Cyberdeck Users WeeklyJun 13, 2020
Linux on mobile with Linmob
- Motorola A780: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_A780
- Motorola A910: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_A910
- Openmoko Neo FreeRunner: http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Neo_FreeRunner
- 2000: Agenda VR3: The first Linux PDA https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agenda_VR3
- 2002: Sharp Zaurus (SL-5500): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharp_Zaurus
- 2004: Motorola E680, A780
- GPE https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPE_Palmtop_Environment
- Opie https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Palmtop_Integrated_Environment
- handhelds.org https://web.archive.org/web/20090304221733/http://www.handhelds.org/geeklog/index.php
- linuxtogo.org https://web.archive.org/web/20090318024046/http://www.linuxtogo.org:80/
- Maemo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maemo (apologies for forgetting Maemo Leste, it's awesome. But: As long as it does not ship with a GUI for calling and texting, I doubt it's super relevant.)
- Nokia N900 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_N900
- Nokia N9 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_N9
- Sailfish OS https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sailfish_OS
- Jolla https://jolla.com/
- 10 Year Anniversary blog post: https://blog.jolla.com/happy-birthday-jolla/
- Facebook Live Event video: https://www.facebook.com/jollaofficial/ (starts after ~5 minutes)
- Original Jolla announcement, that they would run Android hardware https://www.theregister.com/2013/09/17/jolla_sailfish_os_android_support/
- libhybris: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybris_%28software%29
- Halium https://halium.org/
- Ubuntu Edge https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_Edge
- Ubuntu Touch (Wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_Touch
- ArsTechnica coverage of the announcement https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/01/canonical-unveils-ubuntu-phone-os-that-doubles-as-a-full-pc/
Jesus and Bitcoin
Our excellent dystopia with Matt Odell
Really glad to have Matt Odell as a return guest. Instead of an interview we used this as an opportunity to talk about our wonderful dystopia full of 30 hour battery life, folded proteins, and zero privacy. Enjoy!
(I was trying to remember the word "UEFI")
(Matt's right there's no version with 32GB of RAM)@bunniestudios - I can't think of anyone better than @marcan42 to be taking on a project like porting Linux to Apple Silicon Macs!
Matt shames Paul for using TikTok
(My mnemonic is busted, I bought Micro USB cables)
Local-first and freeform software with James Long
In classic podcasting style, I managed to frontload this episode with highly technical questions up front and then we slowly morphed the conversation into a more conceptual what-is-the-future-of-computers sort of thing.
James is a really wonderful guy from what I've learned over the decade or so I've been following him on Twitter and you should def check out Actual if you're in the market for budgeting software.SHOW NOTES
Silicon Valley season three, episode six
The Local-first software manifesto
Clarity Money ewwww
"I want Roam to be not just a tool for thought, but a tool for computation" @jlongster
If you have 100 hours to read a million words, check out this Wired piece on Xanadu
SHOUTOUT Ryan Florence
Is tech actually good tho
This is a tough one because I'm fairly undecided. Are we sliding toward an apocalypse? Is too much getting worse to expect anything to get better? Is YouTube actually kind of a great thing? I've been stuck on this long enough that I figured I should just put it out there and let you decide. A lot of different thoughts here but I swear it's all connected.
Thanks to ZappyCode for buying a fake ad this week!
SHOW NOTES@pierre_rochard (quoting Einstein) @masonremaley
No offense to @jayriverlong, but I think his think piece on GPT-3 is kind of dumb: "In a GPT-3 World, Anonymity Prevents Free Speech"
So I did a whole podcast about it.
Also check out this book: How Innovation Works
Better won't be easy
Today's episode is a work-in-progress essay about the role of UX and "ease of use" in tech, with a specific focus on Bitcoin. Here are some links to what I'm talking about in the episode. The full essay will be published on my blog someday. Thank you for your patience.
A computer from scratch with Jonathan Pallant
So I screwed up and didn't select my nice podcasting microphone for this episode and am instead speaking to you through that joke of a pinhole mic on my MacBook Pro.
The good news is that we're not here to listen to me, we're here to hear from the fascinating Jonathan Pallant: Town Mayor, retro computing enthusiast, and embedded systems engineer.Jonathan Pallant, Town Mayor of St Ives, Cambridgeshire
Topical tech news #1
Something that's been refreshing about doing this new podcast is how little of my time is spent thinking about what "big" companies are doing.
But these big companies keep doing stuff. So let's talk about it!Skate 4
Vergecast segment about Skate 4 in 2019 (at around the one hour mark)
Will Skate be the "Quake 3: Arena" of skateboarding games?
What I also want is a skateboarding shooter game. Trick combos generate shields.Hey email app
Starting to think big companies and big government sort of deserve each other. Will whatever antitrust tribunals we end up with this time around catch the subtlety and just ask Apple to allow sideloading? Or are we going to get a "Apple forever" mentality and enshrine it into law somehow?
Also patents = monopoly.Audio tweets
I almost tried to care about this but I didn't pull it off. I always wonder if we can make it to a post-literate society tho. Interesting to think about.PS5 reveal
It looks so dumb I'm sorry.
Also it has approximately 10,000x more "next-gen" games than the Xbox so far so I'm feeling pretty bullish on it. Might have to learn to use those stupid thumbsticks.
Wish there was a duck demo.Lego robots
These are getting very, very good. Scratch AND Python? Yes, please.
Decentralized messaging with John Cantrell of Juggernaut
On this episode I had the pleasure of speaking with John Cantrell, the lead of the Juggernaut decentralized messaging project.
I'm very enamoured with the idea of decentralized, peer-to-peer, e2ee messaging. But there are so many drawbacks and pitfalls, and it's hard enough to get your friends to even use something like Signal, that I had begun to give up hope. Lately, however, a handful of Lightning-based messaging experiments have popped up, and it feels like they're on to something.
Books I like
These are some books I like!Fire in the Valley
by Michael Swaine and Paul FreibergerThe Mandibles
by Lionel ShriverThe Soul of a New Machine
by Tracy KidderCryptonomicon
by Neal StephensonAI Superpowers
by Dr. Kai-Fu LeeHow the Internet Happened
by Brian McCulloughLife After Google
by George GilderThe Bitcoin Standard
by Saifedean AmmousThe Order of Time
by Carlo RovelliThe Master Algorithm
by Pedro DomingusSeasteading
by Joe QuirkReamde
by Neal StephensonStories of Your Life and Others
by Ted ChiangPermutation City
by Greg EganThe Information
by James GleickThe Moral Case for Fossil Fuels
by Alex EpsteinWhere Wizards Stay Up Late
by Katie HafnerRainbows End
by Vernor Vinge
The command line and you
Today's episode is a little different. Basically, I want to convince you that you can and should learn to engage with the command line on your computer. There are a lot of tools that are only accessed, or best accessed, through the command line. In a perfect world maybe this wouldn't be the case, but in the world we live in the command line unlocks a lot of the hidden potential for your computer, and I feel like it's almost essential in the "owning" of modern technology.
Here are the basics:
pwd - short for "print working directory"
Type this into the terminal and press enter. You'll see the full path to wherever you "are" right now on your computer.
ls - short for "list"
This will show the files, folders, and executables that are in your current working directory.
cd - short for "change directory"
If you just type cd nothing happens, you need to tell it where you want to go. A few examples:
cd .. go to the parent directory
cd foldername go to foldername
cd ~ go to your home directory
If you get lost in the command line or you want to do something you don't know how to do using the command line, try xdg-open . (note the trailing dot, that means "right here"). This should open the the current directory in your GUI file browser.
Check out this week's newsletter (I'll link it on Twitter) for a more in-depth guide.Quick recommends
Here's the list of basic tools I start the episode off with.
DuckDuckGo for search.
BitWarden for password management.
Signal for messaging.
Refurbished enterprise SFF PCs for home server.
Fastmail for email. (Even cooler people are using Tutanota these days, but I haven't tried it personally)
Firefox + AdBlocker Ultimate for web browsing.
Better software with William Casarin
Today I'm joined by William Casarin who is one of my favorite twitter follows. William is a freelance software developer, he runs a bitcoin consultancy called bitcoin wizard, and he's constantly building wild and weird projects that seem to "own" technology in the sense I'm always chasing after.Explain Yourself (talking about tweets)
@pierre_rochard on Noded 0.62.0
Speech laws and regulation and platform moderation are always about what "others" should see. Because you have to see it to moderate it. Just something to think about.The first amendment
The way I'm thinking about "free speech," as a principle, is that I'm not going to use my power proactively to silence your speech. The actual law, of course, is about prohibiting the government from using its power to silence speech. But we're adults, we can talk about right and wrong it's okay.
Censorship is not an educational tool, it's a tool of control. You don't know what's being censored because you never see it. That was the whole point. So how do you know whether the right things are being censored? The potential for misapplication and the lack of means of correction are sky-high.
But platforms like Facebook and Twitter are in a dumb no-man's land where their "speech" is primarily the promulgation of other people's speech.
I personally would not want to be forced promulgate information I find abhorrent. But I also don't want to stop other people from accessing information I disagree with. Censorship doesn't restrain conspiracy theories, it validates them. The cure for wrongthink isn't a ban, it's better information. I also believe people who have facts on their side aren't afraid of people hearing "different facts."
And as great as I sound to myself when I say these things, none of it is useful as a prescription for how Twitter or Facebook should act.
Maybe there's like a range of speech-adjacent activities we can define:
- Censorship: actively using power to limit what someone can say or hear.
- Non-promulgation: "silencing" others through inactivity.
- Promulgation: republishing others.
- Self-publication: creating your own platform to host your own speech or the speech of others.
Promulgation is really some of the most powerful speech there is. And, of course, there's no promulgation without non-promulgation. Otherwise you're just transmitting static.
Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are self publishers with a truly historic level of promulgation, and now they're trending toward non-promulgation, which seems only reasonable. Meanwhile government is flirting with censorship, because it really has no power other than to destroy and oppose. Meanwhile meanwhile I'm thinking I need to get myself some of that self-publishing apparatus to secure and promote the ideas I think are good.
As a sidenote, I do find it sad sometimes how narrow a view we often have of what is acceptable and useful discourse, but there's really nothing I can do to change that. If it's easy to stay within the appropriate bubble of thought, then times seem good. But it leaves you with no recourse if you start getting extra-bubble ideas. And it might be actively harming the formation of extra-bubble ideas (which was the whole point of non-promulgation, obviously).
So what can I do?
Mesh networking with Richard Myers
Richard Myers is a "decentralized applications engineer" at Global Mesh Labs, which is a very good job title in my opinion. We talk about his work on Lot49, a protocol for incentivized mobile peer-to-peer communication.A Richard Myers primer
What a Bitcoin future looks like
I did a pod about Bitcoin, I hope that's okay!Bitcoin resources I recommend
What if everything you bought got cheaper every year, but your salary stayed the same? You'd eventually go to space, right?
Human material needs are in some sense finite, but human wants are infinite. Human time is absolutely finite, but human ingenuity -- the ability to do more with the same amount of time -- is multiplicative and exponential.
In an economy we create value as we transact voluntarily, and in an economy with money we use money as an intermediary to store that value we create. In a Federal Reserve economy, that value creation is skimmed off the top and given to banks so they can give us more credit card debt. In a Bitcoin economy, we all get to benefit from value creation.
Bitcoin wouldn't fix theft, or the desire to steal. It just makes theft no longer our national monetary policy.
IoT with Internet of Shit
I always forget GlassWire exists and then I look like a dummy when I talk like it doesn't exist.
Faster storage, ray tracing, higher resolutions.
Simulation? Single shard MMOs? Multiplayer physics?
To me, Dwarf Fortress still feels like the most next-gen game on the planet
Minecraft with RTX is the perfect example of what's going well and what's not improving in games.Portable assets and avatars
As photogrammetry matures and we approach photorealism, assets might be more shareable. And easier to create.
See: Quixel Megascans
There's probably a rough DIY photogrammetry aesthetic that will differentiate non-pro games from "pro", but it will still look great IMO.
If there's unification of the art pipeline, "remixing" game assets and game modes seems more possible. That would be truly groundbreaking.
What I want is a skateboard game that's also a multiplayer shooter.Cheating
What would a game be like where everyone was running the maximum amount of cheats they can get their hands on?
If you think about it, cheating is a form of "AR" for a virtual space. Maybe it doesn't have to be a bad thing for all games, it could be a feature!
What about the holy grail of anti-cheat: peer to peer multiplayer games. It works with chess!
I think it could come down to multiplayer physics simulation. If your character is only capable of producing forces within a certain range... those could be the rules you abide by. just thinking out loud.Single shard
Beyond single shard: the "metaverse."
Whatever happend to VRML?Digital scarcity
"The dream is, I want a 12 year old camper from thailand to help pay for his family's food by killing me in an online video game and my slow reflexes" - Matt on TFTC
How do you have digital scarcity without centralized control? Bitcoin actually only solved Bitcoin's problem in this regard.
In Minecraft you choose to have scarcity to maximize fun.What's the point of games?
Path of Exile
Redox OS with Jeremy Soller
Everybody needs an operating system. But do we need a new kind of operating system?
Right now we basically have three major options: Windows, macOS, and Linux. Windows and macOS aren't open source, but that's not the only thing that's wrong with them. Linux is open source, but oftentimes that feels like its only advantage over the other two.
For years now I've dreamed of an alternative desktop OS with a fresh new foundation. Something we can build the future on with more speed and confidence because it got the fundamental abstractions correct. An operating system shouldn't feel bloated or fragile or like a monumental hack on top of 70s-era technology. It should be the minimal layer of software that can effectively and safely abstract hardware and allow multiple user programs to run together in harmony.
For the past five years, my guest Jeremy Soller has been actually building an alternative operating system: Redox OS. I think it might be our best hope.WARNING
This conversation is extremely technical. In a sense, this is the sort of technical stuff that most users never have to think about. But I find it interesting because someone has to care about these technical details or nothing would get done. I'm interested in the low-level details because I think getting those right can enable more capabilities and excellence at the user level.
If you absolutely hate operating system talk, you can fast forward to around the hour mark where we talk about the Linux computer company Jeremy works at: System76.Setting the stage
Follow @jeremy_soller on twitter
Hmm are we using computers correctly?
The computer is "a bicycle for our minds," as Steve Jobs once said.
Do you ever watch those velodrome events in the Olympics? They either have a rolling start, or they have to have someone holding them up for a standing start. The bikers look silly and helpless until they get moving. And then they go in a loop, round and round, very, very fast. If you turn a little too hard your wheels slide out from under you and you eat it. When bikers crash in the velodrome the road rash is horriffic and their paper-thin costumes are torn the shreds.
What if we thought of the computer as a "skateboard for the mind?" What would a "skateboard" computer be like? How do we get there?The Cuckoo's Egg
“The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed." - William Gibson
I brought this up on the last episode, but I'm reading a book called "The Cuckoo's Egg," and it's making me very jealous of how much agency this guy has over his machines. In 1989!The Unix Philosophy Smalltalk Wearables
I don't want to brag but I've been thinking about how we use computers, and how I'm disappointed by how we use computers, for a while. Here's a piece I wrote about the history of wearable computers in 2012, and how I was pretty sure Google Glass was the wrong direction.Dyson sphere
Along the lines of affective computing, another piece I wrote even longer ago attempted to explain how much our computers are dropping on the floor when they interact with us.
My comparison was to a Dyson sphere. Here's the Wikipedia definition:
A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star and captures a large percentage of its power output.Wrap-up
There are some really cool people in the computer industry who are challenging the assumptions of inherent complexity. Jonathan Blow, Casey Muratori, Raph Levien. Sometimes they might come across and curmudgeons on Twitter. But I think they're fighting the good fight.
There's also a really good talk about what's gone wrong in computing called called "The Mess We're In" by Joe Armstrong, RIP.
Finally, I recommend the On The Metal podcast for a dive into this from fairly technical perspective. There's a whole battle raging just to make it simpler and more secure to boot a computer. I know not everyone can dip into this particular battle usefully, but it's at least cool to know it's happening.
I love riding my bike. And I'm actually really bad at skateboarding. But I want to get better.
Bitcoin with Matt Odell
This week I'm joined by Matt Odell, the co-host of the Tales from the Crypt podcast. Not only is Matt Bitcoin-famous, he's also hugely informed on technology in general, especially when it comes to security and privacy. I'm grateful to have him as my first guest on Cyberdeck Users Weekly, and grateful to have someone as practically paranoid as Matt in the world pushing for better ways to use and own technology.
Here's what we talked about:Matt's podcast
The Optimistic Case for Decentralization
WELCOME TO THE POD
In this episode of Cyberdeck Users Weekly we'll review a bunch of tech giants and what their potential weaknesses are:AMAZON: MAKE IT MORE LIKE DEPOP
Amazon can't track counterfiets (scale fail) and it uses its vendors for market research (evil).
Solution Why can't I just order from local stores and self-run warehouses? Why can't I buy masks from the guy who stockpiled masks?
Google simultaneously knows too much about me and yet can't know enough to give me truly amazing and deep results (scale fail), and it attempts to control what I see (evil).
Solution Run searches locally before hitting the network. Most search just me trying to find that one CSS Tricks guide to Flexbox.
See also: https://minbrowser.org/SEAMLESS: MAKE IT MORE LIKE SQUARESPACE
Seamless takes a gigantic cut. What are they reallllyy actually offering? So much less than even something like Uber.
Solution A protocol you can adhere to for listing things.
Like Seamless, Facebook starts out by letting you build an audience, and then at some point it pivots and starts to charge you for access to your own audience.
Solution Matrix? Mastadon? Jitsi?
Alternatives to Apple: Pi / Pine / Librem / Redox OS / Oxide Computer / System76
I didn't bring this up on the pod but my dream for phones is that when you "retire" one you remove the battery and plug it into your home server setup and it becomes part of the borg that hosts all your local services.UH-OH:
BIG PROBLEMS WITH DECENTRALIZATION:
Decentralization of messaging (Lightning?)
Polish and ease of use
BIG systems like operating systems and UI frameworks are rare or bad and possibly unwanted in the first place?WRAP-UP THOUGHTS: HOW TO EVALUATE A TECHNOLOGY:
- Is it actively harming me?
- Can it be taken away, and how easily?