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    1. Are there any viable alternatives for Facebook?

      A lot of people are currently switching over from WhatsApp to Signal right now, and the two are comparable enough that Signal can pretty much act as a drop-in replacement for WhatsApp. They have...

      A lot of people are currently switching over from WhatsApp to Signal right now, and the two are comparable enough that Signal can pretty much act as a drop-in replacement for WhatsApp. They have very comparable features, and Signal is easy enough to use that it's adoptable by non-techy people.

      Does something similar exist for Facebook? I'm fully aware of the network effects that keep people on Facebook, but let's pretend a lot of people wanted to leave that platform and migrate elsewhere. Is there anything that has a similar featureset and that is usable by the general population?

      22 votes
    2. "Webcam Settings" - a surprisingly useful piece of software

      I have a fairly decent Logitech webcam which sits atop my monitor, for video calls at work. In Linux, I can adjust its exposure, brightness, white balance, and other settings (pan, zoom, power...

      I have a fairly decent Logitech webcam which sits atop my monitor, for video calls at work. In Linux, I can adjust its exposure, brightness, white balance, and other settings (pan, zoom, power line frequency correction) through the gUVCview application, which is open source and available in just about every software repository.

      On Mac OS, however, there is no such free app; nor is there a built-in settings menu for the webcam. This is probably because the built-in camera, while somewhat underwhelming, does a very good job with color temperature, exposure, et cetera. Whatever code runs for that camera, though, isn't applied to the Logitech camera, so I've always looked very blown-out at work - a pure white background with vague gestures at my facial features is the best I could do.

      I recently found this app, Webcam Settings, which implements the majority of useful controls with an interface very reminiscient of gUVCview. It's $7.99 on the App Store, but given that it seems to be the only way to get this kind of control over your video, I think it's worth it if you need it.

      8 votes
    3. The Great Deplatforming: An alternate explanation for the Parler, et al, shutdowns

      A common current narrative is that tech monopolists are suddenly acting of their own initiative and inconcert to deplatform the burgeoning fascist insurgent movement within the US. I approve the...

      A common current narrative is that tech monopolists are suddenly acting of their own initiative and inconcert to deplatform the burgeoning fascist insurgent movement within the US. I approve the deplatforming strongly, though I suspect an alternative significant motivating and coordfinating factor.

      An example of the "tech monopoly abuse" narrative is Glenn Greenwald's more than slightly unhinged "How Silicon Valley, in a Show of Monopolistic Force, Destroyed Parler"

      Greenwald's argument hinges on emotion, insinuation, invective, a completely unfounded premise, an absolute absence of evidence, and no consideration of alternative explanations: an overwhelmingly plausible ongoing law enforcement and national security operation, likely under sealed or classified indictments or warrants, in the face of ongoing deadly sedition lead by the President of the United States himself, including against the person of his own vice president and credible threats against the President-Elect and Inauguration.

      Such an legal action is, of course, extraordinarily difficult to prove, and I cannot prove it. A critical clue for me, however, is the defection not just of Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Stripe, and other tech firms, but of Parler's legal counsel, who would have to be an exceptionally stealth-mode startup to fit Greenwald's, or other's, "it's the tech monopolists" narrative. I've tempered my degree of assurance and language ("plausible" rather than "probable"). Time will tell. But a keen and critical mind such as Grenwald's should at least be weighing the possibility. He instead seems bent only on piking old sworn enemies, with less evidence or coherence than I offer.

      This is the crux of Greenwald's argument. It's all he's got:

      On Thursday, Parler was the most popular app in the United States. By Monday, three of the four Silicon Valley monopolies united to destroy it.

      I'm no friend of the tech monopolists myself. The power demonstrated here does concern me, greatly. I've long railed against Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple, among other tech monopolists. Largely because as monopolies they are power loci acting through their occupation of a common resource, outside common control, and not serving the common weal. Hell: Facebook, Google (YouTube), Reddit, and Twitter played a massive role in creating the current fascist insurrection in the US, along with even more enthusiastic aid and comfort from traditional media, across the spectrum. Damage that will take decades to repair, if ever.

      But, if my hypothesis is correct, the alternative explanation would bet he opposite of this: the state asserting power over and through monopolies in the common interest, in support of democratic principles, for the common weal. And that I can support.

      I don't know that this is the case. I find it curious that I seem to be the only voice suggesting it. Time should tell.

      And after this is over, yes, Silicon Valley, in its metonymic sense standing for the US and global tech industry, has to face its monopoly problem, its free speech problem (in both sincere and insincere senses), its surveillance problem (capitalist, state, criminal, rogue actor), its censorship problem, its propaganda problem (mass and computational), its targeted manipulation adtech problem, its trust problem, its identity problem, its truth and disinformation problems, its tax avoidance problem, its political influence problem.

      Virtually all of which are inherent aspects of monopoly: "Propaganda, censorship, and surveillance are all attributes of monopoly" https://joindiaspora.com/posts/7bfcf170eefc013863fa002590d8e506
      HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24771470

      But, speaking as a space alien cat myself, Greenwald is so far off base here he's exited the Galaxy.


      Update: 2h30m after posting, NPR have mentioned sealed indictments and speculated on whether the President might be charged, in special coverage.

      19 votes
    4. Homeserver, hosted server, domains and stuff. What do you do, what should I do?

      I'm having a "server" (very cheap, very old office pc) in my house I use together with dynamic dns. But it's not really stable, (needs regular restarts and dyndns is not really gold either) and as...

      I'm having a "server" (very cheap, very old office pc) in my house I use together with dynamic dns. But it's not really stable, (needs regular restarts and dyndns is not really gold either) and as I want to offer family acces to nextcloud and myabe plex? any other ideas? and all the other nice stuff the free software world has to offer, this is not working well enough to not make them flee back to google + apple and stay there till eternity!

      the other thing is, i got used to ssh and stuff over the last years and want to improve my skills and learn.

      I know these two dont really go well hand in hand :-(

      I actually have a decent up and down speed at my home so an upgrade for my existing system is thinkable but dyndns is just a PITA and i'd like having my own domain. do these work with changing ips? because with the prices they ask here for staric ips I can just rent a server in a center somewhere.

      what do you do to self host, how do you do it and what would be your advise for me?

      19 votes
    5. Email: how about doing it right?

      In light of the seemingly increasing rate of data breaches and privacy violations in general, I've decided to take some steps further regarding my online presence. Among other things, I decided to...

      In light of the seemingly increasing rate of data breaches and privacy violations in general, I've decided to take some steps further regarding my online presence.

      Among other things, I decided to switch all my online accounts to custom domain email addresses, so I grabbed two domain names (with WhoisGuard enabled): one for use with stuff related to my real identity (think @firstlast.com), and the other for all else (think @randomword.com). Then, I changed the email address of each one of my existing online accounts, taking advantage of the catch-all feature. To make things short, it goes like this:

      Accounts not related to my real identity:

      • tildes.net.187462@randomword.com -> tildes.net
      • reddit.com.178334@randomword.com -> reddit.com
      • ...

      Accounts related to my real identity:

      • amazon.com.113908@firstlast.com -> amazon.com
      • bankofamerica.com.175512@firstlast.com -> bankofamerica.com
      • ...

      As you might have guessed, the 6 digits ending the local part of email addresses are meant to be randomly generated, in order to mitigate easy guesses by spammers due to catch-all (though I've also created a specific sieve filter to mark incoming emails with "unknown" recipient as spam).

      Before you ask, I don't intend to start a discussion about threat modelling here. I just want—as anyone who is not a complete tech-illiterate—to have a reasonable weapon against spam caused by recurrent data breaches, so that if an email address is leaked, I can toss it and replace it with a new one without much effort.

      Also, I value owning my email addresses, in the sense that if I decide to change email provider in the future, I won't have to change my addresses too as a consequence. For communicating with real humans (e.g., my doctor), I could use a non catch-all address like first@firstlast.com.

      I wonder what do you think of this approach... Is it overkill? Do you see any major concern from a privacy or security standpoint? Are you doing something similar and are happy with it? I would very much like to hear your experiences with email, especially about the approach you settled with.

      18 votes