The Latest Aggravation

There are a wealth of things (and people!) that I find aggravating to one degree or another. Some of Bob’s excesses is one example. The overall rudeness of most people is another. Then there’s the skyrocketing cost of just about everything.

The latest addition to this list is the changes that youtube pushed out yesterday to just about every part of the site.

In those changes I think one of the most annoying is their choice to use light gray text on a lighter gray background.

Exactly who the imbecile is that first started that trend on the web I do not know but should I ever find out I would love to let it know just how stupid that kind of a color scheme is.

The point of having text on a web page is so that it can be read. The problem with this color scheme is that it makes text very hard to read. What they SHOULD do is use something with a high contrast like black text on a white background (or the reverse works great too).

This kind of low contrast color scheme is the kind of thing that internet marketing con artists use to discourage people from trying to read their terms & conditions and privacy policy pages.

It’s one of the most aggravating, offensive things a web designer can do.

I can say with a certainty that any web designer who ever works for me will be warned ahead of time not to do shit like that and if they do, they’re fired on the first offense.

[tags]web design, stupidity, text color, youtube, new layout, hard to read[/tags]

FCon, THE Answer To Anonymous Publishing

Over the last couple of years there’s been a lot of this kind of story in the news. Some blogger tries to publish something anonymously on a blog, almost always with the intent of exposing something they see as an injustice of some kind, and next thing you know the person, company or government is hauling somebody into court demanding the identity of the blogger. The blog host ends up getting ordered to reveal the blogger’s identity and then the lawsuit hits them and things really get ugly (not to mention expensive!) from there.

I’ve seen people react to these stories and say things like “so much for freedom of speech” or “he/she was just trying to expose something that shouldn’t have been going on in the first place”.

In some countries it’s even worse where blogging about your political beliefs can get you thrown in jail or even just shot if it happens to disagree with those in power.

The point is that I don’t believe that most of these people were guilty of anything but trying to expose a truth that powerful people, corporations and or government agencies didn’t want published because at the very least it embarrasses them and tarnishes their carefully crafted public image as ‘nice guys’ or even exposes them as the actual ‘bad guys’ that they really are by publishing various details about what they’re really up to.

Obviously just setting up a blogspot account isn’t going to cut it because the lawyers almost always get that court order and the identity of the blogger is handed to them on a silver platter. What they need is a publishing platform that is truly anonymous, where their identity cannot be handed over because nobody knows it.

Fortunately there is such a thing. It’s called FCon (Freenet Classic OpenNet). It’s a free program that allows you publish and obtain information on the Internet without fear of censorship. The network is completely decentralized and those who publish or retrieve information using that network are completely anonymous.

(note: That anonymity does of course depend on the person publishing having the sense to be careful about not including details that could provide clues to their identity)

In this post I use “FCon” and “freenet” interchangeably and by “freenet” I mean freenet 0.5 and NOT the newer freenet 0.7.5 which is still a very much UNsecure ALPHA version that in my experience, barely even works most of the time

When an FCon user downloads a file, message, or views a “freesite” from the network it is transmitted between FCon nodes in encrypted form and they are routed through many other nodes (any of which could randomly keep a copy of all or part of the information being requested) which makes it essentially impossible for anyone to determine who is downloading it, or what it is, or who inserted it into the network in the first place.

Freenet Classic OpenNet has other peer to peer networks beat hands down in terms of security AND in terms of file availability.

First, node operators do not control or know the contents of their datastore because it is encrypted. Instead, files are kept or deleted automatically based on popularity. If a file goes long enough without being requested and the datastore is full, then it will be deleted to make room for more popular content.

Because of the way requests for files are handled, there is no way to know if any given request coming from another node originated on that node or is simply being automatically forwarded from a chain of other nodes.

As for availability, with every standard P2P network out there, when the nodes that a file originates from (in P2P terms “is seeded from”) goes offline then that file isn’t available anymore.

In Freenet Classic OpenNet, once a file has been inserted into the network it remains available even after the node that it was inserted from goes offline because copies of it are made randomly around the network every time somebody requests it. The more something is requested, the easier it is to get.

So if you’ve got some big secret you want to spill but you don’t want to have all those nasty legal hassles, or if you just believe in freedom of speech and want to contribute to it, then it would be a good idea to check out http://peculiarplace.com/freenet/.

On that page you will find the files you need along with some basic setup instructions to get you started. Once you have freenet running you can install Frost, which is a messaging and file sharing system where you can communicate anonymously with other freenet users, ask questions and learn more about how to get the most out of it and build freesites which are websites that exist entirely within the network.

If somebody were to anonymously publish something within freenet that they wanted to be exposed to the world they could ask other freenet users to repost it on the regular internet in different jurisdictions. That way it would still get out but anonymity would be perfect and takedown notices are meaningless on freenet.

Now I’m sure that somebody will come along and say something on the order of “but freenet is slower than the regular internet.”

To that I’ll say yes, it is. The reason it’s slower is because it’s first goal is security and that means encryption, on several levels. This takes time to process. Speed was never the first concern, it was intended to be secure.

Freenet is “censorship proof”. Once something is inserted into the network it is not possible to take it down. Given the author is careful about personally identifying details, it is perfectly anonymous. You cannot determine who inserted or who downloaded something.

That said, I have found that once a node has been up and running 24/7 for a day or two that it’s no slower than Tor and in my opinion, it’s often better than Tor when loading freesites.

[tags]freedom of speech, censorship, anonymous publishing, anonymous blogging, anonymous blogger, anonymous, network, anonymous internet, takedown notice, whistleblower[/tags]

Bogus Watch TV Site

One of the tv shows that I miss watching is Smallville. We lost the ability to see it in this area shortly after the end of season four and while I’ve been able to find a clip or two now and then on YouTube and other sites, nowhere have I found a site where I can pick up at the start of season five and watch the rest of the series. For that matter, I’d appreciate being able to start at season 1, episode one and watch the whole thing.

A little while ago I found mention of a site blackboxshows.com/smallville that, according to the person who posted it, had quite a bit of the show available. Well, When I got to the site it only had seasons eight and nine but I decided to give a look at one of ’em anyway.

Soon as the video player loaded I got presented with a popup telling me to fill out a survey to unlock the video. Thing is, I am not a hamster, I know those surveys are crap. sure you answer a few questions about how you liked the anaheim hotels you stayed in for the rose bowl last year or a bunch of invasive crap about cell phones and what stores you shop in.. but then there’s always the kicker, you have to “complete offers” and / or supply your email address to both complete the “survey” and get whatever code or url is needed to continue with what you wanted to do in the first place.

So, if somebody points you to that site. Tell ’em what for and ignore it. it’s crap.

[tags]website, crap website, bogus surveys[/tags]

YouTube & Google Think I’m In France

In the last few days that both Google and YouTube suddenly can’t seem to figure out where I am or what language I prefer. Both seem to have decided that I’m in France and have started to default to offering me content in French. I’ll also not that this doesn’t change even if I log in, They still assume that I’m in France and want French language used.

I am not a hamster nor am I imagining this. It’s fairly new (to me) behavior. Previously, both sites would automatically serve me content in English and assume that I was in the US. Also, my habit of having my browser delete cookies at the end of the session is NOT the reason for this because I’ve had my browser set that way for years and this behavior is new.

This is completely ridiculous since all that’s needed is to read the language and location information from the browser’s user agent string which in my case is set to “en-US”. Then if somebody wants different settings they can either change their user agent string or change preferences on YouTube.

[Tags]youtube, google, language setting, location setting, no us location[/tags]

Ban The WWW. !

I finally saw a partial answer to something that’s been bugging me for years. A NY Times article had a story in which Tim Berners-Lee (one of the instrumental architects of the world wide web) was asked if he had it all to do over again, is there anything he’d do over again.

Mr. Berners-Lee smiled and admitted he might make one change — a small one. He would get rid of the double slash “//” after the “http:” in Web addresses.

Now I am not a hamster, I knew (even before the article mentioned it) that the double slash was part of programming conventions at the time but it’s really served no real purpose. The only reason it’s there is because of that old standard.

Of course, me being me, I am not a hamster to be satisfied with half an answer. The part that the article and Mr. Berners-Lee did not address while sitting in his fancy barcelona chair talking it up with the reporter that I’d like to hear about is why is it that most (not all) web addresses have to include “www.” at the beginning of them?

I happen to know that it’s not needed, a large percentage of websites work just as well without the “www.” as they do with it. In my opinion, it’s just another four characters that could well be dropped from every url. I realize that it’s only four bytes, but multiply that by the billions of times that the billions of urls are recorded in hundreds of millions of databases and you’re talking about a monstrous amount of storage.

Besides all that, it just annoys the hell outta me when I run into one of the relatively few sites that are deliberately set up so that they don’t work at all without the “www.”.

I’d like to see the end not only of the double slash, but the “www.” as well. that’s six characters times billions of websites that we could all do without.

[Tags]tim berners-lee, double slash, www, internet addresses, programming standard[/tags]