The state of the internet, according to YT/Google

Are you logged into Youtube, like me? Do you get personalized recommendations, and does your browser filter out ads and other unwanted stuff? Wondering what might be hiding behind all of that? Read on…

My browser (ESR versions of Firefox, mostly – the only more or less “free” one of the big browsers) doesn’t have many plugins installed, but one I couldn’t live without is ublock origin. It gets most of the unwanted crap out of my view, and sites which even try to circumvent this won’t be on my daily list of sites to visit.

But one thing it did as I just found out is to also reduce the opening (self-) ads from Youtube – you saw a short flickering, then the usual list of new videos comes up. Wondering what might be behind that blocked content, I decided to dig out another browser which I rarely use, and which isn’t personalized (means me not being logged into anything), and which also doesn’t have any plugins installed. At work this morning that was Epiphany.

So let’s see what was flashing away from my eyes this morning:

Youtube opening screen, unfiltered

Aha. “Youtube Originals”, yeah I remember, had seen some of these announcements before – looks like they’re trying to become more of a real content provider (to monetize that of course). Ok. Not for me, thanks.

Under it, “Trending”, which I also never see normally. The state of mankind is a poor one if these are the topics of interest, frankly. Don’t want to be reminded of that each day, thanks. So let’s scroll down a bit more…

… where it becomes even worse:

The infamous Googe / Youtube “Topics”

“Topics” – yeah, these I see as well, and these are frankly a pain in your lower end. Ok, I get it – Google / Youtube knows nothing about me at this point, because I’m not logged in, so they show me the topics of most clicks or views or whatever their algorithm might be – and oh man, is this really the world we’re living in? What a strange species we must be…

I closed that browser after this, sorry, but cannot stand it. Google / Youtube is mostly wrong about getting my interest, but at least I don’t see crap like that when I’m being logged in. Instead of that, I see the umpteenth recommendation of old Miles Davis stuff, or Ella Fitzgerald just because I listened to *one* of her songs lately – but that is still worlds apart from… THIS (there was no other word coming to my mind, sorry).

It’s not only Youtube and Google – Vimeo or DailyMotion or all of the daily news aggregators aren’t much better, no one really has any kind of “artificial intelligence” which might be even worth that description of its own. Computers are thick (“Computer sind doof”), as a German pop song of the eighties used to state. Mostly of course, it’s *us* who are programming them. And we want self-driving cars, really? Robots in medicine? Thanks but no thanks.

Ok – enough of brutal truths of reality for one morning – now hand me that blue pill again, thanksverymuch…

Other news, for my/our German readers: in case you didn’t notice it yet, the German Wikipedia will be switched off tomorrow for 24 hours. Their form of protest:

Protest…

So read all about it today while you can – tomorrow you’ll have to do with English or other languages.

And as always, thanks for reading.

My weekend of week 6, 2019

Yesterday I had some “fun” (read: work) again with Mitchie’s new computer. It started with lots of slow updates of Windows 10, about which I wrote already in my last post, and it went on after I finally got a nice new external casing for her SSD which came with the machine.

As it turned out, I had forgotten or at least not considered the fact that before installing both Windows and then Linux on her new SSD I had switched off SecureBoot in the machine’s UEFI (formerly called ‘BIOS’). Tho Ubuntu could have dealt with it as well as Windows, it just didn’t seem worth the hassle. But what I hadn’t known and considered was the fact that Lenovo was so friendly as to turn on Bitlocker encryption on the drive as well, so even with jumping through several hoops to even get that key from Microsoft, I still couldn’t get Windows to de-encrypt the whole shebang again. In the end I gave up on this – there are things to do during your lifetime which are more worth of your time than dealing with stupid stuff like this. And the fact that a commercial vendor like Microsoft has keys to your machine which they don’t even tell you about seems more than questionable to me… So I formatted that old SSD and put a FAT32 partition onto it, so that it can be used as a bigger (and much faster and more reliable) USB “stick” with 128GB.

One more positive side note about Lenovo: their support pages are first class. If you allow them, they scan your machine and install all the drivers (for Windows of course) you might need. That’s almost as good as Linux which simply installs them without even bothering you with it.

Another topic:

Mike Johnston wrote a nice short article titled “Mike’s Seven Laws of Lenses” on his site The Online Photographer. And – not for the first time – he included a photo of a lens which he seems to love, and which I even have:

Panasonic Leica Summilux 25mm/1.4 on Mike’s page

This is a nice one indeed, and well worth having should you consider a Micro Four Thirds camera (or even have one already). With my copy of that lens I took the following snapshot of Mitchie’s new machine, with the additional SSD leaning against it:

7e3_2090333-mitchies-new-machine
Mitchie’s new machine, with an additional SSD leaning against it, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2019

This is btw such a dark scene that I had to underexpose it in camera with -2.3EV to keep the blacks real black (pictures such as this one confuse the metering of even the best cameras, they would turn the photo into an average grey instead of mostly black). Anyway, you see her new “USB stick” (her old SSD) and its size as well. The machine with its 13.3″ screen is tiny, the drive even more so.

So that was my Saturday. My Sunday started with getting another new piano which was described in an article (in German) on Delamar – an online magazine from musicians for musicians from Darmstadt (ca. 18km from here). That virtual piano was interesting me because it’s some kind of hybrid between a sampled (=recorded), and a modeled (=computer generated) one, and because the sound sample on Delamar’s page sounded really nice (and some of its users even claimed that it’s better than the commercial modeled Pianoteq which I’ve tried (and liked) on Manjaro lately).

Of course like so many other “freebies” this piano comes as a Windows or Mac plugin only – but thanks to falkTX’s Carla the loading of an unencrypted Windows VST is no problem on Linux anymore (except of course that you’re running an additional Wine layer to emulate some Windows resources on Linux, but that’s not falkTX’s fault). So after downloading that freebie I could look at and listen to it on my Debian machine – looks like on my screenshot of it:

Screenshot from 2019-02-10 12-45-57
the freebie “NeoPiano” from Soundmagic, a Windows VST running on Linux (thanks to falkTX and his Carla plugin rack)

And yes it sounds nice tho I haven’t tried much until now. But now that Zuleikha has Mitchie’s old Core i5 notebook from Dell, she will be able to test it as well – she’s the pianist in the family, not me. 🙂

So next time Zuleikha comes up with a new composition of hers, we can compare it against the commercial xln Audio ‘Addictive Keys’ Studio Grand (a Steinway D sampled in a studio somewhere in Sweden), and the other free ones we have already like the Salamander (Yamaha C5) or the ‘Piano in 162’ (another Steinway). The files she uploaded to Wikiloops so far were all done with the commercial xln one.

And now let’s have some more coffee, and a piece of cake 🙂 As always, thanks for reading.

Not tested with Linux? Then I won’t buy it.

That headline is basically what I wrote as a comment on someone’s (very nice, thank you!) Youtube video. Background: Mitchie is looking for a replacement for her notebook. And some sites (like the very good golem.de) even test new hardware with Linux – leaving me once more with the impression that some vendors (like Lenovo for instance) don’t even test their machines with Linux, while others (like Dell for instance) do very much to being able to offer some of their machines with a Linux distribution instead of the usual Windows “tax”.

Which means for me: if we want to run Linux, and the vendors don’t care, then I/we won’t care for them as well – they certainly have more time, money, and resources for such tests than I would/could do.

So no Lenovo, no HP, Asus or whatever nice machines might be around. There are others who simply care more about the rest of us, thank you very much. Time for us to be more consequent, and to vote with our wallets – supporting those who actually care about us.

End of today’s rant.

The fire and the fury? Wait…

Lately someone wrote a book with that title. It’s about a sad (and bad) joke figure playing a president of a whole nation. But “the fire and the fury” reminds me of the devil in Tom Waits’ “Way down in the hole” (which is where we should keep him). Listen:

Funny that “The Wire”, where this is played as the title melody, is the favourite TV series of some former president named Barack Obama…

“The Lord is a very very busy man…”

Thanks for listening.

Why “community” is mostly a buzzword these days

I found an interesting two-part article on LWN, about buying and selling “communities”:

LWN link
article on Opensource.com, part 1
article on Opensource.com, part 2

At my employers’, “community” is one of the most overused buzzwords of these times. And it’s also incorrectly used, since a “community” in its stronger sense is a conglomerate of people with some kind of free will, with choices, and with power – each of which is taken away from them more or less as soon as they’re paid to do certian things (like work for instance). Dance to the tune which the piper (the employer) plays, right? So in this stronger sense, the word “community” is rightly misused and out of place – this place you’re at ain’t no university; this is the pond with the big (and dangerous) fish. So I always throw up a little when I get one of those in-corporation spam mails talking about “community”, and how cool and new and hip we all are. Nothing smells worse and undermines your own credibility more than all these self-ads in fake hipster dresses…

As the example above shows – and no, I haven’t visited sites like /. or SourceForge since years – as soon as any money is involved, you can give up the thought of and about communities. If something can be bought and sold it’s not a place where I would want to be.

If you might be curious about where to find real communities, you might look at the Usenet, if you still remember what that is. Or look at non-profits like Debian, PostgreSQL, or any other of the projects which are associated with the – also non-profit – SPI Inc. I know some members of their board of directors, and have met them personally on events like FOSDEM, and I can guarantee that these people are volunteers, and that there’s no money involved.

Or forget about all these virtual worlds, and go and serve your own community, in the kampung (Malaysian for: village) where you might live. Or the district of your town.

But stop misusing (and robbing the rest of us of) words like “community”, if you don’t even know what that means.

Thanks for reading.