Internet Archive

How and why I (attempt to) use Links as main browser

Many browsers today are gigantic resource hogs, which are basically VMs for various web applications. On the other hand, Links is a HTML browser. It is not able to do everything. It allows me to avoid most distractions and control the content-experience. The goal of this exercise is not to force anyone to use this browser, but just to be watchful and conscious of their hypertext based internet usage (one might use gopher, and this phlog is available there, but probability tells me that a person reading this reads this from hypertext source and I am sure they are lovely). This takes some dedication, and while I wouldn’t take it quite this far, the author does make a good point.

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Apple, and others hacked in unprecedented Twitter attack

The Twitter accounts of major companies and individuals have been compromised in one of the most widespread and confounding hacks the platform has ever seen, all in service of promoting a bitcoin scam that appears to be earning its creator quite a bit of money. I’m so incredibly surprised people smart enough to use bitcoin aren’t smart enough to not to fall for an obvious scam like this.

Nokia to add open interfaces to its telecom equipment

Finland’s Nokia on Tuesday became the first major telecom equipment maker to commit to adding open interfaces in its products that will allow mobile operators to build networks that are not tied to a vendor. The new technology, dubbed Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN), aims to reduce reliance on any one vendor by making every part of a telecom network interoperable and allowing operators to choose different suppliers for different components. I’m definitely not versed enough in low-level networking equipment to understand just how significant it is, but on the face of it, it does sound like a good move.

Google-backed groups criticize Apple’s new warnings on user tracking

Sixteen marketing associations, some of which are backed by Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, faulted Apple for not adhering to an ad-industry system for seeking user consent under European privacy rules. Apps will now need to ask for permission twice, increasing the risk users will refuse, the associations argued. Cry me a river. There’s an interesting note later in the linked article: Apple engineers also said last week the company will bolster a free Apple-made tool that uses anonymous, aggregated data to measure whether advertising campaigns are working and that will not trigger the pop-up. But of course it doesn’t. It’s made by Apple, after all, and we all trust Apple, right? It’s not like Apple rushed to sell out everything privacy-related to a regime committing genocide, so we clearly have nothing to worry about when Apple forces itself into the advertising business by leveraging its iOS platform.

Emacs as an email client

Emailing in Emacs is a super power that I have been grateful for over the past several years. Below I will describe a simple setup that works for me and more importantly for me, it’s something I like. This setup makes me almost want to write descriptive emails simply because it moves the pain of writing emails into the same ecosystem that I feel comfortable writing long form articles, programs, design documents and other artifacts that involve “putting my thoughts down”. I cringe everytime I see an email written in rich text with broad lines going well over 150 characters. It may not be for me – in fact, it’s really not for me – but I always greatly enjoy reading about people’s unique way of doing things with hardware and software.

Cloudflare dumps reCAPTCHA as Google intends to charge for its use

Internet web infrastructure company Cloudflare announced plans to drop support for Google’s reCAPTCHA service and move to a new bot detection provider named hCaptcha. Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince said the move was motivated by Google’s future plans to charge for the use of the reCAPTCHA service, which would have “added millions of dollars in annual costs” for his company, costs that Cloudflare would have undoubtedly had to unload on its customers. Makes sense, and any less dependence on Google – especially when it comes to services like this, which people barely notice but do play a role in data collection.

Pi-hole 5.0 released

This is something that users have been asking for for a long time, and we are proud to be finally able to offer this awesome feature. Groups can be created and block lists, blacklist, and whitelist can be applied to groups. Blocklists, blacklist and whitelist can all be individually enabled/disabled. Pi-hole blocks ads on your entire network – you install it on your own hardware and point your router’s DNS settings to it. I’ve been putting off setting up Pi-hole on my home network out of sheer laziness, but with how easy it is I really have no excuse.

ICANN votes down controversial .org sale proposal

Adi Robertson at The Verge: The organization that oversees internet domain names has rejected a proposal to transfer management of the .org top-level domain from a nonprofit to a private equity group. ICANN said it wouldn’t approve the sale of .org operator Public Interest Registry because it would create “unacceptable uncertainty” for the domain, citing concerns about debt and the intentions of the for-profit firm Ethos Capital. Good news.

DuckDuckGo is good enough for regular use

DuckDuckGo’s premise is simple. They do not collect or share personal information. They log searches, but they promise that these logs are not linked to personally identifiable information. Their search engine results seemingly come from Bing, but they claim to have their own crawler and hundreds of other sources on top of that. They do customize the results a little: geo-searches like bars near my location give me results from my home city of New York. But search results aren’t personalized. I’ve always wondered how good the results would be. DuckDuckGo is my default, main search engine on all my computers and devices. Every now and then I do use the g command to tell DDG to do a Google search, but overall, I’m incredibly satisfied with how DDG performs.

Starlink is a big deal

Today, I watched a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket leave Cape Canaveral and deliver 60 small Starlink satellites to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) on the Starlink L3 mission. For those not with us last week, SpaceX has a subsidiary, known as Starlink, which is presently endeavoring to blanket the majority of the inhabited latitudes of Earth with orbiting satellites to provide wireless internet access and private-line communications services. This is a Big Deal, the consequences of which I will explain momentarily. But first, some background. Out of all of Elon Musk’s crazy projects, this is the only one that interests me. This project can have huge consequences.

The internet’s name regulator says it’s ‘uncomfortable’ with the .org deal

Remember when the organization in charge of .org domain names traditionally used by non-profits decided to sell itself to a for-profit company? It surprised everyone because up to that point, there was little indication that the Internet Society (ISOC) was shopping the Public Interest Registry (PIR) for sale. Among those surprised, it appears, was ICANN, the organization that oversees the internet’s top-level domains, which now says it is “uncomfortable” with the lack of transparency around the deal and wants ISOC to pump the brakes. “ICANN’s role is to ensure that the .org top-level domain remains secure, reliable, and stable under the proposed acquisition of Public Interest Registry (PIR) by Ethos Capital,” Göran Marby, ICANN President and CEO, said in a statement to The Verge. “We also urge transparency, which is why we sent the 9 December correspondence to PIR and the Internet Society (ISOC).” This whole saga is a stark reminder that the internet and world wide web are mostly under corporate control, in a thick and complicated web of government agencies and private interests.

The Nintendo Switch Switch

Yesterday I had the idea that it would be cool if I turned a Nintendo Switch (will be referred to as NX to avoid confusion as NX is the code name for the Nintendo Switch) console into an actual network switch. I thought about it a bit and realized that it would be doable in hardware at least, since the NX docking station has USB-A ports. Dubious usefulness, indisputable awesomeness.

European cloud project draws backlash from US tech giants

Germany and France are introducing a government-backed project to develop European cloud infrastructure in an effort to help local providers compete with U.S. technology giants, which dominate the global cloud market. Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. criticized the initiative announced this week, called Gaia-X, saying the project will restrict data services along national borders. The reach of Amazon, Microsoft and other U.S. giants worries European politicians and corporate executives. Companies in Germany and France, the continent’s economic powerhouses, and in other European Union countries are concerned about depending on technology providers that must comply with the U.S. Cloud Act, WSJ Pro Cybersecurity reported in October. The 2018 law requires American firms to provide law enforcement with customers’ personal data on request, even when the servers containing the information are abroad. The European Union should’ve invested in efforts like this years ago, but rather late then never. And of course, it’s entirely unsurprising that US cloud providers are unhappy about this move, but that really shouldn’t be of any European legislator’s concern.

Twitter to ban all political ads from its platform

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, about Twitter, on Twitter: We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address. Both candidate ads and issue ads will be banned, although ads to encourage people to register to vote will still be allowed. This is clearly a case of Twitter simply not wanting to be part of the problem during the 2020 election cycle in the US, and it’s an easy goal to score for Dorsey after Facebook said earlier last week that it has no issues with allowing lying ads or nazi publishers on its platform.

Twitter “silenced” dissenting voices during anti-government protests in Egypt

Twitter suspended dozens of accounts critical of the Egyptian president without cause during rare anti-government demonstrations last month, according to new research. Wael Eskandar, an Egyptian researcher specializing in digital rights, found that Twitter had suspended accounts that tweeted words in Arabic like “whore” and “ass-kisser.” Is it really any surprise that Twitter is siding with violent, totalitarian regimes? I mean, this is the same company that refuses to ban nazis and white supremacists because that would overlap with Republican politicians.

DuckDuckGo Search improvements: past year date filter, dark theme refinements, and more

While we’ve been busily improving our privacy protection ducklings — like DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser (for iOS/Android) and DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials (for Firefox/Chrome) — we haven’t been neglecting our first born — DuckDuckGo Private Search! In fact, quite the opposite — we’ve made several improvements recently that we’re excited to share with you. They should make your searching not only more effective, but also a more pleasant experience, and still of course with our same strict commitment to privacy: no personal information is associated with your searches, such that you have no search history and therefore no search profiling or ads following you around based on your searches. Some solid improvements all around, but nothing earth-shattering.

Flash is responsible for the internet’s most creative era

These days, our web browsers—whether on mobile or desktop—are highly functional and can do all sorts of things that we could only dream of a decade prior. But despite that, one could argue that the web has actually gotten less creative over time, not more. This interpretation of events is a key underpinning of Web Design: The Evolution of the Digital World 1990-Today (Taschen, $50), a new visual-heavy book from author Rob Ford and editor Julius Wiedemann that does something that hasn’t been done on the broader internet in quite a long time: It praises the use of Flash as a creative tool, rather than a bloated malware vessel, and laments the ways that visual convention, technical shifts, and walled gardens have started to rein in much of this unvarnished creativity. This is a realm where small agencies supporting big brands, creative experimenters with nothing to lose, and teenage hobbyists could stand out simply by being willing to try something risky. It was a canvas with a built-in distribution model. What wasn’t to like, besides a whole host of malware? I don’t think you can argue that the the Flash era yielded more creativity than, say, the whole of YouTube, but if you restrict the internet to just actual websites, there may be something to be said for this. I remember so many cool and amazing – at the time – Flash projects that you’d stumble across back when Flash was a normal, accepted thing, and those things have gone away, replaced not by cool HTML5 equivalents – as was promised – but by bland samey-samey websites, with far less creativity. I surely don’t mourn the loss of Flash, but it also wasn’t all bad.

Amazon changed search algorithm in ways that boost its own products

Amazon.com has adjusted its product-search system to more prominently feature listings that are more profitable for the company, said people who worked on the project—a move, contested internally, that could favor Amazon’s own brands. Late last year, these people said, Amazon optimized the secret algorithm that ranks listings so that instead of showing customers mainly the most-relevant and best-selling listings when they search—as it had for more than a decade—the site also gives a boost to items that are more profitable for the company. Might I also point out that Amazon is cutting the healthcare benefits of Whole Foods temporary workers while Jeff Bezos earns about 1300 dollar per second? Ethics aren’t exactly high on tech companies’ agendas.

There is no evil like reCAPTCHA

Like many things that starts out as a mere annoyance, though eventually growing into somewhat of an affliction. One particularly dark and insidious thing has more than reared its ugly head in recent years, and now far more accurately described as an epidemic disease. I’m talking about the filth that is reCAPTCHA. Yes that seemingly harmless question of “Are you a human?” Truly I wish all this called for were sarcastic puns of ‘The Matrix’ variety but the matter is far more serious. I hate reCAPTCHA with a deep-rooted passion. It’s insidious, annoying, probably doesn’t work, and all you’re doing is helping Google by playing the role of a dumb bot. It’s dreadfully dystopian.