Author Archives: ari

Why I quit Yahoo and Gmail when I started traveling

2016-12-28

A few years ago, when I started traveling for work, a strange thing happened with some of the web services I had been using. These cloud services, such as email, photo sharing and calendar refused to let me in to my account. I really needed to access them because my work processes relied on those services. Instead, the services insisted I was a hacker who had managed to discover my user id and password. The cloud services refused me from accessing my own account.

That’s when I quit Yahoo. Now, I am in the process of quitting all my Google services as well.
an office for a digital nomad in Bordeaux, France
In 2012 and 2013 I was on a long journey that took me to several countries in Europe. I was using Yahoo Mail and Flickr quite a lot when things started to go wrong. Every time I moved to a new place, Yahoo wanted verification after verification to prove that I was really me. When I had done it a few times, and had been locked out from my accounts once, and had very frustrating moments with Yahoo support, I was fed up. I decided to quit all my Yahoo services.

With the information that we have today (in December 2016), it is easy to realize that Yahoo may have been fighting with serious hacking problems just then, in 2013. Their solution was to make life hard for their customers without telling what had happened.

I decided to migrate my cloud services to Google. That decision I have bitterly regretted recently. I have been traveling in Europe during 2016, staying one night in one place, a week in another and a month somewhere else. Every time I have tried to access my Gmail, Google Photos, Google Plus, Analytics, or any other Google service, I have been treated as a criminal. Even after I have correctly entered my login id, password, and the required verification information, Google haven’t let me access my account. Instead, Google took the effort to send me an email message:
Google: someone has your password

“Someone has your password
Hi,
Someone just used your password to try to sign in to your Google Account [name]@[address].com.
Details: Saturday, [month], 2016 12:43 PM (Central European Standard Time)
[country]*
Google stopped this sign-in attempt, but you should review your recently used devices:”

The first time Google locked me out of my account, I spent quite a lot precious time trying to explain the situation to Google Support. Nothing happened. That was it. I had enough of Google. For my work that requires traveling, it is a waste of time to try and follow Google’s verification instructions – only to be locked out.

So, I am moving my work, business, and life away from Google.

I understand and really hope that services like Yahoo and Google have security measures in place to prevent hijacking of accounts. If I login to my account in Edinburgh today, and in Dublin tomorrow, it is perfectly all right to ask verification for proving that I am really me. What I don’t understand is why both Yahoo and Google fail to recognize the credentials I am entering. For instance, Google’s verification process can send a message to a backup email address stored on the account. Going through this process doesn’t help. I am still a criminal to Google.

I understand that Google has other ways for verifying customer’s identity, but whatever they are, I can not trust Google anymore. Google does whatever it wants with my data. I don’t have any hope to have any control over the data I have stored on Google’s servers. The risk with dealing with services like Yahoo and Google is simply too high. The critical moment when I need information stored on my account, or access communication services I have relied on my work, the services fail. They have been designed that way, and nothing I say or do will change it.

Since I will be traveling (and writing about it), I have started a long process of creating a whole new cloud working environment for me and for people I work with. It takes time and effort, because some choices prove to be wrong and as painful it is, switching to another tool is better than limping ahead with an unreliable or unsecure tool.

What can a traveling remote worker, or digital nomad, who doesn’t have tools provided by corporate IT department do without Google or Yahoo? Here are some suggestions. I may update them as my migration process progresses:

– An email account from a reliable ISP (hosting company). Many ISPs give a large inbox (up to 1 GB) for the price of a domain name. Annual cost around 10-15 USD/Euros.
– Flickr is an excellent photo service – if you can login to your account. I am still looking for a replacement for it (won’t be Google Photos).
– Some hosted email services come with a calendar, some ISPs charge extra for it. I have been trying out Sunrise and Moxtra that are free.
– Google Plus social media service can be important for some people, but it wasn’t critical for me. Goodbye Google+. Other social media services, like Twitter or Instagram have co-operated smoothly with me on the road.
– In addition to backing up data to an external drive, find a cloud backup service. Forget Google Drive, and pay a few euros/dollars per month to a company that really knows what they are doing. I am traveling in Europe, so Hubic servers in France are never far away from places I am staying.
– Google Analytics can be difficult to replace as the web site analytics tool, but we are trying out Piwik and Open Web Analytics at the moment.

Why am I discontent with Google and Yahoo services alone? Surely, I must be using social media services as well? Yes, I am. It is just that, for instance, Twitter, Dropbox, Skype, or Instagram have made life easy for customers who are traveling. They know someone is accessing your account from a new place, tell you about it, ask if everything is all right, and act accordingly. The difference with Google and Yahoo is that these services just work.

Online security is not easy. Customers want to be assured that their accounts are in safe hands. For a service provider, it means balancing between ease of use and requiring customers to take a few extra steps. Yet, even tight security can be implemented so that customers who prove their identity are not locked out from the services they rely on their work.


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Sweden’s book city: Gothenburg

2016-12-19

Stockholm is the capital and the most populous city of Sweden, but Gothenburg on the country’s West Coast features the largest annual book show of Scandinavia. Maybe it is simply because Denmark, Germany and Norway are not far away from Gothenburg, or maybe the city has traditions in book business.
bookcrossing, slottsskogen, gothenburg, sweden, europeIn the large park of Slottsskogen near the city center you can find books on trees. It was a rainy day when the photo was taken, so someone must have saved the books from getting wet. The message on the plastic box encourages you to change your book to a new one.
bricks-and-mortar, book shop in Gothenburg
bookstore in gothenburg, sweden
Akademibokhandeln bookstore in gothenburg, sweden west coastBookstores in the city center.

book show, gothenburg, sweden.The annual Book Fair in September in Gothenburg attracts visitors and exhibitors primarily from Scandinavia, Baltic countries and Germany.

If you are planning to travel to Sweden or Gothenburg, it is worth knowing that the West Coast region next to Gothenburg is the second most popular vacation destination for Swedes. This travel guidebook covers the essential places, sights and activities in the city and the region.

A publisher caught loaning its own ebooks from library for profit

2016-11-21

In some countries, like Sweden, public libraries have an advanced system for citizens to loan ebooks. All parties, libraries, citizens and publishers have been happy to the system, because it works, allows budgeting for libraries, and enables some business for publishers. Now, a Swedish publisher has discovered an old-school method to cheat the system. The publisher’s family members loaned as many their own company’s published ebooks as they could from the library in order to generate revenue from the loans.
acer b3-a20 tablet, 10 inches, Android 5.1
This is how the library system works in Sweden. Digital media distrubutor Axiell maintains a platform that connects publishers and libraries. A publisher uploads ebooks they want to make available for libraries to the system, and sets the price per loan for each book. Libraries search the system for ebooks. When they discover what they want, and the price is right, they make the ebook available for their community.

Each loan of an ebook generates a small amount of revenue for the publisher of the book.

That is exactly what the family of the small publisher in southern Sweden had been ordered to do.

Helsingborgs Dagblad reported that the scheme was discovered in the library of small community Burlöv in South Sweden. The community is so small that library staff took notice of strange peak in loans on the first day of each month. That’s when six family members of the publisher loaned as many ebooks as they were allowed to loan each month. They could borrow 36 ebooks altogether, but in a small community, they had already consumed half of the monthly budget that library had reserved for ebooks.

Family members had been able to get library cards to other nearby libraries as well. They had implemented the same routine in three libraries, at least.

So far, the estimated total profit the publisher had managed to generate is less than 10 000 euros (82 000 Swedish kronor). More libraries may discover they have been cheated as the news spread.

Police report has been filed, and what-went-wrong analysis has started. Publisher’s all ebooks have been removed from the library system.

The case may not be as straightforward as one might think. The family members had legal library cards. They used their right as citizens and library card holders to loan ebooks from public libraries.

Surprisingly, the platform provider Axiell recalls a similar case that happened in 2014. A publisher had loaned its own ebooks, got caught, and was reported to the police. Axiell, however, didn’t modify the platform to detect behavior like this. When asked why, Axiell representative responds that the platform doesn’t store any personal information that could be used to track users.

Axiell has informed libraries that it will fully compensate them, and pay the estimated loss 82 000 krona back to libraries. Obviously, Axiell seeks to settle the case with the publisher in or out of court.

Quick and easy tips for street photography

2016-11-17

After I saw a large exhibition of works of Henri Cartier-Bresson two years ago, I realized that there are so many techniques for taking photos on city streets. It looked like Cartier-Bresson had agreed with some people that they are being photographed. They should continue whatever they were doing without having to pose, the photographer may have told them. It was obvious, however, that Cartier-Bresson had taken many pictures without subjects noticing what was going on.

That’s the art of street photography – snapping frames without disturbing the flow of life and work on the streets.
tavira, portugal
Crowded places, sights, any places with lots of activity tend to be the easiest places to take authentic photos of people minding their own business. Experienced street photographers, like Eric Kim, have learned a few tricks how to take candid shots almost anywhere. He has shared 10 tips for street photographers in his blog here.

For instance, the video camera technique is something that I never thought of, but is an excellent tip. The idea is to move with the camera (for instance, rotate yourself like you were taking a 360 degree video) as many tourist camcorder shooters do. You, of course, only need to frame the true subject that you want to frame.

I have also noticed that taking photos with a smartphone is less intrusive than pointing a large lens of a SLR to a subject. When you frame someone with a smartphone, the subject tends to believe that he or she is not the centerpiece of your picture but it is something behind, above, or near him or her. It is also quicker to point and shoot with a smartphone – assuming you have the camera app already on, and you are looking at the screen like you were reading messages or looking at a map. From that position, it is very quick to raise the phone and snap a photo.

What about the situation when the photographer becomes the subject? Last year, in Lapland, I was being photographed from a distance. I noticed it because it was a noisy group of Chinese tourists, and at least one cameraman wanted to capture someone hiking. I posed, and other Chinese photographers joined the fun. As I walked closer, the photographer who started the whole thing wanted to take a selfie with me. It was an honor I couldn’t refuse.

sao bras de alportel, PortugalSao Bras de Alportel, Portugal.

EU confirms that libraries can lend ebooks provided authors are fairly compensated

2016-11-13

Ebooks have been, and are being, lended by public libraries in many EU countries, but on November 10th, 2016 the EU Court of Justice decided that libraries really have the right to do so. The court regarded that the principles for lending paper books and ebooks are the same. The most important point for authors and publishers of digital books is that the court specifically stated that the authors must be fairly remunerated for library loans.
bookshelf, dictionaries
The case was brought to the EU Court of Justice by Dutch authors’ organization Stichting Leenrecht which collects remuneration for authors. The EU court, however, saw the big picture and stated in its press release:

“That conclusion is, moreover, borne out by the objective pursued by the directive, namely that copyright must adapt to new economic developments.”

The EU Court attitude is warmly welcomed, and hopefully spreads to EU nations as well. Authors’ rights to benefit from their work is the number one priority for everyone in the business, but at the same time, the way the rights are used must be developed as the digital era progresses.

The EU Court states:

“[e-book lending] has essentially similar characteristics to the lending of printed works. That is the case as regards the lending of a digital copy of a book under the ‘one copy, one user’ model.” And specifically reminds “… provided that authors obtain, at least, fair remuneration.”

Currently, there are many practices in EU countries how libraries deal with digital books. For instance, public libraries in Finland don’t compensate ebook rights holders anything when citizens lend their works. That’s why publishers and authors are very reluctant to make ebooks available via libraries – one of likely reasons that has prevented ebook market to emerge in the country. In Sweden, publishers can set the price per loan that libraries have to pay for each loan. If a publisher sets the loan price too high, libraries won’t make the book available, but when the price is right, everyone is happy (including citizens who couldn’t get enough of football star Zlatan’s biography).

Surprisingly, The Federation of European Publishers opposes EU Court’s ebook lending decision. The organization represents national publishers’ associations, which tends to mean big publishers. The organization’s concern seems to be (according to the press release) piracy: ebook lenders would loan ebooks only to crack the DRM and keep the books forever, and not return them to the library.

Two things for the Federation of European Publishers to consider: the same piracy risk is present in all ebooks purchased from bookstores, and it would be a good idea for the organization to get familiar with the ebook lending system in Sweden.

How to avoid crowds at Lello (aka Harry Potter) bookstore in Porto, Portugal

2016-11-05

As a travel destination, Portugal has a lot going on at the moment. Sintra, Cascais, Lisbon, Algarve and Porto are world class destinations that attract an increasing number of visitors. One of the lucky Portuguese destinations that gets more visitors than it perhaps ever wished for is a beautiful bookstore in the city of Porto in North Portugal. The author of Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, drew inspiration from it and perhaps also used the bookstore setting as a platform for the Harry Potter world.
Lello bookstore, Porto, Portugal. Photo: Michal HuniewiczPhoto by Michal Huniewicz.

So, it seems that every tourist who arrives in Porto wants to visit the Lello shop in the city center.
Porto, Portugal, Lello bookstore
The result is that the shop is crowded. Once people discovered the store and the word spread, it has been a travel destination. The bookstore eventually became so crowded that the owners had to think of something to allow people to actually shop books and to look around, too.

They invented a scheme that works like this: outside the bookstore is a kiosk (the red kiosk in the photos) where you have to buy an entrance ticket (yes, you pay to enter a bookshop). The kiosk controls the flow of people to the store. Once you buy something, the ticket price is deducted from the total. Fair, and simple system that allows some breathing room for bookstore visitors.

lello bookstore, porto.

Visitors to the Lello bookstore have to get a ticket from the red kiosk first.

As you can see in the photos, the Harry Potter fans’ and curious visitors’ queue can be quite long to the ticket kiosk – before you even get to the bookstore. The photos were taken in September. We can only imagine how long the queue was in August and July.

How to avoid spending a long time in the queue? Arrive early in the morning. Early is a relative term, but if you hit the scene before 11 o’clock, you should be fine.

An important tip for Porto explorers: Beware of the traffic in Porto and everywhere else in Portugal. The way locals drive is very fast, dangerous and unpredictable, and it is against their religion to indicate which way they are going.

Here is where you can find the Lello bookstore:
porto, lello bookstore, map

Globally, ebook markets to continue steady growth during the next few years

2016-10-22

In North America, where Amazon kicked off the modern ebook business in 2007, some book industry experts today are lamenting the recent decline of ebook revenues. Ebook markets outside the US, however, have a different situation and possibly also outlook for the future. PWC, a consultancy, forecasts that globally ebook sales continue to grow steadily, whereas print book revenues continue their gradual fall. PWC’s forecast is projected until 2020.

pwc, book publishing forecast 2020Annual growth rate for ebooks 10.4% and for print books -0.4% until 2020 according to PWC.
In regions like Europe, Asia and the Pacific, the adoption of ebooks have been a lot slower than in the US. For instance, in many European countries the market share of ebooks from the total book market is at 1 – 5% level. There is room for growth. Plenty of it. Sales channels are still being established (for instance, grocery store Aldi in Germany and subscription service Storytel in Scandinavia), tax laws are being amended (in order to treat ebooks equally with print books), self-publishing services are being set up, and people are realizing that large screen smartphones are reading devices.

Do you remember when the Internet bubble burst in 2001? It had been a wild run since the IPO of Netscape in 1995. For some pundits, 2001 was the end of the Internet business and tech business. Well, what happened? Today, they are shaping our world in all fields of life: transportation, entertainment, shopping, working, relationships, you name it.

The fact is that the world is taking its first baby steps in the new era of digital media that today also features electronic books. Today’s ebooks are more or less direct conversions of print books into electronic format – sometimes not even conversions if an ebook is delivered as an PDF file. Multimedia and augmented reality are some of the technologies that may get smartphone-generations to read commercial ebooks just like they read fan fiction, messages or watch online videos. Books will develop with technology, but the concept of book is so strong that it will remain.

So, yes, PWC’s cautious forecast for global annual ebook revenue growth of 10.4% is way more likely to happen than the decline of revenues in the US would turn into a long term trend.

pwc book publishing market forecast

Finally, European Union agrees that ebooks are books

2016-09-19

It is the content that matters. A book is a book regardless of the method you use to read it. A book printed on paper conveys the same ideas, information, excitement and messages as an electronic book enjoyed on a tablet, ereader or smartphone. Now, the European Union agrees with this concept. It means that the VAT for ebooks can be the same as it is for printed books.
kindle page flip video
So far, the VAT for ebooks in EU countries has been higher than for printed books. In some countries paper books don’t have VAT at all, but ebooks may have 15-24% VAT. It is a significant price difference.

France rebelled against the different VAT levels for books and ebooks already in 2013, but EU told France and later Luxembourg that they have to follow the rules. Ebooks were considered electronically supplied services rather than media products because ebooks are being delivered electronically, and there is no physical product. The great project to standardize VAT levels in EU had already started, and media products were part of it. France, Luxembourg and other countries were told to wait for the big VAT reform.

Now, Financial Times reports that Pierre Moscovici, the EU tax commissioner, agreed that ebooks are books. The commission will propose legislation to address the problem during October 2016. National governments will have to approve the initiative after that, but it is difficult to see why any government would want to stop it.

The next interesting story will be the level of VAT for ebooks. Will it be as low as it is for printed books, or will the VAT for paper books be raised to the same higher level than it is for ebooks?

Travel photo gallery 2014: Sweden, Scandinavian countries

2015-01-29

In 2014, my travels took me to Scandinavian countries, primarily Sweden. Southern and western regions of Sweden along with Stockholm were the main destinations.

After exploring and staying on the West Coast of Sweden, I had more than enough material and contacts for interviews to write a travel guidebook Gothenburg and Sweden’s West Coast about this region that is the most popular vacation destination for Swedes after Stockholm.

The nice thing in this part of the Scandinavia was that it was possible to enjoy lively city life in Gothenburg and enjoy the great outdoors in the pristine archipelago of the West Coast.

Book trade professionals in North Europe are familiar with Gothenburg because of the annual Book Fair that is the largest in northern Europe.

Here is the 2014 travel photo gallery where you can find photos of other photographers taken from other places as well:

Bohus fortress near Gothenburg, Sweden.