Max's Blog

Tracking and Advertising

Have you ever noticed that you get a ton of adverts on the Internet for things that you have looked at elsewhere ?
This is because when you visit sites, you leave behind a trail of information that advertisers can use to then bombard you with adverts about the exact same things.

It is very annoying.

Some time ago I was looking at a specific Lego set for a Christmas present. It was on sale on, but I wanted to read the reviews. I bought it after reading several reviews and all was well, but following that, every page I visited would give me adverts for the same or similar sets. This might not have been too bad, had the intended recipient not been looking over my shoulder and pointed out how much they liked that set….

It was time to do something about this.

Many websites track you as you wander around their sites, in general they use third-party tools that allow for cross-site tracking. If you got to site A, B, C, D, the third party knows where you have been and what you have looked at. This information is available to advertisers.

There are a number of trackers, google are heavy trackers for example, but there are many of them out there.

Blocking all trackers has the effect of removing the targeted adverts. It reduces the targeting. Having a list of all domains that are used for tracking would allow you to block them at a router level assuming you can do this. But the list is HUGE.

In addition to this, there are a number (huge) of domains that actually serve adverts. Again, blocking these domains will prevent users from even seeing them.

So, what is needed are some lists, lists of trackers to block and lists of advertisers to block.

What you need is Pi-Hole

Pi-Hole is a local DNS server, but it does not give you DNS for the whole of the internet, it omits all of the sites that track you and serve adverts to you.

This is extremely cool, it runs on a Raspberry Pi and it just plain works. Any present my Pi-Hole implementation is blocking over 800k domains, which are responsible for 17.5% of all queries.

We get no adverts, no trackers and much faster loading speeds.

Because this is at our network level, it works for the TV’s. iPads and phones etc.

Planet Fret 4.0

In 2019, I wrote ‘Planet Fret 3,’. At the time I was really trying to voice my concerns about the consequences of human actions on our planet. Back then, I concentrated on what appeared to be the unchecked use of oil and plastic, allied as well to the throwaway culture that dominated our society. It was disconcerting to consider the irreversible harm we were causing through our lifestyles.

Four years later, as we move towards 2024, things have barely changed, regrettably, our political leaders seem to be failing to steer us in a direction that truly benefits future generations. If anything we are digging a larger hole for our descendants, daily. Profit and the stock market being a primary driver of in-action.

The US, in particular, is divided on the issue of climate change, Back in 2019 the president was the leader of the bat shit crazy climate change deniers. It seemed that every day he was denying its existence and doing everything possible to undo any good that prior, slightly less insane, presidents may have done to mitigate the worst. Climate change really had become a matter of political affiliation and belief, aligning with certain religious factions. It was disgusting to witness the environment being manipulated for political gains. Even more so to see that ‘Christians’ were standing up and basically saying that there is wrong with destroying the environment.

The environmental impact of our modern lifestyle should be a major concern. The persisting idea that everyone should own a car, even if it sits idle for around 95% of its life, remained. Furthermore, our continued reliance on coal and fossil fuels for energy generation was, and remains, a glaring issue. Our inability to manage waste and our excessive use of plastics had already reached critical levels. The sight of massive plastic islands adrift in our oceans was nothing short of tragic.

Our oceans have absorbed so much plastic waste that we’d created immense garbage patches, the most notorious being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Cleaning up this environmental disaster will require colossal and extremely expensive efforts.

The presence of microplastics in our diets remained an alarming issue, with potential health implications that should not be ignored.

The environmental impact of our consumer-driven, profit-oriented lifestyle was undeniable. Plastics were pervasive, and avoiding them had become increasingly challenging. From our lunchtime salads wrapped in plastic to each ingredient individually sealed in cellophane, the convenience and longevity of plastic packaging leads to excessive waste.

Ultimately, the root of this problem lay in our consumer demand for freshness and convenience, which often led to more packaging.

The crux of the issue remained financial. In 2019, over 99% of the world’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of less than 1% of the population. Furthermore, just 62 individuals possessed as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population, approximately 3.6 billion people. These very individuals who hoarded wealth were often reluctant to address global issues because doing so could impact their profits.

The wealthier you are, the less likely you are to consider your environmental footprint. Affluent individuals often engaged in fuel-inefficient travel, live in large energy-consuming homes, and indulged in other behaviors that significantly contributed to their carbon footprints.

The issue extends beyond the United States. Coal industries in other countries, such as China and Australia, continue to burn coal, despite the known environmental consequences. The powerful coal lobby has enormous financial influence and has continued to steadfastly protected its interests.

So, as 2023 draws to an end, how can we address these challenges?

Here’s an updated idea: Let’s incentivise those with substantial wealth and political power to take action to reverse the harm to our planet. Additionally we should consider imposing taxes on industries responsible for significant environmental damage, particularly plastics and fossil fuels.

How about we introduce a rule that states a ‘clean-up tax’ should amount to 50% of revenue and 100% of profits, assuming any profits are left once the environmental costs are considered ?

To address wealth inequality, we should implement a substantial inheritance tax on wealth beyond a modest threshold, directing the excess money toward environmental causes. These causes should encompass ocean plastic clean-up, waste recycling, CO2 reduction and capture projects, environmental education, and clean energy research.

The details need require careful consideration, especially those for gifting and transferring wealth.

The fundamental principle should be to ensure that this money doesn’t return to the general taxation funds, but is rather utilised for the betterment of our planet and the well-being of future generations.

In 2023, there are few things more deserving of our financial resources than the health of our planet and the welfare of those who will inherit it.

Beyond that, we need to look at our lifestyles. Many people think that a single individual cannot effect change, but I challenge that. if you make changes and you pass on the message through your actions, others will follow and the more that follow, the bigger the impact.

Here are a few ideas to reduce your Environmental impact footprint..

  1. Energy Efficiency: Improve the energy efficiency of your home by upgrading insulation, using energy-efficient appliances, and sealing drafts. This reduces the energy required for heating, cooling, and electricity. This saves you money in the long run too !
  2. Renewable Energy: If possible, invest in or use renewable energy sources like solar panels or wind turbines. There are many incentives and subsidies for renewable energy installations and again, in the long term, you save money – most power companies will even buy your excess power.
  3. Transportation: Opt for public transportation, carpooling, biking, walking, or using electric vehicles (EVs) instead of traditional petrol or diesel cars. If you drive, maintain your vehicle to improve fuel efficiency. Make sure the tires are correctly inflated too.
  4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Minimize waste by reducing, reusing, and recycling materials. This reduces the energy required to manufacture new products and decreases landfill emissions.
  5. Dietary Choices: Consider reducing meat and dairy consumption, especially red meat, and eat more plant-based foods. The livestock industry is a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
  6. Sustainable Travel: When traveling, choose eco-friendly transportation, stay in green hotels, and be mindful of your carbon footprint. Offset your emissions through programs that plant trees or invest in renewable energy projects.
  7. Energy-Efficient Appliances: Use energy-efficient appliances and turn them off when not in use. Unplug chargers and devices that draw power in standby mode.
  8. Water Conservation: Reduce water use because energy is required to heat and treat water. Fix leaks and install water-saving fixtures. Take a shower over a bath and do not stay in there for hours too.
  9. Buy Local and Seasonal: Support local produce and products to reduce the emissions associated with transportation and storage. Seasonal foods are often more sustainable.
  10. Green Building Design: If building or renovating a home or business, consider eco-friendly building materials and energy-efficient design, such as passive solar heating and natural ventilation.
  11. Carbon Offsets: Consider investing in carbon offset programs that support projects like reforestation, renewable energy, and methane capture to compensate for your remaining carbon emissions.
  12. Advocate for Climate Policies: Support and vote for policies and regulations that promote sustainability, renewable energy, and emissions reduction at the local, national, and global levels.
  13. Educate Yourself and Others: Stay informed about climate change and share your knowledge with friends and family to inspire collective action.
  14. Reduce Air Travel: Air travel has a significant carbon footprint. Consider alternatives like train or video conferencing when possible.
  15. Minimize Single-Use Plastics: Single-use plastics contribute to carbon emissions during production and disposal. Reduce your use of them. Please.
  16. Reduce Food Waste: Food waste in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Be mindful of portion sizes and use leftovers.
  17. Sustainable Fashion: Choose sustainable and ethically produced clothing and consider second-hand or vintage shopping.
  18. Support Green Businesses: Support businesses that prioritize sustainability and reduce their carbon footprint.
  19. Community Engagement: Get involved in local environmental organizations and community initiatives focused on reducing CO2 emissions.
  20. Invest Responsibly: Consider investing in companies that have strong environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices.

Reducing your CO2 footprint requires a combination of individual actions and broader systemic changes. It’s important to remember that collective efforts and policy changes are necessary to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Tribalism in the modern era.

It seems that in order to exist in the modern world, you need to belong to one or more tribes. The tribes of old have diminished and died off, there are very few people in the world that would identify as being a member of the Celts, Gauls, Rhaetians and Swabians, Vistula Veneti, Lugii and Balts tribes.

Had you asked me what I would consider tribal a few years ago, I would have said that football or baseball suppport would follow the tribal model quite well, the fans follow the same team, wear the same colours, fight the opposing tribes and to some extent embrace the same ideals

With the rise of the internet, and the spreading of information ad miss-information, prominent current tribes seem to be ‘Anti-vax’, or Anti-Mask, or Pro/Anti-Trump.

Membership of one tribe almost always seems to lead to membership of others too, so for once in the world we have tribes that are segregated in a way that looks a lot like a Venn diagram.

Planet Fret Three

Back in 2010, I wrote ‘Planet Fret’, where I worried about the impact that humans are having on our home. I worried about oil usage and plastic usage and generally about the throwaway society that we live in. I worried that we were doing irreparable damage through a life-style that was at odds with any type of conservation.

Then four years ago, I revisited it with fears that we had just crossed the 1° threshold of warming our planet and that there was little to no sign of us slowing down the damage.

So, now in 2019, many things are happening, very few of them are actually pushing us in a direction that will benefit future generations though.

In the US, the president is the chief of the national climate change denial club. As such, sadly, climate change has become a political issue. The deniers all line up with one side, which happen to also be the heavily religious side. Global warming, climate change, call it what you will is now a belief issue too, if you are a god-fearing Republican, you do are by definition a climate change denier and on a mission to burn as much coal and fossil fuel as possible to any the other side.

I really worry about the impact that our modern lifestyle has on the planet, not just the insistence that everyone should own a car, which then sits around for 95% of its life, slowly crumbling to rust, not just that we still burn coal and other fossil fuels for our energy, but now also because of our appalling inability to clean up after ourselves and our fantastically appalling use of plastics and our innate inability to consider the impact on our environment. The rafts of plastic in the oceans are utterly unforgivable.

We have dumped so much plastic into our oceans that we have floating islands of the stuff, the Great Pacific garbage patch is a huge environmental disaster that is going to take a massive effort to deal with.

Microplastics are a part of our diet, a part of US, this cannot be healthy, surely ?

We personally recycle as much of our rubbish as possible. Each week we put several recycle bags out containing paper, recyclable plastics etc., we also save all of our food waste, garden wastes and then finally the small bag of ‘trash’.

What happens to it all is a little bit of a mystery, we are lucky to live in an area that has decent recycling services, much of the waste, which in our case is a lot of packaging, gets recycled, the food and garden waste is highly compostable too, which leaves only a small trash footprint for us. 

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Car Marketing and Realities

For the last few months, we have been car-less. It was a conscious decision based on a lack of usage and a nagging feeling that we were contributing to the local gridlock. It was the right decision, although we are now viewed slightly oddly.

A car says a great deal about you, not having a car really throws people. In almost any situation, the question ‘So, what do you drive’ comes up. When we say ‘we do not own a car’, we get sympathy. Then we explain that this is not because we are poor, but because we do not need one. This gets a fairly incredulous response. How can we not need a car ?

Well it is simple, we order shopping on line, we walk into town, I ride a motorbike to the office 2-3 days a week and if we suddenly need a car, we simply rent one.

What we are still missing though is a chance for people to judge us based on their perceptions of the various cars on the market. Obviously if we said ‘An 18 plate 7-series BMW’, they would assume that we are super rich, live in a mansion and are probably super posh. If we said ‘an old Ford Fiesta’, then we probably live in a little terrace house on minimal income.

See how this works ?

I started to think about this, and I’ve come up with my assumption, based on what you drive, based on several years of commuting in and out of London and overtaking millions of single-occupant cars

Audi A3 – I really like the idea of a VW Golf, but they are simply not expensive enough. You are probably also not sure how to drive.

Audi A4 – I like the idea of a large car with ah huge boot, but the Skoda Superb is not good enough to show off to your neighbours.

BMW 3-series – You are a low-level salesman. You expect the peasants get out of the way as you feel you are probably royalty

BMW 5-series – I am a a mid-level salesman that always has a meeting to get to.

BMW X5 – I am an idiot and I drive like a moron all the time. I probably do not have a licence, insurance, and MOT or more than six functioning braincells/

Vauxhall Insignia – I wish you worked somewhere that gave out BMW 3-series

Ford Mundano – At least I do not drive a Vauxhall Insignia

Any Skoda – I am too poor to afford the (arguably better) VW or Audi version

VW Jetta – I would prefer a Golf, but its not possible get enough dead bodies in the hatchback version.

VW Golf R – I really wanted an Audi S3, but mummy would only buy you a VW.

Literally any SUV – I would like people to think that I spend my weekends kayaking, back packing or mountain biking. But really I just like to be able to look down on everyone and you love paying out for all the fuel it burns.

Range Rover – I drive off road a lot. I also define “Off Road” as Waitrose car park.

A lowered shopping trolley with a huge exhaust pipe – I want to be adored. I also like annoying people and I drive like a dick.

Toyota Prius – I dislike petrol stations and excitement in equal measure

A newer Bentley – I play Football 

Aston Martin – I play football a lot. 

Ford Focus – I am a family man/woman 

Ford Focus ST – I am a Yobbo 

Ford Focus RS – My favourite phrase is ‘hold my beer while I demonstrate drift mode’.

Ford Fiesta ST – I could not afford the Focus RS 

Mercedes A-class – I have no idea how to drive, your daddy got you the car.

Mercedes CLA – I drive with my knees while sexting 

Mercedes B-class – The twitches are not a medical emergency, I am just refreshing facebook.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea……

340 miles in a Nissan Qashqai.

A few years ago, I rented a Nissan Juke and drove it a few hundred miles and I came to actually like it a little bit, despite the fact that I was unable to refuel it and despite having to drive it very slowly to ensure that I got back to the rental company safely.

Having to exit the car rental place onto a busy roundabout with no idea where the clutch was going to bite was a little bit scary, but all was well, the engine had plenty of power and the gear change, while exceptionally long-throw, was predictable. The drive home was uneventful, unless you consider driving something that is perhaps 50% bigger than anything you have driven in a while outside of the B&Q truck, uneventful. The steering was nice and light, the clutch and gearbox easy to use, but the brakes are stupidly sharp, which means that even a gentle touch on the pedal had the nose diving for the tarmac and the passengers trying not to eat the dashboard. Around town then, this is not the best choice.

Last weekend we needed a car to drive up north and despite booking a ‘Skoda Octavia or similar’, they handed me the keys to a Nissan Qashqai. Initially I was somewhat skeptical, they had given me a compact SUV rather than the big Skoda that I thought I would be getting.

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Do you really need a car

All cars end up here

Recently we added up what running a car was costing us. Initially we looked purely at the monthly costs, but then we started to look at the ‘per mile’ costs and it was suddenly fairly scary, turning that into a ‘per use’ figure was even more insane. We realised that we were using the car perhaps twice a month and each use was therefore costing over £100, excluding fuel – which given our usage was amazingly minimal. 

We worked out that each mile cost us about £2.50, plus fuel. 

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My Religious Opposition

I was raised in an not especially religious household, we went to Church on an infrequent basis and I was sent to Sunday school for a while, but in general there was no great emphasis on religion that I remember. I was encouraged to pray, but mostly religion was not a subject that was discussed a great deal

I went to Sunday school because my parents wanted me to go, while there we were told stories from the bible and while interesting, I quickly identified them as fiction. There was no basis in reality that I could see, simple, cute, whimsical stories that often had a moral to them. In near every example the story proved that being good to others would generally lead to a good outcome, while being bad would generally be your downfall. I got good at this, I could identify the bad actors within a couple of minutes. I paid all of this education lip-service, because my parents wanted this.

I distinctly remember some of my peers taking this seriously, they took the stories to be actual records of things that had happened, rather than my interpretation of them as being moral-based stories that promoted better behaviour.

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Its Over

A long time ago Jeff Lynne wrote a lyric that went like this..

It’s over, it’s over, all over,
It’s all over now
And the way you looked
Don’t even mean I’m down.
When you kick out the sea
And the sun says goodbye
There is nothing much to speak of.

Well a momentous fight that I have been going through for four years and four months is finally over and the lyric has been popping in and out of my head ever since.

On August 1st 2014, I was hit by a car while cycling around a roundabout. The crash broke my collarbone fairly badly, left me with a broken bicycle and a lot of cuts and bruises.

Initially the driver gave me false insurance details, then the owner of the car (his daughter) called me to tell me that I would never get a penny and she was going to sue me for damage to her car. By then I had already filed a police report and had been patched-up at the hospital, so I called a solicitor that specialises in bicycle accident claims to help me to untangle this mess. This turned out to be a brilliant move on my part.

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Anatomy of a brilliant Phishing attack

There has been an increase in the number of e-mails and text messages that are landing in my spam folders recently. I am not sure why the upturn is happening, but some of the e-mails are getting very convincing.

It was not long ago that I would get badly spelled, poorly constructed e-mails that were easy to spot,

Subject: Yuor Natwast account has ten tnarsactions pending.

Now, not only do I not have a Natwest account, but the typo’s in the subject line made it super obvious.

Yesterday I got an e-mail.

Subject: Lloyds Bank Fraud Alert.

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