LJ Archive


Re: "How Wizards and Muggles Break Free from the Matrix"

Yesterday I was wondering why there isn't a more organized resistance to the CopperTopping of humanity, as I tried to watch Amazon Prime on my "Smart" TV without telling Google more about me. I remember—circa 2000—when I was the only person I knew who was concerned. Now there is a fairly large contingent actively concerned. But, effectively, nobody is doing anything—because effectively nobody knows how to.

Oh, yeah, there is complaining. And there are occasional expressions of concern from a various and small contingent of companies and legislators. And then there is your article; although notably your article starts with "How" but—again—doesn't say anything specific enough to deserve its title. So, in that regard, your article is a bit of the circle-jerk itself, even if its expression is backed by good intentions.

The techie Priesthood still holds nearly all the specialized knowledge required to even attempt to break away without going "third world" (forgoing a mobile phone, forgoing a TV, forgoing using a credit card). WHY doesn't Linux Journal begin giving specific HOW advice and, better yet, use its pages to cultivate groups of people required to liberate through TEACHING how to do? A step-by-step for those concerned but not sufficiently in the priesthood.

A great article, to start with, would be specific recommendations on "Smart" TVs that best protect privacy and specific, direct means to short-circuit Google, under its myriad names and minions, from all our devices. I don't ask for perfection here; only a reasonable and sustained start with some path forward for the hundreds of millions of humans who are pretty smart, pretty concerned, yet not hardware-geeks enough to know how to break out of the twisty-turny maze that keeps changing through time and between models? I'd love to join THAT organization—I'd even subscribe to THAT magazine.


Doc Searls replies: Thanks, Gnat.

I'll address your uppercase HOW and TEACHING concerns separately.

Above a bulleted list in that piece, I say "Here's a punch list of what we need to do." I should have added "—and HOW" to that sentence. Because, if you go to the links in that list, you'll find lots of HOWs. Specifically:

To your point about TEACHING: sure, we should do that. We also should remember that lots of others are doing that already. This search gets more than a half million results.

On the other hand, one good invention can get adoption by dozens of millions in a short time.

Twenty years ago, Marc Andreessen told me "All the significant trends start with technologists." (That was in an interview I did with him for Linux Journal, titled "Betting on Darwin".) Lots of significant trends followed work he and his colleagues did as technologists then.

One of our jobs here is to encourage development of inventions that cause necessity for everybody—wizards and muggles alike. Not everything we do is "a reasonable and sustained start with some path forward for the hundreds of millions of humans". But that is pretty much what we've tried to do during the last 24 years. We've succeeded in some cases and failed in others.

I believe "Breaking Free of the Matrix" is the most important work we've encouraged since our early efforts to spread the Linux word. That's why I wrote that piece. Again, I invite readers to help us succeed with that.

I'm Pleased

I read Doc Searls' "Privacy Is Still Personal" editorial in the May 2018 issue and agree completely. The Wintendo generation (kids, now parents who grew up with Nintendo and Windows) doesn't get this. I want privacy. I'm only a little person, but others could do great damage to me if they got hold of my numbers (SS#, drivers license, DOB, etc.). Do you remember PC Mag when it was almost an inch thick? That's how you attract. Stop targeting.

I will fully support you folks. Let me know how I can help.

—Roy Niemann

Doc Searls replies: Thanks for your support, Roy. We appreciate it.

About privacy, everybody wants it, or they wouldn't wear clothes. The fact that we don't have it yet online is a matter of absent tech, not absent consciousness. Invention is the mother of necessity. When we develop good personal privacy tech, people will need it. Nobody needed a smart phone before Apple and Google made the market for them. Now almost nobody can get along without one. Here at Linux Journal, we're doing what we can, in our own ways, to foster that market—and we need all the help we can get!

Second, by coincidence, I wrote for the first inch-thick PC Magazine, back when it started in 1982. I still have a copy around here somewhere. My contribution was a story on Ken Uston's Professional Blackjack, a game for IBM PCs and Apple IIs that taught card counting. (Geek item: it was written, as I recall, in Forth.) I also edited the game manual, which I'm amazed to find still selling on Amazon. (I also just found that you can run it in emulation, through a link at Archive.org.)


Regarding Marco Fioretti's "Nextcloud 13: How to Get Started and Why You Should" in the May 2018 issue, I have been using Nextcloud since I switched to it from OwnCloud a little more than a year ago. It is an excellent app for me! I am running 13.02 on Ubuntu 17.10 with MySQL and PHP 7.1. One thing I would like to point out, and that you may want to cover in an article relatively soon, is backing up the installation with recovery in mind. I was running my instance on an old Toshiba Satellite (about six years old), and all was well until it was not. Fortunately, I use storeBackup, which is aimed at an external USB drive (0.5 Terabyte). A nightly database dump (MySQL) along with the files in the Nextcloud data directory almost got me back to where I needed to be. As it turned out, the passman addon would not function properly based on my recovery strategy, and it was a bit tough to get everything synced back up with regard to devices and files. (I bought a newer used Toshiba laptop as my new server and went from Bodhi 4.0 to Ubuntu 17.10.) I did get everything back up to snuff, but had I done a better job of using storeBackup, it would have taken a lot less time. I don't think that would have made a difference with passman, but it certainly would have with Calendar, Contacts and Files! One other note: there is an addon that is very useful to me that you may want to mention for those with health issues, and that is the DICOM viewer. I always get a DVD of my medical images, and the DICOM viewer works very nicely for showing medical images to a new provider who does not have immediate access to one's medical records from other providers. At least they can see what I am talking about, and that sometimes saves me a return trip and another office visit co-pay. Very cool! Thanks for writing this up! A good article!

—Wes Wieland

Marco Fioretti replies: Thanks for your compliments! I'm obviously happy you liked the article.

What you say about the Dicom viewer is great. It's a real-world example of the power of open standards, and personal/self-hosted clouds to overcome the limits and annoyances of proprietary, non-interoperable systems. I must remember to mention your case next time I speak on those topics.

About covering backups in an article "relatively soon", Linux Journal and I are planning more Nextcloud articles, but the details aren't all defined yet, so we'll see. One general lesson that your email illustrates well is that Nextcloud backup depends heavily on which combination of applications are installed, and also on if/how they interact with other Nextcloud installations. So, I'll need to think about how to explain this well in one article, but I definitely will keep your suggestions in mind!

Librem Review

Wow! Regarding Shawn Powers' review of the Librem 13v2 in the May 2018 issue, where were you last week when I was shopping for a new laptop? I have been eyeing the Librem for a long time and wanted to get an honest, full review before pulling the trigger. Your review rocked, and it made me happy to know I chose well last week when I ordered one. Now if it will just ship!

I have used Linux on the server for many, many years, and I've tried to transition to the desktop many times over the years. I have been a Mac guy until last November when I built a desktop, and I've been living in Linux ever since. Year of the Linux Desktop indeed! Now if my Librem will get here, I will be complete.

I will say the only thing I am really missing is a Calendar/Contacts solution to rival Mac's iCloud integration. I don't want to give Google all my info and would like to have desktop app solutions. For now, it's Thunderbird, but I would love to hear other solutions if any exist.

Thanks for keeping LJ going.

Not just a fan, a subscriber!

—Russ Demarest

Great Review of Librem 13v2

I loved Shawn's review of the Purism Librem 13v2 laptop in the May 2018 issue of Linux Journal. And, what perfect timing! I am shopping around for a new laptop, and I already was looking at the Librem 13.

Shawn's review was a great summary of the Librem 13's features, especially the keyboard and trackpad—always a concern when buying a new laptop. I also appreciated Shawn's discussion of the quirks, which was an honest review about what to expect.

Thanks for doing these reviews.

—Jim Hall

Everything You Need to Know about the Cloud and Cloud Computing

I just read Petros Koutoupis' "Everything You Need to Know about the Cloud and Cloud Computing, Part I". Reading it was a pleasure. Normally I look at articles like this and know that I should read them, but then I think I'd rather pull my fingernails out. Why? Because most people cannot write a technical article and make it interesting. I was so engaged that it encouraged me to look the author up online and connect with him so I wouldn't miss future articles. That is a very special skill set. I look forward to reading more.

—Paul Byrne


In Linux Journal March 2018, I read the article "Looking Back: What Was Happening Ten Years Ago?" by Glyn Moody, and I was very much surprised to see that he writes this:

Another name figured quite prominently in my columns of ten years ago: Firefox. Along with the Apache web server, it is one of open source's great success stories, taking on Microsoft's slow and bloated Internet Explorer, and winning. At the time, it seemed like Mozilla might be able to build on the success of Firefox to strengthen the wider open-source ecosystem. Mozilla is still with us, and it's doing rather well financially, but it has had less success with its share of the web browser market. As a graph on Wikipedia shows, Firefox's ascent came to a halt around 2010, and its market share has been in decline pretty much ever since. That's not to say that Mozilla is not important to the world of free software—partly because of its solid finances, it does much valuable work in many related fields. But Firefox has become something of a niche browser, used mostly by die-hard supporters.

And in the same issue, you cite Firefox as the "Best Web Browser":

Best Web Browser

How should I interpret this?

—Wolf-Dieter Klotz

Glyn Moody replies: Thanks for your email. In fact, there's no contradiction between the browser statistics I quoted and Firefox's position in the Readers' Choice Awards 2018.

The first is an estimate of Firefox's share of the overall market share, including all browsers, all operating systems and all users. In that world, Firefox has seen a steady decline to its present levels, largely driven by the rise of Chrome.

The second figure, 57%, represents the proportion of Linux Journal readers who think Firefox is the best browser. That concerns a much smaller sample size, which obviously has important differences from the general user population.

Linux Journal readers are likely to place a greater emphasis on open-source, privacy protection and related matters. Firefox also regards those things as priorities, which helps explain why it is much more popular among Linux Journal readers than among the general population, who may not value them so highly.

From Social Media

Kyle Rankin @kylerankin: In an upcoming @linuxjournal article, I inventory the various DIY #RPis and other single-board computers running around my house. I was kind of shocked when I realized the total was 10 different computers.

Luke Triantafyllidis @ltriant: Unpacking boxes and came across these old copies of @linuxjournal from when I used to buy them at university. Gonna be fun to read through them again!

Magazine Stack

Editor's note: you can now access Linux Journal's online HTML archive—24 years of articles in one easy-to-search resource, and it's free to subscribers.

In response to our thanks for subscribing to Linux Journal:

Adam Dymitruk @adymitruk: Replying to @BrideOfLinux @linuxjournal: Considering what people spend on coffee everyday, I didn't have to think twice. How much do you value freedom, openness and decentralization in an era of Facebook? The big guys are trying really hard to keep platform out of the freedom and privacy debate.

In response to our news story about a new stable release of GIMP being released after six years of development:

Richard Gaskin @FourthWorldSys: The best graphics package, held back all these years by an unfortunate name.

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