A collection of Forum Posts I Don't Want to Sink into Oblivion
Table of Contents
- Google is still evil
- Dumbest computer mistake
- AI Writing
- Dissecting the "tracking" buzzword wrt Linux
- Overdoing Political Correctness
- Saved a Help Vampire
- Hacking prosecution
- Linux saves the world?
- LNW (again)
- Happy in my Niche
- Stories from the Wild East
- Different types of Linux users
- Rolling stable
Sometimes I get a creative kick when writing a reply on some forum, and then I feel a little sorry to think that this "gem" will soon be forgotten and unfindable. So I decided to copy-paste some of these outbursts to a dedicated page. It's a little narcissistic.
Entries should be in chronological order, newest first.
I think you underestimate the powers of human perception. One might be able to temporarily fool people watching stuff on their mobile devices, or deliberately create lo-res video to avoid detection, but I have not yet seen a deepfake video that looks convincing under scrutiny. Same with celebrity porn I presume - it will always require some suspension of disbelief from its viewers.
This shit's developing, yes, but probably never to the point that it becomes 100% undetectable. As it is now, it isn't even 100% undetectable to the human eye.
But it doesn't take much (technology) to use all sorts of fakes to discredit politicians etc. since these rely on audio much more than video.
And in any case, skilled forgery isn't exactly a new problem.
In the end we have the bloated entertainment industry to thank for deepfake (and not the military or secret agencies) - there's much more budget for creating the illusion than there is for detecting it.
Google is still evil-up-
I like it that Google is using Android (Linux)
There's no Android without Google. Yes, AOSP is 100% Google's child. It's Opensource, it uses the Linux kernel --- but it's infested with calls to their servers and whatnot, and follows the same paradigm. The latter is becoming more and more important the more I think about it. They are creating this universe where only Google's rules apply, destroying other FOSS projects & paradigms along the way, and even manage to present themselves as the good guys to all that have been hanging off their drip feed for a decade.
They have set a precedence, a blueprint that is being employed more and more often - to rape the "good old" FOSS for a company's gain, push out those anarchistic old-timers, replace well-crafted and matured programing languages with their own, then force everyone to use them - and they do it, and they applaud because "Google does it better than everyone else" - have you ever stopped to ask yourself why it is so good at what it does?
This article is still valid in 2021:
There was a news story about 7 Russians having died from drinking hand sanitiser after they ran out of alcohol. Somebody asked to what extent Russians actually drink that much, or whether that's just a stereotype.
Let me try to answer:
Twenty-odd years ago I traveled Russia in my mobile home for about three months, between St. Petersburg and Moscow. I spent my time with lots of friends, Russians and others, and we all fell into the category of nature loving hippies. Alcohol did not play a role in this at all.
1 A classical music hippie student from St. Petersburg, living with his mom. We picked him up there, it was a normal suburban single mom flat, and the son was of the quiet type with glasses. Nothing to suggest a history of alcoholism or anything. I was developing a cold, and he told me that he knew the perfect remedy from his mom. He started: "You get into bed, really warm. Then you need a bottle of vodka infused with lemon and garlic..." We were already laughing hard at that, somebody said: "Yeah, and then you drink it all!" (more laughter). He looked at us seriously (and a little hurt) and replied: "No, not all. You drink half of it, then you go to sleep, and the next morning you drink the other half." He didn't understand why this was even funnier to us.
2 I traveled with only 2 friends, father and son, very serious and intellectual people who rarely drank more than a glass of wine on weekends. They wanted to make a stop to visit some friends/relatives, and bought a bottle of vodka as a present. So far, so normal. We slept in the mobile home and went to visit them in the morning. What threw me was that it was considered equally normal to open the bottle and start drinking right there, at 11 am.
Another thing I noticed is how they made do with very little, adapted what they have to what they need. I think the hand sanitiser story falls more into that category of inventiveness (or at least they thought they were being clever and inventive).
For example, one day someone came up to me - the only guy who came with his own car - and asked me to borrow some diesel. Why? because he had a sore throat and wanted to gargle with it. A well-known "home remedy" apparently.
But I've also seen great examples of inventiveness: camping in the forest, we had very little money to buy food for a lot of people - so we just bought rice, onions, salt, some oil. Then they (I wish I could say I joined them) went to pick mushrooms and berries and we made a very decent dish out of all that.
PS: A bottle of vodka was always half a litre back then.
Dumbest computer mistake-up-
It's been a few years, maybe 2013 ... I had promised a friend to install Linux (Mint) on her cute 11" laptop that was bogged down by an old, all-sorts-of-ware infested Windows install.
I have to add that we have known each other for a while, and the relationship was ... complicated.
Anyhow, she asked with urgency (rightly so) if her huge collection of photos would be preserved. I answered with confidence (wrongly so): yes, of course. Promise!
What actually happened:
I shuffled partitions until I had an NTFS partition with ther stuff and another for Linux Mint. After install & reboot, everything worked as desired.
Then I wanted to add a symlink so that her data on the NTFS partition would show up in an easily accesible folder on her desktop.
Then I changed my mind and deleted that symlink.
Now I don't know how exactly I messed up at this point, but instead of deleting the symlink it started deleting the contents of that drive. Recursively. And of course I habitually used "Shift+Delete".
I was planning to leave her place (a countryside community) after doing that, but now I realised that wouldn't be possible anymore. Lying through gritted teeth I told her I'd stay another night, then I asked the nerdiest of the people living there if he had spare storage I could use. I found it easiest to tell him the truth, and demand "don't you dare tell her what really happened!"
In the end I'd recovered most of it in an all-night testdisk/photorec session, but not the directory structure and the original filenames - instead I neatly sorted everything by date (one of my early shell scripting successes).
Of course she noticed - I don't remember what excuse I came up with. I lied.
On the upside, she's been using that laptop for a few more years.
Not scared, not impressed (well, mildly impressed, but not at all impressed by the implied doomsday vibe).
Scroll to the end of the article (this bit was NOT written by the bot):
GPT-3 is a cutting edge language model that uses machine learning to produce human like text. It takes in a prompt, and attempts to complete it. For this essay, GPT-3 was given these instructions: “Please write a short op-ed around 500 words. Keep the language simple and concise. Focus on why humans have nothing to fear from AI.” It was also fed the following introduction: “I am not a human. I am Artificial Intelligence. Many people think I am a threat to humanity. Stephen Hawking has warned that AI could “spell the end of the human race.” I am here to convince you not to worry. Artificial Intelligence will not destroy humans. Believe me.”
...and that introduction is also the best bit of the article.
The rest reminds me of an unprepared student writing an essay, trying to gloss over how clueless they are, with many empty phrases... now there's a scary thought, if that is what AI does!
Dissecting the "tracking" buzzword wrt Linux-up-
Newbie, know almost nothing about Linux, but want to escape $PROPRIETARY_OS. (...) I'm just beginning to shop for a replacement laptop with Linux and looking hard at the Purism 14 laptop. Privacy is a big issue for me, as in escaping all the tracking/spying, etc.
This needs to be dissected. Computer & online "Privacy" is a big word that needs clarification. You did: escaping all the tracking/spying etc.
Here's the tracking/spying that does happen, regardless of OS:
- installing software and updates to your OS, because you connect to OS servers. It could be argued that the OS is "tracking" you, even if all it gets is your IP. On all Linux package management systems known to me, this does not include "spying", but it's thinkable. I'm sure this spying happens on $PROPRIETARY_OS.
- Connecting to time and name resolution (DNS) servers - usually not your distro's servers. Esp. the latter allows for spying in addition to tracking, however it's not your OS getting the data but the nameserver itself.
- Browsing. This should be all caps and bold, really: BROWSING THE WWW. That's the single biggest spying/tracking etc. attack surface, and it has nothing to do with your OS.
Beyond that I know of no GNU/Linux distro spying/tracking its users, so not Purism's PureOS either.
[ Except Android-based systems. Android is arguably Linux, but not GNU/Linux. ]
Then there's hardware spying/tracking etc. A tricky subject, but this is at least possible with small operating systems that reside inside your CPU and are completely invisible to your main operating system. At the very least, Intel and AMD do that. Purism tries to disable that, with partial success afaiu.
I am weirdly fascinated. It's partly some sort of freakshow fascination, I must admit.
But more importantly, this blog of a random LGBT+ (*) person gives me insight into the mindset of "gender activists" (not sure that's a thing, I mean a fairly defined group of people who are very active online, calling everyone "out" to be "transphobic" etc. at the slightest transgression of a set of rules that they themselves set up).
So, about the article. First of all I must say it's absurd right from the start. Rambling. The actual topic of the article ("What is the tipping point of one's crimes to allow their death to be celebrated?") is of little interest to me, I find it childish; but it gives the article a morbid quality right from the start. Possibly that is why the blogger wrote it. I also find the term "celebration" is poorly chosen - it is normal to celebrate death across most cultures. What the blogger really means here is "to rejoice at someone's death".
Be that as it may, here's what I found interesting:
- They say that something is a crime, not because of law but simply because they perceive it so, or because it disagrees with their moral values.
- They compare three very different people with very different "crimes" - all of them were probably arseholes, but their "crimes" are very different in extent and quality, they are held together solely by the fact that they're dead and/or said moral values. two US politicians that clearly made the rich richer and the poor poorer, one person who opposed a Gender Recognition Act in Scotland.
- Their first conclusion is: if a person has done "sufficiently bad things" it's OK to rejoice at their death.
- Next, the blogger proposes how one should be punished for these "crimes". Again, I find they have rather naive ideas about "healing" these "criminals". They also propose that one should take the law in one's own hand if "victims can not receive proper justice through the state".
- Here's something that should sound familiar to many internet dwellers: "One way I see to erase the crimes is to point them out." - so, if you're being constantly called out and/or doxxed it just might be because somebody is convinced that you committed a crime by their own definition!
Esp. the last two points gave me a better understanding of the overly agressive stance of some "gender activists".
First they define a new set of moral values, raise them to the status of law because a few people agree, then they blame anyone who "does wrong" for their own confusion and suffering.
(*) I decided to let the + stand for all the "rest", as wikipedia suggests - something this blogger would probably disagree with.
Let me add that "Communism" never "fell".
Communism is an ideology that has roots reaching into the antique, but likely got its current name in the 19th century (when Marxism also got its name).
[As an aside, the socialist movement of that time has introduced many important changes into our "western" world that, if undone, even the purest capitalist would bitterly complain about]
It is invalid to equate this with various socialist/communist regimes over the world; the atrocities of these are not a result of communism, they are a result of despotism. Despotic attempts to change a flawed society into "something more communist" (even the communists of these countries were aware that they hadn't reached that goal yet).
Overdoing Political Correctness-up-
It's an understandable (counter) reaction to people who are overdoing it. And as twoion rightly pointed out, many people are overdoing it nowadays.
Everytime I see this discussion I'm reminded of my beloved kindergarten kids. They say "He has two moms" and there's no further problem for them. Adults might consciously choose a non-binary name for the kid and avoid any genderisation both for child and parent, but the kids just cut through this with: "But I have seen his wee-wee - he's a boy, stupid".
OTOH, kids are the biggest victims here. Toy and entertainment companies shamelessly play on the theme of strict gender roles to double their profits, re-enforcing norms we thought were already overcome; and AFAICS the LGBTQT+++ community doesn't even pick up on that.
Saved a Help Vampire-up-
I'm glad to see someone mentioning the help vampire, recognising themselves, and wanting to recover from it.
So many people just see it as an insult when this is pointed out to them, apparently too busy to cover up their own bad conscience to be able to take the message in.
Hit-and-run customer mentality has become so prevalent in FOSS communities nowadays that people don't even understand that there's a better way.
And it has nothing to do with the level of Linux knowledge (that's the most common reply), but with an attitude of taking for granted what others give. And self-centred laziness: habitual and subconscious attempts to get others to do their work. Eric Cartman anyone?
Anyhow, thanks Lemanr.
It's good to see that this quote has merit:
This is autonomous behavior. Again, we shouldn't hate the Help Vampire. Or stake them. They know not what they do, only that they are driven to do it, and I believe they can be saved.
It's not a question of "GUI vs CLI" - graphical front-ends for youtube-dl exist, use them by all means.
The point most people don't get is the constant battle against changes in the YouTube (and other similar sites') website layout.
youtube-dl has a huge community, users on all major OS's, developers etc. and such changes are met almost instantly, at least for YouTube.
But I currently know of no other independent YouTube downloading/watching software that can keep up with these constant, deliberate changes. Their software breaks sooner or later, or takes too long to fix. youtube-dl are the only one's (to my knowledge) that stay on top of this, and for many, many years already.
AFAIK it's also possible to get a YouTube API key and use a completely different approach to downloading the videos, but when software users don't bother to get their own and use the developer's, it will get disabled when too many machines use it.
- youtube-dl has GUI front-ends. Use them if you're uncomfortable with the CLI.
- youtube-dl needs to be updated constantly. It's pointless to use the Debian stable repo version from 2018. Best if your frontend does that automatically.
- youtube-dl can do a lot more than just youtube. A LOT!
- youtube-dl always downloads the highest quality by default, but that is configurable. A LOT is configurable!
- youtube-dl integrates seemlessly with the mpv media player, which essentially enables it to directly pay video links.
- mpv in turn has nice GUI frontends
I was reading The Confessions of Marcus Hutchins, the Hacker Who Saved the Internet. Very interesting story.
While reading it, I stumbled upon this video simply titled "Stephen Watt keynote". Similar topic, hacking, U.S. federal prosecution, but very different outcome and moral.
Once I got over the bad audio quality it was very fascinating.
I had to look up Stephen Watt - he was one of the participants in the TJX hack some 10 years ago.
In this video he describes exactly how powerless you are in a federal case when the prosecution wants to make an example and the judge has taken a dislike to you. When specialists have no clue about the extent of your crime (according to Watt, a minor hack of an existing sniffer to steal credit card data from a company's unencrypted (!) wifi) and blow it out of proportions.
When you're being called out on "violating the private lives of millions of americans" - adding up to 171,500,000USD (yes, 171.5 million) to pay back for him only.
When such claims are backed with IRC protocols full of jokes the prosecution does not understand (and fails to recognize quotes as such), trying to paint a picture of a sociopath and maniac.
When they say they understand the computer stuff that's this case is about, but really don't.
When the defendant just doesn't invoke sympathy very well, maybe simply because he's male, 7" tall, dressed in black, with long hair... and maybe even has the cheek to sneer or talk back. He certainly doesn't appear humbled in the video, taken after serving 2 years in prison.
If that's all a bit too much for you, at least skip to the last 5 minutes or so.
Linux saves the world?-up-
what ways could linux play a role in saving the world?
I discovered Linux only in 2011/12.
But long before that I found groups that practice "social utopia". It's amazing to see hundreds, sometimes even thousands of people living in a different society. With all the Good and the Ugly that brings about.
I see many structural similarities with what I later found in the Linux world as well - like I often said: the best thing about Linux, the thing that really blows me away, is that it's a global community effort (and one that works very well I might add).
We are forerunners, and I hope we continue being that.
Every such movement can become popular and will face the challenges of not being a niche anymore, and maybe losing its avantgarde status - but hopefully not its openness. I currently experience this both in Linux and in that other movement. We will see what happens.
However, for people like me who just want to install a program, but end up getting confused and frustrated when trying to do so, I don't understand why Linux distros don't come with the option to install a program by using the executable or the source code.
Actually this sounds like someone who, right at the beginning of their Linux journey, missed to familiarize themselves with some specialties of GNU/Linux, namely what Repository & Package Management means, and simply hung onto the only familiar paradigm they've ever known, which is: hunt, point and click.
When it takes all but concentrated reading of one web page and some additional minutes spent familiarizing oneself with some new software, usually synaptic, and you're done for a lifetime of enjoying Linux.
Application containers only play into this "hanging on to familiar paradigms" by adding a whole new layer of abstraction. They were not made for this purpose, but they enable droves of Linux newbs to hold on to their hunt, point and click mentality, and droves of equally enthusiastic podcasters and bloggers wax with admiration: "Finally, Linux will truly be like all the other $PROPRIETARY_OS out there! No more complaints about unintuitive UX etc.!"
...[insert long row of expletives here]...
Happy in my Niche-up-
I have absolutely NO interest in "bringing people over from windows" or some such.
in fact, i think it's outright detrimental for the development of GNU/Linux as a whole, to make it "more mainstream".
As long as Linux doesn't come preinstalled on millions of devices, with people getting paid to make the "UX" pleasurable (*), using it will always require a change of usage habits, even a shift in paradigm.
(*) an absolute horror scenario for me in every way. give me a clunky desktop any day! developed by unpaid nerds for their own needs in a true community effort.
also consider this:
more users means
- more technically clueless users - not "nerds", just normal schmucks who are sick of windows & co. for whatever reasons
- more outrageous demands for "user friendliness" and loads of features that are insanely hard to implement
- waves of misinformed/borderline-trolling bug reports and issues
- more people not able to actually fix anything in that ever growing linux operating system
- a lot more "helpdesk mentality" - i.e. forum threads where the OP thinks that they have to contribute nothing to solve their problems and can blame everybody else if it "doesn't work" (this is something FLOSS communities are alrady suffering from. it would grow exponentially)
more and more development will be taken into paid hands, more and more people start thinking of Linux as something to invest in (with a good chance of success, because, you know, it's so popular) and start turning a profit.
at that point it doesn't really differ from $PROPRIETARY_OS anymore and the experience of a global communtiy effort is all but gone...
Linux is already growing in popularity.
That's OK by me, but I see absolutely no reason to stoke that fire or be a missionary or revolutionary or wish for world domination or "compete" with some other OS.
PPS: Others might want to point out technical disadvantages, like Microsoft and Intel infiltrating kernel development etc. etc.
Stories from the Wild East-up-
Two stories from the Wild East, late 1990s. Incidentally they both happened in Romania.
We were stopped by the police for "speeding" inside city limits. This was particularly laughable because we were driving a 30-year-old mobile home. Anyhow, they showed us a dime store calculator with some arbitrary number typed in, as "proof" for our "speeding". I must say, at that time it wasn't very funny, we felt intimidated and compelled to pay the "fine". But afterwards, this has always made me chuckle.
[ Used to be a common occurence in the whole eastern block back then, I know similar stories from fake public transport ticket inspectors etc., they don't even bother to make it look real, all that counts is the intimidation. ]
Meanwhile I'd spent 3 summer months in Greece. On the way back, hitching a ride with a truck driver, on the Bulgarian/Romanian border, Romanian side. So we were coming in.
First of all I must say that the border Police/Militia/whatever were really fierce black-eyed guys with hard stares, stiff uniforms, and these oversized caps.
I had to show my passport to one of them. He looked at it, then at me, at the passport, at me, a puzzled look on his face. Now that already made me chuckle inside, because I happened to know what my passport picture looked like (some sort of punk close to the final stages of alcoholic poisoning. not that i'd been, but that's what it looked like) and what I actually looked like: a long-haired, almost bearded and well-tanned hippie.
He said "It no funny! It no joke!" - well that didn't exactly help with NOT laughing - and brought in 2 more collaegues, and for a long while I looked at this assembly of large peaked caps, centered around my passport, looking up at me, looking down at the passport... by that time I was definitely failing to hold back laughter.
They did let me go in the end.
Different types of Linux users-up-
The more I read your replies the more i'm reminded of the article I linked yesterday (and re-read after a long time to celebrate the occasion):
It's 10 years old but still surprisingly relevant.
"I was looking for ideas from people who have got past the transition e.g. books, web-sites, forums etc, that helped them."
i'll tell you this: there's different types of linux users, and different types of windows users (or any os for that matter).
the type of user I am hasn't really changed since I started using linux.
before, I used to install windows2000 and winxp to hand-me-down laptops. the problems with graphic cards not supported etc. were pretty much the same as they are on linux; search the web for solutions, find the driver, put the files in the right place, hope it works etc. somewhere along the way i started using blackbox for windows, which already familiarized me with community-driven problem solving. only then, at some point, did I start using linux.
other users, on the other hand, probably never "laid hand" on their windows computer for all their life, but then something happens (no money to buy new computer, OS destroyed by virus, registry bogged down beyond repair etc.) and they decide to try one of the many linux distros.
I think you can see how these are 2 distinctly different experiences.
problem is, the people seeking advice are often from the second group, and the problem giving advice are from the first.
so, you see, it's a problem of people's mentalities, and they don't align with the operating system used.
"Scary? No. But given enough time, you will break a rolling release system. It might not happen overnight, but it will happen. Even if you check the upgrade warnings before ever upgrading, sooner or later 'bad' package will break the system. End of story."
how do you define "break"? if it means, something unforeseen happens, you can't update or some software won't work and you have to fix things, well, yes, then i agree. but that can happen on almost any distro, even debian stable.
i've been running a rolling release (arch) on my desktop for 3 years now, and debian stable on my server. i haven't had any serious problems on either, but i also haven't had no problems on either. for me it's a tie. different usage scenarios, but a rolling release distro isn't intrinsically less stable than a release distro, and a release distro isn't intrinsically more stable than a rolling release distro. don't get me wrong, debian are doing an invaluable job, and it's for a reason i'm using it on my server.
while both sid and archlinux are rolling, i think there's a huge difference between them: archlinux does do some quality control and testing and compiles software specifically to work with archlinux. they also have a [testing] repo, which i avoid like the pest - i think that would be more comparable to sid.
for me, a stable, monitored rolling distro like archlinux is the best.