Privacy is Priceless, but Signal is Expensive

This page summarizes the projects mentioned and recommended in the original post on news.ycombinator.com

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  • Onboard AI - ChatGPT with full context of any GitHub repo.
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  • Signal-Desktop

    A private messenger for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

    If you only have the phone app then yes they are instantly downloaded and removed from their servers.

    But if you have Desktop client(s) registered, then they need to hold onto those messages until you open your client(s).

    That is why they have a 2 week (from memory) login limit on Desktop clients. If they didn't they'd potentially have to hold onto messages forever.

    https://github.com/signalapp/Signal-Desktop/issues/4730

  • Signal-iOS

    A private messenger for iOS.

    This was a nice, detailed read. I was happy to note this about employee compensation since paying them well is a good thing apart from their personal motivation to work on this (even at a comparatively lower pay than in other companies/projects):

    > When benefits, HR services, taxes, recruiting, and salaries are included, this translates to around $19 million dollars per year.

    > We are proud to pay people well. Our goal is to compensate our staff at as close to industry wages as possible within the boundaries of a nonprofit organization.

    That said, I really dislike Signal for a few reasons. The first is what many people have already talked about very often — forcing to use a phone number to register. Since the SMS or call costs are quite high, Signal could adopt the iMessage approach to verification, which is having the user send an SMS to the service (this will cost the user some money depending on which country the SMS is sent to). This could be decided based on the country code so that the current SMS OTP model can coexist.

    Signal is obstinate on a few aspects on user experience, more so on iOS/iPadOS. Firstly, it refuses to provide a data backup mechanism for iOS/iPadOS. If someone loses their devices, there is no way to restore older messages. Even setting up a new device requires the old device to be in physical proximity to transfer the data. Signal does integrate with CallKit (to act like a phone app) and with Apple’s notification services, but refuses to allow the user to backup the data with a password to encrypt it.

    Secondly, I found this paragraph in this post to be disingenuous:

    > Such practices are often accompanied by “growth hacking” and engagement maximization techniques that leverage dark patterns to keep people glued to feeds and notifications. While Signal is also free to use, we reject this kind of manipulation, focusing instead on creating a straightforward interpersonal communications app. We also reject business models that incentivize such practices.

    Signal on iOS/iPadOS wants the user to enable notifications and to share contacts. If notifications are disallowed and if contacts upload is disallowed, it will pester every few days about it. One might think this is a silly mistake that Signal isn’t aware of. But it was reported some years ago and Signal responded that it will not fix it because it believes this is the only way. [1] Not even an option where this is a toggle for those who want no notifications or don’t want to share contacts (Signal does have a toggle for contact joining notifications).

    Signal is also not that reliable in delivering messages in a timely manner compared to other apps (the GitHub repo has many repetitive issues on this topic over all these years).

    Finally, since Signal has poorer UX in general, which isn’t an easy or cheap thing to handle, I use it only with less than a handful of people who I know and who use it.

    I’d donate occasionally so that Signal can continue to exist, but I don’t feel like supporting it every month with all these issues, some of which look like Signal showing me the middle finger.

    [1]: https://github.com/signalapp/Signal-iOS/issues/4590#issue-72...

  • Onboard AI

    ChatGPT with full context of any GitHub repo. Onboard AI learns any GitHub repo in minutes and lets you chat with it to locate functionality, understand different parts, and generate new code. Use it for free at app.getonboardai.com.

  • signal-cli

    signal-cli provides an unofficial commandline, JSON-RPC and dbus interface for the Signal messenger.

    If you want one for just personal use; this works well: https://github.com/AsamK/signal-cli

    Just sign up with a Twilio number (using voice call) and you can make your own bot.

  • bbs

    Forum for discussing Internet censorship circumvention

    https://github.com/net4people/bbs/issues/63

    People should be aware that privacy tools can make you stand out. Unless methods are used to obfuscate your data.

  • WorkOS

    The modern API for authentication & user identity. The APIs are flexible and easy-to-use, supporting authentication, user identity, and complex enterprise features like SSO and SCIM provisioning.

NOTE: The number of mentions on this list indicates mentions on common posts plus user suggested alternatives. Hence, a higher number means a more popular project.

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