Read From the Bottom

Technology
Jan 15, 2021
Shipwreck of the schooner E. B. Allen - NOAA
Shipwreck of the schooner E. B. Allen - NOAA

Sites like Reddit and Hackernews allow people to vote stories up or down. Users collectively rank the values of user submissions and comments. The Hivemind. It can lead people to create and discovery great things, or just enjoy funny cat videos. These sites filter content through a combination of their moderators and the masses. With that filter comes bubbles, echo chambers and group think. Only the most commonly held opinions are given a voice. If you want to break free of orthodoxy privilege, you need to change the way you use these websites, by reading comments from the bottom.

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Final Fantasy VII Remake

Miscellaneous
Jan 11, 2021
Cloud Swinging His Blade and Leveling Up

The original Final Fantasy VII is one of my favorite games of all times. It came out in the 90s while I was in high school, and my best friend and I were both playing the PC version with our, state of the art, Voodoo2 graphics cards. Another friend, who was a long time fan of the Final Fantasy series, saved up to buy a PlayStation just for FF7. The gameplay featured turn based RPG elements, along with exploration, magic and storytelling. With it’s 3D graphics overlayed on pre-rendered backgrounds, full motion video, and addictive combat system, it was an iconic game of the era. The remake, developed over two decades later, uses a more fast paced combat system. It retains many of the story elements of the original, enhances the original music score, and develops many of the same iconic characters. Yet it also adds some new faces, and draws out the first eight to ten hours of the original game into a forty-hour story of its own. Although enjoyable, it won’t be as accessible as the original to as large an audience.

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The Fracturing of the Human Mind

Philosophy
Jan 6, 2021
Broken green glass bottle

My mother had Multiple Sclerosis. While I was in primary school, she had lost her ability to drive a vehicle. By the time I was in high school, she could barely walk. The Internet was the big new thing, and while it opened her world greatly from her limited mobility, her view of the world was still restricted to what she saw on TV and through an Internet Explorer web browser. It’s a terribly distorted way to see the world, and it is currently the way many people in cities all around the planet are viewing current events. For many of us who live in cities have been locked away from each other by our governments, Orwellian messaging is blasted to us from news, advertising and social media, telling us we are all responsible for the microbes in our bodies and the lives of everyone on the planet. It’s a terrible distortion of reality and is fracturing the minds of people in my country and all around the world.

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Matrix: One Chat Protocol to Rule Them All

Technology
Dec 16, 2020
Matrix Logo Surrounded by Logos for Hangouts, Telegram, Messenger and Signal pointing to it

Once upon a time, there were many chat services. AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ and others. These messengers had their own desktop clients, and developers reverse engineered their protocol to build custom applications, both open and closed source. Trillian, Audium and Pidgin were applications that let people communicate across all these messengers with one program. Over time the old protocols died, and newer chat services like Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts started storing your entire history on their servers. People started using the web interfaces and mobile apps, no longer caring about desktop programs.

Matrix is an open source communication protocol. It’s similar to XMPP (formerly Jabber) in the sense that anyone can set up a Matrix server and communicate to people on other Matrix servers. It’s a federated protocol, just like e-mail. Google Hangouts used to support XMPP federation, but silently removed support in 2014. Matrix supports bridging other chat services, so they can appear in a unified view. With my current setup of Matrix and appropriate bridges, I’ve combined my view of Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Telegram and native Matrix chats into one convenient user interface. The path to get to that integration was not as simple.

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Is Meaningful Section 230 Reform Possible?

Politics
Nov 13, 2020
Low angle photograph of courthouse

Large Internet platforms have always moderated the content they allow on their services, and Section 230 of the Federal Communication Act allowed for the growth of user supported platforms, by not holding them to many of the same liabilities a publisher would face. Yet today, we’re seeing unprecedented censorship, editing and moderation of platforms with massive userbases. The Internet of today has corporate super powers, virtual nations, that can effectively dismiss voices and points of view that do not fit their narrative. When Twitter is effectively able to censor the reach of articles from established newspapers, we have to ask what meaningful reform can be made to Section 230, to ensure every American has control over the way their voice is presented to the world. The following are a few proposals for reforming the law, and also the challenges in implementing them.

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The Return of American Corruption

Politics
Nov 7, 2020
Photo by Bill Oxford
Photo by Bill Oxford

All nations are corrupt. All leaders are corrupt. In Orwell’s famous novel Animal Farm, a revolution that started with the best of intentions, and that supported the rights of every animal, eventually led to one class of animals finding ways to convince all the others to let them lead. The goal of the people of any republic should be to try to minimize that corruption, and implement a process that make their leaders beholden to as large a portion of the population as possible. In American, in 2020, that processes is in crisis.

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Who Will Lead Us From War

Politics
Oct 28, 2020
2007 Protest Against the Iraq War - Chattanooga, TN
2007 Protest Against the Iraq War - Chattanooga, TN

When I was a child, my parents took me to India one winter. Upon my return, my sister told me that George H. W. Bush had started bombing Iraqi forces that were invading Kuwait. It was 1991, and the Gulf War had begun. From the time I was young, American presidents have always used our military as tools of war, extracting resources under the guise of promoting freedom. In 2007, I participated in an anti-Iraq war protest in my home town. The following year, I joined the people who were planning the protest. I volunteered my time to create our website and promotional material for the march. War has always been the part of American policy that I despised. The bar for peace is so low that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted at “at least” our current president hasn’t started any new wars. The question remains, which presidential candidate is likely to keep America from foreign engagements for the next four years.

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The Solution to Big Tech Isn't Legislation, It's Technology

Technology
Oct 22, 2020
Protester holding sign saying 'Error 404 Demokratie not found'

Over the course of 2020, we’ve seen increased censorship from every major digital content platform. It culminated with both Facebook and Twitter blocking a New York Post article, which alleged Joe Biden’s son was involved in illegal activity and corruption. Meanwhile, the New York Times published a scathing article on Donald Trump’s tax returns. None of the major networks restricted access to the tax story, even though it was likely those tax records were obtained illegally, and nothing in the returns was truly out of the ordinary.

People are calling for reform to Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, the law that keeps Internet platforms from liabilities often reserved for publishers. However, I do not believe more legal restrictions will solve the issues surrounding tech and free speech. The only viable solution is better use of technology. The Internet was not founded by media giants. It was originally hundreds of thousands of small, independent websites and service providers. The solution to our current censorship woes, lies in the archives of Internet next to animated hamsters, under construction GIFs, and bright pink animated Geocities sites.

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Alpine Linux with Full Disk Encryption

Technology
Oct 16, 2020
Alpine Linux
Alpine Linux

I recently built a file server. For the operating system, I decided to use Alpine Linux. As with most of my Linux systems, I wanted to utilize full disk encryption. The following guide is mostly based off the documentation on the Alpine Wiki, and goes through the installation of Alpine on a modern UEFI system, with LUKS full disk encryption.

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Culture War Radio: The Battle Penguin

Miscellaneous
Oct 12, 2020
Culture War Radio: Liberal Values Are Worth Fighting For

On Sunday, October 11th, I had the pleasure of being a guest on William Maggos’s show, the Culture War Radio podcast. We talked about my background, adventures around the planet, political culture and technology.

Culture War Radio Episode 77: The Battle Penguin

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