Internet Archive

FrogFind: the search engine for vintage computers

The search functionality of FrogFind is basically a custom wrapper for DuckDuckGo search, converting the results to extremely basic HTML that old browsers can read. When clicking through to pages from search results, those pages are processed through a PHP port of Mozilla’s Readability, which is what powers Firefox’s reader mode. I then further strip down the results to be as basic HTML as possible. FrogFind is a clever and incredibly useful search engine if you like to play around with old, outdated hardware with terrible browsers. It makes a lot of the web accessible, fast, and usable on my old Palm devices, for instance, but truly anything that at least has a browser should work just fine. There are quite a few old and unmaintained platforms out there that cannot access the current web anymore, but tools like FrogFind address this problem in a very usable way. It’s the creation of YouTuber ActionRetro, an excellent YouTube channel with tons of awesome vintage Mac (and other platforms) content.

Signal embeds shady cryptocurrency in its service

Many technologists viscerally felt yesterday’s announcement as a punch to the gut when we heard that the Signal messaging app was bundling an embedded cryptocurrency. This news really cut to heart of what many technologists have felt before when we as loyal users have been exploited and betrayed by corporations, but this time it felt much deeper because it introduced a conflict of interest from our fellow technologists that we truly believed were advancing a cause many of us also believed in. So many of us have spent significant time and social capital moving our friends and family away from the exploitative data siphon platforms that Facebook et al offer, and on to Signal in the hopes of breaking the cycle of commercial exploitation of our online relationships. And some of us feel used. Signal users are overwhelmingly tech savvy consumers and we’re not idiots. Do they think we don’t see through the thinly veiled pump and dump scheme that’s proposed? It’s an old scam with a new face. Allegedly the controlling entity prints 250 million units of some artificially scarce trashcoin called MOB (coincidence?) of which the issuing organization controls 85% of the supply. This token then floats on a shady offshore cryptocurrency exchange hiding in the Cayman Islands or the Bahamas, where users can buy and exchange the token. The token is wash traded back and forth by insiders and the exchange itself to artificially pump up the price before it’s dumped on users in the UK to buy to allegedly use as “payments”. All of this while insiders are free to silently use information asymmetry to cash out on the influx of pumped hype-driven buys before the token crashes in value. Did I mention that the exchange that floats the token is the primary investor in the company itself, does anyone else see a major conflict of interest here? And there goes Signal, down the drain, throwing away all the goodwill it has managed to build up. Apparently, the donations they received from users weren’t enough, and it has to resort to shady schemes like these to keep the service running. I wasn’t using Signal to begin with, but this ensures I’m not touch it with a ten foot pole. As for cryptocurrency, a topic we effectively do not cover on OSNews – I’m not saying cryptocurrency is by definition shady, but let’s just say I don’t read many stories about cryptocurrency that instill me with any confidence in its trustworthiness and stability in any way, shape, or form. The technology in and of itself is cool, but what people are doing with it is, well, not.

WRT54G history: the router that accidentally went open source

In a world where our routers look more and more like upside-down spiders than things you would like to have in your living room, there are only a handful of routers that may be considered “famous.” Steve Jobs’ efforts to sell AirPort—most famously by using a hula hoop during a product demo—definitely deserve notice in this category, and the mesh routers made by the Amazon-owned Eero probably fit in this category as well. But a certain Linksys router, despite being nearly 20 years old at this point, takes the cake—and it’s all because of a feature that initially went undocumented that proved extremely popular with a specific user base. Today’s Tedium talks about the blue-and-black icon of wireless access, the Linksys WRT54G. This is the wireless router that showed the world what a wireless router could do. I’ve often pondered tinkering with this, but I’m terrible with anything related to networking – it seems like it’s a weird world of technology that exists on its own separate plane, disconnected from everything else. Networking is obtuse, and as long as our home network is functioning, I’m not touching it.

WhatsApp gives users an ultimatum: share data with Facebook or stop using the app

WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messenger that claims to have privacy coded into its DNA, is giving its 2 billion plus users an ultimatum: agree to share their personal data with the social network or delete their accounts. The requirement is being delivered through an in-app alert directing users to agree to sweeping changes in the WhatsApp terms of service. Those who don’t accept the revamped privacy policy by February 8 will no longer be able to use the app. I pretty much have no choice but to accept. Everybody uses WhatsApp – it’s so entrenched in dutch society the app itself has become a verb. Opting out means making it a lot more difficult to talk with my friends, which is already difficult enough considering I live in Sweden now. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: crucial communication protocols – of which WhatsApp is one in many countries – must be open and free to be implemented by anyone. It’s pure insanity to me that important lines of communication are left to faceless corporations on the other side of the world.

Apple, Google and a deal that controls the internet

Now, the partnership is in jeopardy. Last Tuesday, the Justice Department filed a landmark lawsuit against Google — the U.S. government’s biggest antitrust case in two decades — and homed in on the alliance as a prime example of what prosecutors say are the company’s illegal tactics to protect its monopoly and choke off competition in web search. The scrutiny of the pact, which was first inked 15 years ago and has rarely been discussed by either company, has highlighted the special relationship between Silicon Valley’s two most valuable companies — an unlikely union of rivals that regulators say is unfairly preventing smaller companies from flourishing. The search market is entirely locked down. I’m a DuckDuckGo user, but DDG is just a frontend to Bing, warts and all. I’ve been having very negative experiences with DDG lately, but the only other real option is Google – I’ve got nowhere else to go. So either I accept Google’s filter bubble, or I accept DDG having terrible results filled with crazy conspiracy pseudoscience. What choice do we really have?

What if we had local-first software?

An interesting thought exercise. What if the Internet had never become a giant vacuum for malevolent ad agencies and desktops hadn’t become stupidly over provisioned thin clients for web pages? Instead, what if the Internet was only used to facilitate data synchronization between endpoints? Could we get there from our current place? Let’s ask ourselves: “what if the Internet was offline first? And what if we had local-first software paving the way into an offline SaaS model?” Actually, the authors of this paper (“Local-First Software: You Own Your Data, in spite of the Cloud”) raise these exact same questions in their work, and it’ll be our matter at hand today. How would an offline-first Internet look like?

Facebook: “Preparing our Partners for iOS 14”

Facebook published a blog post detailing how iOS 14 will have a negative impact on its ad business since Apple’s upcoming update will ask users for permission before allowing companies like Facebook from collecting user data through Apple’s device identifier. Given the impact the policy will have on businesses’ ability to market themselves and monetize through ads, we’re sharing how we’re addressing iOS 14 changes and providing recommendations to help our partners prepare, while developers await more details on this policy. While we may not all agree on which companies we dislike the least – Google, Microsoft, Apple, whatever – I’m pretty sure we can all agree we hate Facebook. So sit back, relax, and smile as you read through this.

Moving from YouTube to PeerTube

Back when I first started posting videos, I used Vimeo. Even though YouTube was the dominant video site, I wanted to support the underdog. I even bought a Vimeo Pro account. At the time, Vimeo had higher quality video than YouTube, but nowhere near the level of discoverability. Eventually I started posting on YouTube; both new content and some reposts of my older videos. It’s 2020 and YouTube, as well as the rest of big tech, is continuing to remove content they don’t agree with from their platforms. None of my videos have ever gotten a large number of views, and none are monetized, so I might as well copy them to a PeerTube instance I control. If you do run a YouTube channel with any type of significant viewership, I highly recommend backing up your videos, in the event you may need to self-host your content in the future. Good advice, but of course not everyone has the technological acumen to do this.

SpaceX Starlink speeds revealed as beta users get downloads of 11 to 60Mbps

Beta users of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-broadband service are getting download speeds ranging from 11Mbps to 60Mbps, according to tests conducted using Ookla’s speedtest.net tool. Speed tests showed upload speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 18Mbps. The same tests, conducted over the past two weeks, showed latencies or ping rates ranging from 31ms to 94ms. This isn’t a comprehensive study of Starlink speeds and latency, so it’s not clear whether this is what Internet users should expect once Starlink satellites are fully deployed and the service reaches commercial availability. We asked SpaceX several questions about the speed-test results yesterday and will update this article if we get answers. For what is essentially still a service in development, this is pretty impressive.

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.