Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Privacy: Unlist yourself from Truecaller

If you think the world of smartphones is any safer to tread without care, I would like to remind you the fact that terms like "internet never forgets" and "world wild web" apply to the internet whether you use it from a personal computer or a smartphone.

Truecaller is a mobile app available on google play, iOS and several other market places that uses a crowd sourced telephone directory to tell you the names of people who call you even if they are not in your phonebook. The company claims to 'partly' gather its data from public sources and partly 'crowdsources' it. The latter is, however, incorrect to the extent of being misguiding at best and fraudulent at worst.

Upon investigating the app and its modus operandi, it is obviously and blatantly clear that the app harvests the data (names, numbers and other information; all linked) from the phonebooks of the users who have installed the application. I verified this with a simple trick. I had a friend install the app, and then a second person (without the app installed - infact without a smartphone) called a third phone which already had the app installed to see what information the app would display. The name on the third phone's truecaller app appeared exactly with the company prefix and nickname that was saved as on the first person's phone. This clearly showed that the app had uploaded his complete phonebook to its database under the pretext of the "necessary" permissions it requires to install the app and now displays the phone numbers and names of all his contacts to anyone in the world who has the app installed even though all those people never opted for such. This is clearly a breach of privacy.

To further verify this, please see this blog post on the same matter and this Quora thread that shows how many people this fact has made unhappy.

Are you on their database? If any one of the hundreds of your contacts including your friends, colleagues or the cable guy uses Truecaller to avail their database, your number has been harvested onto it via their phonebook.

Now the question is how to get yourself rid of this privacy issue and remove yourself from the Truecaller data base in order to keep your information safe including telling your name to simply anyone who has your number? To unlist yourself, the Truecaller website provides an unlist option. You can go to their unlist page and remove your number from their database by entering your number in the following format: +923001234567

Friday, February 26, 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

Changing your Google Apps primary domain on your free legacy account

Note: This is a shared article - all credits go to Jen who first published it at: Swapping your Google Apps primary domain to your secondary domain (for dummies). I have tried it at two Google App accounts and it worked like a charm.

I know, I know, most of you are reading this and thinking, WTF? WTveryF are you talking about now? And that’s fair, this is a little out there, even for me. But I’ve just spent the better part of today trying to change the domain of my free Google Apps account, and now that I’ve made it happen, I feel I should share.
I am one of those lucky few who signed up for a free Google Apps account way back when there was such a thing, but somewhere along the line my domain changed. There’s a type A coder in my head, and she’s mostly ridiculed and pushed around by the rest of the gals upstairs, but she really likes things to be nice and orderly, so today she’s had a go at being in charge.

If I haven’t lost you yet, it may be because you CARE about the outcome! Perhaps you chanced upon my blog in a desperate attempt to change your OWN primary domain! Well then, my friend, I shall get right to it! And I’m going to make it SUPER easy:

* A note! As commentator have kindly pointed out, this method only allows you to have ONE DOMAIN and keep your free account. You can have a bunch of aliases too, but ONLY ONE DOMAIN. Sorry, those are the Googley Rules for free accounts now.

Legacy Google Apps Users:
  1. If you’re lucky enough to have a FREE FREE FREE account, you need to upgrade to the free 30 day enterprise trial. Don’t forget to downgrade before the 30 days are up, or you’ll lose your FREE FREE FREE account!!!
  2. You can upgrade from the Admin page of your Google Apps account. Seriously, let me help you, log in here: https://www.google.com/work/apps/business/
Adding a Secondary Domain:
  1. Righto, so you’ve upgraded to a paid account (free for 30 days) – if you have a paid account, you’re already on track. Go back to the admin console, and click on ‘Domains’. If you can’t see ‘Domains’, click on ‘more controls’ at the bottom of the page. Okay, fine, just click here: https://admin.google.com/AdminHome?fral=1#Domains:
  2. Click on the add a domain or alias button, and then add another domain. Don’t add an alias, okay, if you were happy with an alias you wouldn’t have searched out this post.
  3. Follow Google’s verification steps.
Swapping your Primary and Secondary Domains:
  1. Go here: https://developers.google.com/admin-sdk/directory/v1/reference/customers/update
  2. You’re in customer update now, click on Try It Now (it’s in blue).
  3. Make sure you’re logged into your relevant Google account (you should see your mail address in the top right corner).
  4. Next to customerKey type: my_customer
  5. Next to fields type: customerDomain
  6. Click next to ‘Request Body’, and in the –add a property– drop-down that appears, choose: customerDomain
  7. The following will magically appear: “customerDomain”:
  8. Type your secondary domain in the box next to “customerDomain”: (leave out the www. bit, just type in yourdomainname.com)
  9. Click Authorise and Execute
  10. Your secondary domain is now your primary domain!
Legacy Users
  1. Downgrade your account if you don’t want to lose your FREE FREE FREE account!!!
  2. You need to remove your secondary domain (what used to be your primary domain) first. Go here to delete it: https://admin.google.com/AdminHome?fral=1#Domains:
  3. Once you’ve deleted your secondary domain, click on billing in the Admin console, and in the drop-down next to Google Apps for Work, click cancel subscription.
  4. Choose the downgrade account option.
  5. Submit.
That is all.
Ja, I know, that was a lot. But a lot less than the four hours I’ve spent figuring it out.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Spade tea

Cooking on spade as a survival tactic; spade fried egg in the break fast, spade tea in the evening and spade cooked lunch when you have no other tool to use.

Water roller drum

Rolling water drums make it easier for people to take clean water to their homes from far off sources.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Academic circular debt

I had written before, years ago... This time I knew what it was, which is why I quit it before in a few months of using it to hone my skills. But now I was at its doorstep, again, or more accurately on the thin line between research writing and writing (others') research. I always had this desistance in mind and denied such service to atleast those who asked for it to use in Pakistan - but to what end? Now when I faced it again, I thought of writing this article. To make sure that I wrote on it some time or the other, I saved this title in my drafts only to wait on it. Today I happened to read the quote, "public enemy # 1 when it comes to writing is procrastination"; I knew what it meant and the first thing I did is to start writing this article.

In writing great, creative, scientific and omni-relevant diverse research, what could offend a writer so much? Was ghost writing the reason? No, most writers write by pen names or ghost write for real people - it never mattered to be known, it only mattered to make known. It was the fact that it was being done for others, students, who would then submit this "plagiarism-less", written-for-them work to an institution as their own to get an MS or a PhD degree. The irony was not lost on me... I was, then, a dropout, writing get-an-A-grade-or-a-refund dissertations and research papers for MS and PhD students of atleast 20 different disciplines on daily basis for a firm.

With this being in a distant past now, I got a call last year while I was busy culminating my startup's recent jump in work flow. They told me they had shortlisted my CV as a research writer. In my subconscious reluctance, "it's weekend, is Monday okay?" is all what I could say to the interview offer. To my wariness, he agreed. Monday, I called back and apologized in advance for non appearance due to fuel shortage hoping he'd cancel it, though I had put off getting fuel in time deliberately. He pro-actively moved it to Tuesday. I couldn't say no to incoming "blessings" now... so decided to go.

Tuesday, on entering the glass office, I was met by the "HR" crew member who took me to write a "test" sample, something I had loathfully endured on numerous content writing job interviews that had brought me to the conclusion that they made all the interviewees write for their clients for free only to hire one, instead of an actual test. After all, this one had inherently crossed the line of morality by their business model. I wrote it anyway only to publish it on my blog, as soon as I got home so that it would get detected as plagiarism if they sold it.

I was then interviewed by a panel of school and university professors (instantly making me loathe the teaching profession for a while). I was right in not assuming it to be an "actual" research organization inspite of giving it the benefit of doubt, but unlike what I had seen before, this was not a firm taking orders on pretext of "not-to-be-copied-help-papers" and getting them written by offshore, overqualified, underachieving freelancers... this was a a fully functional office with cafeteria, rest room, workstations of a 50 writers, based on this industry ready to churn out research articles, thesis, assignments for rich foreign students, paying in dollars online, who didn't / couldn't do their own work due to their disinterest / incompetence.

Speaking of reasoning again, content writers create SEO content under alias and generate leads under company identity, fellows write research for their employers, scholars for universities. Many don't get credited while their organizations profit in some way. Yet the desistance comes when it's done for students. At the same time it's deemed a legit practice to copy edit for a non native scientific researcher; the reason why people like me join, oblivious to the thin line that they would be made to cross by first copy editing, then writing the paper from scratch and then even doing the complete research eventually finding out what it would be used for.

It's a circular debt never spoken of. I pay huge sums of money for my education, carry out and write your research for money, you get a degree based on my work. There is no end being accomplished by the mere exercise of researching on behalf of another, no benefit to the professional world or to the world of technological advancement - the purpose of academic research is fulfilled from the institutional perspective, primary research is still being produced in the same way but in the name of a person who will never be able to develop on it. This is something worse than a scam pyramid scheme that is based on selling "schemes" to reselling customers (you see the recurrence) instead of actual services or products. Money is not the only thing at stake this time, rather the society's intellect as a whole is. When the pyramid collapses just like it eventually does for all Ponzi schemes when the last of the bases get consumed, in this case when there are no more truly educated writers to research for them, the echelons will be as uneducated as the rest and this house of cards will fall... and not beautifully like dominos, it will crumble under its own weight with the linchpin unknown.