Google Baby Book

I did this for my daughter and I just rolled it out for her future brother.

I created a Google account for them.  The original idea was have an easy way for my wife an I to send them letters, but it has expanded into a multi featured online baby book.

I’ll detail my methodology below.  My main goal was to create an account that I could use to catalogue their life that was both easy and functional.  One day I hope to turn over the password to my children and they could have a fully functioning account of their own.

Account Creation

I created the account with my information, birthdate, phone number, etc.  I used my email as the recovery email and enabled two-factor authentication.  They only be children but account security is still important.


I set up two filters of that forward all emails received to both my and my wife’s email address.  This is so I can read the emails to the children and also filter out any unwanted emails.  In the couple years I’ve had these accounts I have yet gotten any spam.

I also use the vacation responder as an auto-reply feature.  I update it every few months to keep it current and encourage people to send messages even if it just to see the new message.


Calendars was an unexpected surprise after I started.  I shared the calendar with my main account with the “Make changes to events” permissions.  Which means I can easily add events from any device I am logged into.  You can also quickly copy events from your other calendars.   I have the first steps, first words, etc all recorded with exacts times/dates, details about each event, and locations.  You can also attach pictures or other documents to the event.


Drive is an easy and very customizable one.  I have a folder shared to the account that I store important documents (swimming certificates, photos of artwork and birthday cards, etc).


Everything so far could be done with a free google account, but there is more that can be accomplished with an apps account.  It may no longer be free but for $50/year/user its still not a bad deal.

You can have a personalized domain.  You can disable features which you don’t want to be active (Hangouts, contacts, drive, etc).  There are no ads and the pressure to join Google+ is non-existent.


With anything else its best not to leave all this data in one place. Google takeout is the solution for that. On a regular basis I create a backup and drop it into my backup solution.

The Future

One day, the children will want their own account.  Simply hand over the password.  As with anything in parenting, take an active role in the experience.  Teach them how to be safe online and know what and who they interact with online.



Defining “Secure”

Defining "Secure"

I've learned that the term "Secure" means a lot of different things to people.

My post took the stance of it was exposed to malware via the open-garden (not open source) nature of app installation.  For example, if you find an apk on a random website, you can install it with very little effort. 

Several people took the stance of "secure" meaning the ability to shield your private data and location from a third party.  The NSA was named several times.

An additional group took it as low-level OS vulnerabilities, bugs in the underlying code that in the hands of a hacker, could give unrestricted access to your device.  

Finally, a group looked at "secure" as the use of App permissions.  They pointed out that a rogue app could have a permissions to send personal data such as location, UUID, access to text messages, etc back to the developer.  A flashlight app being a prime target, +Michael Kessler wrote about it here

One thing that is really clear, there is a lot of opinions out there and people want to discuss them.  To have these conversations, though, we need to define what it is we are talking about and, more importantly, what we are not talking about.  

The vagueness of the term secure allowed several good point and counter-points discussions, but it also allowed people to make point which I believed had nothing to do with my current train of thought.  it made things messy.

I wasn't as clear as I would like to have been, but the experience has taught me that an effort to clearly define the subject matter of a post should be a top priority.  


Don’t believe the “Android is not secure” hype The vast majority of mobile…
Don’t believe the “Android is not secure” hype

The vast majority of mobile malware is written for +Android. Thats a fact.  Its a side effect of the… – Luke Olson – Google+


Don’t believe the “Android is not secure” hype

The vast majority of mobile malware is written for +Android. Thats a fact.  Its a side effect of the open-garden.  Anyone can write apps, even malicious ones, and distribute into the wild without the approval of a curation system.

But to the everyday user, does it matter?  I have been looking for posts, on forums and social media, about people whose mobile device have been infected and need help.  All I have found are blogs posts about Mobile malware, no personal stuff.

Charts and statistics can be misleading and the effect is massively intensified when you only refer to percentages rather than hard numbers.

People can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14% of people know that.

In my quest for hard numbers I found this article thats estimates mobile malware infections to around “11.6 million mobile devices” and “Android devices accounted for 60% [~7million] of total mobile network infections”  I believe these numbers are world wide.  At last count Android had crossed the Billion device mark  and activates 1.5 million devices daily.

With those number and a couple of others i made a chart of estimated Activated Android Devices compared to estimated infected Android devices. The sheet with math and sources

It is quite easy to avoid malware infection on Android.  In a nutshell, don’t sideload apps [disabled by default] and the vast majority of people will never have to worry.  If you decide to sideload apps  +Chris Hoffman has a nice write up on how to keep yourself safe.

more good reading by +JR Raphael by +Emil Protalinski by +Jerry Hildenbrand by +Gordon Kelly by +Steven Vaughan-Nichols


My 2 cents on the Comcast-Time Warner Merger

Comcast has been touting the fast that “Rival” Time-Warner does not compete with Comcast in any zipcode, so merging the two companies would have no impact on the number of provides in a given area.

My question is how can two multi-billion dollar companies, in the same market, not actually compete in any geographical area?

If we look at any other industry, there is overlap. Cell phone providers, fast food restaurants, taxi services, department store, airlines, and the list goes on and on.

The answer can only be collusion. The companies have an agreement to stay out of each other’s way and reduce competition in the agreed-upon territories This is a business practice called “Dividing Territories” and its quite illegal.

The merger will probably go through due to the MASSIVE amount of money that the telcom have spent on congress.

With all the news of the new Net Neutrality regs, and the recent comcast-netflix deal competition in this market is paramount. Reducing the players is a bad move, even if they aren’t competing with each other.

+Google Fiber save us all

Originally posted

Sync and Backup your files with +Google Drive

Sync and Backup your files with +Google Drive

Back up your files. Do it right now, I’ll wait. 

Back?  I have yearned over a method of not only backing up my files, but also keeping my computer and my wife's computer is sync. I have maintained our music, she has maintained our photo collection, both of us have documents folders littered with out of sync files, and dropbox folders riddled duplicates of files maintained elsewhere.

Our data was a mess. My backup routine consisted of dragging and dropping folders to and from a portable hard drive. It took too long and I avoided doing it, pain and suffering were only a matter of time. Lucky for me, I decided to do something about this before it disaster struck.

Recently, I have been using my server and an FTP based sync client to backup my files and sync to both computers. It works, sorta,  but its slow, the file change detection is lacking, and multiple FTP sessions cause lot of errors.

I really like Dropbox and Google Drive for syncing files, both sync files almost instantly, but extra space on the services is expensive. In addition, you have to deal with your data residing on a /username/Dropbox or Google Drive folder rather than its cozy, system specific folder. This breaks a lot of programs if all pictures aren't in /username/Pictures.

A couple weeks ago Google announced a major price drop for storage on Drive, 100GB for $24/year, compared to DropBox’s 100GB for $99/year. First problem solved. 100GB would be enough to store and sync all of my photos.  Sharing folders on Google drive is easy and the native client will keep our folders in sync with the cloud.

I signed up for the plan and copied my pictures folder to /username/Google Drive. It took 3 days for the 86GB of data to upload, but mere seconds to share the entire contents with my wife. We both have all of our photos at our fingertips, where ever we can login. We also get the photo benefits of Google+. After the upload and the subsequent download to the was finished I noticed something. While I was using 91.2GB of 110GB of my new space, my wife was only using 5.8GB of 100GB. I double checked and the shared folder of 86GB of Pictures was present on her drive and syncing to her computer. The shared folder doesn’t count against her quota! I can’t find a good source to confirm this, best I can do is a Google FAQ page I immediately added our music folder to her Drive and shared it with my account. 

Now down to the dirty filesystem stuff. 

On my wife’s Macbook Air it was couple of commands in terminal. CAUTION: this method deletes the current folder, backup before you continue.

These commands create a symbolic Link that points to the folder in Google Drive and resides at the user folder. I would have preferred to drop a symlink into the Google Drive folder, but currently Google Drive doesn’t support this yet.

sudo rm -rf ~/Music/
sudo rm -rf ~/Pictures/
ln -s ~/”Google Drive”/Music/ ~/Music
ln -s ~/”Google Drive”/Pictures/ ~/Pictures

I just deleted the current user folders, then
mklink /d c:\users\UserName\Music\ c:\users\UserName\Google Drive\Music\
mklink /d c:\users\UserName\Pictures\ c:\users\UserName\Google Drive\Pictures\

Thats all there is too it. I’ve also moved my Dropbox folder into my Drive folder because I still prefer the auto-upload feature on Dropbox over Google+. Having the Dropbox folder inside of Drives also lets me manage all my mobile photos easily with Google Drive.

I can still use my automatic FTP server solution to back up and back up to a portable drive, but now it only needed on one computer. I have 5 copies in at least 3 different physical locations of all of my precious data.