Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (June 2024)

4 people standing (3 female and 1 male) look into their phones

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed while seeing the latest shiny AI device as simply a Android launcherFUD pointing at Signal & Proton and AI bots dating other each other?

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with Meta sued under section 230Microsoft providing passkey support for all its users and finally some agreement around Bluetooth tracking.


Is the C-suite at fault for the current tech problems?

Ian thinks: This new series by Zittron looking at how the tech industry is being run by people who have far less interest in the technology. Some call it the maturing of the sector but its clear from the Zittron this isn’t necessarily a good thing

We need a public service internet. no really!

Ian thinks This is not going to come as a surprise to many readers but iit really unites a number of the different initiatives. Futher adding fuel to the slowly burning fire.

GoFundMe is worst that you can imagine

Ian thinks: Most people have seen a range of crowdfunding profiles/sites/apps for tragic healthcare cases, Even I pointed at the lack of public healthcare systems but the podcast goes so much deeper, pointing out who gets funding, how and ultimately how Crowdfunding sites profit from the misery.

Not heard about Deadbots?

Ian thinks: Digital recreations of dead people or deadbots, is on the rise and this Guardian piece highlights the rise and problems with them. The idea of them haunting others could be a real big problem in the future.

Is Passkeys a dream too far?

Ian thinks: Reading this flags a lot of alerts, MicrosoftGoogle and many more have thrown weight behind it. I still use them but alongside other multifactor authentication.

Time to own your own home page?

Ian thinks: Reading about the return of the home page is a interesting read but I can’t help but remember Steven Pemberton’s presentation from a long time ago.

Use the artificial creativity

Ian thinks: I found Ruskoff’s monologue about Gen AI is quite balanced and reminds us all of the problem with the wider ecosystem. Gen AI will create generic stuff but won’t create the next generation of anything without human creativity.

A public bid to acquire TikTok?

Ian thinks: The Tiktok bans are popping up everywhere and I found this news quite unique. With a billionaire buying Tiktok for the public good? There is a lot more detail on project liberty..

Does Data Colonialism exist?

Ian thinks: One of the most thought-provoking talks in Re:Publica this year, I felt. When layed out in a new book data grab, the professors make a compelling case for how the only word to describe now is data colonialism.


Find the archive here

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Jan 2022)

Mozfest 2022

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed thinking about the security & privacy of live facial recognition, Qualcomm’s always on smartphone camera and the erosion of community over convenience.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with seeing the work around better AI pictures, Lush closed down its social media accounts. and even Elon Musk & Jack Dorsey’s doubts about Web3.


Mozilla Festival 2022 tickets now available

Ian thinks: There is so much to love about the Mozilla festival and 2022 will include a virtual mozfest and a more distributed programme over months. Its exciting to be part of something special.

App tracking via tunnel technology

Ian thinks: I always found tunneling technologies like VPNs powerful ways to understand the characteristics of networks. Duck duck go’s app tracking uses the technique to shine a light on app surveillance on Android devices.

WordPress Matt’s humble thoughts on saving the internet

Ian thinks: Personally I find Matt Mullenweg one of the most humble and thoughtful people out of the valley. I would never underestimate him and the open interconnected services he’s creating. I find this profile of him clearly one to watch.

Technocultural through the eyes of black technology

Ian thinks: This talk by Dr Andre Brook is a strong talk given at Microsoft with a lot of pointers to positive alternative technologies and approaches which benefit all minorities.

1000 true fans, back with a vengeance?

Ian thinks: Kevin Kelly’s original blog was well thought out and this follow on looking at coming technology does give Kevin’s original blog a lot of legs.

Sleep walking into an advertisers dream

Ian thinks: Although very much early days, the studies so far are alarming and needs a lot of consideration. They had me, as someone who tracks their sleep every night.

Calculating the true environmental impact of AI

Ian thinks: Quantifying the carbon impact of different aspects of our lives is critical. What I like about this is not just applying it AI systems but the different practical methods being developed.

Could Filecoin be used for more public service purposes?

Ian thinks: Within this interesting discussion, there is aspects which could be useful for the public service internet. Shame Kevin pulls Mikeal off talking about it in detail.

The Economist’s 2022 look ahead has a couple of good points

Ian thinks: These prediction type things are everywhere at the start of the year. However I did find 2 stories about African fashion and Hybrid work, had some good points.

The last word on Meta

Ian thinks: This Vice documentary pretty much sums up everything to be said about Facebook/Meta. Even includes Lawrence Lessig along other smart people.


Find the archive here

I lost all trust for Zoom yesterday…

British PM on Zoom
Wonder how many people have tried to dial into that zoom id?

Yesterday I was on a zoom call which was hijacked or zoombombed with something not just horrible but totally illegal. Because of this I have pretty much lost all trust in zoom.

This is of course very difficult as its what we use at work and of course being in the middle of the covid19 lockdown, makes things tricky. Because of this, I’m going to still use it but with much more caution and I’m going to be a lot more forceful about the hosting side of it.

Its clear war-dialers for public Zoom meetings is so easy and well used by inscrutable groups of people. Zoom could make sharable links much more difficult to war dial, similar to the way Google docs uses combinations of characters and numbers to make a much longer url, a lot harder to war-dial.

The defaults of Zoom, is setup for a semi trusted corporate environment. I understand the covid-19 pandemic changed everything but there has been many updates and only now is the defaults only just safe. Their share prices have rocketed but they are only now focused on security ahead of more features?

Their idea of end to end encryption is a total dump on top of the security findings saying some calls are being routed via China.. Today they announce you can choose your routing but you need to pay for it. More governments and companies are blocking zoom because they just don’t trust it.

Likewise neither do I… but I will use it… with caution.

I have been thinking about an equivalent, and thought about two.

  1. I lost trust in Facebook a long while ago but still use it for volleyball events and the occasional post about something I feel could be important for friends, family and the public who don’t read my blog (as its posted on the internet already, I post publicly adopting the indieweb Posse approach, much to the surprise of some friends). For example I posted what happened on zoom yesterday there today.
    Facebook was hardly trustworthy to start with and over and over again they took the living daylights with our data.
  2. There was a point when Windows Vista pushed as the step/edition of Windows XP and I didn’t like what Microsoft had done to it. To be fair I didn’t trust them and saw shadows of where things were heading. So I switched to Ubuntu.I know the new Microsoft is quite different of course but the damage was done.

If you are hosting a Zoom call, please do lock it down theres a number of guides to help including this one.

Media Molecule allows you to Dream?

A few people have mentioned Dreams to me especially in respect to interactive experiences and creating your own.

I don’t own a PlayStation 4 (although I just ordered the Playstation Classic) but ever since I saw Little Big Planet’s creation mode, been blown away by the possibilities. So I was impressed they doubled down on this feature in Dreams.

However there is something which bugs me…

Imagine putting all that work into your dream/world (as such), because some of them look incredible. Who owns the dream?

I’m wondering if there is a export mode for the dreams? If there was, how would it be exported? A flatten video wouldn’t cut it. You almost need something like Google Stadia, but thats also a unknown entity too (although maybe this is what the Microsoft and Sony thing is all about?). Ultimately I’d hate to spend hours/days/weeks working on something incredible and for it to be stuck in a world which could die in the next generation of the console or if the game doesn’t sell well enough? I won’t even mention ip challenges of the dreams…

Maybe it was time for a exportable descriptive language for interactive narratives which is platform neutral?

Just a thought…

Over 10 years of serious Ubuntu

Desktop Screenshot

Its ironic to hear Microsoft Windows Vista has finally come to its end of life (i’d argue it was dead on arrival), it was the move to Vista which sparked me to stop running Linux on a spare machine/as a second operating system and wipe windows XP off. One day I decided enough playing around, I’m not moving to Vista, I’m moving to Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn.

Before then I was playing with Knoppix, Debian and earlier versions of Ubuntu 6.06 and 6.10 but it was 7.04 when I took things serious. Since then I’ve not really looked back. It quite amazing to think how Ubuntu has changed over the last 10 years, especially with Unity and Gnome; but the dominance of linux generally is fascinating.

BBC vows, to finally make it digital

BBC Microbit

Finally after so many peoples attempts to kick start the BBC Micro revolution for the 21 century. The BBC has finally announced its partnership with Google, Microsoft and Samsung to place the Microbit in the hands of children across the UK.

The BBC director general has pledged to do for coding and digital technology what the BBC Micro did for the emerging home computing era in the 1980s.

Tony Hall was speaking after he unveiled details of the BBC’s Make It Digital initiative, a partnership with 50 organisations, including Google, Microsoft and Samsung, that will give ‘micro bit’ coding devices – around 1m of them – to every 11-year-old in the country.

The BBC will launch a season of programmes and online activity, including a drama based on Grand Theft Auto and tie-ups with Doctor Who, EastEnders, and Radio 1.

Hall compared the initiative to the BBC Micro, built by Acorn Computers, which was many children’s first experience of computing 30 years ago.

I can tell you this has been a long time coming and there are some seriously amazing people who have been directly and indirectly involved in the very long run up to this.

So many in-fact, I feel if I was to start naming them, I would do a massive injustice to many many people who tried and etched away at the BBC to allow others to make their voices heard. I once tried to do a mind map of the people connected, and I still have it from many years ago.

I can’t wait to see the microbit in kids hands and see the unthinkable things they will do with it. Its been very well thought out and I love the fact its not trying to replace anything else including the RaspberryPI.

What happened to Ubuntu Unity across all devices?

Ubuntu devices

Interesting to think about while watching the Microsoft Windows 10 launch… What even happened to the Ubuntu on Android?

Update: A number of friends commented on my blog entry.

Jas finds an engadget entry talking about how the launch will be limited to Europe and the East.

https://twitter.com/Jas/status/563777195114770432

How can we ever trust the 5 stacks?

There is a lot to be said about Aral Balkan‘s talk from The Next Web conference (I gather his RSA talk had less technical problems). However I heard and saw it live at Thinking Digital 2014 a few days ago. Like when I heard him talk at Thinking Digital 2013, there was so much I wanted to say in return.

I agree on some level that its about the user experience, I disagree open source and free software is a lie, waste of time and not really free (Aral cleared up the fact he was talking about cost not freedom) Picking the low hanging fruit is certainly entertaining but is unfair, for example Mozilla’s dependence on Google is eye watering but there was no mention of Ubuntu, with their own phone, tablet, TV and computer operating system. I mean Ubuntu totally redesigned their operating environments to work consistently across all of them.

Thinking Digital 2014

During Thinking Digital most of the people I spoke to after Aral’s talk were unaware of most of the problems. I was frankly a little shocked and annoyed this was news to many smart people. But thinking about it some more, Aral’s calls to action afterwards were missing, so most people just felt like it was hopeless. (Maybe a little scaremongering?) Just what you want to ponder over at lunch time…?

I don’t blame Aral (although it always sounds like I have beef with him always), he highlighted the problem but if he included a few thoughtful practical actions (Although as Aral points out, his main takeaway/action was to create Indie Tech alternatives), it could be less gloomy and less fearful…

  1. Read the EULA (End User License Agreement) even skimming it will help you understand whats going on. (although I totally understand how verbose and how hard they are to understand.
  2. Take some responsibility for your own actions
  3. Take an interest and set your limits for issues like net neutrality, copyright, security, privacy, etc.
  4. Support the Open Rights Group (and others fighting for your online rights)
  5. Evaluate the services you use on cost in time, cost in privacy and cost in ownership. Everyone has a figure/percentage, if you don’t… get one!

The Big Picture - Open Rights Group

As mentioned in my post from the quantified self 2014, everyday its becoming even more difficult to trust any of the stack/cloud providers. Not only is the EULA changing more times that is reasonable but there’s some seriously messed up (law breaking) things happening.

Google, Facebook and Amazon have shown us again this week why the combination of a quasi-monopoly, vested interests and an inscrutable algorithm can be a dangerous thing for internet users, since it allows them to influence what we see, know and buy.

Don’t even get me started on Facebooks new messenger app which listens and Apple’s EULA which Norway agrees is over convoluted. The 5 stacks just can’t help themselves but comb through our data and when that runs out they want even more. Its certainly the main business model of the early 21st centenary but it doesn’t have to be that way. Very interesting when put in the context of Mariana Mazzucato’s fast paced talk from Thinking Digital 2014.

public vs private sectors

Even quasi-monopolies can be toppled or made to operate within the realms of public good and moral acceptable. We just need to be smart and work together. This is partly why I’m going to make my way down to Brighton for Indie Tech summit.

Although I’m writing about Aral’s talk again, he’s wasn’t the best of the conference. Sure I’ll go into plenty of detail in the next post.

Update – Jo from Indiephone has wrote a follow up piece about this post clearing up some of my points.

What a waste of all that power…

Xbox

Adrian retweeted a post from the Guardian about Microsoft commissioning original content and popular stuff like Game of Thrones.

Microsoft’s move into original programming pitches it deep into Netflix and Amazon territory in the battle to control the living room. The company has so far publicly revealed a slate of just six shows that will air on its Xbox games console – including a Steven Spielberg-produced TV series based on its hit game franchise Halo, a documentary on former console giant Atari, and a remake of Swedish scifi drama Humans in conjunction with Channel 4. However, the intention is to build a TV powerhouse.

My instant thought was… what a waste of all that power. Not only processing power but sensors and data. In my opinion, if Microsoft were smart they would commission content which is perceptive. Make it exclusively for xbox users and narrow the gap between TV and Games. For goodness sake they already have the ability to layer graphics over the top of programming using the HDMI pass through!

Its almost a crying shame that they have all this in place but seem doomed to follow the rest of the industry. Specially with all those patents they have in this area!

Disruptive this is not… yes another step towards another stack growing but not a leap forward

Remix with a new Surface

Surface with the remix project attached

Simon tweeted me about the Microsoft’s idea of a new remix platform. Some instantly thinking I wouldn’t be interested because heck its nothing like the now legendary pacemaker. My negativity is centred around things like Armin’s project which to be honest isn’t so great (still don’t know what he put his name to it).

The Surface remix project isn’t a DJ platform but rather a remix platform. Yes you could do a little mixing on it but realistically it for making music. The thing which got me interested was the interface. From what I understand about the Microsoft surface is that the keyboard is clicked on, but what if you could click other types of inputs in? It would certainly beat the problem of touching glass.

Will this extended beyond the one smart modified smartcover? I doubt it, Microsoft are well known for wanting to control everything but then again what they did with the Xbox Kinect was good news, although I’ve not seen anything like this recently. If it was a open source project with open and published hardware and software specs, I would be a lot more interested.

I’ll keep an eye on it but I don’t hold out hope for anything ground breaking…

The ammyy scam: the worst social engineering I’ve ever heard

Email Scam

For some stupid reason which I have no idea… I got 3 calls from a call centre while I was at home trying to work today.

It got to be a bit of joke by the second call because with the first call I got so peed off about what they were trying to tell me I just hung up after 30secs. When someone called again, claiming to be calling from Microsoft customer support, this time I playing along with this call just to waste there time and work out what they wanted me to do so i could warn other people not to follow the steps.

Caller: open Internet Explorer and type in ammyy.com.

Caller: click to download and install ammyy

Me: I can’t do that (lies of course)

Caller: Why not? click the link and choose install.

Anyway that went on and on for about 20mins, and so of course I hit Twitter with some funny bits I was hearing on the phone. By the time I finished… I was doing stuff like using the toilet and saying I was still in front of the windows XP machine (I would have thought the sound of me peeing would be a clear clue that I wasn’t really listening)

By the time it finished, Nic Ferrier suggested I should record them next time they call. So I did, but I didn’t catch the start of the conversation, so I started recording about 10-15mins in. Here’s the recording with a con-artist.

Recording-1 with a con-artist by cubicgarden

It is a scam (so popular its actually called the ammyy scam) as you can guess but weirdly it does actually catch people out… [1][2][3]

Hopefully the recording will help raise the profile of this scam and stop other people falling for this frankly terriable social engineering scam.

Kinect the fast growing, all down to the hackers

Sony’s War on Makers, Hackers, and Innovators

Microsoft announced today that it has sold 10 million Kinect sensors since the Xbox 360 accessory launched in November. In addition, Microsoft reported that over 10 million Kinect games have been sold. The global sales figures, according to a company spokeswoman, were tallied through the end of February.

Since its launch, Kinect–which allows gamers to control on-screen action with only the movement of their bodies rather than a controller–has surpassed expectations. Microsoft initially expected to sell 5 million Kinect units through 2010. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, however, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed that the company actually sold 8 million units through the end of the year.

Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-20041213-17.html

Although I’m really happy the Microsoft Kinect has outsold even the Apple iPad, The Nintendo Wiimote, Halo, etc. One thing no one seems to be mentioning is the fact Microsoft made that massive U Turn on people hacking the Kinect.

There is no doubt in my mind that being hacker friendly made all the difference. In actual fact if there was a graph of sales, I bet after the first rush to get a kinect, things were steady before sales went a little crazy once someone hacked the kinect. After Microsoft did the whole U turn, sales must have gone through the roof.

I look forward to seeing the increase sales once the SDK comes out. Microsoft are on a roll, now if only Sony, Apple, etc would see the benefits of working with the hacker community.

Hacker friendly: Microsoft turns over a new leaf?

I never thought I’d see the day but it seems Microsoft have really got into the hacker spirit recently. I mean what would Bill Gates say about this new leaf of openness, who knows… but I can imagine a shudder of fear slowly tingling up his spine.

Remember Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering by Andrew bunnie Huang

"Hacking the Xbox" confronts the social and political issues facing today’s hacker. The book introduces readers to the humans behind the hacks through several interviews with master hackers.

"Hacking the Xbox" looks forward and discusses the impact of today’s legal challenges on legitimate reverse engineering activities. The book includes a chapter written by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) about the rights and responsibilities of hackers, and concludes by discussing the latest trends and vulnerabilities in secure PC platforms.

Its not just phone 7, Kinect kicked off a new attitude for Microsoft. Good on them, but I do wonder how long it will last?

A side point

I was a little excited when I discovered Rafael Rivera was one of the people behind the phone 7 unlocking. But of course he’s not to be confused with the new BBC director of Future media Ralph Rivera. That would be so weird if it was…

Time to hack the Pacemaker

Pacemaker in my Hand

I love my pacemaker but Tonium have really screwed the community of pacemaker djs.

It started when they moved lets mix from a pacemaker community to a generic dj community. I understand the reason why they did it but the pacemaker only djs were pretty much invaded by all types of other djs. Tonium did setup a getsatisfaction account and people started using that to voice there concerns. But after a few years, get satisfaction reports Pacemaker monitors but is not active in this community. There hasn’t been a update in years now and there’s still plenty of outstanding issues.

My pacemaker is still working as good as it always has but I could certainly do with a replacement battery. It currently lasts about 2 hours while recording is on, it use to last about 5 hours.

I couldn’t get the Pacemaker editor working with Wine again, so I finally switched to using VirtualBox (virtualisation) the closed source version because you have to use the USB to talk to the Pacemaker. It is a pain having to drag the mixes over and export them but it does work.

Open source Pacemaker

on the forums

Amias Channer wrote 1 day ago

has anyone reported tonium to the eff for GPL violations ? you are required to make source code available if you use GPL’ed code and the EFF have a legal fund to force companies to do this tonium, please save yourself a lot of money (you will have to pay their expenses) and publish the damn code. its not hard to do. i will help you if you don’t know how.

musicinstinct commented 1 day ago

I noticed if you go into settings on the device, select ‘about’ and then ‘legal notice’, then scroll down to the bottom you will find a notice that source code is available by sending 5 EUR to GPL Compliance Manager at Tonium AB. I wonder if anyone has tried this and successfully received it?

Amias Channer commented 1 day ago

http://getsatisfaction.com/pacemaker/…
this thread suggests that they have been refused every time.

So it looks like Tonium could be in breech of the GPL, but this may take a long time to resolve its self.

So its time to hack the pacemaker

I said for a while since the pacemaker does actually mount on Linux, it should be easy to hack it specially because it seems to store everything in .pacemaker and uses a SQLlite database for most of its things.

Musicinstinct wrote

I’ve also managed to access the tracks database using sqlite manager in Ubuntu, but in order to successfully install new tracks I would need to create the metadata. This is an XML file and should be doable if we can reverse engineer the format of the beat mapping data, or get access to the source code.

So now its the race to understand the XML format and create a schema which works with the pacemaker. Of course there is now another forum if your interested in following the hacking.

Fun times ahead…