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The All-Web paradigm is a long way away

Google, with their Google Chrome OS, are betting on our computing-experience moving to the Cloud in the future. Some people agree with that prediction. As Hacker News user Wavephorm mentions:

The "All-Web" paradigm is coming, folks. And it really doesn't matter how much you love your iPhone, or your Android, or Windows phone. Native apps are toast, in the long run. Your data is moving to the cloud — your pictures, your music, your movies, and every document you write. It's all going up there, and local hard drives will be history within 3 years. And what that means is ALL software is heading there too. Native apps running locally on your computer are going to be thing of the past, and it simply blows my mind that even people here on HackerNews completely fail to understand this fact.

Although I believe many things will be moving to the cloud in the (near) future, I also believe there are still major barriers to be overcome before we can move our entire computing into the cloud. An 'All-web' paradigm, where there are NO local apps – where there is NO local persistent storage – is a long, long way off, if not entirely impossible.

The Cloud lacks interoperability

One major thing currently missing from the Cloud is interoperability between Web applications. As mentioned on Hacker News: "local hard drives will be history". I believe we are greatly underestimating the level of interoperability local storage offers. Name a single native application that can't load and save files from and to your hard drive? Local storage ties all applications together and allows them to work with each other's data. I can just as easily open an JPEG in a picture viewer as in a photo editing software package or set it as my background, etcetera.

If the All-web paradigm is to succeed, Web apps will need a way to talk to each other or at the very least talk to some unified storage in the Cloud without the user needing to download and re-upload files each time. Right now, if I want to edit a photo stored in Picasa in a decent image editor, I have to download it from Picasa, upload it to an online image editor, download it from there and upload it again to Picasa (and removing the old photo). I have a pretty decent internet connection, but most of my time will be spent waiting 80 seconds for a 3.5 Mb picture to download, upload, download again, etc.

Perhaps cloud storage providers will start publishing APIs so that other web apps can accesss your files directly, but given that the Web historically has been about being as incompatible as possible with everything else, I believe this will be a very large, if not insurmountable, problem.

User control will be gone

When Google launched the new version of its Gmail interface, many people were annoyed. Many people are annoyed with Facebook's TimeLine interface. Many of my friends still run ancient versions of WinAmp to play their music, simply because it's the best music player out there. With the All-web paradigm, choice over which programs you use, and which version you want to use will be gone. The big men in the Cloud will determine what your interface will look like. There will be no running of older versions of programs. Unless web applications find some way to unify storage, (as I mentioned earlier), there will be no way to migrate to another application. At the very least it will be painful.

Cloud storage is expensive

I'm sure we all enjoy our cheap local storage. If I need to temporary store a few hundred gigabytes of data, I don't even have to think about where or how to store it. My home computer has installs for twelve different Operating Systems through VirtualBox. It takes up about 100 Gb. My collection of rare and local artist's music is around 15 Gb. Backups of my entire computing history take up about 150 Gb. Where in the cloud am I going to store all of that? Dropbox? It doesn't even list a price for storage in the Cloud like that! Going from the prices they do list, to replicate my local storage in the Cloud, I'd be paying about $200. A month.

Internet connections are not up to par

We may think our internet connections are fast, and compared to a few years ago they are, but they're not fast enough by a long shot to do our daily computing in the Cloud. First of all, upstreams are generally much more limited than upstreams. If the All-Web paradigm is going to work, that has to change. But home internet connections aren't really the problem, I think. The real problem is mobile networks. The All-web paradigm requires being online all the time, everywhere. Lately there's been a trend (at least in my country) of reducing mobile internet subscriptions from unlimited data plans to very limited plans. A 500 Mb limit per month is not uncommon now. Telco's reasoning is that they need to recuperate costs for operating the network. Some still offer "unlimited" data plans where, after exceeding your monthly quota, you'll be put back to 64kb/s. It's enough to check my email (barely), but it surely isn't enough to do anyone's day-to-day computing from the Cloud.

And that's the situation here, in one of the most well-connected countries in the world. Think of the number of countries that aren't so fortunate. If nothing else, those countries will keep local computing alive.

Pricing

Most web apps require a monthly subscription to do anything meaningful with them. It could be just me, but I much rather pay a single price up front after which I will be able to use my purchase for as long as I like. With the All-web paradigm, I'd have to pay monthly fees for Google (Documents/storage), Dropbox, Netflix, some music streaming service, a VPS for development, and a lot more.

With the current prices, the monthly costs to me would be unacceptable. It's a lot cheaper to get a simple $400 desktop computer, which can take care of all those needs. Say I use it for 4 years. That comes down to about $8.50 a month. The cheapest Dropbox account is more expensive than that.

But the high price isn't really the problem. The problem is continuous payments. Say I lose my job, and I have to cut costs. With local computing, I could say "well, this PC is old, and should be replaced, but since I'm low on money, I'll keep using it for another year". Cancelling my subscription to some/all my services means I lose some/all my data. Remember, we're talking about an All-web environment here. No local storage large enough to store my data. The risks are simply too big.

Privacy

There's no such thing as privacy in the Cloud. Your personal information and data will be mined, abused and sold. You have no control over it. The more data that is stored, the larger the temptation for companies and criminals to monetize that data. Right now, most people don't care too much about privacy. We still have a choice about what we put in the cloud and what we keep to ourselves. That picture of your girlfriend in lingerie won't be ending up on Facebook any time soon, right? With an All-web environment, you'll have no choice. Want to store or edit a picture? It has to move to the cloud. Even those most unconcerned with privacy won't accept that.

The best we can hope for would be that web companies will treat our data confidentially. Hope. We have no control. Arguments that companies who abuse our data will soon lose all their users are not relevant. Your data will already be abused by that time. We only need a single incident for people to start distrusting the All-web paradigm. In fact, I think that has already happened.

Conclusion

In the future, many local applications will move to the cloud. In fact, many already have. Music and movie streaming, word processing, image editing, storage; they will move more and more to the Cloud. The All-web paradigm though, will never fly. It would be a huge step back in terms of convenience, cost, privacy and abilities. Local computing is here to stay. It may become more and more of a niche market, but it won't disappear.

This is why I don't use Apple products or DRM media

This company is going out of business because they put all their eggs in a very delicate and quite frankly evil basket:

BeamItDown Software and the iFlow Reader will cease operations as of May 31, 2011. We absolutely do not want to do this, but Apple has made it completely impossible for anyone but Apple to make a profit selling contemporary ebooks on any iOS device.

If you're a company, and you do this:

We bet everything on Apple and iOS and then Apple killed us by changing the rules in the middle of the game.

you need to have your head examined :-) This is not the first time this has happened, and it will most certainly not be the last time. Apple will do anything it can to make a buck over other company's back!

Not just the company is being royally screwed over by Apple:

Many of you have purchased books and would like to keep them. You may still be able to read them using iFlow Reader although we cannot guarantee that it will work beyond May 31, 2011 […] your computer which will let you access them with Adobe Digital Editions or any other ebook application that is compatible with Adobe DRM protected epubs.

So iFlowReader's have probably also lost all their ebooks because they had DRM on them. DRM (Digital Rights Management) is a technology which restricts media to a certain application or device; opening it in third-party applications is usually impossible.

And that's why I have never and will never buy an Apple product, or use any media that is DRM protected.

Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice

Talks Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice:

Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

How Democracy works…

Here's a good example of how democracy works:

NASA Christens Space Station Treadmill 'COLBERT'.

Rokers zijn sexy (Dutch)

Want laten we eerlijk zijn, rokers hebben humor. Rokers hebben stijl. Rokers zijn sexy motherfuckers. Na het neuken rook je samen bezweet een sigaret in bed. Niet-rokers aaien samen een kat.

Beste.. column.. ooit: Rokers zijn sexy

Free Speech

Free Speech. Why is it important? Because it's an extension of Free Thought. Should we be able to think whatever the hell we want? Yes we should. Controlling Free Speech is about nothing more than controlling Free Thought. "You're not allowed to say this, because somebody might not agree with it. You're not allowed to say that, because somebody might feel hurt by it". What they're really trying to do is control what you can think. Trying to generate a "mindset", a "zeitgeist". Brainwashing is more like it. Well, fuck that. I'll think about whatever the hell I want and as long as I'm thinking it, I'll be saying it.

So fuck the Dutch government for trying to outlaw Free Thought, and keep on publishing cartoons showing Mohammed, wearing t-shirts implying cops are corrupt (which they are), making Death-Threat Raps and telling the public about how the politicians are the real terrorists. Remember that little rhyme you used to use when you were a kid? "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Guess what? Kids are smarter than our police, politicians, religious fanatics and the whole government. Grow the fuck up.

This country is going to shit. Time to move to Cuba, where you're allowed more freedoms these days.

SSH + SOCKS5 = Universal proxy

I didn't know it, but (Open)SSH supports setting up a Socks5 proxy:

-D [bind_address:]port
  Specifies a local ``dynamic'' application-level port forwarding.
  This works by allocating a socket to listen to port on the local
  side, optionally bound to the specified bind_address.  Whenever a
  connection is made to this port, the connection is forwarded over
  the secure channel, and the application protocol is then used to
  determine where to connect to from the remote machine.  Currently
  the SOCKS4 and SOCKS5 protocols are supported, and ssh will act
  as a SOCKS server.  Only root can forward privileged ports.
  Dynamic port forwardings can also be specified in the configura-
  tion file.

Socks5 is pretty neat, as it allows you to proxy stuff without the server having to know anything about the way the client works. For instance, if we give the following command:

$ ssh -N -D 127.0.0.1:8080 todsah@sharky.electricmonk.nl

We can now tell all kinds of clients such as web browsers and instant messaging clients that there is a Socks5 proxy running on the localhost at port 8080. SSH will forward all connections made to port 8080 to the sharky.electricmonk.nl host (all encrypted of course).

So, say we tell Pidgin that it should connect your MSN account through the Socks5 proxy at localhost:8080 by opening the Accounts (Ctrl-A) → Click MSN account → click ModifyAdvanced tab → Proxy options → Proxy type = SOCKS5 and setting it to Host: localhost, Port: 8080. Now, when we reconnect to our MSN account, all MSN traffic will be routed over an encrypted SSH tunnel to the sharky.electricmonk.nl host, and will enter the public Internet from there.

This works great if you don't trust the network you're currently on, but don't have access to a VPN for instance. You also don't have to specify a single forward for each application/port like you have to do when you use ssh -L. You can use the same SOCKS5 proxied port with multiple applications, as long as they understand SOCKS5.

Hof veroordeelt bedreiger Balkenende tot celstraf

Hof veroordeelt bedreiger Balkenende tot celstraf.

Ik vraag me af waarom deze man wel celstraf krijgt, en iemand als Theo Maassen, die toch ook zo'n beetje heel de wereld al heeft bedreigd met de dood, niet. Lekker kieskeurigheid weer in Nederland. "Straf optreden, zolang we maar geen slechte publiciteit krijgen!". Want het is natuurlijk meer dan duidelijk dat Theo Maassen alleen maar vrijheid van meningsuiting vertoont, maar dat deze man een werkelijk grooootte bedreiging vormt voor Balkenende..

Als het zo door gaat in Nederland met de burgerrechten, dan zou het me niet verbazen, noch spijten, als er eens een paar mensen omgebracht worden. Balkenende moet dood, omdat zijn kapsel me niet bevalt. Zo, eens kijken of ze ook achter mij aankomen; heb gehoord dat het goed vertoeven is in zo'n gevangenis. Gratis eten; beetje tv kijken, en als ze je slecht behandelen, dan zoek je gewoon even de media op. Helemaal top.

Nederland holt achteruit. Nog even, en het is hier net zo gesteld met de burgerrechten als in die fijne U.S. of A.

Dutch government wants to censor the Internet

Dutch minister of Justice, Hirsch Ballin, is being pressured by dutch christian and labour parties to force Dutch ISP's to start censoring the Internet:

A translation of the dutch NU.nl article:

AMSTERDAM – The NOS [Dutch Broadcasting Institute] on friday reports that a majority of the Dutch parlement have demanded that internet providers be forced to block child pornograpy.

Currently, providers have the freedom to cooperate with blocking activities, but they are not required to. The Korps Landelijke Politiediensten [red; Dutch National Police Corps] keeps a list of websites that spread child pornography, which ISPs can use to filter. The UPC cablecompany is the only one currently using the list.

The CDA [red; Christian Democrats], the ChristenUnie and the PvdA [red; labour party] parties have demanded that minister Hirsch Ballin forces ISP to start blockin child pornorgraphy, according to the NOS. The topic has been a long-running point of discussion between Hirsch Ballin and Internet providers.

First off, I'd like to explain that I am NOT AT ALL for child pornography or anything of the sorts. That said, censorship is never the solution to a problem. If you're thinking 'But what about..', NO! Censorship is never, ever the solution to a problem.

Now, who is this blocking of child pornography supposed to help (or stop)? There are only three possible answers: The children, the people trying to get their hands on child pornography or the people who accidentally stumble upon child pornography. Does this solution really help any of these parties? No. Children featured in child pornography are already hurt, so it doesn't help them. Paedophiles looking for child pornography aren't going to be stopped by this blocking. They'll simply use any of the existing routing networks such as Tor, which don't allow blocking, or they'll find some proxy in a foreign country. The only party it might help are people not actively looking for child pornography but who see it by accident. But come on, have you ever encountered child pornography by accident?

A big problem with this kind of blocking is that it is about fighting symptoms instead of causes. We shouldn't be blocking this content; we should be prosecuting the people hosting it and those that are actively looking for it. By blocking child pornography you run the risk of hiding the actual problem. It appears as if something is actively being done about child pornography, but the problem is still there; except now it's hidden from the public's view. And paedophlies? Where will they go for their needs? Underground, perhaps, making them harder to trace? Or will they simply create their own supply, harming even more children in the progress?

Another problem is that once you start censoring, where do you stop? Right now, the Dutch government is planning on blocking child pornography, terrorist sites and sites with content possibly useful to terrorists (bomb-making manuals, etc). Next up? Who knows? Sites presenting views our government doesn't agree on (anti-religion, discriminating sites, right-wing, left-wing)? Where does it stop? As we all should know, when looking at history, it won't stop anywhere. The entry barrier to censoring is high, but after that it's just like dancing: Getting on the dance floor and making the first step is hard, but after that, all bets are off.

And something that hasn't been discussed by our government is: Who monitors the monitors? Right now, there are no plans for actually making anybody accountable for what gets on the censoring list and what doesn't. Smells ripe for abuse to me.

So we're looking at a system that won't actually help anybody. A system which, in fact, will do more harm than it'll do good. A system that's open to abuse and can only lead to an uncontrollable, unmonitored system.

Sounds like another good idea by our government to 'think of the children!!'.

History of the Free Software Movement

Found an interesting read over at O Reilly's website:

The GNU Operating System and the Free Software Movement, by Richard Stallman.