I did another spot on The Project talking about the DarkNet and online drug marketplaces. Despite the lead-in being about a poor guy who died from using drugs bought online, The Project did a balanced piece and actually asked me whether online drug marketplaces could be safer. They continue to do good work.
I did another spot on the Project tonight on Google making users’ search histories available for download. Did the usual privacy-is-a-concern bit, but I do think this is a good move by Google. It is a positive development if people are aware just how much information they are putting out there.
I gave some quotes to the Project yesterday about hate speech on Youtube. As an online civil libertarian I’m always very, very skeptical of any attempts at the censorship of the internet, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that I would have a go at Youtube for censoring jihadi videos. In this case, I was talking about the impracticality of policing all the content that is uploaded to Youtube, but I did say it’s their right as a business to decide where to set the balance between neutral platform provider and curators of content. When government wants to step in and set the rules, there I take issue (sometimes after having a chuckle); but I’m not about to tell any business, even Google, that they must be forced to pay for the bandwidth and storage space for ISIL. (I actually think they should, within reason; but I respect their decision.)
One of the many dilemmas for any operator of a site with user-generated content (or any site with users, really) is that the more policing you do – removing ads, spam, copyright infringements – the more responsibility you are forced to take for everything else, whether it slips through the net or was simply not dreamed up when the terms of service were written. This is a real headache for Google’s search business. Since they have demonstrated that they can and do take links down in certain circumstances, it’s getting harder and harder for them to make the case to law enforcement and courts in dozens of countries around the world that PageRank is king and not to be interfered with on a case-by-case basis. I can only imagine that there are lots of resources, human and lines of code, policing the search results in dozens of jurisdictions around the world already. Many would argue that the power to remove content from a site or index implies endorsement of content that remains – a sort of Google theodicy.
As always, my conclusion is this: free communication on the internet brings with it benefits so enormous that it’s changed every aspect of our lives. We can’t keep those benefits and at the same time stop horrible people using it to say evil things. The price of admission for the internet we enjoy and take for granted is that sometimes these things are going to happen.
I’ve had another appearances on The Project recently, talking about scammers who use news events to lure people in. I do like talking about scams, but there’s often very little practical advice you can give someone.
I was on the Project earlier in the week talking about Dallas Buyers’ Club “crackdown” on Australian torrenters. Check it out below.
I’m brushing up on some technical skills and working on a few small projects. One of those is to create a TramTracker app for my Pebble Smartwatch, so I can just glance at my watch to see when the next tram is coming.
As a precursor, I got a handle on the TramTracker data source and made a Python module to quickly fetch the info my watch will need. I’m mentioning it here for the benefit of anyone with similar ideas googling around in the future. It’s on GitHub and in PyPI. I also made another module, pdfpipe, which is a python command line tool that takes text and spits out PDFs. I’ve found it quite useful.
The Pebble App is now up on the Pebble App store. So if you are one of the one (1) other Melbournians I know with a Pebble, go grab it. The source is available as well.
I recently had a reason to want to boot Linux on my Mac which already has a Windows Bootcamp partition. I wanted to just install Ubuntu onto a USB stick or hard drive and boot from that. The first bit turned out to be easy, but getting it to boot was quite arcane. I found lots of conflicting information on the web, and even after drinking from this fire hose of useful information it took a lot of trial and error to get it working.
It is possible – you just have to install like normal but requires a third-party boot loader and bit of jiggling before it will boot on its own. I’ve documented what I did below for posterity and others beating their head against the same issue.