Some musings on a simple, private cloud

Yesterday Google announced they were killing Reader, which has caused wailing, gnashing of teeth, general internet meltdown, and it trended on Twitter longer and harder than the new pope. supernaut has been around for longer than all three (previous pope included) and will probably outlive the remaining two, which has given me a little to think about as I simultaneously bash the command line in search of data anti-impermanence.

Despite my current roll of 300-something feeds, which I use to stay barely coherent on everything from astronomy to China, theatre, black metal, and porn, I’m not especially sad about the demise of Reader, as there was a time – pre-multi-device syncing – when it was unnecessary, and I hope the coming weeks will make that so again; monoculture leads to ecosystem collapse and so on. What it does denote is the precariousness of the current state of how anyone who engages with platforms that hold our data, and the urgent need for some non–open-source / GitHub mentality alternatives.

And considering I do the majority of my work in or around open-source and things that live on GitHub and other similar platforms, I can say that unless I am more useless than I can possibly imagine, the state of things is diabolical.

Some years ago, when my first webhost screwed up my domain registration and lost, I moved (thanks to Emile) to DreamHost, where I’ve been signing up others ever since. As far as cheap, reliable, ethical webhosting goes, I think they’re about as good as it gets – yes, even with the occasional downtime and other problems; I think they take what they do seriously enough that things would have to go very wrong for me to decide to move.

Late last year they began to offer DreamObjects, which is “an inexpensive, scalable, reliable object storage service for web and app developers and tech-savvy individuals” – basically whopping great amounts of secure hard drive – which I thought, “Ooo, I could back up my entire laptop to that! … if it were a bit cheaper …” which they duly are doing, and at 2¢ a gig, it works out to under 10,-€ a month for my 500 gig hard drive, so it becomes something of a no-brainer in terms of, ‘Yes, this is affordable”.

Affordable but conditional clause = ‘tech-savvy’. And now we return to the open-source mentality. I’m not especially tech literate. I couldn’t write a bash script from scratch to save my life, but I can scrape things together from various similar examples and usually my “repeat until unbroken” approach works, combined with trawling stackoverflow for error message solutions. So I approached DreamObjects with some fairly specific ideas of how I wanted to use it, and was prepared for a degree of gargling the command line.

Oh dear, did I gag.

Anyone who knows me, who has a Mac has been pestered to do their backups (anyone using Linux by definition has already done this, and Windows users can sod off), and over the years I’ve tried everything, all manner of syncing, local and remote backups, encrypted sparse disc images, rsync from the command line via SSH, TimeMachine and SuperDuper! and more that I’ve forgotten. I’ve also attempted various “in the cloud” services, which I’ve avoided for three reasons:

First, the pricing is not commensurate with the real costs of storage (effectively free); second, I don’t trust my data with anyone – I like privacy and I’m determined to stick with it as a human right; third, as evinced by Google Reeder, these things tend to die. Let’s forget for the moment the fourth: uploading 500gb of data and syncing it requires a certain monomanical effort.

So, DreamObjects meets the first, and conditionally the third (they’ve been around longer than I’ve been on the internet), and for the critical second … they’ve been good so far.

And off I go into the land of “backing up your life to the cloud”. Thus far I’ve tried boto_rsync, boto, s3cmd, Duplicity, Duplicati, GoodSync, xTwin, DragonDisk, Cyberduck, ownCloud… and currently (unsatisfiedly) settled on s3cmd. Most of these are command line tools which require building and installing and a degree of ‘tech-savvy’ that is way beyond the average person; others are proper apps but don’t make it easy (this is also to say most are designed for Amazon S3, so using them for DreamObjects is a bit of a hack), don’t allow for easy exclusion of files and folders, or are otherwise generally problematic, opaque, unintuitive, or just ugly.

Maybe to say that for most people I know on a Mac, TimeMachine is about as complex as they can handle or want to handle, and so backing up remotely needs to add at most one more straightforward step to this.

And this is the problem: none of what I tried is remotely simple, even if it was intended for S3 and I was hacking it to work on DreamObjects, the amount of suffering would cause most people to give up; the complexity of owning your own data in all instances from Reeder to backing up to FaceBook and Twitter is directly responsible for driving people to use free platforms where everything – security, privacy, longevity – is secondary to advertisers.

I looked at ownCloud also, which is close to my idea of a self-owned private cloud, and even that requires messing around with php and really, the whole rhetoric of self-controlled data in the cloud is just one giant elitist, chauvinist wank unless my (dead) Turkish grandmother can do it herself, without feeling confused or stupid.

Admittedly with DreamObjects it was also a test for me to see how possible all this is, because I’d like to be able to tell my friends, “hey, you can back up your laptop remotely for under 10 euros a month!”, so I have spent an obsessive amount of time messing around, and apps like xTwin come the closest to what I think is desirable, however what is crucial is that there isn’t a simple way to have remote backups that aren’t bound to some company like Amazon – or a simple way to manage RSS feeds that isn’t bound to Google Reader.

Given than cloud storage is so cheap now, having this as a ‘part’ of my or anyone’s computer is going becoming normal – it’s about where mobile phones were in 1998 – and I think some imagination is necessary to prevent a situation where this part of me is owned by a corporation with a specific agenda to make money off me, my data, and my privacy.

Using the cloud should be transparent; backing up to it as simple as clicking an icon – or setting once and then it’s automatic; my public presence, be it on the equivalent of Twitter,  FaceBook, G+, Reader, should be owned and controlled by me; that is to say while the interface of these networks might be public in the way these are now, my data remains with me, and is owned by me and I am not a saleable commodity of a corporation.

Or perhaps to put it another way, if we are ever going to have true personal and private clouds and social networks, we need the demise of Reader and we need open source and other developers to make simple software that isn’t bound to these monoculture platforms.

(s3cmd just crashed, and I feel like throwing a few hours at ownCloud…)

Liu Xiaobo 刘晓波

Congratulations to Liu Xiaobo for being awarded the Nobel Peace prize.

I’ve been keeping up with my reading on this and him on Twitter @francesdath. Here are some of the pieces from the last day or so. Also #liuxiaobo #Nobel.

Reading: I Have No Enemies – By Liu Xiaobo | Foreign Policy… #liuxiaobo

Reading: Global Voices in English » China: Where Wen Jiabao’s political reforms should begin

Reading: Liu Xiaobo Wins Nobel Peace Prize: Early Reactions on Twitter #liuxiaobo

Reading: Global Voices in English » China: Nobel Peace Prize Winner – Liu Xiaobo #liuxiaobo

Reading: On being careful what you wish for……/ #liuxiaobo

Reading: Ran Yunfei: Congratulations to the Freedom Fighter Liu Xiaobo | China Digital Times (CDT)… #liuxiaobo

techno…blah…ti, or the meaninglessness of social networks

A while ago, I ditched a slew of social networking vampires that had ceased to have any relevance to me. Now there is only Technorati remaining, and considering its uselessness I’m fairly sure it’s on the way out too. I like the concept of social networking, and think for a while, up until say earlier this year, the idea was working or at least was throwing up some interesting practical usage on the internet, but like everything, it got subsumed into spam, and the infernal noise of vapid negative-content that seems to overwhelm every good idea.

So, displeasure with Technorati, failure to update when it gets pinged, missing posts, missing links, not listing tagged posts under their tags, tags full of endless volumes of blog-spamorama. Do I use it to search? Only if I’m bored. Against all the MySpace bullshit (and don’t expect me to link to you if that is what constitutes your ‘web presence’), and other assorted blah-i-ness of the increasingly unusable internet, I’ve noticed, for want of a better term, flow of information has an approximate bullshit content equal say, “Great Wall visible from moon“, or “Castrated Imperial eunuch discovered Rhode Island in 1421“.

Mostly stuff comes to me from emails, mailing lists, news feeds (of which I am a preternatural whore for), following links from these, and very infrequently from dry searching, which I suspect from the outset won’t turn up much useful stuff.

So in all of this, when the relevance of Technorati to me is minimal, and its utility to anyone reading this about the same, why am I bothering? Oh, probably laziness, caused by a certain degree of redundancy in that categories already do the job within my blog, and the Technorati Tags were meant to, I guess, like … connect me to the universe … dude …

A possible solution, that would require effort from me would be to recode (:ack: :cough:) the tags so they search supernaut. This would mean I’d have to be a bit more, I dunno, thoughtful in my choice of tags, and I’d hate to dig myself a hole where I felt obliged to go back over almost a thousand entries and keyword them all proper, like. Another solution is to just delete them altogether – quicker than the time it took to expectorate this mess.

Anyway, decision probably by Sunday, and I’m thinking about opening comments back up, though considering I closed them over two years ago, hacked all the code out of Movable Type’s templates, deleted the offending cgi scripts, torched a few churches and sacrificed goats and a lamb for good measure, I dunno how easy it it to extricate myself from this particular situation.

… edit …

A sweaty evening of recoding and I think it works, but y’know, maybe I see something that works and everyone else sees blllarrrrgh! Actually it’s probably the most ill-conceived few lines of code I’ve butchered since the bad days of Flash 5, but wtf? screw you and your standards compliant escaped ampersands. (Funnily enough, I did escape it. Who’da thot?) … (oops, “alt” should be “title”)

my $keywords = "<$MTEntryKeywords$>";

if ($keywords eq "") {

print '<br />No Keywords for this post.';

} else {

my @split_keywords = split(/,/, $keywords);
my $split_keyword;
print '<br /><a href="<$MTCGIPath$><$MTSearchScript$>" title="search supernaut">Search Keywords:</a> ';
foreach $split_keyword (@split_keywords) {
print ' - <a href="<$MTCGIPath$><$MTSearchScript$>?IncludeBlogs=<$MTBlogID$>&search='.$split_keyword.'">'.$split_keyword.'</a> ';

</MTPerlScript><br />

yeah, that’s what i think too

MySpace. What a desolate crevasse of meaninglessness, fake pseudo-friends, lowest-common-denominators in every realm of human imagination and obscenely poor coding. This whole Social Networking thing just holds no appeal to me, and even having Technorati Tags at the bottom of every post is stretching my tolerance.

I like being here. I purposely and intentionally did not have a LiveJournal or other web-based blog, I don’t hot-link images, nor suck down YouTube’s bandwidth, and if an issue is important enough for me to blog about, I’ll quote the article here in full. Why? Because it’s important to me that the only person who determines the content of my blog, and whether a post and its contents remain or are deleted is me.

Oh, and by the way…

The next person to ask me ‘Say, do you have a MySpace account?’ will receive an anthrax love letter from me.

Once and for all: Never ever will I join a News Corp. / Fox Interactive Media owned “socialising” site with corrupt policies and I honestly don’t understand how so many of you (yes, you!) obviously don’t seem to bother about this.

Also, I clearly don’t give a rotten rat’s ass about how great it is for “networking”. I don’t need networks to feel like a more important person.

So if you don’t mind, I’d quite like to stay here in my own little corner of the world wide web.

Wurzeltod is my space, and I don’t need any place else.

Thanks everyone for shutting up about it now.


¹ Starring:

• The Maquis guerrilla
• The Italian resistenza
• The fearless protestors of Prague Spring
Augusto César Sandino’s captured flag
• The Belarusian résistance
• and… uhmm… the Animal Liberation Front

— Suzanne G. – Giving Taste A Bad Name Since Kindergarten


what i read today

For a while I kept a del.ic.ious account (last updated almost two months ago). I also used to have one at Flickr, and various other ‘social networking’ / web2.0 paraphernalia, including Technorati. Everything but del.ic.ious got brushed off because I do enough photos/linking/reblogging/link-whoring here, and del.ic.ious, well I’d upload links, but never use it as any kind of reference resource which is one of the several main reasons for me blogging in the first place. I remain listed on Techorati and China Blog List though and still have an almost pornographic attraction to a good directory.

Amidst all the interweaving and self-referentialality spawned since blogistan, some of which I have in a small way taken part in, I have become jaded and pessimistic about what mostly amounts to electronic noise. The question is not how large a presence I or anyone has through using the plethora of social networking sites, but fundamentally what does it add to a conversation? And what is the value of information if it is all instantly available and lives and dies in a storm of /.-ing

Yesterday while doing some research for Temperance, I fell into a wiki-hole from the Boredoms to Butthole Surfers, Minor Threat, Straight Edge. In the pre-internet days when I was a homeless punk/goth living in squats in Wellington and Auckland all this kind of knowledge was passed on by word-of-mouth, through photocopied zines, semi-legal underground bookshops and strange, obscure lines of communication.

It was the joy of finding something on my own, picking up a static-ridden radio station playing The Stooges when I was twelve, being handed a battered hardback of William Burroughs’ Cities of the Red Night, discovering the world by myself, following these cryptic and indeterminate threads wherever they might lead; not passively consuming the coercive barrage of media junk. As much as I get turned on by knowledge, it’s the searching that still really does it for me, and I love little more than getting diverted for days or months or longer from some footnote or casual remark.

Earlier this year in Guangzhou after a number of months fruitless searching for Ming and Qin Dynasty erotic drawings and being told they didn’t exist, by asking the right question I finally found 春宫图 Chungongtu. And a whole world opened up. It is the same feeling, the same alive giddiness.

I wanted to say it is philosophy, as in the love of knowledge or wisdom, but it’s not. I’m not searching for an exegetic or ontological starting-point, it’s not some rationalist attempt to explain the world soaked in millennia of western theological humbug. I don’t particularly care if my obsessions today are Leibniz, and the plague in Southern China, were Jean Baudrillard, and might be anything equally amenable to obsession tomorrow.

What I read today was initially just that, the several blog posts, articles, things that make it out from my NetNewsWire feeds and get opened for full reading in my browser. But I got a little side-tracked in my explanation of why I was planning on posting the links here instead of on del.ic.ious or elsewhere, and seem to be eulogising the internet’s subjugation by that same media junk I have spent my life evading.

I am not lamenting a pre-internet world, because I am under no illusions that pre-1998 in many ways was the dark ages. I am an unashamed proponent of the good a networked world can bring to individuals and communities. From using mobile phones and sms to notify the outside world of governmental attacks during the Taishi Village elections to support websites for transsexuals like TS Road Map, for those of us lucky enough to be connected we live in a far better world.

On fornication and genetics in the Breedster age

Fifty-two days ago an invitation to join Breedster , and became a community founder – one of the perks of compulsively subscribing to any site that says ‘join our mailing list’. Since then I’ve had 58 partners, 26 children (mostly dead now) and then April 21 happened, the year zero of the grid.

The net-art terrorists behind breedster released a ‘Zero Content Symposium’ today, On Fornication and Genetics in the Breedster Age, which brings the whole thing together in a bunch of pretty pictures, so we can finally see what we’ve gotten ourselves involved in, and what we’ve become.

This symposion is the retroactive manifesto of Breedster’s enterprise: it untangles theories, tactics and dissimulations to establish the desires of Breedster’s collective unconscious as realities in the Grid.

How to write a manifesto in an age disgusted with them? The fatal weakness of manifestos is their inherent lack of evidence. Breedster’s problem is the opposite: it is a mountain range of evidence without manifesto.

In terms of structure, this symposion is a simulacrum of Breedster’s Grid: a collection of blocks whose proximity and juxtaposition reinforce their separate meanings.

Breedster is a theatre of progress. Its protagonists are the “exterminating principles which, with constantly augmenting force, would never cease to act.” Its plot is: barbarism giving way to refinement.

From these givens, its future can be extrapolated forever: since the exterminating principles never cease to act, it follows that what is refinement one moment will be barbarism the next.

Therefore, the performance can never end or even progress in the conventional sense of dramatic plotting; it can only be the cyclic restatement of a single theme: creation and destruction irrevocably interlocked, endlessly reenacted. The only suspense in the spectacle comes from the constantly escalating intensity of the performance.

Topics include The copulogram as a means of visualising the social network: We are not our maps, The toroidal universe: New data, new debate, Meaningfulness and motivation: Microcommunities and mobs, Paranoia, hubris and hatred in the post 4/21 era, New ~insights in the epidemic potential of pathogenic causative agents in heterogeous communities through outbreak investigation by fluorescence spectroscopy, and well worth a look in understanding how it all came together, Questions and Answers, Adjourn



I received an email a few days ago from the click-happy folks at Drunk men work here: Breedster – Fresh Zero Content For Compulsive Clickers.

I have since spent my days as a bright red six-legged insect eating green stuff, shitting red (!) stuff and fornicating with as many as possible of the 575 (and rising) other insects across 11664 tiles of the donut-shaped grid. In 5 days I’ve had 13 partners and 6 children, including my favourite -CoW- Kick de Bom, who is truely the daughter of my heart. Memorable partners include Alison, and queeg, the transgender insect who has fast become a favourite on the grid. I don’t know where it’s all leading – maybe just to tendonitis from clicking too much.

My profile is here: