Sunday, July 26, 2015

Anti-Social Media - AAARRRGH!!!

OK, I finally bit the bullet and got a Facebook account.  I started a crowd-funding campaign a couple months ago and they say it won't come up in the public search directory unless you have your campaign connected to Facebook.  This makes absolutely no sense to me at all, but eventually I caved in and tried to set up a Facebook account.

And yes, Facebook is almost as much of a pain in the butt as I'd thought it would be.  I at least managed to set up the account and put some good stuff on there, and I've even started to check out a couple people's profiles, but man it's just one more social media site that's basically a hassle to use.  Since I'm almost totally blind I use a keyboard and screen reader to access the computer, and aside from having to slog through all the links and clutter before I find the link I want, I found I couldn't even open the links that had submenus.  I'm lucky I have a little bit of sight so I can try to use the mouse to open them, but it's still damn hard to do.  Having said this, Facebook's still more accessible than I expected it to be.  At least my screen reader reads out all the links that don't have submenus attached.  There's no way to read people's photos and stuff, but it at least reads the text that isn't contained within an image.

I'm not much of a social media user and probably won't be one any time soon.  But I also recognize that social media can be used to do positive things, and that's why it pisses me off even more when my screen reader slows down or crashes every time I try to use social media (whether it's my blog, my Twitter account, LinkedIn or Facebook).  I've e-mailed at least a couple of these companies to try to improve accessibility for people using screen readers, but although they sound like they're interested in fixing the problems nothing's happened yet.  So guys, could you PLEASE hurry the fuck up and make your sites more accessible for people with disabilities?  I'm about ready to run over someone with my chair from sheer frustration!  Not that I think violence is the right way to solve anything, but this social media crap is making me even more anti-social than usual.  AAARRRGH!!!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Google and Apple Are Watching Us

I just heard on the radio today that Google and Apple are watching us via our smartphones - GASP!!!  OK, I know I sound kind of flippant about this, but do you really want to tell me you've never figured this out before now?  Our smartphones have GPS systems. They keep records of our usage, preferences, and lots of other stuff.  There's a security feature that can locate your phone if it's stolen.  Our phones use something called "background data" so we end up getting charged for data usage even when we're not actively using the phone's network to access the internet unless, that is, you've turned off that particularly nasty feature.  And there's probably a whole lot of other stuff smartphones do and keep track of that we don't know about yet.  So does it really come as such a big shock that Google and Apple and who-knows-who-else is tracking our location and other stuff?  The only thing that really surprised me about this "news" was that smartphones can also tell when we're sleeping, like an expensive, portable, electronic version of Santa Claus.  I honestly don't know how that works, except maybe for the phones with heart monitors, if our heart rates change when we're asleep, and that's if we're messed-up enough to sleep with our smartphones in bed with us.

It may sound like I'm totally OK with this stuff.  Well, I'm definitely not.  My idealistic and unbusinesslike mind says that unless you're the police and you have a really good reason to believe someone's doing something they really shouldn't be, I don't see any valid reason to track someone's location etc., and even if you are the police with a damn good reason for suspecting someone of committing a crime (or being about to commit a very serious crime) you still should have a court order to do that stuff.  Companies like Apple and Google aren't the police, and I don't think they should be collecting data on us without our explicit knowledge, and preferably consent.  But that's just my idealistic mind talking, and I know that's not really how the world works.

So I actually have an advantage over most smartphone users, and amazingly it's because of the fact that my disabilities make smartphones really hard for me to use, plus the fact that I don't have a lot of bucks and can't afford to have my phone running up data charges on me when I'm not even trying to use the internet or GPS.  You see, I'm not glued to my phone the way other people are, I see it as more of an encumbrance than an extension of my body or brain.  But despite the fact that my phone's hard for me to use, I have a curious mind and wanted to know about all the options on my phone so I managed to go through all my phone's menus etc.  I got especially curious when I started getting hit with data charges when I wasn't even using the internet on my phone without WiFi.  So I eventually found out how to turn off the phone's ability to use "background data".  I also found out how to turn off my GPS and other stuff I don't need and don't use anyway.  Not that I have anything to hide, but I'm glad I can at least keep some of my info away from prying assholes who have no valid reason to know where I am and when.