Imagine you’re in a picturesque Mexican village, nestled high in the mountains of the Sierra Madre.

In your hand, you’re gripping a cellphone. You’re staring at your device’s signal bars, hoping to see them come alive for the first time.

Suddenly, the bars glow brightly. Success!

You continue testing the network, winding up steep cobblestone paths between sunbaked, stucco houses. Gleeful cheers begin erupting everywhere. Stunned villagers stagger outside, holding cellphones.

“I’m connected!” cries a woman, raising her device.

“I just called Mexico City!” bellows another.

¡Madre Santísima … tenemos servicio! We have service!”

It’s the jubilant celebration of underdogs who have—for the moment—outwitted corporate elites.

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In March, I got an email from SpaceX saying Starlink was available at my address, and I could pre-order. I paid $500 for the equipment, plus $25 for a Volcano Roof Mount, and $99 for the first month of service, and a few weeks later, I got the kit you see in the image above.

I was a little too excited about getting Starlink, though, because I realized after I started looking for mounting locations that Starlink needed a 100° view of the northern sky, and my house is literally surrounded by 70-80 ft trees.

So I thought, why not let a cousin who lives out in a rural area try it out while I figure out what to do about mounting ‘Dishy’ (a common nickname for the Starlink satellite dish) on my own house?

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over the last few years, many attempts have been made at creating a smart cane. None of them have successfully lead to a market transforming technology that’s actually used by any substantial users, and most of them are simply inspiration porn. I saw a recent example of a smart cane getting news coverage, and it deserves particular attention because of a particularly egregious argument used within. I’ve seen this argument, or variations therein, made in several posts about smart canes. I will address this below, and lay out why this argument does not present a solid case in favor of a smart cane. I will then lay out several design and engineering constraints that must be met before I would ever be able to recommend a smart cane to another blind person.

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WHETHER WRITTEN INVISIBLY WITH LEMON JUICE or encrypted with complex math, secret messages are passed on through a myriad of bizarre and convoluted ways.

A team of engineers from China is introducing a new way to secretly transmit our most secret data or access secure locations using a tool that can be found on your person at any time: the human hand.

Picture the most abusive app store.

Programs in it are meant to run on your own computer.

However, you have to be online to run them.

Every time you start them, they contact the app store.

If there is an updated version, it’s installed automatically, no questions asked. You’d rather run the earlier version? Tough.

If the app store decides you’re no longer welcome, the program won’t start any more.

If the app store servers are offline, or if you are, it won’t start either.

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Google was asked to remove a TorrentFreak article from its search results this week. The article in question reported that “The Mandalorian” was the most pirated TV show of 2020. Interestingly, it’s not Disney who takes offense with our reporting, but GFM Films.

I’ve been doing a lot of research into the history of computers1 for my forthcoming Middle Grade novel about robots (as of March 2021, I’m linking to a largely blank page here, which I assure you will one day be filled with the multitude of books I’m going to write - end Daily Affirmation now).

I’d like to share my current, wait for it, mental model for how I’m thinking about the evolution of computing over the decades. I’ll also highlight some current companies that I find interesting because they seem to be fellow computer historians.

First, a caveat canem: 🐶 Since this website is my little corner of the dub-dub-dub, I reserve the right to update this framework as I learn more. And I will be learning more, because I can’t stop reading about this stuff. I love it. So, there, take that, fellow computer historians! Even better, please let me know what I’ve messed up or got wrong so I can learn. Woof!

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Over the past few years, Apple seems increasingly willing to cooperate with authoritarian governments, uninterested in protecting its own users, and unwilling to actually standup for human rights in broad terms, as often portrayed by its marketing department or direct statements from CEO Tim Cook.

The company is quick to position itself as a prominent human rights advocate in the corporate world, especially regarding issues like user privacy and security. Although, as Ole Begemann has aptly pointed out, this is increasingly disingenuous to the point of deliberately deceiving its customers and the general public. There are even (unconfirmed) reports that the lack of end-to-end encryption that Ole criticizes is actually due to willful coordination and cooperation with the FBI. And like most companies in the industry, Apple employs a highly problematic supply chain.

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I have said before that I believe that teaching modern students the OSI model as an approach to networking is a fundamental mistake that makes the concepts less clear rather than more. The major reason for this is simple: the OSI model was prescriptive of a specific network stack designed alongside it, and that network stack is not the one we use today. In fact, the TCP/IP stack we use today was intentionally designed differently from the OSI model for practical reasons.

Teaching students about TCP/IP using the OSI model is like teaching students about small engine repair using a chart of the Wankel cycle. It’s nonsensical to the point of farce. The OSI model is not some “ideal” model of networking, it is not a “gold standard” or even a “useful reference.” It’s the architecture of a specific network stack that failed to gain significant real-world adoption.

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2021 kommunizieren wir über einige wenige Apps, die nicht zueinander kompatibel sind – obwohl sie nahezu identische Funktionen bieten, gleich aussehen und die selbe technische Basis haben. Wie konnte das nur passieren?

Die Zukunft der Telekommunikation ist düster. Schuld daran sind genau die Apps, die anfangs wie ein Befreiungsschlag wirkten: Messenger. WhatsApp & Co. machten endlich Schluss mit altbackenen SMS und teuren Providertarifen. Sie schenkten uns kostenlose Video-Calls und Gruppennachrichten.

Aber moderne Messenger sind auch dafür verantwortlich, dass unsere Telekommunikation mit jedem Jahr antiquierter wird. Oder besser gesagt: dystopischer.

Um dies zu erkennen, hilft die Erinnerung an eine Epoche der Telefonie, mit der wir nur scheinbar nichts mehr gemein haben.

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The “Internet of things” (IoT), being the future paradise that awaits us when all of our devices are connected to the net, is a worrisome prospect to just about anybody who has thought about its security and privacy implications. It would be problematic even if the design of all connected devices included security and privacy as absolute requirements — but that is not the way these devices are made. Currently, it is possible to opt out of much of the IoT experience with a bit of attention and discipline. In the near future, though, that situation is likely to change and it is not clear what we can do about it.

Your editor recently moved house; part of that move involved carefully packing up the dust-covered household television set, gently transporting it to the new home, and lovingly moving it to its new location — followed by gracelessly dropping it on the floor while lifting it into place. The search for a replacement involved asking a salesman for a reasonable “non-smart” television, a request that was met with mirthful incredulity. It would appear that such things no longer exist; all televisions are built to be placed on the network now.

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Fairphone—the sustainable, modular smartphone company—is still shipping updates to the 5-year-old Fairphone 2. The company won’t win any awards for speed, but the phone—which launched in 2015 with Android 5—is now being updated to Android 9.0. The most interesting part of this news is a video from Fairphone detailing the update process the company went through, which offers more transparency than we normally get from a smartphone manufacturer. To hear Fairphone tell the story of Android updates, the biggest barrier to longer-term support is—surprise!—Qualcomm.

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Anybody who has ever written a web crawler knows that Googlebot gets more access than everybody else. We’re a group of knuckleheads who are tired of Google abusing this privilege. For over two years we’ve been researching and fighting Google’s unchecked web crawling monopoly. We got cited in the Big Tech Antitrust Report released by Congress and our research was just featured in The New York Times. We have been helping governments around the world understand how and why they should fight back against Google. We invite you to join the club and join us in our fight for a better world.

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We have enough social media platforms, and they are all broken. Content moderation is bust at even moderate scale, and algorithmic amplification is broken at any scale. We need a reboot.

We need to double down on the ideas of Web 1.0, and the tools that make carving out your own place on the internet possible. Not more platforms luring you with that viral juice boost.

Despite its obviously ominous name, “viral” has long served as the top trophy for the platform people. Has there been a better year than this to attempt a cure? Virality is a bug not a feature.

Ideas improve when they build slowly. This constant quest for virality might make good ideas burn 10x as bright, but also 10x as short. Everything just scrolls by, because everything is just mixed together.

Everything from everyone all the time is too much. It’s unnatural and it’s unhealthy. We weren’t built to listen to hundreds if not thousands of people every day.

Tools that let individuals publish, but do not seek to amplify them or force them viral, give us that natural, human scale.

Newsletters. Podcasts. Small-scale forums. Yes, yes, yes.

More platforms? No, no, no.

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Sure, Facebook, Google and Twitter made headlines for shutting down Donald Trump’s accounts after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. But the Silicon Valley giants that have been called to testify before Congress on Thursday about misinformation and hate on social media are not the only — and hardly the first — tech companies to decide what kinds of online speech are acceptable.

A bunch of other companies, stacked on top of each other like layers in a cake, operate the pipes and services that keep the Internet running.

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I thought I could document our non-technical aspects, and invite folks to join based on these aspects. This new goal is its own difficult moebius strip, though, because our culture is technical. Dev discussions and tutorials are an essential part of our community, and should not be obscured or downplayed.

This is a cursory review of all the indexing search engines I have been able to find.

The three dominant English search engines with their own indexes1 are Google, Bing, and Yandex (GBY). Many alternatives to GBY exist, but almost none of them have their own results; instead, they just source their results from GBY.

With that in mind, I decided to test and catalog all the different indexing search engines I could find. I prioritized breadth over depth, and encourage readers to try the engines out themselves if they’d like more information.

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I have in my mind an idea that though simple in concept may be impossible to achieve today. I want a computer that can be completely autonomous when I want it to be, but which can also be used to communicate securely with anyone on the planet without being observed by a third party. I don’t want to be spied on by Microsoft or Google. I don’t want the NSA intercepting my conversations or even their metadata. I want complete autonomy and privacy without having to resort to workarounds that have been invented to give me back some of the control I should have had in the first place. In other words, I want a computer that I own completely. I want a computer that does what I want it to do, not one that has a hidden agenda programmed into it at the factory. And, I want to have these capabilities regardless of what anyone has done to the Internet to prevent me from having them. I don’t want to be dependent on the whims of a government or the good will of a giant corporation. Perhaps I am looking for something like the x286 DOS computer I had in the early 1990’s, but 10,000 times as fast with a built-in solution for total online privacy and the ability to run modern software while blocking spyware.

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I have never been angrier about the corporate surveillance complex, which I have rallied against for years, than I am today. Buying and selling user’s private information on the open market is bad enough for the obvious reasons, but today, I learned that the depths of depravity this market will descend to are without limit. Today I am more angry and ashamed at this industry than I have ever been. Corporate surveillance and adtech has turned your phone into an informant against you and brought about the actual murder of the user.

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Created on May 9, 2020
By @gurlic