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:


“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 

Edit 2023-01-05: I just noticed I had posted about this problem over six years ago, and it has been fixed somewhere along the way. Here’s a screenshot of a photo in iOS 16:

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. 


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.


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?


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.


America is NOT a Christian Nation

I realize it’s more complicated, historically, than these “sound bites,” but the campaign is on the right track: New FFRF Bus Sign Campaign “America is NOT a Christian Nation”

["The United States is not founded on the Christian religion." - John Adams, Treaty of Tripoli, 1797]

["Question with boldness even the existence of a God." - Thomas Jefferson] ["The United States government is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." - President John Adams, Treaty of Tripoli, 1797]
["I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute." - John F. Kennedy] ["Religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together." - James Madison]
["My country is the world, and my religion is to do good." - Thomas Paine] ["No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States." - U.S. Constitution, Article 6, Section 3]


Does Not Put Me Off

I realized if I (ha ha) ever wanted to go mainstream, I’ll have to rename this site. Changing “piss” to “put” would be easy enough.


Black & Decker GH1000 GrassHogXP [updated 1/1/2009]

My yard is larger than an average suburban yard. I tried a gas powered weed wacker (line trimmer), but it was overkill. I just got the Black & Decker GH1000, and it works quite well, considering it’s one of the most miserable kinds of tools to use. I followed consumer reports’s suggestion, and though CS doesn’t test enough products, this time it worked out for me.

I may have spoken too soon. My neighbor gave me his old GrassHogXP “for spare parts” because he said the electric motor died. He mentioned that this wasn’t his first to die. Two months later, mine died too. According to Amazon, it has a 2-year warranty. I’ll post after I find out how that goes.

Edit 1/22: The replacement was super easy, and the second one is still working fine.


Little Known Software

I really liked Dvorak’s idea to let everyone know about little known software. I’m recommending Filezilla. It does FTP, but it also does file transfer over SSH which means your file transfers cannot be snooped.


We are keeping Netflix Profiles!

(note: This is the 2nd time Netflix has listened to its customers to reverse a decision, and the FAQ has not yet been updated)

At 16:13 CDT I was pleased to receive this in my email:

We Are Keeping Netflix Profiles

Dear Zakhar,

You spoke, and we listened. We are keeping Profiles. Thank you for all the calls and emails telling us how important Profiles are.

We are sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused. We hope the next time you hear from us we will delight, and not disappoint, you.

-Your friends at Netflix

Here’s a link to the post on the Neflix blog about keeping profiles (via digg).



Resistentialism is a jocular theory in which inanimate objects display hostile desires towards human beings.

Thank goodness I know the word for this now!