Spam and freenet

10.1.10 by Tim + 86 comments!

There are so many spam comments. I’m coming around every once in a while to mark them all as spam, let me know if I mark anybody’s comment as spam accidentally and I’ll put it back. Incidentally, my favorite spam comment: “Keep up the amazing work!! I love how you wrote this and I also like the colors here on this site.” I’ve got these in an rss feed so I’ll see if anybody else writes anything, but just out of curiosity, is anybody seeing these?

I’ve been tinkering with freenet recently- not the internet service in town (”it’s not really free”) but a network designed for complete anonymity. the concept, as well as i understand it, is that every computer with access to it runs a node, which stores a certain amount of information (websites, media files, all sorts of things) encrypted on the hard drive. When someone wants to add something to the network, it’s “injected,” and stored on many computers. When they want to retrieve it, it’s searched for (by it’s decryption key) on the decentralized network. The encryption uses public and private keys, so that once something is posted, anybody can read it and verify which user posted it (if they want that to be known) but ideally it’s impossible to identify what real person corresponds to which user.

for people in countries with more oppressive governments, it’s been used as a communications network, or as a way to secretly mirror websites that their access to is blocked. It’s been used as a way to host animal and earth liberation front texts. and it’s also been used for hosting even more questionable materials, such as child porn, and countless guides on how to create explosives, poison people, and coordinate arson using timed devices. But I like it. the incredible search process and the paranoid encryption involved in any network request makes even css difficult, forums nearly impossible, and embedded flash absolutely out of the question. every page is reduced to a simple ’90s-esque style. most pages you find have been abandoned in the last few years, but if you look for a while you might find one that’s still active.

Anyways, privacy blah blah blah no government monitoring blah blah blah pretty sweet. If anybody posts anything up on it, let me know (in person or encrypted of course!)

“mostly dead” might even be a stretch

7.31.09 by Tim + 73 comments!

New Plan: I am going to try to write something poorly written every week or so, and if that means that all of the posts are mine because nobody noticed, well too bad, someone will just have to start writing in between.

“security through obscurity” is pretty self explanatory but i’ll describe it anyways. it means that you try to keep some kind of system (usually a computer) secure by keeping the way it works as secret as possible. the reason why this is lame is that if your security relies on something being a secret or hard to understand, as soon as someone figures it out, it makes it very easy for them to mess with your computer/program/server/bureaucracy/what-have-you- and then only the people who wrote it in the first place know what went wrong and how to fix it. that’s one reason why i really like open-source things. if you freely distribute the complete blueprint for something, you can hardly expect to keep anything secret, and you’re forced to use something that holds up even when EVERYONE knows how it works. THEN it has to pass through the scrutiny of many many individuals, and if one of them finds something wrong or just something that could be improved, its easy to get it out in the open, where anyone can fix it. tah-dah! open-source makes it magically better.

on an entirely unrelated note, lichens are pretty fantastic. it’s a combination of fungus and (usually) algae, which survive only because they’re in a symbiotic relationship where the algae does photosynthesis and the fungus retains extra water (more or less, it’s more complex than that, that’s just as i understand it at this point). they are also often incredibly hardy. in fact, there was an experiment conducted where they orbited lichens around the earth on a satellite and exposed them to open space for two weeks, before bringing them back down to earth, at which point they essentially recovered entirely within 24 hours, with minimal damage.

i don’t know if Cypress ever set up anything for rss feeds (did you?) but you can definitely subscribe to “” on google reader. if anyone writes, i’ll know about it pretty fast, and i think it’ll help me remember to write every once in a while. but someone else needs to write, so the people who aren’t reading this don’t get tired of me. come on, you know you want to!

It just so happens that your blog here is only MOSTLY dead

7.22.09 by Tim + 112 comments!

I think my problem is that I expect coherent thoughts that take more than a paragraph to express, and I expect to get them expressed well before I publish. This generally just prevents me from posting anything at all. So. No more attempts at coherent posts.

The moon really fascinates me. Everyone knows what it is, but it’s one of these things that we just can’t comprehend. Next time you notice the moon’s around, stare at it and comprehend the fact that what you’re staring at is 238857 miles away. Think about how HUGE it’s got to be. (can i make “that’s what she said jokes” on this blog?)

I am vaguely reminded of an incident at Boys State, when we were waiting in the basement of the cafeteria for the hail to stop, and I found myself conversing with someone about climate change, the environment, and natural resources. he explained to me his really interesting view of space exploration- eventually humanity is going to grow off of the planet earth and into colonies on other planets, first in our solar system, and then beyond. He thought of it as a magnificent destiny for us, but I thought it seemed kind of sad, relying on being able to leave behind planets which we’ve effectively destroyed or which have no more resources that hold value to us.

I like to read anti-civilization books sometimes. Anarcho-primitivism is pretty cool i think, even if it’s not ever going to happen just because we want it to. Derrick Jensen in “A Language Older Than Words” wrote an interesting passage i thought… something about how every day he gets up and wonders if instead of writing the next chapter, he should blow up a dam. I’m afraid I’d lean more towards the blowing up a dam side.

suggested anti-civilization reading: Ishmael, and Beyond Civilization (Daniel Quinn), A Language Older Than Words (Derrick Jensen), this one pamphlet I found downtown about how agriculture is bad.

Freenet is a weird concept. First off this is not the Freenet which has wireless hotspots around town (”they’re not free”) this is a network designed to give total privacy to its users. I really think I believe in privacy, but I wasn’t happy with it. Because it was pulling everything off of random other computers, in random pathways where everything is encrypted, it was almost unbearably slow, even for pages that were purely text. what was interesting was what it was used for. A significantly large amount of the websites were either: porn, in french, or about ecoterrorism. So you know, if you ever need information about blowing up dams or monkeywrenching, i can totally show you where to go.

I’m pretty confident in that stream-of-consciousness kind of organization. this was a triumph. just as a test, anyone who reads this should comment so we can get an idea of how often anybody’s checking the blog at this point. THE END

Electronic Paper

4.16.09 by Cypy + 90 comments!

I firmly believe that information is heavily influenced by the medium through which it is communicated. Before the printed word, most information was spread by word of mouth. Conversation is a very intimate and linear form of communication. It is intimate because it usually comprises information that directly affects the person who is listening (“go wash your dirty clothes”), and it is completely linear: the listener must dedicate attention to the words being presented until the communication is finished, and cannot skip around the content freely. Printed words are a different method of communication, and thus convey different content. Many books are not personal, and do not have any immediate relation to the life of the reader. Books may be used in reference, or skimmed through. Written information presented on the Internet is yet again very different, and I believe computer screens have some unfortunate disadvantages. The typical screen is much more difficult to read for long periods of time than printed media because it is constantly refreshing, backlit, and hurts peoples’ eyes. On the other hand, paper and ink is illuminated by ambient light and does not constantly refresh. Because it is more difficult to read from screens than from paper, the medium diminishes the possibility of publishing long “books” because most people will not read them. Almost everything that is written on the Internet is far shorter than an average book. While people are reading on the Internet, they absorb only snippets of information and are losing their ability to read anything longer than a page. The Internet has a huge potential as a source of knowledge and entertainment in the form of written material, but most of its possibilities are limited by the screen, the final gateway to a person’s eyes.

Electronic paper has the potential to revolutionize communication. In the status quo, I believe e-paper products such as the Kindle have been a failure. Amazon is making millions of dollars off the Kindle, and the device aspires to be revolutionary, but it simply isn’t revolutionary enough. I believe the device has two types of problems. The first type of problem with the Kindle is simply hardware issues. E-paper needs to have a functional 8-bit grayscale display (not just 16 levels of gray), a reasonable frame rate when displaying moving content, and it needs to be affordable before it can be used to its full potential. I am sure e-paper companies are trying very hard to improve the technology, and I am excited to see what will come of their research. Unfortunately, the next type of problem is much more insidious. Companies like Amazon are designing their products as new closed-use devices. The Kindle is considered not as a new medium to display old information, but as an “E-Book.” The name conveys a sense of backwardness—an unrelenting effort to preserve an old technology (the book)—and even worse, implies that it is confined to one function (e.g., downloading books from Amazon), when the whole flexible Internet is available for information distribution. Yes, Amazon has ‘authorized’ certain websites to be viewable on the Kindle, but the very fact that they have authorized websites indicates that they are restricting the distribution of content. To access the full potential of e-paper, it needs to be marketed as a computer display, not as a book. If we could create an affordable electronic paper device that would be compatible with an ordinary computer, more people would be comfortable reading longer material online, and consequently, more authors would publish book-length material on their websites. E-paper would combine the ease of reading inherent in paper, and the enormous stash of information from the Internet. When the technology catches on in the future, I predict books in the new e-paper context will not be limited to the usual published material that we think of as a book, but the whole meaning of ‘book’ will change to encompass any lengthly and well-written content online.

—This post was inspired by Is Google Making Us Stupid by Nicholas Charr, which I highly recommend that you read. Charr claims that reading too many short articles* can make someone lose their ability to read long books.

*like this one

Another Unfortunate Trend

3.9.09 by Cypy + 2 comments!

I have always been fascinated with the way things around me worked. As a child, I wanted to take everything apart and look inside to see the gears. Fortunately for me, there were plenty of broken appliances around our house that I could peer inside. Our piano was old and falling apart, so I was able to open the front and play with the mallets and strings. I replaced a nightlight bulb twice: first by unscrewing the lamp and taking the cover off, and second (years later) by cutting the metal cover that encased the bulb, and bending it out of place. Apparently I forgot there were screws on the side. Just recently I disassembled an old printer and several old telephones. I also remember taking apart a stuffed animal (carefully, with a seam-ripper) removing his stuffing, and re-filling him with other things.

In the “good old days” (cliche alert!), everything was made to be taken apart and fixed. Now, more and more products adopt circuit boards, batteries, and seal their insides with glue instead of screws. Even computers, which have always had circuit boards with tiny chips, have become more difficult to disassemble as they have gradually shrunk in size. I’d be a fool to attempt to take apart my laptop without breaking it.

I am concerned that the more “advanced” our products become, the less we will understand them, because if you can’t open it, you don’t own it.