Freedom and the Internet

It has recently surfaced that an Israely company sold Internet control software to Iran. While the story has an ironic twist, it goes on to highlight some problems with the current trend to "manage" the Internet, detailing the possible adverse effects of such technology on Internet users (like facilitating their arrest and torture). Unfortunately, the article refrains from presenting the facts in a neutral way, but instead points fingers at supposedly rogue states while conveniently ignoring the fact that such technology would work just as well against citizens of Western countries, acting up on their respective governments. They might wake up to quite similar fates when eg. their governments become discontent with the Occupy movement gaining more traction (whatever you might think of that movement in the first place) - and you had your first impressions on that. See for example here, here, or here if you missed it so far. Instead of calling for more vendor-control over such software, the emphasis should be placed on generally banning such software in the first place.

As a techie, I can safely say that often, not having such controls to "monitor" and "manage" usage, but simply using larger, dumber pipes, would probably be equally cost effective, or even cheaper. The only adverse side effect, from the perspective of the carriers and the government, will be that they would have to loosen their grip on the populace (ie, you and me).

Which is basically a good thing, isn't it?

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Finanzkrise

Der unten verlinkte Beitrag zur Finanzkrise verdient meiner Ansicht nach eine breite Beachtung. Wie man die Vorschläge daraus in dem aktuellen organisatorischen Rahmen umsetzen könnte, wäre noch zu diskutieren. Die Zeit drängt allerdings.

Attac: Stellungnahme zur Finanzkrise

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Truncated URLs in Firefox

For some time, I have been annoyed by recent Firefox's behaviour to truncate the front of URLs so that "http" or "https" are not shown. I would rather have the full URL shown, and so I poked around about:config and found browser.urlbar.trimURLs. Set this to false, and the full URLs are shown in the urlbar (formerly known as location bar).

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Joy And Fun with(out) Network Neutrality

Just today I had an experience about what it can mean to have no network neutrality, taken from my professional work:

A client wanted to check out his brand-new VPN gateway, utilising IPSEC from his road-warrior client and a mobile connection, but it just didn't seem to work. While testing, we found the following:

  • The client could not ping his VPN gateway.
  • No ISAKMP packet arrived at the gateway.

He then cross-checked with wireshark to see which packets actually leave the system, and found that the relevant packets were being sent out by the PC, but didn't arrive at his VPN gateway. This is a strong indication that the mobile carrier blocked his IP packets.

This is not the first, but only the latest such incident I saw in my career.

Needless to say, a carrier who blocks users' packets, is about as useful as a car without an engine...

I demand that carriers who call their service "Internet", be required to indiscriminantly allow all (halfway sane) packets through. I am almost comfortable with someone blocking packets that have no return route (ie., if someone spoofs their source IP number), but that's about all restrictions I can think off the top of my head that I might consider acceptable.

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15.10.2011: #globalchange

Für den kommenden Samstag ist ein weltweiter Protesttag geplant, an dem in derzeit 662 Städten gegen die derzeitige Politik, hauptsächlich im Zusammenhang mit der Bankenkrise, und für mehr Demokratie demonstriert werden soll. Alle Leute, die nicht damit einverstanden sind, daß unsere Steuergelder auf Jahre, vermutlich aber eher auf Jahrzehnte hinaus für - meiner Meinung nach - dubiose Bankenrettungen verpulvert werden, während ansonsten an allen Ecken und Enden gespart wird, sind aufgerufen, sich zu beteiligen. In Deutschland scheint Attac federführender Organisator zu sein, und man erwartet viele Piraten bei diesen Veranstaltungen.

Hier sind ein paar Daten zu den Veranstaltungen:

  • Demo in Köln: 11 Uhr Chlodwigplatz
  • Webseite: http://15october.net/ (deutsch: http://15october.net/de/ )
  • Karte mit allen Veranstaltungsorten: http://map.15october.net/main

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The Case Against Google Chrome

There are two web browsers, based on the Google Chrome codebase:

  • Google Chrome (of course)
  • Chromium

The latter is a free-software-only version of Google Chrome, having the spyware features of the original Google Chrome ripped out, and that can be eg. installed in Debian using apt-get.

Today, I wanted to try the extensions, since the original browser is suitable for not much more than simply looking at a web page. But if you want any kind of extensions, like eg. maybe AdBlock, or the SpeedMeter, or the SessionManager, or whatever else would benefit you as a user, you immediately find yourself locked out of Google's Webstore. By the way... the name is already giving away what the problem really is: Google, like about any other vendor I am aware of, wants to reduce you to a user, and cut down on your abilities to create, or use the software in ways you deem fit, instead of only ways they deem fit. So, there is eg. no simple way to download the extension to your hard disk drive, maybe for later digestion - no, you can, at best, install the extension online, into your current profile. And if you somehow lose that, you get to try again. So they can not only track every move of you, they can also manage the availability of their extensions to you as they choose. Like eg. Ad sales going down? Poof, no more AdBlock for you.

This way, you sell out your freedom and your privacy in the same way to Google than you probably did before, to Microsoft and Apple, and a plethora of other companies.

Now my question to you is: Are you prepared to accept that, and if so, why?

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The Deficit And The Taxes

Today I was alerted to an interesting read in the New York Times, where Warren Buffet asked for higher taxes. Now this guy isn't exactly known for wasting money, and probably has good reasons for asking for a tax increase (not decrease). Incidentally, someone else also alerted me to the "budget puzzle" in that same newspaper, which I find quite interesting, although also very much limited. I wanted to share my results, and invite you to comment. And please, if you have something like this for Germany, I'm very much interested in that, too!

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