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Social Control Media Isn’t Social Because You Don’t Lose Real Friends (or Social Life) Just Because Some Site/Instance/Pod Shuts Down

I will soon make changes to my microblogging routine. Probably some time next month. Here’s the alta vista of it.

“Social Control Media” is a term I coined many years ago; many people, even Wikileaks, have adopted the term since then. When I say “Social Control Media” I don’t limit myself to Twitter and Facebook; it also applies to LinkedIn (Microsoft claiming to ‘own’ your identity), GitHub (Microsoft claiming to ‘own’ your work/code), YouTube (video), and TikTok (crap). More importantly, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out in Techrights, Free software- and freedom-based sites aren’t robust to many of the same issues (volatility, misinformation) and even if they’re self-hosted, decentralised, federated etc. their existence is transient. Some sites or software will cease to be maintained within 5 years or less (in the case of self-hosting, a new version of PHP, for instance, can break the software you self-host).

Static sites with simple files are generally a good idea if you intend to keep your data, not only through the Web but whatever protocols will exist and get popularised in the future. More importantly, never rely on making “connections” online; make them “in real life” as real friends don’t need the Internet to keep in touch. I’ve hardly used the Internet at all to keep in touch with real friends.

Next Friday JoinDiaspora will go offline after more than a decade. When it comes back online it’ll be “read-only”, available temporarily only for users to be able to export their data and move it elsewhere (to another pod). All the connections will be lost, even if posts and comments are going to be preserved, according to the promises from the project’s core team.

Maybe I’ll fondly remember those 3,000+ “followers” I gained in JoinDiaspora.

schestowitz joindiaspora connections

What about the 2,000+ “followers” of Linux (TuxMachines)? I hardly ever knew them.

linux joindiaspora connections

After thinking about it for over a month and having spoken to another person who has posted heavily to JoinDiaspora for over a decade (with many “followers”, too) I am pretty certain I’ll migrate both accounts to another domain, another pod. I’ve not decided which one yet, but it needs to be something that can last and keep alive for at least another decade. As I explained here a few days ago, I’ve already lost more accounts than I can remember. I don’t want to jump from one dying pod to another soon-to-die pod. As for self-hosting, it’s out of the question due to complexity (Diaspora became bloated; I tried installing it almost 8 years ago and it was already very heavy and complicated to manage).

For me, IRC provides a more reliable means of communication and it’s vastly easier — not to mention a lot cheaper — to maintain.

2 Decades Without Windows

“Windows 98 should have been released for free on Jan. 1, 1996 and titled Windows 95.1. If this were Hollywood, then Windows 98 would be the equivalent of ‘Heaven’s Gate’, ‘Waterworld’ and ‘Godzilla’ rolled into one. A huge, overhyped, bloated, embarrassment.”

Jesse Berst, ZDNet editor

MY GENERATION (I’m 37) grew up on DOS. Not necessarily Microsoft DOS, either. Just DOS. As a kid I used to work from the command line. We, as kids, taught one another new tricks; sometimes an adult would visit to teach us things and copy some programs for us (floppy disks with compressed archives). Various utilities like RAR were useful. Sometimes an infection (malicious program) needed to be removed. That was before the days of Windows 3.x — the days we used ncurses-type interfaces to type documents and send these to printers. Later on I did some programming with batch files and at around age 15 I started with Pascal (quite popular at the time owing to simplicity and relative elegance).

I mostly missed the BBS generation (some friends of mine used it; they’d copy for us files they got from there). When bulletin board systems were still popular many computers did not even have modems (few of my classmates had them, usually because of lack of a technical parent, and only one of them was a GNU/Linux user in the mid/late nineties). I think I got my first modem when I was 14 and IRC was probably the first thing I used “on-line”. After Windows 95, which many people used at that time, I bought my last Windows laptop. Actually, my father bought it. He used it and then passed it to me. It had only 32 MB of RAM and Windows 98. I carried it around and used it in university as an undergraduate student (at the faculty I used GNU/Linux at the time). It retired years later and I’ve not bothered with Windows since then. I wrote a great deal about it in USENET at the time. Memories from these days are mostly gone by now; I barely ever touch Windows and when I do it’s over Remote Desktop, typically to access a client’s network, e.g. to run PuTTY from a remote system. That happens about once a month (patching Debian GNU/Linux servers).

Was Windows 98 a decent operating system? No, it was unreliable, but at least it ran on modest hardware without much RAM. I ran Firefox on it, with a total system capacity of something from the mid-nineties (~400MegaHertZ CPU, 32 MB of RAM). That was before Microsoft added back doors to Windows (this was reportedly done in 1999), before the bloat of NT and before DRM (Vista).

With 3 weeks left before the end of this year (and this decade) I remember not so fondly the 90s, back when I used Windows. In 2000 I moved to GNU/Linux, helped by a Finnish friend, an exchange student at the university. In a sense, next year I become a 20-year GNU/Linux user.

I Never Had a Machine With More Than 2GB of RAM. But Phoronix Portrays GNU/Linux as Sucking on Memory Management.

The main problem is bloated software, not Linux

LAST night I saw a somewhat ‘trollish’ bunch of reports. I saw Slashdot [1], linking to Phoronix [2] with a grammatical mistake in the headline (“Yes, Linux Does Bad In Low RAM / Memory Pressure Situations On The Desktop”).

Let me first clarify that I’m no kernel guru. Far from it. I’m a programmer, but not an OS programmer or kernel developer.

“Is this accurate?”

That’s what I asked people who may know better. They know kernel developers (and development) better than me.

“Is it true or is Phoronix taking the piss?”

I saw comments on it (almost 100 in Phoronix and 400 in Slashdot), but they’re short and vague. How is Linux doing compared to other OSes?

“ZSWAP makes a huge difference (RAM compression),” one person told me. “GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="zswap.enabled=1 zswap.compressor=lz4 zswap.zpool=z3fold"

“Windows 10 & MacOS & Ubuntu have RAM compression on by default,” he added.

“I’m not sure exactly what they have,” he continued, “but I remember reading about it before. RAM compression isn’t new at all. But it is relatively new (few years) to be on by default.”

Linux kernel space is typically ahead of the curve (compared to the competition); Con Kolivas comes to mind when it comes to claims that it’s optimised for servers but not for desktops (the scheduler, not RAM/swap management).

To check compression status on one’s system:

grep -R . /sys/module/zswap/parameters;sudo dmesg|grep zswap; sudo grep -R . /sys/kernel/debug/zswap;f;sudo sh -c 'cd /sys/kernel/debug/zswap;perl -E "say $(cat stored_pages) * 4096 / $(cat pool_total_size)"' # to check if loaded ; used ; ZswapCompressionRatio

How can one argue that GNU/Linux does worse than counterparts? Slashdot promoted this story with about 400 comments and Phoronix even has a grammatical mistake in its headline (Slashdot corrected it, Michael of Phoronix has not.) It’s an eyesore in a sense; both the message and the English. The headline also states that as fact even though it’s to be attributed to just one developer, Artem S Tashkinov. To an outsider (to kernel development) it may smack of clickbait. It’s stigmatising “Linux” as not successful on “desktop” because of “technical” “issues” (not OEM bribes, ISVs etc.), but if it’s based on purely factual bits, then let it be, I’m fine with it.

My gut feeling was, there’s likely more to the story; can Apple and Microsoft handle compression of RAM for instance? If so, how well? I don’t know people running Apple-branded systems and PCs with Windows on just 2 gigabytes of RAM (which is the most I ever had on any of my systems; same with my wife, who is a GNU/Linux user).

Another person, who is proficient at kernel matters, told me: “I have caused Linux to stall in swap hell many times and there are long list of particular causes of it. facebook made oomd to attempt to deal with it in userspace.”

The first person weighed in again: “they should compare to other distros, and to MacOS/Windows. But the complaint is valid, IMO: that Linux (defaults) *should* be ‘smarter’ when OOM; check what is your vm.vfs_cache_pressure. $ cat /proc/sys/vm/vfs_cache_pressure [...] I have mine set to 50, because this article makes sense to. (but I’m not sure what default is nowadays?)”

A third person wrote: “my Orange Pi with 2 GB of RAM running everything mainline is my main desktop, which runs generally fine with a swapfile of also 2 GB…”

That was in the #techrights IRC channel this morning.

The person added, “the bigger question for me is why applications these days are so heavy and slow…”

That last point is what I too have raised many times before. GNU/Linux is handling reasonably well a complete system with 2GB of RAM (or less). Super-bloated applications is where things start getting trickier.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Linux Performs Poorly In Low RAM / Memory Pressure Situations On The Desktop

    It’s been a gripe for many running Linux on low RAM systems especially is that when the Linux desktop is under memory pressure the performance can be quite brutal with the system barely being responsive. The discussion over that behavior has been reignited this week.

  2. Yes, Linux Does Bad In Low RAM / Memory Pressure Situations On The Desktop

    It’s been a gripe for many running Linux on low RAM systems especially is that when the Linux desktop is under memory pressure the performance can be quite brutal with the system barely being responsive. The discussion over that behavior has been reignited this week.

    Developer Artem S Tashkinov took to the kernel mailing list over the weekend to express his frustration with the kernel’s inability to handle low memory pressure in a graceful manner. If booting a system with just 4GB of RAM available, disabling SWAP to accelerate the impact/behavior, and launching a web browser and opening new web pages / tabs can in a matter of minutes bring the system down to its knees.

Linux.com is Nowadays Too Much Microsoft Propaganda and Openwashing

This is what the site looks like this morning

Linux.com

Welcome to Linux.com!

Microsoft… is “OPEN SOURCE”!

Sadly, this has become far too common in that site under its new (and sole) editor. Whose interests are served now? Linux Foundation sponsors.

The Linux Foundation Killed Linux.com After Two Decades of News Service

Linux.com

Remember NewsForge? Or Geeknet? Yes, once upon a time Linux.com was a site for geeks; under the Linux Foundation’s ownership it gradually became a site for large corporations, where they could buy puff pieces and interviews (agreed upon in advance, as covered in Techrights). But among those puff pieces and ads one could at least find some journalism.

I’m sad to see, 2 months down the line, that Linux.com is practically dead. Nothing new is being added to it. It’s now a fossil. Eternally? The Foundation has said not a single word about it. So much for openness and transparency, eh?

Argos Uses GNU/Linux, Windows Leads Only to Malware

200px-Argos.svg

ARGOS, the British retailer which according to Wikipedia employs over 50,000 people, seems to have moved many of its well-integrated systems (online and in-store) to a new platform not too long ago. We’re frequent customers, so sometimes we see downtimes and issues which reveal details about the back end. There is something we can report today.

Yesterday at Argos there was a malfunction at the terminal (thin client with IBM touchscreens as the only user-facing part) and it uses GNU/Linux, as one can easily tell. Argos seems to be using Fedora (an old version likely) based on the window decorations, probably with GNOME/GTK. For 50,000+ staff plus millions of customers that would be a lot terminals running GNU/Linux.

Argos recently changed the terminal systems/front end (not to my liking, as I liked the old interface better). The crash yesterday resulted in an error message showing Opera (proprietary Web browser), so presumably that is what they are using on top of GNU/Linux. Odd choice of browser, but that’s what they want….

Last year we reported that another British giant, Ryman (smaller than Argos, but still a highstreet chain), had moved to GNU/Linux. They told me that had dumped it due to Windows malware.

Incidentally, a friend who goes by the name iophk (for anonymity), shared this link with me yesterday. “Windows should not be on PoS or anything else mission-critical,” iophk wrote. Well, based on Ryman and Argos turning to GNU/Linux, many large stores gradually learn this. My current employer moved Specsavers (British giant) to Free software in the server room a long time ago, about a decade ago.

How to Block Facebook and Stop the Most Creepy Type of Spying

Facebook is facing a massive class action lawsuit in Europe right now. Facebook is indeed very unique when it comes to mass surveillance because the intrusive spying (data collected) is being shared among private companies. Facebook is a malicious network which spies on everyone, not only people who are registered with Facebook, and then sells this data to various different companies; it does not only share it with government spies. In order to protect oneself from Facebook’s wide-reaching privacy-infringing data-sharing (e.g. sharing of one’s browsing history and ID with advertising giants and even worse vultures) one must block all Facebook domains and IP addresses. In Debian/Ubuntu systems this can be achieved in the following way:


$ host www.facebook.com
$ whois -h whois.radb.net 31.13.91.2  | awk '$1=="origin:" { print $2 }'
$ whois -h whois.radb.net '!gAS32934' | tr ' ' '\n' > /tmp/fb
$ sort -n -k1,1 -k2,2 -k3,3 -k4,4 /tmp/fb > /tmp/fb2
$ for net in $(grep '^[[:digit:]]' /tmp/fb2); do sudo ufw --dry-run \
  reject out to $net;done

Or modify for direct use of iptables on OpenWRT.

Remove --dry-run to make it work on systems that use UFW. For plain iptables, one needs to use a different line but then need some additional tricks unique to each distro to make the settings persistent across reboots.

“I put up something a while back on HowToForge about this,” said the source of the above script/comamnds, “but it always needs new coverage. I usually do the same for Microsoft networks, too.

“People with decent router hardware but still with stock firmware should be nudged to OpenWRT.”

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