Help Make Techrights (and Other Technology-Centric Sites) More Robust to Censorship by Setting Up More IPFS Nodes

Posted in Site News at 7:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IPFS large logo

Summary: We’re trying to improve the site’s availability (ensuring it can never be offline) and make it more censorship-resistant; people who adopt IPFS can make that happen while tackling the “bloated Web” and “centralised Internet” issues — all at the same time

JUST over a month ago we hooked up with data-centric security folks who had offered help with Techrights. Having faced legal threats over the years (for exposing corruption), we’re always looking for ways to avert or discourage such attempts (ideally, even if we’re forced to go offline or remove something, we want that to be outside our control, i.e. inability to comply, even if there’s a will to comply). We don’t typically just repeat what other sites say, we have many exclusive stories and we publish leaks (unseen beforehand).

Now, less than a month later, we have a pipeline for publishing the site both as text and over distributed protocols. The Techrights IPFS node over here (at home) now exceeds 50GB in traffic, just 3 weeks down the line (after introducing people to it, i.e. ‘going public’). Not bad considering how young it is. It’s always active, offering full site access. There’s no single point of failure, no HTTP, no WWW, no HTML. It’s very text-centric and thus compact, portable and so on. No bloat associated with exporting/importing images, fonts, JavaScript and so on.

Earlier today we published many pages of internal EPO material; we need to get those sorts of things backed up, as EPO management can be litigious and threatening (they tried it on us several times). Techrights is home to many other important bits of material; months ago we published old debian-private archives (1990s only); those were accessed nearly 30,000 times in this past week alone. Giving Debian better transparency 2.5 decades later can’t be a bad thing. In fact, nobody contacted us regarding removal or redaction. Those mailing lists are pretty harmless and barely even embarrassing. Due to their age, they don’t present/pose a threat to anybody’s career.

“In other words, the more people participate in this network, the more robust and censorship-resistant it’ll become. This, in turn, can attract more high-profile whistleblowers with high-profile leaks.”Now, on to the ‘beef’ of this post…

This past autumn we spent time coding and testing a bunch of stuff (at the back end for the most part). First we made everything in the site accessible in/as text. Plain text. Nice and simple. Then, we explored a number of distribution systems. At the end we went ahead of IPFS, seeing that it is decentralised and Web-agnostic (its protocols aren’t connected to the Web, unless a gateway is set up). We already have a number of devices pinning and serving the site’s pages (or objects) upon request by CID.

Share large logoHow can readers help? They can become nodes. The material itself isn’t sensitive (everything in it is public anyway), but it’s precarious in the sense that takedown requests can be attempted against our main servers; we want to make it very clear upfront that it’s an exercise in futility because many copies of the articles are already ‘out there’, being distributed by peer, not from a single point (of potential failure).

In other words, the more people participate in this network, the more robust and censorship-resistant it’ll become. This, in turn, can attract more high-profile whistleblowers with high-profile leaks.

An informal manual was typed up by one of us as a sort of primer for those wishing to set up their own node. It ought not be hard to achieve (by just following the series of steps). Those instructions were written for a Raspberry Pi with Debian, but the hardware and the distro ought not matter much because we use the binaries rather than repos.

“I’m going to outline a pragmatic setup that you can use to get going with IPFS on any host,” said the manual’s author. Here’s the recipe:


Make user + group for IPFS. All further steps are to be performed under IPFS user’s “~/” (home directory).

Download and extract latest Go binaries available from official tarball.

Symbolic link Go binary executables, from tarball, into “~/bin“.

Download and extract latest IPFS binary available from official tarball.

Symbolic link IPFS binary executable, from tarball, into “~/bin“.


What’s covered:

IPFS conceptual overview.

Help from the `ipfs` command itself.

Initialise ipfs for your IPFS user.

List pinned IPFS objects.

Add/pin IPFS objects.

Remove pinned IPFS objects.

Run garbage collector for IPFS objects.

Check IPFS stats.

Check a file’s CID without adding/pinning to IPFS.


Make a dedicated user and group for IPFS on your machine. This will keep things manageable, down the line. Everything should be done under the IPFS user’s home directory “~/“.

Grab the latest Go binary you can find. Set it up in the home directory of your IPFS user. You can find the latest Go binary here. There are builds for a wide array of operating systems and CPU architectures.

Extract the tarball; look in “/bin” in the tarball for the binary executables. Right now there are two binaries, “go” and “gofmt“.

Create a symbolic link in “~/bin” for the binary executables you find in the Go tarball. You should be able to run `$ source ~/.profile` to make sure “~/bin” is in PATH, for the IPFS user.

This completes the Go setup.

Next, we tackle the IPFS setup.

Download the latest binary you can get for go-ipfs from here. This binary should be packed in a tarball.

Extract the tarball.

go-ipfs” is the name of the binary executable. Create a symbolic link for this binary in “~/bin“. You don’t need to use the setup script provided. It’ll just mess with things that don’t need messing.


Think of IPFS as a filesystem that lives on the Internet. Each file is an IPFS object denoted by a hash called the CID (content identifier).

`ipfs --help` includes help for commands and subcommands. Always double-check with this to make sure that anything you read on the Internet about IPFS matches up to the binary you actually are using on your system.

Before you do anything with ipfs, make sure to run `ipfs init`. This will populate “~/.ipfs” for you. That’s all you need to do for initial setup.

You can “deploy” ipfs locally with `ipfs daemon`; this process will be running in the foreground and print to the terminal (probably stdout). You can just put it in the background and redirect stdout and stderr to a log file to manually monitor what it’s doing. Killing this daemon will mean your IPFS node is no longer online. Feel free to control this daemon in whichever method you choose. This guide is kept as abstract as possible to enable deployment in maximum number of environments.

Files from your host can be added to IPFS as something called IPFS objects. The ipfs command for this is, unsurprisingly, called `ipfs add`. `ipfs add path` will add the specified file or directory to IPFS.

By default, `ipfs add` “pins” objects in your local IPFS datastore. What is a “pinned object”? A pinned object is an IPFS object in your local IPFS datastore that doesn’t get garbage-collected.

`ipfs pin ls` is a good way to view your pins. `ipfs pin rm` can be used to remove pins; if you try to remove the wrong type of pin, IPFS will get mad and yell at you because it’s probably a recursive pin (you’ll see what kind of pin an IPFS object is in the output for `ipfs pin ls`); a top-level pin will probably be of type “recursive” (so you’ll need to remove that to get rid of all the pinned objects that are associated).

You can check bandwidth status with `ipfs stats bw`. Good way to keep track of your precious bandwidth. ipfs comes with some default pins. You might want to get rid of those with `ipfs pin rm` to save on bandwidth. Those pins are documentation, however, so it’s up to you if you want to keep them around or not.

Just removing a pin is not enough to ensure pin(s) are no longer is eating up your local IPFS datastore space. `ipfs repo gc` will run the garbage collector to get rid of all the unpinned IPFS objects.

The default IPFS configuration is pretty sane. You can find the default config file for IPFS in “~/.ipfs/config“; the config file is formatted in JSON. See `ipfs config --help` for further details.

Remember: always check `ipfs <command> <subcommand> --help` for definitive guidance on your binary’s implementation. `ipfs --help` should be skimmed, in full, before you do anything with IPFS; you will likely find commands to help you with what you want to do. Don’t forget that `ipfs <command> --help` and `ipfs <command> <subcommand> --help` are always available for you as well.

Consuming IPFS objects is straightforward. Just look at `ipfs get --help` and `ipfs cat --help` for instructions.

To check what a file’s CID is, without adding/pinning to ipfs, just run `ipfs add -n /path/to/file`; see `ipfs add --help` for details. This is going to be a very important operation if you want to do any automation. It helps knowing what a file’s CID will be before doing any operations live IPFS operations on it.

You should now be able to independently navigate the Internet for further information on IPFS. Official, online, documentation available here. Remember to always cross-check `ipfs version` and `ipfs <command> <subcommand> --help` to ensure what you read on the Internet is applicable to the IPFS binary executable on your system.

Image attributions: Font Awesome (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International) and IPFS project (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)


29,000 Blog Posts and Recent Site Improvements

Posted in Site News at 11:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Over 29,000

Summary: Over 29,000 blog posts have been posted here, but more importantly we’ve made the site a lot more robust and resilient, accessible in more formats and protocols (while improving transparency, too)

BACK in August (just 3 months ago) we crossed the 28,000 posts milestone and last week we crossed 29,000, so 30,000 will likely be some time in late winter.

“The more distributed we become, the more censorship-resistant we can get and the more attractive the leaks we receive, then publish.”Recent changes made to the site include unicode ‘art’ next to the menu items above, addition of text-only (plain text) IRC logs, revised layout for IRC disclosures, and various IPFS improvements. We don’t often ‘announce’ minor changes, but this time we can take note of the milestone and those 4 other things. Improving the workflows, the layout and the way we cooperate can sometimes take more time than working on articles. We hope that more people will embrace our text-only bulletin (usually updated every day at around midnight, depending on factors like availability) and participate in IPFS to help make the site distributed, as in P2P and decentralised. The more distributed we become, the more censorship-resistant we can get and the more attractive the leaks we receive, then publish.


Lots of Good News Today

Posted in Site News at 10:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There’s a courageous fightback despite the growing risk

Serbia execution

Summary: A quick roundup of news and key developments; most of them are positive and they give us hope

TODAY we’ve finally caught up fully with many EPO affairs and we’re gratified to see intense blowback against the UPC as well (see the comments here; SUEPO has just linked to that). Less than a day ago Donald Trump finally conceded, EPO staff is starting to mass-mail the management, and many other positive things are happening. The fascists are on the run…

We don’t expect anything to come out of UPC/A, so we won’t be writing much about that, except to ridicule it. We’ll also write a little less about the EPO, seeing that staff (productive staff, e.g. examiners) started to fight to take back control of the Office. We don’t regret spending the past 2-3 weeks focusing so much on the EPO. It’s well overdue and very much necessary.

“The fascists are on the run…”Not everything is so positive however; the pandemic is still destroying lots of things, Groklaw is still offline (the last time Google saw that site online and took a snapshot of the front page was October 24th and today it’s November 24th, so we very much doubt the site will ever come back*), Phoronix is begging for money (it deserves readers’ support), and we still haven’t migrated to the new server — it's an urgent matter.

Phoronix setupPhoronix recently upgraded the setup a bit; included or added to the right is a new photograph. They still do decent journalism about technical matters. Areas that they cover aren’t touched by anyone else (except LWN, sometimes).

Linux Journal isn’t publishing much anymore (maybe once a week, on average, usually a HOWTO) and a lot of coverage about “LINUX” is just ridiculous click-bait (right now a lot is based on some private E-mail in which Linus Torvalds responds to a question about Apple hype).

Geeks who now work from home have more time and more motivation to improve their setups. It’s not just Phoronix.

MinceR has just pointed out in IRC Tony Arcieri’s latest setup, a multi-screen laptop arrangement. Some people use a tiny so-called ‘phone’ to scroll down and click on “timelines”, whereas others get some real work done (not pressing “like” or uploading selfies).

Tony Arcieri's setup

Linus Torvalds, a longtime home (‘remote’) worker, famously said:

“If it’s a hobby for us and a job for you, then why are you doing such a shoddy job?”

Suddenly, working in a bathrobe isn’t considered so eccentric, right?
* When we saw signs of trouble we mirrored the Bill Gates deposition videos.


Go Distributed, Go Encrypted, Go Secure, Transparency Still Possible

Posted in Site News at 9:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It’s hard(er) to cut off a hydra

Lernaean Hydra or Hydra of Lerna

Summary: Earlier today we enhanced access to our (sometimes anonymised) IRC logs by issuing text (ASCII) versions, which will from now onwards be a nightly/daily occurrence; we’re also making everything we publish accessible from a large number of IPFS nodes (akin to P2P)

WE recently wrote about our adoption of alternative projects such as Sequoia. IPFS is one example of this; we hope that more people will adopt it and help decentralise the Web, as well as encrypt it (not just between server and client, which is what HTTPS/TLS is all about).

“IPFS is one example of this; we hope that more people will adopt it and help decentralise the Web, as well as encrypt it (not just between server and client, which is what HTTPS/TLS is all about).”Right now we implement a number of things on a number of affordable-yet-powerful and low-energy Raspberry Pi 4 devices, distributed across countries. They have things like Git and IPFS on them. They’re also being used to communicate. They make us more robust in the face of censorship and takedown attempts (which happened several times in the past).

SailorsIn the long run, we might also use these to further enhance encryption. “The idea is to use OpenBSD on something like a Raspberry Pi (probably the Zero W model, for form factor and cost) and turn that into a dedicated HSM (Hardware Security Module),” one person recently suggested, and “SequoiaPGP would be loaded onto the Pi, turning the Pi into a dedicated HSM. The Rpi products at least are more transparent than anything else we have in terms of hardware. Rpi Zero W is also more affordable than any of these spyware closed source products. The idea is to give users the ability to assemble an affordable HSM themselves with reasonable level of risk assumed (for end-to-end encryption).”

“Right now we implement a number of things on a number of affordable-yet-powerful and low-energy Raspberry Pi 4 devices, distributed across countries.”Although I still write most of the articles, there are more and more people involved in the site and coordination is imperative, of course with some degree of privacy (to reduce the likelihood of disruption by outside actors).

“For now, I’ll continue educating people on GnuPG,” said this unnamed person, “but I think we’ve reached a point now where Sequoia seems like the only direction to move in.”

Earlier today someone in IRC suggested that we adopt Matrix and leave FreeNode behind, but we’ve decided that since the IRC logs are publicly visible anyway, there’s nothing to be gained from self-hosting a chat room which aims to be easily accessible to many.

IAM Celebrating and Glorifying Illegal Patents With Fake ‘Awards’ and Bogus ‘Endorsements’

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents, Site News at 9:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

‘Magazine’ of firearms or of actual news? IAM can do neither.

Young dachshund: Yo dawg! I herd ya got IAM 'award'

Summary: IAM’s fake ‘awards’ are nothing more than business and agenda-steering lies; it’s time to call out again the real corruption that’s driving IAM (which is itself supporting and advocating corruption)

HALF a decade ago I had an online dispute with the head honcho of IAM (Joff). He alleged that I was against EPO staff by demanding that software patents go away (which is actually what the law says should happen). It’s all in public, as the dispute was in Twitter. He was defending Benoît Battistelli (he’s still a fanboy of António Campinos and purveyor of lies) and his oppressive policy, arguing that my advocacy to abolish abstract patents would render some staff redundant. But nothing could be further from the truth; at the moment, patent examiners at the EPO are pressured to rush the process, not properly assessing all available prior art (instead approximating based on ludicrous notions like “closest prior art” based on ‘Google’). Employment is not a function of number of granted patents but of patents/patent applications done/handled right. Good patent examiners openly complain about this, as they rightly should; patent examination shouldn’t be some binary switch based on Google indexing a bunch of garbage that Google cannot even make sense of (there are many synonyms and subtleties in languages which only specialists can properly grasp and analyse, not to mention multiple languages that only polyglots can master).

“Good patent examiners openly complain about this, as they rightly should; patent examination shouldn’t be some binary switch based on Google indexing a bunch of garbage that Google cannot even make sense of…”To put it very crudely, IAM is a bunch of very disgusting assholes. I can’t think of a way to put it more politely. Yes, disgusting assholes. Maybe dishonest assholes would be more polite, but “dishonest” is an understatement. They once upon a time asked me to pass along evidence of EPO abuse. I told them repeatedly that they must not publish the evidence itself (it would put our source at risk of getting caught). But guess what IAM did. What a bunch of disgusting assholes.

Telly side eye: Oh, you again? IAM 'benchmarking' 'survey'Yes. Again. They’re disgusting assholes. Nobody who works at the EPO should take these charlatans seriously. Look where they raise money from. Literally from some of the world’s worst patent trolls; they also advocate illegal things on the EPO’s payroll. This is the kind of thing that causes many people to no longer trust the press (or anything they read/find online). These disgusting assholes who run IAM are lying to everyone every day; that’s just their business model.

Who does IAM praise and value? Look no further than this new page, basically more of an ad than anything. Shame on these IAM propagadists for giving a fake “award” to a software patents lobbyist whose career mostly involved never-ending attacks on software developers — i.e. people whom he can never understand (because he is not a coder). He has a dedicated blog regarding software patents, urging to legalise, spread and celebrate them. Does he (Mr. Lundberg) write any software? Of course not. He makes money from suing those who do. Mr. Lundberg is everything that’s wrong with that lobby and IAM now calls Steven Lundberg “software patents thought leader”; that’s like calling Raytheon a “peace thought leader”.

IAM is not alone in this; Managing IP does the same thing; those are fake “endorsements” (in effect just crude marketing) disguised as “news” and “awards”. The business model is misleading potential clients.

And if that’s not bad enough, only days ago IAM ended up reprinting a piece entitled “Securing software patents through the EPO” (basically, IAM also pushing illegal patents such as these because lawyers love law-breaking rather than obeying the law). Kuhnen & Wacker’s Rainer K Kuhnen wrote a bunch of buzzwords salad (count the buzzwords!): “There is no doubt that in recent decades the patent system has turned from almost exclusively patenting hardware to progressively patenting software. This long-time trend is gathering momentum thanks to increasingly powerful smart devices and communication technologies enabling new technology trends such as the Internet of Things or the fourth industrial revolution. AI methods have increasingly been used in image processing to recognise objects (eg, in robotics, autonomous vehicles and medical diagnostics), while AI systems using natural language processing have made virtual assistant systems such as Siri and Alexa possible.”

Oh, yes, let’s celebrate listening devices of Apple and Amazon (who also give access to all these recordings to states, cops, maybe even marketers).

Here’s some more “HEY HI” (AI) buzzwords salad: “These developments are also reflected in patent statistics. At the EPO, the proportion of computer-implemented inventions [cheeky phrase for "software patents"] in AI-related inventions rose rapidly between 1998 and 2014, especially in the automotive sector (from 36% to 63%) and medical technology sector (from 31% to 49%) and is still growing in each sector.”

Say “HEY HI” to more software patents in “computer-implemented inventions” clothing (or, to use the buzzwords above, “smart” “Internet of Things” “fourth industrial revolution” “virtual assistants” etc.), based on committees like SACEPO WPG, stacked by absolutely clueless people who never wrote a single line of code, as we noted as recently as yesterday. SACEPO WPG, not unlike IAM, is just a litigation-motivated bucket of pseudo-experts, assembled for photo ops rather than for knowledge or relevant skills.



Better Privacy Than Pretty Good Privacy

Posted in Site News at 9:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Sequoia PGP

Summary: We’re getting into distributed-as-in-decentralised and encryption-enabled page distribution; we’re also likely to be adopting Sequoia-PGP over time

THE importance of privacy is closely connected to the value of autonomy; we wrote about the EPO‘s privacy violations just moments ago. Privacy is essential for journalism, for union activity, for whistleblowers etc. No secure communication, no confidence to leak. No confidentiality, no coordination among aggrieved staff. But this post isn’t about the EPO. Coming up next/tomorrow in the “Inside the EPO During Corona” series we get to the ‘beef’ of the dispute; litigation may be next and then there’s client ‘privileged communication’ factored in as well. Few lawyers actually bother with encryption, so it’s a false promise.

Home old workplaceAt the moment the workers of the EPO have lots of spying deployed on their home computers by António Campinos; it’s worse than Benoît Battistelli with his surprise doctor visits. Is there “nowhere [left] to hide”?

“…we wish to maintain our 100% source protection record for a long time to come.”Either way, at the moment we work on a bunch of important things, including server migration, IPFS (for distributed circulation, more resistant to censorship), plain text IRC logs, and improved privacy. For IPFS we exclusively use a Raspberry Pi 4 with Debian on it. As it turns out, it can also be leveraged for better encryption, air-gapped and all… (my main workstation is always isolated from all other machines and has a minimal set of software installed)

We recently looked into Sequoia. “I think the safest practice anyone can do right now is to slowly start migrating to Sequioa and using air-gapped machines to do crypto operations,” as associate wrote. “I’m looking into an idea I’ve had for a while which I’ll explore some time in the next few months (when I actually have the time to work on it).”

As Bruce Schneier put it 11 years ago:

“Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.”

What’s posted in IRC is generally not private (or gets redacted/anonymised, usually just anonymised). But when it comes to communication with whistleblowers we are always trying to improve; we wish to maintain our 100% source protection record for a long time to come.


Techrights in an Age of Repeated Lockdowns Reality

Posted in Site News at 1:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Techrights monitoringSummary: As the virus spreads across the globe, at an even faster pace than earlier this year, it seems safe to say that this is the “new normal” and we’re adapting to that, gradually

THE UNITED STATES will soon have a new president (2 months from now) as it looks like any signs of hope/recourse are running out for Donald Trump.

“We now have a low-powered home server to serve pages in a distributed fashion over IPFS (and to disseminate new pages overnight, copying them to peers).”The next US President won’t be a nice person, except compared to his predecessor. He won’t be inheriting a good economy, to say the least. Getting COVID-19 under control will be almost impossible by then, but expect more lock-downs, accompanying market crashes (the large corporations don’t care about mass casualties; death isn’t detrimental to business as much as operational shut-downs that harm sales).

Yesterday COVID-19 killed nearly 2,000 Americans. In one day. And the cases are rising, even soaring in terms of their totals across all states. The latest graph:

COVID-19 cases in US

The pandemic won’t end any time soon; for almost half a year a number of nations have claimed to have a vaccine (many links about that posted in our Daily Links), but those were touted mostly by those who sell them, not independent assessors/investigators. Here in this site we’re adapting accordingly. We now have a low-powered home server to serve pages in a distributed fashion over IPFS (and to disseminate new pages overnight, copying them to peers). Some time very soon we’ll also move our main server to another datacenter due to a tragic death.


Something About to Hit the Fan at the EPO

Posted in Site News at 8:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: We keep hearing that French media is investigating the rogue and corrupt EPO management; there’s growing public outcry over the unjustified immunity enjoyed by organisations that front for rich and powerful corporations (and those who run them)

THE EPO scandals never stopped; it’s media coverage that stopped, at least temporarily. The EPO bribed and blackmailed publishers. Even the very big ones (and that’s really expensive, but we know who’s paying!). Then it insisted that replacing Benoît Battistelli with his younger friend would miraculously solve all the problems. Staff representatives were gagged (we’ve produced further proof of this), Techrights is still blocked Office-wide (3 countries), and we’re told that everything is OK, even if only 3% of EPO staff trust their 'new' and 'improved' President.

“The EPO bribed and blackmailed publishers.”Worry not, however, as brushing dirt under a rug/carpet is a short-term strategy. That broom can’t sweep everything indefinitely and politicians raise increasingly uncomfortable questions that Battistelli’s allies are unable and unwilling to answer (because it would reveal them too to be complicit).

Chair isolated“I just came across an article in Mediapart and it is about the death of an employee at ESA, the European Space Agency located in the Netherlands, just a few kilometers away from the EPO,” a reader told us today. “The article is beyond [behind] a paywall, however the important thing is that the French tribunal acknowledges the total immunity of an international organisation even if it is held responsible for the suicide of an employee.”

“As it turns out, there’s more on the way regarding the EPO.”Remember what the Dutch court said. And contrary to what they want us to think/believe, ILO’s toothless tribunal, EPO DCs etc. are no safeguards, either.

“Bad time, bad news,” our reader called it, “but it might open new perspectives for the defence of the employees: the Far West law.”

As it turns out, there’s more on the way regarding the EPO. “It is a good thing that Mediapart shows a journalistic interest for international organisations,” the reader noted. “AFAIK, they are preparing a series of articles about the EPO.”

We’ve heard that several times this month. Let’s wait and see.

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