tom moody

Archive for the ‘computers-R-stupid’ Category

Ardour's Paul Davis speaks at Linux audio event

Paul Davis, a Linux luminary who developed the JACK streaming protocol and currently works on the Ardour DAW (digital audio workstation), speaks at a conference here (video embed -- start at 2:22:32).

Worth a watch, even if it's pessimistic overall about Linux audio. On the one hand he offers a necessary reality check to open source boosterism, but on the other, he needs to insulate himself from ordinary bonehead users on forums, they are clearly wearing him down. (He's even testier on the forums.)

He makes a good point about certain types of software only being viable in the commercial realm, as opposed to the open source model. His example is Elastique Audio, a proprietary timestretching algorithm. He admits that neither Linux nor anyone else offers anything as good. It excels, he argues, because the creators spent ten years "polishing and polishing" the code. You need a promise of return, and not just the love of your peers, to do something that numbing.

At one point he muses on the types of audio users who might be drawn to Linux environment. An impetus he missed is people fleeing Apple and Windows for political and aesthetic reasons. Getting away from computer companies that trick you, spy on you, and bleed you for additional services is a strong motivator.

- tom moody

May 20th, 2017 at 1:08 pm

my am*zon reviews in html

A minor ingrate on the former ridiculed the sidebar link here, "my amazon reviews, '98-'03" -- it was supposed to be a joke, oh well. These reviews were written in the innocent days before Jeff Bezos emerged as a totalitarian Sauron turning the American workplace into a high-tech surveillance hell.
The reviews were an experiment in attempting "pro" culturecrit in an unpaid environment and ceased when one of them had wording altered by a staffer.
Rather than continuing to link to the black evil that is am*zon, I've saved the reviews as an HTML file.

- tom moody

May 13th, 2017 at 9:50 am

Patreon and the perpetual hemorrhage model of e-commerce

Left commentator David Sirota is launching a new webcast ("Podcast" is an Apple-centric term that people still use, long after "pods" became "phones" -- appcast, maybe? no, please).
Unfortunately he's using Patreon to pay for it. That's a new-ish e-commerce platform that several indie content providers, such as James Howard Kunstler and Radio War Nerd, have embraced.
The Patreon model isn't based on subscription -- they call it "fundraising." That is, fundraising in perpetuity.
You can't make a one-time payment for x months of listening, in the manner of say, a magazine subscription. You "pledge" one of several tiers of support and Patreon bleeds this chosen increment out of your credit card or Paypal account each month. You don't have a credit card? Someone call law enforcement.
This puts the onus on you to cancel. If you die or become disabled the charges accrue to infinity. Also you can't buy single webcasts.
Would love to "support" certain authors but not if they're going to use Patreon's "shady porn website" model of commerce (repackaged as a "hip startup" model of commerce). It's rent-seeking, it's Silicon Valley, it's bad.

- tom moody

May 11th, 2017 at 7:51 am

Posted in computers-R-stupid

Discogs ownership and future

Discogs censorship thread

Sombunya I believe that after Discogs was purchased by "Zink Media" the policy discussed here, as well as other things, came into play.

musiclraider When I read your post it intrigued me. But upon investigation it seems that Zink Media is a private company owned by Kevin Lewandowski, who started Discogs. Are you sure Discogs was bought? Even so, being bought by the person who started it is hardly likely to result in a great change in policies.

Sombunya When I started here 13 years ago it seemed like it was just all teo and nik. I also naively assumed that teo may have sold this place when it grew large and profitable (which is what I would have done) but I may very well be wrong. It also seemed much looser and more liberal back then than it is now.

musiclraider Yep, I've been a member since 2005 and agree it has changed dramatically.
Inevitable really, but I am still amazed that they continue to allow the sale of bootlegs, great stuff.
I wonder if/when 'Zink' will sell out to a big multinational, as the site must be worth millions if not billions now.
If it does, you will see much more dramatic changes happen very fast.

Sombunya I can hardly wait (sarcasm intended)

Discogs Careers page

Joseph Hartnett CUNY librarian research paper

Discogs is an electronic dance music database that gradually expanded into a music collecting database, where old vinyl and CDs are bought and sold.
After spending some time in the "member" sections, where the sausage-making of release submission and editing takes place, one might start wondering about the economics of the site. Anyone with a login can submit and edit releases. "Staff" has very little interaction with users and mostly allows a small group of hall proctor/Wikipedian/nerd types to run the show. In the forums they complain about "rogue" (i.e., ordinary) users. These nerds are all unpaid, and work out of zeal for vinyl details such as the color of the label and what pressing plant was used in 1974. Yet, their decisions about a release can instantly impact the value of a disc, as reflected in the buy and sell statistics of the Discogs marketplace area.
Let's say you own a Pink Floyd LP from the '60s. The marketplace shows 40 sales of the record have occurred, with low/median/high prices ranging from $15 to $150. One day, a hall monitor notices that your copy was pressed at a different plant and moves your release to a "new submission" that has zero market value. Tough for you, if you're thinking about selling it, until actual sales start to occur for this "new" submission.
At the moment, Discogs makes its money from charging fees to sellers of records, and advertising. It is not a non-profit, but it's also not a user-data harvester for one of the big Silicon Valley monopolies. There is an uncomfortable connection to Google, in that releases have links to "videos" (that is, songs with a still photo) with a search feature that's hard-coded to search only YouTube.
From its careers page (linked to above) Discogs resembles the standard VC-funded startup, gradually building its brand and expanding to other countries, such as Japan. It seems likely it will eventually sell to Amazon (a la IMDb) or Google (a la YouTube), in which case the owner will be paid handsomely and those hall monitors will be thanked for their years of valuable service. (Schadenfreude if they messed with your submissions.)

- tom moody

April 30th, 2017 at 8:10 am

Posted in computers-R-stupid

good discussion of fingerprinting as overrated authentication method

From Naked Capitalism comments:

April 21, 2017 at 7:30 am

I have worked in information systems security for 30 years, and I have advised that biometric authentication is a bad technology approach. At the end of the day, the digital representation of your biometric data is just a digital token every bit as match as the magnetic stripe data on your card. The big difference is that if your biometric data is compromised, you cannot be issued new biology. [emphasis added --tm] Every biometric marker can be collected without you even knowing (referred to as “non-cooperative” collection) with simple technologies. Once someone has your biometric data, they can authenticate or digitally sign as you. Further, the general consensus of the movie-watching public is (incorrectly) that biometrics are the strongest authentication method, making it more difficult to repudiate.

Biometrics are a good technology for identification, but not for authentication. [good as in efficient, not as in ethically sound --tm] These two security concepts are often conflated. Identication is basically just your username used to reference who you are, whereas authentication is the method of confirming that an identity is who you think it is. Biometric identifiers add convenience in performing the identity step, but add nothing in terms of security any more than your username or email address alone would.

April 21, 2017 at 8:41 am

Twenty years in IT, over ten in identity management, have allowed me a ring-side seat to this particular circus. We all really want to believe the PowerPoints, but they’ve all fallen short. Most of the discussion has focused on the physical limitations of particular technologies, like the poor quality resolution of past fingerprint scanners, but never reaches the more important practical weaknesses of any single or even two factor concept like that proposed here. As QuarterBack points out, probably the most dangerous aspect of any biometric auth scheme is that the factor (or factors) used cannot be changed (no reissuing as with a new credit account number or digital certificate). Therefore if stolen the only option for the victim is to be forever barred from using that scheme. [emphasis added --tm] And as QB also points out, fingerprints are one of the easiest biometric factors to acquire, without the owner ever knowing about it.

In sum, there are a lot of approaches better than this from an identity management point of view. [such as? --tm] Unfortunately fingerprint scanner tech already has (totally unjustified) cache[t] with a credulous public, and can make a lot of money for manufacturers, so it’s almost certain to show up in force over and over. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take off.

April 21, 2017 at 10:18 am

Thanks philnc. BTW, for a real life example of the problem of using non-revocable identification factors for authentication, look no further than the history of using social security numbers for this purpose. In the past, “what is your social security number?” was a common method of authenticating. That did not work out so well, because SSN was too easy to acquire. Also, as many (unfortunately) may know, that when your SSN is compromised, it initiates a cascade of subsequent problems. Even then, in extreme circumstances, you can get a new SSN, but good luck with that. I have to say, that it boggles my mind that many organizations (including banks) still use last-4 of SSN for authentication (someone might steal you SSN, but the last-4 is MUCH more secure?).

Another problem with biometrics for identification, is that unchangeable identifier can be used (by anyone with knowledge of it) to track or monitor you forever. If your identity (say a username or account number) is compromised, you could always get another one. I recommend compartmentalizing identifiers in many cases on a system by system basis. Governments will always have some ability to stitch these separate identifiers together, but you don’t want just any grifter or hedge fund player to be able to monitor you.

- tom moody

April 21st, 2017 at 10:57 am

Posted in computers-R-stupid

the case for trust-busting (and why it might not apply to Silicon Valley)

Matt Stoller argues against current Silicon Valley monopolies not because they concentrate power into the hands of a few knuckleheads but because they stifle innovation, whatever that means at this point (he adopts this frame because he is writing for Business Insider -- in his youth he was a blogger for Open Left, a platform where "good tech" was a means to a political end and not an end in itself). He gives a short history of circumstances where trust-busting led to, let's call it positive technological change:

In 1956, a Republican administration and AT&T signed a consent decree forbidding AT&T from competing in any but common carrier communications services. The decree also forced AT&T to license its patents in a non-discriminatory manner to all comers.

One of those patents was for something called the transistor, which two small companies — Texas Instruments and Motorola — would commercialize.

In the 1960s and 1970s, an antitrust suit against IBM caused the company to unbundle its hardware and software, leading to the creation of the American software industry. It treated suppliers for its new personal computing business with kid gloves, including a small company called Micro-Soft. In the 1990s, a suit against Microsoft allowed another startup named Google to offer an innovative search engine and ad business without fear that Microsoft would use its control of the browser to strangle it.

The great business historian Alfred Chandler, in his book on the electronic century, called antitrust regulators the "Gods" of creation. Antitrust was originally understood as a uniquely American "charter of economic liberty".

But there hasn't been a Sherman Act Section 2 anti-monopolization case for 15 years. And the anti-merger Clayton Act is not being enforced. Neither Bush, nor Obama, nor Trump (so far), has seen fit to stop the monopolists from buying their way into dominance and blocking innovation.

His conclusion is suspect, however:

It is time for leaders in Silicon Valley to start demanding from our government the birthright of every American, which is an open market for commerce, innovation, and personal liberty.

It is time to demand antitrust, so that what once were innovative upstarts, and are now Kings, do not stop the next wave of innovation. Then there will be so much more to invest in, so much more to invent, and so much more to actually create.

That's like saying Bell Telephone should have led the demand to become Baby Bells. It's the disempowered who exert the pressure, not the overlords, by means of organized resistance, boycotts and counter-education. Stoller's analogies break down in the case of Silicon Valley, because crap like Amazon and Facebook is actually hugely popular. To think about breaking them up, you would have to also be thinking about changing your behavior -- throwing away your iPhone and not using Amazon to shop. And there's the rub -- consumers are too addicted to do that.
It's hard to see anything other than infrastructure collapse or societal breakdown causing a change in the Silicon Valley style of monopolistic stranglehold. Even if the internet becomes two-tiered due to cable company pressure, people won't feel it enough to protest if they are using one or two companies to do everything "online."

- tom moody

April 21st, 2017 at 9:13 am

Posted in computers-R-stupid



- tom moody

April 12th, 2017 at 1:09 pm

weighing in on united

United Airlines chucking a passenger is one of those "internet things everyone has an opinion on."

Two interesting responses. Socialist blogger Carl Beijer asks "Shouldn't capitalists be okay with the United incident?"

Techno-libertarian John Robb considers "How Algorithms and Authoritarianism Created a Corporate Nightmare at United."

The news reports I read weren't clear at all on what happened, particularly that "algorithmic decisionmaking" was at the bottom of this.

Robb explains how it worked:

United employees board a full flight from Chicago to Louisville. A United flight crew headed to Louisville arrives at the gate at the last moment. A corporate scheduling algorithm decides that the deadheading flight crew has priority over passenger fares and that it needs to remove four passengers to make room for them (the flight wasn't overbooked).

United asks for volunteers. A corporate financial algorithm authorizes gate employees to offer passengers up to $800 to take a later flight (offering a bigger incentive wasn't an option). No passenger takes them up on that offer.

United now shifts to removing passengers from the flight non-voluntarily. To determine who gets removed from the aircraft, United runs a customer value algorithm. This algorithm calculates the value of each passenger based on frequent flyer status, the price of the ticket, connecting flights, etc. The customers with the lowest value to United are flagged for removal from the flight (it wasn't a random selection).

- tom moody

April 12th, 2017 at 7:09 am

Posted in computers-R-stupid

livejournal update

Science fiction author Charles Stross has a private Livejournal site he uses for testing fiction -- or did:

I started out on Livejournal because, back in the day, it inherited a bunch of folks from SFFNet when SFFNet curled up and sort-of died; SFFNet in turn inherited the users of the Delphi SF forum from bulletin board days. It's all about the people, as usual, and Livejournal for many years was a social network hub for SF/F fans and authors. But Livejournal gradually lost out to Facebook in the anglophone world, just like MySpace. Unlike MySpace, LJ survived by becoming the social network of choice in Russia: a few years ago LJ was sold to a Russian company, and has gradually become a 90% Russophone social site with a weird bag of western SF fans still lurking in the moldering wreckage of what was once a thriving social networking system. There were periodic upsets because any major Russian political event would seemingly draw distributed denial of service attacks; a lot of people left, either decamping to Facebook, or to smaller specialized social hubs—the founders of Livejournal released their software under an open source license, and some folks are successfully running small-scale LJ servers with their own distinct communities.

I probably stuck with LJ for too long, because back in the day I paid for a perpetual premium account—unlimited access and no ads: the urge to get one's money's worth out of something you've paid for is hard to resist. But the rot has finally gone too far. This Tuesday Livejournal pushed out a revision to their terms of service that emphasize the service runs under Russian law, and specifically requires compliance with Russian law on minors -- which makes any discussion of "sexual deviancy" (aka LGBT issues) illegal or at least a violation of the ToS.

So I'm currently migrating my entire Livejournal presence to Dreamwidth, a service set up by some of LJ's original founders that focuses on providing a Livejournal-like set of services for creative types (and, significantly, is not subject to Russian law because it's not based in Russia).

Curious what effect this "Russian law" will have on Thomas Disch's LJ (still extant since he died but in memorial status). Possibly Stross is being alarmist and just looking for a reason to bail -- I haven't done any research to confirm his legal interpretation.

- tom moody

April 7th, 2017 at 7:41 am

internet aware gift shop


yesterday's bad art theory is today's great gift shop

- tom moody

April 6th, 2017 at 7:38 pm