The following is an assemblage of pieces by myself which I consider representative of this website, along with some favourite pieces by others.
These articles are works which I believe are some of the best I have written. If you want a quick-ish summary of what this site is about, these should whet your appetite.
As far as I can tell, Liberty and Unplugged are selling different versions of the same white label phone that run the same fork of Android. Both say they are liberating users from “Big Tech”, both say they offer higher degrees of security and privacy — whether that is true is to be determined — and neither has made any commitments to long-term support. Unplugged is not affiliated with Glenn Greenwald, and the claims of PR people should be tested. Oh, and Erik Prince is just the worst.
My ‘Not a Shadowy Nonprofit Group’ T-Shirt Has People Asking Questions Already Answered by My Shirt:
Exposing the drug marketplace hiding inside a photo platform or the use of forced labour by suppliers is a worthwhile effort. I applaud a more critical look at big businesses, especially those that are somehow trusted to police themselves, and there is no bigger industry today than tech. Besides, critically underfunded public institutions depend on third-party notifications like these to investigate malpractice.
Still, the volume of investigations produced by the [Tech Transparency Project] and the project’s focus got me wondering who was funding this operation. The answer to that question is less transparent than the initiative’s name would suggest.
The impression I get from this study is that an acquisition by a big company of something else can be a wider indication of the value of that market, hopefully creating competition in that space. But that is not what much of this data shows. There are so many examples here of “hyperscalers” hopping onto an existing market trend that it is hard to see that case being made. The closest the authors get is with Instacart’s boom following Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods — but “Instacart” appears nowhere in this study.
When I woke up this morning and saw Techmeme’s rewritten headline, “Sources: US investigators say hardware and firmware of Supermicro servers were tampered, with an extra chip loaded with a backdoor to send data to China”, I thought there must be some strange bug that is loading old news. Alas, this is a new story, with new sources — over fifty people spoke with the reporters, apparently — new evidence, and new allegations. But rather than clarifying the 2018 article, I find that I have many of the same questions now about two blockbuster articles.
An honest web is one in which the overwhelming majority of the code and assets downloaded to a user’s computer are used in a page’s visual presentation, with nearly all the remainder used to define the semantic structure and associated metadata on the page. Bullshit — in the form of CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor — is unwelcome and intolerable.
Death to the bullshit web.
If you shop on the web as much as I do and you use Safari, you’ve probably come across this notice sliding into the bottom of your browser window. […]
I’ve seen this banner on the websites of retailers ranging in size from boutiques to major brands, and it seemed a little bit fishy to me with its super careful wording. So I did a bit of digging.
These articles are favourites from other writers, and I would like to share them with you. Many of these articles are not tech-related, but I imagine you are not a one-sided reader — I also bet that you are beautiful and smart — and most are not recent, though they are still relevant and interesting. There are more in links I have tagged as “longform”.
The Art of Electronic Deduction by David “StankDawg” Blake
Your powers of intuition and deduction should be something that you always have turned on. Think of it as the hacker’s version of “Spidey-sense”. As the type of people who question everything and believe nothing until we have confirmed it with our own eyes, analytical skills play a huge part in most hacker’s personalities. When you see anything on the internet, or anywhere else for that matter, it should always be studied and questioned.
PC Forum by Maciej Cegłowski
Last month I attended PC Forum, a conference of IT movers and shakers that attempts to answer the question “when 400 CEOs, venture capitalists, and high-powered corporate executives use an open wireless network, does it occur to anyone to encrypt their email?”
Answer correctly and you win an all-expenses paid, five hundred forty day trip to the sun-kissed Arizona pokey.
Subject: Cube Burning by Simson L. Garfinkel
When NeXT announced that the first NeXT Cube was made of cast magnesium, I am sure that I was not the only person who imagined what fun could be had by setting it ablaze. Of course, at more than seven thousand dollars each, I doubted that anybody would ever actually carry out the experiment.
The Internet Does Not Let You Forget by Lauren Goode
I want a chisel, not a sledgehammer, with which to delete what I no longer need. I don’t want to have to empty my photo albums just because tech companies decided to make them “smart” and create an infinite loop of grief. That feels like a fast path to emotional bankruptcy, a way to “rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should,” as the writer André Aciman put it. “To feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste.” There it is: What a waste. Not wasted time, even if that is also true; that would be too cynical. A waste of potential joy.
And Oranges by John Gruber
The point of all this is that in some cases, some people seem unwilling to concede that any criteria other than the ones they themselves deem important actually matter, or even exist.
That’s dogmatism, and the nature of dogma is such that it pretty much kills any reasonable discussion or debate.
What is Noka Worth? by Scott Reitz
I’ll admit that the first time I visited Noka’s web site two years ago, I experienced sticker shock, even though I was no stranger to pricey gourmet chocolates. I figured I’d let some time pass, see if they survived, and maybe take a closer look at the company and its product later.
The time has come for that closer look.
In the coming days, we’ll search for the answer to one simple question: Are Noka’s chocolates worth the money?
Hammer Time Over by Jo Roberts
“I think it’s easy to make impenetrable music and hide behind that. Making noise is easy, making stuff people understand is an easy thing to do. Making a pop song is a fucking hard thing to do and making one that’s not idiotic is even harder.”
Flying the SR-71 by Brian Shul
One moonless night, while flying a routine training mission over the Pacific, I wondered what the sky would look like from 84,000 feet if the cockpit lighting were dark. While heading home on a straight course, I slowly turned down all of the lighting, reducing the glare and revealing the night sky. Within seconds, I turned the lights back up, fearful that the jet would know and somehow punish me. But my desire to see the sky overruled my caution, I dimmed the lighting again. To my amazement, I saw a bright light outside my window. As my eyes adjusted to the view, I realized that the brilliance was the broad expanse of the Milky Way, now a gleaming stripe across the sky. Where dark spaces in the sky had usually existed, there were now dense clusters of sparkling stars. Shooting stars flashed across the canvas every few seconds. It was like a fireworks display with no sound.
I sometimes track what I’m reading on my Goodreads profile. You can follow along with my star ratings to see what I’m reading and what I like.