quotes ranting

If they collect it they will sell it

I understand these companies want my data but you’re supposed to be sneakier and better at getting it than this by now.

Hope Corrigan, in Ubisoft’s launcher broke Steam games on Linux and Steam Deck, [] on PC Gamer

It’s funny because companies are supposed to hide the fact they are collecting and monetizing our data. By now we all know they do it, but we are not supposed to talk about it. Pay no attention to the data collection behind the curtain.

One of the most insidious aspects of the internet is the “data economy”. User data is hovered up and hoarded by the giant internet companies we know and collected and traded quietly by companies most will never hear of. The harvesting and commercialization of our habits and our connections has become a billion dollar business. Allowing an economy to be built on this trade erodes our privacy more every day.

Even if you choose to live off of the internet or jump through the considerable hoops to keep your data out of the hands of the data brokers and social media they still likely know way more about you than you think. Short of living like Ted Kaczynski you can’t escape it.

Shadow profiles are created about you based on your phone number or email when your friends and associates allow companies to access their contact list. Every website you visit is telling the data brokers what you are reading, what you are buying, what you are searching for. Too many people still don’t realize that if you aren’t paying, you aren’t the customer, you are the product. And more and more even, if you are paying it’s not enough, your data is too valuable to just take your money. Capitalism is the beast which cannot be satisfied, profits must rise, if customer data is monetizable, monetized it shall be. If they collect it they will sell it.

quotes ranting

Nazi AIs are the logical conclusion of the internet

How are people surprised that AIs trained on the internet are spewing Nazi shit []? (Substitute any bigotry you want, any -ist or -phobic adjective you prefer) I mean, a Nazi AI [] is not even a new thing… This is the internet people, don’t you know how it works?

Godwin’s law, short for Godwin’s law (or rule) of Nazi analogies, is an Internet adage asserting that as an online discussion grows longer (regardless of topic or scope), the probability of a comparison to Nazis or Adolf Hitler approaches 1.

Wikipedia []

Somehow people think that AI trained on the web is going to be like Project 2501? Elegant and articulate? Fuck off. Do they know about 4chan? Without content moderation on social media it would descend into some unholy offspring of The Human Centipede and Mien Kampf.

It’s amazing that we aren’t all gouging our eyes out like Dr. Weir on the Event Horizon. Hats off to all the underpaid, over traumatized [] content moderators out there. Take a Prozac and get some therapy.


The Perils of 2FA

Yesterday I was sitting at a cafe near my house with my daughter, I had just finished a video call with my boss —a weekly touchpoint since my boss sits in Amsterdam and I sit in Singapore— when a guy approached me and asked if he could use my iPad.

It took a minute to understand what he wanted and why. It seems that his phone screen had died, he could receive a call, using his headset to answer it, but he could to make a call or browse his phone in any way. He wanted to log into gmail to get a contact number and use my phone to call them.

Ok, no problem I’m happy to help a guy out. So I opened up Firefox in incognito mode and loaded gmail. After the username and password were entered a two factor authentication (2FA) page opened. Google wanted the guy to enter a code that could be found on a device already logged in… that would be his phone, the one he could not access.

Google gives options to allow you to try others ways of verifying yourself; receive an code by email (not helpful if you are trying to login to that email), receive a code by text (since his phone screen didn’t work he would not be able to see the code), and others. The only one that was an option for this guys was to receive a code by voice call. Luckily he could still receive as call and pick it up using his headset.

So after a couple of minutes he was able to login and get his friends contact. I let him use my phone to call and his friend called him back so they could coordinate whatever they needed.

Glad to help a person out. But the real story here, for me, is the perils of 2FA. All the security experts out there will tell you to enable 2FA for all your logins, all the major services on the internet offer 2FA: Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, blah, blah, blah.

I’ve been using 2FA for about two decades, I believe I was issued my first physical RSA token back in 2003. Now days I have multiple software tokens on my phone – Microsoft Authenticator (for work), Adobe Access —just for creative cloud, damn you Adobe—, Authy. Google has an Authenticator, which I don’t use for anything anymore, I should delete it and most importantly 1Password for as many services as I can use it’s built in code generator.

Google and Adobe, and, to a lesser extent, Apple piss my off with their 2FA. Google and Adobe use proprietary software, I can’t add them to my 1Password for the code generation. I have to use Gmail and Adobe Account Access respectively. Gmail is the worst, I don’t use Gmail’s app for anything else, I use the built in mail app on my phone, but I have to keep Gmail on my phone just to login to Google. Adobe is nearly as bad, they have a dedicated app, it’s not even in the existing Lightroom or Creative Cloud or other Adobe apps I already have. Apple uses a push to logged in Apple devices and since I’m helplessly mired in the Apple ecosystem that’s not really a problem but how do people with only one Apple device do it?

I think 2FA is important, we hear daily about new hacks. I have been on the internet for three decades and using the same email address for almost that whole time. I was foolish, like most people, and used the same password for everything for years. That email address has appeared in many leaks, accordng to haveibeenpwned [] I have, in fact, been pwned 26 times. And that’s only known pwnings. My old go to password has appeared 4 times, meaning the plain text password with the hashed string is there, so if that hash shows up in another breach the hacker does not even need to break the encryption, they already know the password.

So, these days I use a password manager. I use 1Password. And while there is always a chance that they get hacked an my data get leaked I think the benefits out way the risks. I am able to set a different password for everything and I don’t have to remember them, I only have to remember one master password, I can make that as complex as I want to make it harder to crack, not worth the time of a hacker (If you want to understand how easy it is to crack passwords watch this Computerphile video [].

1Password allows me to set 1Password as my 2FA code generator [] for sites or apps that follow the standard. You can see which sites support it here [] and which use proprietary solutions.

But, for all the extra security 2FA provides you have to be prepared. To make sure you have access to the code generator. If you loose your phone you still need to be able to get a code to login… I can login to 1Password on my computer but what if someone does not have a computer, only their phone? What if I’m overseas without access to my computer? What if you loose your phone so you go to use someone else’s computer to login somewhere and to get the code you need your phone? Sure, they offer other methods to verify, so you select receive code by email, but then you need a 2FA code to login to your email, but you’ve lost your phone… How deep does this rabbit hole go? When it works it’s great but I can see how this whole thing is to complicated for many people.of

This rant isn’t goin anywhere so let me explain, no, there is too much, let me sum up: Passwords suck, but we don’t have anything better yet (people are working: Alternatives to passwords []), 2FA is better, but there are some issues. All of this security is to complicated for most people.


The Four Drives: Uncle Russell Edition

A while back I posted The four drives [] about the connection between what a history teacher once explained to me as the four drives, and the drives listed in The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius:

My Teacher

  • Money
  • Power
  • Prestige
  • Sex


  • Wealth
  • Power
  • Reputation
  • Fame
  • Sensual pleasure

If you consider Reputation and Fame to be two parts of Prestige then they are the same list. I wondered if my teacher was familiar with Boethius? I guess I’ll never know.

But then the other day I came across an article on Bertrand Russell called The Four Desires Driving All Human Behavior [] a repost of a 2015 articles on The Marginalian [] in which is summarized a speech uncle Bertrand gave upon accepting the Nobel Price in Literature in 1950.

Russell lists the following drives:

  • Acquisitiveness
  • Rivalry
  • Vanity
  • Love of power

I leave it as an exercise to the reader for a full analysis of the alignment. But I will point out a few things:

First, sex makes no appearance. Maybe it’s just that 1950s or perhaps Russel thought that the it was not appropriate for a Nobel Prize acceptance speech?

Second, Acquisitiveness, in addition to being hard to spell and a ten dollar word, is a more general way of saying “wealth” or “money”. In his speech Russell defines it thus: the wish to possess as much as possible of goods, or the title to goods. So I would say Acquisitiveness = Money = Wealth.

Rivalry is interesting; it’s on the list instead of sex. Per Russell’s speech this is basically the desire to one-up or crush others: a great many men will cheerfully face impoverishment if they can thereby secure complete ruin for their rivals.

Russell lists a second tier of drives including excitement or the need to avoid boredom. This aligns with the idea that so much of modern societies problems result from bored youth, particularly bored males 18-25…

You can read Russell’s acceptance speech [] in whole on the Nobel Prize site. But I warn you it’s not easy to read. Better to start with the article on The Marginalian []. Final note: The Marginalian looks like a very interesting site to explore.

photography ranting

Stolen Bits & Bytes

Last week I found a few of my photos being used on a local website []. Specifically photos of the vacant house at 25 Grange Road. I never actually posted the photos here on Confusion back when I took them in 2006. I was not overly happy with them. The subject was very cool but I don’t think I captured it as well as I wanted. Anyway, you can see the full photoset on Flickr, such that it is, only 12 photos:

Abandoned: 25 Grange Rd, Singapore, May 2006 Photoset on Flickr.

It’s nice when others find my photos useful. A few small sites have used some of my photos before, even got published in a few books (here [] & here again []), the craziest usage was when the Ford Museum purchased the rights to this photo [] to hang somewhere in the museum. Always nice that someone finds my photos useful.

I release almost all of the public photos on my Flickr account under the Creative Commons Attribution License, so they are free for anyone to use including for commercial purposes. You don’t have to ask permission or let me know, sometimes people do email me via Flickr or post a comment on a photo they use, it’s nice because I can see the work. The license does requires that if you use a photo you provide an attribution, just my name (I tell people they are welcome to use “Brian Beggerly” or just “beggs”). Flickr terms require a link back to the Flickr page in addition.

In this particular case though the photos were not attributed to me, they were instead attributed to another web site. And on that site the photos are not attributed to anyone. It’s perfectly possible that someone took very similar photos to those that I took. But when I looked at the other page it contains five of the 12 photos from my photoset and there is no doubt left; they are identical, they are the same photo.

In any case, I reached out to the Smart Local site and let them know and they agreed and updated the attribution.

Before curtesy of the Wayback Machine []

I emailed the site where the photos were posted originally but no response yet. To be fair the site is no longer updated (per a banner on the site when you contact them) so maybe no one is looking at the emails. And while it’s the site that I contacted it seems most of the articles were submitted by independent writers so maybe it’s the author who didn’t add the attribution? But even if the author should have provided the attributions, the site should also a have some sort of editorial process to check that authors are attributing third party works, because it’s the publishers who are going to get the notice when an attribution is missing or wrong.

I have not heard back from the site yet. I’m not linking to them here as I don’t want to drive traffic to the site. If they reply and update the attribution I’ll add a link.

While I think information “should be free”, in the sense that I oppose companies extending copyright forever and hiding behind armies of lawyers trying to prevent people from making derivative works and taking inspiration… I also think people should give credit to other creators and respect other creators decision to charge for, or get paid for, their works. A derivative or an homage is fine, though there is a fine line between inspiration and copying.

Hum… would Picasso have supported Napster?

But credit should be given. People should have respect for the people who create, even if the creation is owned by some big, money driven, corporation. If you don’t want people stealing your work, don’t steal from others. I think this should be taught in school, to make sure everyone understands the laws and how to follow them or how to work to change them. Vote with your wallet, if the item is not worth the price being asked then don’t buy it, and don’t steal it, just don’t consume it. In a capitalist system voting with your wallet is the most effective thing you can do. And if you are able vote in election, if you disagree with the power corporations have over copyright and patents the only way to change that is to vote in politicians who will change the laws and empower regulators to enforce limits, to nominate and confirm judges who can hold the companies to account in the courts.

I am part of the Napster generation, I stole a lot of music, downloaded a lot of Warez. I don’t blame kids and college broke students for piracy, but I don’t support big corporations suing the individuals for outrageous amounts of money, I understand they want to protect their work and business but it’s the wrong message to me.

I do have an issue with adults continuing to steal long after they are old enough to know it’s wrong. When I started making a living producing work that could be stolen, computer code in my case, I came to understand that it is theft and it is wrong (even if, in my case, it was not a work that was likely to be stolen by people, I never wrote that type of software).

I deleted so much music… Today, I don’t produce anything in my career that would be pirated but I release the works I create as part of my hobby, my photographs, so that others can use it. They can use it even if I don’t like what they make from it or how they use it. Creative Commons [] tried to make this simple in the digital world with their licenses (they are 20 this year! So go and vote with your wallet, donate a few dollars). Flickr is a great source of Commons licensed works that you can use and makes it easy for it’s members to choose a CC license. But it still requires people to understand that you should respect others work.

We live in a complicated world, educate yourself and think about your actions. It does not take much effort to find a way to get others work for free, but is that how you would want others to treat a work your created? More power to you if you choose to release your work for others for free, but if you choose to charge for it or get paid by making something for someone else do you want others to steal it?

Ok, enough. It’s a complicated subject. In summary, if you are going to use someone else’s work, have some respect and learn the rules of the game, follow them. Don’t steal. Treat others works the way you want your works treated.