Friday, February 5, 2021

Galactic Housekeeping (#12 - Purging Big Tech and Other Stuff...)

 "A Man does good business when he rids himself of a turd..." -- Edward I, King of England

First a few notes on the effort to make my life Google-, Facebook- and Amazon-free:

Most of the newer social media outlets (the ones that still exist, unlike Parler), frankly, suck. Part of this is because they are still in their infancy and partly because they are mere anti-_______ and little more.

Even so simple an exercise, one would think, like changing the e-mail address on this blog has become something of an issue (don't get me started).

As far as the alternate platforms available, they fall into three main categories, none of which is satisfactory: 

1. They support blogging, but not video or audio formats.

2. They support video and audio formats, but not blogging.

(I'd like all three, frankly, especially if I'm going to be paying for them)

3. They still rely heavily upon "The Cloud" -- something I have never liked and have warned my clients (with little success until AFTER THE FACT, usually -- "Why didn't you tell me?" is a common refrain. I did: you shut your ears off when the dollar signs flashed before your eyes, Stupid)  for years to avoid like a prostate exam performed with a dirty fireplace poker.

For those who have little technical knowledge of modern computing, "The Cloud" is a euphemism for "You're a cheap dumbfuck who won't spring for his own data storage, which has never been cheaper nor available in such a variety of formats as it is now."

The purpose of the Cloud is to relieve anyone who uses and stores a great deal of data of the expense of owning and operating the infrastructure necessary to store it, which is something that typically turns out to be a marginal cost to the average user. So, while you may love the ease and lightweight portability of your laptop or tablet, and are too cheap to lay out $50 for a decent external, USB-connected drive to store your data, what you're really paying for with "The Cloud" is the ability to voluntarily give up control of your own data.

"The Cloud" is one of those ideas which originally sounded very cool, but which has turned out in practice to be largely moonshine. My earliest memory of something that could be considered Cloud-like was in the late 80's when it was postulated (I forget by whom) that it should be possible to create an entire system -- one large enough to do things like scientific research -- by simply using capacity that was being unused elsewhere.

For example, if a business needed more computing capacity, instead of ponying up millions of dollars to obtain it, it would simply "lease" unused resources owned by another business, so that ABC Widgets could, in theory, acquire all the computing power it needed by paying a fee to Acme, Inc. for CPU time, paying another fee to Overlord, Ltd. for memory, and yet another fee to Bob's Business, Corp. for (temporary) storage, and since this was really all about an early version of "Open Source", the "lease" was not to paid in cash -- because that would be evil and the idea was to destroy IBM by starving them of revenue -- but to rely on reciprocal agreements.

Essentially, it was IBM's Virtual Machine (VM) concept, only incorporating modern communications to mimic the internal connections of a mainframe system, spread over distance.

It failed to catch on in a big way for obvious reasons. Because if Acme, Inc. was spending $1,000/hr to maintain systems that had extra CPU capacity, and down time, it wanted to get $,1000/hr (or more) to ensure that CPU capacity was there when they needed it. And then there were other considerations: if someone is using Acme's disk or tape storage, does that mean Acme is responsible for that data until the owner claims it? If it's on Acme's devices, does Acme get to access it? How do we charge for this, that and the other, and so forth...

In the end, the only thing that actually survived was "The Cloud". The good news was that it survived because data storage and transmission got exceedingly cheap. The bad news was that since data storage and transmission were exceedingly cheap, it meant that someone with enough money could build huge storage farms that concentrated data in relatively few places, and then placed control of access to data in relatively few hands.

The cheapest part of computing became the easiest to monetize, which makes a weird kind of sense.

And now you know (one reason) why Google, FaceNazi and Amazon were so easily able to de-platform millions of people on their blogging and social media services, YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok, etc., and manipulate things like search engine results. They own the medium the data is stored on and the access points.

I'm sure you've heard of "Search Engine Optimization (SEO)", too.

Basically, this means "Pay Google a shitload of money and Google will ensure that your business, webpage, whatever, will show up on the first pages of any search engine results that either originate with a Google product, or which use a Google gateway, server, or "Cloud."

In the end, it is all some form of extortion from people whose motto is (allegedly) "Do No Evil"....but I have digressed. A lot.

So, I have been taking a really good look at two new platforms.

The first is, which is a subscription-based platform, but seems to lack traditional blogging tools. However, I like the concept very much. Getting paid for content without censorship and loss of ownership? Fantastic idea.

The second -- brand-spankin'-new, but intriguing -- is called Micronetia. The ability to own the server and do your own hosting -- rather than having to use a service connected somewhere down the line with any of So Big They Fail -- is very attractive, although Mrs. Overlord might not be pleased with the electricity-sucking beast I have in mind for such an endeavor.

Take the advice of Mick Jagger....Hey You, get off of my cloud.

The Cloud is not your friend, it's benefits are limited unless you're running a business and being there makes you vulnerable. You have no idea where that storage farm actually is. It could be in Cincinnati, or Calcutta, or maybe even Cairo, you don't know who runs it, and you don't know what level of access they have. It's even possible that half your data is stored in Moscow and the other half in Montevideo.

You also don't know who the people here -- entrusted with your data, ostensibly -- are, or what they do.

And then people wonder why a Pakistani trying to pass himself off as an American, using a hijacked phone number in Idaho knows all about his life insurance, bank accounts, e-mail accounts and credit cards. Probably because American Bank, Inc. didn't want to spend what is, in effect, corporate pocket change, to store their own data and so they passed it off to some unknown Third World Vendor service in Nairobi (infamous home of the "African Prince who needs access to your bank account to collect his inheritance" scam. He got your info because your refrigerator, washer and dryer and garage door are all connected to the Cloud, too, Numbnuts).

You can bet the asshole who convinced his CIO to do that to shave 1.3% off the operating budget got promoted...and gets the same repetitive phone calls from "Brian" in Bangalore regarding a severe security issue with Windows.

So, maybe there is justice, after all.

But in any case, progress, though slow, is being made.

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