Misunderstanding Computers

Why do we insist on seeing the computer as a magic box for controlling other people?
Why do we want so much to control others when we won't control ourselves?

Computer memory is just fancy paper, CPUs are just fancy pens with fancy erasers, and the network is just a fancy backyard fence.
コンピュータの記憶というものはただ改良した紙ですし、CPU 何て特長ある筆に特殊の消しゴムがついたものにすぎないし、ネットワークそのものは裏庭の塀が少し拡大されたものぐらいです。

(original post/元の投稿 -- defining computers site/コンピュータを定義しようのサイト)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A New Kind of SPAM (Unsolicited Advertising)

First, let's get one thing straight. The true meaning of "SpAM" as an epithet for unsolicited advertising is
SPanning Advertisement Message
I know this because I wasn't there. ;-)

This was told to me by a fellow student when I was an undergraduate at BYU during the days before the Internet was the Internet. The semi-apocryphal story referenced the cool idea that wasn't so cool after all, of taking a "span" of the usenet newsgroups and crossposting an announcement to them all.

For instance, if you wanted to advertise a conference on religious studies, you might send a message to "soc.religion.*", meaning all the newsgroups under soc.religion.

Since mailing lists have pretty much replaced the usenet newsgroups, the number of groups in general, and the number under soc.religion, in particular, has fallen drastically. Indeed, it's almost hard to find access to usenet itself, any more.

(Google hasn't helped, really, in trying to merge usenet with their Google Groups. Maybe that merger wasn't what they were trying to do, but that has been the result. And the independent usenet is disappearing.)

Discussing the pros and cons of usenet, both as a concept, and as it really happened, is not what I want to do today.

It used to be that there were more than fifty newsgroups under soc.religion:
soc.religion.atheists, ... soc.religion.bahai, soc.relgion.catholic, ... soc.religion.christian, ... soc.religion.lutheran, ... soc.religion.mormon, soc.religion.universalist, ...
And some of the groups had subgroups, like soc.religion.mormon.meetinghouse. (In this particular case, the parent soc.religion.mormon group was supposed to be for "serious" discussion, and the meetinghouse group for the kind of talk you'd hear after the meetings were over. Each subgroup had it's own reasons and rules.)

Each group had tens, hundreds, and even thousands of subscribers. One spanning message could result in an avalanche of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of messages flooding the lines in those good old days of slow network access. (Our lines were tens of thousands times slower back then.)

People wanted their bandwidth for other things, of course.

But the business types wanted their pipes into people's mailboxes.

Because it takes real money to maintain the internetwork connections that compose the Internet, the business aspect of the Internet has not disappeared, and I guess it won't disappear any time soon. (I haven't enabled ads in this blog yet, but several other blogs have ads enabled, as a kind of moral nod to Google's largess. If my novels were selling, ...)

I've blogged about the archetypical spam before. Most of it is pretty transparent, if you can look at yourself with any semblance of detachment, and if you have any sense of whom you know and whom you don't know.

Messages from people you don't know are to be suspect, first and foremost. They are especially to be suspect if they make some sort of offer.

If the offer is unreasonable, such as money or love for nothing, it's going to be scarier if it is real. Seriously.

A million dollars from someone you've never met?

You'd better believe, if the money is real, it doesn't come without strings attached, burdensome strings, strings that are very hard to get rid of.

Money is like that anyway -- it always comes with strings attached. Big money comes with ropes.

Sex? P0rn? Drugs? It's the same. If it claims to come at no cost, you should be running away from it at full speed.


Here's part of why p0rn is bad, BTW: it seems to offer intimacy at no cost. It isn't real intimacy, and there is definitely a cost.


The Love of Jesus? Well, that's different. Except that, even Jesus expects you to follow His teachings if you want to benefit from being saved.

Good things take some sort of effort, if you really want the good things to be good.

If everyone in the world could understand that, no one would respond to fraudulent junkmail, and the fraudulent stuff would disappear.

(Well, if everyone understood, the need for sending the SPAM would disappear
pretty quickly, too.)

But we have SPAM. Some of the come-ons are getting more sophisticated. Here's one I got today:

How Secure is your Wi-Fi ?

Sender: anonymity@privacyissafety.com
(I changed the URL so I'm not advertising a company I know nothing of, but it was similarly buzzword-cool.)

Does that sound suspicious to you? It sounds suspicious to me. At least, any website domain name composed of buzzwords bears investigation. Do not take them at face value.

Let's look at what it says:
Wondered if anyone could be sniffing on every bit of your oline activities and data? , yes its just started happening..The US senate just recently passed a bill (S.J.RES 34) which allows your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to sell your web browsing histories and geolocation data to advertisers and partner companies. Yes, you read that right, your privacy is up for sale with the support of the US Senate.

Not Cool right?

Yes so uncool!
If you are a native English speaker, you may get a feeling as if someone who doesn't know how to be cool is trying to sound cool. But that is not the big problem.

What is SJ res 34?

Here is something a search brings back:
This doesn't make sense, but it appears that the collected Congresscritters have indeed sold your Internet-related private information down the river. It doesn't make sense, but, if it hasn't really happened yet, it's going to happen. When you tell people to make your laws and then take the leash off them, they will make all sorts of laws that help keep them and their friends in power. Expecting them to refrain from doing so makes even less sense than the things they do.

(This is the real danger in allowing NSA to do what they do. If they can do it, why can't Verizon? Especially since it's Verizon and the other ISPs who do the actual eavesdropping? And Google. Who can disobey King Money?)

I'll have to do more research on SJ resolution 34, but, in the meantime, let's look some more at this unrequested advertisement.

We cant let them do this, so here is how to easily take charge of your privacy from the deep root.

If you want to encrypt the online activity on all your business or family’s devices, set up a VPN router. A VPN router encrypts internet traffic at the source by default—so you won’t have to remember to switch on your VPN each time you start a device.
It's an ad for a VPN router.

If you think you are interested, you have to understand. Your provider can't send a request out for you without knowing what request it is sending out and where it is going. The problem being referred to here is how long they can keep the logs of your requests, and whether they can sell them.

VPN doesn't change that. Even if the VPN company proxies all your requests, the only thing changed is that you are now trusting two companies -- your provider and your VPN provider. And you have no promise, no reason to believe that they will keep each other in check.

VPN is a legitimate service, even if the ads are borderline and unrequested. But you really would prefer to have someone you know personally run your VPN.

Without investigating the company who ostensibly sent this, I can't say they are either legitimate or fraudulent. And I don't particularly want to, because then I wouldn't have the marginal junkmail example that I want. For now, I can call this a
marginal junkmail
And that is the thing I want to rant about today.

Jon Postel was a wonderful guy. He was also an idealist.

He set up a relatively clean foundation for the Internet we have, in which all participants could be equal.

The problem with equality is that we don't all behave as if we are equal.

Apple (the computer company) has to have their cachet. So does Microsoft.


Because they don't know how to be equal.

Google used to know how to be equal, but that only lasted until they had to start turning a profit. (Hey, that's what happened to Microsoft and Apple, too, isn't it?)

If you want to play as an equal with the "big boys", you have to learn how to play by their rules. That means you have to be able to read advertisements and figure out whether they are legitimate or not, and then start figuring out whether what they are advertising is something you need. And you have to have money and technical expertise to set up your own infrastructure. And you have the time, or you have to be able to hire someone who can do it for you.

In the fields where you can do that, you can be okay as a peer. In the fields where you can't, you are not so equal.

The egalitarian Internet has to be there.

But we do need closed networks, as well.

The question I want to try to make obvious here is this --

Who do you trust to build your closed networks?

And the answer to that actually lies in something Jon Postel and his buddies tried to build into the Internet, something that the current crop of providers are trying to dismantle:


Distributed networks, distributed control.

Distributed control means that you control your part

And you can't control your part when you don't have some sort of understanding how it works. Nor can you when you can't control the hardware that runs your part of it. Nor when you can't control how it connects with the rest.

Which is really the reason for this blog.

(And the rant I posted several days back about the modern Danegeld.)