How to replace each Google service with a more privacy-friendly alternative

As privacy concerns grow, companies like Google and Facebook that rely on data collection and advertising for revenue are increasingly in the spotlight. But is it really possible to give up Google’s vast range of services? Here are my recommended alternatives.

Over the past two years, I’ve been switching between a succession of iPhones and a series of Android devices, using each for an extended amount of time. Spending months with each mobile platform has been a tremendously useful exercise, helping me understand the strengths and weaknesses of the two dominant smartphone options.

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But every time I pick up one of those Android devices, a nagging question pops up in the back of my mind. It’s the same one I hear from friends, family members, and readers every time the topic turns to smartphone platforms: “Aren’t you worried about your privacy when you run Google’s software?”

It’s a legitimate question, and there’s no easy answer.

Google, like Facebook, has a business model that’s built on surveillance. The company’s stated mission of “organizing the world’s information” also includes capturing as much as possible of your information. That information is the base layer of some undeniably useful services, which in turn fuel the advertising that makes up the overwhelming majority of Google’s revenue.

In the first six months of 2019, Google took in just over $75 billion in revenue. More than 84% of that revenue, about $63.3 billion, came directly from the advertising platform made possible by data collected from a few billion people, including you and me.

To be fair, Google provides ample privacy controls, including options to delete saved data. They also count on most people being too busy, distracted, or unconcerned to actually use those controls. And even if you meticulously delete your activity history. there’s not much you can do about the profile that Google and its subsidiary DoubleClick (and the advertising ecosystem that’s grown up around them) create based on those activities in real time.

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Going through Google’s default privacy controls is an exhausting task.

We won’t even talk about the antitrust investigations in the United States, where Google is reportedly “in serious trouble,” and another antitrust probe in the European Union, which has already fined Google multiple times for anticompetitive behavior.

Unlike the other giant of online advertising, Facebook, the option to delete your Google account isn’t very practical. It’s hard to imagine a world without Google’s outsized influence, but it is possible to rebuild your personal online environment around an alternate set of services and experiences.

There are plenty of options from smaller third parties, but for the most part the replacements for the Google services you know come from Apple and Microsoft. Those two tech giants have the requisite scale, but their business models don’t rely disproportionately on data collection and advertising. When your revenue comes mostly from high-margin hardware (in Apple’s case) and business-focused productivity services (in Microsoft’s case), it’s easier to place greater value on personal privacy, and there’s less incentive to design products and services that explicitly turn data into revenue.

So how do you reduce the role of Google in your tech life? I took a look at my own experience to see where you’ll find the most interesting alternatives. Note that some of these options require paid subscriptions, in contrast to Google’s ad- and data-supported services.

SAY ADIOS TO ANDROID

There are two and only two mobile device platforms that matter: Android and iOS. As a result, ditching Google means learning to love Apple hardware and software. Because of the way Google licenses Android, it’s almost impossible to find a device that isn’t loaded with Google services. And although you can tweak and tune privacy settings and replace default apps, you can’t easily get rid of the Google Play services and store.

Switching to an iPhone isn’t exactly painful (except perhaps for the pricetag). You get world class hardware, and you also avoid one of Android’s worst flaws: unpredictable updates.

Apple devices get fully supported updates for years, and you are not at the mercy of a carrier to get the latest version. That support lasts a long time, too. The iPhone 6S, for example, which debuted more than four years ago, runs the brand-new iOS 13 and will be supported for another year. You can’t say that about any Android phones released in 2015.

In fact, even new devices often have to wait, sometimes forever, for upgrades. I have three Android phones on my desk right now, from Motorola, Samsung, and Google. All three devices were released in 2018, but each one is running a different Android version (8, 9, and 10). I have no idea if or when those two phones running out-of-date Android versions will get the latest features.

And I have to say I trust Apple’s biometric support more than I trust the same features on Android devices. A pair of snafus involving biometric technology this week, on the latest premium devices from Samsung and Google, make me even more comfortable with switching platforms.

CHOOSE AN ALTERNATE DEFAULT WEB BROWSER

If your objective is to cut ties with Google, you’ll need to choose a different web browser than Google Chrome, naturally. The logical alternatives are Mozilla Firefox and Opera; on MacOS and iOS, you can also choose Safari.

Several people in the comments section have recommended the Brave browser, a relatively recent addition to the category, led by Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich and focused relentlessly on privacy. I tried Brave when it first came out and will take another look. It’s a strong contender. 

The dark horse in this field is Microsoft’s new cross-platform Edge browser, based on the open-source Chromium engine. (I do not recommend the current Edge browser, available only in Windows 10, which is deprecated and will probably be replaced within a year.)

The most relevant feature is tracking protection, which offers this simple but easy-to-understand interface in the new Edge Settings pane on the desktop.

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This Edge setting blocks trackers without requiring third-party software.

How effective is it? Click that Blocked Trackers link to see a running count. On this browser, the number-one source of trackers is Google, which accounts for more than 20% of the blocks on my production PC. 

Although it’s technically in a beta release, the new Edge browser has been extremely stable on Windows 10 for me; it also runs on MacOS and has versions for iOS and Android. It allows you to install extensions directly from the Chrome Web Store, and pages you visit look like they’re running in Chrome.

PICK A PRIVACY-FOCUSED SEARCH ENGINE

The Bing brand is an easy punchline for anyone trying to get some cheap tech-oriented laughs, but the underlying data is no joke. In its just-concluded 2019 fiscal year, Microsoft brought in more than $7.6 billion in revenue from search advertising. That’s a fraction (less than 10%) of what Google makes, but it’s still a very big business on its own; that revenue makes it the fifth biggest division at Microsoft, one of the only companies big enough to compete with Google on this playing field.

But you don’t have to insert yourself into Bing’s advertising ecosystem, either. The privacy-focused DuckDuckGo (“the search engine that doesn’t track you”) returns results using Microsoft’s data along with a few hundred other primary sources,

For desktop use, you can also get the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension for Chrome (which works in the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge as well).

In the comments, several readers have recommended Startpage.com, a Dutch company that uses Google search results repackaged in a privacy-focused format that eliminates tracking.

REPLACE GOOGLE VOICE

I’ve always been reluctant to use Google Voice for any serious business-related purpose, because it seemed like yet another free service that Google would eventually kill off. One plausible theory I’ve heard is that Google Voice is so widely used by Google execs that discontinuing it is not an option.

Google Voice has the twin benefits of being device-independent and supporting SMS messages. That means you can use a virtual number other than your regular mobile phone number for security-related tasks, like two-factor authentication. That makes SIM-swapping scams dramatically less effective.

Google Voice also runs on multiple devices, which is handy for someone who switches devices regularly. Not having to reconfigure 2FA when you switch to a new device is liberating.

I can’t find a free alternative to Google Voice that I can comfortably recommend, but the venerable Line2 service, at $10 per month (or $99 a year, billed annually) fills the bill. YouMail, a call-blocking and voicemail service, includes a second line with SMS support as a standard feature on its $10.99 per month YouMail Professional products. I’ve used it for several years and recommend it.

USE SOMETHING OTHER THAN GMAIL AS YOUR DEFAULT EMAIL CLIENT

I’m old enough to remember when Gmail was a closed beta and you had to have an invitation to get your own account. In retrospect, we should have gotten a clue that something was amiss when the Gmail beta launched, officially, on April Fool’s Day, 2004. (Not a joke. DuckDuckGo it.)

Back in 2017, Google stopped its controversial practice of scanning the content of free Gmail accounts for the purpose of targeting ads, and the company says any processing it does of message content (to generate reply suggestions, for example) is done by machines. And, of course, paid GSuite business accounts have always been disconnected from Google’s ad infrastructure.

The main reason I don’t use Gmail, though, has nothing to do with privacy. It’s just that I really really don’t like the browser-based interface on the desktop, where I do most of my serious email work. Alas, that’s how Google wants its customers to use Gmail on PCs, and Gmail developers don’t seem to care that their service doesn’t play well with other clients.

For business accounts, I use Office 365, and most of my personal accounts are on Outlook.com. If your employer uses Gmail, you’re not free to switch, but for personal mail it’s easy to set up a new default address, forward messages from Gmail, and hardly skip a beat.

For paid business email, there are third-party alternatives if you’d rather avoid working with Microsoft directly. I recommend Intermedia, which offers hosted Exchange and Office 365 with a much less intimidating interface. Many hosting providers offer email options to go with your custom domain; for example, you can get Office 365 subscriptions from GoDaddy, with or without a hosting package. It pays to check with your current hosting provider.

There’s certainly no reason to delete your Gmail account, but switching to a new default email service doesn’t have to be painful. Back in 2013, I made the case against Gmail and wrote detailed instructions for switching from Gmail to Outlook.com. The basic principles haven’t changed in all that time.

GET OFF OF GOOGLE’S CLOUD

Some of Google’s stickiest services are its cloud-based storage and collaboration tools: GSuite (Docs, Sheets, Slides), Google Drive, and Google Photos.

Office 365, which includes a terabyte or more of OneDrive storage with every subscription, is the logical alternative to GSuite and Google Drive. Earlier this year, I did a comprehensive comparison of the two services, “Office 365 vs G Suite: Which productivity suite is best for your business?” Read that for a quick refresher on what makes Office 365 different from GSuite.

You can also choose from a wealth of independent cloud storage providers, including well-known services like Dropbox and Box and others that are less well known but technically superior, like Intermedia’s SecuriSync, which is available bundled with email and Office or as a standalone product.

Google Photos is a harder service to replace. For the basic task of backing up and organizing your digital photos, both Apple (iCloud) and Microsoft (OneDrive) offer options to upload photos from the default camera roll on your mobile device to their respective services. OneDrive is the clear choice if you also want those photos to be accessible on a Windows 10 PC.

But no one quite does the AI-powered magic that Google does with Photos. Just be aware that all that magic also feeds Google’s insatiable appetite for data.

Article by Ed Bott from ZDNet.com

E Commerce Website Development Guide

E Commerce Website Development Guide

The retail industry today has changed tremendously, thanks to the advances in internet technology. In the span of 10 years the e commerce sector has only be growing, and we don’t see it stopping anytime soon. The e commerce sector hosts thousands of e commerce websites all over the world. With each e commerce website offering something different to its visitors. In the world that we live in today, many seek the convenience of online shopping. With just a click of a button, your item is purchased and it will be delivered right up to your door step. As our lives get busier the less time we have, to go out to a mall to shop. So, the popularity of online shopping only seems to incline.

With technology being so efficient today, it is extremely easy for you to start your own e commerce page. There is no need for technological skills and knowledge for you to develop your own site. Here are a few steps that will help you develop your own DIY page:

The Beginning Process

1. Selecting The Right Web Designing Tools

Before you start developing anything, you have to have a business plan. You need to have a clear idea of what your business is going to be first. (We advice that you document your ideas down on to paper) When you are confident with your business plan then you can focus on developing your site. If you have a little bit of knowledge about programming, then you’ll know what HTML, PHP or MySQL is and start from scratch.

However, if you’re not that tech savvy and aren’t familiar with the technical aspects, you can also invest in web design software’s. Software’s such as Adobe Dreamweaver and Microsoft Expression web will make life so much easier for you. But of course these software’s do not come for free, they are around $50-$300. But, it all comes down to the type you decide to purchase. Open source options are also available for your choosing if you’d prefer. Companies like BlueGriffon and KompoZer are great too. But, the latter options may not have all the features compared to the paid software. Yet, it is still a much better option compared to starting from scratch.

It is hard to advice on which tool you should pick for your e commerce store, as it completely depends on what your needs and wants are. Our advice to you is to pick a easy interface. If you’re planning on developing a simple website, go for HTML/CSS. If you’re website is going to be complex where your content frequently changes, then go for content management systems (CMS). Joomla or Drupal are two CMS’s that are worth checking out.

2. Choosing A Web Host For Your Site

When all the ground work for your website is done and dusted, your next step is to find a host. There are hundreds of web hosting solutions out there. Each of them may offer different services. Your goal is to work with a hosting platform that can help meet your e commerce site needs. The first thing to take into consideration is the price. Will the price fit your budget? Do some research, browse the net and compare the prices of different web hosts.

If you are working on a tight budget, you should not always pick the cheapest option. Sometimes, hosts with cheap base prices charge more in other areas. Or their service just isn’t really that great. For example, maybe customer service isn’t that great or most importantly poor tech support. These two aspects are extremely important if you are new to developing a site. You will need all the help and support you can get when something goes wrong.

Another important thing to consider is, features offered by the host. An example would be, the host being compatible with programming language you have picked for your site. To make it much easier for you, look for a host that offers an email server. In addition, look for hosts that provide security to your website. Things like firewalls and virus detection to ensure your sites safety. You never know when a hacker might strike. Lastly, pick a host that has an up-time guarantee. You need to be sure that your visitors will be able to access the site at all times.

Web hosting solutions such as InstanteStore, Shopify and Magento help you develop your own e commerce site. It is pretty simple, for a small fee every month, you no longer have to worry about programming. Everything you need to start you’re site is already at your disposal. For instance, InstanteStore is a browser-based eCommerce platform. It is simple and easy even for those with no programming knowledge or IT expertise. The solution boasts an array of features on top of its very impressive slick and easy to navigate admin or control panel. Setting up the store is quick, from picking  template to the final payment process.

Finalizing The Process

1. Choosing A Payment Gateway

One of the key features of an e commerce platform is the payment gateways. It is important that customers are given an easy check out process. Also, a secure payment option is extremely important, your customers are trusting your website with their payment details. So it is your responsibility to make sure that their information is not compromised.

There are many payment processors that can help you with this issue. Google Checkout and the very popular PayPal are amongst the many. Instead of paying directly on your site, customers will be sent to an external site where they can process their payments safely. Another option is Authorize.net this will allow your customers to check out on your site and authorize the payment immediately, instead of being redirected. As some customers might be a little bit more skeptical when they get redirected to another site for payment.

When choosing a payment gateway, think of whether it is acceptable to your customers. It is advisable to go for more common payment gateways so customers have an easier time making a payment.

2. Checkout Cart Selection

E commerce stores have one thing in common with the brick and mortar stores, and that is the shopping cart. What is a shopping cart? It is that little icon of a shopping cart on the top of a retailers website. A shopping cart is where customers put all the items that they want to purchase in. From there customers can check out and make payment. There are many shopping cart systems available for your choosing. You also have the option of creating your own cart from scratch. You should also consider picking a shopping cart software that is supported by your host. Another option is to check with your e commerce host if they too provide a shopping cart software. For example InstanteStore offers both web hosting and a shopping cart software.

Conclusion

E commerce is a fast growing retail segment. Thousands of sites are popping up throughout the internet. You can easily join in the fun too! As you can see, building your own e commerce site wasn’t as hard as you thought. It is very possible for you to have your own site with little to no technological skills. All you need to know is what you need to do to build a fully functional website. Main factors to consider are the web design tools, website host, payment gateway and shopping cart software. Remember to have a clear business plan before you start building. Have the blueprints ready before you build your empire.

 

Iceland Takes Delivering Goods To A Whole New Level

Iceland Take Delivery Of Goods To A Whole New Level

Iceland’s largest online marketplace Aha has recently partnered with Flytrex, an Israeli drone company to expend its delivery options. Aha can now deliver goods to two part of the city of Reykjavik that are separated by a wide river. using the drone delivery method.

In the long run, Aha will be saving a lot of time and cost using the drone delivery method. Without the drones, Aha usually has to drive around a large bay to get to certain addresses in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. With the help of the drones, Aha now only uses a single route to pass the bay and get to its customers address. An example would be, an employee of Aha will launch a drone at the nearest hub to the store it needs to pick up from. From there, the drone will fly to the second hub, closer to the customers location and from there another one of Aha’s employees will then pick it up and deliver it to the customers doorstep. Aha’s plan for the future is to deliver orders using the drones that are hook, Technology, Fled on to wires that can lower the deliveries into the customers very own backyard.

With the help of Flytex’s drones, Aha will be able to deliver its items six times faster compared to a car in heavy traffic. For a start, the system is only doing a delivery at a time. However, multiple deliveries are possible.

The Real Deal!

For everyone who think that this is only a temporary project, think again. Aha has emphasized that this is a PERMANENT service offered by the Icelandic online market place. Both Flytrex and Aha have received approval from the Icelandic Transport Authority to deliver food and products from shops to its customers in Reykjavik.

 

Article originally written by Karen Gilchrist and posted on CNBC on the 23rd/8/2017

 

Apple Just Launched its iOS 11 Update With Some Icon Changes!

Apple Just Launched its iOS 11 Update With Some Icon Changes!

 

Today Apple releases its iOS 11 update and it comes with more than your usual bug fixes and performances upgrades. As you can see in the image above Apple is making some changes to these familiar 3 apps. The image that was posted by iCulture on their Twitter shows the before and after pictures of the app icons. It is quite rare for Apple to make changes to its first party app icons although they are always releasing updates to make the iPhone better.

Just having a glance at the icons, you may not have realized the changes. However, if you were to look closely, you’ll notice that the iconic paint brush, pencil and ruler on the app store icon is replaced with lines. Also, if you notice on the new maps app has a circular image on it. That circular image represents a corner of Apple’s circular office building. Last but not least, probably one of the apps all of us use the most, the clock app.  The clock app gets bolder numbers and is done in Apple’s iconic bespoke San Francisco font. Whether you prefer the old icons or the new ones better, there’s no doubt that the new images look better in higher resolutions.

Apple will also be taking a few things away following the update. Several live wallpapers are no longer pre loaded. In addition, auto brightness will be movies to the accessibility section of the settings.