I am looking for people to write a recipe for how to connect to the WiFi in a New York City subway station without running its nonfree Javascript code. The recipe could include a free Javascript program I could run, or it could consist of instructions for what I would type into IceCat (our variant of Firefox). It doesn't have't be super convenient, it just has to work.

Posted Thu Feb 23 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

UK universities are being flooded by antisemitism.

Posted Wed Feb 22 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

As the FARC and the Colombian state make peace, assassination of activists is increasing.

The paramilitares are involved in this. They were the worst terrorist group in Colombia, even when the FARC was at war. For instance, they collaborated with the Coca Cola Company bottler to murder union organizers.

Posted Wed Feb 22 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

Extreme heat is bleaching coral again in the Great Barrier Reef.

This despite the fact that El Niño is not happening this year.

The only way to save coral is to cap CO2 in the atmosphere.

Posted Wed Feb 22 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

Exit from the EU creates the opportunity for the UK to raise money discouraging speculation and encouraging investment.

Posted Wed Feb 22 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

Most Republican congresscritters are hiding from their constituents during their week home from Washington.

Posted Wed Feb 22 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

Right-wingers are the ultimate sensitive snowflakes,raging against anyone who violates their PC (populist correctness) rules for speech.

Posted Wed Feb 22 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

The saboteurs have changed the Department of Energy web site that used to teach kids about the environment.

Posted Wed Feb 22 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

US employers increasingly track everything that employees do while at work. Even how often they speak to someone.

I think we need to limit this, by law if we can't find another way.

Posted Wed Feb 22 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

US citizens: sign up for meetings this week with your congresscritter and staff.

Posted Wed Feb 22 00:00:00 2017 Tags:
Aral Balkan:

In his grand vision for humanity, Mark keeps returning to how Facebook fundamentally "brings us closer together" by "connecting friends and families." What Mark fails to mention is that Facebook does not connect people together; Facebook connects people to Facebook, Inc.

Facebook's business model is to be the man in the middle; to track every move you, your family, and your friends make, to store all that information indefinitely, and continuously analyse it to understand you better in order to exploit you by manipulating you for financial and political gain.

Facebook isn't a social network, it is a scanner that digitises human beings. It is, for all intents and purposes, the camera that captures your soul. Facebook's business is to simulate you and to own and control your simulation, thereby owning and controlling you.

I call the business model of Facebook, Google, and the venture-capital-funded long tail of Silicon Valley startups "people farming". Facebook is a factory farm for human beings. And Mark's manifesto is nothing more than a panicked billionaire's latest sophomoric attempt to decorate an unpalatable business model grounded in the abuse of human rights with faux moral purpose to stave off regulation and justify what is unabashedly a colonial desire: to create a global fiefdom by connecting all of us to Facebook, Inc. [...]

It is not the job of a corporation to "develop the social infrastructure for community" as Mark wants to do. Social infrastructure must belong to the commons, not to giant monopolistic corporations like Facebook. The reason we find ourselves in this mess with ubiquitous surveillance, filter bubbles, and fake news (propaganda) is precisely due to the utter and complete destruction of the public sphere by an oligopoly of private infrastructure that poses as public space.

Facebook wants us to think that it is a park when it's actually a shopping mall. The last thing we need is more privately owned centralised digital infrastructure to solve the problems created by an unprecedented concentration of power, wealth, and control in a tiny number of hands. It's way past time we started funding and building the digital equivalents of parks in the digital age instead of building ever-larger shopping malls. [...]

We are sharded beings; the sum total of our various aspects as contained within our biological beings as well as the myriad of technologies that we use to extend our biological abilities. [...] It also follows, then, that any attempt to violate the boundaries of the self must be considered an assault on the cyborg self. It is exactly this abuse that constitutes the everyday business model of Facebook, Google, and mainstream Silicon Valley-inspired technology today. In this model, which Shoshana Zuboff calls surveillance capitalism, what we have lost is individual sovereignty. People have once again become property -- albeit in digital, not biological, form.

Is 'fake news' a fake problem?

Here's what we found. First, the fake news audience is tiny compared to the real news audience -- about 10 times smaller on average. [...] Online news audiences spent more time on average with real news than fake news. [...] We also found that the fake news audience does not exist in a filter bubble. Visitors to fake news sites visited real news sites just as often as visitors to real news sites visited other real news sites. [...]

Last, and perhaps least surprising to everyone but Mark Zuckerberg, we saw that audiences found their way to fake news via social media at a much higher rate than they did to real news. We already know that a majority of US adults get their news via social media platforms. Here, though, we can see that nearly 30 percent of all fake news traffic could be linked back to Facebook, while only 8 percent of real news traffic could.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

Posted Tue Feb 21 21:02:48 2017 Tags:
Hack the Planet.

But it's a lot harder to get an anonymous phone number. You need to buy a burner phone and SIM for cash, wait two weeks for the CCTV system in the store to overwrite the video of the transaction, then activate your phone far from home. Once you've used it to get a Twitter account-creation authentication SMS (again, nowhere near your home or office, and nowhere where there's a record of you having traveled to), you need to destroy both the phone and the SIM. That's just to set up the account!

Previously, previously, previously.

Posted Tue Feb 21 02:44:02 2017 Tags:

I have visited the Whiskeytown Glory Hole but I didn't realize we had one closer to home.

Which reminds me that I have yet to drop a video camera down the chute and into my building's trash compactor.

Posted Tue Feb 21 02:29:03 2017 Tags:

Zero gravity sex on the boneless chicken ranch.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

Posted Tue Feb 21 02:08:28 2017 Tags:

And the latest revision:
Things Every Hacker Once Knew.

This time: The Break key. uuencode/uudecode. Why older Internet protocols only assume a 7-bit link. The original meanings of SO/SI. WRU and station ID on teletypes. BITNET and other pre-Internets.

There is one respect in which working on this is changing my historical perspective. The section now titled “WAN time gone: The forgotten pre-Internets” started out just being about UUCP but has gradually expanded to include the BBS scene, commercial timesharing, and academic networks in the period 1978-1996 (and especially 1981-1991).

At the time those of us exposed to more than one of these networks saw mostly differences – differences in capability, differences in addressing schemes, differences in underlying protocols.

Now, twenty years later, I’m finding that it’s the similarities that look more significant. These experiments were all evolving in parallel, offering services that converged over time.

Wide-area TCP/IP was the eventual winner, of course. It’s not hard to see why: being designed for internetworking and not being gated by proprietary IP gave it two insuperable advantages.

Posted Mon Feb 20 19:33:27 2017 Tags:

I’ve been thinking a lot about language design lately. Part of this comes from my quite successful acquisition of Go and my mostly failed attempt to learn Rust. These languages make me question premises I’ve held for a long time, and that questioning has borne some fruit.

In the remainder of this posting I will describe a simple syntax extension in C that could be used to support a trait-centered object system similar to Rust’s (or even Go’s). It is not the whole design, but it is a simple orthogonal piece that could fit with several different possible designs.

Suppose we have two structs named snark and boojum and a function that takes one of each. That is:

struct snark {
    /* stuff goes here */
struct boojum {
    /* other stuff goes here */
int conjugate(int x, struct snark *, int y, struct boojum *, int z);
struct snark s;
struct boojum b;

Then my proposal is this: under almost all circumstances, the compiler
should automatically perform the following transformations::

s.conjugate(1, 2, &b, 3) -> conjugate(1, &s, 2, &b, 3)
b.conjugate(1, &s, 2, 3) -> conjugate(1, &s, 2, &b, 3)

That is, if the compiler encounters an attempt to evaluate a structure member reference followed by an argument list, for a member that doesn’t exist in the structure (that’s the “almost”), it looks for a visible function with the right name, and then tries to apply it to transform the method-like syntax into an actual method call.

The rule will fail unless the actual arguments match all of the formal argument types of the function in the right order, except that one actual argument is missing. It will also fail unless the one formal without a corresponding actual has any type other than address of the structure for which we are synthesising the method call.

(It has to be address of, otherwise these method calls could never mutate the instance – they’d get an arg-stack copy of it instead.)

I think I got this idea by miscegenating a recent language called Julia with Rust’s method syntax and some dim memories of CLOS. It has a couple of interesting advantages:

1. No front-end modifications or new syntactic tokens are required – it can be implemented entirely as a transformation on abstract syntax after parsing.

2. Entirely upward-compatible with plain C – if you try to feed this to a compiler without the extension it will break noisily at compile time.

3. Same function can be a method of multiple structures without the requirement that you make an articial commitment to which one “really” owns it. (I find this comes up remarkably often.)

Of course, as I mentioned up front, this is not an entire object system. Conspicuous by its absence is inheritance or a trait/interface system. The final advantage of this proposal is that it would not foreclose or complicate any of those alternatives.

Posted Sun Feb 19 20:19:20 2017 Tags:
You should contribute to this because I very much want to be able to see Shriekback live again, thx.

Releasing Shriekback as a live animal after a quarter century of strictly studio-based captivity is no small thing. To deliver what we want to give and, more importantly, what you want and deserve to hear and see, no corners can be cut. If we say so ourselves, we have a huge amount of material that means a lot to a lot of people and, on stage, we have a lot of history and expectation to live up to. For years now we've fielded requests to play live again, but for various reasons, whether financial or related to the availability of the core members, the ducks haven't been in a row: now they are. With some help from you, of course.

Since Barry, Martyn and myself have re-established our relationship in the studio -- and found it as thrilling as ever -- it seems the right time to put that chemistry back on the road. But unlike the world of recording, where technology has made everything cheaper, smaller and faster, the stage lights are as cruel and unblinking as ever and the journey into the glare even longer and more expensive. So, without further shoe-shuffling, this is what we need.

The band will need to deliver all the force and nuance of a very diverse catalogue. We have lined up (ahem) an 8-piece unit that we know can hit every mark. Martyn, Barry and myself will be entwined with Steve Halliwell on guitar and keyboards and Mike Cozzi on guitar, with the Partridge sisters, Wendy and Sarah, on vocals. As Barry explained in the video, we can't give you Dave Allen, but we're delighted to announce that we'll be joined by Scott Firth on bass - Scott comes to us from P.i.L and has played with Martyn extensively on other projects, so we know we know The Groove will be just fine.

Eight people means a lot of equipment, rehearsal, transportation, accommodation and everything else -- but if we're doing this we're doing it right and we're doing it big. Setting this up, getting it rolling from a standing start, is by far the biggest ask of this appeal. Once the machine is built and fired up we can take it anywhere - and you will very much have a say in where that might be. Given the cost and effort of the start-up, we are committed to touring for a year from when we roll; this, we believe, will give us the opportunity to visit you all, wherever you are.

Previously, previously, previously.

Posted Sat Feb 18 02:08:58 2017 Tags:
DNA Lounge update, wherein hardware donations are gratefully accepted, and parklet news.
Posted Sat Feb 18 00:02:03 2017 Tags:

I’ve shipped another revision of Things Every Hacker Once Knew

The pace of suggested additions and corrections has slowed down a lot; I think this thing is stabilizing.

I gave in and added the one bit of paper-tape lore people have been bugging me to include, about why DEL is 0xb1111111. Learning that the NSA still distributed crypto keys on paper tape until last year smashed that one through my relevance filter.

There’s a short addition on the Trek family of games, a mention of xyzzy, and some minor corrections and typo fixes as well.

Posted Fri Feb 17 15:33:30 2017 Tags:

Planet Debian upstream is hosted by Branchable.