Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

In/Spectre after five

February 8, 2020

In/Spectre (虚構推理 Kyokō suiri) is living up to its Japanese name: Fictional Reasoning. I don’t do episode by episode reviews, and I rarely do midseason reviews, but this one is special.

In the first five episodes I/S pulls more plot shifts on us than a fast game of Calvinball. It starts out looking like a yokai-of-the-week, with a cute but totally mismatched couple — one eye/one leg Kotoko, Goddess of Wisdom to the yokai, and unkillable yokai-eater Kurou, who Kotoko recruits after he breaks up with Saki, his girlfriend of five years. Together, they rid the local library of a monster that has been terrorizing the other yokai, and preventing the ghost samurai from finishing his Harlequin romance novels.

Would you consider dating me with marriage in mind?

Then, in Episode 2, we find that Kotoko’s real job is BS-ing the low-intellect yokai with continuously changing explanations until she finds one that satisfies them and their problem is “solved”. In this case, it’s a snake god that is trying to figure out why a woman dumped a dead body in his swamp.

But doesn’t that explanation contradict your previous one?

Having read the manga, I can say that this 1.3-episode arc was brought in from later in the story. As others have pointed out, that’s a good thing, because it preps the watcher for the kind of developments that are to come.

Episode 3 brings up a new situation, one that will dominate the center of this I/S season. It’s two years later, and there’s a new yokai in town, the vengeful ghost of a dead idol, Steel Lady Nanase. So, we’re back to yokai-of-the-week, right? Not quite. You see, the police are investigating the phenomenon, because she caused a car crash. And who is doing the investigation? Kurou’s old girlfriend Saki. Who encounters Nanase. And meets Kotoko. So now it’s a love triangle, right?

Episode 4 starts out with a catty back-and-forth between the two women about ex/current-boyfriend Kurou (who has disappeared after leaving a ‘don’t follow me’ text). We get to see BS-artist Kotoko dueling with hard-nosed policewoman Saki, interleaved with discussions of Nanase. During this, we find that Kurou is essentially unkillable. Kotoko later decides she needs Saki’s help, but while the two of them are in the process of meeting up, Kotoko gets diverted to the site of a new Nanase sighting, and finds her fighting with…Kurou.

If you like, I’ll send you a wedding invitation whenever Kurou and I get married

Episode 5 is where it gets weird. You see, Kurou is effectively immortal, because he ate the flesh of a mermaid. But because he also ate the flesh of a kudan, he can forecast/select the future, but only if he dies. No wonder Saki dumped him, and no wonder Kotoko says she’s the only one who can understand him. We also find that Nanase isn’t a proper yokai, she’s the embodiment of the beliefs of all the otaku who are reading (and arguing) about her exploits on the Steel Lady Nanase website. So, instead of fighting Nanase physically, Kotoko is going to have to fight the idea of Steel Lady Nanase on the Internet. Suddenly, we’re in the realm of fake news and dueling Internet memes.

Set a meme to fight a meme

Far from being a simple humans-meet-yokai story, one that could have been set in old Edo, we have a totally modern story about how you fight fake news in the face of those who want to believe a certain story. Going forward [spoiler warning] we are going to see Kotoko developing and posting on the web, constantly-changing, real-time explanations for why Nanase isn’t a real ghost, in the face of those who want her to be. We also find that this isn’t really a story about fighting yokai. It’s a story about human interactions.


How the Internet killed cars, and everything else

August 31, 2019

I’m sure others have written on this, and better, but I’ma gonna throw out some ideas for you, well, me, to think about later.

Technology changes society. Not just jobs going away, like buggy-whip manufacturing, but the way society thinks about stuff. Back in the day, one of the early German auto manufacturers estimated that demand for cars would peak in the low 10-thousands, because there were only so many people available to be trained as chauffeurs. Of course what happened was, cars became so cheap that everyone, even those too poor to hire a chauffeur, could afford one. Before that, women’s magazines had advice on the role of the housewife as a manager of the household, including how to deal with servants. Along came appliances and away went servants, and the perceived role of women in the household changed.

After the war (WWII, the big one), discretionary leisure time expanded. Television helped fill it, but after you watched Dave Garroway, and Rawhide, there was still a lot of time to fill. Enter the autocar.

I know, let’s drive downtown and go window shopping on Main Street.

It’s Friday night, let’s go cruise the drag.

Let’s go see the USA in our Henry J.

America became a car culture because there wasn’t anything better to do at home. Well, there was sex, but the development of modern medicine meant that all the side effects stayed around as additional costs, and so that fell out of favor once alternatives were available.  One effect of the car culture was the growth of destinations — everything from drive-in movies to drive-in churches, and the peak of the drive-in or drive-to destination experience was the mega mall.

Stretching the concept of metaphor a little, think of the car as a browser, the destinations as websites, and the road network as the Internet — call it the autonet. People want to get out of their homes, to link up, to experience things that aren’t just another day at the office. The autonet let them do this. Just as today, people in the 50’s and 60’s argued about which browser was better, complained about slow connections, and spent a lot of time online. The 1950’s version of surfing the web was the Sunday drive, a more or less aimless wandering along the autonet. The modern shopping mall is like a web portal, or concentrator site — you drive to the home page, park, and follow the links to the affiliate pages.

As with the dinosaurs, all these destinations became gigantic, right before conditions changed they went extinct.

In this case, it was the Internet that changed the conditions. Shopping? Use Amazon. Hang out with your friends? Use MySpace/Facebook/Instagram/Skype/Line (depending on which year and country we’re talking about). See the USA? I can do a virtual drive down the Kufurstendam in Berlin with Google Earth, and soon there will be real surround-sight VR flight to the space station, for those who can afford the headset. Nobody needs cars any more. The oldsters are still stuck in their Oldsmobiles, but the Millennials, and Gen-X and the upcoming post-alphabet generation have no loyalty to the car. They’d rather take public transport, where they can enjoy the latest free-to-play. This is why Uber and Lyft are so popular. Or they’d rather stay home and enjoy a virtual shopping experience.

People talk about America’s love affair with the automobile. What it really was was a love affair with the autonet.The automobile was really just a device for transporting us somewhere else. Once a shoebox-sized device could do the same thing using the Internet, it spelled the end of the car, the autonet, and everything that depended on it. What we are learning now, is just how much stuff that is — freeways, malls, big box stores, libraries, factories, you name it. If it has a parking lot associated with it, you can assume its days are numbered.

NSA as an autoimmune disease

January 26, 2014

An autoimmune disease is one where the body’s defenses turn on the body itself, where the various mechanisms for attacking intruders and disease mistake healthy tissue for diseased intruders. Some, like Type 1 Diabetes, attack organs that perform useful functions. Others, like ALS, and Multiple Sclerosis, attack the nervous system that ties the different parts of the body together.

Various of the NSA programs seem to fit this description. I’m not talking about the mass collection of American communications data that the President’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recently declared both unconstitutional and useless. That’s a topic for another rant. No, what I’m talking about are their various actions to make the Internet, and all electronic communications tools, insecure and unsafe.

The Internet is one of the most marvelous, if not the most marvelous, creations of the hand of man. It stands beside the space program in its sheer technical brilliance — and I speak as someone who grew up watching satellites being launched from his back yard. It has created new industries, enabled people with innovative ideas to compete in the marketplace, and tied the world together in a way that was inconceivable a mere thirty or forty years ago. It was designed as an open system, based on trust, and for the last decade and more, the NSA has worked to destroy that trust.

Consider their efforts to put backdoors in both hardware and software, to promote weakened crypto. Part of their efforts went into suborning the various cryptographic standards bodies in such a way that NSA personnel had full control over their actions. Even such organizations as the Internet Research Task Force’s Crypto Forum Research Group are co-chaired by NSA employees*. Other programs solicited zero-day exploits from US firms like Microsoft, or purchased them on the open market.

What this all amounts to is no less than attack on the basic infrastructure of global e-commerce. It’s as if you could no longer trust the road signs on the Interstate, or you found that an unknown number of overpasses had been wired with demolition charges. As others have pointed out, obscurity is no substitute for security. If there is a vulnerability in the system, be it one that was introduced by NSA or one that NSA found out about and didn’t tell anyone, sooner or later someone else (the Russians? Chinese? Mafia?) will find it and exploit it. Will we find out about it? Probably not, because the exploit will hide behind the NSA screen. Only an exceptional set of circumstances (as with the 2005 Athens Affair) would let the cat out of the bag. Now, maybe this won’t destroy the Internet. It will merely make it untrustworthy, incapable of securely handling financial transactions. Think of it as having just a mild case of multiple sclerosis. Thanks, NSA.


*The effort to oust this particular employee failed because the group chairman said that a mere co-chair had no powers. I’d respond by pointing out that there was a reason that the most powerful man in the old Soviet Union was the mere Secretary of the Communist Party.

Only Connect

February 27, 2013

Two months almost to the day from when the trouble started, it appears to have been fixed. Short form: it was the DSL modem…plus.

To summarize (the deets may be found via the Only Connect tag). In mid-December, our connection started acting wonky, and our mail clients could only receive, not send. CenturyLink came and did their best — whole house filter, dedicated DSL line, lots of activity at the back end. Some problems were fixed, others (email), not. After a week of work, including having techs spend hours in the house, they went away, beaten and confused. They said they tought it might be an ethernet port configuration issue…which, for various reasons, was just silly.

We limped along with workarounds (get mail via the mailer, reply via gMail…). I kept poking at the problem as time allowed, building logic trees of things I’d tried — it’s not a LAN wiring problem because my wife’s macbook works fine through the same switch/cable that her PC does. Her PC talks to the network printer fine, so her cable to the switch is OK…etc.

Finally, I borrowed a DSL modem from the university. It didn’t totally fix things, but it fixed enough for me to go back to CenLink and ask for a new one. They sent it via UPS and it was here within 24hrs. How’s that for service? Half an hour on the phone with their internet folks getting things set up (it was being cranky about passwords), and everything seems to work. I’ve been able to sign into my sites, MJ has been able to do our online banking, and email works all ’round.

The repair guy had tried a modem off the truck earlier, and it hadn’t helped, so we swapped back. I’m thinking there were multiple problems, like with the house wiring and maybe a config at the Central Office, and we fixed those after we tried the modem. The old modem hadn’t failed, it was just flaky, and however the Win and Mac boxen talk to things, they must be a lot more forgiving than Linux. So that accounts for the OS issues.

One remaining problem is that my wireless AP doesn’t seem to recognize the new modem. I can log on to the wireless, but if I type in a webpage, I get an immediate ‘can’t find server’. It’s prbably a simple configuration issue, and in any event it’s not a real problem, because the new router has a wireless capability, it’s just not positioned optimally for the house. It just barely works in the bedroom, for example, and not at all in the back yard. Since I don’t plan to sit in the back yard with my Nexus and a glass of Piesporter Goldtröpfchen until, you know, the snow melts enough to find the deck chairs, I’m going to give up on that until Spring Break.

Only Connect

December 27, 2012

Thursday, December 27th
Over the weekend I posted another query on the Ubuntu Forums, and this time got an answer. Not on what might be wrong, but what might be a useful diagnostic. As a result I downloaded wireshark, a packet sniffer program, and got some captures of failures. Things run fine, then suddenly there’s a whole bunch of bad packets. It’s definitely logon associated, since I don’t see many bad packets when just surfing.

Also brought a new (refurb) computer online — Win7 with IE9. Funnily enough, it doesn’t have a problem.

Thursday still another CenLink guy came, stayed about three hours. He’d also been working from the central office side, changing ports and such. Got things to work on his XP laptop. Went back to office. He called later and said his techs thought it might be an ‘ethernet port config’ issue. I doubt this because it’s on so many different machines.

So, that’s my status. For blogging and banking I’m reduced to using Windows. For email, I can still receive on Evolution, and sometimes send. Fallback is gMail.

MJ is in somewhat worse shape, because she’s got a lot of groups and stuff she mails to. Right now, she still gets mail through Thunderbird, plus she’s got CenturyLink Webmail open on the U12 PC to handle replies, and she’s been getting the old Apple laptop re-synched for her trip next week.

I’ve looked into alternative ISP’s, and have been told they’re worse than CenturyLink. At least CenturyLink was willing to try.

1. It’s OS associated. Win7 works. Two flavors of Ubuntu, and one Fedora, don’t. My Nexus 7 has problems.
2. It’s not just an OS issue. I can’t believe I’m the only Linux user in this college town, but they haven’t had any other complaints. So it’s local to me, or CenLink’s configuration for me.
3. It’s not browser associated. Four different browsers have failed.
4. It’s not the DSL modem. We swapped it out and the problems continued, so we swapped it back.
5. It’s not something mundane like distance to the Central Office. I couldn’t hit it with a baseball from my back yard, but Willie Mays probably could.

My guess is that it has something to do with how the secure links handshake. Windows and Google are evidently more relaxed about how they do things.

Only Connect

December 21, 2012

Friday, December 21st
Different guy this time. Brought his own laptop. Said he’d been working at it from the Central Office end using our user ID and was having the same problems. Left at two, came back at 3 and stayed until a search party arrived looking for him at 5. Poor guy was just a gap-filler from up near Colville.

He swapped out some lines in the house, to put the DSL on its own filtered line. Helped a little. Long weekend ahead, because the phone pholks get off Christmas Eve/Day

Only Connect

December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19th

The telco crew was out here surprisingly fast, less than 24hrs. They checked the wiring into the house and found a worn spot just below the box. We couldn’t do anything that day, because the wire went into a section of the garage that was piled with stuff. They went away, and I went to work.

Thursday, December 20th

They’re back, and it was the work of half an hour to splice in a new run of line from the box to a suitable point inside. Did a phone check, no static. Problem continued.

Another CenLink guy came around noon and left at 2. He was on the phone a lot. Voice on the other end saying “I don’t know what to tell you”. He was on the phone so much his charge depleted. Luckily, he was seeing the same problems I was, only moreso, on both his setup at the office and his WinXP laptop. He said the problem isn’t local, which may or may not be true.

Only Connect

December 18, 2012

Tuesday, December 18th

No joy. Called the CIH again. Spent almost an hour on the phone with them. They were surprisingly helpful, given their limited technology. They said they heard a lot of scratching on the line, and suggested I contact the telephone side.

Note: The browser timeout problem appears on my U10 box with Opera, Chromium, and Firefox; on MJ’s U12 machine with Opera and Firefox, and, now, our backup WinXP box with IE7.

Note: General browsing is fine. Downloads are fine. Crunchyroll anime streaming is fine.

Only Connect

December 17, 2012

Monday, December 17th
Not only is there an email problem, but there’s a website logon problem as well. A number of sites that I go to have logon protocols of various levels of security. The problem is, I keep getting server timeouts, but not on all of them and not all the time. WordPress is a problem, as is Twitter, and FlashcardDB and FaceBook. Sometimes WordPress won’t even give me the login screen. No problems with gMail or the EWU systems. Note: the campus is only a couple blocks away, but the actual routing is done somewhere in Oregon, so all of my data gets electronically schlepped five hundred miles or so to go down the street.

Called the CenturyLink Internet Hotline. They had me point our mailers at a different server. Didn’t have any suggestions about browsers.

Posted a query to the Ubuntu Forums. No answer so far.

Second Amendment: WWJD?

December 17, 2012

…and not just Jefferson. What about Adams and Franklin and the like? Or Madison? The Second Amendment starts out by talking about militias, and addresses gun ownership in that context. In The Federalist #46, as Pat Lang points out, the initial discussion was about gun ownership first, as a countervailing power to kings, and only later as a component of a militia.

This was in an era when the way kings controlled the populace was by sending troops and cannons, quite rightly feeling that a whiff of grapeshot would settle all but the most hardened revolutionaries, particularly ones armed only with cobblestones. Madison’s thought was that an armed citizenry is the final defense against dictatorship, hereditary or sequential.

It’s a compelling argument, but it’s as obsolete as bayonets.

You see, the tool of choice for suppressing the population is no longer the national army, at least, not in the developed West. It’s information. It’s propaganda. It’s surveillance. It’s acquiescence to a police state.

What’s happened in the last ten or so years is that the population has been convinced that the existentialist threat to the US from terrorism is so bad that we need to give up some of our liberties to obtain more security. What’s wrong with that last sentence is that it should read a lot of our liberties to obtain a minuscule amount of security. This destruction of our rights to be secure in our persons has been aided and abetted by our elected representatives, and carried out by Presidents of both parties.

So the illegal wiretapping of American citizens is given ex post facto approval by Congress. The collection, retention and analysis of data on American citizens is formally approved by the Attorney General. DHS is paying cities and towns to install surveillance cameras, and will soon pay for systems to record conversations on buses. Precedents are established for seizure of data, all data, from a hosting provider because one of the provider’s customers has been accused of a civil offense. The police don’t need a warrant to track your cell phone. New technology is being developed or deployed that will turn your cell phone or your DVR into a surveillance tool.

Think about that last. In 1984, the government of Big Brother installed monitoring devices in every home. In 2014, you will be paying Microsoft and Verizon to allow you to install the equipment yourself.

Once the government knows what everyone says, where everyone is, what everyone’s Google searches look like, it becomes impossible to create a viable revolution. That’s what we should worry about, not whether or not the rifle in the closet is legal. Somehow, I think that Jefferson and Madison would find that troubling, and that were they to write a new Second Amendment today, it would say “Congress shall pass no law limiting Internet access…”

Only Connect

December 14, 2012

Friday, December 14th

On the morning of December 14th, a day that shall live in infamy, our CenturyTel email went down. No problem. Happens often. Usually comes back within hours or even minutes. I mention it to MJ so that she doesn’t think it’s something she did.

Well, it’s sort of working. We get email fine. We can’t send well. What’s that mean? I use Evolution mailer on Ubuntu 10, MJ uses Thunderbird mailer on Ubuntu 12. Same problem for both. Can get email OK, but hangs when it tries to send. About 85% of the time it times out. If I leave it in the outbox, it might get sent later, no guarantees. MJ’s problem is, she can send an original message, but not a long one, and she can’t reply.

Closing down the Internet

February 6, 2011

Egypt’s Internet connections were down for five or six days last week, as part of the government’s response to threats to stability. ReadWriteWeb reports on studies indicating that the shutdown cost Egypt about three to four percent of its Gross Domestic Product. That same week, people were talking about a bill to give the President the ability to do the same thing here. Only he’d be able to do it with one phone call, instead of the six or eight the Egyptians needed. Of course, the proposed legislation isn’t really about killing the whole US Internet, only those parts declared critical infrastructure, like Hoover Dam. And the bill’s sponsors have said they would never, ever, approve legislation that would shut down the entire Internet.

What worries me is that even if this version of the bill is innocuous-but-flawed, it establishes a precedent and a tool, and future legistlators might not be so careful of American freedoms as is Senator Lieberman. Once such legislation is in place, it’s merely a matter of amending an existing law, not doing something new and scary. It looks to me like one of those slippery slopes that we are always being warned about.

It’s hard, of course, to calculate the economic impact of a shutdown of the US part of the Internet. Egypt is a less well connected country, but Internet driven services may well be a significant part of a small economy. I don’t know, and my schedule won’t let me take the time to find out. If, and it’s a big if, the impacts are similar — a one work-week shutdown drops GDP 3% — then it’s interesting to note that the cost of the 2008 recession is thought to be a GDP that was 16% smaller than it would have been. Just think, we’d be giving the politicians the ability to recreate the entirety of the Great Recession in just six weeks. I’m sure we’d be happy to do that, so that the government can protect us from, you know, threats to stability.