Tag Archives: Control

Ello – FB alternative

OK, so the Jury’s out on this one so far.

I had word of a new social network about a month back, I can’t  remember exactly where, but since then a few more posts on blogs and press made me more interested.


is a new social networking site, very minimal in design, and at first glance, probably more suited to visual posting, but just as adequate for text updates.

The primary interest for me though is their basic manifesto.  IE, that they aren’t building it to monetise the posts, and that there won’t be any advertising.

Normally on the internet, an old adage holds true, that if something looks too good to be true, it usually is.  Ello makes the claim that they’ll maintain the finances for the site by charging for access to premium functionality.

I mean, at the end of the day, if you’re paying for it, and it’s profitable, would you need to be greedy and exploit the data and users?  Certainly doing so to paying punters would be fatal.

So, I’m going to stick with it for a while, and see where it goes.  certainly as an “anti facebook”, if it sticks to its manifesto, I will be impressed, and very pleased.

“you are not a product”

damn right.

I had an invite from a facebook friend fired over to me, and I have a slot at https://ello.co/lojacked

It’s not decentralisation, but as an antidote to “big data”, it’s a start.


Sadly, invites for the site have already gone up on ebay, so you can dodge the word-of-mouth style of being brought into the fold.  I believe the whole idea of the invites system if done properly would mean that only people you know, and would benefit from the system would get on.  Obviously, if you want to spam the crap out of everyone, all you have to do is buy your way in on ebay.  Sad really, but also inevitable, I suppose.


Ad-Hoc Mobile Networks – temporary pop-up internet

So, everyone should know what a Mesh network is right?

A network made up of a variety of nodes, which in the even of a node going down, reroutes network traffic using the remaining nodes. (Probably oversimplifying as usual, but you get the idea?)

I remember learning about Mesh networks back in the 90s when I was at College.  It’s not a new thing by any means, but hopefully we’ll see more mainstream use of the term this decade.  At least I hope so, because they’ve got a potential to change things such as how we protest, and how we communicate on an urban level.

In fact, forget it, I’m already too late, Apple have decided as of IOS 7, to adopt it.

see : What is mesh networking, and why Apple’s adoption in iOS 7 could change the world on extremetech.com

But, given it’s a Mesh network running on the hardware of a big company, let’s skip that…. although no doubt, some Black hatters may be able to make it work for us, and make sure it’s not all recorded in the IOS black box.

As usual, Wikipedia has a nice summary for us of what a wireless Mesh looks like.

Wireless mesh network diagram.jpg
Wireless mesh network diagram” by David Johnson, Karel Matthee, Dare Sokoya, Lawrence Mboweni, Ajay Makan, and Henk Kotze (Wireless Africa, Meraka Institute, South Africa) – Building a Rural Wireless Mesh Network: A do-it-yourself guide to planning and building a Freifunk based mesh network. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

The point is, a Wireless, Ad-hoc Mesh network is an internet capable network that may or may not be connected to the wider internet, that can span (potentially) any open or urban space, outside of the control of any corporate or governmental entity.  “Wow, why isn’t everyone doing it then?” you might ask.  pretty simple really, you need the hardware and technical knowledge to do so.  from the diagram above, you may recognise some proprietary LinkSys routers, but in the article above (which was, bear in mind, written in 2007) the LinkSys firmware was hacked, as it was based on OpenWRT (which I’ll articlise on it’s own at some point). That and, at the end of it, you’ll be connected back to the internet.  Certainly in urban areas you have to work with the  concept that free connection to the internet would have every man and his dog downloading cat pictures in 30 seconds.  It’s an infrastructure, but one that would be useful within specific contexts.

But it’s still a technical thing.  you need to know a fair bit to get one up and running, and be comfortable with some of the hacks involved.

That, hopefully may not remain the case for as long.

Check out a similar Wikipedia article, and this is much more interesting: Mobile ad hoc network.  And i’d like to emphasise the following extract

  • Military / Tatical MANETs are used by military units with emphasis on security, range, and integration with existing systems.

Now this is where ad-hoc Mesh networking really starts to mean something other than just helping a village in Africa get on the Net (and makes me interested in it).

(Who remembers “One Laptop Per Child“? – the basic premise of the OLPC project is that it would use mobile ad-hoc to join networks of OLPC machines to one or few internet gateways  for the purpose of bringing the internet to locations with no fixed gateway or infrastructure)

The context for the above extract, is within the Digital Battlefield, which makes the whole C5i (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat systems and Intelligence) work.

If you check out this memo/white paper there’s another extract I’d like to mention:

mesh-based mobile networks can be operated as robust,inexpensive alternatives or enhancements to cell-based mobile network infrastructures

One of the themes I’ll be continuing to pursue, is that any technology which means we get some privacy, or the opportunity to get away from mainstream systems and networks is a Good Thing ™.  Hopefully with the posts I make in the future, there will some sense appear, out of the madness. The point of the last extract is to point out that these networks are power.  While they may never match the breadth of national Cellular networks, when applied to smaller scale environments, they could provide much needed freedom from said national systems.

Imagine Tahrir Square, Cairo, with the support of informational networking that does not rely on the cellular network internet, and a communication system that did not rely on facebook, or twitter, which could be (and were) blacked out by the then Egyptian government.

Imagine an Occupy event, where live streaming of sousveillance devices is automatically broadcast to multiple recording facilities (also hosted on the mobile ad-hoc), all running on a network which is not reliant on a platform which is controlled by, or legislatively at the whim of, government, police or military.

And if we’re feeling nice about the people in power (God forbid), imagine a disaster area, such as New Orleans after the flooding, or Malaysia, or pretty much any are where the infrastructural communications hardware has been knocked out, having at least some level of electronic communications which could be supplemented by anything that can hook into wi-fi, such as smartphones and so on. (oversimplifying again, but the idea’s there).

Project Byzantium is what made me much more interesting the potential of this idea, and even more so when I found ByzPi which is a port to run on the Raspberry Pi. (I really will have to publish my skit on the Pi sooner rather than later!)  It’s a Linux based Mesh networking package which allows you to turn any Linux based kit into Mesh nodes, and has some pre-built communications services available such as a Twitter analog, and IRC.

I’ll try and tie this in with my other decentralisation posts as well to see what (if anything) could come out of all these disparate technologies.

Walled City….why the name?

For me, even before I read William Gibson’s “Bridge Trilogy”, which is made up of “Virtual Light”, “Idoru” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, all of which I would recommend, the Walled City I thought of was Kowloon’s.

Wikipedia has  a page on it, which gives you the gist, and there are some extraordinarily expensive books* on the place if you go to Amazon.

Kowloon's Walled City
Kowloon’s Walled City

What’s really always fascinated me is how it was allowed to exist and function for all those years until they tore it down.

My point, I suppose, is that once it had established itself, it was more or less autonomous, in that the police didn’t go in, and it managed itself to a degree. It was an enclave within an enclave, answerable to no-one but itself. At least until they tore it down.

That all said, once I’d read “Idoru”, it did begin to crystallise for me.

If you’re interested, check out the concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones, it’s a tad hipsterish, “Burning Man” gets mentioned in this context, and in the end, Kowloon’s Walled City ended up more of a Permanent or Semi Permanent Autonomous Zone, but it does represent pockets of the universe which manage to sneak out from under the control of normal law and government, and this fits in with my views on decentralisation and privacy.

I would like to think that some of the material I post on here will, in a grand combination of all the odds and sods, come together as some sort of Cyberpunk style thoughts.  Cyberpunk extols anti-control concepts and principles, and for many, ubiquitous and all-powerful technological presence in life.  Expect to see more of that here.

Although, there’s an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote which I’ve always loved,

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

And I’ve always had a nasty penchant for thinking about both sides of the Control coin.  On the one hand, control is bad.  It restricts our ability to function, to be “free” however you measure that particular metric, but on the other hand, we need an amount of control for safety and so on.  I look for interesting ways in which people are fighting control, but I spend time imagining ways in which the systems involved could work better, and tie into each other better.  I guess so long as I don’t actively participate in those, maybe I’ll be ok?

I can’t imagine myself only thinking of one side of the coin.  I’ll always have to look at both sides.  Of course, there’s always the chance that both sides are “Heads”.

So, I’ll chalk this one up as a success, 2 posts in as many days.

* see “City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon’s Walled City”