February technical things.

The only local thing I have done is switched the bot crawler off. Cleantalk is still fairly good at stopping the viruses, and it needs to be — 10k attempted accesses last week. But it is a pain, so at present it’s gone.

But in the meantime, the woke cultural revolution is being used as a smokescreen so we don’t see the building panopticon.

This is probably not the update you want.

Let me be clear, it does fix the security vulnerabilities in this list:

CVE-2020-16044 CVE-2021-21118 CVE-2021-21119 CVE-2021-21120 CVE-2021-21121 CVE-2021-21122 CVE-2021-21123 CVE-2021-21124 CVE-2021-21125 CVE-2021-21126 CVE-2021-21127 CVE-2021-21129 CVE-2021-21130 CVE-2021-21131 CVE-2021-21132 CVE-2021-21133 CVE-2021-21134 CVE-2021-21135 CVE-2021-21136 CVE-2021-21137 CVE-2021-21138 CVE-2021-21139 CVE-2021-21140 CVE-2021-21141 CVE-2021-21117 CVE-2021-21128

But it will not behave like Google Chrome does.

Google has announced that it is cutting off access to the Sync and “other Google Exclusive” APIs from all builds except Google Chrome. This will make the Fedora Chromium build significantly less functional (along with every other distro packaged Chromium). It is noteworthy that Google gave the builders of distribution Chromium packages these access rights back in 2013 via API keys, specifically so that we could have open source builds of Chromium with (near) feature parity to Chrome. And now they’re taking it away. The reasoning given for this change? Google does not want users to be able to “access their personal Chrome Sync data (such as bookmarks) … with a non-Google, Chromium-based browser.” They’re not closing a security hole, they’re just requiring that everyone use Chrome.

Or to put it bluntly, they do not want you to access their Google API functionality without using proprietary software (Google Chrome). There is no good reason for Google to do this, other than to force people to use Chrome.

I gave a lot of thought to whether I wanted to continue to maintain the Chromium package in Fedora, given that many (most?) users will be confused/annoyed when API functionality like sync and geolocation stops working for no good reason. Ultimately, I decided to continue for now, because there were at least some users who didn’t mind, and if I stopped, someone else would start over and run blindly into this problem.

I would say that you might want to reconsider whether you want to use Chromium or not. If you want the full “Google” experience, you can run the proprietary Chrome. If you want to use a FOSS browser that isn’t hobbled, there is a Firefox package in Fedora.

Oh, last, but not least, Google isn’t shutting off the API access until March 15, 2021, but I have gone ahead and disabled it starting with this update.

Fedora

I’m using Brave, which is Chromium based. There are many who would argue that one should not use firefox, because they are as fascist as Google. The business model is different, but the motivation is the same.

Since then there has been significant focus on the deplatforming of President Donald Trump. By all means the question of when to deplatform a head of state is a critical one, among many that must be addressed. When should platforms make these decisions? Is that decision-making power theirs alone?

But as reprehensible as the actions of Donald Trump are, the rampant use of the internet to foment violence and hate, and reinforce white supremacy is about more than any one personality. Donald Trump is certainly not the first politician to exploit the architecture of the internet in this way, and he won’t be the last. We need solutions that don’t start after untold damage has been done.

Changing these dangerous dynamics requires more than just the temporary silencing or permanent removal of bad actors from social media platforms.

Additional precise and specific actions must also be taken:

Reveal who is paying for advertisements, how much they are paying and who is being targeted.

Commit to meaningful transparency of platform algorithms so we know how and what content is being amplified, to whom, and the associated impact.

Turn on by default the tools to amplify factual voices over disinformation.

Work with independent researchers to facilitate in-depth studies of the platforms’ impact on people and our societies, and what we can do to improve things.

So yeah, it is a matter of what is the less evil. Frankly, Brave works. Dissenter works. If I need commercial browser plugins, I can use Opera: if the chromium engine does not work I can use Lua, Safari (on the Mac).

For email, mailspring works for the big people, but does not play that nicely with protonmail or the more secure systems I use. Apple Mail and Outlook, sadly, are the better options.

This space will change. Rapidly.

Hardware woes

  1. If you try to format an SDHC card (micro SD card) for raspbian on a Mac, you better have a USB based adaptor. The dongles no loger have a card reader
  2. The screen on my now seven year old ACER inspire laptop is dying. Slowly. Another line every month or so. At present, I’m not buying stuff, but that would be next on the list.
  3. The Andriod phones are now over a two years old (both of them) and as expected, the batteries are dying. We are not spending (see above) but a delay here will help, as I’m hoping there will be robust non google versions available soon.
  4. There are a series of vapourware reports that Apple and Samsung will finally get a non invasive method of measuring blood glucose. For me, this will be a gamechanger: Kea worries when I go hypo, particularly on long walks. But it is not real yet, and I don’t really want to be tied into the apple or Google/Tizen garden.

The cult of the free

If the product is free, then your attention is the product. Didact emailed a comment about cheap brokerage but it applies elsewhere. Robinhood is a cheap/no fees online brokerage house. The NZ equivelant would be sharesies.

If you are using a free service like Robinhood, make no mistake and have no doubt – YOU ARE THE PRODUCT. Your trade data will be sold to institutional investors, who have FAR lower transaction costs than you do, and far more market power, to bet against you. I’m telling you this as someone with two degrees in mathematics and over a decade’s experience in finance – they are using asymmetric information to beat you like a drum.

(When I started seeing advertisements on the TeeVee for Sharsies, I talked with Kea, because I was worried about the exposure my pension savings have on the NZ market). I’ve been building my own platforms forever. When it reaches the point that I have to build my own clusters, and it might, my cost could go down.

No, this place is NOT free. I pay for a webhosting agency, I pay for backup, and I pay for spam and security. I consider this my small bit of service. But, like the free coffee at Church, someone is paying for it.

You have to build more robust platforms, and minimise dependence on big tech. You need to pay for where you go.

Free in dollars is costly in liberty.

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Heresolong
3 months ago

Seems to me that when Microsoft was requiring all installers of Windows OS to include IE (but not to use it for anything other than downloading a different browser) there was a huge anti-trust lawsuit which MS lost.

Anyone else looking back fondly on the days when regulators actually thought that providing software without requiring its use was the biggest anti-trust problem on the internet?

John Wilder
3 months ago

“Don’t be evil.”

Ha!

In Google, it meant Be evil