Using a VPN to protect your online activity

The Internet of today is much different than the one of 20 years ago and it’s well worth considering using a VPN to protect yourself from the prying eyes of criminals, governments and corporations.

There was a time when the Internet was used by just academics, governments and a few major corporations as a way of sharing information. The data was very intentionally public and was intended for consumption by all.

Now of course the picture is much different. Few may have foreseen just how quickly the Internet would be adopted in our homes and businesses and just what we’d be doing with it. The ways in which we use the Internet has changed drastically. We now use it for all manner of transactions, like banking, shopping and entertainment. Many of these activities are no longer things that we would like to be public.

Adding security to the Internet has long been an option but only recently is it becoming more of a standard. Web addresses used to run over HTTP, which means that information is transmitted unsecured, allowing anyone to intercept it between its source and its destination. More and more, site owners are switching to HTTPS, which encrypts the data between the users offering another level of security.

HTTPS is somewhat effective, but still won’t do much good to those who are really intent on seeing what you’re doing online, especially those with unlimited resources behind them, like governments and large corporations. Continue reading “Using a VPN to protect your online activity”

Dollar Shave Club epitomises the power of marketing

Dollar Shave Club made a name for themselves with their now infamous online ads, proving that marketing is probably more powerful than we’d like to admit.

Ever since I first saw Dollar Shave Club’s first ad, I was in love. Their marketing is genius. I was so in love with their ad that they really got my attention and made me wonder what their service was about, building on the introduction that they gave in the video.

Had I just seen the name “Dollar Shave Club” online, I almost certainly would have ignored it and passed on it, but DSC’s branding genius used the power of humour and social media to deliver their message.

The video above has been viewed over 18 million times and their follow-up, about their “One Wipe Charlies” has been seen nearly 3 million times and is equally representative of how powerful their brand is. Continue reading “Dollar Shave Club epitomises the power of marketing”

The coolest and most unique t-shirts courtesy of Cotton Bureau

Cotton Bureau offers a new way to buy t-shirts, ones that are cool, unique and well-made. Only those that sell more than 12 go to print to make the system financially viable and all designs are available for just two weeks.

Are you bored of wearing the same old crappy t-shirts? You know, the ones that you got free at some fun run or the ones with hilarious jokes on them.

It’s time for your wardrobe to grow up without getting less comfy or more formal.

Cotton Bureau is a nice little website that has been around for about 18 months now. They invite designers to submit high-quality designs. Users pledge to buy the ones they want and if the t-shirt gets more than 12 sales within 2 weeks, it goes to print. If it doesn’t, no one pays a penny and you find your next favourite design instead.

This is great for a few reasons:

  • The designs are available for a limited period and usually only sell 12-30 items. As such, you know that you’re getting a really unique piece of clothing. Furthermore, once it’s sold, no one can get the same shirt as you. How’s that for unique?
  • You’re supporting designers: Cotton Bureau lets the designer set their own price and gives them a cut of each sale.
  • You support several small indie businesses in the rust belt. Cotton Bureau is based in Pittsburgh, PA and uses a local print shop to print the shirts.

Continue reading “The coolest and most unique t-shirts courtesy of Cotton Bureau”

Camel camel camel

I’ve been shopping online for quite some time, but I haven’t encountered a tool quite as useful as Camel Camel Camel in quite a while.

Despite its ridiculous name, it’s very helpful for being able to make educated shopping decisions on Amazon.

At this point in my life, I’m quite dependent on Amazon to deliver everything from paper towels to car parts in a couple of days at the lowest possible price.

There are two types of products that I buy on Amazon: the kind that I need right away (well, you know, in two days) and commodity items which I’ll snap up when there’s a good price. Continue reading “Camel camel camel”

Password security in 2014

Dear online vendors,

Seriously? It’s 2014. If you expect me to have a maximum character limit for my password, or to only be able to choose from a set of 4 symbols, or worse yet, require nothing more than letters and numbers in my password, then you can forget about getting my custom. There’s no excuse for these silly password rules any more, and it’s costing you customers. Well, it’s at least costing you my custom. Maybe others feel the same…

Automatically track all of your shipments with Delivery Status (from Junecloud)

Using this workflow, you can automatically track all of your deliveries without ever having to touch an email, using the excellent Delivery Status app from Junecloud

One of my absolute favourite iOS apps is Delivery Status. I’ve had it for years and it just gets better and better. It’s great for keeping track of all of the shipments heading your way, especially when you do much of your shopping online, like me.

A list of deliveries in JuneCloud's Delivery Status

I’ve been following the development of their add-tracking-by-email function for a while. The idea is that when you receive an email with tracking information, you can forward it to [email protected], it’ll recognise that it’s from your particular account and automatically add it to your list of deliveries. Pretty snazzy.

Until a while ago, there was a slight snag that drove my efficiency-driven mind mad. I wanted to be able to forward those emails automatically using a GMail filter. However, as you know, GMail requires you to verify accounts that you’re forwarding mail to. As such, there was no way to add [email protected] as a forwarding address.

Recently however, they set up an autoresponder which automatically recognised these verification emails from Google and returned them to you with the verification code (and a kind request to not forward them all of your mail). So now that I was able to add [email protected] as a forwarding address, I set up a filter to take all mail that arrives with either shipped, shipping or shipment in the subject, and archive it, label it, mark it as read and forward it to [email protected]

Creating a filter in GMail to handle shipment notifications


Now every time I receive a shipment notification, the email never even touches my inbox, but it notifies Junecloud and automatically pushes the shipment information to both my iPhone and Mac dashboard widget. Less email clutter, and important tasks happening automatically in the background. Oh how I love productivity like this!

Manage your GMail inbox like a boss

I recently saw a tweet about making your GMail inbox more efficient. I thought mine was already pretty efficient, so I was intrigued as to what ideas he might have. As it happens, he had quite a few good ideas that I hadn’t put into practice, so I took his approach, slightly tweaked it for my needs and I’m loving the new setup.

Living in a post-NSA-revelations world

I’m not a criminal, but I am concerned about how the NSA has betrayed our trust and systematically collects data to build profiles on us, so I took action to protect myself and my family a little better.

The ongoing revelations of the NSA’s secret program of spying activities has been a mainstay of the news this year, since Edward Snowden’s first revelation about PRISM back in May. Since then, he has been labeled a traitor by the USA and forced to hole up in Russia to avoid extradition. Personally, I think his revelations were in the best interest of Americans and the people around the world.

Ever since the PATRIOT Act was hurriedly signed into law on the heels of emotionally-charged politicians and citizens, I’ve been mildly concerned about how much freedom the US had given its government to monitor the activity of their citizens, in the name of fighting “terror”.

Now, understand that in 2001, I was still in the UK (I didn’t move to the States until 2006), a country with perhaps one of the largest networks of CCTV, which the US seem so against. I was never too concerned about the manner in which your movements could be recalled if the need arose, because it was generally only used to help solve crimes, and they only recalled the data they needed to solve an isolated incident. Continue reading “Living in a post-NSA-revelations world”

Thug Kitchen – my new favourite food blog

Thug Kitchen is a very honest look at some awesome recipes, why they rock so hard and why you ever thought that was veganism was for pansies.

Most food blogs are very much the same: just putting up your nice recipes that you just mastered and sharing them with the world. Thug Kitchen is nothing like that. Which is why I love it so much.

You only need about three seconds on the site to see what makes it so different, so I’m going to give you those three seconds to check it out now, before I spill the beans. Check out Thug Kitchen.


Thug Kitchen is a vegan food blog, that doesn’t pull any punches. The site’s tagline just about sums it up: “Eat like you give a fuck”. Continue reading “Thug Kitchen – my new favourite food blog”