The end of the Internet as we know it

Key lock 4The Guardian had an interesting article on Sunday about the whole Edward Snowdon/PRISM story. Everyone is following Snowdon, his search for asylum and the US government’s efforts to apprehend/punish him, but nobody’s thinking about what PRISM means for us.

Everyone assumed that governments around the world would monitor specific individual’s internet use in the same way that they’d tap a phone in the old days. We just thought that law abiding individuals and companies could expect a reasonable level of privacy online. Now PRISM (and it’s counterparts in other countries) plus Big Data means government agencies are mining our online activities and data for various purposes. “They” aren’t just looking for terrorists any more. They may be mining our data for any number of reasons of benefit to US “interests”.

The Guardian think that the internet is going to become Balkanised, with different blocks of the internet being regulated, managed and possibly spied upon by the local governments. I believe this will happen, but that’s only part of the story. Now that we know the technology exists for a government to capture and analyse everything we put online on an industrial scale, there’s going to be a fundamental shift in how we view our privacy. We’re going to have to work at it from now on.

Tor use will become common, not just among those with something to hide. We’ll encrypt everything before we upload it. We’ll need to develop new ways to share keys to those we trust. These are things we probably should have had from the beginning, and it’s going to take a lot work for most people….

I’m one of the millions of Google Reader user who’ve switched to Feedly, but…..

…. are they here for the long haul? There’s loads of small scale free services that are run as a hobby by guys that fund it out of their own pockets. A guy I know works for an ISP and they allow him to run his side-project on a server in their data centre for free, as long as it doesn’t impact the customers. They’ll be around forever, and that’s OK.

Feedly on the other hand has taken on millions of users since Google announced that they were closing Reader. They’ve had to spend serious cash on upgrading bandwidth by an order of magnitude, and write a big cheque to Dell. At this scale this isn’t a hobby. Someone is going to want their money back, with interest.

These services always go one of two ways eventually. They could bait ‘n switch to introduce a premium service and drastically limit the free service. The other possibility is that they’re looking for a buyer. This buyer might bait ‘n switch, modify it drastically, or even close it down to kill off the competition. None of these options are good….

How not to use Twitter, Go Daddy style

Go Daddy got DDOSed yesterday and were out of action for approx. 4 hours. These days the first point of call is their Twitter feed (@godaddy). You expect some information about the outage, and you hope for updates as things evolve. Go Daddy’s feed was useless, because relavent updates were lost in a sea of near-identical replies to every Twitter user who @godaddy’d asking what was going on.

@blacknight are another offender. Blacknight use this both as a tech. alert feed and a marketing tool. That means I get sent special offers and other noise that I have no interest in, which makes it useless as a day-to-day way of seeing how healthy my servers are. Would it be so hard to have a @blacknight_tech feed for outage notifications & updates?

I hate smug IT “gurus”

I had to deal with a very large (14GB) zip file sent in from a client earlier on, and ran into a problem. The Linux version of unzip has an upper limit of 4GB. any more than that and it bombs out with an error:

error: Zip file too big (greater than 4294959102 bytes)

No problem I say. I’ll just see what Google thinks. Loads of people have the same issue and without fail the first answer is always something along the lines of

Why didn’t you use free open source software like tar and gzip in the first place? These mighty utilities have no such limitations!

How pointless is that answer??? It only serves to let the poster think he’s smarter than the guy asking the question, without conveying any useful info. For future reference, the best way to get around this is to install p7zip, the Linux port of 7-zip, and run

7za x <filename.zip>

It’ll munch through anything you throw at it.

Yahoo Toolbar is the worst software on the planet….

….even worse than iTunes. A friend of mine is rather sick and will be spending a lot of time in bed over the next while. She knows I’m in the IT business and asked me to get her a laptop so she could keep in touch with family and friends using Skype/MSN/Yahoo Messenger. I installed Skype and Windows Live Messenger and everything was zipping along nicely. Nothing strange there. The laptop has a Core i3 350M CPU and 3GB of RAM. The fun started when I went to Yahoo.

You can disable everything else but you cannot disable Yahoo Toolbar if you want to install Yahoo Messenger. No problem I thought; I’ll fire up Internet Explorer and disable the toolbar later. Once I started up IE 8 security popups appeared one after another informing me that the toolbar was attempting activities prohibited by my security settings. This is not good, but what was worse was the browser locked solid after I clicked the last. I had to kill the process to get going again. I tried twice more and the same thing happened both times. I had to use Add/Remove Programs to get rid of it in the end.

What gets me is the sheer arrogance of Yahoo, expecting their users to tolerate the major degradation in performance and security just so they can put extra buttons on the browser to go to their services. Another friend of mine once had so many toolbars on his browser one time (Google, Yahoo, AVG & WOW as I recall) that he was browsing through a tiny 2″ high window. The browser took 2 minutes just to load the homepage because there was so much crap loading up in the background.