Lockdown – privacy app for iOS

I was sure I saw a link to this from Daringfireball, but can’t seem to find it again. Anyway. I’ve been running Lockdown on my phone for a couple of weeks now, and it’s been working great. It’s an app that integrates with the VPN feature in iOS, so all network requests get pushed through the app for filtering. It doesn’t actually do a VPN, but uses that as a hook to block domains that are requested in any app. There are app-specific tools like Firefox Focus, or Safari-tools like Better Blocker. But Lockdown should work in for any app because it runs at the VPN network level (so it could do things like blocking embedded marketing trackers that report when you’ve viewed an email in Mail, etc…).

It’s open source and free (for now?), but I haven’t gone through the code on GitHub (or, for that matter, have any way to verify that the code on GitHub is the code that’s compiled into the app). For all I know, it could be doing some nefarious stuff with my network requests. There’s no way to really tell. But it claims to work, and it blocks all kinds of privacy-invading adware, and other network-ne’er-do-wellers.

Lockdown’s privacy policy looks pretty clear, and states that nothing leaves the phone and all filtering happens locally. I’d feel a bit more comfortable if there was a third-party audit of the app, to know if it’s doing what it claims to be doing (and only what it claims to be doing). Handing an app VPN-level access to my phone is a rather big act of faith…

That’s all there is. Turn it on. Let it run. Assume it’s not being evil…

Pick the stuff you want to block and/or add your own filters…

It tracks the stuff it claims to have blocked. This is what came up after loading a few websites in Safari.

I’ll try running it for awhile longer – it seems to do a great job in stamping out the domains that are associated with internet crapware and privacy invasion. It feels a bit like the shared killfile in William Gibson’s Idoru

moving my digital notestuff to Notes

I’ve been using digital notebooks for many, many years. Everything was in Evernote, until it wasn’t. Then I used Noteshelf for the great ink. Then I used OneNote for the organization and even better ink. All along, I’ve kept a series of paper notebooks, which I’ve found myself using more often in the last couple of years1. And, our campus IT had been making somewhat-arbitrary changes to configuration involving OneDrive (and therefore OneNote) that made me uncomfortable continuing to keep The Sum of My Digital Notes™ in one basket that was configured by people with a track record of changing things without consultation2. I’ve moved my OneNote notebooks to my personal account, and am starting fresh in Notes. I’ve been using Notes (mostly on my phone) for trivial notes-in-passing for years, but the app has been improved a lot in the last year or so, with many more improvements about to drop.

I’ve organized my notes into folders and subfolders (using numbers to force sort order in some cases because it uses alpha sort with no manual override). So far, I’ve been able to get it set up the way I think I’ll use it, and have been using it a bunch for health stuff this summer. I’ll know more about how it works in heavy usage when I’m back in the office in a couple of weeks.

The simplicity of Notes was originally something that made me use it for the trivial notes-in-passing stuff (names and numbers to remember, places to try, quick notes to remember during conversations), but I’m finding the lack of overhead is liberating. No Ribbon™ to deal with. No editing modes. Just type (or write).

Yes, Apple could do something stupid, but that hasn’t happened yet, and the iCloud sync feature has been absolutely 100% rock solid, which is more than I can say for any other sync platform I use…

Anyway. It was time to declare bankruptcy on my previous digital notebooks, start fresh, simplify and streamline.

  1. I prefer using paper notebooks during meetings so I don’t have a screen up between myself and whoever I’m working with, and there are no notifications or apps or distractions in a paper notebook []
  2. I’d moved my digital notes into OneDrive to try to be a good steward of my notes – they are FOIP-able in a campus-managed platform, and backed up in a way that campus could access them if needed, but those aren’t worth the risk of losing the notes entirely due to something outside of my control []

An update from chemo-land

The one where our protagonist realizes he hasn’t published a blog post since November of last year and becomes paralyzed by the realization that he has nothing of note to write about, aside from a health update. Which is a great problem to have, given the circumstances.

So. I’ve been on medical leave from work for 4 months now, as I undergo treatment for lymphoma. I’ve finished round 4 and am gearing up for round 5 next week – then only one more round after that before recovering a bit and returning to work in mid-august.

The treatment is working. It started working almost immediately, and things have kept improving each round. My lab results are kind of amazing – the good numbers (hemoglobin) are up over 30%, and the bad numbers (a few flavours of proteins that are cranked out by the cancer cells) are way, WAY down. Neither sets are back in the normal range yet, but at least I can see normal from here.

It’s a happy plateau of hemoglobiny goodness.

My medical team is fantastic – I have a great hematologist, and the nursing staff at the cancer centre are all amazing. I’m extremely squeamish with needles, so having people who are incredibly good at inserting an IV has been a relief. Also, I’m grateful for our healthcare system in general – the most expensive part of my entire treatment has been paying for parking at the hospital. Despite the fact that the drugs I get will add up to more than I paid for my house, I’ll never see a bill for any of it. That takes so much stress off of everyone.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to take the medical leave – and am thankful that I’ve been able to focus on recovering from treatment rather than trying to amp up the energy to head back to work right away. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back into things, but realize that I wouldn’t have been exactly “productive” or “helpful” if I’d have tried to power through.

My treatment is a “well tolerated” protocol – I get one old-school chemo drug that was discovered in East Germany before the wall came down (this one basically messes up any cells that are actively dividing, but thankfully – THANKFULLY – hasn’t caused me to lose any of my glorious hair. That would have been awful!). The other drug is a newer immunotherapy thing that tells my immune system to kill any cells with a certain protein marker on them. Thankfully, my cancer cells all come from one line of B-lymphocytes that dutifully present this marker on their cell membranes, so it makes it easy to identify and destroy them. Stupid cancer cells. The chemo drug makes me feel kind of gross and very weak and shaky for a couple of weeks, giving me a couple of weeks to build back up before getting it again for the next round.

I’ve been feeling stronger each round, too. I think that’s a great sign that it’s working. I managed to get out on my bike last week, and have been doing yoga regularly. I even hit the gym with J. and it was great.

Anyway. 2 rounds go to, then I get to ring the bell. Then, recover a bit more, head back to work, and come back to the cancer centre every 3 months for the next 2 years to get maintenance infusions of the immunotherapy cocktail. The kind of cancer I have will be with me for the rest of my life. It doesn’t go into “remission”, it just gets knocked down enough to not be as much of an issue for awhile. Then we get to try the next thing. This’ll probably buy me 5-10 years before I need to try treatment again. But, treatment works.

Defining Learning Innovation | Technology and Learning

Several interesting points by Joshua Kim, on the nature of innovation in higher ed.

A focus on institutional learning innovation may involve the decision that all new classroom spaces and renovations will result in active learning spaces, with flat floors and moveable furniture. Or it may revolve around an initiative to embed academic librarians with professors throughout the course development, teaching, and redesign process.

One example comes from the world of online learning. On its own, an online learning program is not all that innovative.  What is innovative is when the school tries to figure out how to bring the lessons, methods, techniques, and resources from online courses to residential courses.MOOCs are not innovative. What would be innovative is to leverage what is learned from MOOCs to improve traditional online and residential courses.

Getting resources for pilot projects is usually much easier than transitioning the new practices to the normal operations of the school. Learning innovations that do not change how the institution works are ultimately useless. Learning innovation initiatives must be aligned with the strategic goals of the institution.

Source: Defining Learning Innovation | Technology and Learning

I’ve seen similar things with pilots – short-term funding to explore an idea that doesn’t get translated into something ongoing and sustainably funded, so it disappears after the pilot. Innovation has to be sustainable to make a real difference. It’s also incredibly important to avoid getting distracted by The Latest Shiny™ – learn from it, but the innovation is in how we translate what we learn into the institution, rather than just duct-taping on something new.

articles in the Journal of Learning Spaces 7(1)

4 interesting articles in the most recent issue, in no particular order:

McDavid, L., Carleton Parker, L., Burgess, W., Robertshaw, B., & Doan, T. (2018). The Combined Effect of Learning Space and Faculty Self-Efficacy to use Student-Centered Practices on Teaching Experiences and Student Engagement. Journal of Learning Spaces, 7(1). Retrieved from http://libjournal.uncg.edu/jls/article/view/1597

Instructors who teach well in one kind of learning space don’t magically translate that ability into teaching well in another kind of learning space. They need support/PD/consultation when moving, say, from a lecture hall to a flexible learning space (or vice versa?).

Zimmermann, P., Stallings, L., Pierce, R., & Largent, D. (2018). Classroom Interaction Redefined: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Moving Beyond Traditional Classroom Spaces to Promote Student Engagement. Journal of Learning Spaces, 7(1). Retrieved from http://libjournal.uncg.edu/jls/article/view/1601

Classroom design affects student learning. Some problematic vendor-specific language in the article, but the survey and discussion are interesting.

“There is no doubt the interactive space promoted a more collaborative and engaging environment than the traditional classroom spaces.”

and

“The interactive space allowed more mobility, generating greater immediacy and engagement in the classroom.”

Benoit, A. (2018). Investigating the Impact of Interactive Whiteboards in Higher Education. A Case Study. Journal of Learning Spaces, 7(1). Retrieved from http://libjournal.uncg.edu/jls/article/view/1631

From just down the highway at Lethbridge College. Some interesting descriptions of types of classrooms in an inventory, and proximal zones of engagement (related to distance from a screen)1. Their use of “IWB” (Interactive Whiteboard) is problematic because, I think, it’s shorthand for “an instructor using their laptop to run SMART Notebook” (although they don’t say what is powering the IWB). This would explain why student engagement with the IWB is low – it’s not their thing, it’s the teacher’s thing. Also, whiteboards are a specific kind of digital tool2 – a digital version of the traditional analog whiteboard. Cramming other functionality into the “whiteboard” tool name is confusing. We don’t have a name that I’m happy with, but our collaborative station display/interface dealies are called “collaboration carts” to abstract away from any specific software or functionality. They can be made to do all kinds of things. One of those things is to pretend to be a whiteboard.

Cogswell, C., & Goudzwaard, M. (2018). Building Demand and Reaching for Capacity. Journal of Learning Spaces, 7(1). Retrieved from http://libjournal.uncg.edu/jls/article/view/1559

An interesting description of Dartmouth’s recent Berry Innovation Classroom project, and some of the design and implementation decisions they made.

  1. but even that appears to be just a republishing of Epson’s “4/6/8 rule” marketing information []
  2. like, say, TIDraw []