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Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

November 8 is the birthday of Aaron Schwartz, who died in 2013. Calling Aaron a hacker is neither nice nor correct – he was a programmer, an entrepreneur, a fighter against internet censorship, and more.

Lisa Rein and the Internet Archive are organising the sixth Aaron Schwartz Day during the coming weekend. If I lived in San Francisco, I would try to attend at least part of this event.

Click the image to go to the EFF for more info about Aaron and the ASD

Thanks to the EFF for making me remember Aaron.

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Speaking of the vote in the European Parliament yesterday, he writes:

Today, in a vote that split almost every major EU party, Members of the European Parliament adopted every terrible proposal in the new Copyright Directive and rejected every good one, setting the stage for mass, automated surveillance and arbitrary censorship of the internet: text messages like tweets and Facebook updates; photos; videos; audio; software code — any and all media that can be copyrighted.

Luckily, we’re talking “proposal” here; the fight for better copyright legislation continues (and Cory can tell you when and how ;-).

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I wrote about the need to press the European Parliament to disapprove Article 13 of the proposed EU Copyright Directive; the vote will be taken on September 12th, 2018. So it’s not too late let your MEP know how you stand on the matter!

The #SaveYourInternet website will make it easy for you to start: just pick any country, fill in your email address and press a button to mail a standard message to a selection of MEPs. If you want to, you can edit the message sent, so feel free to add your own argumentation (just remember that this fight won’t be won with slurs, insults and threats).

Not convinced? Here’s a message from the Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation, explaining why copyright is no longer a subject for large-scale publishers and for-profit corporations:

Much of the conversation surrounding EU copyright reform has been dominated by the market relationships between large rights holders and for-profit internet platforms. But this small minority does not reflect the breadth of websites and users on the internet today. Wikipedians are motivated by a passion for information and a sense of community. We are entirely nonprofit, independent, and volunteer-driven. We urge MEPs to consider the needs of this silent majority online when designing copyright policies that work for the entire internet.

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A week ago, Dave Winer complained about the loss of “essential” (or important) web pages on the Web:

Earlier this year we lost the handle on Radio UserLand weblogs because the new owner of weblogs.com was unwilling to maintain a DNS entry pointing to them. That and Google’s marking HTTP sites as not secure have been huge blows to the web as an archival medium.

I too am a big fan of keeping stuff of all kinds (let’s call it “archiving”, shall we?). I also would like to keep web pages around indefinitely. I hate it when I find a reference on my blog responding with a 404 error, since I pride myself to write only (OK, mostly) about serious subjects. But the Web by itself is too human and too complex, I fear, to avoid deletion of pages and sites.

What I have learned the hard way, after losing part of my first website in the mid-1990’s, is that you have to your own “curator”. If you want to “keep” certain information from the Web, just keep a copy of it on a location that you control. By the way, “information” does not necessarily equal “web page”: text, images, movies, sound, etc. can be stored separately from a “web page”.

When I find “linkrot” on my blog, I do try to check the existence of the corresponding page on the Internet Archive, also known as the “Wayback Machine”. There’s an extensive archive over there, but no one should expect it to be complete. But it remains useful, so let me propose a neat little software project: a browser extension that automatically goes looking into the Wayback Machine when it encounters a “Page not found” error?

Google’s first home page as seen in the Wayback Machine

Clearly there will never be a complete copy of the Web as a whole. It would be nice if someone were to take on the role of “chief web archivist” and build a real archive of essential and relevant sites and pages. But shouldn’t that include the server-side resources as well as the resulting pages? I mean: what use is it to have the first version of Google’s search page if you don’t have the underlying search engine and its data as well?

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August 17th is #Deactiday on Twitter:

Also interesting (not just for today, by the way) is the information in this Twitter thread by Shannon Coulter. I do hope someone collected all that info and turned into a document or page on a platform other than Twitter and Facebook – a blog, for example, would be nice ;-)

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The SD Times website writes up the state of affairs on Free and/or Open Source Software: Open source at 20: The ubiquity of shared code. Even after 20 (or more) years, the situation isn’t always clear, certainly not for new developers. So this article is a good start if you’re new to software development.

In the year 2000 I compiled on the Free Software page in this site. I’m pleased to see that the texts and sites on the page are still relevant. Only two sites disappeared (linuxppc.org and opensourceit.com); the rest is still thriving and relevant! Well, except for the link to Reddit – still a remarkable site, but no longer just for FOSS fans.

A landmark paper about Free and Open Source Software

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Bye Bye, Article 13 ?

The good news, of course, is that resistance to the new proposed European copyright directive has paid off: “A Key Victory Against European Copyright Filters and Link Taxes – But What’s Next?“.

But that does not mean the fight for better copyright laws is over, far from it. So be attentive, and don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. The European Parliament disapproved of the current proposal because so many citizens made it clear that this was not a good law!

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As reported by BoingBoing: “Blogger gave lecture on dealing with trolls, then stabbed to death by a troll“.

<shiver />

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As a fan of HyperCard, I am intrigued by the story Bill Atkinson tells about the origins of the product.

HyperCard was a precurser to the first web browser, except chained to a hard drive before the worldwide web. Six years later Mosaic was introduced, influenced by some of the ideas in HyperCard, and indirectly by an inspiring LSD experience.

Yes, you have read that correctly: Bill Atkinson says he was under the influence of LSD when he thought of the need of links between pieces of information as a tool to create better knowledge and wisdom.

What is ‘hypertext’?

On one hand, it’s strange that he needed an ‘acid trip’ to think of hyperlinks, because he could have read the work of Vannevar Bush, or talked to people like Ted Nelson or Douglas Engelbart who were already working on the concept for decades. But on the other hand, of course, the internet – which would have allowed him to discover those people – did not yet exist…

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Help Oppose Article 13

It cannot be repeated enough:

We support the consideration of measures that would improve the ability for creators to receive fair remuneration for the use of their works online. But we cannot support Article 13, which would mandate Internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship deep into their networks. For the sake of the Internet’s future, we urge you to vote for the deletion of this proposal.

These words were written by an group of resounding names in Internet technology circles, which includes Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, the inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, co-founder of the Mozilla Project Mitchell Baker, Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, cryptography expert Bruce Schneier, and net neutrality expert Tim Wu. You can read their full letter to the President of the European Parliament on the site of the EFF.

Please help oppose articles 11 and 13, for example by contacting your MEP about this matter.

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In the coming days and weeks, the European Parliament will debate an update to the Copyright Directive. There are a few things wrong with the current proposal.

The EFF shows the impact of two articles in the proposal: The EU’s Copyright Proposal is Extremely Bad News for Everyone, Even (Especially!) Wikipedia.

MEP Julia Reda details the situation of article 13 of the proposal: How you can #SaveYourInternet from Article 13 and the “Link Tax” in the next 14 days.

Both articles also contain links to sites that will help you express your voice and influence the members of the European Parliament, like saveyourinternet.eu. Help defeat bad legislation: go visit those site and act!

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In Wired’s “It’s Time For An RSS Revival“, RSS gets a bit of love – some would say: “much needed love”. RSS isn’t a new web technology; its original version was published in 1999.

“The most amazing thing to me about RSS is that no one really went away from it,” says Wolf. “It still exists…”

Well, of course RSS still exists, and there are many websites, personal and commercial, that publish one or more RSS feeds. What purpose do these “feeds” serve?

If you have never used an RSS feed, you may not know what you’re missing. RSS stands for “RDF Site Summary” or “Really Simple Syndication“, but that does not explain much. An RSS feed will publish a list of “items”, each pointing to a webpage on the site publishing the feed. Details about the link may include a page title, a summary of the link’s content or the whole text, an audio attachment (think ‘podcast’), publication date, etc. Usually, these lists are used to publish the latest updates on a site. That’s how they allow you to use them to discover new opinions, news, updates to pages, etc. without having to go to each individual page. “Feed reader” software combines the RSS feeds of multiple feeds, thus giving you a single tool to discover news from multiple sites.

Such feed reader software is what I have used for more than a decade now, to keep up with the many news sources I like to consult. Combining multiple sources in a single tool on a mobile device (tablet of smart phone) was the first driver for my decision to go that way. The possibility to read those feeds even when you’re not even online was the second driver: indeed, once you have downloaded the feed, you do not need an internet connection to get your dose of news – and that was very handy in those days when mobile internet access was hard to get and expensive!

Even today, when I’m practically always online, I still prefer browsing “the news” through a feed reader. That allows me to bypass the homepages of sites filled with screaming titles and adverts, and use just the item titles to judge their value to me. I find this so much more compelling than surfing from website to website, that an RSS feed reader was the first mobile app that I paid for – I’m using Byline on iOS, and I love it!

I can only encourage you to try out a web-based RSS reader like Feedly if you want to discover what RSS is all about. Then go looking for the RSS icon on the sites you care about, and add those feeds to your Feedly account. When you decide to use a separate application or app to read your feeds, there’s plenty of choice – and more may be coming, if Wired’s talk of a revival comes through. And no, you don’t have to be tired of Facebook to start reading RSS feeds – just don’t be surprised when you discover that RSS feeds are more interesting than a stream of messages on one of the many social media…

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Dave Winer writes:

Wait till the press figures out that Google knows everywhere you go. Not only on the web, but in the world.

Only a fool knows everything. A wise man knows how little he knows.

African proverb. The photo is (c) W.Van daele.

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Want to learn something about SSL and SSL certificates? I sure do, having just encountered an revoked certificate blocking an app at work. So I read “Revocation is broken” by Scott Helme. In summary:

We have a little problem on the web right now and I can only see this becoming a larger concern as time goes by. More and more sites are obtaining certificates, vitally important documents that we need to deploy HTTPS, but we have no way of protecting ourselves when things go wrong.

As you can guess, that didn’t really help to solve our problem – but it’s a clear explanation of the current state of affairs in certificate validation land, at least for browsers!

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December 2017 Was A Dark Month

The weatherman had already announced (in Dutch) the bad news two weeks ago, and now our solar panels confirm the fact: December was a very dark month, in terms of sunshine. At the same time, temperatures are higher than what we would expect this time of the year – yes, we had a bit of snow on two occasions, but apart from a single night we had no real freezing mornings in our neighbourhood…

Anyhow, the solar panels on our roof produced an all-time low of electricity last month: in fact, we hit an all-time low, well below 60% of the mean of the previous 8 years. Combined with eleven months before December that were mainly below average as well, that makes for a disappointing total of electricity produced.

Are we experiencing just a few fluctuations in the weather, or is it the impact from climate change that produces more clouds and hence less sunshine? Contrary to some (yes, I’m pointing at you too, Donald), I do not have enough data to answer that question conclusively – let’s leave that to scientists rather than gut feelings, OK ?

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