geek internet opensource privacy society tips

why join mastodon

Mastodon, the federated social messaging platform so many people migrated to when things started to go sour on Twitter. If you haven’t joined yet, or you’re thinking about going to Bluesky, why should you join this Mastodon thing instead? You have to choose a server and all, sounds pretty complex right?

Well, it isn’t really. Here are some reasons why you should join over 11 million people (May 2023):

  • It’s here to stay. In fact, it has been here for a long time already, and it keeps going. It’s based on Open Source projects, and on the open protocol called ActivePub, and is spread over multiple servers. It can’t be taken down.
  • No ads. Seriously. NO ADS.
  • Picking a server doesn’t really matter. You can always move servers later on, and you can follow anyone from any server anyway. Just don’t pick a tiny one with only 10 people on it, unless they are your friends, and they own the server oslt.
  • You’ll be escaping the clutches of Musk, The Zuck and Jack.
  • Your feed is yours. No algorithm messing with what posts you see. It’s just who you’re following, in chronological order. Yes, that one guy really is posting a lot.
  • It has lists, bookmarks, favs, boosts, polls, video, images, all the stuff you know from the birdsite and more.
  • There’s more to it than Mastodon. Mastodon is part of the so-called Fediverse, and there are different types of servers out there that all speak ActivePub to each other. Some are specialized in video, others image sharing etc. But that’s all rather technical, and you shouldn’t worry about that to begin with. Just hop on, and check it out.
  • It has a lot of accessibility features. People tend to add alt text to images.
  • ​You will learn about the legendary John Mastodon.
  • It’s fun, like in the early days of Twitter.
  • There are a bunch of different apps for all platforms to choose from. So if you don’t like the stock one, or you miss a feature, just look for something else. I’m sure you’ll find something you like. On Android, I like Tusky.
  • You can post up to 500 characters by default. Even more on some specific servers.
  • If you don’t like how things work on your server, you can pack up your followers and move to another server. Something you couldn’t do on Twitter, unfortunately.
  • You don’t want to be part of yet another billionaire’s idea of a social network, who ends up selling out anyway.
  • You don’t want the next social network you join to be acquired by yet another billionaire and his crazy idea of how a social network should work. They aren’t even that social to begin with.
  • No ads, no tracking user data. OMG, can you believe it?
  • There are tons of cat pictures and the tag #caturday is booming in the weekend.
  • If you want to geek out, you can run your own server, or pay a hoster to host your own instance. Set up a small server for your friends, your company, your community, or just for yourself.
  • Porn is OK on most servers, as long as you hide it between an #NSFW content warning.
  • People will actually engage with your posts. Well, not always, but more than on that other site anyway.
  • You can join a server hosted in your own region. That way you keep your data out of US hands, and you can speak your own language with the locals. Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, the list goes on.
  • It’ll make you feel like a rebel, an anti-capitalist, giving big tech the finger. Yes, it’s that awesome.
  • More geek stuff: it has RSS feeds baked in for every user account and tags. Just add .rss at the end of the URL. Go nuts!
  • It has an API to write all the bots you want, for free. No paying for API access.
  • The website comes with a tweetdeck-like interface out of the box (see advanced mode in the settings).
  • It has advanced blocking features, muted words, hiding your social graph, the lot. Great for minorities.
  • You can import/export pretty much all your data.
  • Custom emoji per server. Want something special? Ask your admin!
  • No real name policy.
  • Piss off Elon by setting your Mastodon handle as your Twitter username.
  • Have fun, don’t take it all too serious. Follow lots of people, see your feed come to life.

Ready to join me?

internet privacy security society tips

help defeat internet censorship with the Snowflake browser plugin

Photo by Holly Greene on Unsplash

In some countries, you aren’t allowed to surf freely on the internet. Sites are censored, your traffic is monitored, your privacy and freedom are limited.
Tools like the Tor browser help to bypass these internet blockades, but they rely on Tor-proxies. Running a Tor proxy takes some dedication and a certain technical background, but with the Snowflake project, anyone can help and be a part of the Tor network without effort.

All it takes is installing the Snowflake plugin in your browser, and you are set. When it’s active, you’ll be a middle-man getting restricted content from the web to censored users using the Tor browser. Don’t worry, there’s never a direct connection between you and whoever requested the page. It’s all routed through the Tor network, which anonymizes the traffic.

The plugin works on Chrome and Firefox. If you want more detailed info, check out the Tor wiki. You can even run a standalone version in Docker if you want to go full geek. ;)

So if you feel like giving some authoritarian dictator the finger, go ahead and install the plugin in your browser.

internet privacy security software tips

how to use messenger and facebook without the app

Facebook is probably the worst social media company out there, so it makes sense you don’t want their apps on your phone. But unfortunately your less privacy concerned friends are all gleefully using Facebook and Messenger and you don’t want to miss out.

I understand your pain. Here’s a simple guide to still use Zuck’s book on your phone, without the dreaded apps.

Step 1: get a new browser app

We’re going to use the mobile site, which works quite well. To separate all the Facebook traffic from our regular surfing habits and keep Zuck from snooping on us, we’ll use a completely different browser app.

Head over to the Google Play Store and search for “browser“. You’ll see a big list of browser apps, so you just have to pick one you’re not currently using. You are most likely using Chrome as your main browser, or the Samsung browser if you have a Samsung phone, so you can go for Firefox or the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser as your alternative. Both are good browsers, and I’ve used them both for faking the Facebook. I even use Firefox as my main browser.

The Android Play Store results when looking for a new browser.

Step 2: open your newly acquired browser app, and surf to

After you log in, you’ll be able to use the mobile site pretty much like the app. Now, since this is a separate browser, you just leave your Facebook tab open. Next time you start your dedicated browser app for Facebook, you’ll be logged in already. Easy-peasy. Just don’t use this browser for anything else. If you do, Zuck will be able to follow you around on every site that has anything enabled related to Facebook or Instagram.

Step 3: set up messenger.

Messenger sucks because they want to force you to install the app when you use the mobile site to check your messages. There is a way around this though.
Messenger still works on the desktop site aka your PC/laptop right? So we just have to tell Facebook we’re using that from our phone.
You can do this by going to in a second tab on your new browser. Now, you click the 3 dot-menu in the menu bar and activate the “Desktopsite” checkbox. The page will refresh and look pretty much the same, but now it thinks you’re visiting it from a desktop PC. Now open the Facebook hamburger menu, choose Messenger and voilà, there you have all your messages and contacts.

The trick is to leave this second tab open on your phone as well, so you have quick access to your messages whenever you like. After not using it for a while, you might end up with a message telling you to install the app again. This is because the tab refreshed and is back in mobile-mode. When this happens, just go back into the 3-dot menu of your browser and check the “Desktopsite” checkbox again. After reloading the page, you’re set again.
A minor inconvenience for the added privacy of not having Zuck’s spy-apps on your phone if you ask me. ;)

An Android app icon showing Fakebook instead of Facebook. Funny, isn't it?

Step 4: change the icon.

If you want to get fancy, now is the time to long-press the icon of your now dedicated Facebook-browser app and change the icon to… the Facebook icon perhaps? I also change the name to something more appropriate, like Fakebook for example.

Step 5: convince your friends to not use Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram.

Just kidding.

internet privacy security society

join the EFF summer security reboot and get some cool dice

DSC01217The Electronic Frontier Foundation is on the fore-front when it comes to defending our digital rights. Even as a European I think they are doing important work even though they are mostly US centric. This because whatever happens in the US ripples over the pond and affects Europe and the rest of the world anyway. That means that next to larger fast-food portions increased digital surveillance is on its way to the EU as well.
Next to protecting our digital rights they are the author of a number of awesome security plugins and tools like the HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger browser plugins and a driving force behind the Let’s Encrypt free web site certificate tool set.

Next to a lot of security tools and tips (see the site & newsletter) they now have a Summer Security Reboot fund drive where you can get a cool geeky secure-password generating dice set for a mere $20 membership until the 20th of July.

So if you like what they are doing for a secure and free internet in the future, go check them out and get yourself some cool dice in the process.

If you feel more like donating to a EU centric counterpart of EFF, you can check out instead (no dice there though).

Photo by Violet Blue, cc-licensed.

internet opensource privacy security

how to protect your privacy online

Who Are You Looking At?

With the whole NSA PRISM storm blowing over the internet I thought it would be nice to compile a list of free and open source software I know that can help in safeguarding your privacy as an alternative to proprietary software or online cloud services which are not to be trusted with your personal data.

Hosting everything yourself is one way to go like the folks at suggest, but it isn’t free as it will a) cost you some money and b) usually quite some time to set everything up. Not everyone has the technical knowledge to do this either, so a list of open source software and trustworthy services for the masses would be great.

Turns out is just that kind of list, so that saves me the trouble of compiling it myself. Nice. Here’s another one with mostly the same items on it. Mostly.

Photo by Caneles, cc-licensed.