Wednesday, 2021-06-30

June

Sergels torg

Continuing with the Sergels Torg theme…

Jun 2020 | Jun 2019 | Jun 2018 | Jun 2017 | Jun 2016 | Jun 2015 | Jun 2014 | Jun 2013 | Jun 2012 | Jun 2011 | Jun 2010 | Jun 2009

Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

I’ve somehow missed this collection of short stories, a slight ret-con of the Earthsea universe. Maybe it’s for completionists only but I enjoyed returning to Earthsea.

Tuesday, 2021-06-15

A Farrago of Freenode Fuckery

Well it’s been a crazy few weeks.

  • 2017 - in a shady deal, Andrew Lee acquires some assets related to Freenode.
  • 2021-mid May - rumblings about weird goings-on at Freenode appear online. Draft resignation letters are leaked.
  • 2021-05-19 - Andrew Lee asserts control. Former Freenode staffers formally resign, Libera.chat is opened
  • 2021-05-22: seizure of channels mentioning Libera.chat begins
  • 2021-05-26 - in an attempt to take over channels that had moved to Libera and set to invite-only, someone fat-fingers a script and takes over all channels mentioning Libera in its topic. Reportedly, over 700 channels are affected. Here’s my side of the story. See also
  • 2021-05-26 - support channels on Freenode erupt in anger over the channel seizures. Someone “accidentally” blocks a CIDR /16 block
  • 2021-06-01 - Fosshost enters partnership with Freenode
  • 2021-06-09 - a server restart leaves service accounts (NickServ, ChanServ) wide open to be taken by regular users - thereby potentially exposing user passwords. The user who takes NickServ is swiftly promoted to staff.
  • 2021-06-10 - an attempt to k-line cloaked users who had chatted in ##moving-to-libera backfired when the entire IRCcloud was k-lined
  • 2021-06-11 - Fosshost ends Freenode partnership
  • 2021-06-11 - Wikipedia GC k-lined
  • 2021-06-11 - #python channel terminated, group contact Ned Batchelder k-lined, 800 users kicked out
  • 2021-06-12 - #linux, #fsf and #gnu channels are forcibly taken over by Freenode staff, and access lists rewritten. Topics changed. My logs (provided to Freenode boosters Techrights because they did not believe what had happened)
  • 2021-06-13 - IRCcloud is banned again, on purpose this time. Staff let’s us know this was the plan all along, as a paid service IRCcloud is “leaching” off Freenode
  • 2021-06-15 - Freenode moves to a new IRCd and drops all existing nick and channel registrations. The shell of the old Freenode is no more
  • 2021-06-16 - after a chaotic day with two incompatible networks, Lee pulls the plug on Freenode “classic”. A deathly silence spreads across the field, only broken by raucous crows feasting upon the bodies of the slain.

Today, I checked my existing connection to Freenode. I still had access to the old NickServ.

07:39 -- MSG(nickserv): info gustaf
07:39 -- NickServ (NickServ@services.): Information on gustaf (account gustaf):
07:39 -- NickServ (NickServ@services.): Registered : Jul 28 22:07:55 2004 (16y 46w 3d ago)
07:39 -- NickServ (NickServ@services.): Last seen  : now
07:39 -- NickServ (NickServ@services.): Logins from: gustaf
07:39 -- NickServ (NickServ@services.): Nicks      : gustaf gustaf_ gerikson
07:39 -- NickServ (NickServ@services.): *** End of Info ***

07:47 -- │ NickServ (NickServ@services.): The account gustaf has been dropped.

Conclusion

What was all this about? In three weeks, an IRC network that’s lasted for twenty years was flown into a mountain. Was that the plan all along?

Or is it wrong to ascribe to malice or forethought that which can be more adequately explained by stupidity or drug-fueled mania?

Anyway, watching Freenode implode is a bit like being on a ship that’s foundering. Almost everyone makes it over to another safely, and we’re standing at the railing, seeing the old ship slip beneath the waves. Some rats and trolls follow it down. It’s a sad memory, but in the end, it was only a name.

Friday, 2021-06-11

Why Gemini is not my favorite internet protocol

TL;DR: the Gemini protocol removes too much functionality for it to interesting to me.

What is Gemini?

Gemini is a simple web publishing protocol. It can be seen as a descendant, successor of Gopher. Gemini primarily emphasizes developer simplicity, and secondarily user privacy.

This comes with significant trade-offs for the author, however. Compared to standard vanilla HTML4, there are no inline links, no provision for media other than text on a page, and the styling of the content is left to the client.

My background in web publishing - I’ve been fascinated by publishing since I was a kid and I’ve been involved in printing zines and in student newspapers etc through the years. The idea that I can publish what I want, when I want, at whatever lengths I want, for effectively free, is still mind-blowing to me, almost 30 years since I copied some HTML code and made it mine.

Here’s where Gemini falls down for me.

First, there’s no official client. The fact that it’s so easy to implement a client means there’s a Cambrian explosion going on, and the filtering die-back has not yet occurred. This might change in the medium future.

Second, the styling limitations are crippling. I can probably survive without having images etc. on the same page, but the lack of inline links (each link has to be on its own line) leads to stilted, quasi-academic jargony text like this:

Check out my cool blog[1]! It’s full of cats!

[1] https://gerikson.com/blog

I’m not going to abandon three decades of hypertext authoring habits to make a developer’s life slightly easier.

Third, Gemini puts the cart before the horse when it comes to privacy. The solution to widespread tracking and user surveillance isn’t a bespoke hairshirt protocol that no-one is going to use. The solution is widespread legislation that makes using people’s personal data for targeted advertising illegal or very expensive. (This is not limited to Gemini. A great many influential Internet people are convinced politics is utterly broken, so “technical solutions” are all that’s left).

Gemini, to me, is part of the nostalgia for a past that never really was — the halcyon days of the Internet, before the Eternal September. But time is the great filter. What has survived from that era is not the spam, the pointless Usenet arguments, the shitposting, but finely polished nuggets. If you weren’t there, it might have seemed a paradise, but I was, and it wasn’t. It was today’s internet, but text-only and with proportionally even more white dudes.

Update

This entry was submitted to Lobste.rs and spawned an interesting discussion. Among others, this piece was posted (comments), and this post was also mentioned.

I suggest those interested in Gemini and what it means to people to read the linked items and discussions.

I’d also like to clarify that I wrote this rant basically to have a single place to point Gemini proselytizers to. I need to emphasize that if you personally use Gemini, or find Gemini useful or fun, more power to you! I am not suggesting you stop or that your efforts are in vain.

Sadly, there are some Gemini enthusiasts who are the equivalent of people handing out flyers for some obscure club, and who get shirty when you try to politely explain that you’re not interested in attending. Those people are annoying, and they give Gemini a bad name.

Saturday, 2021-06-05

Death of a channel

This is a short write-up of how a channel on Freenode was hijacked by staff, and how it was effectively deleted.

Background

The channel #photography was founded on Freenode in 2001, as a channel to discuss photography. Its single-hash status was challenged by Freenode staffer lilo, and it was changed to #photogeeks to comply with the requirement for single-hash channels to be associated with a project.

In 2006, the channel #photo was registered to discuss photography per se, and not gear. Quite soon the channel became social in nature, and it was hidden and a password set.

Over the years, about a dozen people used this channel as a social space to discuss everything under the sun.

Hijack

When the takeover of Freenode by Andrew Lee occurred, the channel was registered on Libera.chat, and on 2021-05-21, the topic was updated to say

09:07  -!- gustaf changed the topic of #photo to: this channel is now up and running on Libera.chat (same pwd), but this place is still the primary! | Discord bolthole - https://discord.gg/XXXX

On 2021-05-26, the channel was hijacked:

05:02  -!- freenodecom <~com@freenode/staff> has joined #photo
05:02  -!- mode/#photo (+o freenodecom) by freenodecom
05:02  -!- freenodecom changed the topic of #photo to: This channel has moved to ##photo. The topic is in violation of freenode policy: https://freenode.net/policies
05:02 <@freenodecom> This channel has been reopened with respect to the communities and new users. The topic is in violation of freenode policy: https://freenode.net/policies
05:02  -!- mode/#photo (+o freenodecom) by OperServ
05:02 <@freenodecom> The new channel is ##photo
05:02  -!- mode/#photo (-s+t) by ChanServ
05:02  -!- mode/#photo (+spimf ##photo) by freenodecom
05:02  -!- freenodecom <~com@freenode/staff> has left #photo ()
05:02  -!- mode/#photo (+f ##photo) by freenodecom
07:37 < gustaf> <abbr title="what the fsck">wtf</abbr>
07:37  -!- #photo Cannot send to nick/channel

(all times are in CEST).

A few hours later, Andrew Lee (rasengan) sent a network-wide wallop informing users that an attempt to enforce newly instituted rules against advertising other IRC networks had been overly broad and targeted more channels than intended.

It’s clear that our channel was included in this.

Users were encouraged to submit a request to Freenode staff to get their channels back.

Aftermath

The “regulars” of the channel were contacted via PM and informed that the Freenode channel was now closed. Most moved over to Libera. A few mentioned that they were permanently leaving Freenode.

As a good faith effort, prompted by Freenode promoters, I attempted to regain control of the channel at Freenode, but was informed that having a single-hash channel was not according to policy. The request was denied.

Discussion

I’ve written this post to present my side of the story. Over the last weeks, I’ve been told on Freenode that the widespread channel hijacking of 26 May 2021 (some reports say that 700+ channels were affected) was either not as widespread as reported, or “justified” to stem the flow of users to Libera.

I’m also a member of the channel #lobsters, which suffered the same fate. However, in that case, the project had officially moved, and the Freenode channel was locked. Based on Lee’s rationale, I actually find the hijack justified, as there were presumably people who would prefer to remain on Freenode and discuss the site there. However, note that there very little warning before this happened. There was no attempt to contact the project to present Freenode’s case as a better IRC host than Libera. Freenode instead unilaterally decided they knew better than the project’s themselves.

When Libera was announced, I did not feel that the urgency presented by the staff there was entirely justified. Never would I imagine that Andrew Lee would, within a week, exceed those warnings by a wide margin.

He and the current Freenode staff have proven that they cannot be trusted to be stewards of communities, by hijacking channels and disrupting them. They have proven to be incompetent, by affecting more channels than intended. They have proven to be discourteous, by requiring channel owners affected by their incompetence to apply, hat in hand and papers in order, for their channels to be reinstated. And finally, they’ve proven to be bad business people, by alienating their future customers and torching their future income stream.

Future

I’m nostalgic for my almost 17 year old Freenode account. But the more time passes, the more bitter I become. I’m going to hang around in some channels to see how things work out. I’m open to a more humble approach from Freenode staff and boosters. But if I feel I can’t be a part of a network that treats its users as peons to be exploited, I’m out.

Monday, 2021-05-31

Wednesday, 2021-05-26

Agency by William Gibson

This is Gibson’s worst novel. Not recommended.

It’s in the same (multi)verse as The Peripheral.

While that novel had engaging characters, this one doesn’t. The Jackpot protagonist, Wilf, shows us the horrifying prospect of the repressed Englishman surviving global collapse and an 80% die-off of humanity. The present-day character has no inner life to speak of. I have no clue how she managed to get in a relationship with her world’s Elon Musk analog. We’re supposed to believe that Eunice, the AI that the Jackpot side uses to try to avert nuclear war, is this fantastically engaging personality everyone loves, but in the end she’s basically sassy Magic Negro. The novel has entire chapters describing drives through the Bay Area.

In the end it reads as therapy for Gibson to cope with the Trump years.

Thursday, 2021-05-20

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

Mantel concludes the trilogy about Thomas Cromwell as he reaches the pinnacle of power and then plummets precipitously.

As I’ve mentioned before about this trilogy, this is great historical fiction. Mantel deserves every ounce of praise for these.

Friday, 2021-04-30

Saturday, 2021-04-24

14,000 dead in Sweden

Tuesday, 2021-04-13

The Pacific War Trilogy by Ian W. Toll

  • Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941–1942
  • The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942–1944
  • Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944–1945

An excellent and readable account of the (US) war in the Pacific against Japan in World War 2. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 2021-03-31

March

Vasagatan

Mar 2020 | Mar 2019 | Mar 2018 | Mar 2017 | Mar 2016 | Mar 2015 | Mar 2014 | Mar 2013 | Mar 2012 | Mar 2011 | Mar 2010 | Mar 2009

Saturday, 2021-03-27

Confessions of a Long-Distance Sailor by Paul Lutus

A self-published book available online recounting the author’s solo round the world sail.

A worthy entry in the long roster of such accounts.

Wednesday, 2021-03-17

One year since WFH started

Thursday, 2021-03-11