A dev newsletter

Lockdown, Free Software and the time we have left

(Illustration from absurd.design)

Last month I was quieter here. I basically only updated the status of my projects. The two reasons for that is the Machine Learning course I’m doing and work-related issues. Also to add on top of everything, the Irish government extended the Lockdown. I see stickers on the walls stating people are feeling unhealthy due to this. I have to include myself here. Especially given that we didn’t really meet people during the holidays (which was allowed).

The current restrictions will continue until 5 of April. In theory, after that period people will be able to move in their own county freely and some shops will reopen. Outdoor dinner is also going to re-open. Including wet pubs that are closed almost since March of last year. So in theory we have only one more month of very restricting Lockdown.

I’ve also thought a lot about how I’m spending my time. You can see that in the “Digital Garden” section below. I love to write software, but I believe I’m tired of writing proprietary software and I would be happier writing open-source or libre software.

Anyway, you have reached the end of my monthly rant. Below are the articles I liked the most this month and some updates on my personal projects.

Personal Updates

Digital Garden

Here are some topics I spend thinking during the month, if you have anything to add I would love to hear! Email me at garden[AT]elias.sh.

Projects

Read

Watched

Playing

Articles / Links

Maybe We Can Have Nice Things

Programming languages advance by introducing new constraints. A key reason we don’t use assembly language for everything is that the lack of constraints make it too hard to use for everyday programming. Before goto was considered harmful, people wrote machine code that jumped all over the place, and programmers had to maintain a mental model of the complete machine state and the full implications of each jump — a recipe for bugs.

Singular Plural

This dream expressed distinct and sometimes directly competing desires. It was built on wartime sciences of command and control, yet it also contained a communalizing impulse. On the early internet, everything was open source. Open standards prevailed over proprietary ones. Then, after the end of the Cold War, the US government gave the internet to the private sector. The paradox followed that as the internet became truly commonplace, widely popularized, it gradually lost its openness: it became a set of walled gardens, dominated by the so-called platforms. The mediation of billions of lives through infrastructures owned by a handful of companies has not made us more free, even when their services are.

Tech trustbusting’s moment has arrived

With digital and physical tech, network effects drive high switching costs, but when it comes to digital, network effects are a double-edged sword.

With interoperability, a walled garden can easily become a feed-lot, where customers for a new service are neatly arrayed for competitors to come and harvest.

Defund Big Tech, Refund Community

We write at a critical historical juncture. The global Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the vital role that digital technologies play in so many peoples’ lives. This has contributed directly to Big Tech’s burgeoning fortunes while the rest of the economy is experiencing the worst crisis since the Great Depression. These growing wealth and informational disparities have sharpened recent calls by government and civil society to break up Big Tech’s monopolistic market power.

[…]

The origin myth of Big Tech is familiar to most of us: Risk-seeking genius entrepreneurs start from nothing and pursue a novel idea, from creation through commercialization and production to scale. According to the logic of this myth, the venture capitalists who, against all odds, followed their ground-breaking vision should reap the rewards: they created the value that fuels the revenue. But, as we explain below, very little of this familiar narrative is true. Its endless retelling only detracts from our ability to see both the challenges and opportunities that new communication technologies present.

Specter in the Machine

Nettime’s name was chosen as an alternative to “cyberspace,” the dominant metaphor for understanding the internet in the ’90s. “Cyberspace” renders the internet in spatial terms, and evokes images of highways, libraries, webs, clouds, and shopping malls. All of these tend to naturalize concepts like scarcity and enclosure, which in turn lend themselves to the possibilities of exclusive ownership, exploitation, debt, or rent.

Playbit is a computing environment which encourages playful learning, building & sharing of software.