Posts Tagged ‘Trends’

  • A Redditor Laments on the Destruction of Reddit

    Date: 2014.01.05 | Category: Internet Subculture | Response: 1

    A Reddit user going by the moniker aaaa222 put up an interesting post in r/conspiracy 26 days ago, on how Reddit’s culture of being a geek meritocracy was being undermined by dark forces. He claims that the post disappeared after it gained a lot of traction (and then suddenly reappeared). We are preserving his post here for the day when Reddit will be posthumously remembered as another Digg.

    1) The first thing they did was take away r/all.

    This took away the only tool for communicating with reddit about reddit. If you had any concerns about the website as a whole, you could address them through r/all. Taking that away was the first step.

    2) The power now resided in individual subreddits, obviously the most popular ones. There was a power grab to become moderators of these subreddits.

    I remember as the upcoming election loomed, all of a sudden, r/circlejerk (one of the old default subreddits) became completely obsessed with bashing Ron Paul. I am not even a RP supporter, but that was definitely orchestrated, and NOT by some kids trying to be funny. Watch this short doc and tell me reddit wasn’t added into the equation. Once again, I do not support RP, I just find this example very fascinating.

    3) Once the subreddits were controlled, drastic changes began to occur.

    I remember when r/IAma was open to anyone and the popularity was decided by voting. Now it is nothing more than a cheap place for celebrities to whore out their products and you need to be “approved”.

    4) The appearance of shills soon became VERY apparent.

    All of a sudden new accounts started popping up out of nowhere, cue the birth of r/HailCorporate. Also, around this time, “feel good” military posts started appearing, like a soldier coming home to his dog. From brand new accounts that never posted again.

    5) Now we have blatant censorship on r/news, r/worldnews etc… saying that X site is not allowed.

    What ever happened to letting people vote on the content of this website?

    6) All of the proper “checks and balances” are now in place.

    So now we are being fed an anti-Muslim/Islam/Russian/India smear campaign weekly. The amount of stories that demonize these groups is sickening to witness. And with minimal research you can see that most of them are hyperbole, sensationalized, and sometimes outright fiction.

    But thats okay, when something goes against the “US is good” narrative, every detail is examined and the slightest inconsistency is used to dismiss the entire story. But that diligence disappears when the story is bashing somewhere else. And those who point it out are downvoted out of sight.

    And people will say “What are you talking about, people are constantly bashing the US in every thread”.

    Yes that is absolutely true. Because those people have decided to even out the score. When you have hundreds of fake accounts moving the narrative in a certain direction, then it is essential for people to come out and loudly counter-balance the propaganda.

    It wasn’t always like this. A few years ago, there were just as many disagreements and differences of opinion on reddit, but they were REAL. And the site was still a democracy. People voted and things swung from side to side, everybody learned in the end.

    Now we have a completely one-sided mess that pretends to be democratic but is quickly becoming the Fox News of the internet.

    And I believe this can essentially be boiled down to greed. Reddit gets billions of views. The people who run reddit are not the “cool bloggers” they try to portray themselves as. There is a head running things, and it is sinister and they are making A LOT of money, and have A LOT of power, and A LOT of influence.

    And they know it. You should too.

    EDIT: What reddit used to be compared to what it is today. Notice how this site used to actually produce REAL positive changes in the REAL world.

    This was the peak in 2011: An anonymous Redditor exposed The Elan School, an abusive boarding school in Maine, which was then shut down.

    ***I WANT TO START COLLECTING OTHER DAMNING EVIDENCE HERE*****

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  • Have you been Clouded?

    Date: 2011.11.06 | Category: Cloud Computing, Trends | Response: 2

    This graphic is an addition to one of the more popular articles on this website, Ten Reasons Why Cloud Computing is a Bad Idea. Feel free to use it and reproduce it. A printout on an office/cubicle notice board can be fairly effective in spreading awareness on the subject.

    Please click on the image or click here to download a high quality version of the below image, complete with a link and a QR code for mobile phones.

    Have you been Clouded?

    Make Custom Gifts at CafePress

    Creative Commons Licence
    Have You Been Clouded? by Hamad Subani / Techtangerine.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
    Based on a work at www.techtangerine.com.
    Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.techtangerine.com/2011/11/06/have-you-been-clouded.

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  • Five cases that highlight “evil” at Google

    Date: 2010.02.21 | Category: Cloud Computing, Trends | Response: 25

    While Google has become associated with computing and the Internet in general, it attracts more grumbling and raised eyebrows than other heavyweights, such as Microsoft.

    Even though Google’s recent pullout from China has highlighted its commitment to user privacy, it did little to assuage the doubt of netizens that the pullout from China was a result of cyber attacks on Google infrastructure. And were it not for them, Google would happily continue to participate in the censorship demands of the Chinese government. A notorious case of such “accommodation” towards the Chinese government was the 2006 “banning” of spacewar.com from its global search engine. Spacewar.com was reporting on China’s geopolitical and military affairs.

    The following is a collection of five cases that highlight instances where Google’s commitment to “not being evil” has been questioned by netizens. And answers have generally not been forthcoming on Google’s part. Of course, this is not a general rundown of why you should avoid Google. Its more of a mixed bag of cases that I have come across over the years.

    The Privacy International Report

    Individual instances of Google’s creep factor are too numerous to enumerate. You can fill your hands by searching at Gawker using the “yourprivacyisanillusion” tag.

    The situation can be best summarized by the findings of Privacy International. In June 2007, Privacy International (PI), a privacy advocacy group, released a privacy ranking of Internet service companies. The report compared companies such as Amazon, AOL, Apple, BBC, Bebo, eBay, Facebook, Friendster, Google, Hi5, Last.fm, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Microsoft, Myspace, Orkut, Reunion.com, Skype, Wikipedia, Windows Live Space, Xanga, Yahoo! and YouTube.

    Google was the only company to receive the worst ranking (Black; Hostile to Privacy). In their 2007 consultation report, PI justified their ranking citing the following specifics:

    In summary, Google’s specific privacy failures include, but are by no means limited to:

    • Google account holders that regularly use even a few of Google’s services must accept that the company retains a large quantity of information about that user, often for an unstated or indefinite length of time, without clear limitation on subsequent use or disclosure, and without an opportunity to delete or withdraw personal data even if the user wishes to terminate the service.
    • Google maintains records of all search strings and the associated IP-addresses and time stamps for at least 18 to 24 months and does not provide users with an expungement option. While it is true that many US based companies have not yet established a time frame for retention, there is a prevailing view amongst privacy experts that 18 to 24 months is unacceptable, and possibly unlawful in many parts of the world.
    • Google has access to additional personal information, including hobbies, employment, address, and phone number, contained within user profiles in Orkut. Google often maintains these records even after a user has deleted his profile or removed information from Orkut.
    • Google collects all search results entered through Google Toolbar and identifies all Google Toolbar users with a unique cookie that allows Google to track the user’s web movement. Google does not indicate how long the information collected through Google Toolbar is retained, nor does it offer users a data expungement option in connection with the service.
    • Google fails to follow generally accepted privacy practices such as the OECD Privacy Guidelines and elements of EU data protection law. As detailed in the EPIC complaint, Google also fails to adopted additional privacy provisions with respect to specific Google services.
    • Google logs search queries in a manner that makes them personally identifiable but fails to provide users with the ability to edit or otherwise expunge records of their previous searches.
    • Google fails to give users access to log information generated through their interaction with Google Maps, Google Video, Google Talk, Google Reader, Blogger and other services.

    PI claimed that a Google representative (or representatives) was alleging a conflict of interest between PI and Microsoft (Microsoft scored an orange in the same report). According to PI, the supposed conflict of interest revolved around one member out of the seventy members that make up PI’s Advisory Board being a Microsoft employee. PI stated that the said member had resigned from the Advisory Board immediately after taking a job at Microsoft. In a second letter, PI claimed that Google had briefed the media across the UK about another Microsoft conspiracy! To quote,

    In this new allegation you assert that Microsoft pays for Privacy International’s silence about potentially negative aspects of its products by tipping money into 80/20 Thinking Ltd, which has two Privacy International staff as Directors. You allege that Burston Marsteller, which has been retained by Microsoft, in some way facilitates this relationship because it is a strategic partner of 80/20 Thinking. In this bizarre conspiracy you allege that the world’s most prominent privacy advocates, the world’s biggest software developer and the world’s leading PR company have entered into a secret pact to discredit Google.

    Such denial, “blame Microsoft/Russians/Terrorists” attitude and hostility towards scrutiny is more characteristic of Intelligence Agencies rather than publicly traded companies.

    Allegations of links to the CIA

    Robert David Steele, a former CIA operative claimed that CIA seed money helped launch Google. He further identified by name, Google’s “liaison” at the CIA. To quote,

    “I think Google took money from the CIA when it was poor and it was starting up and unfortunately our system right now floods money into spying and other illegal and largely unethical activities, and it doesn’t fund what I call the open source world,” said Steele, citing “trusted individuals” as his sources for the claim.

    “They’ve been together for quite a while,” added Steele.

    Asked to impart to what level Google is “in bed” with the CIA, Steele described the bond as a “small but significant relationship,” adding, “it is by no means dominating Google in fact Google has been embarrassed because everything the CIA asked it to do they couldn’t do.”

    If these revelations are true, they may be worrisome to not just “terrorists.” Lack of transparency allows the CIA to be used on some occasions, as a private army for the United Fruit Company those rich enough. And if a large and well endowed organization such as American Intelligence did indeed play a role in creating and fostering Google, then its founders may not be so deserving of the accolades heaped upon them. They may be just Lonelygirl15 cardboard cutouts meant for public consumption.

    Regardless of the authenticity of these allegations, Google appears to have no issues when it comes to partnering with American Intelligence Agencies. Google acquired Keyhole Inc in 2004, which was partly funded by the CIA. Keyhole Inc. originally developed the software which is now known as Google Earth. The CIA received actual Google shares following the acquisition. In 2008, the NSA awarded Google a $2 million contract. When pressed for details by a journalist, the NSA only revealed that “NSA bought four Google search appliances, two-years replacement warranty on all of them, and 100 hours of consulting support.” A commercial satellite was launched in September 2008 to get high resolution imagery for Google Earth (The rockets had the Google logo on them). The $500 million satellite was partly funded by the Department of Defence.

    Allegations of censorship of media related to the 9-11 Truth Movement

    Allegations have been made by infowars.com that Google Video reset the viewership count of Terror Storm from around 500,000 to 0 to prevent the video from continuing to be on the first page and going viral. Google later admitted that the numbers had been reset by mistake. Although its not that easy to convince members of the 9-11 Truth Movement.

    The Matthew Tanin Case

    Prosecutors in the trial of Matthew Tanin, one of the two former Bear Stearns managers indicted for fraud in the collapse of hedge funds in 2007, managed to obtain a CD-ROM from Google, containing Tanin’s  email messages from November 20th 2006 to August 12th 2007.

    Mr. Tanin had closed his Gmail account, and he thought it was closed. Although Mr. Tanin may get little sympathy, what is troubling is that Google has a very perplexing definition of “closed.”

    Do emails that you delete, accounts that you close and pictures that you remove using Google services really get deleted? Or do they continue to reside on Google’s servers? What if Google operated a funeral home? Would they secretly remove bodies after burial and store them in cryogenic freezers?

    The temporary suspension of Sibel Edmonds Blogger account

    Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator and a major 9-11 cover-up whistleblower was preparing to provide deposition before an American court on the involvement of American Intelligence with Al Qaeda in Central Asia. Around the first week of August 2009 (when the sensitivity of her claims intensified), Google suspended her blogger account, preventing her from posting updates about the deposition. Google claimed that their automatic spam detection technology had labelled her blog as a “potential spam blog.” Her blogging privileges were restated a few days later. But she has chosen to create her own blog than stay with Google.

    Being a whistleblower, Edmonds claims that

    A few weeks ago I started receiving ‘Google & Blogger warnings’ from my technologically savvy friends and well-wishers, who encouraged me to have a mirror site as a back up and or cease using Google’s Blogger all together. I did take these warnings seriously and started looking at alternatives and other options.

    What do think of Google?

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  • An Introduction to Linux, for Windows n00bs

    Date: 2009.08.07 | Category: How to, Linux | Response: 3

     

    When I first started considering Linux, I could not obtain answers to some very basic questions. Neither Wikipedia nor the Linux documentation were of much help. This article intends to fill those gaps. It is intended for Windows users who are considering Linux for the first time. This article is non-technical and fairly opinionated as opposed to those consensus driven Wiki articles.

    Why you may need Linux

    You may consider Linux as an alternative for Windows for several reasons, such as,

    You want to use a computer just for email and browsing.

    Most Linux distributions come bundled with Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird. Anything that you can do with these applications on Windows, you can do in Linux. The pioneering ASUS EEE netbooks dramatically cut costs by offering a Linux alternative, considering the fact that most netbook customers just wanted to browse and check email.

    You want to use a computer just for basic word processing.

    Most Linux distributions come loaded with OpenOffice. While not as feature-rich as Microsoft Office, OpenOffice does the job quite well. And its documents, spreadsheets and presentation files are compatible with Windows as well as Microsoft Office.

    You have no access to Windows

    Lets suppose you cannot afford a legitimate copy of Windows. Linux is as free as water Linux is more free than water. Or lets suppose you do not have the technical means of installing an illegitimate copy of Windows.

    You want to try something new.

    Assuming you are tired from looking out of the same “Window” again and again.

    You want to save on Antivirus and Anti-Spyware subscriptions, while optimizing performance.

    Suppose you are OK with Windows but you detest forking extra money for paying for antivirus and anti-spyware, which ultimately slow down your system. Unlike Windows, Linux does not have vulnerable components like the Windows Registry. And installing (malicious) code on Linux requires administrative (root) access as it does on Windows. But obtaining these credentials in Linux is far more complex than it is on Windows, which ultimately makes Linux safer. And since malicious code reflects market proliferation of the OS its intended to be used on, most viruses are built for Windows, rather than Linux. Linux thus offers you a more safer computing experience without having you pay for third party antivirus and anti-spyware, which can ultimately slow down performance.

    You want to save on expensive hardware upgrades

    If you bought a “state of the art” computer in 2003, chances are that it cannot run Windows 7 (unless you commit yourself to expensive upgrades). On the other hand, Linux can be installed on almost all of the most barebone hardware configurations that exist.

    You want a transparent computing experience.

    Unlike Windows, Linux source code is available for scrutiny to every Tom, Dick and Rosenthal. A lot of updates to the Linux operating system are a result of people pointing out vulnerabilities in the source code, rather than actual security holes. In contrast, Windows source code is proprietary, and only a select bunch at Redmond gets to see it naked. While Microsoft does its own audits, Windows security holes are usually discovered when an advanced user

    1. Stumbles upon the security hole.
    2. Notifies Microsoft.
    3. Microsoft acknowledges the presence of the security hole after some dickering.
    4. The special group at Redmond that has access to the Windows source code creates a patch for the security hole, and the patch is released via Windows Update.
    5. Microsoft PR releases a vague “security bulletin” publicly acknowledging the vulnerability. Since Windows source code is proprietary, only Microsoft can truly judge how the vulnerability affects Windows. The rest of us are expected to trust them.

    While Microsoft has considerably streamlined its Windows Update process, most Linux distros have a fairly sophisticated update engine as well. Linux security updates are extensive and timely. Linux updates are not limited to the operating system, and extend to practically all applications installed. On the other hand, Windows Update only updates Microsoft products, such as Windows OS, Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer. You have to manually update non-Microsoft applications such as Firefox and iTunes.

    You have “special needs.”

    You may want to run special software that can only be run on Linux.

    Why you don’t need Linux

    You should not consider Linux for the following reasons,

    You want a perfect substitute for Windows.

    If you are looking for a substitute for Windows, you will be disappointed. Linux was never meant to be a Windows substitute and originated as a tool for developers. Linux obviously cannot run or install programs that are meant for Windows (and vice versa). It is technically possible but requires tinkering. And since Windows has a much bigger market proliferation, most of the programs available are for Windows. Add to that, downloading and installing a program in Linux is more complex than it is in Windows. The range of programs available for Linux  can pretty much cover all your computing needs, in addition to some seriously advanced programs that are Linux-only. But limited market proliferation takes its toll. Programs for Linux can be rudimentary and lacking GUI features. Most of the programs available for Linux are open source. But as Linux grows more popular, commercial programs are being offered for Linux as well. For example, Skype is now available for Linux. Linux also comes preloaded with drivers for most computer hardware that is available. I have installed Linux on three different computers and in all cases, Linux was able to load all the required drivers. Its even better than Windows at this!

    You want to save costs in a networked environment

    Lets say you want to cut corners in a school or office by installing Linux on several networked computers. There are several reasons to avoid this. Users may insist on a Windows environment. In addition, troubleshooting any issues that may arise will require extensive Linux-specific know-how.

    You want to take advantage of the advanced features of your computer hardware.

    Suppose you have a pricey scanner and its Windows software is choc full of sophisticated features. These features may not necessarily be available on Linux. But check with the hardware manufacturer. Many hardware manufacturers now offer software for Linux as well.

    You want to look cool.

    Given the ease with which Linux can be installed, nobody really cares these days. And contrary to urban legends, running Linux won’t give you hax0r powers.

    What else you should know

    Whatever you learnt from Windows will be good for Linux only on a basic level, such as navigation. Linux has its own learning curve, philosophy and jargon. The following are some Linux terms you are expected to be familiar with, even when you start considering Linux.

    Distro

    Short for distribution. The Linux operating system is open to modification. Therefore different groups have created different distributions of Linux, based on their needs. There are dozens of them. For example, BackTrack is a Linux distro packed with security tools. And within these distributions, you will find different versions, analogous to Windows 95, 98, Me, 2000, XP and Vista. Choosing a distro is a touchy subject and depends upon your needs. You can find a list of available distros here. If you are new to Linux, I suggest the Ubuntu distro. It is highly evolved, and comes bundled with everything a beginner would expect.

    LiveUSB

    Linux is very versatile. It can be installed on a hard drive as expected. It can also be installed on a Windows hard drive while creating the option to boot as Windows or Linux upon start-up (dual boot). It can be installed on Windows in a non-intrusive way, just like another Windows program functioning within Windows (Wubi). It can also be run from a CD (LiveCD). But the most non-intrusive way to use Linux is to install it on a USB thumb/flash/key drive (LiveUSB). This can be done in a Windows environment, provided you download and install UNetbootin and you also downloaded the Linux installation file (.iso) to your Windows Desktop.

    Repository

    When you want to install a program in Windows, you go to the program website, download and install it. While this is possible in Linux too, it requires some mastery of command line (Referred to in Linux as terminal). Most popular programs for Linux are available through “repositories” instead of isolated websites. A repository is a website that hosts updated and malware-free versions of software provided by the software developer. To search several genuine repositories and to install programs from them in Ubuntu, you go into the “Synaptic Package Manager.”

    root

    A distinguishing feature of Linux is a strongly enforced user account control. Only one account, the root (aka superuser) has the ability to modify the system outside the limited scope granted to other user accounts. This account will be created when you install Linux and you will be asked to set a password for it. For example, when you install new software or make configuration changes, Linux may prompt you for the root password. This contributes to more safer computing, as malware and spyware cannot surreptitiously install itself as it does in Windows.

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  • Ten Reasons Why Cloud Computing is a Bad Idea

    Date: 2009.06.02 | Category: Cloud Computing, Trends | Response: 96

    If you haven’t jumped into the Cloud Computing bandwagon yet, here are ten reasons why you should reconsider.

    CloudComputing@TechTangerine.com

    Note:The above image is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Feel free to use it. You can get a high quality image for printing here.

    Cloud Computing makes your IT excessively dependent on the Internet

    Cloud Computing exists on the premise that the Internet will always be as robust and reliable for all time to come. While one can be fairly optimistic, there is always the danger of the unforeseen. For example, Congressmen in the United States are pushing for bills that can shutdown/limit Internet traffic in the event of war, so that the sheeple stick to their prescribed content on television. Another country, Syria, managed to completely erase itself from the Internet when civil war broke out in late 2012.  If a Company loses Internet connectivity to its Cloud even for a few days, as a result of an Internet outage affecting either it or the Cloud Computing Service, there could be very damaging consequences. I am not talking about your E-store going offline. Suppose the daily activities of your Company were on a database on a Cloud? In such a scenario, you may wish your servers were in that makeshift bunker in your backyard, rather than on the Cloud.

    And because of its dependence on the Internet, Cloud Computing can never perform as a substitute for in-house servers. For example, there are speed limits, related to hardware and bandwidth, when transferring data to and from the Cloud via the Internet. Using VPNs and SSL tunnels can further slow the speed.

    Cloud Computing will attract clients mainly from Western markets

    Cloud Computing implicitly assumes that the Internet is as robust throughout the world as it is in North America, Europe and some parts of Asia. But clients from countries where Internet connectivity is sporadic will be discouraged from boarding the Cloud. And no, I am not talking about Namibia. IT powerhouse India still has sporadic Internet connectivity. The general speed of the Internet is still very poor. The infrastructure is so haphazard that most Indian Internet subscribers prefer the limited speeds of wireless mobile Internet from the cell phone companies, rather than trust the cable/landline infrastructure. In addition, uninterrupted supply of electricity is still unrealised in India. A power outage affecting any intermediary can cripple access to the Cloud. Indian IT giants have learnt the hard way not to trust state infrastructure, even for electricity. They keep their own backup power generation on site. Adopting any trend that makes them more dependent on state infrastructure will require more than a leap of faith.

    Cloud Computing makes you dependent on the goodwill of your ISP

    Cloud Computing may require gratuitous bandwidth for the client, depending on what the client is hosting on the Cloud. And the same ISPs who are clamouring for bandwidth caps may charge and arm and a leg if the client exceeds his or her bandwidth quota.

    Cloud Computing can expose you to the unethical practices of your ISP

    Major ISPs have come under fire for spying on their customer’s P2P networks on behalf of the Recording Industry. Can these ISPs be trusted with sensitive traffic to and from the Cloud? We are told that everything will be encrypted through VPNs. But still, given the tainted role of ISPs, can ISPs be trusted for non-encrypted traffic?

    Cloud Computing is against the spirit of Personal Computing

    Personal Computers were meant to empower individuals, make them more independent and productive. Most of today’s industry heavyweights owe their success to living up to these expectations. Microsoft and IBM’s unexpected touting of Cloud Computing is more akin to Toyota adopting the business model of a car rental agency (If that were to happen, Toyota may likewise rebrand itself in the fashion of Silicon Valley, as a subscription based Transport Service Provider).

    It is no surprise that old timers, such as Steve Wozniak who have been at the forefront of the development of personal computing, have publicly voiced their concerns over Cloud Computing.

    Cloud Computing makes your Cloud Data subject to American law

    Since most of the major Cloud Computing servers are operated by companies based in the United States, data you put on your Cloud is subject to American law. And the American law in turn, is subject to overrides, loopholes, “Patriot Acts,” and exceptions, depending on which governmental agency (or which person/interest) wants your data. You may not even be informed that your data was compromised for the same reason Jack Bauer gets away with torturing his hostages/prisoners (national security). And even if there is no “national security” issue, Cloud data no longer needs a warrant to be obtained by the authorities. To quote,

    CLOUD DATA

    Documents, Photos, and Other Stuff Stored Online

    How They Get It:

    Authorities typically need only a subpoena to get data from Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive, and other services that allow users to store data on their servers, or “in the cloud,” as it’s known.

    What the Law Says:

    The law treats cloud data the same as draft emails — authorities don’t need a warrant to get it. But files that you’ve shared with others — say, a collaboration using Google Docs — might require a warrant under the ECPA if it’s considered “communication” rather than stored data. “That’s a very hard rule to apply,” says Greg Nojeim, a senior counsel with the Center for Democracy & Technology. “It actually makes no sense for the way we communicate today.”

    And before reaching the Cloud, your data will pass through American ISPs that provide the Cloud with uptime. It could be intercepted by State Agencies even before it reaches the Cloud.

    A case point is that of Amazon Web Services, a flagship of the cloud computing model. Amazon Web Services quietly booted whistleblowing website Wikileaks off their cloud computing servers. This was done without any court order. Looks like Amazon Web Services is also a flagship of the American government. In another piece of news, Amazon has won a $600 million contract to build a Cloud Computing System for the CIA.

    Most American businesses with a shred of integrity in this regard have already closed doors, and therefore those that remain in business should be considered suspect. Take the case of Lavabit, a highly secure (and free) POP/IMAP/Webmail email service. This service was used by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. On 8th August 2013, Lavabit users were greeted with the following message:

    My Fellow Users,

    I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

    What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

    This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

    Sincerely,
    Ladar Levison
    Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

    Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

    Or take the case of Cryptoseal Privacy, a VPN service which suddenly shuttered leaving perplexed users with the following message:

    With immediate effect as of this notice, CryptoSeal Privacy, our consumer VPN service, is terminated. All cryptographic keys used in the operation of the service have been zerofilled, and while no logs were produced (by design) during operation of the service, all records created incidental to the operation of the service have been deleted to the best of our ability. Essentially, the service was created and operated under a certain understanding of current US law, and that understanding may not currently be valid. As we are a US company and comply fully with US law, but wish to protect the privacy of our users, it is impossible for us to continue offering the CryptoSeal Privacy consumer VPN product.

    In other words, if your service provider is based in America and hasn’t already shuttered over ethical concerns, chances are that it is sharing your data with the NSA.

    Cloud Computing can expose your Confidential Data to “Corrupt Elements” (and no, I am not talking about hackers and identity thieves)

    Since corruption in Western society is more of an invitation-only club, most people refer to it only in couched terms. But unless you are really naive, it is a reality you must be prepared to deal with. Back in 2004, a Utah guy got an application for a major credit card. The problem was that the name and address on the application had only been provided to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

    The bad news is not that American State Agencies have backdoor access to American corporations. Rather, American corporations have an incestuous relationship with American State Agencies. If suppose you are a non-American corporation with your Cloud hosted by an American corporation, and your main competitor is an American heavyweight with backdoor access to the State Agencies, your confidential data on the Cloud may be just a few phone calls away. American corporations are known to use the State Agencies as personal armies, although very little of this gets documented. Worse, if the CEO of the Company that hosts your Cloud and the CEO of your competitor belong to the same fraternity, your confidential data on the cloud may be just a handshake away. Of course, your data on the Cloud is encrypted and cannot be accessed by anyone other than yourself. But then, there are always exceptions.

    Amazon Web Services is considered to be a flagship of the Cloud Computing model. In July 2009, Amazon.com sneakily deleted etexts off its users Kindles. Ironically, the extexts deleted were George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. Both these books deal with the suppression of dissent by totalitarian regimes. The furore that followed the move was attributed to the fact that Amazon.com had remotely deleted files that were on the user’s own device, and therefore the move was like a hacker-style intrusion. But if suppose the Kindle followed the Cloud Computing model, where ebooks were read and stored online instead of the device itself, Amazon.com would probably never get caught. And the unavailablity of these titles could be attributed to an innocuous server outage.

    In April 2010, China hijacked the Internet for 18 minutes by “tricking” other telecom routers. Nearly 15% of all American civilian and military Internet traffic was quietly redirected into Chinese networks before being rerouted without delay. If your cloud data transfers were included in this traffic, there is a possibility that it is being dissected somewhere in Beijing. Regular users of cloud computing should be warned that their data transfers can fall into the hand of whichever nation that goes on a bandwidth sucking rampage.

    Cloud Computing is sounding more like a Lobby than a Trend

    Suddenly, all ringers, gurus, and experts are clamouring for Cloud Computing. Articles are appearing in respectable publications weighing the pros and cons. Business heads are flaunting how they managed to cut costs. Does this remind you of Big Tobacco, Big Sugar, Big Science and Big Pharma? Do you buy into the pitch? Are you willing to “invest” your data in the scheme?

    Cloud Computing may be of little consequence for the Average Small Business

    The May 2009 issue of WIRED carried an interesting article on Cloud Computing, highlighting pros and cons. The key example cited in favour of Cloud Computing was an Eli Lily information consultant, who as a client of Amazon Web Services uses his iPhone to run “genomic analysis” on the Cloud. How many businesses executives can picture themselves doing this?

    Cloud Computing may not contribute to your national economy

    When you buy the hardware, software and technical expertise for setting up a server locally, you are supporting several local businesses. With Cloud Computing, you bypass all of these. But aren’t the major Cloud Computing providers American owned and American based? Yes they are. But when they get things figured out, they might consider outsourcing. And Cloud Computing is very feasible to outsource. Given their track record, they don’t exactly cherish employing Americans, unless Obama forces them to do so.

    Update (An Eleventh Reason?): Cloud Computing may not be as reliable as touted.

    To quote AP News 21/04/2011,

    Major websites including Foursquare and Reddit crashed or suffered slowdowns Thursday after technical problems rattled Amazon.com’s widely used Web servers, frustrating millions of people who couldn’t access their favorite sites.

    Though better known for selling books, DVDs and other consumer goods, Amazon also rents out space on huge computer servers that run many websites and other online services.

    The problems began at an Amazon data center near Dulles Airport outside Washington and persisted into the afternoon. The failures were widespread, but they varied in severity.

    HootSuite, which lets users monitor Twitter and other social networks more easily, was down completely, as was questions-and-answers site Quora.

    The location-sharing social network Foursquare experienced glitches, while the news-sharing site Reddit was in “emergency read-only mode.”

    Many other companies that use Amazon Web Services, like Netflix Inc. and Zynga Inc., which runs Facebook games, appeared to be unscathed. Amazon has at least one other major data center that stayed up, in California.

    No one knew for sure how many people were inconvenienced, but the services affected are used by millions.

    Amazon Web Services provide “cloud” or utility-style computing in which customers pay only for the computing power and storage they need, on remote computers.

    Lydia Leong, an analyst for the tech research firm Gartner, said that judging by details posted on Amazon’s AWS status page, a network connection failed Thursday morning, triggering an automatic recovery mechanism that then also failed.

    Amazon’s computers are divided into groups that are supposed to be independent of each other. If one group fails, others should stay up. And customers are encouraged to spread the computers they rent over several groups to ensure reliable service. But Thursday’s problem took out many groups simultaneously.

    Streetfire.com

    Screengrab from an Amazon Web Services customer, Streetfire.net. Dated 22/04/2011 @ 9:21 PM AST.

    Update (a Twelfth reason?): Michael Chertoff Loves Cloud Computing

    Michael Chertoff Shape Shifting....In 1999, an obscure conspiracy theorist, David Icke,  made a startling claim. He stated that the ruling elite of the Western world were actually shape-shifting lizards. This theory became a laughing matter and was even used to smear genuine conspiracy theorists. But no matter how much time passed, the theory would simply not die. Ask any follower of Icke, and they will point you to images of the ruling elite, such as this photograph of Michael Chertoff (Secretary of homeland security from 2005 to 2009). That is supposedly the face he makes before shape-shifting into a ten foot lizard. Even we are to dismiss the claims of Icke’s followers, the generally accepted consensus among the alternate media is that the man exists to defecate on the liberties of the American people. Chertoff’s grandpoppa is of Russian origin, and in Soviet Russia, Internet surfs YOU! In a February 9th 2012 op-ed in the Washington post, Chertoff can be seen whining how EU privacy laws may “balkanize” the Internet, because American Cloud Computing providers will not be allowed to invade the privacy of their European customers.

    Update (A Thirteenth Reason?): Like it or not, Cloud Computing is being forced down your throat

    In late June of 2012, some Internet users discovered that they were being prevented from accessing certain websites that contained keywords relating to porn and copyright infringement. It turns out that Cisco had remotely updated their router software, forcing them to use a new cloud service that censored websites containing the aforementioned keywords. In order for the censorship to work, the urls the Internet users were visiting were being forwarded to Cisco’s Connect Cloud Service and people rightly feared that Cisco was using the Cloud to spy on their Internet activities. Cisco quickly backtracked and issued an apology.

    This is your PC on Cloud Computing!

    Was the babyish-looking Windows 8 Tile Interface a sinister attempt to force down Cloud Computing?

    In more recent shenanigans, the babyish design of the Windows 8 tile interface was discovered to be another attempt to shove Cloud Computing on unsuspecting computer users. While the Tile interface is great for touchscreens and tablets, it can be fairly problematic when it comes to managing files. There is no way to access the Windows file system through it. The Tiles got the Windows user base so grumpy that Windows 8 caused the most precipitous decline in PC history! And the dumbed down approach has caused such consternation among power users that the free Windows 8.1 update restores the classic “Start” button and allows users to bypass the Tile interface to reach the good old “Desktop.”  Microsoft has touted the Tile interface as a way for your apps and programs to provide you with updated information while running in the background. But the apps and programs that provide “live” info through Tiles are mainly cloud based apps. For example, Microsoft charges a hefty price for its Outlook mail client. Any rational user would expect that there would be an Outlook Tile which would notify them of new messages, reminders and calendar appointments, given the simplicity of programming such a Tile. But no, there ain’t. The only usable Tile that can be used for email and calendar hooks up  to Microsoft’s cloud-based email service. Outlook users drawing mail from their own email service providers are simply not invited to the Tile interface. To quote on exasperated user:

    They are trying to FORCE people into the cloud, Their cloud in order to get these tiles to work at all.

    And another user:

    I think that Microsoft will soon find itself under the guns of the law AGAIN if they don’t release a way for people to use these features with an enterprise environment WITHOUT having to use their live accounts.  It is crazy to think that they are trying to force an enterprise user to use their mail and calendar apps, but won’t let you use your information locally in it.  I think that Microsoft ahs really missed the mark here.  I know that most tester and die-hards will just say “use the main Outlook” and I am.  Here is the point though, IF you are going to supposedly revolutionize Windows and take away a]our START button and force us to use the new UI, Then the LEAST you can do is make all the bells and whistles offered work Locally and through your new online service. Don’t tell us that in order for it to work, we can only use yours.

    The Mail and Calendar Tiles that do work in Windows 8 sync up with Microsoft’s servers. Given the fact that Microsoft has officially admitted to releasing the data of 137,424 of its users to various world governments, can it be trusted with such private information?

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