We can’t trust Uber

New York Times: We can’t trust Uber

Not just Uber, but all the usual suspects.

Somewhere in the next couple of decades, there will be a tipping point. Scientific breakthrough in distributed systems will have to top the unassailable power, efficiency and convenience of today’s huge central service providers and gatekeepers. Why? Because no amount of regulatory oversight can prevent centralized abuse of power; this article provides just one of countless examples.

That new wave of decentralization may come through home-scaled nodes; it may come through communal pools, similarly to the feudalism of early days Internet. Either way, it has to come and succeed.

15.000 km

As it reached 15.000 km, my road Décathlon’s frame snapped out of the blue. I guess it’s time to steer away from aluminum. In its defense, it’s taken quite a beating, including a head-on collision with an oncoming car a few years ago. The staff at the store were astonished—indeed, the thing looks like it was sawn. Here’s to you, old treacherous friend. Meanwhile, the hunt for steel frames begins.

Code creep

I’ve just read a wake-up call from Cory Doctorow:

We are Huxleying ourselves into the full Orwell.

Try as I might, I can’t shake the feeling that 2014 is the year we lose the Web. The W3C push for DRM in all browsers is going to […] fuck you in every possible way.

(I may have taken some liberties with the quoting. Full article.)

The Web is abuzz with the NSA, PRISM and TOR. TOR and—generally speaking—end-to-end encryption address privacy concerns with regard to the infrastructure of the Internet and its tampering by external agents. Notwithstanding the graveness of that struggle, Doctorow is making the case for something else here. It’s about proprietary code creeping into the Web.

Proprietary, unaccounted, unaudited—unauditable!—code. Code that is forever vulnerable to attack, and yet that you cannot get rid of. Code that can do whatever it is that its governing bodies want it to do. Code that is guarded by draconian laws, under the guise of protecting intellectual property and the copyright monopoly; laws under which you effectively lose ownership and control of your browsing, as attempts to circumvent, disable or modify said code will get you in legal dire straits. Up until now, you could choose to avoid proprietary code, just as you could choose to trust one particular vendor’s proprietary code; that could however change.

How can it be so? How can this code creep into our browsing under our noses? Web standards. The standards that specify how the Web works and evolves, what (originally: open) technologies are used, and so on. These are followed by browser makers, as we all need to speak the same language for there to be one true Web.

DRM, by design, is made of proprietary, hidden code. If the powers that be decide to mess with standards and push for DRM, proprietary code will be pushed as Web standards. Browser makers will be somewhat forced to follow suit, for fear of their products becoming Web-incompatible; Netflix, mentioned in the article, has a ton of leverage in this regard. Oh, and did we mention that the MPAA—the Hollywood Mafia—is apparently now a member of the World Wide Web Consortium? We’re in for a bumpy ride.

Take Action: Defend the Open Web: Keep DRM Out of W3C Standards

Swing dancing as a language: why Swing dancing is for geeks

Presented as a four-minute flash talk at Automattic’s 2013 Grand Meetup in California.

I want to talk to you about a language that is likely little known to many of you, which is dancing. Indeed, I dance something called the Lindy Hop. Probably the most iconic of Swing dances, reminiscent of the Thirties and such lively venues as the Savoy in New York City’s Harlem, Lindy is a fast-paced, spectacular and fun dance.

Lindy Hop

The Lindy Hop is powered by Swing music. Swing music takes roots in Jazz and is a very well structured kind of music: it gives you 8-count bars, usually 4-bar phrases, and you have progressions such as Blues or Dixieland Jazz progressions. This all means that it has a sense of order and predictability.

Now, the fact that the structure is, at its core, minimal and immutable means that it gets out of your way, and this allows a lot of freedom for improvisation, for bending the rhythm, etc., for musicians and dancers alike. In fact, even if they don’t know the music, dancers can follow it just because of that very structure, and even mess around with it. Continue reading “Swing dancing as a language: why Swing dancing is for geeks”