No more Facebook

“Your account is scheduled for permanent deletion”

Goodbye!

I no longer have a Facebook account. 👏

I feel very relieved about this change.

Day after day, there are new posts about how Facebook is violating user privacy and selling our data for their profit.

It’s time to stop this mess. I managed to have my Facebook account deactivated for over an year, but I realised it’s time to actually delete it and did so.

So is Instagram, WhatsApp and LinkedIn. It feels so, so good

I do have a test account though, on Facebook, that I have to use at work, for work.

Matt on distributed/remote work

Automattic’s CEO, Matt, spoke on distributed work and how we approach it.

My first job was at Freshworks Inc. and I jumped ship in approximately 8 months, in favour of remote/distributed work.

Primary reasons behind the change:

  • I get to work from the comfort of my home.
  • I choose my own work schedule. I initially chose to work from 10am to 6pm, but these days, I work from 5.30am to 1.30pm. See how it gives me the flexibility to focus on personal things during the rest of the day?
  • I am not really comfortable working/being around many people. A small group’s fine, but when there are many around, not necessarily talking to me, I find it tough to focus on my work. Traditional office spaces is a no-go for me.
  • I am also able to leverage my skills to the best – I am more comfortable with written communication/documentation over in-life communication. It’s tiny things like this that bring out improved work results, productivity and help one to do better at their job.

One of my coworkers also wrote on “Thriving as a remote worker“, which you should read.

There are tons of other benefits to distributed work – GitLab.com has put together an interesting handbook on how they manage their company, and a website on remote work on how others approach it.

My favourite Android apps roundup: 2018

I thought it would be a nice idea to share a list of my favourite apps that I have either found in 2018, or continued to use through 2018 as a blog post. Here goes.

Telegram

Telegram continues to be my most favourite medium for communication. It’s easy to use, available on multiple platforms, offers the flexibility of sharing files and offers e2e encrypted communication between devices the chat’s launched from.

Also I saw many friends move from WhatsApp to Telegram in 2018, and I am very happy about it.

Keybase

Keybase is probably my top choice for sharing secure information. Unlike Telegram, it offers the flexibility of enjoying e2e encrypted communication between all the devices the user has. To be more clear, while e2e chats on Telegram are available only on the device the chat’s launched from, with Keybase one can enjoy e2e chats on all devices, with realtime synchronisation.

ProtonMail

My privacy-focussed choice for apps continues! I also moved from Gmail to ProtonMail in 2018, and I am very happy about it. I have written about the move here that you should read.

Tusky

I also signed up for Mastodon, on mastodon.social, as an alternative to Twitter and other social networking accounts. While there is no official client for Mastodon on Android, Tusky is fantastic. It offers the ability to use multiple Mastodon accounts at the same time, lists, blocking, muting and supports saving of drafts as well!

There are a few other Mastodon apps for Android as well, with Mastalab being another popular one, but I haven’t had a reason to move away from Tusky yet.

NordVPN

I also came across NordVPN’s $99/3 years deal, thanks to a colleague, and I signed up right away! It’s a nice little VPN app that allows usage on upto 6 devices – works well for my family!

SmugMug

While I gave up on Gmail for ProtonMail, I also gave up on Google Photos for SmugMug. SmugMug on Android feels snappy and I am happy with their lowest paid plan, which offers unlimited storage as well!

Signal

It looks like I haven’t mentioned Signal yet. Not much to differentiate between Signal and Keybase, but it’s another encrypted chat system that works good for family needs. I have been reading a lot on Signal vs Keybase, and while it looks like each has its own pros and cons, I am happy with both.

My usage is pretty much split, in that I use Signal for family while I use Keybase with friends.

1Password and Bitwarden

I cannot miss 1Password and Bitwarden. Until 2018, I did not use password managers and when I joined Automattic, I realised password managers are an absolute need for any internet user.

While I signed up for 1Password at work, I needed a solution for families. 1Password for families looks great at $5 a month, but I wanted a cheaper solution and that’s when I came across Bitwarden. At $10 an year, it felt to be the best choice for family/personal records, and I signed up!

Both the Android apps are fantastic, and you should try them if you haven’t so far.

Simplenote

Disclaimer first, I work for Automattic, the company behind Simplenote. 🙂

Simplenote is a nice little note-taking app that synchronises all updates across all the devices I use. I use it mostly for work purposes. It offers the ability to tag notes, use markdown to compose and publish notes online so that it can be viewed by others. You should try Simplenote if you haven’t so far!

Forest

I didn’t start using Forest until a week ago, but I like it now! It’s an app that helps you focus on your goals and stay away from your phone. When you start the timer, a tree starts growing. When you do something on the phone instead, the tree dies.

What are your favourite apps that you have discovered in 2018?

5 months with ProtonMail and I haven't looked back

5 months ago, I decided to quit Gmail for good and move to an end-to-end (e2e) encrypted email service like ProtonMail or Tutanota. After thinking a lot over this, I settled for ProtonMail with a two years subscription. They had this nice Black Friday promotion from 2017 that I was able to redeem.

I have used Google’s services ever since I first discovered websites in 2004 (I think it was around that time, not very sure).

I wish I had realised the effects of using such services – giving up privacy, being tracked, not owning my own data, being targeted for advertisement amongst many other negative effects – much earlier though!

Signing up for an encrypted email service was the first step for a relief.

I use ProtonMail with a dedicated web domain, which means I don’t use their @protonmail.com address. I had been using the same dedicated email address on Google as well, via G Suite – so, using same with ProtonMail’s premium service was a natural choice and I didn’t have a reason to update my email address everywhere.

I did not explore an option to move all my emails from the previous inbox on Gmail to ProtonMail. I thought it would be a nice distinction to separate unsafe emails on Gmail from safe ones on ProtonMail.

While ProtonMail offers only a web UI and no native desktop apps, I am okay with it. They do offer a service called ProtonMail Bridge, for use with other apps like Apple Mail, Thunderbird, and Outlook. I am convenient with their web app though, for a few reasons below:

  • Automatically attaches my public key on outbound emails for others’ use – they can send me encrypted emails.
  • Can make use of the message expiration feature to send self-destructing emails.
  • Can have multiple ProtonMail sessions on the same browser, without using incognito tabs – each tab has its own session.

ProtonMail being based in Switzerland and using European data servers was another key reason why I preferred ProtonMail over Tutanota.

ProtonMail also claims they do not log IP addresses, but I have noticed that they do log the IP addresses by default. One only has an option to opt-out. I wonder if they can make that messaging clear.

“Think your email’s private? Think again.” – Andy Yen, ProtonMail

I don’t see myself going back to Google’s services or the likes, in favour for decentralised, open-source softwares and services. Especially in the time of unethical practices that companies like Facebook are involved in!

New range of site addresses with .blog subdomains in WordPress.com

I am very excited about this. When I first wanted to create websites/blogs on WordPress.com, an year ago, most of the subdomains I wanted were already used up by other users. I am not surprised given how many millions use WordPress.com every day.

This is changing – you can now choose .blog subdomains for free on the signup flow, gaining yourselves new site addresses like jack.photo.blog, dan.tech.blog. The entire list of .blog subdomains available, is on the page I have linked to earlier.

If you are an aspiring photo blogger, tech enthusiast, cook, nomad, travel blogger or want a plain, private family blog, go, get your favourite subdomain now!

Pumped for Game of Thrones season 8!

I didn’t realise season 8’s trailer is out until today! I hadn’t watched Game of Thrones until September of this year. I didn’t even care about the series, but when I started watching, I couldn’t stop – I binged all seven seasons and completed in less than two months.

The trailer shows a map of Westeros with fire and ice fast approaching each other, and I think in the end, we see dragonglass formation. The trailer does not show an actual footage from the season, but is more of an animated preview. 

Either way, I am so looking forward to 2019, especially with the The Night King having one of the dragons.

Managing WordPress widgets the easier way with "Enable accessibility mode" feature

Today I learned that WordPress has a nice built-in Enable accessibility mode feature that allows users to manage widgets with more granular control. Most often when I am supporting users, they find it tough to move widgets around. Same applies to working with menu items. 

I would often redirect them to /wp-admin/widgets.php instead of using the live preview that the Customizer offers. 

Getting back to the topic, when you open that page, you should be able to notice a Enable accessibility mode option under the Screen options section. 

Once this is activated, refresh the widgets page and you should be able to notice a different interface. 

Widgets section of a WordPress site with Enable accessibility mode enabled

The existing widgets on the right should have Edit button, and new widgets on the left should have an Add button. When you click either of the two, the widget loads on a special page of its own. 🤯

Individual pages for the widgets!

What 11 hours layover in Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK – Bangkok) was like

On the 28th of November this year, I was returning back home from Vietnam.

I had multiple routes to pick from, but I had settled for the Chennai – Bangkok – Vietnam with Thai airways.

The last time I flew Thai to Japan, via Bangkok again, it was such a pleasant experience. Also, Thai was the only airlines with the least cost and decent baggage allowance this time.

The other airlines offered budget pricing, with very low baggage allowance that I wasn’t very comfortable with, especially as I was flying solo this time.

I landed in BKK at around 1130 and my second leg to Chennai was scheduled for 2225.

When I landed, I wasn’t quite sure how to kill time. But, it looked like an interesting challenge ahead.

For the first 2 hours, I spent walking around the arrival concourses, watching how the “visa on arrival” process was like, checking the arrival charts and the actual process around the exit regions.

There weren’t any restaurants around. I was quite puzzled as I had read online that BKK was vast with a lot of facilities.

I grabbed an airport information card, and that’s when I realised that there were two more levels above, with stores and departure concourses. 

Level 3 is dedicated to resting areas, lounges, restaurants. These are accessible after the security check for departure.

Another hour passed here.

Level 4 is where majority of the good stuff is. There are lots of duty-free shopping stores, local food restaurants, international chains like Burger King and Starbucks. But, mind it, the walk from one end to the other can take as much as 25-30 minutes. Starbucks is on one end, while Burger King is on the other. 

hungry burger GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants

I spent most of my time visiting the stores on this level. An inconvenience was that, travellators are not available throughout this level. It’s available only at around the middle and the regions around the two ends were accessible only by walk.

I did come across few listings of hotels nearby, but I chose to skip. The stay would have cost $100 at the least. 

tom hanks no GIF

Public drinking water areas were placed only on level 3 and there is not one spot on level 4. 

I walked around 53K steps (thanks Fitbit!) during this time, and slept for an hour. I covered the full of level 2 twice. 😅

music video walking GIF by Daniela Sherer

Airport WiFi decent for browsing, but for some reasons, I was not able to get it working on my laptop. BKK also has mobile charging points at various locations, some having chairs nearby.

Fortunately, the time after 1700 moved fast and in some way, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and was able to kill the rest of the six hours. I was very tired, slept through the entire return journey and took a few hours off at work the next day though.

Anyway, I will not be choosing another long layover again. 3-4 at max sounds to be my choice. 🙂

You can help test the new WordPress Editor on WordPress.com!

WordPress block editor, codenamed Gutenberg, is launching soon for the general public. At the same time, Automattic’s developers are hard at work on launching the new WordPress Editor on WordPress.com’s Calypso. While the work is underway, it’s available for testing and we would love to hear your feedback!

  • Visit the new WordPress Editor on Calypso – create post or create page.Create a blog post, or page, with the available WordPress Editor blocks.Preview the post.Publish the post. Ensure the published view looks the same as how it did on the WordPress Editor.

Like how it’s coming along, or is something off? Share your comments on this post! You can check the Gutenberg website for an inspiration of what you can build with the new WordPress Editor, or check this third-party demo showing the possibilities of Gutenberg – it is a few months old and a lot of things could have changed in the meantime! The Gutenberg codebase lives here if you are interested to contribute.