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Right Before Nineteen Eighty-Four

Before 1984

Self-Hosting Your Photos and Reaching Over 5 Million Views (You Don’t Need Facebook/Instagram, Flickr, and Other Social Control Media)

Our wedding (and beyond) album
From our wedding (and beyond) album

OVER a decade ago the mainstream (corporate) media brainwashed people into thinking they needed to hand over their personal photos to surveillance companies. In return, they would get “likes”. Is this a good exchange? No!

Less than a decade ago I set up this album for our wedding. It wasn’t the first as I had already set up a similar album in 2004 (last updated 2005 or more than 17 years ago!).

A few weeks ago our wedding (and beyond) album exceeded 5,000,000 views. We didn’t need anything like Facebook/Instagram or Flickr to share our photos. This site is not self-hosted in the sense that I host it from home (sending large images upstream from a residential copper connection would not work); but at least it’s controlled by us at the domain level. More people should quit social control media (I did completely, only months ago) and invest in their own presence online. Stop renting. Take control. There is no such thing as free hosting. The Net is not a charitable project.

This Domain is Over 18, But the Site is 20

schestowitz.com domain

OVER the past two decades I’ve done a lot of activism, which intensified over time. This Web site was created in 2002, modeled at first or branched off some academic format. I actually copied one of my lecturers’ layout, which was a simple heading, mug, followed by a list of interests. It was hosted in another domain, not this one. Months after I had started my Ph.D. (and having been asked about that other domain) I decided to register my surname in the .com namespace. Since then I’ve posted a lot of stuff here, but a lot more in other sites, which aren’t personal. As I recall it (vaguely), this site started in October 2002 and by 2003 it looked like this already. Not much has changed in that page since. schestowitz.com is generally quite outdated, most of the pages here are from my early 20s, but at least it’s still working and I’m very pleased with my webhost.

Entering Phase Two of Life

It is no secret that I turned 40 just several months ago. I said it openly several times. I’m not ashamed of it. I think I’ve accomplished a lot over the past 20 years (the first 20 were mostly spent growing up and developing educationally).

Back in the old days, well before exceedingly toxic political discourse, wars/conflicts, a serious pandemic and high inflation (or dare we say hyperinflation; it’s almost 20% per annum in Estonia! Even a large economy like The Netherlands saw 12% inflation!) I thought to myself, “when can I retire?”

The decision not to have kids goes a long, long way back. Seeing the direction the world has taken, it was the right decision (for me anyway).

Over the past few years I thought about part timing, as I’ve worked full time for nearly a decade already (maybe a full decade this summer) and I’ve been at the same employer for 11.5 years (milestone coming soon, some time this summer, August 12 being the exact date if I recall correctly).

I still wish to more extensively focus on freedom-fighting activism in the digital realm. It’s a lot more important, not from a “legacy” point of view; it’s just a lot more satisfying and personally rewarding than working for clients. It’s a community effort rather than a corporate objective.

This post isn’t a “Why I Left Sirius” post (or “Leaving the Job To Do Techrights Full Time”); I still need a job, I need to save money, and my wife does too. I’m not resigning. But I might have more free time.

The decisions aren’t only mine. It’s personal. Some I cannot talk about.

But we both made a decision earlier this year; whatever the outcome, we need to focus on our sites, notably Tux Machines (just turned 18) and Techrights (turning 16 this year). Those sites are important for many reasons, to a lot of people. These people want to emancipate themselves from proprietary shackles, not working for proprietary software companies (or with proprietary tools) all day long.

At the same time, professional life has changed somewhat. Back when I joined this company we used OpenLDAP (broadly used, not underused), Jabber (self-hosted) etc. But a lot of our Free software-centric workforce left (yes, brain drain), so now there’s Gulag (Google disservices/spyware), AWS (NSA tandemocracy), Slack (Saleforce ‘surveillance capitalism’), LastPass (outsourcing passwords to untrustworthy parties) and some other proprietary junk. The name of the company is still the same, we generally support Free software, but the tooling isn’t compatible with the mission (like deploying Moodle on Microsoft/Azure, which is proprietary ‘surveillanceware’; Moodle is good, but putting it on Microsoft servers can lead to misuse of pupils’ data). If one wants to spread Free software to loan sharks, surveillance and military outfits (or even criminals like Bill Gates), then fine… good luck with that.

That Bill Gates did this under an NDA (that I did not sign) is strange enough, especially considering the timing. Many mysterious things happened around that time, including corporate bullying. Being an NDA, it’s shrouded in secrecy, leaving one always guessing, at best… about all sorts of hypothetical possibilities… not a suitable working condition for a company that’s open or transparent.

If things worsen in terms of pay, in terms of skills (we think we can see where this is going) we’re advancing not real computer skills but dependence (people can do more than just pick up the phone).

When I joined in early 2011 we had some high-profile people on board, even Debian Developers (back when becoming a DD meant something, nowadays an increasingly political decision and vetting deficiencies give room for state actors). That’s no longer the case.

Meanwhile, my workload associated with personal projects has increased to the point where I can hardly travel (too many activities require physical access inside the home). We still need to renovate the sites (upgrading things in the process), I want to sleep better, I need to become more active in and around IRC, and I wish to produce more articles and videos. I used to aim for a dozen a day, but when working full time it’s just too difficult to maintain that as a daily pace (as opposed to occasional “bursts” or “marathons”).

When I started writing in the non-personal sites, third-party sites, and this site (and in various other sites) I was still a student. Then, I was partly employed. Over the past decade it has been full time work, so a lot of potential (e.g. to write) was not fulfilled. I left social control media almost 5 months ago, freeing up a lot of time. The next stage might be reducing the number of hours per week that I work. Maybe a long overdue change. Maybe not even that… the decision is not purely mine.

Personal autonomy and freedom are connected to self-determination in digital realm, more so over time. Many decisions were made without consulting the staff, the technical people, choosing trends and brands over substance and fake (perceived, shallow) security over real security. I spoke openly and candidly about it. It’s the moral thing to do.

My New Work-From-Home Setup (Changed This Easter/Sunday)

Video download link | md5sum c505208eed2e0bfab27707477560abd2
My New Home Setup
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

THE video above is a new and very quick run-through, showing the changes made over the weekend and why I keep tweaking these things. In a nutshell, if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer, then investing a little time every week or every month optimising it for ever-changing workflows is worth the investment. Adding additional hardware is also more economic if you value time. Machines can be made or configured to automate/simplify many things.

Double-Masked, Double Purpose (or How to Compel Selfish People and COVIDiots to Respect Social Distance)

Video download link | md5sum 2bfa3534610e049b43e2f3576711375b
Masked and Isolated
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

ABOUT a year ago our government compelled people to think there was some magical “freedom day” and COVID-19 was no longer a problem. About 50,000 additional deaths later we can all agree it was a self-serving lie from the ‘ruling class’. They just wanted to “reopen” every business (read: bring workers back to their cages), even when it wasn’t necessary to do so.

After passing a number of oppressive new laws we’re meant to think that it’s almost “back to normal”, sans in insane inflation rates. And sadly, many people out there increasingly view masking as an extreme choice and they don’t even try to curb the spread of the virus despite its widely-known long-term harms. I know this from personal experiences of colleagues.

People who think COVID-19 is “old news” are just as bad as those who insisted it was “fake news”; they’re all COVIDiots. In the video above I explain an approach for keeping such people away. It ain’t pretty, but it sure is effective.

To me, the masks (two of them always) serve a double purpose; more important than the fact they might protect me from droplets (I’m well aware of the limitations and efficacy constraints when others aren’t masked) is the fact that people keep away. Looking a little eccentric leads to that but it also signals to people nearby that you do not want close contact.

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.

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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