. I wouldn’t even have noticed. But Google has gone so far that now they’re directly bothering me, and I can’t stand it. I don’t want to be waiting for ten minutes (no exaggeration) to load a webpage which used to load in five seconds.

So, if you’re like me, I’ll tell you a workaround for this. I’m sure there must be some better ones, but this is the one I’m using, and it works. It’s quite simple: in your browser script settings, blacklist the whole gstatic.com domain or the offending subdomain (maps.gstatic.com, t1.gstatic.com, csi.gstatic.com, ssl.gstatic.com, whatever). I believe that IE, Opera and Chrome have built-in scripting preferences. As to Firefox or Seamonkey, you have to install some script blocking extension, for example “NoScript”. This particular one has no blacklist feature (which is a pity), but only whitelist. By default, it blocks all scripts. So, you can set it to allow scripts globally and then “forbid” the gstatic bunch.

Mark, though, that after blocking gstatic.com scripts, some websites might stop working, or have a limited functionality. So, you might need to temporarily unblock it.

Hope this has been of some help for you. If you have any questions, please post here or send me a personal mail.