Posts tagged ‘technology’


Life in the fediverse

21.11.2022

Nathan Griffiths finally answers why Facebook used to freeze on the 1st of each month. I think his theory is very plausible. Now I know, after over a decade!
 

 
Meanwhile, I see CBS News has suspended its Twitter account (after the likes of Balenciaga deleted theirs altogether). This was before Donald Trump was let back on after Musk (whose followers are probably 70 per cent bot) ran a poll approving of the former president’s return to what must now be called OnlyKlans. (MySpaceX seems passé now.)

CBS News’s words: ‘In light of the uncertainty around Twitter and out of an abundance of caution, CBS News is pausing its activity on the social media site as it continues to monitor the platform.’

It’s still live on Facebook, so I guess the genocide of Rohingya Muslims and abundant misinformation are fine.
 
We’ve already had an account be temporarily suspended over on Mastodon.art but there’s a very reasonable moderator there and the appeal was granted within hours. You can read up on this over at Lucire, which is now on a fashion-friendly instance at fashionsocial.host. (The art account remains open, probably to post covers and photography on, a bit like Lucire’s old Tumblr account.)
 
With all this fediverse talk, what a pity my Hubzilla account has gone. I was there in the 2010s, probably around the time I signed up for Mastodon in 2017, possibly before. I did get myself a Pixelfed this time, so spot me at [email protected], and Lucire is at [email protected]. Will I use them? Time will tell, but possibly not. I’d still prefer focusing on our own sites, unless we can figure out how to bring this in-house.

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On the verge of a change for the better

13.11.2022

I can’t find the original toot on Mastodon but I was led to this piece in the MIT Technology Review by Chris Stokel-Walker, ‘Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks’.

As I’ve cut back on my Twitter usage, I haven’t witnessed any issues, but it does highlight the efforts Big Tech goes to in order to maintain their sites. If anything, it explains why Facebook failed so regularly and so often, as documented on this blog.

The prediction? An anonymous engineer tells the Review:

“Things will be broken. Things will be broken more often. Things will be broken for longer periods of time. Things will be broken in more severe ways,” he says. “Everything will compound until, eventually, it’s not usable.”

Twitter’s collapse into an unusable wreck is some time off, the engineer says, but the telltale signs of process rot are already there. It starts with the small things: “Bugs in whatever part of whatever client they’re using; whatever service in the back end they’re trying to use. They’ll be small annoyances to start, but as the back-end fixes are being delayed, things will accumulate until people will eventually just give up.”

I wonder if they will give up, since I’ve encountered Facebook bugs almost since the day I joined, and there are still people there. In fact, like tech experts, some fellow users even blame me, saying that I encounter more bugs than anyone they know. I doubt this: I just remember the bugs better than they do. We’ve all been subject to the well publicized global outages—just that the majority don’t remember them.

While one contact of mine disagrees, I think Twitter won’t collapse on its own. Mastodon could be an alternative, encouraging people away, just as Google enticed Altavista users over; or Facebook saw to the end of Myspace. There seems to be a new era coming, sweeping away the old, especially as Big Tech falters. Twitter has lost a huge chunk of its staff, and Facebook has slashed its ranks by 11,000. Mojeek has emerged as a credible, privacy-respecting alternative to Google—as Microsoft Bing collapses, taking with it its proxies, Duck Duck Go, Ecosia, Yahoo! and others. The web’s future feels more open, more optimistic, with these technologies spurring civilized dialogue and sparking ideas. It could almost be time to bring back the day-glo on a Wired cover.

On the other hand, maybe Twitter can collapse on its own, with a fake blue-tick EIi LiIIy, looking to the world like Eli Lilly, announcing free insulin and sending Eli Lilly’s share price tumbling, wiping milliards off its value. With advertisers pulling out (little wonder if their Twitter account managers are fired) it may look very different come Christmas.

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I’ve left the data farms but occasionally revisit the Matrix

06.11.2022


Warner Bros.
 
Even though Twitter is now in its MySpaceX era, I won’t shut my account. I have scripts that run through it, and I don’t wish for some schmuck to come in later and claim my username. Mastodon has taken off this week, my Twitter notifications are at a low, and as I cross-post between them, Mastodon is likely going to become my main social network.

But I get those who don’t wish to leave outright. I have a 5,555-strong following including my personal interests on Twitter. However, it does seem that once a social medium becomes a personal-interest one, ironically I lose interest in it! It was the case with Instagram, and Pinterest never held my interest for that long because it encouraged you to post and browse based on your interests! Maybe it’s me, but I prefer to enjoy my interests in the real world, or using them to build up my own sites and publications, not someone else’s.

I’m not going to criticize anyone who chooses to stay on a platform for longer than its sell-by date, because that would make me a hypocrite.
 
Facebook
I don’t hide my disdain about Facebook, but it took me over a year—nearly two—between the time it forced me to download their malware (well, they said it was a malware scanner, but there were plenty of suspicious things about it) in 2016 and updating my wall for the last time in 2017. That incident did force me to reconsider using the site, but I hung in there, in part to investigate what was going on, but also because I was still fooled into thinking it could be good for business and our own site traffic. (Those algorithms will see to throttling any links for your work, as they have been doing for over a decade.)

But in late 2017, I wrote a farewell post and stopped updating my wall. People still tagged me, and those went up, but I haven’t posted anything on my own wall since. Some work pages still get the odd update but I can’t even remember when was the last time I headed in to do anything on my public page. I have frequented the occasional group and looked after client pages but those visits are infrequent.
 
Instagram
I began using Instagram more for cars and model cars, but by the end of 2019 I had had enough, even for things I was interested in. There were too many ads, and Instagram was still collecting (laughably incorrect) interests on me despite opting out. I went from a multiple-post-per-day user to someone who’d update with a month in between, then a quarter, and I barely bother now. The last time I visited, my most favoured filters had vanished as well, a long string of feature removals that began with the maps years before. There just wasn’t a point to the site any more. But it still took a long time between my initial boredom and frustration with the site to what is currently my last post. Might I go on once more? Maybe, to do a more fitting farewell or to test something.

It also didn’t help that Instagram locked Lucire out in 2021 for a week. Lucire’s ’Gram is still active, but not that active. We’ve never really been bothered with social media as a company, and thanks to Zoho Social, I don’t even need to go to Instagram in order to post to it.
 
Twitter
Twitter also locked Lucire out in 2021 and it took a threat addressed to their lawyers to get that reinstated. Their proper processes never worked, nor does knowing a senior member of staff at Twitter UK.

But it is a place that’s polarizing and unpleasant. I’m all for diverse viewpoints but I’d like the other party to consider mine as much as I consider theirs. That doesn’t happen as often any more. And with Mastodon holding up (only one abusive message so far, unprompted, from a total stranger in Portland, Oregon) why would we stay on Twitter? But it’s only November 2022, Musk has only taken ownership, and I saw the April–May 2022 influx eventually go quiet, too.

Nevertheless, I feel Twitter’s days as my main social media site are coming to a close, with cross-posting between Mastodon and Twitter a breeze. Before, I’d post mainly on Twitter and let things flow to Mastodon, and check both. In April I began originating posts on both sites. Now in November, there doesn’t seem to be much call to originate anything on Twitter, with my own follower count going from 330-odd to over 550. It may be a tenth of what I have at Twitter, but the unpleasantness is gone, for now. My regret is that my personal interests—in the last year Twitter became my place for interacting with other car enthusiasts, especially in Ireland and Scotland—aren’t really on Mastodon, but it follows the earlier patterns. Once personal interests become a big part, for some reason I don’t feel I need the fix any more.

Then there were Tumblr and NewTumbl, discussed in earlier posts, where censorship based around some 1950s US puritanical standards became problems.

Overall, as someone who owns sites, I would prefer to create something for my readers. That gives me an infinitely bigger thrill than participating in most social media threads. And if I were to participate in social media, it seems fairer to be in the federated system, owning my own data, than being part of a plutocrat’s plaything where you hand him a perpetual licence to your mahi.

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We should challenge monopolists, not do business with them at the exclusion of ethical parties

17.10.2022

Search engine Mojeek is doing no wrong in my book. Here’s its CEO Colin Hayhurst being interviewed by The New Era’s Jeffrey Peel, making complete sense, which is not something I can say about anyone speaking for Big Tech. We should be shunning monopolists if we truly value progress and innovation, or even a proper, factual debate. We even have laws about it that few seem to wish to enforce when it comes to Big Tech players. It’s well worth a watch.
 
I was disappointed to see that the Warehouse, our big retailer, specifically blocks Mojeek from searching its site. Google is fine. Explanations vary—but they include the theory that the Warehouse wants to get data from its users and Google can provide them.

I’ve written to the Warehouse as an account holder and received no reply. I decided to take it higher, to its chief digital officer, on October 3. As far as I know this email has been delivered, but there’s always a possibility I have her address wrong. Regardless, I am yet to hear back on any front, including social media where I had asked the Warehouse why they would wish to block a legitimate and far more ethical search engine. What does it say about your company when you choose to do business with someone as questionable as Google, yet you go out of your way to block a fully ethical and privacy-respecting business?

Dear Sarah:
 
I contacted the Warehouse through the customer service channels at the beginning of September and have yet to hear back.

As CDO I think you’re the right person to raise this with, though please refer it to a colleague if you aren’t.

I run Lucire Ltd. and have been a Warehouse account holder for some time. Our own foundations are in the digital space, with my having been a digital publisher since 1989. We’re always mindful that our activities promote a healthy online space, which means we keep a watchful eye on the behaviour of US Big Tech. (For instance, we removed all Facebook gadgets from our sites in 2018, prior to the Cambridge Analytica exposé, as we became increasingly concerned of the tracking exposure our readers were getting.)

Our internal search is now run by Mojeek, a UK-based search engine that has the largest index in the west outside of Google. It is also my default, having lost faith in Duck Duck Go after 12 years.

Other than the Warehouse’s home page, none of the contents of your company’s site appear in Mojeek. When I raised this with them, they tell me that Mojeek is very specifically blocked by the Warehouse. Neither they nor I can see any good reason a legitimate, independent search engine would be blocked.

I am told that inside your code is:
 
User-agent: MojeekBot
Disallow: /

 

As concerns over privacy grow, it seems a disservice that it’s blocked.

When I put this to other techs, they theorize that the Warehouse wants to track people via whatever data Google provides. I find this hard to believe. To what end? The amount of information that comes surely can’t outweigh overall accessibility to the website for those of us who have concerns over Google’s monopolistic behaviour and privacy intrusions.

Even if tracking were the reason, I would have thought there would be no great loss allowing a tiny percentage of people to come in via a Mojeek search result and browse the site—including customers like me who had the intent to see what you had in stock with a view to purchasing the item.

I genuinely hope this is something that will be looked into and that a New Zealand company I admire (one which is connected to me through a round-about way—I was educated by relatives of the Tindalls) isn’t party to upholding the Google monopoly.

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Type coverage—in 2012

11.10.2022

I’m not sure why I didn’t spot these back in 2012. This was very high praise from Cre8d Design, on ‘What is New Zealand’s iconic font?’ So nice to see JY Décennie in there.

Still on type, the fifth Congreso Internacional de Tipografía in Valencia cites yours truly.

Como consecuencia de todos estos cambios, surgen numerosas cuestiones sobre cómo afrontar el uso y la creación de la tipografía en un nuevo contexto, sometido a constantes transformaciones tecnológicas. Para muchos, los modos tradicionales de concebir la tipografía ya no funcionan en el mundo de la pantalla. Así, para el diseñador Jack Yan, la tecnología está cambiando tan rápidamente que la idea de que la tipografía se crea para imprimir está llegando prácticamente a su fin. Los nuevos dispositivos electrónicos empiezan a demandar tipografías específicas y no sólo meras adaptaciones de las ya existentes. Esto implica igualmente un adiestramiento por parte del usuario final, el lector, que no sólo debe familiarizarse con los nuevos dispositivos sino con los nuevos procedimientos asociados a la lectura dinámica.

This is pretty mainstream thinking now (and I would have thought in 2012, too) but also nice to be credited for saying it—I guess I would have first publicly pushed this idea in Desktop in 1996. But designers like Matthew Carter and Vincent Connare were already there …

Amazing what you can find in a Mojeek ego search, as opposed to a Google one.

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Forget the 2010s and 2020s, Bing’s results are firmly in the 2000s now

09.10.2022

Immediately after blogging about Bing being able to pick up an article from 2022, Microsoft’s collapsing search engine has reverted back to being the Wayback Machine. There was just over a week of it living in the 2020s, but it seems it’s too much for them.

It’s back to, well, Bing Vista, for want of a better term. Of the 50 results (out of a claimed 120!) that it’s capable of returning for site:lucire.com, here is how it breaks down based on the publication year of the article. Since my last test, Bing has eliminated the 2018 and 2019 results (one page per year). We wouldn’t want to think it could deliver anything from the last decade, would we?
 
Bing
Contents’ pages ★★
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001 ★★★★★
2002
2003 ★★★★
2004 ★★★★
2005 ★★
2006 ★
2007 ★★★★★★★
2008 ★★
2009 ★★
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
2021
2022
 

There were 29 unique results, which means 21 were repeats—42 per cent! Bing says it had 120 results but really only had 29. To fill up the 50 it had to show 21 results multiple times!

Let’s see how Google fared for the first 50 results.
 
Google
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★★★★★
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002 ★★
2003
2004 ★★
2005 ★
2006
2007 ★
2008
2009 ★
2010 ★★
2011 ★★★
2012 ★★
2013 ★★
2014 ★★★
2015 ★★
2016 ★★
2017 ★★
2018 ★★
2019 ★★★
2020 ★★★
2021 ★★
2022 ★★★★★
 
Google has moved again since we began looking at things. In an earlier test tonight, Google had two repeat results, which was a surprise. But I wasn’t able to replicate it when I did the one for the blog post.

No such issues at Mojeek, where every entry is unique. They really are more capable of delivering search engine results for site searches that are superior to the other two’s.
 
Mojeek
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★★★
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004 ★
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009 ★
2010 ★★
2011 ★★
2012 ★★★
2013 ★★★★★
2014 ★★★
2015 ★★★★★
2016
2017
2018
2019 ★★★★
2020 ★★
2021 ★★★★★★★★★
2022 ★★★★★★
 
An improvement on our September 21 test, where Mojeek has managed to capture more 2020s pages as part of its top 50.

I won’t run the other search engines through this—I just wanted two points of comparison to highlight how ridiculous Bing remains, with the resultant effect on web traffic. It means Duck Duck Go, Qwant, Ecosia, Yahoo and others, which are also Bing, are just as compromised.

I might lay off them for a while as we know it’s crap and things aren’t going to change. Microsoft has firmly entrenched itself as a bunch of liars, like their other Big Tech counterparts.

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Bing actually indexes a page from 2022—Microsoft must be in shock

08.10.2022

This is a miracle. Bing actually indexed and showed something from Lucire from 2022. Of course, since it’s incapable of remembering what it had shown in its results earlier, the story was repeated twice on subsequent pages.

Since I began my tests earlier this year (and finding out yet another area that tech companies brag about is actually half-baked and filled with BS), this is the first story from 2022 that Bing has picked up. Who knew, Microsoft’s much-talked-about search engine actually getting to something from after 2007?
 


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Startpage isn’t what I thought it was—but then Google does the opposite to what you think

05.10.2022

Startpage says it licenses Google’s results but gives us privacy. So, if you want Google-level, Google-biased results, but don’t want their tracking, you use Startpage.

Um, no. Let’s just take a random search for a screenwriter I once mentioned on this blog:
 


 

It’s quite a bit slower than Google, too. The results are usually geographically biased, even when you have the region switched off.

What’s curious is that, at the same location with the same IP address, I get six Google results on desktop and 16 on mobile. I’m not sure what the sense is in that.
 


 

I realize there are a lot of mobile users, but it seems strange to limit what can be found on the desktop version. Surely the opposite would make sense since not all sites are mobile-optimized?

It’s like Google Maps: for me, it’s not accessible on a cellphone any more (and hasn’t been for months—I discovered this when Amanda and I went on holiday at the end of August and there was no Google Maps anywhere in the country) but remains available on a desktop. The geniuses at Google do realize that people are more likely visiting Maps on a phone than sitting in their offices, right?

It doesn’t matter where I try, even from the office network: Google Maps is not available on my phone. The site is not just unavailable, it doesn’t even resolve (whether you use maps.google.com or google.com/maps).
 

 

Usually I find that expecting the opposite of what US Big Tech says is really useful.

Better use paper maps, because the satellites are often switched off and the map programs on your phone think you are nowhere!
 

 

Coming back to the original topic, Startpage says it pays Google for this.

Better ask for a refund, folks.

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Windows 11 22H2 arrives; now for the usual post-upgrade tweaks

02.10.2022

Windows 11 22H2 arrived for me yesterday, and the first order of business, as always, was to sort out the typography. This earlier post is roughly right: make the registry hacks, then change the properties of the fonts in C:\Windows\WinSXS (namely by giving them administrator access) before deleting them. However, I needed one extra step to get them out of C:\Windows\Fonts, and that was to boot up in safe mode and delete them from 7Zip. Only then could I change the properties and say farewell to the dreaded Arial.

You still can’t type most characters above ASCII 128 in Notepad—a crazy state of affairs introduced during Windows 11’s time—though I managed to get the pound sterling sign to work (even though there might be less need to type it now thanks to the UK government). I guess no one uses the euro symbol at Redmond, or goes to a café (forget about any accented characters).

We’ll see if Explorer still rotates photos by itself—but as I’ve replaced it with One Commander for most of my file management, it will be a while before I will find out.

The new icons look good, and the new Maps seems to work reasonably well. Mostly I just care that my usual programs are fine and Windows’ font substitutes don’t do anything silly.
 

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October 2022 gallery

01.10.2022

Here are October 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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