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Digital Deluge

Blogs to read these days:

See also: web design links.

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Privacy and security

More in the linklog, under security and privacy. See also: Defending privacy with bad arguments

The dangers of Microsoft Pluton (25 July 2022)
Long story short: you can kiss general-purpose computing good bye. Never mind Linux. You won't be able to do anything at all with the PC you bought unless it's specifically approved by someone in a high place. It will belong to someone else, down to the last screw.
Worst thing? All that security being in hardware means zero-day exploits won't get fixed. Enjoy.

Now for a story in two three acts:

  1. Amazon’s Disturbing Plan to Add Face Surveillance to Your Front Door (12 December 2018)
  2. Amazon gave Ring videos to police without owners’ permission (13 July 2022)
  3. Victory! Ring Announces It Will No Longer Facilitate Police Requests for Footage from Users (24 January 2024)

Six years ago people were screaming off the rooftops about the obvious danger to privacy posed by Amazon's cloud-connected doorbell cameras. But people just have to be "incurable optimists", don't they.

And here's a different one:

  1. Samsung accidentally makes the case for not owning a smart TV (17 June 2019)
  2. The downfall of smart TVs: From promises of seamless viewing to ad tool on steroids (9 August 2022)

In other news:

Digital business ethics

Code Is LOL (19 April 2022) Roughly two decades ago, when Lawrence Lessig coined the phrase "code is law", that was supposed to be a warning, not a roadmap.

Microsoft loves Linux — a little too much? (20 May 2020): just in case you were wondering what Microsoft can do now that they own GitHub.

"Ethics" and Ethics (11 April 2019) Facebook fishing for our email passwords, Roomba is hovering up all the data on our homes, Amazon is listening to our conversations for laughs, Tik-Tok spying on our kids. And that we see so much dirt on the surface makes it likely that under the surface it’s even worse. The solution for all of this: “Ethics”. Design ethics! Tech ethics! Business ethics! Ethics for AI!

Optimize what? (15 March 2019) Silicon Valley is full of the s****dest geniuses you’ll ever meet. The problem begins in the classrooms where computer science is taught. See also: Trapped in the technologist factory (2021).

Crypto

The house of cards really came crashing down in 2022:

But people have been raising red flags for a while:

The metaverse is bullshit (29 October 2021) PC Gamer's editorialist sure doesn't mince words.

Here Is The Article You Can Send To People When They Say “but The Environmental Issues With Cryptoart Will Be Solved Soon, Right?” (4 March 2021) Cryptocurrencies and NFTs are an absolute disaster for so many more reasons than the ecological.

Open source

A Microcosm of the interactions in Open Source projects (30 March 2024) Originally a thread on Twitter about the xz/liblzma vulnerability, when I finished typing it, I realized I had a real world slice of Open Source interaction that deserved more attention.

This, but also: y'all realize what happened here is exactly how spies infiltrate sensitive institutions: by taking advantage of a vulnerable insider. What happened here was an espionage operation.

Free Software is an Abject Failure (8 November 2021) And now you know why people fight and win Communist revolutions only to become dictators and install a totalitarian regime with centralized economy instead of the Communism they promised.

Artificial intelligence

ChatGPT has gone berserk (21 February 2024) Not a joke

If a hammer was like AI… (22 June 2023) Computations will “estimate” your aim, tend to miss the nail and push for a different design. Often unnoticeably.

Why Meta’s latest large language model survived only three days online (18 November 2022) Galactica was supposed to help scientists. Instead, it mindlessly spat out biased and incorrect nonsense.

The thing to know about the AI language models, OpenAI’s GPT-3 and its cousins, is that they are fundamentally bullshitters. The bullshit has gotten better and better, but at the core … well, there’s nothing at the core. Notes on a genre (June 2022)

But that's just it. People include the prompt with AI art because art without context is nothing. What matters is who made it and why; what it says about the artist and ourselves. By itself, the Mona Lisa is an old rag soiled with paint. Its sole value lies in the questioning and discussions it invited from generations of viewers.

Facial recognition and related topics

Objective or Biased (11 June 2019) On the questionable use of Artificial Intelligence for job applications

Self-driving cars

Education

A Basic Lack of Understanding (30 March 2018) How does artificial intelligence actually work, and what are its limitations?

Why you'll never make really big money as an AI dev (21 July 2017) Artificial Intelligence? How the future was back in the '80s

Hardware

Ken Shirriff's blog has many excellent articles about historic computers.

Conversely, the HackADay community and their HackADay blog cover what's going on right now in the way of cool hardware.

First IC :) (22 April 2018) I am very excited to announce details of the first homemade integrated circuit

Software

Git is simply too hard (16 November 2020) Oh, really? Who designed a tool not really meant to serve human needs in the first place? Funny how in Bazaar, those two questions are trivially answered: you undo a commit with bzr uncommit, and you delete a branch... just like any old directory, because that’s all it is. Nerds... See also: Fossil Versus Git.

The reckoning: a manifesto for Code 2019 (10 June 2019) A Silicon Valley reckoning is forcing tech companies like Facebook and Google to rectify some of the incalculable mistakes they made as they built up the internet.

Software disenchantment (17 September 2018) I’ve been programming for 15 years now. Recently, our industry’s lack of care for efficiency, simplicity, and excellence started really getting to me, to the point of me getting depressed by my own career and IT in general.

Operating systems

Linux:

Systemd:

FreeBSD:

History of UNIX Manpages and other things UNIX:

The Comprehensive List of Window Managers for Unix, and other things X11:

And from long ago: A day without X (21 May 2007)


Haiku:

TempleOS:

The History of DOS and its free successor:

Windows:

More links: