Rambling Thoughts from a Wandering Mind

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Trying out Wire

Wire messaging app's official logo.

I’m always on the look out for a secure messaging app that is both user-friendly and not Facebook Messenger/WhatsApp.

I’ve been using Signal for a while, but it has some limitations. For one thing, it’s directly tied to my phone number. My account isn’t “portable” as a result, and it doesn’t work on platforms other than my phone. WhatsApp has a similar limitation, as well as being owned by Facebook which makes me skeptical that it’s really as secure as they claim.

Facebook Messenger, though certainly not a secure way of communicating, is nice in that it is cross-platform. It works on phones. It works on laptops. It doesn’t matter what operating system you use (there are native apps for both Android and iOS, and the PC version is browser-based, so it doesn’t matter what operating system your computer runs).

Wire shares the cross-platform nature of FB Messenger, but is secure by default. Phone calls are end-to-end encrypted. Text and images are encrypted between the device and Wire’s servers, rather than end-to-end. This is less than ideal, but it is a design choice the developers made to ensure messages can be accessed from multiple devices.

Best of all, though, since my biggest obstacle with trying to make my communications more secure is getting other people to use the same applications as I do, is that Wire is very user-friendly.

The user interface looks nice. It does group chat very well. And it’s easy to search for and find contacts.

It seems to hit a nice balance between being secure and being easy to use. Is it secure enough for activists or political organizers? Probably not. But for day-to-day communication that you want to keep private from data-harvesters or overly-broad data-mining conducted by law enforcement, it does the trick.

You can create a Wire account by downloading the appropriate mobile app or visiting their website. You can add me as a contact by searching for @adamsnider.

New theme – Thoughts?

I’m trying out a new, very minimalist theme. I was playing around with Brutaldon — a brutalist web interface for Mastodon and Pleroma — and was really liking the very simple aesthetic of some of the themes.

That inspired me to search for brutalist WordPress themes. This theme, called Log Lolla, is the only one that came up. I’m not entirely sure it counts as brutalist (not that I’m an expert by any means), but it’s definitely extremely minimalist.

I quite appreciate the minimalist nature of this theme, so I think I’ll keep it active for a while.

Please let me know in the comments what you think of the new theme.

Toys R Us is actually really, really good at selling toys

Toys R Us isn’t going out of business because it can’t sell toys. It isn’t going out of business because it’s being out-competed by Amazon and Walmart. It’s going out of business because of predatory, venture capitalism.

The demise of Toys R Us is ultimately related to the kind of complex debt-buying schemes that make bankers and financiers rich while leaving nearly everyone else significantly poorer. It’s the worst, most unproductive form of capitalism (in that it literally doesn’t produce anything) and it has claimed another victim.

According to the collectible toy hobbyist website OAFE:

Toys R Us is very good at selling toys. Estimates vary, but 15-20% of all US toy sales came through Toys R Us. Think about that: 20%. One out of every five toys sold in America has Geoffrey’s hoofprints on it. They’re not competing against just Walmart and Target, but every grocery store, pharmacy, gas station, mall kiosk, GameStop, bookstore, calendar store, game store, comic shop, department store, and hundreds if not thousands of small-time websites – literally anywhere you can buy any new toy – and yet TRU owned a fifth of the industry. But people still say the blame lies with Toys R Us.

Given what happened with Sears and Sears Canada — the Canadian company holding on only just a little longer than the US one, before ultimately declaring bankruptcy — I imagine we’ll see Toys R Us Canada disappear in the next few years, as well.

 

Thanks to keithzg for sharing the OAFE link on Mastodon.