Freemors Blog

Musings of an East Coast Techie

Why isn't Instant Messaging like E-Mail?

2015-08-04 by Freemor

or

Who stole my freedom and why

Have you ever wondered why you can e-mail anyone with any e-mail account but you can only chat to people on the same service as you? It's a really good question and the answer will surprise you.

The fact is you, I, Anyone CAN chat (IM) to anyone anywhere. The technology exists and is in use all over the place today. The reason most people don't is because of two things.

A) The big companies don't want you to
B) The big companies don't want you to

I know, I know, A and B look a lot the same but really they are two sides of the same coin. Lets start with A.

The Big Companies Don't want you to (A)

The Internet's big boy Google,Yahoo, Facebook, Msn, etc Want to make money off of you and since the first days of Instant Messaging companies realized it was a "killer feature" everyone raced to have the best chat (IM) application. And they made sure that their chat wouldn't chat to the other guys. Why? Because they want to make money off of you... not just you... you, your friends, their friends, your kids, your kids friends, etc. They want to monetize as many users as they can... and they understand that if all your friends are on "Super X chat" then chances are good that you'll cave to presure and use "Super X chat". Partly because all your friends are on it... partly because all those people being on it creates a lot of "buzz" so you hear about it a lot more. Partly because of branding. It is a potent mix. The big companies understand this and intentionally screw you out of your freedom (to chat to anyone) in a bid to pressure your friends and family to also join. Big companies see IM as the crack that will get not just you but all your friends hooked on them. So they never tell you there is another option. In fact they lie and say it cant be done because of X, Y, and/or Z

Having a lot of people using one Instant messenger creates a LOT of pressure for others to use it. Big companies understand this. It even has a name "The Network effect". The more people there are using a particular instant messenger (or any other social thing) the more people will gravitate to it and the harder it is to leave. Think of it like a social black hole. The bigger it gets the more and faster it pulls people in and the harder it is to escape. For the big companies this means lots and lots of customers and lots and lots of money. For you and your friends this means getting screwed out of your freedom to talk to anyone... because now you can only talk to people on "Super X chat" and the only way to talk to a person not on it... is to get them hooked too.

The big companies don't want you too (B)

The free and open protocol I mentioned before (XMPP) is just that, free and open. None of the big companies control it, much like the protocol that runs E-mail, in fact your username on XMPP looks just like an E-mail address and if you are lucky it can be the same as you E-mail address, Mine is.

Just a quick note here for the everyday users. All Instant Messenger systems are comprised of two parts. The protocol. a definition of how software using the system will talk to one another and the sotware. Now it is understandable that most people don't know this distinction because Skype software speaks the Skype protocol and since Microsoft controls the protocol and wont tell or let others figure out how it works ONLY the Skype software speaks it. Thus the average user never sees the distinction between protocol and software with instant messaging. You do with E-mail because the protocol is open and not controlled by any one company so there are hunderds of different E-mail programs that can all talk to one another.

So if companies were to properly implement XMPP they would lose control, you wouldn't have to be on their network, you wouldn't even have to use their software. They couldn't force ads on you. It would be much harder to track and profile you. They'd lose control of you and the leverage they had over your friends. They also would loose the ability to add and remove features willy nilly. They'd have to try to be as standard as possible so that you didn't suddenly find yourself unable to talk to friends or you'd just leave and go get another account. Imagine if gmail suddenly stopped being able to send mail to Yahoo because of some "feature", no one would put up with that. So instead of being the crack that gets you hooked on the big companies they'd see it as a burden "have to provide to compete" type service and they really don't like those.

With all that it is no wonder that so few people have heard of XMPP. If people knew they'd leave the big boys in droves and never come back.

So How do I do this XMPP thing?

Pretty easily actually:

But here is the hard part...

You refuse to let Big Companies screw you out of you freedom by using a "popular" Instant messenger. As soon as you do that no one on that service will switch. You loose. They loose. Big company wins and continues to screw people out of their freedom.

It is that last bit, the "Network Effect" that is hindering XMPP as much as the big guys not talking about or using it. People that do know and make the move over to XMPP are often faced with loosing contact with friends. The thing to remember is, if enough people switch then the "Network Effect" will be on our side. The more people there are using XMPP the more people will want to use XMPP. And suddenly it wont matter what IM software you like or what server you are on, you'll be able to talk to anyone anywhere. Just like E-mail.

A Place to Hang Out

2015-07-27 by Freemor

This Is more of an announcement then a blog entry. So please excuse it's brevity

I have recently been looking for a place online to hang my hat and chill out. Not so much in a social media sense but more in a realtime chat sense. I checked many of the usual possibilities IRC, etc. but just wasn't having much luck finding what I was looking for so I have decided to try a bit of an experiment in creating one.

So if you are an older (45+ yo) Techie like myself feel free to fire up your favourite XMPP/Jabber client and swing by the new Multi User Chat at:

oldertechies@conference.freemor.ca

We are just getting started so the crowd is currently fairly sparse, but with luck the community will grow as word gets around.

Update:

Apparently some people were having troubles connecting. I have dropped the S2S encryption requirements a bit and this should help with most of the connection issues.. If you had troubles in the past please try again.

Create a Pi Crate

2015-04-16 by Freemor

In this blog Posting I'm going to show you how to make a Pi Crate from an Clementine/Tangerine/Orange crate.

First you need a sharp knife (an exacto-knife or other knife with a small sharp blade) , and a pair of needle nose pliers (or multi-tool) , a crate, a Raspberry Pi, scissors and some glue. Don't discard the papers from the bottom of the crate we will used them too.

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Using the pliers of multi-tool gently pry up the ends of the wires holding the crate together...

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Still using the pliers or multi-tool gently pull the wires out of the crate...

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You now hav the bottom separated from the crate...

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Next gently remove the staples from the sides of the crate...

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After doing all four corners you should have a totally disassembled crate...

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Take one of the long sides of the crate (should be wood not press board) , and measure the width of the Pi at both ends of the piece. Then using the other long side as a straight edge mark a line between the marks...

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Cut along the line. This will give you two parts.. We will use the wider piece for the bottom of the Pi-Crate and the thinner piece for the sides...

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Put the Pi on the wider piece at one end and mark a line at the other end of the pi. Using the pi as a straight edge.

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Cut That piece off. Repeat if you want a top. (on my crate the sides were just a tad too short for a top to work. Depending on the crate you start with your's may be o.k.)

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Line the slim piece up with the Pi sized piece and using one of the spare pieces as a spacer mark it at a point that is equal too the length of the Pi shaped piece plus the width of a wooden side piece. This will give space for the end piece.

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Repeate for the other side and then for the end. For the end piece make it the same size as the end of the Pi sized piece...

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Ok, Here is where the Paper and glue comes in. Get your scissors and cut 2 strips the length of the Pi sized piece and almost aw wide as the side pieces. Now using one of the short ends of the Crate as a straightedge line up the Pi sized piece and both long sides so all three pieces are touching...

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Apply glue to one side of each paper strip and then apply them to the aligned pieces so that they are half on the Pi sized piece and half on an side piece. While waiting for the glue to dry mark and gently cut out a gap in the end piece for the MicroSD card...

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Once the glue has dried flip one side up onto the Pi sized piece using the paper as a hinge, Mark and cut out a gap for the various ports on the side of the pi (sound/HDMI/Power. It helpful to work from both sides Flipping it back down to get at the inside. This will bake a nice hole in both the paper and the side piece. Once that is Done use a small tab of paper the width of a side and long enough to secure to both the end piece and the now cut side piece. (there is extra paper on my end piece in the picture as I was experimenting with the top)

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Wait for that tab to dry, then using the paper as hinges fold up the sides of the crate and fold closed then end. While holding the end in place gently insert another paper and glue tab to the inside of the corner between the end piece and that side it is not yet attached to. Hold it in place long enough for the glue to get a good hold or use something like books to hold the sides in place while the glue sets.

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Now slip your Pi into the new Crate. I found it easiest to put the side with the ports in first then gently press the Pi into place...

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Slide ihe MicroSD card into the Pi using the gap you made in the back piece...

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Check that all the Side ports are properly accessible, remove the Pi and do any required trimming..

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The next steps may be optional. I personally found that the sides felt a little softer then I would like. If you find this to be the case cut two small pieces of wood from some of the remaining crate pieces..

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Gently slide these pieces in between the sides of the crate and the front ports of the Pi. Friction will hold them in place nicely so no need to glue.

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For me that made the Pi-Crate feel very solid. I haven't bothered with a top for two reasons. As I mentioned before the Clementine crate I was using produced sides that are just shy of tall enough for a top, and I was worried a top might cause ventilation problems.. If you want to do a top just create another paper hinge between either the end piece, or the uncut side piece and another Pi sized piece. I'd strongly suggest cutting holes into it for ventilation.

The Ad-Blocking Lie

2015-03-31 by Freemor

I have heard it stated over and over that people shouldn't uses ad-blocking software because if they do websites wont be able to make money, and the entire Internet will implode into a cash vacuum. OK, I added the imploding part, but it is always the implied outcome.. Use ad-blockers and the Internet will go away.

As someone that has been "on-line" since before there was a public Internet I can tell you this is patently untrue and the people that are telling you this are lying to you, or misinformed.

First I'd like to point out that a huge number of sites and services on the Internet do not rely on advertising for their income. Do you really think amazon.com is going to disappear if everyone started using ad-blocking? I think not. Wikipedia.org does not and will not have ads. IRC servers have been around since the early days of the Internet and do not rely on ads. Same for most XMPP servers. Services that use a "Freemium" model like DropBox will still be around. Usenet providers switched years ago to being a paid service. Some torrent trackers may disappear but other wont, and besides there are other P2P file sharing options that do not rely on "tracker" sites. So the whole P2P thing won't go away.

E-mail might have a transition period but this is only because too many people have been conned into using big centralized E-mail servers who are in the business of selling all the information that they can harvest from peoples E-mail instead of just providing an E-mail service. Luckily there are many (currently less popular) E-mail providers that are solely in the business of providing E-mail and nothing else. If the ad-blocking apocalypse came to pass ISPs could easily go back to running their own E-mail servers like they did in the old days. Also I am sure many, many, non-advertising based mail servers would spring up to fill the void and make some cash while doing it.

The fact is that the things most at risk of disappearing if we hit peak ad-block would be exactly the services that are most hurtful to your privacy. To me this seems like a win.

The current layout of the Internet is far from what it's creators envisioned. They saw an Internet where every computer was a potential server, and many where. They envisioned an Internet that empowered people, not one that made people slaves to huge central servers especially not to huge central servers that were in the business of robbing people of their privacy.

The Internet is still based and run on the open architecture that the original creators put in place. Thus the Internet is what WE make it. I for one run my own mail, XMPP and other servers. You can to. It's not hard, it can even be fun. It is most definitely liberating.

So if Internet stores will still be around, and many,many, other Internet services will be around what are we really talking about losing in this supposed ad-blocking apocalypse? What would we loose? Twitter? (I doubt it, They have proven to be very agile and I'm sure they would adjust), Google, Facebook, and their lot? To that I say good riddance. To me and others these companies are a cancer on the Internet that we'll be glad to see the back of. Instant messaging? Nope. Many, Many, open, free and privacy respecting options that aren't based on advertising revenue. Plus it is trivial to set up an XMPP server these days and all XMPP servers can talk to other XMPP servers (if not messed up like FaceBook and Google did with theirs). So That'll still be around.

As far as I can see the only thing we would loose is services that are in the business of plundering your data to make money off of you. Would this really be a loss? I say no. I personally think everyone should run ad-blocking software, for two reasons. The current onslaught of advertising on the Internet makes many web pages close to unusable. And second, since the advertisers have all decided to ignore the "Do Not Track" header standard why the hell shouldn't I ignore them. Blocking ads protects my privacy and yours. If you decide to use ad-blocking, it will make websites load faster and browsers crash less often. It will save you bandwidth, and other computer resources. (which actually makes it a greener option). Why shouldn't you reclaim you privacy, your screen, your speed, your sanity? Because of some non-existant threat that the Internet will go away? I think not.

To help you get started here is a list of ad-blocking options. Find the ones that are right for you and start enjoying your privacy and browsing again.

UBlock - A faster more advanced blocker. Released under the GPLv3 License. It can use blocklist from Adblock Plus/Adblock Edge. AdBlock Plus - A GPL'd (freedom respecting, Copyleft ) plug-in for Firefox, Chrome and an Android app. It allows "acceptable" ads by default but you can easily turn that off.
Privoxy - A GPL'd, highly configurable http proxy that you can use to protect all devices in your home. A little more technical to set up then the plug-in but once up and running all you have to do is set all your devices to use it as their proxy and they are protected.
AdAway for Android - GPL'd, Requires a rooted device. I prefer it to Adblock Plus on my Android devices.
How To Block Ads via your HOSTS file - Technique works for Linux, Windows, Mac, Android, Etc. The page is geared towards windows users but the principal is the same on almost all platforms. There are links towards the bottom of the page for Linux,Mac, etc. Also there are many tools available that use this method. (AdAway above is one) So you can just DuckDuckGo around to find one you like.

First Real Post on this New System

2015-02-10 by Freemor

Ok, Now that I've got this new system set up enough to get going and I have brought along my old posts from the old system, it is time for me to actually say something here

It is probably pretty plain that there have been some changes. The biggest is that I am now using BlazeBlogger to manage my site. It is a pretty light CMS and does everything I need. This way I'll be able to focus more on content and less on maintenance.

As I get more familiar with the new system I'm sure the site will look a little less basic. Probably not much tho as I am still a firm believer in the fact that websites should be about the content and not the flashy content and groovy graphics. Also a more basic site will work much better on things like mobile devices and older hardware.

I'll probably create a new "About" page in the coming days but I doubt that a "Contact" page will be created. Other then that this is going to be a place for my musings, howto's, and probably the occasional rant. So, you know, a blog.

New Look

2015-02-09 by Freemor

Please don't mind the mess. I'm moving to a new look and feel for the site.