Tags: Cloud, freedom, Music, privacy, streaming
Since Amazon’s announcement of their “Cloud” based music service (“Cloud Drive”) the blog-o-sphere has been all a buzz with this hot new idea.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I think “Cloud” services are a trap and only good for the person that is offering the service.
This is no exception. Most of these “Cloud” services are charging something like $10/mo for unlimited streaming. It might sound good on the surface but once you think about it you realize that…
- You’ll own nothing
- Your ability to stream will depend on connectivity.. Your bill will not (you’ll be charged $10/mo whether you could stream or not.)
- It is fairly trivial to set up your home computer to offer this same service for free and with all the music you already or will ever own.
- These services will most likely insert advertising into the music either now.. Or in the future once people are hooked.
- By connecting to their servers to stream your music these companies will be able to track all kinds of information about you.
- what you listen to
- where you listen from (device and location)
- How often you listen
Considering that with less than two hours work you could have exactly this for free why would anyone opt to pay $10/mo. to own nothing, be tracked and profiled, and advertised to. It is just a bad deal all around and people should just say no.
Note: In a future post (soon) I will detail how to set this up for yourself for next to nothing. Certainly for less then $120/year and your privacy
Tags: freedom, Tablet
Ok, From the title you can probably guess that I have a few issues with Tablets. More correctly with Tablet computing appliances. To be honest I can not say that I hate all Tablets or even most of them. So, Why the strong title?
What I object to is where “Tablets” are leading the general population. Instead of helping to empower people these devices will lead them further down the non-repairable, non-servicable, non-upgradable, non-hackable road. Further many of these Tablets come with restrictive operating systems and severe lockdowns that make it difficult if not impossible for the user or anyone (in some cases) to change the operating system to one of their choosing.
Lets look at some of these things and the possible motivation behind them.
Now by non-serviceable I’m reffering to non-serviceable by anyone outside the manufacturers magic circle. Although I suspect that the the larger part of servicing these devices will be simple the act of replacing them.
Non-upgradable is fairly self evident but I’ll define it just to be clear. Here I’m rfering to the users ability to buy a larger hard drive, or more memory, or an expansion card to add desired functionality.
Desktop computers and to a lesser degree laptop computer allowed the end user to upgrade his machine with components of their choosing with little or no special tools. Standard interfaces such as ATA, PCI , PCIe, SATA made it possible for a user to go out and get a 80GiB replacement for the 40GiB hard drive in their maching easily. In most cases the act of replacing the drive was fairly trivial. The same could be said for many parts of the computer.
The vast majority of Tablets that I have seen are sealed boxes. No way to even get at the bits let alone upgrade/replace/repair them. This means that to upgrade most people will end up buying another model (pretty good deal for the manufcturer, eh) not so great for the consumer, the environment, the sweatshop labour that makes most of these devices, etc.
I’m not refering to malicious hacking here. I am refering to the consumers God given right to peer under the hood of something they have purchased, something that they own and should have full control over (I’ll save the rant about the insanity of “Software liencsing” for another day). As the owner of the device you should be able to replace the software in it if you don’t like the software that came with it shouldn’t you? You should be able to write your own software for the device or hire someone to write it for you without having to sign huge contracts with the people that made the device. Shouldn’t you? You should be able to run any software you like from any source without the manufacturer of the device have to approve it. Right? It’s your device right? You own it.
Sadly, with most Tablets, not so much. Not only do most of these Tablets lack the required connectability to easily change to operating system, most are actually hostile to the process. This forces the consumer to buy app from the app store ($ for the manufacturer). Be tracked when using the device ($ for the manufacturer and their advertising partners). Be limited in what they can watch, listen too, read, etc (again more $ for the manufacturer as anyone wanting to get their content to all those consumers must make deals with the manufacturer).
All of this is partly due to the fact that computers have been moving away from hobby/speciality and into everyday appliance for some time. However it is more strongly driver by profit seeking corporations that would rather see a world burried in e-waste then fail to make double digit gains over last quarter.
These companies tout reasons like “Usability”,and “Secuirty” for the direction of the design. Those reasons are clearly false. Security does not come from dis-enpowering people and hiding how things are done. In a truely secure system you’d be able to show everyone exactly how the system worked and still be confident that it would remain secure. Usability doesn’t spring from digital locks and the removal of compatibility and interoperatability. If I can’t use it to do what I want how can it possibly be more “useable” then something that I can make do whatever I want?
I’ll be the first to admit that these device have nice eye candy, spinny, flashy, user interfaces. I’ll also be the first to tell you that when somethng starts to go wrong those same soft and fuzzy interfaces fall flat on their faces and are next to useless for diagnosing and correcting even simple problems with the software let alone the hardware.
For some reason (marketing) these devices are like crack to many end consumers who see them as a cool replacement for their laptop. The truth is that these device will make a very poor replacement for a proper computer. I suspect that many people are going to wake up some time in 2012 with a very bad “Tablet Hangover”. And will wonder where their laptop has gotten off to. The problem is that if Tablet sales canabalize laptop sales too much the manufacturers will make an even bigger shift in that directin and we all may be wondering where the laptops/desktops have gone in a few years. Sadly our rights, freedoms, and the freedom of choice that we currently enjoy hardware wise may well have gone too.
So, until I see a tablet with a user replaceable hard drive, user upgradeable memory, many standards compliant ports (3 usb ports count as 1 type of port), and the ability to easily change the operating system or other softtware without restriction or legal complication I will continue to say:
“Die! Tablet, Die!”
Tags: chat, freedom, XMPP
A while ago I switched to using talkr.im as my main Chat/Presence server. Since the switch I have come to greatly appreciate the value of their service.
I should probably back up a bit and talk about how I use Chat and presence services. The first thing that I should note is that as a supporter and advocate for Faif (Free as in freedom) software I stick to XMPP chat/presence servers. Jabber.org at first, then the one offered by my mail provider fastmail.fm. The problem I encountered was that the service offered by fastmail.fm was based on an older XMPP server and didn’t play nicely with Identi.ca (more on that in a sec.). The other problem I encountered was that neither of them offered a way to keep in touch with friends who choose to use non-faif servers from a non-faif O/S.
Enter talkr.im. When I switched to talkr.im not only did it work flawlessly with identi.ca. Which is a major consideration as that is my primary reason for running a chat/presence client these days. It also had an MSN/WLM gateway which I can, and do use to keep in touch with those stuck, for what ever reason, in a non-fiaf world .
It also has an IRC gateway which recently became of great utility to me as I put my N800 on a diet and part of that diet was not installing rtcomm beta which loaded in tonnes of functionality I’ll never use, and as the name suggests is stuck in beta.
So, by using talkr.im and the basic XMPP client built into my N800 I can keep in touch with:
- My Identi.ca feed
My friends on other XMPP services
My friends stuck in Windows/MSN
Anyone on any IRC server
People on ICQ – I don’t but I could
People on Yahoo – I don’t do this either
Group chats on the talkr.im server.
Talkr.im even has room for me to grow into. They offer a jingle node that would allow video chat even through NAT routers. They have a Pub/Sub service I’ve yet to make use of, a user directory and other features.
One of the nicest things is that they are responsive to support requests. A while a go they had a minor outage. As this was a major diference then thier rock solid server availability I e-mailed to inquire as to the cause and expected duration of the outage. Their responce was fast,curtious, informative, and accurate. Not only that they even took the time to e-mail me when the server was back on its feet.
So if you are making the move to XMPP, or just moving to a new XMPP server I’d definitely recommend giving talkr.im a look. They are great no matter what your chat/presence needs.
Tags: browsing, freedom, privacy, text-only, Textcentric
I recently started using the ‘links’ browser for various things and was impressed with both the speed and the highly increased signal-to-noise ratio. Suddenly I could get to the information I wanted quickly and easily. This prompted me to set all of my other browsers to: no images, no scripts, no plugins
The difference was breathtaking. Suddenly I was back to the Internet I first fell in love with, a place where you can quickly find and share information. No blinking ads. No annoying scripted effects. No over done glitz. Just the info I was after.
I have found that I am getting things done much more quickly since my switch to text-only browsing.
The breath of fresh air that text-only browsing was got me nostalgic for the “old” days of the Internet when it was all text-only. I started using “Mutt” to read and send e-mail. I loaded up “Irssi” for IRC chat. I switched to a text only RSS feed reader for my morning and evening headlines/news. Again my productivity increased. So now I want to share how others can do the same. So try it out and see if your experience is similar.
The best place to start is probably the browser. For most people these days it is (sadly) the main, if not the only, way that they interact with the Internet.
I refer to a standard browser that has been configured to render only text as a “Stripped” browser.
To strip your browser find it in the list below and follow the steps. To un-strip it just reverse the steps
Dont bother to try. IE is just too much of a mess and it’s likely you’ll break something trying to “Strip” IE.
If you are an IE user I’d suggest downloading Firefox or some other browser and “Stripping” it.
click tools -> options -> content
uncheck load images
click tools -> addons -> plugins
highlight each plugin by clicking on it and then click disable. (You’ll be able to “enable” them later)
Close the addons manager when done.
The same as above except the first options are under
You now have a nice text only browser. Take it for spin and enjoy. Yes it will break some sites (YouTube naturally wont work) you may be surprised to see what sites fail to function. Many sites however will work just fine and be a lot easier to read.
If people know the steps to “strip” other browsers that I do not have access to please feel to post a comment.
If you have a browser not listed you basically want to search through the settings and do the following.
Disable all scripting
Set the browser to not load images
Disable (not uninstall) all media/rich content plug-ins
I’d also suggest installing a second small/light browser to use as your stripped browser. As this way you can easily hop over to the other “Main” browser if you need to go to a page that just does not work right in a stripped or text-only browser.
As this post is getting a little on the long side I’ll cut it short and talk about doing other things on the Internet in a text centric way in another post.
More info on text centric use of the Internet can be found at the Ascii Ribbon Plus Campaign’s website. (Which I will also talk about in an upcoming Blog entry)
posted with Maemo WordPy from my N800
Tags: Cloud, freedom, personal, privacy, server
I’ve been a little too busy to post regularly. Hopefully I’ll be having more time from on.
Despite all the busy, I have managed to continue to expand my ‘Cloud’ server’s functionality. I have recently added both an HTTP cache (Polipo) and a DNS cache (pdnsd). The latter grew out of my playing around with Steve Gibbson’s wonderful DNS Benchmark. I learned from this that my DNS of choice was not the fastest.
Pdnsd is easy to install and with minimal tweaking I had my DNS responces down to around 1ms. A response time that blew any remote DNS server out of the water.
The caching HTTP proxy, Polipo, was added because after watching the web habbits of mysellf and others in the house I realized that large amounts of time and bandwidth were being wasted pulling the same data over and over. So why not cache it locally and save both the bandwidth and lag.
As I got more familiar with Polipo I decided to use it’s ability to filter content to offlload the job of adblocking from my devices to the proxy (since my servers cpu usage tends to float around 4% there is lots of horse power available for blocking). With a little help from adblock2polipo I soon had a working ‘forbbiden’ file and now all devices in my home are ad and tracker free. This is especially nice for devices like the N800 or other hand held devices where adblocking isn’t always available or slows things to a crawl due to the limited processing power.
So now, thanks to my personal cloud, anyone using my wireless connection can enjoy blazingly fast, ad and tracker free browsing on any device. Also since it is trivial to create an SSH tunnel back to my server when I’m out and about. I can browse securely and ad-free from anywhere.
Tags: alternative, flash, free, freedom, google, privacy
This was originally just going to be an “WooHoo!! I’m finally Google free…” post. However when I posted on identi.ca about finally becoming Google free many people wanted to know more.. and several people have responded to me due to my Blogging on such things asking for more info. This has led to a complete re-write of the original post to make it more instructive.
But First…… WooHoo.. I’m Google Free (fireworks here). I finally went ahead and deleted my Google account. (took a while to get the stragglers away from my old gmail account). But that’s it. I’m done. No more Google, Ever.
People that have been following my journey away from Flash, and Google and towards total software freedom (and enhanced privacy) Will be aware that getting Google free is something that has been in the offing for a while now. But now that I’m there I’d like to take a moment. and talk a bit about where the Journey has taken me.
The first thing I’d like to say is that If you can’t live without things like YouTube then this journey (at least to the extent that I’ve gone). Probably isn’t for you. But stick around and read on.. even if you don’t plan to follow in my footsteps you can learn about options that abound that you may have been unaware existed.
One of the loudest questions I have been getting is What did I replace “Google this” or “Google that” with. So, I’m going to make a list and talk about what I like and dislike about them.
I looked at a few other search options but none were as nice as the two above. Yacy is a very interesting project. A distributed search engine that isn’t owned by anyone. The problem with it was that the results it is currently returning weren’t overly useful for the grand and immense internet. Sadly they may be caught in a catch 22 situation. If more people used Yacy it would end up returning better results but it is hard to get people to donate resources (bandwidth for crawling etc) when they are getting questionable and limited results back. I’ll definitely re-visit Yacy in the future and see how the project is progressing.
I got quite hooked on Google Reader. I’ll admit it was nice having one central place to go and read my headlnes. It however was not nice feeding Google such huge amounts of info on my interests and my thoughts on those interests. I replaced Google reader with an RSS reader built into my e-mail client claws-mail. It was quite handy having all my RSS headlines right there with my mail. It was also nice because I could set claws-mail up to read them as just text, no images, fancy formatting yelling at me. Just the info I needed and links if I wanted to delve deeper and get more info. I have recently purchased an Nokia N800 and am now using it’s RSS reader to read my morning headlines. Having it right in my hand is a huge plus and being able to read headlines without getting out of my toasty bed is a luxury I quite enjoy.
This is the service that took me the longest to ditch. Not because I was overly attached to it or anything but because it takes a while to change all the listserves and forums so they now send to the new e-mail and then there was the process of waiting for all the stragglers to update their address books. even with all the time I waited and had the account sitting dormant with an auto responder telling people to use the new account I had a persons call me not 24 hours after closing the account complaining that they couldn’t send me mail Well I guess one last straggles isn’t too bad.
I replaced Google mail with Fastmail. They are paid by me and not by advertising. They offer many added features some of which I have yet to take full advantage of but one of the upshots of the services they add is a reducing of addresses people need to remember for me. Having my instant messenger address being the same as my e-mail address is just wonderful. Being able to have a web address that is extremely similar to the e-mail address I am sure will come in useful even if I haven’t made good use of it yet.
Never used it. I found OpenOffice years ago and have never looked back. I also am opposed to storing personal info online if I don’t need to and for 99.9% of the documents I work on there is no sane reason for them to live on some anonymous computer, controlled by someone that isn’t me, in a legal jurisdiction that has less privacy rules. Do I sometimes need to have remote access to my documents? Sure. That’s what SSH is for. secure access to my home computer from any wifi hotspot.
This one I never understood. This is primarily just a wrapper for the Usenet which anyone can access free, and much more privately with a news reader like Pan, or countless others. I read the few news groups that I follow with the usenet functionality of Claws-mail ( have I mentioned that I really like Claws-mail).
I like to get my Identi.ca updates via Instant message. To that end I had fallen into using Google talk (well a Linux XMPP client hooked up to Google “Google talk” servers) to meet my instant messaging needs. When I switched to fastmail they also offer a federated XMPP server so it was a truly trivial matter to redirect my identi.ca updates to my new address. it was also quite easy to migrate other XMPP buddies. basically I just had to add them back once I had set up the new account in my XMPP client (psi). They’d get a one time message asking to re-authorize me at the new address and once they did that it was like nothing had changed.
This is one of the more annoying moves Google has made. I didn’t use the Gizmo5 client as it was closed source but they had an very solid SIP backbone that I used for my occasional VoIP needs. I was quite annoyed when Google bought them out. I am currently transitioning to using VoipStunt. (not the software just the SIP backbone). I’ll let people know how this goes. One of the most annoying things about the whole deal is that Google has tossed Gizmo5 into a real state of limbo and so there is currently no way for me to officially cancel my account. I have completely discontinued using it but It would be nice to be able to terminate the account.
There are many alternatives to this some that were around before google such as mapquest.
Onto the Flash free front.
Several people have enquired about my now Flash free life.
Just to recap for those that have not been following. Due to the closed nature of Flash and it insistence on ignoring privacy settings in both the browser and itself. I decided a while ago to abandon using flash. For a while I was using Gnash an open source Flash software which does not suffer from the same privacy concerns. As time went on and with the release of Flash 10 and most sites now insisting that you have flash 10 or they wont talk to you I decided to totally abandon Flash. So now none of my devices have the ability to render Flash in any way. Perhaps more so then my move away from Google this is a step that may not be for everyone. Flash is currently pervasive on the world wide web and not having it breaks many things. (of course one could argue, and quite successfully, that Flash is outside of the HTML, and W3 standards and thus it is the web developers use of flash that is breaking things not my standards compliant browser.) As far as I am concerned Flash is the biggest bane to the world wide web rivaling even the once dreaded tag.
With the release of HTML5 that supports standards for Video streaming there is no longer a compelling reason for Flash other then using it to evade privacy settings.
So how is Life Flash Free. I think it is best described as, “a lot quieter”. There is instant decrease in blinky advertising noticed more on my mobile device as my main laptop had adblock. It is also a lot easier to focus on the meat of an article as the impulse to skip down and just watch the embedded video sound bite has now been removed. I definitely find I am having more time for other things as I simply can not waste time on Youtube or other Flash based distractions.
Does this mean that I can never watch video on the web until everyone has migrated to a proper (this means you Youtube… use Theora, not H264) implementation of HTML5. Not at all. It does mean that there are more steps involved and so I tend only to take the time for more “important” videos as the common and distracting ones are just not worth the effort. Using sites like tinyogg.com let me watch videos that otherwise wouldn’t work. There are also sites like blip.tv that offer video in other standards and I can often find the video there or an different video on the same subject.
Some things are however just plain broken. (I re-iterate that the brokenness is at the server end which is insisting on using methods outside the Web standards). A quick list of things that are borked without flash
Any Flash based video chat site:
Some webmails that insist on flash though many of those have a fall back to a more standard interface.
Any flash based game sites
popcap.com and many, many others
Most children’s sites are either crippled or totally borked. If your kids have “petz” you wont want to go Flash free just yet. A sad example of this is that if you go to sesamestreet.org without Flash all you get is pictures of Elmo decrying that “F is for Flash” and providing a link to the Flash download site. (a.k.a. now be a good little consumer drone and let us shoehorn you into this box)
Many miscellaneous sites. even some that one wouldn’t expect.
For me. life with out flash is enhanced. I’m less distracted, more productive and no longer is my web browsing polluted with noisy, blinky, irrelevant , crap. For me the reclaiming of my personal freedom and privacy is worth the annoyance of losing a few sites (that are flying well outside the web standards). But then one must bare in mind that I’m the type of guy that participated in the “ascii ribbon campaign” and still sends all his e-mail in plain text. (you know. so anyone can read it no matter what computer or e-mail reader they have). I would still strongly suggest that those without kids try going Flash free. You don’t need to uninstall flash to do so, just disable it in your browser for a couple weeks (I suggest a couple weeks because the first several days will be a painful awakening as you start to see just how pervasive flash has become). I’m guessing that most that can make it past the pain point of the change will see the same benefits that I have.
What flash thinggy do I miss the most.. The Stats graph on wordpress.com. But again I must say, not having it there has shifted my focus away from the numbers and back to the content. So even though I miss the thrill of watching the hits dance up and down. The loss of it has only improved things.
Tags: BitTorrent, CBC, freedom, future of the internet, ISP, P2P, The Next Great Prime Minister, Throttling
CBC has taken a huge step into the reality of the 21st century by releasing their show “Canada’s Next Great Prim Minister” as a BitTorrent. This move has been greeted with great applause (from me also, Way to go CBC!!) in the blogisphere.
It also looks like this move on the part of the CBC will have the unintended effect of shining a huge, glaring, spotlight on the traffic shaping practises of many ISP’s. In the past the ISP’s have been able to hide behind in-accurate beliefs when challenged on this practise. Espousing such things as “there is only a niche market for legal BitTorrent downloads” (I always loved hearing that Linux and other F.O.S.S. used by millions was a niche.)
The painful fact of the matter is that years ago they tied themselves to an asymmetric bandwidth model, (again based on inaccurate beliefs/information), because they believed that the Internet was primarily a 1 way street Server->client. They failed to grasp that any computer connected to the Internet has the ability, and IMHO, the right to act as a server. Now by “Server” I don’t mean trying to serve a “YouTube” or “Facebook” from a residential account, but certainly people have the right to use Voip, Use BitTorrent, use Peercast, set up a small webserver to host their own content, set up a VPN server for secure remote access, etc.
The problem is all this “server” stuff flies in the face of the asymmetrical model they chose and now they are caught with their pants down not having the ability to meet their obligations unless they limit something. BitTorrent was an easy target as, sadly, it is often used for questionable file sharing, and those that, in the past, used it for Legal stuff either suffered in silence or had the technical savvy to get around the cap either by choosing a different method of receiving it or getting a better ISP. (Yes, screwing with peoples LEGAL data make you an evil and undesirable ISP)
If the ISP’s choose to continue down this road they will just push more and more people to the emergent “DarkNets” which may be much harder for them to throttle. People might also just move their “Questionable” activities to places like surfthechannel.com. What will the ISP’s do then? Throttle HTTP? Start designating evil or banned sites based on bandwidth usage?
What this comes down to, is that the first ISP to come to the residential market with an unthrottled, symmetric connection will blow the competition out of the water, hands down. Gone are the days where ISP’s can view the Internet as a “content delivery platform”, in truth those days never existed, except in the eyes of someone with too many dollar signs in their eyes to see that the “Net” has always been about the FREE flow of information. The Internet is designed to see censorship (yes that is what throttling is guys) as damage and find ways around it. Perhaps most importantly, the Internet is not just the hardware. It is the synergistic interaction of the the people that use the net, the data that they share, and their ability to “make the net their own” by creating new technologies (like bittorrent, Video chats, P2P software, Private networks, The next new thing, etc) to use and share that information freely.
The Next Great ISP (to continue the CBC’s theme) will be the one that offers symmetric, unthrottled connections first. They will be the ISP seen as the peoples champion. They will be the ISP that is most in place to embrace the coming era of cloud computing. Why on earth would I stay with an ISP that made it difficult for me to backup to my on-line storage. Why would I stay with an ISP that was clearly not ready for the future of the Internet, computers, technology, society, because they are clinging desperately to an outdated concept of “Media”. The truth is Major corporations have lost their strangle hold on “Media”. Not in the fact that it can be so easily traded (although there is that too.) But because they have lost control of the “means of production“.
The major ISP’s have a choice before them, step gracefully out of the way and use their vast resources to facilitate the free and unfettered flow of ideas, or continue in their Jurassic practises and go the way of the dinosaurs. Think it can’t happen? Watch what happens with ad-hoc wireless mesh networks in the next 5-10 year. When those come of age The ISP’s will not only have lost control of the “means of production” but they will have lost control of the “means of distribution”, and 5-10 years, that’s a blink, that’s tomorrow, If they don’t move now they will be standing on the sidelines watching as the world passes them by.