Posted on 26th Nov 2023 16:32:43
Man… DeWALT tools suck!
As I got closer to retirement I started getting more serious about woodworking and building things. It seems that as most IT professionals retire, they either get into gardening or woodworking. So I guess I am sticking with the stereotype.
After doing some research and talking to a few people (not to mention seeing what others use) I started purchasing DeWALT tools to use around my home workshop. I was not a contractor so I didn’t see the point of going with something like Milwaukee tools. DeWALT seemed to be just fine for what I wanted to achieve.
I started out small, just doing minor DIY repairs and over time started looking at bigger projects such as building a self-standing shelf (a 6 ft long one) to display my collection of D&D “artifacts” I found along with a few other non-D&D related collectables. As someone who used power tools in the IT space I was always an advocate for AC powered (corded) tools. They just had more power then anything with a battery so all my tools (except a round saw) were corded.
One day I was working on replacing a front door knob to my home when I found a round plate with a screw behind it that I needed to remove. However, I could not seem to get the plate off. After 45 minutes I decided to just drill it off. Now, I have DeWALT drill bits that are designed to go through masonry, metal, and other similar materials. Given that this small 1/16” plate wasn’t that big I figured I should be able to drill right there it without a problem. However, my DeWALT drill bits failed as each broke one-by-one. After the 3rd round I decided to stop and find another option. So DeWALT failed me. Not a big deal I said. It’s just user-error I said to myself as I moved on.
However, not long afterwards, I was using my DeWALT Miter saw to cut through some wood when BAM! the blade was loose. It still cut but the brake wasn’t working. I figured I could just remove the blade and re-seat it. However, when I went to remove the bolt holding the safety guard cover on, the bolt wouldn’t budge. I tried WD-40, a heat gun, everything to loosen it up so I could get it off and nothing seemed to work. After getting a much larger tool with a huge handle, the bolt head warped but still wouldn’t come off. There was no way I was going to pay DeWALT to repair it as it would have been cheaper just to buy another one. So after that I decided to try a different brand of miter saw. However, it turns out that my DeWALT miter table is designed specifically to only work with DeWALT branded miter saws. So there is no way I can use the table with my new non-DeWALT brand miter saw. This again, became a waste of money at this point because now I had to go purchase a miter saw table (which by the way, every other brand except DeWALT makes standardized and universal miter saw tables).
So we come to the point where I needed to clean a few things up and so I plug in my DeWALT shopvac to the AC outlet and give it the go-go button and I find the sucking power couldn’t even pick up a single piece of anything. And I’m talking about stuff smaller then rat droppings?! This is crazy, I thought to myself as I finally realized that DeWALT tools doesn’t make anything that can last more then 1 year. Doing research I found many others who have had similar experiences, most of them having DeWALT tools that fail just before 1 year.
So here I was looking for another brand when I stumbled upon Ryobi. Now, one thing that concerned me at first was, Ryobi is heavy into battery-powered tools. And there was no way it was going to work as well as an AC powered tool. But I needed a shopvac and I wasn’t about to spend money on a Milwaukee shopvac so I decided to give it a try, figuring the cheap price of the unit would justify trying it out and if it didn’t work as well, I’d return it or just take the loss. Boy oh boy I was in for a huge surprise.
Not only did the Ryobi shopvac out perform the DeWALT, but it out performed almost all my other vacuums I own. I started to do more research into Ryobi and found their HP One+ series tools which all use the same battery. So one battery type to rule them all it seems. I chose to try out a bundle kit with a driver and drill driver (both HP models) and I will tell you, it was performing at or better then my AC powered drill I use. I was highly impressed (and concerned as it was almost so powerful I thought I might twist up my wrist and sprain it). Never in my life have I ever found a battery operated power tool that was just as powerful as it’s AC cousins. I was hooked and I’m in the process of purchasing more Ryobi tools to add to my arsenal.
Posted on 22nd Jun 2022 00:00:00
I recently had a discussion with someone regarding self-host and self-sovereignty in regards to “giving up” access to people, services, or even information. They made some very good points about certain limitations between self-sovereignty and company-controlled services. Do we sacrifice (or give up) access by taking control and ownership of ourselves online? If our friends on Facebook, or Twitter do not follow us to services like Diaspora or Mastodon, do we have to choose between our own self-sovereignty and our access to our friends online?
To be fair, it is completely valid and something I was not prepared to answer at that time. I had to spend time thinking more about what the person had said and do some research on this topic. After considerable time of the subject, here is my response.
I believe the description self-sovereignty is something that must be defined by each person who chooses it. While there can be a basic “global” description of what it is, I feel that each persons needs, goals, and expectations will play a part in the level of self-sovereignty they will pursue. In my case it’s an easy answer. I go full in, sacrificing what I must to achieve it. It’s not so simple for most people however. I think when we talk more about self-sovereignty some people can misinterpret what that actually means. Is it possible to be self-sovereign and have a Facebook account, for example? I believe you can. Because you can choose what information you provide, and what information you limit access to on Facebook. Most of the time, when people refer to self-host and self-sovereignty I believe they refer to ownership of information and ownership of access. If you operate or use Mastodon and/or Diaspora (for example), you can allow yourself more freedoms of what you say and how you say it, along with what information you provide (knowing you have more control over what happens to it) but still maintain access to your friends on Facebook or Twitter, as long as you are careful what you provide on the platform. You may be limiting others access to you (including these companies), but you maintain access to your friends, family and others on these platforms. When done correctly, I do not believe that self-sovereignty means cutting ties to services that allow you access to those you care about, but it does require you to consider what content you provide on these platforms of which you have no control over. If you do that, you can still maintain a level of privacy, self-ownership and self-sovereignty.
While the conversation was limited to more social media aspects, I believe this topic can be widely applied to other services as well. The main point is to limit these other platforms access to you and your information while you use them. If you don’t absolutely require the platform to know “this” or “that” about you, don’t give it to the platform. Choose to limit access to yourself as much as possible.
Posted on 5th May 2022 00:00:00
When I was a teenager my step-father and I got into a heated argument. Bad enough that I decided to go into my room and close the door. My step-father decided the argument wasn’t over and followed me. When I closed the door I laid on my bed, expecting to “cool down” from the argument. The next thing I know my step-father karate kicked the door handle, expecting it to just open, however, instead, the door went off the hinges! What happened next ended up making us both turn from yelling at each other to laughing… The door decided to be very dramatic. As it “leapt” from it’s hinges, the door stood on it’s own for a second, about an inch or so away from the doorframe. A second or two later, it began to fall to the floor. It was almost like a dramatic scene from a movie, where the hero takes a bullet and slowly falls to his knees for a second or two before face planting the ground. This left me without a door (and without my privacy) for several days before my step-father made the necessary repairs.
As humans, we thrive on being social creatures. Spending time with others of our kind, and even doing activities together. But eventually we come home, and expect privacy. Privacy gives us a sense of control. It allows us to have something that is “just for us” that others do not see. Privacy also serves another important function. It keeps others from knowing what we have. This can be important for protecting the things you want to keep private. If you were to put a fat stack of money in front of a window how long would it be before someone came to steal it? We instead, keep our money private from others. It’s important to do the same with our data and information.
Information is power and people know it. Keeping your data private, especially online is crucial. Some will say “Well, I have nothing to hide”. To that I would answer, yes you do. Do you post your social security number on Facebook? Would you tweet out your bank account number on Twitter? Would you take a picture of your credit card numbers, expiration date, and CVV code on Instagram? Likely your answer is “no” to all of the above. You have something to hide.
A lot of times people assume that privacy means from the government. And while it is true, that privacy from the government is important, it is also important to have privacy from nefarious characters online who would stop at nothing to steal your identity, take your credit card numbers, or remove all your money from your bank account, if given the chance.
So what are some things we can do to remain private? First, it’s important to realize what information you provide to others online. In most cases social media is a primary target for sharing private information. I’m not talking about the posts you make on the platform (although you should be careful what you do post), but the advertising platforms it uses. What most people do not realize is that when Facebook provides your personal information to ad providers, those ad providers receive a lot of information about you. Name, address, phone numbers, even your physical location from which you are accessing Facebook can be provided to these advertisement companies. Facebook will try to aggregate this data as much as possible and strip some private information from the data before passing it on, but it’s hard to really know how much they strip. Additionally your location data is most lucrative. Ad providers can target ads relevant to your physical location. The bigger concern here, isn’t what the ad providers can do with that location data but who else they may sell that data to or who may gain access to it. How are you to know if those being sold such data are trustworthy or not. What happens if they are hacked? Even if your location data is anonymized it’s easy for someone to figure out who you are, especially if you go home every night.
Other things you can do is turn location tracking off on your devices. Most phones these days have an option to turn location services off. Do not give apps permission to access your location. For apps where you need to share your location (and be mindful and ask yourself, why does this app actually need my location?) be sure to choose “only this time” when asked if you want to share your location with the app. Most apps will work normally if you deny access to your location however. You can always manually type in a location that is not precise to your location and still use the app. (my weather app for example doesn’t need to know exactly where my house is, only the zip code I live in—Although, I generally just go outside to figure out the weather. It’s more private that way). Be mindful of what you install on your phone too. Apps are very good at hiding their intentions from Google and Apple’s app review teams. There are several news articles over the years about apps finding their way into the app store and play store only to launch data theft attacks on the device later.
One of the best recommendations I can provide to you is use FOSS-based software on your computers and phones. FOSS, Free Open-Source Software, are usually more private and protect your data better because their source code is open for everyone to see. People can read the code and determine if there is something fishy going on. Usually they will report it if they find something. So read up on the FOSS software before you download and use it.
There are other ways to protect your privacy but we will stop there for now.
Posted on 14th Apr 2022 00:00:00
When I was younger I hosted my first service, Email. Email was the most important thing to me. You could take away MySpace, chatrooms and my internet connection, but you better never take my email. Today, email is still an important service in my life. Although it’s role has shifted over the years as instant messaging, social media, and other services have taken over, email is still a core component of my everyday life.
I never wanted to give someone else control over my email. I hosted it myself. And the biggest reason why was because *I* was the only man for the job. I wanted to know I always had control over it. No one could touch it but me. No one could one day say “We’ll just take his email away from him because of [reasons]”. As long as my server was running so was my email. No one could snoop on my emails, or use it for ads. I could effectively say anything I wanted to say.
In today's world, people give away their control. They hand it over to the Facebooks and the Twitters of the world. Their email is hosted by 3rd parties who likely use computer automation to read every line of email sent and received and sell it to ad companies for ad revenue. We give up a lot of our freedoms because at any time these companies can decide to remove anything they do not like. Emails, social media posts, or even access to their services completely. It is fully up to the whims of the platform owner(s). When computers got started, most people hosted their own services. Of course, this predated the internet. BBS services (known as bulletin Boards) were all the rage as it helped people connect to others in their local towns and cities. Later, FidoNET became the first BBS-enabled service to allow users to send messages and emails to people all over the world, regardless of what BBS they were connected to. Most of the time, however, everyday people hosted services for themselves. When the internet came along it was harder to host your own services as it required an always connected machine in order to be accessible. Prior to that, people would just have a phone line attached to a modem and services were offered when users dialed into it. Because of this change, it was hard for normal, everyday people to host the same services on the internet like they did before. They started allowing “hosting providers” to help host web sites, email, and other content so everyone on the internet could see. But eventually high-speed access became the norm for most households and because these high-speed access services are offered as an always-on solution, normal everyday people can once again, host their own services. This is called Self-Hosting.
Self-Hosting is part of the data self-sovereign process. Instead of allowing a company to host your data for you, you do it yourself. This gives you back control. If Facebook doesn’t like something you say, they can choose to shut you down by deleting your post or even suspending your account. But if you are hosting your own social network (which isn’t really that hard to set up. I’ll be talking about this in a later article) no one can suspend your account or delete your post. Because you are in control.
Data Self-sovereignty is, in my opinion, the right of anyone. And because of Free Open-Source Software (FOSS), it is possible for the normal, everyday person to run their own services and become data self-sovereign. That being said, not everyone will choose to be Data Self-sovereign. This can be for many reasons. Perhaps they are too dependent on Facebook or Twitter to leave the platform, or they simply do not understand why it’s so important, just to name a few. But those who choose to follow the path of data self-sovereignty will likely find themselves free to do the things they want to do without having to follow political laws that companies tend to enforce or be in fear of suspension over something that the platform owners disagree with.
Keep in mind that, should you choose the data self-sovereignty route, it is not something you just decide on a whim. It’s a journey. Not one that will be completed in a day (Rome wasn’t built in a day either). It’s also something that will require you to rethink what you do online, and how you do it. Whether it be as simple as your social media, or email, or even how you purchase things online (cryptocurrency) and talk to people over chat, video and audio.
Becoming data self-sovereign is a freeing experience. It allows you to regain control and helps you to be self-sufficient online. I will have more articles on this topic coming soon so keep checking back for more!