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10+ Years in the Same Company, Focusing on Free Software

Roy Schestowitz

DECADES ago somebody told me that changing employers very often is a sign of weakness. Several times later I’d hear the same thing, which follows common sense. Loyalty to an employer or devotion to some particular path shows both a careful choice (of employer) and persistence rather than adventurism. The same goes for housing or residency. Some people move from place to place very often, having to relearn locations of things, spending a lot of time on paperwork, having to meet new people (and losing touch with old friends and colleagues).

When it comes to my current employer, this past week marked 10 years of me working there. There were better times and worse time, both for myself and for the employer.

For the first time in my life I can say that I’ve worked in the same company for over a decade. For just over a year (or about 2 years) I’ve been able to say that I’m the most “senior” (in terms of duration) regular employee there, sans the founder/CEO, who established the company way back in 1998. In a sense, this also means that when I joined the company (with about 20 people in it back then) I was the “latest recruit” and all those people whom I joined are now gone, except the CEO. It’s an interesting situation to be in.

Will I work another 10 years in the same company? It’s hard to tell. The thing I do like about it is that it respects my freedom of expression (it tells off Microsoft when they try to cause issues by phoning the CEO!) and software freedom in general. I realise that many people are forced to use Windows, at least sometimes, and not everyone is permitted to work from home all the time. I’ve worked from home for 14 years now.

COVID May Have Caused (or Helped) the UK Home Office and Manchester Town Hall to Violate Basic Laws or Fundamental Human Rights

The Manchester experience, going ‘online’ for ‘apps’ (so-called ‘self-service’) because who need services anyway?

Manchester Town Hall
With “mom” at Manchester Town Hall

FIRST time? My bad. Second? Your fault. Unlike the old saying, “fool me once, shame on you…” (twice… me)

What’s all this commotion about? Is it about privacy? Accessibility? Adherence to law? Or all the above?

Right about now many rules and laws are flouted and violated. In the name of “emergency”… a public health crisis. Perfect justification?

Courts have apparently decided that the equivalent of a telephone call is “trial”; governments are waging an accelerated war on cash, as well. I often wonder if here in Britain we changed the coins (rendering old ones worthless and obsolete) to artificially reduce the money supply; it would be helpful to know how many “old coins” there are compared to “new ones”. The thinking is, maybe they try to impose financial surveillance by “going digital” with scarcity of physical money added to the mix… or removed from circulation.

What’s wrong with digital payments? Apparently a lot of people don’t know or never really thought about it, even in this age of so-called ‘surveillance capitalism’ and mass surveillance without warrant, let alone suspicion or probable cause.

Many who reject digital payments (or “smart” or “touchless” or whatever buzzwords they make up next year) are being framed/painted and sometimes ridiculed as Luddites. That’s kind of funny considering the fact that it’s usually the most technical people who reject technology in payments (so-called ‘novelty’ like “swiping cards” that are little but a piece of plastic with a primitive, cheap chip glued to them). All that insecure chipping and pinning is hardly novel; it’s decades-old ‘technology’ (same for so-called ‘smart’ meters and ‘self-service’ checkout; it could be done decades ago, including the touchscreens, in effect an erosion of customer services or outsourcing of the work to customers).

In reality, it’s the ‘non-techs’ who swallow it all, thinking they’ll seem “techy” for swiping and paying $2,000 for a so-called ‘phone’, compensating for their lack of understanding of where all that data goes and how it’s (mis)used.

The deterioration of our lives is now driven by technology; we were promised technology would make things easier (like doing our laundry, shortening the working days/hours etc.) but in practice people work harder and for longer hours than ever before. People are even being contacted by their bosses well outside working hours. Is this progress?

This brings me to the latest rant. On December 10th 2020 my wife and I went to Manchester Town Hall (temporarily housed partially in Heron House across the road, below GCHQ, as he main building undergoes renovation/overhaul). We went to their office, as explained in the official site, at the specified time with all the documents and a laptop (as required for communication and exchange of details), only to be told the service is not available due to COVID but can instead be done at the Post Office.

Alright then…

So we went to the Post Office, only to be told they don’t do any of that and at least two people had been similarly misdirected earlier in the same day!

What on Earth is going on? ‘Ping-pong’ with people?

So we went back to Town Hall, only to face a different person, who barely even apologised for the misdirection and used “COVID” as a catch-all excuse, instead suggesting contacting the Home Office or urging us to use some Android “app” (which is out of the question).

What if we were disabled or blind? What about options that are paper-based?

This is a terrible regression which actually predates (in part) the pandemic. An “app-only” government would be a travesty for many reasons; like rendering you a non-citizen for refusing to carry around a so-called ‘phone’ that tracks your movement more closely than RFID.

Is COVID a valid excuse here? Hardly. Because apparently, according to information we received from a representative at the Town Hall, this has gone on since March and there’s no projected date or resumption. According to our solicitor, the whole “app” thing was already pushed well before March. They literally want people to take selfies of themselves and then send that to the Home Office, then send sensitive documents over ‘phones’ with back doors.

This isn’t the future; this is not “innovation” but degradation of services spun as “smart” and convenient.

Nothing is as convenient as an informed person interacting with you, dealing with the papers for you, checking the authenticity and ensuring everything is done properly right there on the spot.

I am not a lawyer, I don’t know the pertinent laws and sections, but I know enough to say that the government cannot demand people do those sorts of things with “apps” or digital devices. There must be a fallback. Leaving people ‘hanging’ for almost a year citing “health and safety” cannot be excused because of the COVID-19 pandemic; for several months during summer people could go to pubs and restaurants, so surely Town Hall could facilitate face-to-face (with masks on) meetings.

I will carry on chasing Town Hall next year and will report again.

Three Quarter of a Million Tweets

750k tweets

MY decade at Twitter was last year. I joined it after I had posted a bunch of stuff in identi.ca, then decided to post copies in Twitter. 750k tweets later identi.ca is almost defunct and I primarily post in Pleroma and JoinDiaspora. Does that mean that I completely ignore Twitter? Not just yet. I check replies I receive there about once a day.

Twitter isn’t a good site, but sadly that’s where many people still are…

‘Collateral Damage’ of Aggressive Private Investigators

LONG ago, perhaps as far back as 13 years ago (depending on what key event is evaluated to be a key catalyst), something profoundly disturbing happened in Manchester. I became aware of it because the victim himself told me about it. I spent perhaps 50 hours of my life hearing about it. But I never wrote about it. Never. The matter is confidential as there are court proceedings regarding the situation. Millions of pounds are at stake (in compensation). The defendant (offender) has already spent nearly 200,000 pounds in legal fees.

Yesterday I got some truly amazing information and a story (almost 5 years in the courts). I initially wanted to write about it in Techrights. But I think it better suits my personal site and not Techrights because it does not concern technology. Not at all. One day I will shed light on the specifics of it (I already have documents). I intend to fully explain this case and its ramifications. There will be court documents, too (when it’s safe to publish these). I cannot show them yet not only because they would compromise an ongoing case but because much work is needed sorting our synopses (people don’t tend to bother reading as much as 13,000 words).

I spent about 3 hours yesterday picking witness stories from ~3 people. What could probably be proven, depending on whether the police helps (which I doubt), is rather shocking and can rattle the city’s largest law firm. How aggressive can lawyers get? Would they hire underworld thugs and goons? Ex-police and ex-military men to threaten and spy on victims?

I spoke to some people at the health club yesterday, both staff and members, and it seems very likely a spy\mole\plant\private investigator was there for 2 months under false ID to spy, abuse and threaten everyone to target just one person whom he stalked (and not for a crime but the very opposite if it — for holding criminals accountable). He acted maliciously to discourage response or reactionary interrogation. Got busted at the end. Ex military too, apparently. Days ago he absconded and burned all tracks. The way this was done was extremely suspicious. He left a trail of damaged people. He made threats. He knew what he was doing and caused much harm to a lot of people. Report now filed with the police, which is unlikely to do anything. Because based on the past or from my personal experience they never do… and these firms tend to be connected to the police (private-public sector shuffles).

I realise this may seem vague. I’ve given away only the gender of the victim. I didn’t name places and people. There’s a reason for that and I intend to post updates. I intend to pursue the police over this, politely but insistently if necessary. I’d also encourage the parent company behind the health club to urge our police to advance to a full investigation, knowing people were morally harmed. This likely leads to a large law firm engaging in fraudulent conduct — something it had done before (and court documents prove that). Bullying and intimidation tactics spreading beyond their target — impacting my wife as well — aren’t acceptable. Moreover, to maintain the impression that the health club protects the integrity and safety of members it will definitely have to — sooner or later — do something about it. Had they known that Mafia members were among the club (its clients), surely it would have to do something before it’s too late (becoming a crisis). Looking the other way puts many people at grave risk.

When Winter Feels Like Summer

Winter in Manchester

EVERY MORNING I wake up to an unknown weather; I do get my forecast from the command line, but it’s not always reliable. There’s also reliably-aggregated (historical) data; or data points that, no matter one’s views on the subject of global warming, speak for themselves.

Extreme weather is becoming more frequent. Sometimes the poles ‘travel’ down south and the poles themselves can heat up like never before; there’s a lot more to it than melting icecaps (media likes to focus on sea levels) because unpredictable weather and erratic seasonal patterns harm farmers and crops, threatening famine (or soaring food prices); this makes mass migration and war more likely. Probably more likely than rising sea levels (this can cause floods and stronger storms, like the ones just experienced in the US south, notable for their fatalities).

War, suffice to say, further contributes to warming, especially if and when nuclear weapon are used, not just produced.

The above photo was taken in February back when the temperature reached nearly 20 here. Yes, 20 in Manchester. In February. That’s winter.

I’ve lived in this city for nearly 20 years. Last month was the first time I bought fans.

My New Setup (Primary Workspace)

We now have 3 dual-display laptops here, properly connected using the wonderful Synergy (we’re using it with the GUI which is Quicksynergy). My wife uses one such laptop, whereas now, having gotten a bargain on a new laptop (it cost just 99 pounds), I use two, which means 4 screens to work with in synergy. I finally got around to taking photos (a month later).

A makeover

A makeover

Where to Follow My Writings Online (2016 Edition)

Like most people*, over the years my online posting habits change and sites I was once active in I no longer access (some no longer exist at all). This differs from person to person. I used to be very active in newsgroups and in mailing lists (that was about a decade ago), but I no longer use these much. I try to use self-hosted blogs where possible, but sometimes, due to social dynamics, I also reluctantly send copies to larger networks with more people in them. It makes my messages more widely accessible to a broader audience.

I had a great time chatting with someone this weekend, whereupon I realised that some people don’t know where to follow me, or how to limit what they follow from me, based on preferences like Linux only, no politics, patents only, personal matters and so on. Here are the links to where I can be followed online in real time, so to speak.

For Linux news I use (along with my wife):

For a mix of everything (politics included):

News and focus on patents:

Personal site:

Blog:

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* Even those whose online activity mostly revolves around posting (uploading) selfies and pressing “like” on other people’s selfies, FWIW.

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