The ever tightening grip

I watched this video last night:

Basically, with Windows 10 it was “recommended” that you turn on the UEFI encryption keys and the “trusted platform” stuff. In Windows 11, it was a precondition for installation. Now they are planning to build something into the CPU itself, so that you can’t run an OS that hasn’t been approved by Microsoft, basically. What the author of the video didn’t say, and what I find glaringly obvious, is that this isn’t about Microsoft, it’s about America. They want to make sure that “their technology” can’t be used by anyone on their sanctioned entity list, because, if you pay attention, you will see that Microsoft, Apple, Google and similar extensions of NSA routinely sanction countries that refuse to bend over to America, by the principle of “if you refuse to be our slaves we’ll take our toys away”. Let’s say that Macs and iPhones outright refuse to work in any truly sovereign country. You take a thumb drive with Linux, install it, set it up and take a slight hit in comfort and productivity because the open source stuff isn’t written by people whose pay check depends on all the details being polished. However, you will still get the job done, and in some aspects the Linux way of doing things is actually better. I was actually quite productive on Linux when I had it on all my personal systems; the only exception is photography, because nothing on Linux is even in the same decade as Lightroom. But would I manage; oh yes. And if Windows/Mac didn’t really exist as an alternative, I would venture a guess that excellent Russian and Chinese commercial software would start appearing for Linux in short order. So, things would not only work, but also improve with time.

However, if the Americans succeed in putting this “trusted platform” shit in the CPU, it means that you won’t be able to run Linux or BSD on any American-designed hardware anywhere in the free world (because that’s what the “sanctioned entities list” really is). It’s not unexpected, and I actually think they are kind of late with this, but if anyone thinks Microsoft could lobby to put this stuff in Intel and AMD CPU designs without not only approval, but direct order from the NSA (and probably other deep-state structures as well), I have real estate on the Moon to sell you.

So, what does this mean in practice? Is it worrisome enough to warrant an immediate transition to non-American-designed computer architecture and non-American OS? Yes, if you’re a sovereign state. For individuals, it’s a more complicated matter. It’s worrisome enough for me to warrant building and maintaining redundant systems I can use in case this becomes a problem.

Smartphone to dumbphone?

For some reason I got a few videos about switching from smartphone to dumbphone and back in my YouTube stream, so I actually checked them out because the idea seemed bizarre. It turned out that some people are so overwhelmed by a smartphone that they just can’t leave it alone; they constantly find things to do with it, from social media to all the music and stuff you can listen on it, that their entire lives get absorbed in it. The reason why I find it bizarre is that my iPhone sits somewhere on the desk all day and I use it only for internet banking purposes (because Revolut, for instance, doesn’t have a desktop app so I have to use a mobile device) or when someone calls me; basically, when I’m home, I either don’t use it at all, or I use it for very specific things, the way I use a tootbrush or a coffee cup. When I’m going out, I put it in my pocket and basically forget about it, unless I want to check something. I’m probably the least typical smartphone user; I don’t use social media at all, I don’t listen to music or watch videos on my phone, but I do actually need a smartphone, because when I need it, it’s for checking some website or chat or map or things like that; my “screen on” time on the phone is perhaps five minutes a day, if even that. Still, I do kind of understand the problem people are having with them; it’s just that I get stuck on YouTube, watching hours of political, tech or historical videos, and it’s quite easy to lose the whole day like that. Still, I don’t consider it a loss; I want to keep informed in order to understand what’s going on, and analysis of the kind I’m doing requires keeping tabs on multiple data streams, but I occasionally find myself watching something that’s so far off-tangent that I wonder how I got there in the first place.

In any case, I think I’ve been doing it long enough that I can offer advice on how to manage addictive and time-consuming things on the Internet.

First, you need to be focused, as opposed to scatter-brained, and disciplined, in a sense of being in charge and not just clicking on shit that’s in front of you.

Second, you need to take breaks – take a long walk, or exercise, or something else that has nothing to do with either computers or the Internet. It doesn’t count if you use your phone in any way while doing it.

Third, no using the phone in the car. I can’t even tell you how annoying I find the people who drive while doing something on their phones, not to mention that it’s dangerous.

Fourth, when you’re with someone, talk to them. Don’t even touch the phone.

Fifth, do specific things, and when you’re done, let go of the phone, or the computer. Don’t fidget with it because you’ll always find something on it that will preoccupy your attention and waste your time. It’s a tool, not your connection with God.

Sixth, use an ad-blocker and similar tools for de-cluttering your screen. Don’t watch ads, don’t watch useless “entertaining” garbage, avoid live chats in favor of email and forums. Avoid Internet versions of “hanging out” – if you want to hang out, do it with friends in real life. Avoid functionality that keeps you “tethered”, in a sense that anyone can “ping” you at any time. That just keeps you plugged in and stressed. Turn the chat off unless you actually have something of importance to communicate, or if you expect to find something of importance there. In any case it’s best to write an e-mail. Chats are superficial, addictive, waste of time and for the most part they are disrespectful of other people’s limits and time, and if someone wants to keep you tethered it indicates an insecure personality. Avoid. Also, don’t ping others with useless shit – nobody really cares what you ate, or that you had to take a shit. Communicate important ideas, and if you don’t have any, shut up and read some books, and eventually that will change.

That’s basically it. If you’re scatterbrained, shallow and have an addictive personality, technology will certainly give you enough rope to hang yourself, but it isn’t an iPhone problem, it’s a dumbass problem.

Hardware upgrades

Every time Apple, Intel, AMD or Nvidia launches new gadgets I get a million fake-enthusiastic “reviews” (in fact paid ads produced by youtubers who whore themselves out to the hardware manufacturers) in my recommended videos, and they are always layered – first comes the “oh, a new gadgety thingy, how wonderful”, then “oh, it overheats, is underpowered, there are flaws”, and finally “why you don’t need it and should stick with the last year’s model”, until they decide they milked the product for all it’s worth and shift attention to the next thing. I find it boring and predictable in direct proportion to the faked enthusiasm of the “reviewers”, who are trying very hard to convince us that we live in some parallel universe where good smartphones and computers are something new and unheard of, while the truth of the matter is that the entire consumer electronics industry has peaked quite a while ago and we’re seeing very small incremental improvements. I recently made an experiment where I took several pieces of “obsolete hardware” from boxes and drawers – a 6 year old CPU and motherboard with integrated graphics, an old 120GB SSD, a 4 year old Android phone and so on, because someone in the family always has an old but perfectly functional device they upgraded from, and guess what, it’s all fine. I turned the PC into a local staging server where I test for service and dependency compatibility before I deploy things on the web, and I turned the old android phone into a backup device that I can switch to in emergencies.

The way I see it, a piece of equipment goes through several evolutionary phases; first it’s promising but flawed, and every new iteration of the product brings great improvement and one upgrades immediately after the new product has been released. Then it reaches maturity, where it’s good enough for what you need, and new iterations of the product are better in this or that way, but not enough to warrant an upgrade. The third phase is when the manufacturers introduce changes in design, or control layout, but the functionality of the device is the same, or even reduced to save on manufacturing cost, and after that point all further “improvements” are basically in finding out what they could remove, make cheaper, or introduce intentional design flaws that will make the device break down more quickly and force you to buy a replacement.

I remember times where a 6 months old computer or a digital camera was considered obsolete, because things were progressing that quickly. Now we are at the point where my “new” camera is 7 years old, my “old” camera is 17 years old, both are still in use, and their picture quality is excellent. My mid-2015 15” Macbook pro is still perfectly functional, and I could use it as my primary computer with only a slight reduction in speed from the new one I use. That’s a 7 years old computer, and it’s fine.

That logic doesn’t go forever, though. I would hardly use a Pentium II-233 today, or one of the early smartphones; those are junk and are better recycled for raw materials, than used. Also, I wouldn’t say that there have been no improvements in the last 7 years; however, I recently replaced my younger son’s perfectly good Xiaomi Mi8 with 11T pro, and joked that he now has a typical iPhone user experience, where you buy the new expensive one with better specs, migrate your stuff to it and everything works exactly the same and you feel like a fool for wasting money replacing a perfectly good thing. That’s where we are with computers, too; the last upgrade cycle I did was particularly meaningless, because I replaced stuff that worked fine with stuff that also worked fine, albeit noticeably faster in 5% of cases.

There’s a reason why my most recent tech-purchases were battery-powered lawn mowers: I can actually do things with them that I couldn’t before. With computers and phones, well, nice that they have a new shiny design and color scheme and all, but I’ll pass.

Why Linux is not to be trusted

From a recent Wired article:

THE DEVELOPER OF a popular open source package has been caught adding malicious code to it, leading to wiped files on computers located in Russia and Belarus. The move was part of a protest that has enraged many users and raised concerns about the safety of free and open source software.
The application, node.ipc, adds remote interprocess communication and neural networking capabilities to other open source code libraries. As a dependency, node.ipc is automatically downloaded and incorporated into other libraries, including ones like Vue.js CLI, which has more than 1 million weekly downloads.

Two weeks ago, the node.ipc author pushed a new version of the library that sabotaged computers in Russia and Belarus, the countries invading Ukraine and providing support for the invasion, respectively. The new release added a function that checked the IP address of developers who used the node.ipc in their own projects. When an IP address geolocated to either Russia or Belarus, the new version wiped files from the machine and replaced them with a heart emoji.

To conceal the malice, node.ipc author Brandon Nozaki Miller base-64-encoded the changes to make things harder for users who wanted to visually inspect them to check for problems.

Translated to common language, the open source community is motivated by ideology, not money. Since they are motivated by ideology, they constantly need to find “noble causes” and “change the world”. In this case, one such “noble individual” decided that the “noble cause” is to support Ukraine in its valiant struggle for fascism, theft, corruption and enrichment of criminals, and against Russia, and modified a popular open source project by adding malware that damages user data if the IP address is in antifascist countries. The code was base-64 encoded in order to prevent visual detection.

Now – if we have in mind that the supposedly “open source” projects are hardly ever peer-reviewed in normal times, because there are too many projects, and nobody really wants to bother with it because it’s assumed that, because the code is open to inspection, it actually is constantly inspected and reviewed – the fact remains that hundreds or thousands pieces of malware, carefully encoded to hide their real purpose, can be scattered across all sorts of open source projects, maintained by one or two actual developers who do all the work on the project while the “reviewers” will seldom give the source code even a passing glance, those project maintainers are starved for money and therefore easy target for bribery by governments or corporations, they are also possibly sensitive to other forms of pressure/blackmail, and then there are those who are ideologically motivated, in the sense that they, like all godless people, live empty and worthless lives and want to pretend that their lives matter and that they make a difference by contributing to the cause of the day. There’s absolutely no reason why I would assume that open source projects are trustworthy, which means I would have to either personally go through them – for which I lack both time and motivation – or trust someone who will provide oversight, in which case quo custodiet ipsos custodes?

I told the packet manager in the Linux distro I use to list all the installed packages and there were 2147 of them, and I inspected source code in exactly 0 of those. If n (where n,o,p > 0) % of all contributors were sensitive to ideological virtue-signalling, o% were sensitive to money issues and p% were sensitive to blackmail, how many hidden pieces of malware could they have hidden in there, carefully masked by either obfuscation, function by omission or function by interaction with other pieces of the puzzle, which is all very hard to detect?

Basically, if I want something that will work reliably in all kinds of scenarios, Linux and other open source solutions are arguably no better than the proprietary ones; they just have different sets of issues, which is why I try to average-out by using all the available platforms and maintain sufficient proficiency in all of them to be able to instantly platform-hop if one of them is disabled.

Enslavement through convenience

Apple recently created the new generation of laptops that are, performance-wise, the ideal machine to replace my aging 15” mid-2015 Macbook Pro, in the role of a desktop replacement heavy lifting photo editing machine. They also recently released the Mac Studio desktop which is almost exactly what I would want as a desktop machine. Did I just go out and buy them immediately, the way I did some other things they made before? Heck no. Instead, I started moving away from Apple gradually by buying a Lenovo Legion 5 pro gaming laptop; earlier I already upgraded my desktop machine to Ryzen 5900X, so that beast is very unlikely to need any kind of replacement or an upgrade in the next four years, meaning it’s likely to outlast both myself and human civilization.

What made me “fall out of love” with Apple is the fact that they are at the bleeding edge of the political censorship movement based in America, and are basically the most likely company to disable your computer by a remote command if you find yourself in a “political dissident” camp; basically, if you’re not a complete sheep toeing the official American main stream media line prescribed by the CIA. Having in mind my political stance, I’m an obvious target, and I don’t really feel like making it easier for the CIA to shut me out; sure, I have lots of Apple gear, and I have “cloud” accounts with other American vendors. However, I have a sufficient number of backups; I can trivially get a Huawei phone which is already de-nazified, and I already have several older SSD drives with Linux pre-installed, so that I wouldn’t have to go online in order to be able to go online; I would just have to plug an USB stick into the machine and boot a live Linux distro, or, if I wanted to get serious, plug the SSD into the machine and have an instantly-working pre-configured OS where I just install the certificates and encryption keys and I’m up and running within five minutes. Let’s say a paranoid old bastard like myself is not the easiest conceivable target. They would have to really try, it’s not like they can lock my Apple account and I’m out. I’m certainly not going out of my way to make things easier for them by having an all-Apple ecosystem. Sure, it’s very convenient in peacetime environment where you agree with everything the CIA wants you to agree with, but let’s put it this way. By having a non-Apple system, I miss out on things like the iMessage or the iCloud integration. Big deal, I have to get the Macbook if I want to write lots of text messages. If I switch to Linux, it’s more of a hassle, because a certain percentage of things won’t work properly, I will have to use a different, somewhat inferior password manager, and I won’t have Lightroom so managing my photo library would become a real pain in the arse. Other than that, everything will work, because the way I have my Windows and Mac system configured is basically to work like Linux with Adobe apps running on it. Whenever it’s possible, I use the most direct possible way of controlling things, such as copying files over the network using ssh instead of the high-level services, so the moment I get the ssh terminal and the web browser running, I have everything I need. Would I run Linux preferentially over Mac OS or Windows during peacetime? Heck no; too many things are wrong with it. Would I run it if the commercial options start waging technological warfare for America? Heck yes. Also, I did it for five years in a row at one point so it’s quite easy for me to find my way around, especially since I have a current Ubuntu distro running in WSL on all my Windows machines, I run Linux on both my servers, on a home staging server, and I use the Mac the way I would use a Linux distro where the window manager isn’t actually crap.

Besides, I’m quite shocked by the amount of user-unfriendliness of the current Macs, to the point where you can’t even replace the monitor cable on the new Studio display, and you can’t add/replace SSD drives or add RAM on a Mac Studio which is a machine targeted at professionals. I understand that you can’t do it on a Macbook Air, but on a desktop machine? On a thick Macbook Pro, targeted at professionals? And the entire thing is deliberately designed so that America can pull a plug with a single command and you’re out. Russia recently found out what it’s like to implicitly rely on “international” services which are essentially all American-controlled, and you find out that you have tractors and harvesters from John Deere that are designed to be maintained only by the manufacturer, so that when you’re sanctioned by America, your agriculture stops working. Fuck that shit. I want to have a car that doesn’t “phone home” to tell its American masters where I am and what I’m doing so that they can brick it in case they don’t “support” my way of thinking and want to “cancel” me. I don’t want a phone or a computer that requires someone’s approval in order to keep working. Sure, it’s very difficult to get out once you get comfortable in the American ecosystem, but I’m at least keeping a foot out. That’s why I bought a laptop where I can add or replace drives, add or replace RAM modules, it’s designed so that I can open it and make upgrades, and I can just replace the OS with something that doesn’t require political compliance in order to work.

Oh BTW, when Americans figure out that half of the world hates them, they think it’s because of their “freedom”. Well fuck you and fuck your “freedom”. Everything you make is a slave-control device. That’s not what you do if you’re interested in freedom, that’s what you do if you want to keep everyone else as your slave. Anyone who wants freedom today would need to make a list of everything they own and use that is controlled by America, put it on a heap and burn it.