Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Oct 2019)

Carole Cadwalladr & Paul-Olivier Dehaye's deep dive into the great hackCarole Cadwalladr & Paul-Olivier Dehaye's deep dive into the great hack

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking down at our feet or at the endless twitter fighting.

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 happening with Matt Mullenweg’s comments about a open and diverse web after buying tumblr.

Don’t forget if you find this useful, you will find “Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?” at the RSA London on 21st October  2019, right up your street.

 

Watching the labrats scurrying away

Ian thinks: Recently read Labrats book after seeing Dan Lyons at Thinking Digital. Its quite a raw insider view on silicon valley culture, the laughable and the horrific sides in equal lashings.

The Great Hack Workshop from Mydata 2019

Ian thinks: This was one of the highlights of Mydata 2019. Carole Cadwalladr & Paul-Olivier Dehaye’s deep dive into the build up to the great hack was fascinating. Lots of useful resources were revealed.

Are Boris Johnson’s PR People Manipulating Google Search?

Ian thinks: True or not, our dependence on a single search engine/service makes any potential manipulating even more impactful.

Ted Nelson on Hypertext, Douglas Englebart and Xanadu

Ian thinks: Its always amazing to see pioneers who narrowly missed out pushing concepts which were too early, but could come back.

Look out here comes the hyperledgers

Ian thinks: More ledger/blockchain projects to power your projects than you can shake a stick at. Very happy at least some are open-source.

ReasonTV’s look at the Decentralised web

Ian thinks: I was expecting something light touch but having Cory Doctorow mainly interviewed means its got some depth.

Etiquette and privacy in the age of IoT

Ian thinks: Etiquette tends to be forgotten in the advancement of  technology. I don’t consider it rude to shut off a Alexa, I’m sure others will disagree.

Tipping etiquette set by user interface

Ian thinks: Talking about etiquette, very interesting to see norms set by user interface design decisions. Obviously set to benefit the company but its stuck now.

Exploiting technology or exploited by technology?

Ian thinks: Curious tale, but it does raise a question about digital access and backups. Least we forget about power and when things go technically wrong.

Replacing Instapaper with Wallabag

WallabagI’ve been meaning to switch from Instapaper to Wallabag a long while ago but been so busy. Originally I was going to install it on my own server using Docker as a container then looked into Rkt after a talk with Jack from work. Lofty goals but I did install Rkt and installed the Docker app via Rkt. But thats as far as I got…

Then I tried using framabag.org server but couldn’t get it to connect to any of my clients because its version 1.x it seems. Then I saw a email about app.wallabag.it.

I joined, ported all my instapaper archives over and paid.

Now I have Wallabag on my Eink Android tablet, Nexus 5x, Nexus 7 and Chrome. The only problem I’ve had is getting the Firefox add-on to work with it. Theres some really nice features like the ability to add automatic tags on the fly, custom RSS feeds, 2 factor auth and a kind of Oauth for new clients.

Generally I’m pretty pleased. I would like to see IFTTT support (although RSS helps with this), Gnome shell support and federated server support. I haven’t quite killed my instapaper account but I’m pretty close now. Give it a few days and its goodbye!

I thought WebOS was going Opensource?

Bypassing a Palm Pre Activation

Me and David were arguing like old times about the state of the industry and we got around to the mobile industry… We talked about mobile operating systems and got around to Firefox OS and Ubuntu. David said remember WebOS, look how that ended…

I reminded him that it was going Opensource, however today David pointed me at this

Electronics giant HP is selling off the code, staff and technology involved in its WebOS software to Korean firm LG.

HP acquired the WebOS operating system when it bought veteran gadget maker Palm in 2011 for $1.2bn (£789m).

Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed but HP is not thought to have recouped much of the money it paid for Palm.

LG said the WebOS code would be used to power its next-generation smart TV technology.

The WebOS was created to run smartphones, tablets and other devices developed by Palm that, in its early days, pioneered the handheld gadget industry. However, Palm’s influence has diminished as Apple, Google’s Android and RIM’s Blackberry have come to dominate the smartphone and tablet markets.

In the deal, LG gets WebOS source code, engineers working on it, documentation and the websites that promote it. HP is holding on to patents underlying WebOS as well as technology that helps it connect to web-based services.

It looks like the deal doesn’t effect the code? maybe? who knows?

So much for going Opensource?, I had thought it was going to be like the BeOS of the mobile operating systems.

There’s a open life in the Pacemaker yet

pacemaker_sonar_june_2007_07

Just when I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to switch back to using a laptop to dj… I receive a email message from the new Pacemaker community

As you probably know we were trying to get hold of the Pacemaker source
code so we could see a future for the Pacemaker.

We have now had contact (has joined our forum) from Jonas who was to
original inventor of the Pacemaker and founded Tonium. He has purchased the
rights to the Pacemaker design & software back, and intends to take this
project forware again!

Not only that he has already offered that the GPL’d source code WILL be
made available on Sourceforge.

We are yet to find out Jonas’ intentions, but this is exciting news for all
us Pacemaker users. Keep checking our forum for any updates.

Jonas posted a message on the forum

Dear PMD users, I invented Pacemaker back in 2005 and founded Tonium later that year. It makes me very happy that PMD is still alive and being used, despite the lack of support and hardship that I know you have gone through. I even recognise some of you from the good old Pacemaker.net days – Sox, Migzy, Regis and many more, you are all remembered.

Developing Pacemaker was among the most exciting things I have ever done. It was a project that came out of a pure passion for music and a feeling that it had to be possible to create a DJ system in the size of an iPod. Developing Pacemaker was also the toughest thing I have ever done. Starting from scratch with nothing but an idea for a hardware device. Luckily, I was very naive and did not foresee the challenges lying ahead.Following the launch and our expansion in the spring of 2008, I was exhausted. We had basically expanded from two people to more than thirty in just a little bit over one year, while developing PMD, PME and Pacemaker.net. Honestly, I was a little bit over my head in managing the kind of company Tonium had become. Therefore I stepped down as the CEO in May 2008. That proved to be a mistake. I was not too impressed with how the company was managed going forwards. But that said, it was not easy for the new management, they were in for a great challenge given the global economy crisis, the smartphone revolution and new disruptive music services popping up. And now, as you all know, Tonium have ceased its operations.

But! I have some news for all of you. On Thursday January 12, it will finally be official that my new company 100 Milligrams have purchased the intellectual property rights for Pacemaker, something I have been trying to do for years. Taking part in this venture is my long time friend Daniel Wallner, co-founder of Tonium and the engineering genius behind Pacemaker®. I am also happy to say that we have added a fresh face and a third member to our core team, Olof Berglof, an innovative designer and marketeer. We have also been able to get a little bit of funding and the three of us are now working day and night to transform Pacemaker into the new music and technology landscape.

We would also like to help supporting PMD users in the best kind of way. Your forum is fantastic and we will point people in your direction as well as trying to be here ourselves as much as possible. When it comes to hardware problems, we will try to be as helpful as we can by providing component information, schematics etc. Unfortunately we cannot promise new firmware versions, at least not for some time. We just do not have the necessary manpower. However, we will in time make sure the auto upgrade from Pacemaker® Editor is working and the GPL source code from Pacemaker Device will be available on SourceForge.

I will personally update you on the progress of the New Pacemaker Project and let me know if you have any questions or ideas.

Cheers,

Jonas (@jonorberg)

How awesome is that!!!
Can’t wait to see what comes next… Open is the way forward, open hardware, open software, open idles…

End of the zune, ipod and the pacemaker?

The Pacemaker in use

I think we can pretty much say its the end of the road for the Mpeg3 players.

Microsoft pretty much ported the zune software to their new Microsoft Phone 7 operating system, Apple have done the same and look to be killing the ipod range finally. The single purpose music player is pretty much out for the count.

So what about the Tonium Pacemaker?

Well Tonium went bust a while ago… and the thread is tonium alive? charts the disastrous mistakes which were made over time…

Now everyones trying to get the source code, so we can try and extend the life of such a great product…

Can’t believe I’ve owned the product for over 3 years now, I was one of the first to get it. A whole year before Engadget even. I really hope the community can get the source code because besides the poor battery life and dodgy recording of mixes on the device. There’s already people hacking in SSDs into the Pacemaker, so there’s plenty of people up for compiling and hacking around.

Interesting segway – we’re finally setting a challenge for the next evolution or even revolution in djing at the Mozilla festival later this year…

Opinionated software

It is opinionated vision-driven software

37signals say Agnostic software is bull

Some people argue software should be agnostic. They say it’s arrogant for developers to limit features or ignore feature requests. They say software should always be as flexible as possible.

We think that’s bullshit. The best software has a vision. The best software takes sides. When someone uses software, they’re not just looking for features, they’re looking for an approach. They’re looking for a vision. Decide what your vision is and run with it.

To be honest I’d never really heard the term till David Eastman said it on Techgrumps recently

We were using it in the context of Ubuntu 11.04 but it equally applies to iOS and many other operating systems and software.

Is it a good thing or bad thing? Hard to say, but to be honest I’ve not really seen much advantages to opinionated software right now…

Hacked Kinect, welcome to the future

Hacked kinect brings futuristic user interface Found via Tdobson on twitter,

Microsoft’s Kinect is a marvelous piece of technology. However with Microsoft trying to lock it with only the Xbox while there could be several amazing uses for it, Adafruit announced a bounty for anyone who develop an opensource driver for it.

Hector Martin developed the driver and won the bounty. He also released the driver as libfreenect. Now we have the first application which use libfreenect to use Kinect as an input device.

Interesting stuffs await!

Amazing!!! Kudos to the hackers, I can’t wait to hear what’s next…

Using Inkscape for presentations

For ages now I have been seeking a better way to do certain presentations. I tend to spend a lot of time in Inkscape mapping out ideas but I don’t really want to put slides on different layers.

I bought a copy of dan roam’s the back of a napkin a while ago and I’ve been influenced by the idea of using white boards, mood boards, etc to explain ideas. The problem is that once you put the effort in to putting down the idea on to the canvas, you then have to re-adapt it to a presentation with Open Office. Its why I kind of like the idea of the unlimited canvas.

Prezi was talked about and overused to death a while ago, now you hardly see it. I blogged about it a while ago and decided that there must be a better more open way to do the same.

I have been thinking maybe some enterprising group of people could take the SVG specification and build a tool which generates these exact same presentations. So first up you can use scripts on every element including the viewpoint attribute. There seems to be a load of things you can do with the Canvas coordinate system. SVG 1.1 has the ability to embed certain multimedia but SVG Foreign Object could be used to place a browser or a complete video within a SVG.

You could imagine a specially made tool which worked like Prezi but wouldn’t need to be propitery and locked in. They could even create and sell a player and editor backed with its online space, so the business model isn’t totally shattered. Even if a rival tried to create the same, OpenPrezi as I’m coining it would be first to the market and have a wealth of knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Even a track record might go down well. So in my mind, there’s no way I will be using Prezi till its a lot more open. I’m sure even I could with a bit of time construct something using the SVG methods I mentioned. I’m not questioning the method or even the concept, it actually reminds me of mood boards. Its the implementation which winds me up.

Well my questions have been answered by some enterprising group of people.

Jessyink is the answer…

JessyInk, an open-source extension to the open-source SVG editor InkScape.

Perfect, so once I’ve created my master piece, its hopefully going to take a few more moments to turn it into something presentable. I’m not the only person to realise the power of this setup. Prezi vs JessyInk

The first time I heard about Prezi, I started looking for a possible equivalent in SVG, and I discovered that JessyInk was a pretty good candidate: it combines a Javascript library that deals with enabling simple navigation through a SVG document according to some conventions, with an extension to the fantastic InkScape SVG editor to make it possible to integrate effects, transitions and views from the editor itself.

But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I got confirmation that JessyInk now provides the tools needed to build Prezi-like effects, and so, when I was invited to talk on “W3C and the Social Web” at the 10th anniversary of the W3C Italian office I decided to give it a try to build my presentation.

The resulting “slides” were OK, but they clearly remain much more “slide-based” than what I would have done with Prezi.

A big reason for that is that JessyInk still uses slide as the basic unit for its operations – slides are based on Inkscape layers across which you can have transitions. This doesn’t encourage working on a completely 2D-based presentation, even though it allows fairly easily to zoom in and out in a particular slide.

So it looks like JessyInk might have a bright future in front of it. The presentations are not quite as free flowing as Prezi, but to be fair its a good compromise. Open source comes up with the goods, and what a true test of the power of Open source! Fantastic, where do I start!

Some nice cool things happening on a ubuntu box near you now

This is the new look Ubuntu or rather the new default theme in Ubuntu 10.04. I’m not totally convinced, I prefer my own sand and jade themes but its good to see the brown theme will go away.

Ubuntu seems to be one step closer to a semantic desktop with the use of Gnome Zeitgeist is Gnome Activity Journal, zeitgeist-filesystem and other bits…

Zeitgeist is a service which logs the users’s activities and events (files opened, websites visites, conversations hold with other people, etc.) and makes relevant information available to other applications. It is able to establish relationships between items based on similarity and usage patterns.

Nice (check out this great video) but can I get the thing working? Well I got the engine running but I can’t get the activity journal working. Luckily it looks like it will make its way into Gnome 3.0 (which we will have to wait for 10.10). If your a KDE user don’t worry there’s also a Semantic desktop strand coming your way.

Me menu is like a idea I had a long time ago. I always wondered why you couldn’t set your status in one application and for the others to also pick that up. So from memory the picture I mocked up was me editing my status in Gwibber and it automatically updated my Skype and Pidgin statuses too. Well now Me menu pretty much does that. Oh and did you see the next generation of Gwibber? Kind of looks like Tweetdeck but not.

Inkscape is simply great software

Inkscape logo

I would just love to say, I upgraded my inkscape the other day because I needed to do something using vectors. In my younger days I would instantly use Adobe Illustrator but I really don't feel the need to any more. Inkscape 4.3 is as stable as a brick house (honestly never crashed ever, like previous versions) and although not quite working quite like illustrator. I'm really getting into the way it works now. I also felt so happy about Inkscape, that I decided to add my core but simple illustration to the openclipart project. You can see the whole thing here, till they move it. I provided the object under a public domain licence, so anyone can do what they like to it. I was tempted to do a whole range for XML, XSD, CSS, etc. But thought I'd leave it for now. But maybe one day soon I'll do it. It feel so good to beable to do this with opensource software.

You can't help but feel the tables are turning and there will be enough openclipart and applications like Inkscape to do everything in a opensource environment. Oh whoops, of course there already is. But these new crop like Inkscape, Firefox, Thunderbird, VLC, Koffice, Scribus, Openoffice, Gimp, etc really are getting the basics right and win market and mindshare. The google code thing has got me thinking that actually its time I started working with SVG a lot more like I use to. I mean there are people who can see it now and its growing as more browsers come out supporting SVG. Expect to see more inline SVG on this blog as time goes on. I dropped a SVG in this page just for testing purposes. Hey and what a great name for software? Inkscape. What more can I say, oh did I say how great the connector tool is? OMNIGrapple? Don't need it, I got Inkscape thank you very much.

The new Connector tool was used for a preliminary design of these flowcharts, when it was critical to keep items connected all the time while looking for the best layout. The flowchart lines were then edited with the Node tool.Diagrammers everywhere will find this tool invaluable. Connectors stay attached and automatically route to avoid marked objects as the drawing is updated. After the layout work is finished, connectors can be adjusted with the node tool.

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The striking differences of pro-amateurs and professionals marketplaces

I heard this absolutely amazing talk today via IT Conversations. Paul Graham last year upset a lot of people with his comments about Microsoft and Java in his hilarious Great Hackers at OScon 2004 which can still be found here on IT Conversations. But this time he turns his targets at the tradition workplace, professionalism and big business in the OScon 2005 keynote.

I wont go into details because I couldn't express the way Paul puts over the points in his own unique way. Here's the Blurb from IT Conversations.

Paul Graham, popular author and Lisp programmer, discusses what business can learn from open source. According to him, it's not about Linux or Firefox, but the forces that produced them. He delves into the reasons why open source is able to produce better software, why traditional workplaces are actually harmful to productivity and the reason why professionalism is overrated.

Paul takes blogging as an analogy and explains how the phenomenon is actually very similar to the open source movement. Both show that amateurs often surpass professionals in what they choose to do, because they love what they are doing. He also points out that in the age of the Internet, which has made collaboration extremely easy, large corporations find it difficult to compete with software produced by a bunch of inspired hackers. Paul also takes a dig at workplaces as we know them and illustrates how the most productive phase of any company is when it is still a startup.

I've always thought about blogs and opensource being quite similar in terms of there backgrounds, attitudes and coverage but nowhere at the level of Paul. I mean think about for one moment. Mainstream business has been talking about open source for a long time but and sees it as a treat to some of there propitery ways but tend to poke at it with a stick and not really adopt the open source methology. This statement can almost be put directly on the mainstream medias view of blogs. They poke around with it but not really adopt the methologies behind it.

Paul makes such good references to the false ceiling of professionalism and amateurism. He made a comment about the fact that the word amateur has been changed from its original meaning. So I had a little look around and he's right. From wikipedia's entry on amateur

The word amateur has at least two connotations. In the first, more widely used manner, it means someone performing some task without pay, in contrast to a “professional” who would be paid for the same task. In this sense, labeling someone an “amateur” can have a negative connotation. For example, amateur athletes in sports such as basketball or football would not be regarded as having ability on par with professional athletes in those sports.

Where this can be interesting is in the case of the Olympic Games. Most Olympic events required that the athletes be amateurs, or non-professionals. To receive pay to perform the sport could have disqualified an athlete from an event, as in the case of Jim Thorpe. Such regulations are now nonexistent for all Olympic sports with the exception of boxing.

Also in the areas of computer programming and open source, as well as astronomy and ornithology, many amateurs make very meaningful contributions equivalent to or exceeding those of the professionals. To many, description as an amateur is losing its negative meaning, and actually carries a badge of honor.

The other, perhaps somewhat obsolescent usage, stems from the French form of the Latin root of the word meaning a “lover of”. (See amateurism.) In this sense, retaining its French inflexion (“am-a-tEUR”), an amateur may be as competent as a paid professional, yet is motivated by a love or passion for the activity, like a connoisseur. In the 17th and 18th centuries virtuoso had similar connotations of passionate involvement.

Indeed, another thriving example of such work is Amateur Dramatics – whether plays or musical theater. Often performed to high standards (but lacking the budgets of the professional West End theatre/Broadway theatreversions) and with an intense passion for the scene.

It has been suggested that the crude, all or nothing categories of professional or amateur should be reconsidered. A historical shift is occurring with the rise of Pro-Ams, a new category of people that are pursuing amateur activities to professional standards.

This is a sticking point for a lot of the opposition to many things, and thinking about it more. Its got to me too. For example, recently I was pulled into a heated battle about the quality of content in blogs. The other parties were saying the writing was not professional enough. Now instead of outlining examples of brilliant writing like Paul Ford's Ftrain. I should have said no, on a whole its amateur writing but thats no reflection on the quality. I was drawn into a debate about professionalism without me realizing. Miles said something profound about my blog the other day, which relates so well to this and I only just saw the link. Obviously this is me power phrasing – I read your blog because its your thoughts and ideas not some wannabe wank wanting to play by the mainstream rules. And he's right, I dont want my blog to be in the Technorati top 100. I dont care that my blog is worth nothing to the mainstream media, its not the rules I'm playing by sorry.

Cluetrain #81 : Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?

Cluetrain #88 : We have better things to do than worry about whether you'll change in time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?

Amateursation (is there such a word?) once removed from its below professional setting, its really easy to reclaim back the word as its what drives the long tail of Internet content. But more interestingly is the Pro-amateur word which I would categories some of the podcasts I hear and watch as. For example, IT conversations is a pro-am of podcasting. Its content is not broad like mainstream media, it sticks to a niche audience and adopts all the values and spirit of the amateur marketplace. Likewise the Rev3 guys are certainly the Pro-am of the videoblogging. I cant quite put my finger on it but Digital Life TV feels closer to mainstream media than Systm.Maybe thats why I end up skipping some parts?

I'm not quite done with Paul Graham yet….

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Open source democracy?

Rushkoff talking to Dave in the ICA after the talk about being a trickster

Me, Dave and Lucas got our butts to the talk quite late yesterday. And were hit by the instant heatwave in the ICA's Nash room. Goodness me, has no one ever heard of opening a window or a door before?

Anyway the talk was around douglas rushkoff's book he wrote for Demos. I had never heard of Demos before, but sure have heard of Douglas Rushkoff from the days of Rave.Anyway here's a few things I wrote down while listening to the talk.

  • The internet shook off miltary, government and now business constraints over its time.
  • All developments of the internet have been done for non profit in a gift economy.
  • Our reality relies on software more than hardware – clever, as in software is man made.
  • We can write the words that we live. Rather than listen to the ones we have been told.
  • We have been taught to deal with narratives in the same way, start – middle – end. Revolutions are circluar.
  • recruitiing people to narratives, is pointless
  • Technophobia = People scared of there own power
  • The media aims to exclude and divide, a lonely person is more likely to buy jeans if there told there acceptable with them.
  • 92% of kids don’t want to re-program lego mindstorms
  • A movement is a bad idea, easy target for the media to vilianfy
  • Media can’t brand a mixture a non-movement.
  • Emergence accepts the possibility that were nothing and that we may change that
  • Effort should be spent on development rather than creating a movement
  • Changing direction causes confusion and keeps businesses and the media guessing
  • Courage in the moment, small steps and tweaks have profound effects
  • Do rather than respond
  • The dot.com era was a pyramid scheme – never thought of it like that, but makes sense
  • Is google god?
  • Finland is the most trustworthy nation in the world
  • Governments need to get a grip on the digital divide
  • Once you have access to the tools your relationship with the narrative changes

Anyway I've started reading the book which rushkoff wrote and its a good read so far. Also started looking at the Demos site and Rushkoff's own. Some good content on there which I know I'll be reading back and forth between college and home for the next month or so.

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