kennyqin.com

A site about Kenny Qin

Thoughts

This page is a collection of topics that I’ve decided to put some effort into fleshing out. The content on this page is subject to change depending on new experiences. I’m am generally open-minded and open to discussion so please feel free to reach out if you disagree!

📈 Big Tech and Alternative Technologies

I am wary of the power Big Tech has in our lives and their place in mass surveillance and censorship. I used to use Google, Microsoft and Facebook products without a second thought just like the average consumer.

I avoid using Google services directly. Some of the Google products I still use, I access through software that act as proxies. I use a de-Googled phone. I use Fedora on my daily driver and a debloated installation of Windows 10 for gaming. (ProtonDB is an awesome project by Valve which will hopefully relinquish the dependency gamers have on Windows. Also, yes… DRM…) I have deleted my Facebook account and no longer use WhatsApp. I keep in contact with all the important people in my life through Signal and Threema.

I am concerned about Amazon’s direct role in physical surveillance particularly through their Ring products.

I am interested in decentralised architectures as they seem to solve many of the issues critics have of Big Tech. There are several projects out there that act as decentralised alternatives to the centralised behemoths we have today which I’m fascinated by through their way of governance. Some examples include Mastodon and Pleroma (federated Twitter), PeerTube (federated YouTube), Pixelfed (federated Instagram) and Matrix (federated messaging).

🔐 Basic Digital Practices Everyone Should be Following

The average person in developed countries spends several hours per day exposing themselves in the digital world without having any understanding of the threats posed to them. Admittedly, I used to use the internet with little regard for my privacy and security. One e-mail address I no longer use is associated with over 10 compromised accounts according to HIBP!

Before reading further, listen to @Snowden:

I would use an ad blocker. I would use a password manager. I would block third-party cookies in the browser. These last three are steps that absolutely everyone should consider, because they’re simple, cost little or nothing, and protect you while making your phone faster.

PrivacyTools.io has an easy-to-follow guide on browser configuration and recommendations for password managers. I recommend Bitwarden to all my friends.

Additional:

🎰 Microtransactions, Loot Boxes and In-Game Currencies in Video Games

I feel that the video game industry is very manipulative and predatory with their business models. Many of these concepts are relatable to age-restricted gambling and regulation is increasingly being pressured in many countries to finally catch up with the industry. Video games which initially seem harmless are not immune as they can burn you overnight without warning. The microtransaction incident for Payday 2 in 2015 is a grand example. I respect video game critic Jim Sterling who has been calling out poor industry practices for many years now.

I believe practise of patient gaming is the way to go for people who have a hobby in gaming. The key premise is to only emotionally associate with a game once the hype is gone and the developers/publishers have moved on. By then, it is clear what titles to avoid. Obviously, there are some pitfalls in that the player will not feel like they are part of something and other gamers often have an irrational knee-jerk reaction to anything that isn’t the latest and greatest so finding others for games with a multiplayer focus can be challenging.

I am bothered that many people knowingly subject themselves to video games that follow predatory practices when many games without them are available. Players of these games can have somehow have a semi-intellectual conversation amongst themselves about how they are having fun in a carefully crafted orchestration of manipulation.