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Giulio Prisco (M, 56)
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    We must protect the Internet
    Like everyone I have watched all three Zeitgeist films (the last has been released very recently, you can watch it here if you have not done so yet). I cannot say that I agree with all, but I certainly agree with much.

    In particular, as it is often repeated, we must protect the Internet at all times.

    Protect the Internet against what?

    We must protect the Internet against big governments at war against their own citizens. We have very recently seen the Egyptian government shutting off the Internet in Egypt, and we don't want to see similar things again. And never think it cannot happen "at home", wherever that is: remember the Wikileaks case and remember that governments, all governments, are only interested in power, will do whatever it takes to preserve it at all costs, and are afraid of free speech (those who pay lip service to free speech for electoral reasons are often the first to complain when they hear some free speech).

    See 3 Projects to Create a Government-less Internet and 4 More Projects to Create a Government-less Internet on ReadWriteWeb. I think it is evident that we need distributed, open source, open mobile mesh networks. See also How Phone-Powered Mesh Networks Could Help in Egypt with coverage of the very interesting Serval Project.

    We must protect the Internet against big governments and big corporations that want to control it. They want a one-way Internet like the old TV system where we-the-sheeple can only consume content imposed for above, but we-the-people want a free, many-to-many, open and uncensored Internet like we had in the 80s and early 90s. Remember Usenet? Perhaps we should restart using some "old" communication systems, dated but more difficult to control.

    Of course, in the 80s and early 90s only a few geeks were on the Internet, not enough people to do real damage and be seen as a threat. Now everyone is on the Internet and everyone is downloading songs and movies, and soon cracked e-books, and this is disrupting entrenched financial interests and power structures. I don't believe everything should be free, not in the current economic system. On the contrary I understand that if artists, writers and other creators cannot make money with their creative work, they will have to do something else for a living and everyone will lose. But creators only see a small fraction of the money, while all the rest goes to obsolescent production and distribution dinosaurs. These must go, and I wish to recommend to all creators to switch to distribution models like vodo.net. To all consumers, I recommend to download free-to-share content from vodo.net, for example the great SF series Pioneer One (here on vodo.net) and make a small donation to support the creators. Many small donations will permit creators to make a living while focusing on their creative work and, make no mistake, this model will kill the traditional model in the long run.

    In the meantime, I support the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Pirate Party. I had never joined the Pirate Party, but I think immediately after finishing this post I will join the Italian Pirate Party (not the most active one, but Italy is where I can vote). I hope Pirate Parties will be successful everywhere and, someday, fight also for the right to use other emerging technologies for individual and social empowerment.

    We must protect the Internet at all times, because big governments and big corporations will attack the Internet at all times to protect their power. Now Internet usage will be metered in Canada, and I am sure other countries will follow soon (unless, of course, we do something about it). Metered Internet usage makes sense to entrenched powers because it helps big national telcos to make more money, and also because it is a disincentive to download content, pirated or not.

    Downloading pirated content is illegal. I believe it should not be illegal in the sense that the applicable laws and regulations should be changed, and I believe downloaders should not be prosecuted, but at this moment is illegal and we citizens should respect the law. But as I mentioned above there is also plenty of legally sharable content available, and we should be free to share it. I believe anti-piracy measures are aimed not only at protecting proprietary IP, but also and especially at slowing down the spread of alternative distribution channels for legally sharable content, and therefore I oppose anti-piracy measures.

    We should be aware of all that we can do to protect the Internet at all times, and use distributed, open source, open mobile mesh networks when they will be available. In the meantime, existing technologies offer interesting possibilities that we should know and use. For example, FrostWire for Android, advertised as "The First Mobile P2P network on Earth", used with Android's personal Wi-Fi hotspot, permits easily creating local ad-hoc content sharing networks.



    Wed, Feb 2, 2011  Permanent link

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    superconcepts     Wed, Feb 2, 2011  Permanent link
    http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/uh-oh-the-internet-is-about-to-run-out-of-ip-addresses - This goes into some of the problems that the internet is facing (not just the ip thing)
    giulio     Wed, Feb 2, 2011  Permanent link
    Today they are even celebrating the allocation of the very last IPv4 addresses. This will be in a ceremony and press conference starting at 9:30 AM local in Miami, FL.

    We have known for years that this would happen, let's hope they will take the need to transision to IPv6 more seriously now.
         Thu, Feb 3, 2011  Permanent link
    With the current situation in my country, Canada, where they just implemented usage-based billing, there's been some good news with the Minister of Industry and other members of parliament separate from the CRTC...

    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Harper+Conservatives+quash+CRTC+decision+killing+unlimited+Internet/4214199/story.html

    I think I can add, on another positive note, that this all indicates to me that the aging flaky infrastructure owned by aging crusty telecoms who pushed this type of nonsense are simply going to be outmoded in coming years as they fail to adapt. I think that if you can't beat em when they play games where you're not allowed to make the rules fair, then the best thing to do is walk off and go make their game look like a obsolete joke with a new one. I'm thinking of taking a stake in something like this:

     http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/LightSquared-Delivers-Notice-bw-2757064286.html?x=0 
    giulio     Thu, Feb 3, 2011  Permanent link
    Thanks for the links Dmitri, and I really hope this silly decision will be overruled.

    The LightSquared story is interesting, but I really think we citizens should build a global distributed federation of local, ad-hoc, P2P networks independent of any government or corporation. All the technology bits and pieces are there, and somebody should take the lead and organize things. I think this would be a worthwhile project for Pirate Parties worldwide.
    Autotelic     Fri, Feb 4, 2011  Permanent link
    Our internet in the US is indeed being filtered, altered and manuipulated by the ISP's against competitors. The local cable providers are losing revenue due to customers opting for internet only packages. The problem is these monopolistic cable companies stil own the "last mile" connections that connect the customer to the internet so what starting to happen is these cable companies are basically opening up "toll roads" to the internet, demanding extra payments for content that is requested by their own customers to begin with- i.e. comcast vs level3 over netflix traffic, this case is not only changing how the internet will be governed but also the prices of the products we use will be affected by these "fees" all the cable companies will start tacking on against a rivals content. The issue is Net Neutrality and it is a very influencial topic that is for the most part being played out under the radar of the public eye.
    giulio     Sat, Feb 5, 2011  Permanent link
    @Autotelic - this is one of the main problems that the still loosely defined concept of "a global distributed federation of local, ad-hoc, open P2P mesh networks" is meant to address. If we create the network in realtime out of our own fixed or mobile devices, and with open source software, there is not much that can be done to control or disrupt it (short of physical jamming of the EM frequencies used). Also, we can bypass all toll roads and use our own pedestrian roads.

    I have been studying the projects mentioned in the post, and I can see that some projects are making very good progress. Developing a global distributed federation of local, ad-hoc, open P2P mesh networks is no easy task, actually it is incredibly difficult to do it right, but I believe it is what we really need at this moment.
    BenRayfield     Sat, Feb 5, 2011  Permanent link
    "if you can't beat em when they play games where you're not allowed to make the rules fair, then the best thing to do is walk off and go make their game look like a obsolete joke with a new one."

    The current game is a hierarchy of control. The only way to change the game is peer-to-peer instead of hierarchy organization of the network routers (or whatever devices). That is a very hard thing to design, and it can't be done by trial-and-error because problems would be found when it becomes a bigger network. Designing a completely decentralized network takes a lot of thinking about game-theory. The first step should be simulations of the new networks. These simulations can run on 1 computer or a small grid of computers. Try running normal programs through the networks in the simulation, each connected to a different simulated part of the network, communicating across the simulation for the same effect as communicating across the real internet. Then have some professional hackers try to break your simulated network or spy on certain communications through it or control it etc. I think the best way to design the network behaviors is by evolving them with artificial intelligence. Its one of those things that people have failed at too many times and we should try some new strategies for these new peer-to-peer networks. I am available to help design some of that if anyone wants to try it.

    "The issue is Net Neutrality"

    No. The issue is net monopoly. If there is no monopoly, then it doesn't matter if someone is not neutral because they wouldn't get enough business for it to matter. For the same reason, I don't think it should be illegal to be a racist at your job because it would be better to make it illegal for a business to have so much power that their racism causes so many people problems. In both cases, monopolies are the problem. A monopoly on internet access, and a monopoly on the way jobs work. There can be many providers of internet access and jobs, but if they all are regulated to do the same things, the regulators are the monopoly. All monopolies should be illegal. Saying something should be illegal sounds like I advocate a central authority making sure it doesn't happen, but I don't even support monopolies on law making; Instead laws should be made by agreement of a majority of the people, also known as a democracy, not a central group of people choosing for them (unless those central people have to do what the majority of people want). In general, getting rid of monopolies (or central control of things) and replacing it with decentralized things is better than making the monopolies (or central control) neutral and fair. Let them be unfair and obsoleted for that reason. Every time you try to make monopolies neutral and fair, you are strengthening the idea that its ok to have monopolies.
    giulio     Sat, Feb 5, 2011  Permanent link
    Thanks for the great comments and ideas Ben. More tomorrow (late here and typing on the phone).
    giulio     Sun, Feb 6, 2011  Permanent link
    First, I totally agree with the second part of Ben's comment. If there are no monopolies, de jure or de facto, everyone is free to choose what works best for them, and this is good. And I don't believe in the old idea of governments and corporations as separate worlds in conflict with each other (each keeps the other in check). Rather, in today's world the interest of big governments and big corporations is very often the same: keeping all the power and all the money. There are many big brothers, but they work together behind the scenes because their interest is basically the same. Regulators are the monopoly! I say small is beautiful, distributed is beautiful, and I am against the power of both big governments and big corporations. The power should be ours, of the citizens. Of course nobody is going to give it to us, we will have to take it.

    I agree that building a distributed P2P system which does all the things that the public Internet does (by public Internet I mean the Internet of the big governments and the big corporations, there is no public Internet in the true sense of "public", and that's why we should build it) would be a daunting task, perhaps beyond today's software engineering and perhaps requiring very advanced evolutionary and AI techniques.

    But, do we really need a complete P2P replacement of today's web?

    In the 80s we only had email and Usenet, and these simple asynchronous tools served us just fine. I would be happy to have P2P equivalents of email and Usenet to start with.

    In the 00s we have seen the development of community WiFi local area networks and metropolitan area networks with local content. Providing a bridge to the Internet requires the services of the big brothers, but providing local content does not: it only requires personal PCs, WiFi equipment, routers and a lot of hard work. Close networks can be bridged by long range WiFi, but bridging far networks requires using the government / corporate Internet.

    But now there is a new independent variable: many of us carry WiFi enabled smartphones in our pocket at all times. Can we ourselves do the bridging of asynchronous communications (email and Usenet -like)? Bees are a good metaphor for this because they carry genetic material from one plant to another. I imagine citizen bees who carry data from one local ad-hoc network to another, or to a fixed community network.

    Thinking aloud: You are in Tahrir Square in Cairo. You switch your personal WiFi hotspot available in Android 2.2 and later, and the Beenet program. Other Beenet users link to your hotspot. Your phone collects all their messages. You keep roaming like this and, when you are in range of a trusted WiFi community network, you can upload everything there for other bees to pick up... you get the idea. I believe it would be relatively simple to build a barebone Beenet, and I believe some existing tools like Frostwire for Android (link in the post) can already be used for this.
    BenRayfield     Sun, Feb 6, 2011  Permanent link
    Its not as hard as it appears. Businesses spend huge resources to connect to existing systems which are huge and complex fore the same reason. The root of that complexity is the goal of controlling how technology is used instead of offering it as tools to be used any way the user wants. Its easy to build a hammer, but its really hard and expensive to build a hammer that can only work with the kind of nails your business sells. Example: Adobe Flash server is 500 megabytes, but all it does is let you use webcams, microphones, video, etc in a web browser. It does audio, video, keyboard, etc which are all simple ideas. But because they connect to a lot of proprietary video cameras and other devices, their software became huge and complex. As you said, we don't need to rebuild every part of the internet. Audio, video, keyboard, mouse, text, etc will be enough. That can all be done through simple ideas like having a unique name for each computer and the ability to send bytes between any 2 computers.

    Your bees example will not be enough. We need it to work in realtime, so we can use it as a video phone (like Skype). The internet is becoming more realtime. That's 1 feature we can't leave out.

    Android WiFi is still owned by businesses. We need our own network that will continue even if every business wants it not to. What's to stop those businesses from changing their Terms Of Service to say we can't do some necessary part of our network? If we threaten the authority of their networks to control all communication through any kind of technology, then they will find an excuse to change their Terms Of Service.

    All we really need is something like UDP packets, which are the simplest way to send bytes between 2 computers, but the internet today blocks all incoming communications between 2 customers of an ISP, unless those 2 customers buy business internet service or some other extra permissions to not be censored. If enough people buy out of such censoring, they will make it more expensive. Supply and demand. They will solve their problem, which is our freedom.
    giulio     Mon, Feb 7, 2011  Permanent link
    @Ben - of course realtime is better than asynchronous, but asynchronous is better than nothing! We need to protect the Internet now.

    My favorite approach to system design is starting with very simple useful things which work. If it is useful, if it is simple, and if it works, there will be users and contributors to make it better and more sophisticated, and eventually also realtime.

    Note that there is "a wireless connectivity bombshell called Wi-Fi Direct that will enable device-to-device connections using current Wi-Fi standards."
     
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