11.09.20

Why Becoming Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and Distributed Will Improve Preservation and Free Speech (Amongst Other Things)

Posted in Site News at 7:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

IPFS animation

Summary: A quickstart-type explanation of how IPFS works and why it works for us; the main benefit is long-term preservation and resistance to censorship

OVER a month ago we started seeing technical problems at Groklaw (which is still offline by the way) and that’s why we started reproducing Bill Gates deposition videos, encoded as Ogg files for/by Groklaw more than a decade ago.

“We realise the concept may be baffling to people who grew up on BBS (centralised), dial-up modems, Netscape (HTTP) and never used things like newsgroups.”The information published here needs to outlive this Web site (let’s face it, no site lasts forever and the Web itself will perish sooner or later). So it’s not a bad idea to distribute and decentralise this site, ensuring the same material can come from lots of different nodes all around the world. We realise the concept may be baffling to people who grew up on BBS (centralised), dial-up modems, Netscape (HTTP) and never used things like newsgroups. That’s a lot of us who embraced the Internet and then the Web (which is too bloated 2 decades after it became commercially available to the private market outside universities, military and so on).

IPFS logoAt the moment we use IPFS (not gopher or SFTP or many other options; even GNU has one). We’ve received help from an IPFS expert, who assisted setup at our home, which now has one of many nodes (IPFS is growing faster than people realise). The technical details aren’t too ‘gory’ or baffling to those who have used P2P applications since the 1990s (popularised by media file-sharing). As someone put it a couple of years ago: “In computers, communication protocols usually exist in bundles (called a protocol suite) of several layers. For example, the Internet protocol suite consists of 4 layers, each of which is responsible for specific functions. In addition to communication protocols, an important relationship to understand is the basic structure of the interconnections between the computers. This is known as the system architecture. Several exist, but the two types relevant to us are client-server and peer-to-peer networks. The internet is dominated by client-server relationships, which rely on the Internet Protocol suite. Of these, Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the basis for communication.”

That’s in rather simple terms. Here’s another somewhat older explanation:

Redundancy is central to digital preservation. When only one copy exists, it’s easy to destroy it. Backups and mirrors help, and the more copies there are, the safer the content is. The InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) is a recent technology that could be tremendously valuable in creating distributed archives. [...] IPFS is based on a radical vision. Its supporters say that HTTP is broken and needs a replacement. What they mean is that location-based addressing by URLs makes the Web fragile. If a server loses a file, you get a 404 error. If the serving domain goes away, you don’t get any HTTP response. IPFS ensures the persistent availability of files by allowing multiple copies on nodes of a peer network. The trick is that they’re addressed by content, not name. An IPFS identifier uses a hash of the content. This protects against file tampering and degradation at the same time; it also means that objects are immutable.

Our IPFS node runs on a Debian-based Raspberry Pi with Gopher as in the Go language, not the gopher protocol. In due course we might expand to more protocols. Ultimately we’d like to think that many people who aren’t already reading the site using full RSS (XML) will adopt non-Web protocols. The Web is far too bloated and it’s increasingly being monopolised by companies that shove DRM and surveillance down everyone’s throats. The Web became the ‘Disney of the Internet’, governed by the likes of the RIAA and their Microsoft sidekicks. It’s time to get rid of that and perhaps the simplest correction is complete abandonment of the protocol (the fatigue is rapidly growing). You don’t need the Web to get information; the Web is sometimes more noise than signal, cluttering the minds and undermining society.

11.08.20

Techrights is Now on the Decentralised Web

Posted in Site News at 2:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Pigeons used to deliver mail; why can’t readers become peers?

Pigeons

Summary: To mark our anniversary we’re pleased to announce we’ll be fully available in a peer-to-peer (P2P) fashion as well as the traditional Web interface

FOR quite some time we’ve been planning and preparing for something better than the World Wide Web, seeing there was fatigue and dissatisfaction (which we largely share). Last month we prepared a text-only edition of the site, dubbed daily bulletins. At the same time we explored alternative distribution protocols and potential for self-hosting, with redundancy built in across the Internet. Days ago we set up a Raspberry Pi 4 to act as a server and more (utilities, desktop that sometimes goes headless, now IPFS node).

IPFS logoAdded to our IRC proceedings, which will (starting tomorrow) highlight the IPFS CIDs distributed for each IRC log file, is a new daily section, accessible over RSS/Atom (XML), not just (X)HTML, along with the CID of the latest daily bulletin, which is text-based and self-contained. A full index of all CIDs is being maintained here and will be periodically updated.

“After ‘going public’ today we hope that more readers will adopt this non-Web approach.”Not many sites have adopted such distribution models; we’re a relatively early adopter and we’ll have a lot more to say about it in days/weeks to come. Our node, which is a few days old, has already handled about 3 gigabytes in traffic. After ‘going public’ today we hope that more readers will adopt this non-Web approach. Many read the site using purely/partly RSS feeds, last month it became possible to read this site with just a simple text editor, and now it’s becoming possible to access and share the site in a P2P fashion/approach, owing to IPFS.

11.06.20

Looking Back at 14 Years of Activism and Journalism

Posted in Site News at 7:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Looking back, going away

Summary: Reflections after 14 years of Techrights and plans/focus for the 15th year of this site

OUR 29,000th blog post will be published later this month and 30,000th blog post in late winter (or spring).

“There’s no foreseen shift in focus.”We’ve barely diverged from the topics first covered here (in 2006). We’re still writing a lot about patents, about Microsoft’s aggression against GNU/Linux (this site predates the Linux Foundation, which now works for Microsoft).

There’s no foreseen shift in focus. In early 2019 we reduced our focus on the USPTO because 35 U.S.C. § 101 dominated court cases, almost always invaliding software patents. By that point the EPO was also getting quieter, so it was hard to know what exactly went on there. UPC already died 2 years earlier, so not much was left to fight on that front. But remember… the UPC is coming “Real Soon!” (it’s always coming soon, even back in 2014)

SurikatRight now we worry greatly about entyrism and concurrent attacks on free speech (to silence/scare resistors); Today’s Linux Foundation is a front for monopolies, not for Linux. Any connection to Linux is purely coincidental and limited to the brand (and their best known employee being the trademark holder of this brand).

Bill Gates is still involved in Microsoft and his tactics have not changed. It’s all about monopoly and brutal repressions designed to eternally protect monopoly. In his own words:

“The fact that there’s some e-mail here at MS that says ‘let’s go up and beat this guy’: there’s nothing wrong with that – that is capitalism at work for consumers.”

No, that’s “capitalism at work” for you, Bill. You were born extremely rich and right now you profit endlessly from COVID-19 while the media no longer asks you about your close relationship with the most notorious sex trafficker, ever. We hope to get our hands on court documents soon — court-signed material about the imprisonment (over pedophilia) of Bill’s personal engineer, arrested at his mansion several years before the story resurfaced and was properly studied (we released plenty of police documents earlier this year and still possess over 2,700 pages we cannot publish).

A Techrights Birthday (14 Years Since Its Birth in 2006) is Today

Posted in Site News at 7:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Cakes dark

Summary: We’re entering our 15th year as a site, with record traffic and a record number of contributors; we’re expanding beyond the World Wide Web as well, partly as means of staying ahead of the curve

AS we’re technically (and officially) under lock-down we cannot really go out to mark the event, but staying home with some cakes was still a possibility. My writings online predate the site and articles about patents go further back than 2006, but this site grew very fast after it had been set up and the past year was a record year (no matter what criteria are measured), maybe because of the growing urgency of software freedom in time of “Corona” and coups against our leadership figures.

Techrights cakes darkThe ‘party’ was ridiculously boring and laughably small; but it’s kind of compatible with geeks’ standards if not nerds’ standards (geeks sans social skills), so we probably won’t get laughed at. At least we did something. Considering the current limitations (movement and purchases), it’s not too pathetic an effort. We got those cakes early enough.

TechrightsIPFS node is now properly set up in a self-hosted (our home) Raspberry Pi and has a new object online (the first one). Techrights will become available in more than one medium (beyond HTTP), as we’ve already done format-shifting to reduce our dependence on — or rather adherence to — SGML. The daily bulletins contain almost as much information as HTML (but are vastly smaller, compacted text-only files, one per day).

Growing Centralisation Means More Spying and Censorship

Posted in Site News at 3:53 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It’s easier to collect, sell and hand over data when it’s in few places

Subway - grand central station
Can’t even enter the subway anymore (e.g. London’s “Tube”) without giving your identity

Summary: In order to tackle surveillance on the Internet we need far more than HTTPS and certificates (they do nothing to tackle spying at the endpoints); we need to move towards a decentralised and encrypted Internet where it’s inherently difficult to track where people go and what they do

MINUTES ago I stumbled upon this headline about “smart [sic] collar for pets” (and their so-called ‘owners’). Like kids who upload videos of their parents and grandparents, sometimes against their will and without implicit/explicit consent (it’s harder to explain those concepts to children), here we have another vector for spying “by peer” (spying on non-consenting people nearby or close to those who are, e.g. Amazon “listening devices” disguised as “smart” assistants… assistants to spies basically). With fitness “trackers” and all sorts of “health”-related gadgets and “apps” that broadcast data to governments and private companies (farming people’s behaviour/thoughts) we’re not moving in a positive direction, are we?

One can only guess what comes next, but it’s a futurist’s challenge.

“We’re working on making this site accessible in a P2P fashion.”The surveillance of children and pets extends to humans and adults. Consent isn’t needed from the subject of surveillance when that subject chooses to associate with those who disregard privacy or were told not to care (because “nothing to hide” or some similar malarkey). People will need to start caring and then speaking about such things; we already have sufficient volumes of leaks to demonstrate not only theoretical threats but practical harms. We know how society as a whole, individually as well as collectively, is harmed by ‘mind farming’ in social control media and various so-called services that spy on and simultaneously indoctrinate (or program) people. Centralised platforms (not just Web-based) are a core issue almost nobody talks about, not even the EFF it seems

Central towerThe response to this cannot be limited to philosophical; it should also be technical (where this is feasible and we generally have the skillset). We’re working on making this site accessible in a P2P fashion. We’ve taken the first step by self-hosting (at home) for small files, with examples such as this (IPFS). There’s an uptime and resilience advantage associated with this (censorship resistance notwithstanding), as we recently saw in Groklaw's case. When it comes to security, remember what Bruce Schneier once said:

“The problem isn’t the Internet. The problem is the horribly insecure computers attached to the Internet. I would rather rewrite Windows than TCP/IP.”

TCP/IP is a perfectly fine protocol (UDP likewise, for DNS and several other purposes). The Internet is generally OK. It works. It’s the World Wide Web that’s getting troublesome, partly because of what Web browsers have become.

Self-Hosting Parts of Techrights and Experiments With IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) for Distribution

Posted in Site News at 6:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Chair

Summary: Things are changing around here because it looks like the Internet approaches a tipping point (rebellion against bloat and surveillance)

THE Internet is fine. It’s not great, but it’s mostly OK. UDP is still used a lot (it is perfectly OK for a lot of things where packet sequencing isn’t so essential a factor), but Web sites or pages reject it. See, nowadays it’s considered normal to serve people up to 50 MB for a single article/page (videos, proprietary fonts, and full-scale photographs about 4,000 pixels across), not to mention loads and loads of JavaScript from as many as 50 different domains to occupy 4 CPU cores to their full capacity. That really sucks. So-called ‘Web applications’ make it hard to escape (they would not work without such JavaScript) and old computers are considered unfit for purpose, causing ewaste and spurring unnecessary sales of increasingly user-hostile hardware. Nowadays most browsers also come with blobs for DRM; they encrypt and decrypt things for no purpose other than serving so-called ‘holders’ of copyrights (never mind how easy it is to work around such restrictions).

Screw this. We need change. It has gone too far. The days of ‘collaborating’ by sending around — back and forth — E-mails with 5 MB Microsoft Office attachments are long gone (the Web served to eliminate such practices), but we’re walking into even worse territories of endless surveillance — down to one’s mouse movements — and limitless bloat. This is a ticking time bomb.

“The days of ‘collaborating’ by sending around — back and forth — E-mails with 5 MB Microsoft Office attachments are long gone (the Web served to eliminate such practices), but we’re walking into even worse territories of endless surveillance — down to one’s mouse movements — and limitless bloat.”Every day around midnight (depending on timezone), Techrights produces a text-only version of all articles, including Daily Links. We started doing that just over a week ago and we’ve received only praise for that. Many people are sick and tired of how the Web works. The text-only bulletins can be opened and read without a Web browser, even directly from some plain text editors, command line tools and so on. They’re fast to access, cheap in the CPU/RAM sense (both server and client side; those are static files after all), and they’re easy to archive even at the reader’s (or user’s) side. They are, after all, just a collection of singular text files (images are converted into descriptions of the pictures and/or the text in the pictures). When we started the whole thing we had torrents, gopher and several other things in mind. But soon came IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) experts, enthusiatically offering to help us with the technical side/aspect (here’s Wikipedia’s introduction to IPFS). Last night we set up a new Raspberry Pi machine that had arrived just hours earlier. Someone sent it to us and we’ve set up remote access so we can explore more self-hosting (from home). Time will tell how this evolves or turns out (we envision transport of text-only files, which are more self-contained than Web pages with loads of files in each).

WordPress will still be used for this site (we’ve almost exceeded 30,000 posts in WordPress) and we don’t plan to go “static” or serve cached pages any time soon (WordPress scales fine given the hardware we currently have, except when we hit the front page of some very major Web site). We’ll still upload loads of files (see below) whilst always ensuring that blind people (or image-blind people who read text only) miss nothing that each image provides.

Wordpress closeup

Long term, we’d like to think that the majority of people will read this site without the World Wide Web (or a Web — as in WWW — browser). We need to look past all that. Pleroma already supports gopher and someone said to me yesterday in Pleroma about the FSF: “they should just not renew it and switch entirely to GNUNet for distributing its website or something” (the context being FSF “let[ting] its SSL cert expire. You’d think they should have this in the diary and renew in advance if they’re run properly.”)

“The growing complexity of the Web (and Web browsers that actively block access to those who reject such complexity) is partly to blame for downtime (of services that are actually up albeit blacklisted by centralised CAs).”Yes, the FSF’s site was not accessible or barely accessible for a while because somebody forgot to renew certificates. The growing complexity of the Web (and Web browsers that actively block access to those who reject such complexity) is partly to blame for downtime (of services that are actually up albeit blacklisted by centralised CAs). We need to explore something else, potentially something a lot better and a lot less bloated.

11.05.20

Our Fourteenth Anniversary Also Marks a Milestone, Concludes a Record Year, and There’s Some ‘Hope’ (for ‘Change’) Going Ahead

Posted in Site News at 11:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We’ll have posted 30,000 blog posts later this winter

EMOM Techrights

Summary: Our 14-year anniversary is coming shortly; here are some preparatory notes

This coming Saturday (third day of England’s lock-down, so no chance of going out for purposes like celebrating) we celebrate not just 14 years (see our tenth), as noted in our recent post about the anniversary. We also celebrate a record year.

“We’ve been missing some opportunities to cover important issues…”Just this afternoon we received a new Raspberry Pi as a gift for the site (we’ll set it up to help run the site later today, tomorrow and this coming weekend). This has been keeping us busier.

Techrights birthday

One more thing that keeps us busier than usual is election coverage. Here’s the election status from the GOP-leaning WSJ (as of an hour ago).

Biden-Trump status

This lesser evil is a bit of an early ‘gift’ to us (it’s not great, but a lot less menacing than another 4 years of US fascism orchestrated by GOP). We’re going to use the banner above for a little ‘local’ (in-home) party and then carry on as usual. We’ve been missing some opportunities to cover important issues, including GitHub leaks (their code leaked), retaliation against Microsoft’s complicity with the RIAA and so much more. This seems to have done a lot of damage to GitHub’s monopoly; time will tell…

11.03.20

Groklaw Down for ~10 Days Now, Techrights Investigates Ways to Bring This Essential Site Back Online

Posted in Site News at 6:40 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Moe Howard: Groklaw.net, The site Microsoft wants offline

Groklaw.net cache

Summary: We’ve escalated the issue of Groklaw‘s downtime (10 days and counting now), with further updates to come soon and more details in our IRC logs

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