Privacy: Don’t let Gmail show images by default

Recently Gmail started caching all images sent to its users and by default will now display them when you look at your email. At first glance it seems like a good idea. It protects your IP address, stops the sender dropping cookies in your browser and possibly speeds up image loading for you. What it doesn’t do is stop the sender knowing that you opened the email. Your privacy is at risk if you enable this. Marketing efforts just became a lot easier.

A carefully crafted image filename will let the sender know that a particular user viewed his spam email, even if Google host the file on their own servers. Google has to fetch the file from the sender’s server and that will contain a number or string identifying that user.

http://example.com/logo.jpg?email=joe@example.com

As soon as that image is opened by Google the sender knows they have a valid email address.

How easy is it to track usage? It’s simple! I wrote a plugin in 2007 called blog voyeur that could track visitors who viewed my blog through RSS readers if they had left comments here. (I’m not using that plugin any more, don’t worry, your anonymity is safe!)

The documentation on the new settings says as much but I doubt many people will look there.

In some cases, senders may be able to know whether an individual has opened a message with unique image links. As always, Gmail scans every message for suspicious content and if Gmail considers a sender or message potentially suspicious, images won’t be displayed and you’ll be asked whether you want to see the images.

Gmail does a good job of spotting spam but legitimate email can contain these tracking images too. I get promotional emails from companies I’ve dealt with. I would much rather they not know when I open or even if I have opened their emails. If I wanted them to know, I’d tell them.
So, when you see that popup informing you that images will be displayed, click on Settings and disable image loading.

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Bring ‘em back alive!

This was to be an oh so glorious rescue. I built the rover described here, with some modifications of my own: Larger fuel tank, extra rockets. I tested it on Kerbin. It was able to land without parachutes from 4,000m. Everything was perfect for the rescue of two would-be-rescuers from a previous mission and the Kerbonaut they were going to rescue.

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I landed successfully only 3km or so away from their location on the Mun. It was a hair raising landing as it was inside a crater, after the sun had set. Pitch black. I knew it was highland area but when I checked the internal cockpit altimeter and saw the needle sneak past 100m I luckily did not panic but set the rover down. After a quick repair of the wheels and a longer wait until sunrise I headed for my destination.

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My destination is deep within a crater and this rover was too top heavy to trust at speed. Much easier to get everyone else to me!

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I even drove the other rover that had miraculously survived a crash to the rescue craft and had the two Kerbonauts strapped to external chairs. Everything was perfect.

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Getting into orbit was easy. Getting back to Kerbin had it’s fair share of excitement. The Mun caught us again and I ended up outside the orbit of Minmus but then it was back to Kerbin. That’s when disaster struck.

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To speed my orbital decay I switched to a landing side and warped time while the rescue craft was around 40,000m. It seemed to work fine but when I switched back all my Kerbonauts were swinging wildly about. I had to get them to leave their seats and board them again to sort things out. Unfortunately as soon as I warped again they went flying off again.

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I tried several times using a quick save but no luck. I gave up eventually. Sorry guys, so close but you’re lost in space, possibly to the Kraken.

Still, there’s a lad stuck on Duna and one on Eve too. To be continued …

Edit: I gave it one more go from the save file. I didn’t try to get the Kerbonauts into their seats again but I left my ship drift toward low orbit before firing my rockets retrograde to lose height. I lost sight of the ship, it shot off into the distance but I was able to hop inside and monitor progress from there.
Eventually we landed and yes, all my rescued Kerbonauts were safe and secure. Upside down in their seats to be sure but they live to fly another day!

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Good job Sondous and Wehrley!

The Snow is cold on Duna

The Desert on Duna

Dondorf Kerman is the first Kerbal on Duna and he was busy. Unfortunately he totally misjudged how thick the atmosphere was and broke three landing gear struts and two of his engines! Luckily he was able to repair the landing gear but he wouldn’t be going home.

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Meanwhile Huddun Kerman was determined to save his friend Dondorf but was having teething problems with his rescue vehicle. Getting into Kerbin orbit was proving harder than he thought.

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With no rescue in sight, brave Dondorf decided to fly to the north pole of Duna and explore the snowy hills. On the way he carried out several science experiments and was then annoyed after a perfect landing that Duna has no distinct biomes for scientific research. Still, he’d have fun tobogganing down the snowy slopes.

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Little did Dondorf know but his final in-flight science experiments were enough for Kerbal Space Centre to unlock the final pieces of equipment. Surely, rescue missions could now be launched to the Mun, Eve and Duna where brave but hopelessly naive Kerbals had stranded themselves. First, celebrations. Everyone got a little tipsy and someone fired Jebediah into the ground with an upside down rocket. Ooops.

Go get Kerbal Space Program, it’s on Steam too!

I hated Gravity until I saw this

The movie Gravity came out in Ireland about a month after it opened in the US so I desperately avoided any references to it until I saw it in 3D a few weeks ago. Some bits of it were really good, the 3D effect of things blowing up were spectacular but Hollywood really took liberties with some aspects of orbiting the earth.

That bit where Kowalsky races to rescue Stone and tells her to shine her torch seemed so far fetched. The violence she suffered when she was ripped off the shuttle sent her spinning off at great velocity. How could anyone spot a tiny torch glowing in the deep reaches and distance of space?

Then it hit me, Kowalsky was a Kerbal. He had a navball and a map. Must be it.

Lucky Escape for Skydivers

When two planes collide it was lucky everyone had parachutes on. They all survived, even the pilots. One plane landed but the other pilot had to bail out. I think I read he had to use a reserve parachute to escape.

This is an extended 1080p version of the grainy video that was out a few weeks ago. It has footage from multiple Gopro cameras mounted on the helmets of the divers. Amazing that nobody was injured or killed.

Yes, finally fixed the SSD freezing my computer!

TL;DR If your computer is freezing after installing an SSD change from AHCI to IDE mode in the BIOS.

Argh! This has been driving me slightly mad for a while. I bought a Samsung 840 SSD a few weeks ago to make things a bit faster. It does too, mostly to the boot up (which I rarely do, this machine is on 24×7) but it feels smoother in day to day tasks too.

SSD

I keep the Lightroom catalogue on the SSD, Windows 7 is on there too but most apps, all games and all photos are on other drives.

It worked fine for a while but then it started freezing and stuttering without warning. It was usually when I had a few dozen Chrome tabs open, Firefox running, Skype, xchat, and various services going. The mouse cursor would disappear and the keyboard would stop working for about 5 seconds. Then the problem would go away for a while.

It came back this morning with a vengeance. If I reloaded a browser tab I was guaranteed to freeze my PC.

I had gone searching for solutions before. I’m not the only one with this problem but forum threads were usually:

  • Filled up with replies from people saying, “me too”.
  • A few brave souls asking for log files
  • Suggestions to update firmware and BIOS
  • Solitary pleas for help.

I made sure my SSD firmware was updated (it was) and updated the BIOS of my ASUS P8Z77-M motherboard for the first time to no avail. No change. I was getting ready to put Windows back on the original disk.

Finally, one last desperate search later, I came across this thread and in the same search this page suggesting two methods I hadn’t tried. I did not try disabling LPM (some sort of power saving mod) but I did change the SATA mode from AHCI to IDE. Supposedly the SSD won’t work as well, but it fixed the stuttering and freezes, probably because it apparently disables power saving mode too, or so I’ve read.

Phew. No more stutters! If I hit any performance problems I’ll try the LPM trick with the registry.

It’s fun on Minmus

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Minmus is a tiny moon orbiting Kerbin in the game Kerbal Space Program. There’s a closer moon, Mun, that I’ve visited in the past but this was my first time getting to Minmus. This moon is so small it has a tiny gravity. A Kerbonaut can jump 10 metres with a single bound! ‘Course, sometimes that leap can land him in trouble..

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On a previous attempt to land I noticed my solar panels weren’t working. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the sun was blocked by the Mun, how was that possible?

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Damn, a lunar eclipse, what are the chances? (and if this was Reddit someone would probably tell me!)

Oh yes. If you’re playing KSP and you’re in a Steam chat, please disable your engines before pressing shift-tab. The sudden take off from the surface when you hit shift can be upsetting.

Android 4.3 finally on my Galaxy S4

OK, so I really didn’t put Kitkat on my S4 but I did put Android 4.3 on there. Most people will be able to upgrade the S4 with an OTA or KIES update but if you’ve modified your phone by rooting it then that doesn’t work without intervention.

That intervention relies on flashing a “stock rom” on the phone which is just as risky as flashing the new rom so I decided to wait until it appeared here and then grabbed the file, backed up my photos, music, settings from various apps and with some trepidation fired up Odin.

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Odin is the tool used to flash Samsung Android phones and once begun, the process is painless.

So, Knox started complaining about the apps on my phone that needed root access to work. Get rid of that then! Thanks to CF Auto Root that was easy. Flash that on there with Odin and Greenify works once more and Facebook is hibernated. I sent Chainfire a donation too as I’m sure this is about the third time I’ve used his tools.

I haven’t noticed many differences, or really any except that Disk Usage works a lot faster now because of the TRIM being done on the flash memory.

Oh yeah, before I forget. I won a bar of chocolate with that KitKat. Got myself a nice Yorkie this morning. Didn’t win that time though. Ah well.

Edit: Noooooo! Knox stopped Disk Usage from scanning / which requires root. Greenify still worked which is more important but I guess Knox has some parts of the system still locked down.
Chainfire has more info on Knox and how to disable but also this bad news that disabling Knox may void any warranty on the phone. Grrr.