Facebook is desparate

It’s been some time since I’ve actually used Facebook. I’ve shared my blog posts from here to my timeline there, but that is an automated task that is accomplished through the software running on this blog. There is a lot of stuff I still want to transfer from Facebook; namely, the comments and background information provided by members of my family on some very old family photo’s that I’m going to transfer to my cloud, but I would have Facebook running in a container in Firefox in order to do that. Meanwhile, Facebook has been desperate to get me to use their “Service” again.

First are the e-mails. They’ve always sent me e-mails, but lately they’ve ramped that up to 30+ e-mails per day. These go to a secondary e-mail address and get filtered appropriately as spam, so I never actually have to see them unless I want to. But then after a month or so, my phone started blowing up with notifications. Chrome on my Android phone was sending me these notifications from Facebook. The strange thing was, I didn’t even have a Facebook tab open! It turns out that one does not need to have a tab open for Facebook to push notifications via Chrome once I “Allowed” Facebook to send me notifications, so I went into my Chrome settings and revoked this permission in my settings. Then things got weirder.

I started getting text messages from Facebook about activity that had been going on. Turns out that they are using the phone number I provided them for the purposes of two-step verification to spam me with notifications. They are like the creepy ex who wants to keep on pursuing a relationship long after they’ve been dumped for abusive behaviour that they’ve never acknowledged nor apologized for.

I suppose I did leave a lot of stuff at Facebook’s house, so I probably should get around to moving it over to my cloud, but still, this behaviour is unprecedented for an on-line service. The levels of manipulation Facebook uses goes deep, and this makes me glad that I’ve pretty much stopped using them.

An Invitation

A while ago, I noticed some people were leaving Facebook. Some were my friends, some were notable people. They all had well thought out reasons for doing so. For me, it was a heavy handed three day ban for the sin of posting a joke in a closed debate group – no, not banned from the debate group, as I didn’t actually do anything wrong or against the rules of the group, but from all of Facebook, because someone in the group, presumably the debater who’s argument was defeated by my joke, complained about being offended, and so my entire account was suspended for three days, without any ability to make an appeal.

Five months ago, Jeri Ellsworth announced she was deleting her Facebook account and moving on, and invited us to friend her on a new platform, MeWe. I signed up, because even five months ago, I was starting to recognize that Facebook wasn’t a good tech company. However, as much as MeWe professes that it’s much better than Facebook, it was a move from one closed system with terms of service to another closed system with admittedly much better terms of service, but terms of service nonetheless. Number one was telling me I could not violate any law or regulation. Well, there are some pretty stupid laws out there that need to be challenged and broken, like blasphemy, god damn it.

I understand that these companies need to have terms and conditions in order to protect themselves from liability, but there was also the glaring fact that I had exactly one friend on MeWe. None of the content I posted there would ever be seen by any of my real-world friends, and I couldn’t expect them to go to the trouble of signing up for yet another social media account, so I started this blog on an old computer of mine running open source software so that I could communicate and interact on the Internet on my own terms and conditions. This set me on a journey of discovery and learning like none other. I made some new friends along the way, and also some important discoveries.

It turns out that others see the problem with traditional social media, and that problem is the fact that we need to sign up for different services that profit from selling our information; friends on Facebook can’t see what friends on Twitter are posting, and vice versa. Imagine if you had a Yahoo e-mail account and had to sign up for G-mail in order to send and receive messages to and from your friends and family who also had G-mail. So now there is a new social media that has been created using open standards, like e-mail. The solution is a federated social media network that uses open standards. What this means is that anyone can set up their own social media server, choose from a variety of open source software packages with which to host their instance, and be able to share and see updates with friends and family just like Facebook or Twitter, but their friends and family can be on completely different servers running different software packages.

I would like to extend an invitation to all of my friends and family to join me in this new revolution. Just like e-mail, you don’t have to set up your own server if you don’t want to. Right now, the biggest and most popular servers are mastodon.social, as well as mastodon.xyz where you’ll find notable people like Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia. There are also many groups dedicated to certain tastes that you can browse through at joinmastodon.org. There are apps for Android and iPhone. I have an account on mastodon.social, @quirk@mastodon.social. I also have the Social app installed on my Nextcloud server, and have a federated social media address there of @paul@cloud.pquirk.com. I encourage all of my friends and family to find a federated social media instance or start your own if you’re as ambitious as me, and I’ll follow you. Together, we can kick the Facebook habit and take ownership of our social media experience. This is the future, so please join me and we can enjoy it together.

Ending the commute: A retrospective

To live and work in the same city: That’s the dream, isn’t it? To the rest of the world, this seems obvious; yet, to many people who live in the Greater Toronto Area, this is merely pie in the sky that requires compromises that many do not wish to make. You either need to live in an overpriced condo that’s barely big enough to turn around in, or you need to take a cut in pay to work at a place of employment that’s not in the center of the universe. After running the numbers, I came to the realization that the cost in time and money of my commute had become significantly greater than the difference in pay in accepting a position as an Electrician in the city in which I live, so I put in my two week’s notice. This is how it’s been so far.

What a commute!

In the week leading up to my last day at my old job, I had to train my replacement. During this time, I realized I could re-schedule my appointments with my dental specialist so that I would not need to miss any time at work, as they were within a 10 minute drive of my new place of employment. This would be a new thing for me, and put me in a very good mood. It was a fun week with a fellow electrician, but I admit I was eager to end my commute, so I put in extra time on Thursday to make sure the job was finished so that I could take Friday off. I submitted all of my paperwork Thursday, and bid my new replacement as well as my soon-to-be former colleagues and employer adieu.

On Friday, I called up my insurance company to advise them of the change in my commute. I was advised that the savings in insurance would be around $400 per year. I didn’t even consider this savings when I ran the numbers.

People arguing on the highway, is this healthy?

On Sunday night, I was all ready to start my new job. I noticed the gas in my truck was at a quarter tank. Normally, I would head out to a gas station Sunday night to top up my tank to make my Monday commute as smooth as possible, but not anymore; a quarter tank would be plenty to start the week.

Monday morning, I woke up at my usual time of 5:00am, because I’m used to it and the shop opens at 7 (my previous job started at 8). I had a leisurely breakfast, left the house at 6:30, sat in the line at McDonald’s for a coffee, and still arrived at work plenty early, breezing past the line up of cars waiting to get onto the highway. Monday was a good day where I got to meet my new co-workers and adjusted to this new culture. I discovered I was not alone in detesting the commute, as I was working alongside other ex-commuters. At the end of the day, I was home well before dinner time.

On Tuesday, I noticed that my truck still had a quarter tank of gas as I continued to adjust to my new workplace culture. Since part of my job involves documentation, I installed LibreOffice, Thunderbird, and Firefox on my workplace PC so that I could continue to use the apps I was familiar with. Doing wiring diagrams with Draw is a snap, the export to PDF function is a breeze, and it works so much better than Microsoft’s offerings. I’ve become as committed to using open source software as I am about ending my commute. I stopped at the dental specialist on my way home, and still arrived at home in plenty of good time to enjoy dinner and a quiet evening of watching Netflix.

My dream of driving an all-electric car started in April of 2011 and ended with my long commute.

Driving home on Wednesday, I noticed that the fuel gauge dipped a little below a quarter tank on my truck. Hearing that gas prices might go up, I decided to fill up. As I did, I wondered, would I even need to fill up once a week, or would a tank of gas last me two? Three? Maybe the entire month? If all I did was drive to work and back, I could get two months out of a tank of gas in my truck. Even a super gas miser sub-compact would have cost me $100 per week in gas with my old commute, and my truck, with its cylinder deactivation mode, was still costing around $150 a week, and the range of all but the most expensive electric cars wouldn’t even cut it for my commute. I often dreamed of buying an electric car just to avoid the gas line at the pump every other day. Now the occasional stop at the pumps didn’t seem so bad, and even a short range used Nissan Leaf with a diminished battery would offer plenty of range and utility if I didn’t need to tow my camper in the summer.

It was all sinking in by the time Thursday came around. My stress levels had gone down noticeably as I ran numbers through my head; between gas and the 407, I had easily been spending over $16,000 per year of after tax dollars ($20,000 of pre-tax dollars) between gas and tolls alone, never mind the stress and risks associated with such a long commute. I vowed that I would never do that kind of commute again. It was madness that had taken its toll.

Stuck on Highway 407 after a deadly accident.

Friday is a half day at my new job. With my old job, I was excited for half day Friday’s because it meant I could beat the traffic and get home at a reasonable time. Today, it meant that I truly had what felt like the start of a long weekend, as I went home to enjoy lunch and celebrate my first week at my new local job. The increase in the price of gas this weekend was all over the news, and I could not care less.

I remember a colleague from my Y2k programming days who quit his job when the company announced they were relocating from an office tower on the subway line in North York to a building far from any subway in Markham. He had become accustomed to a car-free and commute-free lifestyle where he would travel a short trip on the subway from his condo to work, and believed he could always find work in his field on the subway line in Toronto. At the time, I thought he was being short-sighted, but then I eventually was laid off from this company. I’ve lost touch with this man, but his conviction stuck with me and was a catalyst that drove me to change careers and start work at General Motors in the early 2000’s. A place where the years on the line and the closure of our plants caused me to forget as I focused on getting my trade license.

I started to write about this experience on my blog, but as the weekend wore on, I started to think, “What’s the big deal?” I mean, why even write about this? It all seems so absurd. As I reflect now, I realize that I didn’t want to compromise on owning a house and having a well paying job with excellent benefits, but was blind to all the other compromises this forced me to make on my lifestyle, health, and well-being. So now, I’m done – REALLY done. I don’t even want to talk or write about it anymore.

Ending the commute

Today is a special day for me, for today marks the first day that I will no longer commute. This has been a goal of mine that I have been working towards for a while. For those of you unfamiliar with how bad commuting is for people who live where I live, I will explain.

The COMPASS camera system, so anyone can see how crappy this commute is up to the past 5 minutes

I live in the city of Oshawa, which is part of the Greater Toronto Area, located in Southern Ontario, Canada, along the north-west portion of Lake Ontario. For a long time, Highway 401 was the main arterial highway that linked all of the municipalities that make up the Greater Toronto Area, and in fact all of southwestern, central, and eastern Ontario. My city, Oshawa, is part of the Durham Region, which is home to many who commute into the City of Toronto. The reason for this is simple; Toronto is where all the good jobs are, but Durham Region is where the affordable housing exists. For the price of a tiny one bedroom condo in Toronto, one can find a three bedroom house with a yard, driveway, and no maintenance fees in the Durham Region. For those wishing to raise a family but also need a job that allows them to afford to raise a family, buying a house in the Durham Region and commuting to Toronto is the only solution.

Due to the incompetence of our elected officials, this concentration of good jobs in Toronto with the only affordable housing existing outside of the city, combined with a volatile job market that forces people to change employers every few years, Highway 401 is world class for the amount of traffic that it carries, and is often cited as the busiest highway in North America, as well as one of the busiest in the world. It’s no wonder that it’s also cited as being one of the most dangerous highways in Canada.

One of the solutions to this was to build a toll highway that would relieve the stress put on Highway 401. This toll highway is the 407 ETR. This highway was built with taxpayer money, and then sold by the Tory government (conservatives) in 1999 in order to “Balance the books.” Yes, isn’t it odd and extremely short-sighted for our government to sell something that could have been a positive revenue stream for many years to come? I suppose they make more than enough with their monopoly on unfair casino’s, lottery, and overpriced alcohol, and decided that greedy Spanish investors deserved to take a turn at screwing us. No wonder people mistrust the government.

My single largest monthly expense…until now.

I had been taking Highway 407 for my commute over the past year out of necessity. Some of my monthly 407 bills were in excess of $800. I wrote the people billing me a letter and phoned them, telling them that I felt the tolls were excessive for someone like me who relied on this highway every day. Their response was for me to use the highway “Strategically;” that is, to map out the sections of the 407 where the tolls are the most expensive, exit the highway at those points, take alternate side streets, and get back on where it gets less expensive. This hopping on and off the highway really defeats the purpose of a highway, which is to relieve wear and tear on our automobiles and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by allowing cars to operate at their most efficient. It also complicates my commute and increases the risk of an accident. Shortly thereafter, they announced that the rates were going up due to the fact that too many people are using the 407. That was it, I had had enough of participating in this game where the idle, greedy rich continue to screw over the working class. It was time for me to fire the 407 ETR.

I found a new job within 10 kilometers of my home. It pays a bit less, and the benefits aren’t as good, but I’ll actually come out ahead financially by not paying those greedy Spaniards their excessive toll rate on what I consider a criminal sale of what should rightfully be a public asset. I’ve talked to others who are taking the 407, and they’re currently planning similar lifestyle changes to kick this excessively tolled highway out of their lives. As for me, I’m never going back to that commute. It’s not healthy, and it’s not the way a human being is supposed to live. Remember, these excessive tolls are being paid for by after tax dollars, and we cannot write the expense off unless we ourselves are wealthy business owners. This means that, when comparing this cost to your hourly rate, take the average of 24% off your hourly rate to get a true cost to you. It’s oppressive, and we all should do whatever it takes to starve the greedy, idle rich, even if it means taking a bit of a pay cut.

pquirk.com gets hacked

So, an interesting thing happened a couple of days ago, I got a notification on my WordPress phone app about some failed login attempts at my blog. Since this is running on my server running open source software that I installed, I get access to everything that happens. Every error log is captured, saved, and eventually archived.

How do I know it was a hacker? First of all, there is no obvious link to an admin login from my main page. If I wanted someone else to create a post on my blog, I would send them the link. Since this is a personal blog, I’m the only one who would ever log into it, and since I use a secure password manager from a secure device, I never have a failed login. So, when I check my activity log using a secure app on my phone and see a lot of failed login attempts, I look a little closer. When I see user names like jake, admin, teste, qwerty, user1, pquirk, and paul as user names being used to access my blog over and over again, I know that something’s up.

Each attempt captures the IP address of the person attempting to hack my website. Using a utility called whois, I can find out information about this IP address; who owns it, with full contact information. So jake failed from 123.16.70.105, which resolves to Pham Tien Huy of the VietNam Posts and Telecommunications Group from Ha Noi City. The next IP address used was 14.232.111.13, which also resolves to the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group, also owned by Pham Tien Huy. Each attempt was from a different IP address, all resolving back to VIetNam. Odds are very good that different people from VietNam are attempting to hack into my blog; rather, this is probably one individual using either a VPN or proxy server.

I do have options in the event of getting hacked. I could contact Pham Tien Huy with the time, date, and IP address, and that person would tell me the IP address of the person who connected; in effect, trace it back to its origin, and then I could get that internet provider to provide me with details of who used the originating IP address at that time, then I could take action against that person, as nobody is truly anonymous on the Internet. That’s more work than I care to do right now, so another strategy I could employ is to block them with my firewall. Since whois gives me the entire range of IP addresses that this came from, and since it’s unlikely anyone from VietNam would ever read my blog, I could block that range of IP addresses; say, 14.244.0.0 – 14.255.255.255, with the “ufw deny” command. However, I don’t feel the need to do that either. This blog, and my web site, are hosted on a Linux server that exists for real in my basement. It’s locked down with the latest security updates and strong password encryption. In a worse case scenario, I can pull the plug, re-load from my daily backup, and be back up and running within minutes. I confess to actually getting some amusement scrolling through my logs to see this loser waste time in his (or her) pathetic life trying to hack my little insignificant blog. The only time my site goes down is if there’s a power outage in my area, or when I need to reboot after installing the latest security updates.

I do wonder, what kind of pathetic loser would try to hack a site like this? Then I realize that the truths I post are going to be offensive to those who profit from ignorance and censorship. The kind of person who has multiple fake Facebook accounts created from these multiple fake IP addresses so they can game Facebook’s heavy handed censorship policy by having them all report an “Offensive” post so a person can be censored. Except this time, it’s different. This time, their complaints would have to go to me. Of course, they would never air their grievance with me, because, deep down inside, they know that I’m right, that I speak the truth, and they’re a weasel who can only use underhanded tactics to silence me, and so that’s what they resort to. This motivates me to continue with this, to write candidly and openly about things that matter. Facebook’s fired. This is the home for my speech, and I won’t be silenced by some pathetic loser.


Facebook is everywhere

Facebook is an interesting phenomenon whereas its users are not the customer, they are the product. What this means is they collect information about you and then sell that information to whoever wants to buy it. When it comes to their platform, I understand the information I post there will be sold as such. What I don’t agree with is the fact that they are keeping track of me in other places on the web that have nothing to do with Facebook; places that have to do with my employment and finances.

Years ago, when there were issues with running Javascript on certain web sites, I followed the advice of an article I read and installed NoScript in my Firefox browser. I had since then switched over to Chromium and then Chrome, but didn’t bother installing NoScript. I decided to switch back to Firefox when I switched back to Ubuntu, and decided to use its default browser for a while. Signing back into Firefox meant that NoScript was added for me. NoScript is an extension that, by default, does not allow any scripts to run, and then I get to choose which scripts can run on which sites. Since it had been a while since I switched back, most of the permissions on NoScript had to be set up for web sites to work.

Imagine my surprise when I went to my trade union web site to discover that one of the scripts it was trying to run was from facebook.net. Equally as disturbing was when I went to my online banking site with my credit union, the same script from facebook.net was also trying to run. This script was trying to run even after I logged into my sessions at these respective sites. I tagged this script as “Untrusted” at these sites, so it cannot run. These web sites continue to work perfectly fine without the script from facebook.net.

As far as I’m concerned, NoScript is a valuable add-on for anyone who wishes to browse the Internet under their own terms. Not only will it protect you from malicious scripts (assuming you don’t mark a malicious script as “Trusted,”) it also puts giant marketing creeps back in their place while I do my personal business free from their prying eyes.

Educate before you vaccinate

Recently in Toronto, a local anti-vaccine movement called “Vaccine choice Canada” bought billboard advertisements suggesting people “Educate before you vaccinate.” By and large, I support people educating themselves and generally mistrusting authoritarianism, but in this case, the “Education” they are advertising is misinformation and pseudoscience, ironically, from people who come from generations that have benefited the most from vaccinations. In the spirit of education, I will share my understanding of vaccines.

First, it’s important to understand what a vaccine is, and to understand the true nature of vaccines, it’s equally important to understand the nature of what vaccines are protecting against. Vaccines protect us against virus and disease by allowing our immune system to “Learn” how to protect us from virus and disease. By injecting ourselves with a sterilized and deactivated or severely weakened version of a virus, our immune system can develop antibodies that can attack and destroy the real version of that virus. Without a vaccine shot, a disease like smallpox can do a lot of damage in the time it takes our immune system to develop antibodies to defend against it. In the case of young children, the damage can be enough to kill them.

I can understand where the anti vaccine movement is coming from; our authoritarian government wants to be our drug dealer, glamorizes and profits from the sale of alcohol, and runs casinos and lotteries at a profit to them. There was a time when these things were illegal as those who governed us recognized the harm, so it’s no wonder that people rightfully see our government as self-serving at our expense and misery. However, when it comes to vaccines, we only need to study history to understand the collective benefit they offer. Before vaccines were widely available, couples would have a lot of children with the understanding that some of them would die from a horrible disease. Records are available to demonstrate the mortality rate of pre-vaccination children compared to today. A visit to local grave sites will demonstrate the number of child graves drops off significantly after vaccines were made widely available.

I think it’s important to consider the motivation of the anti-vax movement. We don’t have to dig too deep to discover that they make money by selling anti-vaccine books, selling supplements and vitamins in their “Wellness” store, and soliciting donations. There are also the “Alternative” health care providers that profit once they manage to convince you that conventional healthcare is harmful and therefore they are the solution to better health. If you actually believe these people sincerely want to help you, I suggest they only want to insincerely help themselves to your money when you do get sick and believe you have nowhere else to turn. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Click here to read more about this on vaxopedia.org.

Once we recognize the benefit vaccines offer us all, it becomes readily apparent why those self-serving individuals in power would want us peons to be vaccinated; if everybody in our society is vaccinated, they and their children are better protected, because the more people that are vaccinated, the less likely it is for a disease to affect you. This is important, because, over time, our immune system stops making antibodies for diseases it hasn’t had to deal with for a while. This is fine when something like smallpox has been eradicated, but when something else remains a threat, it’s necessary for us to get booster shots before potential exposure. Ultimately, the ideal goal for all of us is to see all disease eradicated, and currently the path to that goal is vaccinations. However, if you still think you don’t want to get your child vaccinated, I recommend keeping their name short, and don’t get too attached to that kid, because the current anti-vax movement has meant that some diseases are making a comeback.

My great aunt died at the age of 5 from disease, she did not have the benefit of free vaccinations.

Keeping track of myself

Our smart phones can track our every movement, and this has become a controversial issue among people with privacy concerns. On one hand, this can be very beneficial; for example, it can act as the perfect alibi to prove where you were at a particular time. It’s also good to have if your phone goes missing. For me, as a service electrician, I can verify where I’ve been and how long I’ve been there. However, people have legitimate concerns about giving big companies that information about us; for example, what if it places you at the scene of a crime during the time it occurred, yet you had nothing to do with it? While it’s good for me to see how many times I’ve visited the LCBO in order to make better decisions and choices about my health, a company that would sell that information for marketing purposes would ensure that this government corporation could better target their marketing campaign to encourage me to consume more of their addictive poison. I’m writing this today to tell you that it’s not an either-or decision. You can enjoy the benefits of tracking the location of your phone without giving it to a big marketing company. You can do it yourself, and it’s really not as hard as you might think.

Screenshot of Owntracks showing my location, an open source Android and iOS app

First of all, I’m going to briefly go over how GPS works. We have been culturally conditioned through television and radio to believe that advertisements are the only way to get good things for free; however, when it comes to GPS tracking, big marketing companies are using something that we have already paid for at little to no expense to them for great opportunities to sell valuable targeted advertising. The heart of GPS technology is a network of 30 geosynchronous satellites each transmitting a unique signal; wherever you are in the world, at least 4 satellites are visible, and by timing the transmission of these four signals, a GPS receiver can determine, with a great degree of accuracy, its location. This is the most expensive component of this technology, and it has already been paid for by working class taxpayers of the United States of America. If you are a taxpayer in the United States of America, you and your fellow Americans paid for this network, it belongs to you. If you’re outside of the United States, this signal is a gift by the people of the United States to the world to make the world a better place. The other component of GPS locating technology is a combination of the hardware and firmware in your smart phone, and, if you’re like me and buy your phones unlocked, you have paid for this already; there’s no need to believe you should have to pay any more. The rest is software, which is provided by the open source community.

A screenshot of PhoneTrack, filtering my captured data.

Software needs to run on at least two places for this to work; you need software on your phone to collect and send the data, and you need software on a computer somewhere to receive and store this information. For this, I use Owntracks, an open source application for iOS and Android. On my server, I’m running a plugin called PhoneTrack which works on NextCloud, which is running on Apache2 on Ubuntu Server. All of these are open source, and some large marketing companies use some of these programs themselves, but they are easy enough to install and run on my small obsolete desktop computer. There is plenty of documentation online that provides step-by-step direction, so it’s a simple matter of following directions. Anyone could do it.

With NextCloud, I already have the ability to back up pictures and settings on my phone; this plug-in provides me with the ability to take ownership of yet another beneficial smartphone feature. Ultimately, it’s not an either-or decision; we really can enjoy all the benefits of technology without giving up our privacy, as long as we’re willing to take ownership of what rightfully belongs to us with the power of open source software.

Income tax 2018

It’s that time of year again, that time when we get to continue to ensure that we’re doing our part to help pay for the cost of everything our country needs to fight World War 1, even though it’s long been over. A lot has changed in the 102 years since income tax was federally mandated in Canada; our government has become ever increasingly bloated and inefficient, and income tax has become so complicated, regular people often need someone trained in this field to do it for them. One year around a decade ago, I had a professional, Katrina Morin and Associates, do it for me, and they made a mistake that cost me $25 in interest to the government that I would not have had to pay if my return was done correctly on the first attempt, and Katrina told me herself that she would not refund me this interest charge, even though I paid her many times more than that. Instead of fighting her for the money, I decided to leave her a one star review. I have since realized that all these so-called professionals do is plug numbers into the same computer software anyone can get for free (simple data entry clerk level work), and a lot of them don’t really care if they do that good of a job of even that simple task, so garbage in = garbage out. Since then, I have always vowed to do my and my wife’s income tax myself.

I have since become generally opposed to the idea of paying money for a person or software to complete my income tax return; it’s an additional burden that hard-working taxpayers should not have to endure. I find it amazing that people get excited when they get a return, considering the only reason they would get a return is because they over-paid the government in the first place, effectively giving our government an interest-free loan, although it’s probably better than leaving it in a bank because at least they won’t charge you for taking your money…yet. The expense of software or a person to assist us with our taxes should be shouldered by the government who take so much money from our income in the first place. At the very least, the cost of such software or services should be a 100% write-off. However, our government needs to waste our money elsewhere to keep their budgets on creating waste as high as possible (more on that in a future blog post), and so we are left with our current state of corruption. Fortunately, there are free and pay-what-you-want models that exist.

My favourite program for doing income taxes over the past few years has been StudioTax. Unfortunately, it is Windows or Mac only. This seems unusual to me, as their license to use the software seems to be more in-line with the ideals of open source software: It’s free to use with no strings attached, no registration or license key required, and no coercion to upgrade or pay for other services. I tried to install it using WINE, and while it installed and launched correctly, it ground to a halt after attempting to enter some information.

StudioTax 2018, as far as I can get in Ubuntu Linux

I decided to shoot an e-mail to the StudioTax support team to ask them about Linux support. This was their reply:

Hi, Sorry, not an easy port to make and, most importantly, a costly yearly maintenance/certification. It just not enough demands out there to justify the effort…mobile devices(iOS and Android) are more urgent priority going forward. Thank you for using StudioTax! Warmest Regards, StudioTax Support Team

I was disappointed to learn that there’s a cost associated with getting software certified with our government (again, what are they wasting all that tax money on, as if I didn’t know), but I was happy to see that they are working on Android support. Android is an open source operating system, and there is work being done now to get Android apps to run in Linux. All of this means that it’s just a matter of time.

But, what about now? I could order a paper copy and do my taxes that way, but that’s going to be time-consuming and seems foolish when I have a powerful computer that can help me do it error-free. I could boot into Windows for that one task, but I prefer to stay on the Linux desktop. Option three is to use one of the free on-line services for me to do my taxes this year. I decided to go for the web-based service SimpleTax. They claim to use encryption, so if you forget your password, there’s no way for anyone to reset it. They have a clean, ad-free interface that I prefer. The way I see it, I e-File my return to government run servers anyway and who knows who’s looking after that (outsourced to the lowest bidder or to someone’s good friend or family member), and I have no reason to assume the people at SimpleTax are going to be worse than our government.

What about you? I’d love to see my reader’s opinions on this topic.

Our elitist province

If you want evidence that our government has no fucks to give to the common people of the province of Ontario, look no further than Highway 407. Now, I’m not inherently opposed to toll highways; in fact, they can be a good thing. For example, nearly half a million people drive on Highway 401 every day. If everyone had to pay a reasonable toll of, say, $1 per trip, they could generate nearly half a million dollars per day. This money could then be used to maintain and repair infrastructure. Over time, it could have been used to build Highway 407. The problem with Highway 407 is that a dollar won’t get you very far on this highway, with rates that skyrocket during the times when we need it most.

A quick history on highway 407: It was originally planned as a freeway bypassing the Toronto section of Highway 401, which is now the busiest highway in the WORLD. Shortly after it was built, our GOVERNMENT sold it to Spanish investors. This leaves us in the province of Ontario with not only the busiest highway in the whole goddamned world, but also the only viable alternative the most expensive toll highway in the whole goddamned world. Add in a greenbelt where housing cannot be built, pushing people into places where the 407 is the only viable alternative, and you have a recipe to make corrupt people wealthy on the backs of the working class.

An overfed twat

So now they’re going to raise rates even more; a full list of those rates can be found here, and bear in mind that a kilometer is just slightly over half a mile. Here is the transcript from CTV news when they interviewed an overfed twat:

Interviewer: “At what point is there a concern that you start turning away drivers based on that it’s out of reach for an average person?”
Overfed twat: “That’s not the objective; the objective in, ah, in setting tolls is to ensure the highway continues to move at a rate where it’s an alternative, ah, for drivers.”

Translation: “There are too many common people using this highway now, so we’re going to keep jacking up the rates so that only the wealthy can afford to drive on it, so fuck you, common people.”

My view? They’re a bunch of greedy idle rich people squeezing the common working class person as hard as they can to ensure the working class continue to suffer to make ends meet, while the rich get to enjoy their highway free from regular people. Forget about conspiracy theories; all the theories are just a smoke screen to keep people from seeing the real conspiracy that’s happening out in the open, right before our eyes.