Hating the Internet 90


The meeting in Paris to hand out the Libyan oil and reconstruction contacts to Western companies, the NATO assault on Sirte and surrounding towns, the continuation of control orders in the UK, even the unchallenged Israeli spokesman on TV saying that the Mavi Mamara was laden with arms and that all those killed were terrorists: all of these things make me feel that liberalism is so otiose that there is no chance of resonance, and there is no point in my screaming into the void. It is hard to summon up the willpower to keep blogging.

Not too pleased with the internet today either. Searching for the Wikileaks cables which the Guardian say are now available and freely searchable. Why are they not up on a website somewhere? Tried the Pirate Bay site to which someone posted a link. Could not get the cables to download, but did manage to infect my computer with all kinds of shit casino programmes, my homepage has become some rubbish called facemoods, etc. Is this what the brave new world of internet sharing became? Buggering up people’s computers for money?

You will recall that when commercial publication of The Catholic Orangemen of Togo was stopped by the mercenary Tim Spicer and legal parasites Schillings, I responded by making it available free online. I now can’t find it anywhere where it is not hidden behind registration or payment or the sort of crap downloads I just got given by The Pirate Bay.

I actually have no desire to download the Wikileaks cables anyway. I just want to search and read them. Why is that so difficult? Bloody interweb thing is useless.


90 thoughts on “Hating the Internet

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  • John Goss

    Clark, I’d like to learn more about Ubuntu. Do you have to get rid of Windows? What happens to existing files and software? Do all those need reloading?

  • C3PO

    Ubuntu: http://www.ubuntu.com/
    .
    Download, burn CD, try it out from the CD, and if u like it can then install it on ur computer’s hard drive (it installs itself alongside M$ Windows).
    .
    Ubuntu can read ur Windows filesystem, but not vice versa. Miscrosoft doesn’t want competition.
    .
    Due to legal issues, Ubuntu doesn’t come with in-built support for things such as playing MP3 files, DVDs and so on. You’ll almost certainly want to install extras from here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Medibuntu
    .
    If you’ve used M$ Windows all your life, you may have problems re-learning a new OS. Ubuntu requires a small amount of investment of time. On the other hand, unlike Windoze, it doesn’t break and catch viruses all the time. If Ubuntu is too daunting, buy a Mac (more secure than Windows and comes with a polished user-interface).

  • Jon

    John, if you use Ubuntu in “LiveCD” or “Live” mode, then it won’t make any changes to your computer. Very handy for having a click around to see if you like it. On the other hand I don’t think it is much good to just use it like that – since it takes a few minutes to start up. From memory I don’t think it saves any settings though, so wireless network passwords etc would need to be re-entered upon every boot-up.
    .
    You can install Linux permanently in two ways – either as a replacement for Windows, or alongside it. The latter is known as “dual boot” i.e. you get a menu when starting up your computer as to which one you want. This can be quite nice to try Linux in the long term whilst having the reassurance of ones old system still available. Both approaches require changes to your hard disk (the first one removes Windows completely, the second one changes its layout in a process called repartitioning). Don’t try either without having made a recent backup first!
    .
    But in general Linux is certainly worth a go, and I think it is getting a lot better these days. If you are committed to using it, it is better to buy a computer that is known to work well with it, in my view – which can be found by googling.
    .
    Internet & chat support is usually great for Linux, as well – all free.

  • Sunflower

    Clark, I agree with your comments on security. Windows is the least preferred OS (operating system) from a security perspective, OSx is better and Open Source alternatives even better. However, in order to maintain a decent level of security, regardless of the OS you choose, you need to be quite experienced within security and technology.
    .
    If you have (updated) anti-virus, a firewall, use encryption (in case you forget the laptop in a taxi) and update your OS regularly (new vulnerabilities are found on a regular basis) you will have the basic protection from much of the general threats like viruses etc.
    .
    User behaviour is still a big risk and out of ignorance it’s easy to invite problems into your system, going the wrong places , clicking the wrong links etc.
    .
    If you happen to be a target of a directed attack most of the above won’t protect you anyway. If you work with sensitive material you should do that on a computer that is never connected to any kind of network, ever. If you need to transfer information from that computer burn a cd. Inserting a USB-memory will be a risk e.g.
    .
    Craig try to find some computer savvy friend whom you trust and have him/her help you.

  • sjwest

    Craig the internet is not just the www pretty part. Computers have been hacked since there beginning. Dont ever assume that any Microsoft software is safe.

    We live in a time of the dmca and government sponsoring of search keywords. Once you know this things get better.

  • Sunflower

    One very important thing for all to remember, there is no guarantee whatsoever that all the cabels released are authentic.
    .
    There may be information planted for specific purposes mixed with legit cables.

  • mark_golding

    I know the feeling Craig – I feel like I’m living in a parallel universe unable to communicate with the carbon entities, whose minds are saturated with an eternal lust for power and money. Change to me is an ugly verb and the noun is impossible unless a radical, and apparently mystical transformation of the human mind occurs. Governments have the power through the media to create delusion and illusion; a hocus-pocus of official unscientific facts that humans either believe in or are content to hide, destroy, moderate, revise, redraft and ignore. Absolute madness that results quite bluntly in stabbing future generations in the back.

  • John Goss

    Thanks Jon. I’ll give Linux a go some time. Others have mentioned that it’s better. In the early days of Apple/Macintosh systems I used to write a MacGossip column for Micro Computer Mart. There were never any problems other than the expense – which is why I reluctantly changed to Windows/IBM when they got round the old IBM operating system’s memory limitations. Even then Windows always felt like a cheap imitation of the Mac GUI.

  • billgav

    Have you tried al jazeera they had a bit asking readers to check out leaks for them and they had links for you to click on

  • MJ

    “did manage to infect my computer with all kinds of shit casino programmes, my homepage has become some rubbish called facemoods, etc”
    .
    If you want to sort this out quickly without changing your operating system Malwarebytes is one of the best anti-malware programmes for Windows. Free version available here:
    .
    http://www.malwarebytes.org/products/malwarebytes_free

  • Clark

    John Goss, Jon’s reply is pretty much what I would have written.
    .
    The differences I’d have included are not practical ones. Where Jon writes “Linux” I’d write “GNU/Linux”, as GNU comprises most of the system, and the GNU organisation advocates software freedom whereas Linus Torvalds is not so concerned about it. Where Sunflower writes “Open Source” I would write “Free Software” – this is software published under a license that respects the freedom of users and developers. It includes and goes beyond “open source”.
    .
    The principles of software freedom are also the principles that ensure a high level of security. If you buy a lock that cannot be dismantled (closed source), you cannot inspect its design to see if it would open to keys other than your own. To know that a lock is secure, its design has to be open to scrutiny.
    .
    Sunflower, I agree with all your recommendations, to which I would add these. Don’t use Internet Explorer; use Firefox instead, and use the NoScript Firefox add-on. On your router, change the default log-in password and disable “Remote Log-in” and “Universal Plug-and-Play” (otherwise known as “unplug and pray”).
    .
    Yes, no system is invulnerable, but GNU/Linux systems are so much more secure than Windoze that no one bothers trying to write malware for them. If some agency is trying to access your computer’s data, they can get it eventually, even if it means stealing your computer and using a supercomputer to break into an encrypted filesystem. But unless you’re running a server, a default Ubuntu system is basically secure, whereas using Windoze in its default state (or any state, really) is just asking for trouble. Really, the security gap between Windoze and everything else is a chasm.
    .
    As Jon writes, there is some hardware that is not well supported by GNU/Linux. This is because such hardware is developed under “non-disclosure agreements” – it takes a while for the Free Software community to reverse-engineer the interface. Most problems concern recent wireless network cards, and printers. Epson and HP printers all work with GNU/Linux, and most other printers too. That said, most hardware works just fine, and to find out how well any given system is supported, just boot up a LiveCD and try it out.

  • Jack

    @ John Goss, et al…

    As Jon says, you can use Ubuntu ‘live’ from the CD or you can install it next to Windows – there’s a ton of stuff online to show how to do it. Once you know how to prepare an unformatted partition (20gb is more than ample – 5gb will do at a pinch) it will install alongside Windows almost painlessly – it even sets up a boot menu so you can choose the OS on startup. Really is that simple – though other (possibly technically better) versions of Linux aren’t so helpful or forgiving I’ve found.

    I did that a year ago, and I’m no techie. When I started, I used Ubuntu about 10% of the time – right now it’s nearer 50/50 and growing. So go for it – unless you’re a committed games player the differences won’t worry you – and there’s a (free) Linux alternative for most (paid and expensive) Windows applications. I haven’t used MS Word for a year and I haven’t missed it.

    And if this has all left you a little paranoid, I’m aquainted with 2 or 3 people who will consent to access the internet no other way but with a Linux live CD and a pendrive. I don’t find that convenient, but it’s certainly valid.

    If you stay with Windows, it’s important (if you haven’t done it already) to move your Documents folders to a separate HD – or at a pinch to another partition on the same drive – makes it far more likely they’ll survive the loss of the Windows partition.

  • Clark

    John Goss, no, you don’t HAVE to get rid of Windoze, but after a year or two on a proper system you’ll probably want to! It’s always just so relaxing to get out of a Windoze environment and back into something secure; that lovely feeling of paranoia ebbing away…

  • Wookeynick

    Rather than Ubuntu I would like to recommend Linux Mint – http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=mint will tell you more about it.
    There are several versions of Mint, but the 32 bit DVD version of LinuxMint 11 (the latest version) is the best to go for as it gives you everything you need to get up and running straight out of the box.
    To download the program and install it on a USB flash drive you can use
    http://live.learnfree.eu/
    or
    http://www.pendrivelinux.com/run-linux-mint-9-from-a-usb-flash-drive/ (but select LinuxMint 11)
    If you select “persistent” all your changes will be preserved on the USB stick and you can add programs such as GNUCash to the USB stick. You will now have a fully portable operating systen tailored to your requirements

  • Clark

    Jack, Ubuntu is probably the slickest, simplest and most comprehensive of the GNU/Linux systems. It is built from the part of Debian that is undergoing current development, the “unstable” branch called Sid. Debian itself is more conservative, extensively tested, and thus more secure and stable, but this makes it less up-to-date.
    .
    The other differences are to do with software freedom. Ubuntu, and to a lesser extent Debian, include some “restricted” components, which means that they are released under licenses that fail to fully respect the freedom of users and developers.
    .
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

  • John Goss

    Thanks everyone.
    .
    I just hope Craig has got his system back to normal. I’ve been in that position, even with protection software. As much as anything it is time consuming – time most of us cannot spare. Anyone who would release something they know to be riddled with viruses is contemptible.

  • Clark

    John Goss, even a devote capitalist should admit that to function properly, a market requires meaningful competition. Micro$oft hold over 90% of personal computers, and not because users choose Windoze, but because, through a variety of anti-competitive, restrictive practices, they have ensured that nearly all PCs come with Windoze pre-installed. Even if you delete Windoze, it’s bloody difficult to get that portion of your money refunded (this is known as “The Microsoft Tax”). These practices are illegal almost everywhere, but corporate-compliant governments choose not to act, preferring to accept free sweeties from M$.
    .
    With a de-facto monopoly, there is no incentive for M$ to secure their product. They just make it flashier – all fur coat and no knickers.

  • Clark

    It is a mistake to permit the issue of software quality to eclipse the more important matter of software freedom. Proprietary software vendors write their licenses in order to keep users divided and helpless. If we have freedom, quality will follow. If we lack freedom, we will be prevented by law even from creating quality for ourselves.
    .
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

  • KingofWelshNoir

    ‘It is hard to summon up the willpower to keep blogging.’
    .
    Don’t say that, the internet is our only hope. Everything else is propaganda.

  • Jon

    Yes to having a b0rked computer system – one can feel quite disconnected when it happens, aside from the inconvenience.
    .
    One clever way around this is to install “virtualisation software” e.g. VirtualBox. This is a clever widget that lets you install a virtual computer onto your real computer. So you can install a copy of Linux into Windows, or a copy of Windows into your Mac. The really clever thing is that you can “snapshot” the state of the computer at any time, so if you find you’ve contracted a virus, just revert to the last snapshot – problem gone! (Obviously this reverses everything, so documents etc should be kept on a different drive!)
    .
    The above is also a good way to try Linux – you get the “permanently installed” version of (say) Ubuntu without the hassle of partitioning or wiping your hard drive. Still, you should +always+ have a backup, even if this approach doesn’t need it 🙂

  • Jon

    @Clark – you’re right on your clarifications. One interesting point however is that (to my surprise) I discovered that the Free Software movement appears to have something in common with extreme Libertarianism in the US. Eric Raymond, who is revered as a thought-leader of the movement, is pretty much off the scale as right-wing politics go.
    .
    I didn’t known a great deal about him before I read his website, and always wanted to read his book, The Cathedral And The Bazaar. But I read his website shortly after Israel’s attack on Gaza in December 2009, and his views bordered on the fascist – essentially, he explained, they should have hit Gaza harder, and civilian deaths are an unhappy consequence of their support for terrorism. My horrified response in the comments was immediately set upon from all sides by his supporters, and I was appalled that a respected figure such as ESR could have become such a hard-liner. Needless to say, I have lost all interest in reading whatever else he has to say, no matter how well his fans think of him.
    .
    He is a self-described “gun nut”, which fits the pattern I suppose – though I’d love for a proportion of American “gun nuts” to join Palestinian solidarity movements!

  • Jon

    The dilemma of Free Software, additionally, is that an anti-militarist like me can release some software, and a militarist can pop along and make use of it to (ultimately) kill people. Even if all the software is doing is running a blog, or keeping an inventory, or whatever – one could say it all contributes to the “war effort”.
    .
    As it happens, there have been a number of attempts at anti-military free software licenses. However they haven’t really caught on, and “purist” advocates of Free Software have sometimes recommended against them, which they maintain is on philosophical grounds. Though thinking about it – given my last post – their real reason may be their unstated militarism, of course.

  • Anon

    Puppy Linux can save sessions back to the Live CD as well as run entirely from/within a windows files system in “Frugal” mode (native boot not virtual under windows). It’s tiny (128MB) and great for evaluating Linux. True it’s not the most secure Linux in the world but it’s infinitely more secure than Windows. Latest release http://puppylinux.org/main/Download%20Latest%20Release.htm

  • mark_golding

    “Why is that so difficult? Bloody interweb thing is useless.”
    .
    Please note the frustration; it is not just ” Buggering up people’s computers for money?” I’m sorry, I believe it is much much more, more serious, more significant, more menacing, more threatening, more urgent, and much deeper. Take hold of Craig’s first paragraph, embrace it, if not, I say, fuck you,because in these times we need each other. So please, try to fix your mind, expand your consciousness and save our kids and their kids lives and souls. Don’t care? Then I say fuck you again. At least try to look outside the box. Try to visualise this strand or part of it while at the same time please listen to Michael Rupert here, understand the threat:
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    youtube.com/watch?v=LGfXyjiprbI
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    Not bothered – Then sorry fuck you.

  • Clark

    Jon, yes I also get the impression that there is overlap between the libertarians and the Right in the US. But others criticise GNU/Linux as being “communist”. I reckon that free software supporters are a mixed bunch. Yes, of course free software can be used towards a war effort. The TOR router, the movement that led to Wikileaks, and even the Internet itself all have considerable military background. Strong cryptography gives privacy to dissidents and dictators alike. Computer development got a huge boost from Bletchley Park.
    .
    I don’t think that tools can be judged by the morality of the jobs they are put to, or even the morality of people that contribute to their creation. The free software advocate and president of the Free Software Foundation Richard Stallman is not a pacifist, but he supports a lot of good causes:
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    http://www.stallman.org/archives/polnotes.html
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    Anon, I’ve tried Puppy. It runs just fine on my old Pentium 200MHz AT machine with 128MiByte of RAM!
    .
    Non GNU/Linux users may be noticing the huge number of different distributions by now. This is a direct result of software freedom; everyone is free to adapt everyone else’s work.

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