Your freedoms are eroding as technology becomes more closed

TL;DR: We’re not doing a good job of keeping the Internet and related technologies as open and egalitarian as they used to be, allowing a dangerous oligopoly to reemerge. How can we reverse the trend? And by we, I actually mean you.

I see some worrying signs that we’re going backwards in terms of freedom. Read on for some scaremongering.

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Reviews of 10 vegan cheese alternatives

I recently bragged that I would be sampling many vegan cheese alternatives. So I went ahead and ordered entire boxes full of different vegan cheeses. This is the selection:

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From top left to bottom right:

  1. Sheese Smoked Cheddar Style
  2. Sheese Blue Style
  3. Violife Cheese Slices Cheddar
  4. Violife Cheese Slices Smoked
  5. No-Moo Blue Classic (German: No-Muh Blue Classic)
  6. No-Moo Herbs (German: No-Muh Kräuter)
  7. No-Moo Piquant (German: No-Muh Rezent, not pictured)
  8. No-Moo Mild-aromatic (German: No-Muh Dezent, not pictured)
  9. Wilmersburger slices mushroom
  10. Wilmersburger wedge strong
  11. Wilmersburger wedge herbs

Read on to find out what I think about each of them.

Continue reading “Reviews of 10 vegan cheese alternatives”

Switzerland’s own anti-Muslim campaign

The Swiss People’s Party (one of the most powerful parties in Switzerland) has recently launched a campaign against easier naturalization of third-generation foreigners. This is one of the billboards:

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People’s Party campaign, photo by Newsnetz. Note the nazi color scheme.

As a Swiss person, I am way more afraid of the old white men behind this campaign than I am of that hypothetical woman behind her niqab.

These men have in the past:

  • Weakened our education by cutting funding.
  • Managed to make the building of minarets illegal while building Christian churches and Jewish synagogues is still legal.
  • Supported not one but two new laws that undermine privacy, increase surveillance and allow remote wiretapping of Swiss citizens and others on pure suspicion, without a court order. These laws are BÜPF and NDG.
  • Are now supporting another new law that reduces taxes for large corporations while increasing them for individuals, the Corporate Tax Reform Act III.

And they are mostly men. Only 11 of their 65 seats in the national council are under the butts of women.

As a reaction to their billboards I would love to see an interview with a third-generation foreigner who likes to wear the niqab, but I’m pretty sure you won’t find one. The only person I am aware of in Switzerland who even wears a niqab is Swiss through and through: Nora Illi. On the right in this picture as you can surely guess:

Anne Will
Photo by Spiegel/WDR

But since she’s had Swiss citizenship since birth, I guess that won’t be a problem for our geniuses at the People’s Party, eh?

Where will you step when there is no more safe ground?

You thought you’re safe and you have privacy because you use some fancy-schmancy encrypted email provider? I don’t think so.

This year saw some remarkable changes, bear with me while I go off on some tangents:

  • The UK voted to leave the EU and subsequently introduced one of the most far-reaching and invasive surveillance laws in the world.
  • The USA elected Donald Trump under speculations of Russian involvement, possibly thawing US-Russian relations and forcing Edward Snowden to be extradited to the US, where he might be executed for revealing truths the US didn’t want revealed. Keep in mind that he never invented anything, he didn’t lie, unlike the US President-elect. He merely told the truth.
  • Switzerland, which had formerly been ready to offer asylum to Snowden, was pressured by the US government to stop that. All the while, US intelligence agencies were illegaly patrolling through Swiss cities and running surveillance operations in Berne and Geneva. The Swiss government stopped any investigation of these operations after the US increased their pressure.

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Time to leave Dyn and go to something like Afraid.org/FreeDNS

Now that Oracle is rumored to be taking over Dyn, this should be the last signal you need: Dyn is nothing like the cute little company called DynDNS that we liked so much in the 90s of the last century. Remember talking on IRC when someone gives you an address for an FTP hosted via their 28.8k modem on flyingdickweasels.dyndns.org? No? Damn, I’m too old, then!

Dyn has become more and more corporate over the years and is nothing like the cool little company that gave so many of our younger selves free dynamic DNS. But you know who’s a cool little company with free dynamic DNS? Afraid.org/FreeDNS. It used to be that afraid.org’s dynamic DNS mode isn’t directly supported in home router firmware or NAS devices, but that’s changed. Even Synology NAS now support it easily. If your router doesn’t have support for it, you can get it to work on anything that can run shell scripts, Windows batch scripts or PowerShell. Instructions are included when you set up your domain.

They also support the nice trick of using your own custom domain and dynamically updating its subdomains, but you’ll have to pay US$ 30/year for a pro account if you need that. If you just want to use their top-level domains and don’t need your own, that’s still free and has been for over a decade. They own chickenkiller.com, for example. You can work with that, can’t you?

Full disclosure: I’m not paid anything for this. I’ve just been a happy afraid.org customer for more than 10 years now without a single issue, and I laugh in the face of Dyn, whose slide into zombie corporate culture couldn’t find a more fitting end than being absorbed by the ultimate peddler in corporate zombieism; Oracle.

A modern example of Christian proselytizing in Cambodia

TL;DR: A bunch of Christian missionaries are destroying Cambodian culture in exchange for  building orphanages and schools, and a guy made a film about it. It’s full of vague statements and misinformation about Buddhism.

It’s not really news that Christian missionaries use very creative means to get the native population of an area to adopt Christianity. Catholic priest Diego de Landa Calderón for example grew furious about the fact that the people of the Yucatán region continued worshipping their old gods along with the new Christian god he had only just forcibly thrust up their asses.

Now what would a sane, wise and compassionate person do in this situation? Perhaps accept the fact that whatever belief system you hold as a Catholic priest, there are other belief systems that were there before you arrived. And your own system might not be the right one for everyone, even if your holy book says so and even though your religion instructs you to spread it. A wise one would perhaps acknowledge that there is value in these people’s culture and beauty in the way they adapt their own religion to fit the new Christian god right into their own pantheon.

What did Landa do instead? He systematically wiped out their entire written history of the people he conquered and destroyed every last trace of their culture and religion, robbing all future generations of their identity and annoying historians to this day. Bravo! A good Catholic if there ever was one.

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As AI absorbs your life’s data, how do you feel?

Humanity has started down a new road in its history and those of us alive today get to watch it unfold. Companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon and to some degree Apple are now beginning to train their artificial intelligence systems on your data. Data from real people, available for the first time in the vast amounts that are useful to AI programmers.

First attempts might be clumsy. Cortana might direct you to a Thai massage parlor that smells of smegma from ten meters away, when all you wanted was some Thai-Italian fusion food. But as you complain about bad results, Cortana learns and improves, her data size increases, the next results will be better.

Free comes without freedom

Have you wondered how Google can afford to give you unlimited storage for all your photos in original resolution for free? Storage costs money, data centers suck up huge amounts of electricity and some person or robot has to change failing hard drives and monitor the hardware and services. This might be offered for free to you, but it’s not free for Google. So what do they gain? Pictures taken by real people, plus GPS data about where the picture was taken, and thanks to the high-accuracy sensors in their new phone, Google knows the pitch, tilt and yaw of your phone when you took the picture. It gets placed into a sort of 3D collage of the world, owned by them, not you.

Continue reading “As AI absorbs your life’s data, how do you feel?”