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02 Oct 2019

Statically Organised

Creating content in a new way

I want to go direct to pure content, nurturing readability & portability.

But also, I want to make it easier for me to pen & publish things to encourage me to do so. I often have things to say, but by the time my methodologies are all in place to do so, the muse has left me. Which adds a barrier of organising and time allocation to recreate the moment of inspiration in the first place.

So I’m trying out org-static-blog 1 the easiest method I can find to get org files 2 out to blog files with the minimum of layered fuss and dependant infrastructure & architecture.

Footnotes:

Tags: Muse
03 May 2019

Surveillance Capitalism with Aral

One of my favourite “Cyborg” activists is Aral Balkan. He is a motivated clear speaker on the current and future problems we face under a global regime of oppressive surveillance capitalism via technology.

Explore his work 1

Rather than try to summarise all the issues myself, in a rather clumsy way, I would urge you to watch his recent lecture entitled “Small Technology - A vision for Europe?” over at the Bucerius Lab.

Bucerius Lab Lecture w/ Aral Balkan: Small Technology - A vision for Europe? (Bootleg recording) 2

Unfortunately the audio isn’t very good because the lecture was recorded as a bootleg, the organisers of the event had one or two choice lectures recorded professionally and sadly Aral’s wasn’t one of them. Still worth a view.

Aral delivers a very powerful overview of the situation not only historically but also contextually going forward. I would argue that this privacy issue is at the very core of everything holding our societies and democracies back today. We need a fundamental change in the way we operate as technologically expanding civilisation, in terms of how we treat people and how we reconfigure our politics and economics to address the existential threats our species face on this fragile planet.

The problems are clearly identified, explained and steps towards finding acceptable solutions are discussed. Aral himself works under the indie intiative (with Laura Kalbag) 3, supporting ethical design, individual control over their own data and accessibility for everyone.

Indie has now broadened its goals and has become the Small Technology Foundation 4

It is clear we need to take back control of our own data. The money engines built around us and the emergent algorithmic technologies are never going to have our best interests at heart, nor the planets.

It really is time to take notice of this issue, and Aral is one of the tech savvy people who can shine a clear light on it for everyone.

Footnotes:

Tags: Muse
19 Apr 2019

Gopher Clients

There are a number of Gopher clients available a number of which can be web browser add-ons to allow you to access gopherspace using your current “window” to the Internet. However, to truly taste the speed and power of Gopher in a Linux terminal, the following are very easy to use.

Lynx

Lynx browser 1

You can load a Gopherhole direct from the command line by pointing the browser at the gopher site (the gopher protocol denoted by gopher://).

lynx gopher://sdf.org/users/spelk

You’ll be able to navigate your way through the information links, reading the text files associated or digging deeper into the gopherhole sub-directories.

CGO

CGO is a another terminal based gopher client 2

CGO works by rendering the Gopher page in the terminal and marking up the links with two character combinations (Vim-like), so traversing the Gopherhole requires less keystrokes than using arrow key navigation as you do in Lynx. Each information file or sub-directory link will only require two key combos to go and render the new content.

cgo gopher://sdf.org:70/users/spelk

Lynx is straightforward to use, in most distribution repositories, but is a little traditional in its method of navigation through the Gopher links.

CGO requires builing from source, if it isn’t in your repo, but is very lightweight and fast, particularly with the two keystroke combo navigation.

Footnotes:

Tags: Muse
17 Apr 2019

Gophering Guide on SDF

Setting up a Gopherhole with SDF.ORG

v1.0 2019-04-17 by spelk 1

Gopherholes can be hosted by users with enough knowledge to run a Gopher server, however the public access UNIX server at SDF (Super Dimension Fortress) allows you to get a free user account and to setup and try out your own Gopherspace easily.

Registration:

Firstly head over to 2 Create a Free Unix Shell Account - You’ll need to enter:

Email address (used to send you your password) Preferred Login [accountname]

You’ll be sent a welcome message via email from SDF Membership detailing how to log in to their server via SSH

Connecting:

The server to connect to will probably look like this:

ssh [accountname]@tty.sdf.org

Once logged into the SDF server shell you will have access to a lot of UNIX functionality, however we want to create a Gopherhole.

Creating a Gopherhole:

Run the command: mkgopher

This will drop you into a script shell with a simple menu to help you create and manage your Gopherhole.

Type: help for a full list of mkgopher commands.

MKGOPHER (c)2003 smj@sdf.lonestar.org - Version 4

Type HELP for Commands.

MKGOPHER> help

MKGOPHER (c)2003 smj@sdf.lonestar.org - Version 4

HOWTO                 - Tips on managing your GOPHERSPACE
setup                 - First step, create your GOPHERSPACE
chmod                 - Set/Restore file permissions
title                 - Title your site
describe              - Create a site description
mkdir     {directory} - Create a directory
rmdir     {directory} - Delete a directory
edit       {filename} - Publish a document
upload     {filename} - Transfer a file via ZMODEM to SDF
ls                    - List the current directory
cd        {directory} - Change directory
pwd                   - Present working directory
gopher                - Browse your site
quit

MKGOPHER>

Note: From here on in (unless specifically noted), assume that the commands I detail are typed into the MKGOPHER> script shell.

Type: setup

To create the appropriate folder structure and files for your Gopherhole. You can fill in:

title describe

to add further information about your site.

Digging the entrance to your Gopherhole:

Structurally a Gopher hole needs an entrance. You need to create a map file to show incoming rodents what is in the hole and where the deeper tunnels lead to. This file is called a ‘gophermap’, and the filename should be gophermap. So you need to:

edit gophermap

This will load up a blank text file into the PICO editor (a relative of the NANO editor) - simple to use.

Mapping the Gopherhole:

Now for the good stuff. A gophermap consists of the following items separated/delimited by a <tab> character. Wherever I’ve used <tab> below, I mean press the TAB key to insert a tab character into the file.

[id tag] [Label] <tab> [directory location] <tab> [hostname] <tab> [port]


id tag             = Indicator as to the content
                     (0=Text File, 1=Directory/sub-menu, i=inline text or info )
                     (there are other types but these are the easy & important ones!)

Label              = Menu label text
                     (eg. About, Blog, Links to other Gopherholes)

directory location = Relative location on the server
                     ( /users/[accountname]/[directory]) for directory/sub-menu
                     ( /users/[accountname]/file.txt) for text file

hostname           = the host the content is served on
                     (sdf.org or sdf.lonestar.org)

port               = the port the content is served through
                     (usually 70)

So an example map for a Gopherhole entrance would be:

iMy GOPHERHOLE<tab>/<tab>sdf.org<tab>70

0About<tab>/users/[accountname]/about.txt<tab>sdf.org<tab>70

1My Blog<tab>/users/[accountname]/blogfiles/<tab>sdf.org<tab>70
1My Dotfiles<tab>/users/[accountname]/dotfiles/<tab>sdf.org<tab>70

iMy Gopher Friends<tab>/<tab>sdf.org<tab>70

1Xpenguin Gopher<tab>/<tab>gopher.xpenguin.club<tab>70
1Uoou Gopher<tab>/<tab>gopher.ludiclinux.com<tab>70
1Distrotube Gopher<tab>/<tab>distro.tube<tab>70

In PICO, use Ctrl+O to Write-Out the file and Ctrl+X to eXit the editor.

As you can see the About menu item links to a text file called about.txt.. so you can use:

edit about.txt

command to create your “About me” introduction.

The Blog and Dotfiles sub-menus are pointing to directories you need to create with:

mkdir blogfiles
mkdir dotfiles

MKGOPHER should create the directories and give them appropriate permissions.

In order for your Blog and Dotfile sections to work, you’ll need to create similar gophermap files in those directories, with appropriate links to textual content, like your blog posts or your dotfiles.

You can use the MKGOPHER shell to:

ls

To list the files/directories in the current directory. And you can:

cd blogfiles

or

cd dotfiles

to change into those sub-directories, where you can issue a:

edit gophermap

command to build a gopher map deeper into the hole.

This is how you create a whole warren of tunnels into your Goperhole and you entice other Gophers to run around sampling the delights of your sweet content.

Troubleshooting your tunnels:

a) If your directories give you an Access Denied message, you may need to set the permissions manually at the UNIX shell.

In MKGOPHER, type:

quit

This will drop you to the UNIX shell.

Your prompt will likely be something akin to this:

sdf:/sdf/udd/s/[accountname]>

THESE COMMANDS ARE IN THE UNIX SHELL

You’ll want to:

cd gopher
chmod +rgx blogfiles
chmod +rgx dotfiles

Go back into MKGOPHER script shell to do any editing on your gophermaps though.

b) If your external links to other Gopher sites aren’t working, make sure you have the appropriate gopher hostname and port for the external site, and that you have ‘/’ set for the directory option.

That’s all I have for now.

Supporting SDF.ORG:

Your free account will last for 600+ days, until you validate it.

You can validate it by post!! or by sending $3 via paypal or some other digital method to SDF from the donate link on their site 3

Check out their join options if you want to support them at different levels.

Additional information:

SDF GOPHER FAQ 4

“Phlogosphere” If you are going to use your gopherspace for blogging, type ‘phlog’ at the shell to list your site in the SDF phlogosphere.

Good Luck with your Gophering!

spelk

Footnotes:

Tags: Muse
25 Jan 2019

Simplify and Purify

I slowly tired of the free services I was using to manage my expanding digital life.

The services often began life as useful and better than the competition, but over time, they would whittle away at the functionality available to me, strip down the interface, streamline the experience, down to the lowest common denominator. A gradual erosion of usefulness and affording me control over my assets stored there.

And then my carefully curated assets where just part of the overall data storm surrounding me, that fed into algorithms and scanning mechanisms to nourish the advertisers attached to the services. Now these prying eyes weren’t just getting a feel for who I was, or what I was doing, they actually wanted hard data on everything I did. Everything logged. Everything collated. My mail. My voice. My movements. My money. What I watched. What I listened to. What I shared. What I talked about.

My privacy was being compromised, and the machinery and good faith options were being withdrawn. Privacy concerns, why not take control under our Privacy settings panel? A Panel that become more and more cryptic, more and more difficult to understand, more and more hidden away, compromised and coaxed away from me with deceptive wording and faux choices.

Taking control of my privacy started to become like negotiating yet another mobile phone deal, where everything is a web of jumbled options specifically designed to trick me into making the most lucrative choice for them, and to bargain away concerns with a fake sense of a deal. It’s a pressured sales pitch, with blackmail and hijacking thrown into the equation.

Things start to happen, when I don’t want them to.

Things I don’t want to happen.

In places I have no control over.

And this loss of control, is sold as ease of use coupled with free digital services for everyone.

Come and taste the candy. Tell your friends. In fact tell us who are your friends, and we can hook them into the honeytrap.

I’ve been on the Internet and pursuing a digital life since the late 1980’s. I’ve seen it at it’s birth, and the raw power available to tech savvy users. And it felt good then. A new world. A new adventure.

The limited but easy to use front end of this black boxed spying machine sucked you in to an asylum, and you started to feel like you’re wearing a suffocating straight jacket, one which kept on changing over time, with more buckles, more straps, pulling in tighter and tighter. Taking more of you. Giving less and less.

I’d had enough. So I took the decision to burst out, and rid myself of these free services. To go to where I wasn’t the nutrient source, but I was the valued user. Back to basics. Honesty. Usability. An ethical digital life. Not one tainted with lies or traps.

INSPIRATION

I’d like to thank those who inspired me to take on this challenge and make the change.

  • Chris Were 1 pointed out the joy of Neocities, and the simplicity of being able to easily host an information site without much effort or fuss.
  • Low Tech Magazine 2 showed me what could be done with the simplest of designs, and its ethical solar self-powered hosting.
  • Switching.Social or Swiso 3 is a curated crib sheet that will show ethical, easy-to-use and privacy-conscious alternatives to the data hungry spycorp softs.

A NEW WAY

Here I will outline what I found to help me escape the bonds of surveillance, and put control firmly back in my hands.

Email Service

  • GMail ==> Posteo.de 4

Email Client

  • Mutt 5 + Emacs 6
  • Thunderbird + Lightning + Caldav + Sogo Connector

Blog

  • Neocities.org 7 + Emacs 6 + org-static-blog 8
  • Neocities.org (Hand coded HTML & CSS)
  • Plusplushosting.net (Wordpress)

Cloud

  • owndrive 9
  • Pcloud
  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive

Sync

  • Syncthing 10

News

  • QuiteRSS (using OPML RSS feeds) 11
  • Newsblur.com
  • Google Reader

Social Media

  • Twitter ==> Mastodon 12
  • Google+ ==> reddit.com*
  • Google+ ==> mewe.com*
  • Facebook ==> Diaspora / Disroot
  • Youtube ==> Peertube 13 / Invidio.us 14
  • Imgur/Instagram ==> Pixelfed 15

Computing

  • (PC) Windows 8 ==> Windows 10 ==> Linux Mint 19 Cinnamon ==> MX Linux 18 16
  • (Laptop) Windows 7 ==> OpenSUSE ==> Linux Mint 19 XFCE ==> MX Linux 18 16
  • (Laptop) Windows 8 ==> Windows 10 ==> Bodhi Linux 5 ==> MX Linux 18 16
  • (Tablet) iPad 1 ==> Google N7 ==> LG G8*
  • (Phone) Nokia ==> Samsung S3 ==> LG G3 ==> HTC10*

Mobile Apps

Moving from Google Play served apps to F-Droid 17 FOSS apps

  • GMail ==> Aqua Mail Pro ==> K-9 Mail 18
  • Pocketcast ==> PodListen ==> AntennaPod 19
  • Rocket Player ==> VLC ==> SicMu Player 20
  • EFS FileXplorer Pro ==> AnExplorer Pro 21
  • Chrome ==> Firefox Focus ==> DuckDuckGo Browser 22
  • Twitter ==> Plume ==> Talon ==> Tusky ==> Fedilab 23
  • Google Maps ==> Maps Offline (with OpenStreetMaps) 24
  • Evernote ==> Joplin ==> Emacs 6 Org-mode 25
  • Todoist ==> Emacs 6 Org-mode 25
  • Lastpass ==> KeepassXC 26
  • Google Authenticator ==> FreeOTP 27
  • Reddit ==> Relay Pro ==> Joey ==> Slide ==> NONE
  • Amazon Kindle ==> Book Reader 28
  • Comixology*
  • Audible ==> *
  • Google Calendar ==> Posteo Calendar via HTC Calendar 4 + DavDroid 29
  • Netflix ==> *
  • Amazon Prime Video ==> *
  • Google Play Movies ==> *
  • Google Play Music ==> Bandcamp 30
  • Google GBoard ==> TouchPal ==> SwiftKey Pro ==> Simple Keyboard 31

There are a number of services I haven’t found an ethical alternative to, especially ones that include film/movie delivery. It seems the DRM systems attached to the fragmented services available, are all tied up in monthly subscription schemes. I’ve got varied content splayed across disparate corporate delivery mechanisms, all locked away and only available for streaming with accounts and tracking using proprietary apps on different devices.

At the moment I can’t see any way out of this trap.

Short of buying the film/movie on DVD or BlueRay and ripping the content off the disc in some form.

Similarly, audiobooks would need to “recorded” by capturing the audio stream out of the DRM locked application.

A lot of books purchased through the Amazon Kindle store or the Google Play Books store are locked away using Adobe DRM, and I’ve yet to find a way to unlock these in a format I can use on a DRM-free book reader. Select titles through Google Play Books are actually available as DRM-less, but they are mainly odd linux manuals or other reference materials.

There are a limited selection of eBook titles available for purchase through Rakuten that are DRM-free (usually in epub format). However there is no easy way to search for DRM-free titles - other than to use the handy & “Unofficial Kobo search” site provided by Switching.social/Swiso. 32

Music however, at the moment, can be downloaded from Amazon and Google Play Music purchases and the mp3 files archived. Bandcamp is my preferred music provider - mainly down to the choice and fringe nature of the material available.

There are a number of aspects to my digital life that are still locked away, and require further investigation. Hardware wise, my phone choices are very limited, but there are some new options appearing on the horizon that may be worth looking at, once we have a decent privacy aware ethical Linux phone.

Footnotes:

Tags: Muse
03 Jan 2019

Viewtube via RSS

Since I maintain the Computer Wargames sub-reddit 1, I monitor a lot of content via RSS using Newsblur 2 as well as keep tabs on a lot of Youtube channels via subscriptions. However, since I monitor SO MANY channels, YouTube’s default interface is slow and unwieldy to do this content devouring on a regular basis. So I miss stuff.

I’ve been hankering after a way to process the channel subscriptions using a relatively fast piece of desktop software. But a quick Google search on “YouTube Desktop Software” gives rise to a lot of links to YouTube downloaders, or obscure YouTube music media players. Since I rely on RSS for my news needs for /r/computerwargames 1 I thought, there’s got to be a way to use a desktop RSS feed reader to go through my YouTube subscriptions.

So I started the quest, for an easier life.

Export YouTube Subscriptions to OPML file.

I found this nugget of info.

viewtube1.jpg

A way to export your YouTube subscriptions as an OPML file. 3

The Manage Subscriptions page is a little hidden, like all things Google nowadays.. layer the content to the lowest common denominator.

But you can get to it direct, if you’re logged in to YouTube with your Google account, by clicking on the following link 4

Scroll to the bottom of the Subscription Manager page, and click the Export OPML file button, and save the file locally.

RSS Feed Reader

Now we need an RSS Feed Reader to load the OPML file into. One that supports video content in the feed.

On Windows go with FeedDemon 5.

viewtube2.jpg

It’s been discontinued since 2013, but is now Freeware. Seems to work ok on Windows 10.

On Linux, I went with QuiteRSS 6

In both pieces of software, you can load the OPML file and it will populate the feed list with your YouTube subscriptions. Set the viewing panels as you feel comfortable, and finally you have a way of checking the feeds, and viewing the videos outside of YouTube web site.

Here’s my setup in QuiteRSS for quick viewing, click the feed, double click the entry, video loads up in the viewing panel and plays.

viewtube3.jpg

I find this method much easier to use to keep tabs on new videos. Obviously if I subscribe to extra channels in YouTube itself, I’ll need to get hold of the RSS feed for the subcribed channel and add it to the list.

Hope this is useful for someone out there as content hungry as I am.

NOTE: I subsequently ditched monthly subscription based Newsblur 2 as my main RSS feed reader in favour of using QuiteRSS for everything, site news content AND youtube video subscriptions.

Alternative - FREETUBE

With the release of FREETUBE 7, you can now import your OPML subscriptions, and watch YT videos in a standalone desktop client.

freetube.jpg

Features

  • Watch videos without ads
  • Use YouTube without Google tracking you using cookies and JavaScript
  • Make API calls through the Tor network
  • Subscribe to channels without an account
  • Local subscriptions, history, and saved videos
  • Export & import subscriptions
  • Open videos from your browser directly into FreeTube (with extension)
  • Mini Player
  • Light / dark theme

Client seems to work ok, if a little slow, with a large OPML list of subscriptions. But if you monitor only a select few, and you are concerned with your privacy, then its probably worth exploring FREETUBE (perhaps with Tor integration).

Footnotes:

Tags: Muse
03 Jan 2019

Star Trek Serendipity and Synchronicity

sfg-star-trek-wallpapers.jpg

As I approached my half century of being, I eagerly slipped into a free to play game that nuzzled at my attention like a needy pet. The game was Star Trek Online.

http://www.arcgames.com/en/games/star-trek-online

It was a game I’d visited early on in its development cycle on the PC. And now it had contorted itself Houdini style to fit snugly into a console. Along the way it had gone from a subscription based model to a free to play festival of extravaganza. It’s middle-man currency known only as ‘zen’.

VIDEO https://invidio.us/watch?v=wE0PARmn6x0

I enjoy spaceships, always have done, always will. Since my early days of marionette mirth with the FAB 5 of Thunderbirds, the steely 5 o’clock shadow of Captain Scarlett, the Angel Interceptors and the Mysterons, I’d been hankering after science fiction space action.

Early 1970’s fun was to be had roleplaying Star Trek in the school playground, with me, the bespectacled one, always landing the role of the Doctor “Bones” McCoy. Never Kirk! The Enterprise was a white paint blueprint of a badminton court, with its respective compartments for us all to inhabit. The saucer pointing towards the school, the docking bay and engines pointing out into the road. Late 1970’s brought with it a heavy obsession with the Star Wars Universe. It cannot be stressed just how much that one film impacted my life towards space aged escapism.

Now having ventured into space many times, during the RPG years of Traveller and during the formative years of video-gaming, leading up to modern day epics. It seems once more fortuitous for me to step back onto the bridge of my very own Enterprise.

As I began my “Trek”, little did I know, that my 50th birthday coincided with Star Trek’s 50th celebrations. How apt.

As I ramped up the enthusiasm for the online multiplayer game, it swelled to incorporate the lore of the Star Trek Universe. I soaked it all up, like an absorbant Horta and pursued it with much rigour, basking in a future vision of Space exploration and adventure.

Boldly going, so to speak.

I found strange comfort in Star Trek the Original Series (originally known only as Star Trek, I know, I know…). My childhood excitement for the show, the heroes and the action, suddenly had discerning adult eyes of appreciation. Bowled over by how much the trinity of Kirk, Spock and Bones seemed to elevate the show beyond it’s tawdry budget and the late 1960’s TV setting. I found my humanism keenly served by Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future. The positivity and comforting nature of the “predictions”, coupled with the bravery, heroics, and staunch use of science and reason really hit a note with me. As an old man.

The 50 year celebrations were a look back, to asses just how far the show and myself had explored the unfolding frontiers! But more than that, it was to marvel at how comfortingly familiar it was to me personally. This IS who I am. Engage!

star-trek-50th-anniversary-logo.jpg

Back to the game, Star Trek Online, is your usual free to play MMO pursuit, lots of gathering, collecting and tweaking complexity wrapped around visual action and a nod to the entire Star Trek franchise. The game gives you an enormous amount on content for free! I have to applaud that. But they are trying to make a living, and so later as you become more and more invested in the title, the later tiered ships, encourage you to spend your expensive-to-acquire Buddhism-free zen.

Since I’ve ploughed many many hours into the game, and my obsessive interest has inflated to take in the entire Star Trek Universe, I see it all as totally worth it.

The game has some exquisite space combat, huge vessels “of the sea” firing phaser beams and photo torpedo volleys at each other.

U.S.S. Moon (Carrier Escort) VIDEO https://invidio.us/watch?v=_rsv5HBm6jQ

U.S.S. Loyalty (Battlecruiser) VIDEO https://invidio.us/watch?v=yNojwPgW84s

Rumble with the Romulans VIDEO https://invidio.us/watch?v=cfnCipNBJVk

The game also boasts a ground combat mechanic, with bridge officers in your away team and phasers blasting in ship or installation corridors, or on the surface of alien planets.

Pirate Arena on Nimbus III VIDEO https://invidio.us/watch?v=pWLHN3CzNqg

Taking on a V-Rex in the Dyson Sphere VIDEO https://invidio.us/watch?v=eiWN-sr6x3A

Sabotage on Kobali Prime VIDEO https://invidio.us/watch?v=8dV6P6NuEwQ

So I hit my mid-century, bathed in the light of a transporter beam whisking me back to a time when my excitement and novelty knew no bounds. I was clothed in a Star Trek t-shirt, watching the “Trouble with Tribbles”, whilst sipping Saurian Brandy, and raising the glass to the entire space faring franchise.

Happy 50th Star Trek!

star-trek-50th-anniversary-logo.jpg

Live long and prosper.

sfg-llap.jpg

Tags: Muse
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