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When Your Company is Outsourcing Almost Everything

Does/did this happen in your company too? If so, read on…

Sirius Open Source stand

Summary: Sirius ‘Open Source’ has not been keeping up with skills required to self-host, instead demonising/denouncing them as “hobbyist” (actual quote from the CEO) and eventually relaying almost everything to proprietary vendors that put gates and walls on Free software

TODAY we continue a couple of parts that deal with security and privacy issues at Sirius Open Source [sic] — a company that still says “Open Source” although it often recommends to clients that they adopt proprietary things.

Enough has been said already about the nature of the hypocrisy, the double standards, the dishonest marketing, lack of principles, and even some truly unethical clients. Below is part of the report deposited before my wife and I left the company1.


Outsourcing Concerns

Colleagues at Sirius have long worked weekends (unlike client’s staff, which is typically off work on holidays and weekends; there’s no 24/7/365 cover). Some of them finished or started working but could not access an essential gateway machine. When the client does something like an update or makes a release the IP addresses will change, so whenever there is an incident Sirius staff can’t restart, forcibly reboot or investigate the machines, that is unless — or otherwise — Sirius staff are informed (or wiki/documentation becomes up to date again). From what is known, this is more of this particular client’s choice, but Sirius lacks a loophole and that is why Sirius may seem sloppy or slow to update/notify their workers/employees.

This is a typical example of a lack of top-down coordination. How are staff expected to carry out duties if managers don’t do their part or fail to understand how these systems work? In fact, when outsourcing to any third party, this may be inevitable; the people who ‘manage’ the machines have almost no control over them. They merely rent some server space and the hypervisor may change over time, introducing unforeseen but unavoidable complication. This means server can become unavailable, with no resort at all (like accessing the datacentre/s). Back in 2011 and for several years after that Sirius had its own server racks and managed its own instances.

Sirius keeps recommending the outsourcing to proprietary software like AWS and Cloudflare, resulting (sometimes) in a lot of problems. Sirius itself pays in AWS bills almost as much as a small salary. Becoming an AWS ‘reseller’ makes Sirius far less competitive and vastly less unique; companies like these, including Rackspace, have their own support. They have their own ambitions of controlling everything themselves. Companies like Sirius should not become transient migrators. Sirius used to offer its own hosting.

This is one of many issues with “cloud computing”, including AWS, which also caused significant downtimes for that client (hours-long outages) — a client that used to have far more control over the hosting. When it comes to certification, the company actively encourages learning “cloud computing” stuff instead of “Open Source” stuff.
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1 Many more details will be given, along with further analysis, when the whole report is published. Probably in January.

If So-called ‘Ownership Rights’ of Money Are Deprived, Mainstream Media Should Speak About It

LAST year I wrote a rant about how I could not withdraw/retrieve my own money from the bank. It was new to me that banks can simply deny withdrawal of one’s deposited money. I actually had to spend many hours and make many visits to the bank to eventually get my own money. A lot of that was to do with limited supply. There was also a surveillance element to it (the bank looking for ‘proof’ of how I would use the withdrawn money as if it’s any of their business).

These things seem to be getting worse over time.

I had a chat with a friend of mine today. He noticed something which, as far as I’m aware, nobody in the media is writing about.

Britain recently changed its coinage and banknotes. It changed these very fast. I was surprised if not shocked. Within just a couple of months they claimed that the old physical currency would no longer be accepted, except perhaps in unusual circumstances. Machines stopped accepting the old coins. What does that mean for Brits living abroad or people keeping their own money (physically)? Not on some computer in some bank or a virtual/digital account…

Either way, the push towards full surveillance of financial transactions is in full swing. And it’s getting harder to ‘opt out’ so to speak…

“I’m not sure if it is significant,” my friend told me, but there is a major cash shortage in Sweden since they replaced all the coins and bills last year.” There is this report about it (automated translation from Swedish).

“This second link shows that there are more than 3 orders of magnitude fewer medium-sized bills in circulation,” my friend continued.

So they may be making wrong assumptions about demand for cash, or rather making a self-fulfilling prophecy about it.

“It looks like they have aimed at forcing the cashless issue through deliberate hardship,” my friend bemoaned/ranted over this. “And, yes, there are obvious privacy implications among many other problems.”

“Has someone out there written an article about this in English,” I asked him. “If not, maybe we should.”

And hence the point of this post. I read a lot of articles every day, almost all day long. Rarely if ever is the subject of payment privacy brought up. The only site that habitually covers it belongs to Rick Falkvinge or his business (VPN). He is Swedish and he is familiar with this subject.

“Rick Falkvinge has mentioned it in passing during his many posts about Bitcoin,” my friend told me. “His main site is not really available and has only a placeholder left, it appears.”

My friend wants to read the site, but JavaScript has rendered Falkvinge’s obsolete. I told Falkvinge about it quite a few times in the past; he said he would look into it, but he never tackled the issue. But I digress…

“There were some articles about an old lady who tried to cash in her savings but was denied by the banks,” my friend recalls, “losing her life savings as a result. She died a short time after that, family claim that the economic blow hastened her death. As it costs a lot of money to keep anything in the bank and more to get anything back out of the bank the economically wise thing to do in Sweden for about two decades has been to keep it in the mattress.”

I did read several articles about that debacle (at the time). It showed that the old practice of keeping one’s own money is becoming too risky. There is a hidden cost (inflation/interest rates) and a high risk (not just of someone breaking into one’s house to steal the cash). See what Modi did some months ago in India. It was incredible. I was shocked that many Indians fell for the propaganda (as if only criminals keep a lot of cash) and tolerated what Modi had done. This reminded me of that time Cyprus denied bank withdrawals and simply grabbed a large portion of people’s personal savings, demonstrating in that particular case the very high risk of keeping money in the bank, not outside it (see what people in Argentina do nowadays). That goes back to the point made at the start — my point about things getting worse over time. Money was always a man-made concept if not an illusion, but over time we see more visible indicators of this. Some cash machines too have been letting me down lately. Years ago I surveyed shops around here to see which ones make it possible to purchase a mobile phone with cash and also top it up with cash (to maintain anonymity).

With few exceptions (sites like Zero Hedge), the subject is grossly unexplored and corporate press rarely touches it.

“I digress,” my friend told me, as “the short answer is that I have not run across any such articles. Do you think that Rick Falkvinge would have interest in collaborating on such an article? It’s kind of his area subject-wise.”

My friend too recalled what happened in India: “India has been having problems like that too and might be included. And don’t forget what China is doing in that area either. Of course, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and the others all want to be the sole gateway for payments. Failing that, they want a large piece of the pie.

“One of the official lines that gets repeated every time though is that it will inhibit tax dodging (small fish only, somehow they are not concerned by large fish) and illegal transactions. It occurred to me a few minutes ago that Sweden has a growing yet already massive black market economy in and adjacent to their 61 no-go zones. So maybe this is a low-key attempt to get society back.”

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.

Facebook Gets Excessively Greedy for Excessively Personal Information

Facebook

FACEBOOK, the surveillance giant, is reaching new levels of creepiness. A friend of mine, who was apparently conformist enough to have ‘joined’ Facebook, sent me the screenshot above, translating it as follows:

“If you’re unable to verify your account using a mobile phone number, you can submit a request to verify your account using your government-issued ID.”

Q: “What happens to my ID after I upload it?” A: Your ID will be stored securely while we resolve your issue.”

“I’m sick of this spyware masquerading as social networking,” he wrote to me, so I asked him to show what happens if he clicks the option below.

Either way, notice just how much data Facebook is collecting and even demanding.

A Year Without Facebook

Xmas

MY wife used to be using Facebook quite a lot. It’s a site that, in practice, probably violates people’s privacy more than all other sites combined, but only if one assumed loss of privacy to peers (as opposed to government spies and marketers, who also get data from Microsoft, Google, and countless other companies). Just over a year ago I suggested to my wife that she oughtn’t upload photos to Facebook (with some applications Facebook just uploads all taken pictures automatically) and that I can set up an album that would preserve some of her privacy (no tags, no face recognition, no covert tracking of viewers, etc.). Days ago I completed uploading the last photos of the year, covering as of late:

  • Christmas Party
  • Midland Hotel Suites
  • Bradford City, Hotel, Clothes
  • Day Out and Birthday at Cora’s Restaurant
  • Christmas in the House

Yesterday, the number of direct hits on photos (meaning watching a photo zoomed in) exceeded 100,000, demonstrating, in my opinion, that one does not need Facebook to managed one’s photos. As Facebook is, to many people, primarily a photo album with comments (it’s useless as a medium for news and other purposes), why would anyone really need Facebook? Self-hosting requires some work and money, but there’s a price to one’s privacy too. When you’re merely the product in Facebook — not the customer — it is clear why Facebook gives ‘free’ hosting. Here is some guidance on how to set up a similar photos album.

The Privatisation of Censorship

Julian Assange engages with John Pilger in conversation regarding Wikileaks. The privatisation of censorship is one of the first subjects to be addressed. It’s how the West and capitalist societies suppress speech. (Source)

Social Networks/Content Hosting Always Evolved

Back in the days, people created Geocities-hosted Web sites. Well, Yahoo! has axed it, shortly after getting abducted by Microsoft in fact, so Geocities is no more (although many sites similar to it still exist). I created my site there in 1997/1998 and a few years later I got interested in Open Diary, which in some sense resembles Live Journal. Further down the line there was the phenomenon of blogging, which started in particular sites like Blogspot and Blogger, among many more (some of them are not surviving well). Free software like B2 and WordPress soon filled a gap and enabled more and more people to take control of their blogging platform and also register their own sites for the purpose. Around the same time, sites like MySpace grew, but they soon perished mostly because of competition which included an extension to ‘people-indexing’ services (resembling classmates reunion sites). Facebook was prominent among those. For news and discussion people had Digg, Reddit, and several more large sites, Many experiments emulating the above failed miserably for reasons that would require a separate long post. Later on, in recent years, celebrities joined Twitter and helped it grow very quickly, along with Free software clones such as Identi.ca. What joins together many of those services and pieces of Free software one can download to substitute the hosted prison is that they provide people with a place to express themselves and also find out what others are thinking. The thoughts of others are sometimes expressed by citation (news) or multimedia. It all helps weaken the cetralisation of so-called ‘mass media’ and it empowers people. This is one of the better achievements of the Web — that alongside wikis such as Wikipedia, but that’s another category of sites and a subject for another day.

People’s blogs have become somewhat less active and more people choose to post material under other people’s platform (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on). Journalists too failed to evolve (for the most part) and their occupation dying, mostly to be replaced by PR. One has to transition constantly. The world today is inventing and progressing faster than ever before, especially on the Web which is relatively new.

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