Threema. The Secure Messenger

I’m moving my friends and family who use Android phones away from SMS/MMS, Facebook Messenger, and Voxer. We’ll be using Threema to send messages, photos, and videos instead.

For my friends and family who communicate with me using iOS messenger, I’m not asking them to change anything. It’s very user-friendly, but the security and privacy are still strong enough for normal conversations.

I started using apps instead of SMS/MMS after it became a headache because it doesn’t always work well between iOS and Android. Plus it over-compresses media, and it is not secure.

Facebook should be avoided as much as possible, so I wanted to find an easy app to use for my friends and family who have been using Messenger to communicate with me.

I considered running my own element server, but haven’t had the time to learn all about doing it right.

I looked at some of the top alternative messaging apps such as Whatsapp,Telegram, and Signal, but ruled them out for various reasons. Whatsapp was acquired by Facebook at some point, so it’s out. Telegram and Signal make you use your phone number and upload your contacts in order to use their apps, and I have no plans of doing either.

Although Voxer is free and convenient, it has more and more things that annoy me. Voxer isn’t a major player in the messaging app world, but it was what a couple of friends were already using, so I met them where they were.

The most in-your-face problem with Voxer is that it (almost) always has notifications that cannot be cleared, so there’s is always a red 1 in the corner of the icon. Also it’s annoying there is still no dark mode as of November 2020. And it’s a bummer that older messages disappear unless you pay for a Pro subscription. It’s nice they offer a paid version, but being able to read old messages shouldn’t be one of the perks. It is nice that you can use Voxer in an app or on a desktop web browser, but that’s not enough to keep me as a user.

So what’s so great about Threema. The Secure Messenger anyway?

Threema is an accessible way for anyone to start using end-to-end encryption to send messages to friends and family. You may have nothing to hide, but that’s no reason to let strangers listen in on your private conversations.

A couple nice-to-have features are dark mode and custom alert tones, so it can match or be different from your phone’s message alert.

It’s not a feature, but I appreciate that Threema is a paid app. You pay up front, so there’s no nagging to upgrade to a paid version. Since they have a revenue stream, it increases my confidence that the app will continue to be developed and improved. Also, I don’t have to worry whether I am the product since I’m a paying customer.

After my concerns with Telegram and Signal, I was relieved to find that not only do I not need to hand over contacts or telephone number, but you can have a completely anonymous account with Threema. The app provides a way to backup your account securely and privately, and you can easily nuke your account if you decide to.

When I set up my account, and when I help set the app up for my friends and family, I will start them off with the most private option. The downside is if they don’t backup their account, and something happens to their device, they’ll have to create a new one. That part is easy, but you have to scan the QR code of all your contacts if you want to be 100% certain it’s them when adding them to Threema. This prevents a man-in-the-middle attack.

I decided on security/privacy over convenience because it’s easier to loosen the security/privacy later if convenience outweighs the (minimal) risks than it is to try to undo the less-secure options.

If you decide you want a little more convenience, you can create an account tied to an email address to easily move your account from one phone to another by just logging in. You can also sync your contacts if you want to, so you can start messaging other Threema users who have done the same. But both options are totally optional.

Threema is available in the iOS App Store, the Google Play app store, or directly from Threema’s website:


Snooze Interval

It drives me nuts that the iPhone snooze interval is 9 minutes.

  1. How did they get this number?
  2. Why can’t you set it yourself?

“How to nap” ( seems to show an optimal minimum time of 20 minutes, so that’s what I’d like it to be. But it would be even better if everyone could go to Settings and set it to any number they want.


“The Best Gear for Travel” • The Wirecutter

Traveling well can be one of life’s great pleasures, whether you’re alone or with friends and family. But what does it mean to travel well? The Wirecutter staff offered a few themes: Avoid hassle, ..

Source: “The Best Gear for Travel” • The Wirecutter


iOS Photos App: Display Filename and Metadata 

Unfortunately, iOS on the iPhone doesn’t natively support the display of photo filenames or metadata like Photos (and iPhoto before it) on the Mac. 

According to Apple Support, it’s a built-in feature to display a photo’s file name in the Photos app on the iPad. In iOS 8, there’s enough room next to the sharing icon, the heart, and the trash can for the ⓘ symbol that leads you to the photo’s filename on the iPad. It should be there, and it should show additional metadata as well. 

If Photo Investigator would sell a Pro version (instead of in-app purchases: since in-app purchases can’t be shared through Family Sharing), then I would just recommend that as a workaround. It still would be inconvenient to be in the Photos app, deciding to sort or share photos, to have to pop in and out of Photos and Photo Investigator just to get the info you want. 


Auto Question Mark?

Have I posted this yet?

On iOS, when you press two spaces after a word, it puts a period to end the sentence. Why doesn’t it add a question mark automatically when the sentence starts with a question word (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How)? In most cases it would be correct, and in others it should be easy to detect if a period is correct instead.


Lock Screen

My suggested features:

1. Allow contacts to be set as emergency numbers and also allow to be called in addition to 911. Update 2014-09-15: This can now be done in Apple’s Health app on iOS 8.

2. Allow contacts to be added without unlocking. This poses no more risk than photos being shot without unlocking. It allows you to hand your phone to some one you just now want their contact info, but you’re not comfortable handing them your unlocked phone, so they can type in their info for you.

3. (added 2014-10-12) Allow the Control Center (swipe up from the bottom of the screen) to be customized, so (for example) I can have a Personal Hotspot icon instead of Bluetooth since I leave Bluetooth off all the time anyway.



Reasons Adobe drives me crazy:

1. Every time Flash updates, it won’t remember that I want to be notified of updates but not automatically install them.

2. After every Flash update it opens my browser automatically without being asked to. Opening a browser is my job.

3. This took me over six months to diagnose: You’d think there’d be an automatic update for this.

4. Like most big companies, there’s no way to get this message to someone who will do anything about it.


Etymology Guess: Loo

I haven’t googled this yet to see if it’s true, but (I was going through old notes and found my thought process) I wonder if this is the etymology of “loo” for restroom:

l’eau = water (in French)
water closet = bathroom (in UK)
“loo” = bathroom

(update: It looks like the source is unknown, but there are two guesses that are similar to mine:


Still A Fan Of Netflix

I have been a Netflix customer for a long time. I’m so glad they decided to keep “partitioned accounts” after announcing they were going to get rid of them. In the past, they reversed a price increase. Recently, they did not back down after splitting disc and streaming plans (but that one didn’t bother me even though it costs me more). Today, I found out their plan to turn the disc plan into Quickster has been abandoned. This is the third major reversal that I have been happy to watch Netflix make. Read the Netflix blog post announcement.


Ad-free site to check my IP address

check my IP address at


Piracy Is Lending, Not Theft

I’ve said this for a long time, but my audience is very small, so I’m glad someone with a bigger audience agrees (video below). I’m not ripping off artists if I download their works for free. I don’t think (m)any are. The way I look at it, I give as much as I can. Does that mean I should be barred from the rest? No. Frankly, if the completely legitimate practices of lending and time-shifting are combined, then what we’re doing is totally fine. There’s no way that all of us listening to our collections all at once can add up to the amount of playtime that accumulates from the CDs that have been bought and are just sitting on shelves somewhere. File sharing isn’t theft; it’s (the high tech version of) lending plus time shifting — both of which have been vindicated in U.S. courts.

Neil Gaiman talks to the Open Rights Group about how the internet affects the books and publishing industry

Now if only we could get people to realize copyright (and intellectual property rights) are a big deal. It affects starvation, disease, war, etc., and needs to be reasonable.

DNPMO noise music iec5010 IEC5010 (noise) Music

A project from more than a few years ago finally surfaces on the web.


A “Real” Artist Gets It

The bit about being inspired by those artists that step before you was interesting, but I’m glad to see Francis Ford Coppola pondering the same idea (of artists making a living) I wrote about a couple years ago:

Francis Ford Coppola On Art, Copying And File Sharing: We Want You To Take From Us

… who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?


How to login to the Magnatune app for iPhone iOS

Magnatune: We Are Not Evil
Magnatune: We Are Not Evil

I’m a Magnatune lifetime member. First thing I wanted to know was how to login to the iPhone app, so I don’t have to hear the spoken message at the end of each track (placed there because every song is free to hear for non-members). It took me a bit, but it’s mentioned on a blog post about the iPhone app: Magnatune iPhone app (but not on Magnatunes page for the app).


Bandwidth Caps Are Deceptive

[truck with the word "Scam" on it]
Data Caps Are A Scam. We paid for big trucks, but we have to drive them nearly empty. (photo by Jean-Etienne Poirrier)
Time to revisit my post, “Dramatically Lower Bandwidth Cap” from May 30. It turns out it sparked a mini debate. I am disappointed with joetron2030’s suggestion to “leave” the offending ISP. It seems that Clear does offer uncapped service (but for how long: “… there is pretty strong language in Clear’s Acceptable Use Policy about not hogging bandwidth …“), but there are no other cap-less broadband providers where I live. And Clear is a wireless broadband which doesn’t reach into every home. But more importantly, Earthlink is the alternative ISP — that’s why I signed up with them instead of using (TimeWarner when I signed up, but now) Comcast.

joetron2030’s suggested that this may lead to tiered service. This could be a step in the right direction–but not with data caps. I understand the ISP wanting to manage the network, but they shouldn’t advertise 10+ Mb/s as the speed when we’re really only allowed 0.761 Mb/s to stay within the cap for the month.

It’s okay with me if they offer different speeds, not different caps (and they better not even think about metering per bit). With the 250 gigabyte cap, that’s a less-than-1-megabit-per-second connection. Advertising 10+ is very deceptive. With a 10-megabit-per-second connection, we’ve paid for over three thousand gigabytes per month (edit 8/3: even if it’s 5-megabit, that’s over 1,500 gigabytes per month). 250 is less than 1% of 3,000.

If ISPs really want to worry about network congestion, then they should limit the speed of the “more than 99% of customers” who stay within the 250 gigabyte cap. Otherwise those customers are bursting at high speed at random intervals. I doubt that’s good for the health of the network. It’d be better to trickle spread their data use evenly through the month. But let them know they are getting a (less than) 1 megabit connection, and charge them far less than you’re charging now.

I think the price now is still too high for the (about) 10-megabit connection, but if ISPs introduced the lower priced 1-megabit connection, then I could see them keeping the current price for the current speed (but repeal the data cap!).

Edit (8/1) with this waking thought: You should make me an ally instead trying to squeeze me out because I am an example of your future customers. Soon we’ll all stream audio and video, back up our media collections to the cloud, download apps, patches, and even OS ISOs, and other yet-to-be-thought-of innovative uses of the internet. If you want us to pick you as our ISP for this (instead of completely abandoning you, so you go out of business), then it’s time to start showing you value all 100% of your customers.


negative income tax

Even though I’d prefer to go to a capitalistic system which only has sales tax, if we’re stuck with income tax, negative income tax (Wikipedia) seems a reasonable idea.