[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Tuesday, 2011-08-23

On the value of pseudonyms

Filed under: Privacy,The Internet — bblackmoor @ 14:55
Google+ protest image

In case you weren’t already tired of hearing about this (heh… heheh), here is an opinion from a scientist blogger (or perhaps a blogging scientist) on the value of pseudonyms.

Our new Scienceblogs overlords sure have great timing with their new pseudonymous blogging rules. For those who haven’t run across that yet, National Geographic has decided to eliminate pseudonyms and force everyone with a blog remaining here (which is already dwindling) to blog under their real names. Meanwhile, out here in the real world, there’s a new unfortunate case study (short version: “EpiGate”) showing how blogging under one’s real name can lead to serious threats and potential loss of employment, among other things.

(from On the value of pseudonyms, Scienceblogs)

Mothers (who may or may not also be scientists) also have an opinion on the subject.

Those who have the knee-jerk response of “Well, anyone who doesn’t want to use their real name has got something to hide or is just out to cause trouble” are, at best, cosmically misinformed. The notion that if “real names” (a term which, by the way, is nearly impossible to define – go ahead, give it a try) are good enough for the wealthy geeks at Google it should be good enough for anyone just reeks of massive privilege. (Frankly, the way Google’s been implementing their ‘policy’ also reeks of colonialism – if you’ve got a nice, comfortable looking ‘wasponym‘ as your name at G+, you’re probably fine, it seems, at least based on what people have been documenting about their clownish banning and reinstatement behavior so far.) I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about identity and privacy stuff for more than a decade, and the more I learn, the more I come to agree with jwz, who said:

the other night I had dinner with a friend which turned into an hour long argument over it, because he thought that forcing everyone to use their real names was just fine. This is someone I’ve known for decades, so to say that I was shocked and horrified by his attitude is an understatement. It was as if my friend had suddenly started beginning sentences with, “I’m not a racist, but…”

(from Quick Thoughts on Parents and Pseudonymity, CurrentMom)

Meanwhile, Information Week gives us 5 reasons Google+’s name policy fails, TechEye offers concrete suggestions on How to stop Facebook and Google trampling on your privacy rights, and over on ZDNet, Violet Blue (who has been banned and reinstated by Google+ for using her “real” name at least twice now) declares, “Google Plus: too much unnecessary drama“.

Monday, 2011-08-22

No nyms equals evil

Filed under: Privacy,The Internet — bblackmoor @ 00:31

Google has been, in many ways, an admirable organization that has done a lot of good but to call its real names policy shortsighted would be kind. By demanding “real” names they can’t reliably determine what are real, they’ve inconvenienced a lot of people and excluded all of those who, for example, live under politically repressive regimes or who might for social reasons wish to stay anonymous.

Nyms matter enormously and an online world without nyms, where everyone can be easily tracked, completely measured, tidily pigeonholed, and endlessly manipulated, will become much less free and much less valuable.

(from No nyms equals evil, Computerworld)

Monday, 2011-08-15

Google+ protest image

Filed under: Art,Privacy,The Internet — bblackmoor @ 12:47
Google+ protest image

This is a quick and dirty attempt at an avatar to use in protest of the Google+ “government names only” policy. The image to the right links to the full-size image. The image below is the avatar-sized image. I wanted to put the word “PRIVACY” in there somewhere, but it’d be too small to read in the avatar version. Feel free to share, critique, whatever.

Google+ protest image

Monday, 2011-01-31

Girls in bikinis

Filed under: Entertainment,The Internet — bblackmoor @ 20:04

Pretty much no matter what you type into Google Images, if you scroll down far enough you will find girls in bikinis.

Gary Coleman“, for example.

Friday, 2010-06-11

A tale of two deadbeats

Filed under: Programming,The Internet,Work — bblackmoor @ 20:42

I currently am owed about $4000 from two clients that haven’t paid. One paid half up front for a web site, and I have been trying for a month to turn the web site over to them and get the other half of my payment, and they keep putting me off. The other client, for whom I did some programming work, bounced a check for $2000 three weeks ago, has promised to pay that and the rest of what they owe, but hasn’t paid yet, and never answers their phone or email.

I am pretty close to shutting down the first client’s web site, and turning over the second client to a collection agency. I think I will wait until Monday and try to get somewhere with each of them one more time before I do that.

Why won’t people honor their agreements?

Saturday, 2010-06-05

Why I no longer do web design

Filed under: The Internet,Work — bblackmoor @ 11:28

I got my start in computers by writing small applications in Basic, and then Visual Basic. In the late 1980s, I wrote a program that backed up selected directories by copying them, zipping them up, and writing them to floppy disks. In the early 1990s, I wrote macros to integrate PGP and Microsoft Word. I also wrote a reasonably popular dice-rolling program (I was one of the first few thousand people to do so). However, I got my start working in IT by doing web design. My friend Nathan told me about NCSA Mosaic in early 1993, and within two months of the release of Mosaic, I was creating web pages. (It still amazes me that the web took off like it did — I just thought it was a neat toy.)

I eventually migrated from what I call “front end” work (the part of a web site people can see), to “back end” work (the stuff behind the scenes that actually makes a web site work — setting up databases, writing scripts, managing servers, and so on). One reason for this is that I am not a graphic designer — I am simply not an artist. Another reason is that as more people learned how to do “web design”, I could maintain my value by doing something more difficult (difficult for other people; not necessarily difficult for me).

However, the number one reason I moved away from web design and toward back end work is because I had too many web clients who made my job difficult. Not all of them. Perhaps not even most of them. But a lot of them. What do I mean by “difficult”? I mean this.

How a web design goes straight to hell

Wednesday, 2010-05-05

Perfect Pets

Filed under: The Internet,Work — bblackmoor @ 11:01

Perfect PetsI am wrapping up my current web project, Perfect Pets. It’s not the most complex or difficult project I have ever worked on, but I think it may be the prettiest. I like this kind of project: Perfect Pets is a small, family owned store, and in my own modest way, I am helping them stay relevant in an era of heartless corporate monoliths and brutal international competition. I wish I could work on projects like this one more often.

Sunday, 2010-05-02

Peaceful Sunday evening

Filed under: Movies,The Internet,Work — bblackmoor @ 20:24

It’s 21:00. My cat is asleep on the couch, and my sweetheart is asleep in the bedroom. I would be in there, but I am working on a web project for a pet store. Still, there are much worse ways to spend a Sunday evening.

We saw the movie Kick-Ass today. It was not a perfect movie, but I enjoyed it. I prefer to think it takes place in a universe much closer to the one where Peter Parker lives than the one where I live. It would be a little too sad to think it takes place in my world. I mean, either Hit Girl is a sociopath or she’s been so mentally traumatized by her father that she may as well be. Think Dexter, but a whole lot more enthusiastically blood-thirsty (and acrobatic).


Kick-Ass reminded me of another semi-realistic superhero movie we saw recently. We didn’t see this one at a movie theatre: I bought it for two dollars at the thrift store. I’d never heard of it, and it piqued my interest. The movie is called Special. Check it out. Put it in your Netflix queue. It’s a low budget indie movie, but it’s worth watching. Be warned: the DVD cover slobber makes it sound like a comedy. The phrase “laugh out loud funny” is used prominently. This is not a comedy. There are no jokes. I would go so far as to say that not a single “laugh out loud funny” thing happens in the entire movie. It is not a comedy, and in my opinion, it was not intended to be.

Saturday, 2009-07-04

Preventing anonymous editing on MediaWiki

Filed under: Security,The Internet — bblackmoor @ 12:02

I use MediaWiki for a few web sites (Warlords of NUM and WestGuard, for example). Unfortunately, some lowlife scum like to post spam about luxury watches or viagra or whatnot on these sites, so I need to lock them down to prevent this.

The simplest way to do this is to 1) disable anonymous editing, and 2) disable account creation by anyone other than a sysop (which is to say, me). The MediaWiki manual explains how to do this (and a great many other things), but I thought it might be help for folks if I posted just those specific instructions here, since I think this is a common request for those using MediaWiki.

Simply add the following lines to the end of LocalSettings.php with a text editor such as Notepad++ (do not use Windows Notepad — use a real text editor):

## Customized settings begin here

# Disable anonymous editing
$wgGroupPermissions[‘*’][‘edit’] = false;

# Hide user tools for anonymous (IP) visitors
$wgShowIPinHeader = false;

# Prevent new user registrations except by sysops
$wgGroupPermissions[‘*’][‘createaccount’] = false;

And that’s that. You will probably also want to add a custom “wiki.png” logo. If so, you should add the path to it, like so (you will, of course, need to upload it to your site first):

## Customized settings begin here

# Custom logo
$wgLogo = ‘http://www.mymediawikiwebsite.org/skins/mycustomskin/wiki.png’;

# Disable anonymous editing
$wgGroupPermissions[‘*’][‘edit’] = false;

# Hide user tools for anonymous (IP) visitors
$wgShowIPinHeader = false;

# Prevent new user registrations except by sysops
$wgGroupPermissions[‘*’][‘createaccount’] = false;

And there you go.

Friday, 2007-04-27

Adobe decides to open Flex

Filed under: Programming,The Internet — bblackmoor @ 14:00

Adobe Systems has announced its plans to open-source its Flex Web development framework.

The San Jose, Calif., company is releasing its Adobe Flex source code to the open-source community to enable developers throughout the world to tap the capabilities of Flex and participate in the ongoing development of the technology.

Flex is a framework for building cross-operating system RIAs (rich Internet applications) for the Web and enabling new Adobe Apollo applications for the desktop, the company said.

“We’ll be open-sourcing Flex with the next release of the technology, which is code-named Moxie,” said Jeff Whatcott, vice president of product marketing in Adobe’s Enterprise and Developer Business Unit.

Whatcott said Adobe will introduce the first public pre-release version of “Moxie” in June, “and we’ll be providing public daily builds of the technology starting at that time. We’ll also be launching a public bug database, so it’ll look, act and feel like an open-source project” even then.

However, the technology will not be open-sourced until “Moxie” is released in the second half of 2007—most likely in the fall, Whatcott said.

Upon release, the open-source Flex software development kit (SDK) and documentation will be available under the MPL (Mozilla Public License), Whatcott said.

Using the MPL for open-sourcing Flex will allow full and free access to source code, and developers will be able to freely download, extend and contribute to the source code for the Flex compiler, components and application framework.

Adobe will also continue to make the Flex SDK and other Flex products available under their existing commercial licenses, allowing both new and existing partners and customers to choose the license terms that best suit their requirements.

Whatcott said the MPL “strikes a good balance” for developers, particularly those who want to take a staged approach to working with open-source technology.

“This is the culmination of a long path toward opening up Flex,” Whatcott said.

(from eWeek, Adobe Open-Source Move Sets Showdown with Microsoft)

I have it on good authority that Flex is going to be the Next Big Thing. If you like to stay abreast of web technology, this is the time to start gearing up with Flex.

Silverlight isn’t even an also-ran.

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