Blocking JavaScript

Brent Simmons recently wrote about two features he wants most in a web browser: The ability to block cookies and JavaScript by default and whitelist them on a case by case basis.

To which Nick Heer added the following observation:

When you think about it, it’s pretty nuts that we allow the automatic execution of whatever code a web developer wrote. We don’t do that for anything else, really — certainly not to the same extent of possibly hundreds of webpages visited daily, each carrying a dozen or more scripts.

Which, if you put it like that, makes a lot of sense. So I’ve been trying (and struggling) to approximate the desired behavior of a JavaScript whitelist recently – there are browser add-ons and extensions for that, but most of them are not very good (or not what I had in mind). The one I like best after trying several, both large and small, was the generically named Javascript Control for Firefox by Erwan Ameil. Maybe it works for you, too. Or maybe I’ll give up on this little experiment within a week, once I realize that today’s web doesn’t function without client-side JavaScript.

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❤️ Palm

The Palm Pre launched ten years ago today (as I was helpfully reminded by The Verge’s eminent Palm enthusiast Dieter Bohn), which gives me the opportunity to dig out another article by Dieter Bohn that I’ve always meant to post here but never got around to: What the iPhone X borrowed from the Palm Pre.

I have a soft spot for Palm in my heart – not just the new Palm webOS, but the original Palm OS as well. Back in 2007 when I first laid hands on the iPhone, I was struck by the similarity to Palm OS (especially the application launcher) and I do believe that our current smartphone platforms owe some debt to the work of Palm.

Recommended Reading: Notes on AI Bias

I just read and enjoyed this:

Machine learning finds patterns in data. ‘AI Bias’ means that it might find the wrong patterns – a system for spotting skin cancer might be paying more attention to whether the photo was taken in a doctor’s office. ML doesn’t ‘understand’ anything – it just looks for patterns in numbers, and if the sample data isn’t representative, the output won’t be either. Meanwhile, the mechanics of ML might make this hard to spot.

Read “Notes on AI Bias”

Recommended Reading: Cameras that understand: portrait mode and Google Lens

I just read and enjoyed this:

I’ve talked quite a lot about the impact of machine learning and computer vision in general on everything from e-commerce recommendation to social to all kinds of cool industrial applications, but it’s also interesting just to look at the effect that machine learning is having on actual cameras.

Read “Cameras that understand: portrait mode and Google Lens”

Recommended Reading: The ‘Future Book’ Is Here, but It’s Not What We Expected

I just read and enjoyed this:

The Future Book was meant to be interactive, moving, alive. Its pages were supposed to be lush with whirling doodads, responsive, hands-on. The old paperback Zork choose-your-own-adventures were just the start. The Future Book would change depending on where you were, how you were feeling. It would incorporate your very environment into its story—the name of the coffee shop you were sitting at, your best friend’s birthday. It would be sly, maybe a little creepy. Definitely programmable. Ulysses would extend indefinitely in any direction you wanted to explore; just tap and some unique, mega-mind-blowing sui generis path of Joycean machine-learned words would wend itself out before your very eyes.

Read “The ‘Future Book’ Is Here, but It’s Not What We Expected”

Recommended Reading: Finding Lena, the Patron Saint of JPEGs

I just read and enjoyed this:

Among some computer engineers, Lena is a mythic figure, a mononym on par with Woz or Zuck. Whether or not you know her face, you’ve used the technology it helped create; practically every photo you’ve ever taken, every website you’ve ever visited, every meme you’ve ever shared owes some small debt to Lena. Yet today, as a 67-year-old retiree living in her native Sweden, she remains a little mystified by her own fame. “I’m just surprised that it never ends,” she told me recently.

Read “Finding Lena, the Patron Saint of JPEGs”

Recommended Reading: The Cost of Living in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet Empire

I just read and enjoyed this:

What’s on your mind? Right now, as I’m writing this, The New York Times is breaking the news that Facebook, after a year of staggering revelations concerning everything from misuse of private data to enabling Russian election interference to knowingly providing inflated metrics publishers used to remake the media landscape, has been caught giving other big companies access to its users’ information outside the framework of its normal privacy rules.

Read “The Cost of Living in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet Empire”

Recommended Reading: Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche

I just read and enjoyed this:

Draw me your map of utopia and I’ll tell you your tragic flaw. In 10 years of political reporting I’ve met a lot of intense, oddly dressed people with very specific ideas about what the perfect world would look like, some of them in elected office—but none quite so strange as the ideological soup of starry-eyed techno-utopians and sketchy-ass crypto-grifters on the 2018 CoinsBank Blockchain Cruise.

Read “Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche”

Recommended Reading: The problem with studies saying phones are bad for you

Choice quote:

The actual research hasn’t come to one neat conclusion, and that may be because the field has relied on self-reports. It’s possible to measure how much time you spend on your phone; it’s just that most research — some 90 percent of it, estimates David Ellis, a lecturer in computational social science at Lancaster University — hasn’t. People are notoriously unreliable reporters of their own behavior: people misremember, forget, or fudge their responses to make themselves look better.

Read “The problem with studies saying phones are bad for you”