Monthly Archives: February 2020

Ok girls and dudes – time for some dunes.

The famous dunes of Namibia – in the Namib desert – were the ‘main dish’ of our Namibian trip. The dunes have been on my Top-100 Most Beautiful Must-See Places on the Planet, I think since I first drew it up. I’d long… longed to get there, and finally, early this year – I did it!

As I’ve already reported, the Namib is one of the driest places on the planet, with a mere centimeter of rain falling PER YEAR! As you’d expect, accordingly, hardly anything grows here at all. Oh, and another thing about the Namib – it’s the oldest desert in the world! If the internet is to be believed, it is 50-80 million years’ old! That is, it’s had dinosaurs roaming upon it! One more thing: in the local tongue the name Namib means ‘vast’. Indeed it is. Vastly beautiful too ->

This dune here happens to be one of the highest in the world – nearly 400 meters from top to bottom!

Read on…

Poles, meridians, tropics, circles – a brief digression.

What with our crossing – on foot – the Tropic of Capricorn in Namibia, which I told you about in yesterday’s post, I got to thinking about the two very important geographical points, seven lines, a pair of meridians, and five parallels that adorn our globe – in all, nine objects:

– The North Pole;
– the South Pole;
– the Greenwich meridian;
– the 180th meridian;
– the equator;
– the Arctic Circle;
– the Tropic of Cancer;
– the Tropic of Capricorn; and
– the Antarctic Circle.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been at both the Poles and I’ve crossed all the meridians and parallels plenty times (mostly not noticing – high up in a plane). But it’s alas only seldom I’ve walked across, along, and photographed these geographical objects like I did recently with the Tropic of Capricorn. Still, let me go over what I have ticked off, and what remains still in my to-do list…

I. The North Pole: been.

All my tales from the northernmost side point are here. Specifically, a highlight for me – taking a dip in a hole cut in the polar ice (at the Barneo ice base) – here!

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I have a bit of a tradition that goes back years. Each time I find myself at the seaside I make sure to get in that sea for a spot of swimming :) It's both healthy living and curiosity. Looking back at 2018 it turns out to be an absolutely fantastic year in terms of year-round bathing for me! The spots across four oceans and seven seas include: North Pole, Caribbean, Sea of Okhotsk, Fiji and Faroe Islands. У нас с друзьями есть давняя традиция. Каждый раз, когда по дороге возникает море или даже океан – мы обязательно должны там искупаться. Хорошая река, красивое озеро, любая подобная достойная купания водная стихия должна быть опробована с полным погружением тела. Считайте это одновременно проявлением ЗОЖ и врождённым любопытством :) Давече оглянулся на 2018й год и понял, что получился весьма разнообразный список. Многочисленные (в том числе экзотические) места купальной славы включают: Северный полюс, Карибское море, Охотское море, Фиджи и даже Фарерские острова. Всего 4 океана и семь морей. Ура!

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And btw: in good weather, the North Pole looks like this:

Read on…

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Deeper into Namibia: the bluest sky, the Tropic of Capricorn, and odd-shaped aloe & cactii.

Back to the day we checked out exotic birds and geological wizardry…

We left Vogelfederberg in the afternoon, but we still had a full 270km ahead of us before we were to get to our next hotel. I wouldn’t have minded, for the sun was out, the skies were bright blue and cloudless, and the desert scenery continued to astound; however, the roads was becoming markedly worse…

Not that the road was full of potholes or anything; it wasn’t that bad. The problem lay in the way the sand on the road became rather heavily compacted somehow and it had formed itself into little ridges that ran across the road, which just got taller and taller. They seemed to be 15cm tall by our next stop – a ‘beautiful view with trees’ ->

Actually, the above pic was taken somewhere else; however, out of all of the pics of the ridged roads – this one showed them for what they were best. Also, I didn’t have any pics of the crazy-high-ridges-on-the-road as I was too busy holding the steering wheel with both hands trying to control the pick-up!

Funnily enough, I found that the optimal speed for navigating the ridged road was around 80-90km/h! Any slower, and the car would shake so much you kept banging your head against the roof. Any faster was just scary. The sweet spot at 80-90 was where the suspension managed best. But the car wasn’t being ‘driven’ along the road; it was flying low over it! It would glide from side to side also a little too uncontrollably for comfort; it was like driving over the ice of a frozen-over Lake Baikal! Who’d have thought it?!

Read on…

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Namibian pink feathers, pink lakes, and mysterious geology.

Skeleton Coast – done. Time to crack on further along our Namibian route. Next up – the country’s famous dunes, which are best seen at Sossusvlei. From Swakopmund (where we stayed the previous night) it’s around 400km. Sounds a lot, but when I tell you that those 400km were perhaps the most interesting and intense of any road I’ve been on – ever – well… the more distance the merrier!

For on this journey we experienced: flamingoes and pelicans, a mysterious mountain with endless views all around, a deep gorge, never-ending roads as straight as die, our crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, and our car getting stuck in the sand! Accordingly, plenty of words coming up describing this extraordinary journey, and plenty more photos too. // And it turns out I took 200 photos on this day – that’s one for every two kilometers!

Read on…

Cyber-news from the dark side: Er, who said you could sell my data?

January 28 is my aunt Olga’s birthday. It also happens to be Data Privacy Day. And my aunt Olga still isn’t aware! But she should be! For digital data is the currency of the new millennium. Accumulated knowledge of trillions of clicks and transactions – it’s a gold mine for any business. And multimillion-dollar businesses – lots of them – are based on the sale of these cyber-resources.

Global IT companies have more access to personal data than do countries. As a result, this topic is extremely important; it’s also toxic.

And, wherever there’s money – there are always bad guys. Cyber-bad-guys getting up to no good with folks’ data are forever multiplying in numbers. But even respectable companies may get up to no good with folks’ data too, and they seem to get away with – mostly. But more on that later…

Now, I’d like to ask a simple question – one to which, at least in global IT, there is no answer yet: ‘What is good and what is bad?’ I mean: where is the line between universal human morals and business ethics? Where is that fine line?

Alas, the question of cyber-ethics and cyber-morals is a very ambiguous one. Meanwhile, I can assure you that with the introduction of 5G and further sharp increases in the number of IoT devices, our data will be collected all the more. And more, and more…

Now for some detail: broken down into the main, most-pressing, interesting matters:

Lawyers, lawmakers, journalists, politicians, pundits, social commentators, philosophers… – not one of them can answer this question: ‘Who does data belong to?’ To users? To governments? To businesses? It would nice to think that users’ personal data belongs to those users themselves; at least up until when they may decide to voluntarily share it: when they fill in a form on a website, enter their name, telephone number and email to register for a newsletter, or thoughtlessly place a check in an app without reading through the small print of a lengthy legal agreement. Formally, from that moment on we give certain third parties the legal ability to handle our data, analyze it, sell it and whatever else is written (but rarely read) in the respective agreement. So does that mean that from that moment the data belongs to those third parties, too?

Much of the problem lies in the fact that the term ‘personal data’ is very vague and ephemeral – not only from the standpoint of the user but also from the legal one. Laws often can’t keep up with technological development. Nevertheless, on the whole over recent years the tendency has been clear: new laws being passed on the protection of personal data and the updating of existing legislation. In parallel, people’s attitudes toward personal data and privacy have become a lot more serious – something that of course I’m very happy to see.

Enough of my ‘intro’; let’s move on to the main dish…

Last week there was quite the scandal reported in the press involving Avast, one of the major players in the AV market.

Vice published an expose detailing how Avast has for years been giving data of its users that it collects to one of its subsidiaries – Jumpshot – which in turn then sells it to third-party companies. Those third-party companies thus got access to information on the online behavior of users: what websites were visited, movements from sites to sites, GPS coordinates of users of Google Maps, YouTube viewing histories, and lots more besides. And though the data wasn’t associated with specific individuals, IP addresses or emails – in other words it was anonymous – the data did come with identifiers, which keep working up until when a user may delete their Avast antivirus from their computer

Of course, this is nothing short of scandalous from an ethical point of view. We here at K have never allowed such a thing to happen, and never would; and we firmly believe that any earnings made from data of your users is simply beyond the pale.

The epilogue of this sorry tale was a formal apology from Avast’s CEO, in an announcement about the termination of Jumpshop. In my view, that was the only appropriate thing to do. I understand it mustn’t have been easy, and there will have been big financial losses, but still. Well done for doing the right thing in the end.

For us, the matter of data storage and its usage has long been a priority. Back in 2017 we launched our Global Transparency Initiative, moved our data processing for European users (plus other countries) to Zurich, since then have opened two more Transparency Centers, and are soon to open two more. Projects like this aren’t cheap; but we feel we simply must set new standards of openness and a serious attitude to personal data.

More details about our principles of data processing, about how our cloud-based KSN works, anonymization of data, and other important things you can find here. But I just want to add, addressing all our users, that, rest assured: we never make any compromises with our conscience – ever.

Often, the collection and sale of data is carried out by free antivirus software, covering things like surveillance of users for advertising purposes and the trade in their confidentiality, all to make money. As you’ll know, we also have a free version of our AV, based on the same protection-tech as our other, paid-for products, whose effectiveness is constantly confirmed in independent tests. And though the functionality of the free version is rather stripped down, it’s still a piece of AV we’re very proud of, delivering users solid and reliable protection and leaking no personal data for advertisers. Users deserve the best protection – without annoying adverts and privacy trading. But I’ve been saying that years.

Something else I’ve been talking about for years is my own paranoid very serious attitude to my own personal data. One more time: I only ever give it out when it is wholly necessary, which I recommend you do too. I understand it’s difficult to fully realize the importance of this, when its so intangible and when the ‘price’ of our data is impossible to estimate. Just remember – every click, every site you visit – someone (rather – something), somewhere is making a record of it, and it never gets deleted. So come on folks, lets get serious about our digital footprint; and more serious about how we view the companies and products to which you entrust your personal – private – data.

PS: We recently launched a useful site with detailed recommendations for protecting your personal digital life. Here you can find the most important privacy settings for popular social networks, online services and operating systems. Have a look!

African Adventure 2020 – Namibia: day two – Skeleton Coast.

Our second day in Namibia started very early – before the crack of dawn even. We were showered and packed before breakfast in the hotel was served. And this early-bird tendency stayed with us throughout the whole trip. Then, after our breakfast of a morning would follow concentrated levels of tourism, planned perfectly (or as near as darn it) so that we’d arrive at our next hotel (rarely the same hotel twice) around dusk, shower, have supper, and turn in for the night. Clockwork, basically ). Repeat 10 times! We call it ‘tourism till you drop’. And it suits us just fine!…

So. Day two: dedicated completely to Skeleton Coast

Read on…