Go Beyond

Only read if you don't mind being offended.


I think the culture of posting wide-mouthed selfies to get "likes" from people who you don't know is stupid. Trying to make friends of people who see you as another unit of cattle to climb over, chasing some kind of celebrity dream of being the right kind of same-but-different. Gathering a herd of "friends" who you barely know, whose importance to you is dictated by civilized society, appropriate ideas, status, and convience.

We idolize people who hate their lives even more than we do, let others live our lives for us through the television, and somehow expect billions of people to get closer and closer together on this planet without conflict. That every problem is solved with "love" and that they're no possible way we're running into human limits on social interaction and diversity. We expect everyone to be different where we want them to be different and the same when it just feels right. Every skin color, every sexual orientation except straight, but identical political affiliation.

I remember when it used to mean something to post a comment online. It could spawn some kind of intelligent conversation. I'd sometimes hear from the same person more than once. And while I certainly prefer some communities to others, one fact remains the same. Humans ruin everything. Too few and you feel alone. Too many and you feel even more alone.

No matter what good thing you have, if you add enough people to it they will all become disposable to eachother. People can only care about so many and about so much. If someone is a coward, they will put society before family and friends. If someone puts family and friends before society, they are considered anti-social and anti-society.

Close your eyes. Imagine meeting the person of your dreams. Man or woman, I don't care. Let's say she's a woman because let's face it, most of my readers are male and probably with a partner count less than 2,000, so they couldn't possibly be homosexual.

This woman is great. She's funny, attractive, intelligent, competent, and even feminine. Now let's add 10 more like her to the picture. They're not exactly the same, but all pretty good. How do you pick one? Now add a million. All willing to talk to you.

Of course, modern day communities aren't like that, being filled endlessly with exactly what you want. But even if you had what you wanted in people, if there were too many they'd become disposable. You wouldn't be able to settle. It wouldn't feel special. Simply because of numbers. People always getting what they want is the surest way they won't appreciate what they have.

The Internet is amazing to me in many respects. I've practically grown up on it. At the same time, it suffers from the human element. It was better when there were less of us. It was better when it was harder to use because it kept more of the morons away. Now, there's no qualification to get online. Amateur radio is amazing mostly because there's a barrier to entry. There's fewer people and the ones who make it have a few brain cells. Internet users aren't like that.

...Where are you going with this?

Alright. Bear with me, please. Or don't, there's probably better things you can read.

I've been using Linux for over 15 years. I started on Slackware 10 when I was 12 years old (maybe 11?). I've designed three Linux distributions, written quite a bit of code, and I really hate gloating. This isn't gloating, I'm trying to prove my point. My point is that I should be some kind of "operator" by now.

I realized that if the Internet went away tomorrow, I'd have a bunch of worthless devices sitting around collecting dust. And I know it probably won't, but it's possible. Placing explosive charges on undersea fiberoptic cables would be a very effective act of terrorism. Not that it would kill domestic access, but still. There's a lot of possible attacks on the Internet that can be done. Of course maybe it isn't terrorism, maybe it's democracy (mob rule). The majority calling for censorship and control.

I have taken the Internet so much for granted. And it's about the most organization-dependent thing out there. As we build up around it, we pretend to all share the same values and ideals. And for a while, we kind of do. But eventually, we will disagree. Not everyone will value free speech as much. It will have to become fractured, sadly.

My system designs generally became more and more dependent. On connectivity, on package mirrors, on PyPi, etc.

Why am I so proud of being able to launch servers with configuration management if it's just using upstream dependencies? At best, I have checksums for source files. I don't even have the source files. I can't operate without other people's help. This creates the perfect chicken and egg reliability problem.

I don't really control my environment. There's huge reliability benefits to shipping images of your servers. And not just that, but you actually have something you can work with. You have source code, you make your own packages, and you aren't dependent on something else working. You can be the last man (or woman) alive and still operate.

But as things were a few months ago, I barely had the source code for anything. I couldn't install a new system without internet access. It was a joke. So much of my work with Vagabond Workstation was focused on privacy. But each new VM install went over Tor, over iPXE, fetching fresh packages. At least things were up to date, assuming they weren't tampered with. The most private you can be isn't using Tor, though. It's having data locally so you don't have any more footprints online. It's so obvious to me now.

I just hate that everything I've written could go up in smoke. I know it probably won't, but it could.

What happens if some day AWS gets hacked and every AWS machine loses data? Unlikely, but possible. So much stuff sits on machines owned by a single entity. Let alone internet access. Major cloud providers could have huge failures. And what will we be left with?

We are becoming more centralized, not less. One of the beauties of the internet was decentralization. Now almost all of the code is on Github, almost all of the servers are on AWS, GCP, or Azure. There's less and less federation like XMPP. More and more centralization.

These centralized services are infact incredibly reliable. But I think to the point we take them for granted.

I need to be able to operate without Internet access. I should be able to recompile my whole system or build for another architecture while online. I shouldn't need to use Google for every answer.