29 July 2021

Phone security

I was looking at phone security again yesterday, and decided to explore whether it is more secure to go back to a dumb phone. According to my reading, it is safer to use a smart phone, but to dumb it down. That means, in the case of Android, not to sign in to Google, Samsung, or other services, to disconnect it from data services, to install few apps, etc.

I bought my current Samsung phone a couple of years ago. I have never signed in to Google or Samsung. I use only apps downloaded from the free open source repository FDroid or, rarely, added manually (that already means no mainstream social media, no WhatsApp, etc.).

I have never actually felt a need for anything beyond FDroid, but still do quite a lot with my phone. I can check my email and calendar, message over Telegram and SMS, follow the Fediverse, read wordprocessor documents, browse the web, set alarms, listen to music, take photos and videos, authenticate 2FA, check the weather, convert currencies, keep shopping lists, and do many other things if I desired.

Some of those things I don't actually need, as I am close to a computer most of the day. So, for now, I have turned off the phone's mobile data wifi, location and bluetooth connections. One helpful article that I found also pointed out that it is possible to fine tune the permissions granted each app, so I have done that for when I do need to turn on data services.

‘No parallels’: 2,300-year-old solar observatory awarded Unesco world heritage status - The Guardian

The towers functioned as a calendar using the rising and setting arcs of the sun to mark not only equinoxes and solstices but even to define the precise time of year to within one or two days.

Call for Hungarian ministers to resign in wake of Pegasus revelations - The Guardian

‘We will return’: the battle to save an ancient Palestinian village from demolition - The Guardian

Daphna Golan-Agnon, a Hebrew University human rights professor and Lifta activist, said the antiquities authority’s survey – which has taken archaeology, history, architecture, wildlife and ecology into account – showed clearly that Lifta can be preserved.

“It’s amazing that after more than 70 years of abandonment, the village is still standing so beautifully, even with many of the houses’ roofs destroyed. We ask for the buildings to be stabilised and are willing to help fundraise if cost is an issue.”

Countdown to the airstrike: the moment Israeli forces hit al-Jalaa tower, Gaza - The Guardian

Shocking. Helps to put us in the shoes of a person who is awoken with the message that he has to leave his apartment immediately because the building will be imminently destroyed.

New Zealand rated best place to survive global societal collapse | Globalisation | The Guardian

Study citing ‘perilous state’ of industrial civilisation ranks temperate islands top for resilience

30 June 2021

Blogging is logging

Whereas the popular conception of a blogger is that of some guy with important things to say about something, the actual meaning is much more humdrum and ordinary. A blog is just a web log; it's a way of recording our lives, our reality, and our responses to what we are experiencing. It is online in order to share with anybody else who may be interested. But it is not "in your face" like social media. A true blog does not try to thrust itself in front of everyone's eyeballs. That is why I'm no longer publishing full posts through any channel. If somebody wants to read it, let them visit it here in its original form. I will continue to make it accessible by various means: RSS, email, the Fediverse and Twitter. I draw the line only at Facebook.

Thinking about CRMs and other information systems

Another kind of logging is the keeping of organizational records. For our small staff, we still haven't managed to keep our records inside a proper CRM system. I have tried to devise various means to preserve records, but still feel worried that too much of the information is kept only inside people's brains. And humans forget, and pass on in one way or another.

I managed to get CiviCRM working again, but I am not hopeful that anybody is going to use it. CRM systems seem to be created more for organizations that maintain thousands of contacts, record hundreds of thousands of conversations with leads, customers, constituents, volunteers, etc. Our own work is much more less intense, but still it's hard to convince the staff of the need for keeping good records. Forget CRM - I would be happy if they used even simple means. The most I have managed is to make sure that documents are backed up on Google Drive.

Because the staff is using Google Workplace, and they all spend lots of time in their email systems, I have been trying to look at ways to improve the ways in which we use Gmail. One item that is missing from Google Workplace by default is shared contacts. There are ways to mitigate that, such as by using an external LDAP source, or by writing a program that uses a Google API, but the simplest way is to buy a program from Google's Marketplace. Whereas many of the applications there are ridiculously expensive, the Shared Contacts program is relatively cheap; at least if the number of users is small. So I decided to get that, and now Gmail contacts will become much more useful. I spent two or three hours putting together a presentation on how to use the system well. I hope somebody will read it. Ah well.

As for me, while I agree to use these proprietary systems, I will be much happier when I can leave them behind. Today I wrote again to S., who has been organizing a "Hackathon" for positive ventures by young people in the village:

As I wrote to you earlier (I don't think you noticed that email), my own interest has always been to encourage an ethical approach. Technology is an amoral enabler for many good and bad outcomes. A lot of us had high hopes that it could be the foundation for a more open democratic society, and we are seeing more and more that it is undermining our democracies, enabling greater autocracy and new forms of slavery.

Israel is a hi-tech capital where much of the infrastructure and services for autocratic states, surveillance tools and unethical software is being developed. (Companies like NSO, which sell surveillance tools to governments that then use them to assassinate activists and journalists, etc.)

We have many talented young people in the village but some of them are drawn towards non-ethical companies because they can quickly make a lot of money.

I think in the village we should be encouraging our young people to look at the negative sides of unethical software and understand subjects like surveillance capitalism (as described by Shoshana Zuboff) and how it works. I have heard that H. has looked into the ethical side and I'm sure we could find guest speakers on the subject.

In a hackathon, I think you could start by explaining the concept of free open source software (FOSS), and how it can be used to develop tools that can create a better technological environment that is not based on surveillance capitalism or closed source proprietary systems that limit our freedoms.

You could encourage people to look into alternatives like:

Fediverse versus mainstream social media (Mastodon, Peertube, Pixelfed, etc) See https://fediverse.party
Service providers like disroot.org, riseup.net, others, that promote alternatives like Jitsy to Zoom, XMPP to WhatsApp, etc.

Regarding privacy and technology issues, we could encourage them to check out the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, Cory Doctorow, Shoshana Zuboff, Richard Stallman, etc.

With regard to fundraising, I do not work on that side of things at our office - it's a conversation that you should have with our team.

I seem to have difficulty communicating my ideas. I sometimes wonder if by expressing them, I somehow manage to persuade everyone that the opposite is surely true.

Links

Windows 11 | Everything you need to know about Microsoft's new operating system - The Hindu

Silwan explained: How history and religion are exploited to displace Palestinians - Middle East Eye

Explained | Why is the U.S. readying new rules for the tech giants? - The Hindu

Illusions of empire: Amartya Sen on what British rule really did for India - The Guardian

OpenStreetMap looks to relocate to EU due to Brexit limitations - The Guardian

February 16, 2021

Protocols and interactivity

I was thinking to blog my interesting experiments with connecting between hubzilla and mastodon, but I'm sure that somebody, especially the persons who worked on this, has spent hour upon frustrating hour setting up this interaction and knows very well how it works, what sometimes works, and what causes it to fail.

Protocols and their interactivity seem like an emblem of our era. In information systems we have so many examples, starting with email. Though I try to use Thunderbird and plain text, quite often when quoting lines from a sender, gmail will render unquoted lines as quoted or vice-versa. On the web, HTML and CSS will interact strangely and browsers will render the result wrongly. LibreOffice will render MS Word formatted documents in unpredictable ways. And on and on.

These mirror examples of interactivity in the real world. We read about how British industries are currently falling foul of the complex bureaucracy entailed in exporting their products to the EU following Brexit. We anxiously watch how our coronavirus vaccines need to trick the immune system into generating antibodies that prevent the virus, and how the virus is finding ways to get around these defences. In the environment, we see how our pollutants and emissions interfere with our delicate climate system to create extreme weather, melt polar ice and threaten the existence of life on the planet.

Not so long ago, we were fairly ignorant of such interactions in the natural world. Nobody thought about them and, if they did, they would not have framed their description in the same language. We did not know about viruses and antibodies and did not understand the immune system. Trade and the protocols governing it were much simpler. Information systems did not exist. Yet farmers still needed to know when to sow their seeds and harvest their crops. Sailors needed to watch the stars and predict the weather. Hunters and fishermen needed to understand the behaviour of their game and the influence of the tides.

We can try to simplify, but cannot avoid interactivity and complexity. We can't magically transport ourselves to a more simple world where we can act autonomously and without regard for our environment. But perhaps we can handle complexity without being overwhelmed by it. This probably involves intuitive understanding, wisdom, zen, rather than trying to catalogue and predict every connection and interaction.

Screencasting

I was experimenting with screencasting from my computer to the Xiaomi Mi Box connected to my TV and stereo system. I was hoping it might be possible to, say, play the music on my computer through the Mi, thereby taking advantage of the better quality speakers connected there. It wasn't so easy, though. VLC is supposed to be able to do this, but didn't work in my case. There were a couple of Linux programs which I downloaded but didn't really know how to use. The Mi uses something called Miracast. It's easy to screencast, for example, a YouTube movie from a Chrome-type browser to the Mi. But outside the browser, I did not succeed. There is a way to cast music in my file system through Vivaldi, using a website (http://antimatter15.com/player/player.html). Of course, it would be possible to cast through Spotify or a similar service, but I prefer not to use streaming services if I can avoid it. This may not be the end of the story, but life is short.

Links Blog

✭How China Is Changing Your Internet | The New York Times - YouTube
How China Is Changing Your Internet | The New York Times
by The New York Times on YouTube

In China, a sheltered internet has given rise to a new breed of app, and American companies are taking notice. What was once known as the land of cheap rip-offs may now offer a glimpse at the future.
#china

✭Italian mayor warns public after black panther sightings | Italy | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/15/italian-mayor-warns-public-after-black-panth
This is not the first time a panther has been hunted by authorities in Puglia. In January 2020, in the San Severo area of Foggia, authorities searched for a big black cat believed to be a panther that, according to investigators, had escaped from the home of a local mobster who kept it as a pet.

The authorities have not ruled out that the panther sighted in Bari could be the same one that was spotted in Foggia and never found.

✭Install alfacast screen mirror for Linux using the Snap Store | Snapcraft
https://snapcraft.io/alfacast
Share and split your screen to many devices simultaneously. App allows you to broadcast and to watch any content from desktop.
#streaming

✭Lagrange
https://gmi.skyjake.fi/lagrange
Lagrange is a desktop GUI client for browsing Geminispace. It offers modern conveniences familiar from web browsers, such as smooth scrolling, inline image viewing, multiple tabs, visual themes, Unicode fonts, bookmarks, history, and page outlines.
#gemini

10 February, 2021

Gaza and Palestine

Helped put together a slideshow presentation for a doctor from our village on his visits with Physicians for Human Rights to Gaza. They do treatment days in hospitals and in private homes, about once every three months, and have been continuing also during the COVID pandemic. Italian or Arabic speakers can listen to his presentation at
PONTI - tra Gaza e Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam

by Amici NSWAS on YouTube

A friend in Italy wrote because she said she was feeling a bit "homesick" for Israel/Palestine - she sent me an account of her visit to Hebron and the South Hebron hills, many years ago. The village she talked about, At-Tuwani, has been very much in the news lately, due to attacks and beatings from fierce Israeli settlers, incursions by the army, housing demolitions, etc. Internationals who maintained a presence and help to prevent some of the worst infractions have been unable to come due to the COVID crisis. Now a group of young Jewish Israeli activists will be staying there for three months, while learning Arabic. A young woman from our village is going there to help teach Arabic. It sounds like a good effort.

A few years ago, when the Jahalin bedouin tribe were under threat of their encampments being demolished due to the expansion of Maaleh Adumim settlement, I spent a night or two with them. It was when mobile phones were just coming in, and, as part of the effort, the activists had provided them with a mobile phone in order that they could call for help, alert journalists, etc. I had never used a mobile phone prior to that. It was a huge thing, about the size of a brick. It seemed a complete irony to have this state-of-the-art technology in a bedouin tent. During the time I was there, the bulldozers did not come; but they came afterwards. That encampment is no longer there, and the Bedouins were moved to a site adjacent to Jerusalem's garbage dump.

Links blog

✭Twitter: Order to block accounts ‘not consistent with Indian law’ | Freedom of the Press News | Al Jazeera
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/10/twitter-to-not-comply-with-india-govt-order-to-ta
Twitter Inc has said it would not fully comply with orders from India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to take down some accounts as it does not believe the orders are consistent with Indian law.
#india

✭Family of girl, 12, forced to marry abductor condemn Pakistan authorities | Women's rights and gender equality
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/feb/10/family-of-girl-12-forced-to-mar
"Criticism follows release of 29-year-old who kept girl chained in cattle pen, in latest case highlighting abuses of religious minorities"
#pakistan

17 January, 2021

Couple of power failures in the house due to the rain. Something kept tripping the RCD. Trouble is we actually have two sub-households running off our board, and unless raising the fuses again trips the RCD again right away, it's hard to know in which part of the house the problem lies. Anyway, afterwards I forgot to turn on my server computer, so hubzilla was down for a couple of hours.

I'm quite happy with my new seiza bench* and low desk setup (just the setup is new, not the bench, which I have had for several years).

Right now, the "desk" is still pretty improvised, from an old magazine rack and a few plastic packing boxes for the screens, but I'll build something more professional soon.

  • (I also sometimes just sit on a cushion.)

Sitting here listening to Cafe de Anatolia and editing a couple of documents today. Earlier, we went and got our second COVID shot. In my age group (60 - 69), 67% of the population have had their first jab and 10% have had their second.

Links blog

✭ The Guardian view on Israel and apartheid: prophecy or description? | Israel | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/17/the-guardian-view-on-israel-and-apar
The crime of apartheid has been defined as “inhumane acts committed in the context of a regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups with the intention of maintaining that regime”.

If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck...
#israel #palestine

✭Alexei Navalny detained at airport on return to Russia | World news | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/17/alexei-navalny-detained-at-airport-on-return
authorities have so far avoided giving Navalny a long prison sentence, probably in order to avoid sparking a backlash.

Brave man.
#russia

✭ 'We are worried': Indians hopeful but anxious as vaccination drive begins | Global development | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jan/17/indian-hopeful-anxious-covid-va
"Bharat Biotech has also been accused of ethical violations for allegedly testing Covaxin on people in the slums of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, without them being aware it was a trial. Seven people have claimed they were told they were receiving a vaccine that would protect them from the virus, and were paid 750 rupees, with no awareness it was an untested vaccine or that they might have received a placebo."

Born in sin, just hope it works.
#india #COVID-19

✭ Mozilla VPN is Now Available to Mac & Linux Users - OMG! Ubuntu!
https://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2021/01/mozilla-vpn-is-finally-available-on-mac-linux
Windows, Android, and iOS users have been able to use this subscription-based privacy service since its launch in July 2020. Linux and Mac users however weren’t catered for at the time.
But:
"We currently offer Mozilla VPN in the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia."
#mozilla #vpn

✭ Firefox 86 Will Support Next-Gen Image Format by Default - OMG! Ubuntu!
https://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2021/01/firefox-86-avif-image-support
"A bug report shows Mozilla devs plan to ship Firefox 86, due in February 2020, with AVIF image support by default. AVIF images used on websites and web services will load in-page just like other supported image formats."
Yet another new format to worry about.

#browsers #graphics

✭ Trump social media ban sparks calls for action against other populist leaders | Social media | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/jan/17/trump-social-media-ban-jair-bolsonaro-narend
"After US president’s ban, some wonder if action will be taken against populists accused of using social media to stir chaos"
Without making false comparisons, I've been sometimes amused, after buying a sim-card in India, to start receiving text messages from Modi.
#social-media

✭ We're on the verge of breakdown: a data scientist's take on Trump and Biden | US politics | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/17/were-on-the-verge-of-breakdown-a-data-scie
“Societies are systems and they tend to change in a somewhat predictable way,” Turchin told the Observer. “We are on the verge of state breakdown where the centre loses hold of society.”
#US

✭ 'There's something terribly wrong': Why more Americans are dying in middle age [from 2019]
https://www.advisory.com/en/daily-briefing/2019/12/02/middle-age-death
"The researchers noted U.S. life expectancy has declined as life expectancy in other developed countries has increased."
#US

January 13, 2021


Phone camera software

I have lately been annoyed that every time I open my camera app, Samsung suggests that I will save photos to One Drive (their cloud platform). There should at least be an option that says "Never ask me again", but all I can choose is "Not Now". I am not signed in to Samsung (or Google) on my Samsung A10. and don't plan to use a cloud platform. So I looked in FDroid for an alternative Camera App and found Open Camera. I am not sure it has all the features of the Samsung camera app, but it has quite a lot. One small thing I like is that it can show a cropping grid for my favourite aspect ratio, which is 3:2. For now I have made Open Camera my default camera app, and placed it on the home screen of my BaldPhone launcher.

Vaccinations

Despite the initial high numbers, Israel's vaccination drive has been faltering due to a shortage of vaccines, though new supplies are supposed to arrive during the week. About 1.9 million have been vaccinated so far. Second shots are not expected to be affected.

Image/photo

EFF Conference

The EFF have a conference in a couple of days on privacy concerns regarding mandated COVID-19 applications.
They are holding it on their channel on Twitch, which I would not agree to use as it's an Amazon subsidiary. It's being live-streamed also to Facebook (which I use only for my office) and YouTube, which, well... Anyway, YouTube doesn't require a login. Are there still no viable alternatives to these surveillance capitalist companies for holding big events?

Being not quite equal

The Mohammad Bakri verdict illustrates what it means to be a not-quite-equal minority in Israel. Theoretically, you can make films, run for the Knesset, speak freely. If you play nicely, you will enjoy a modicum of tolerance and respect. If you speak out against the majority view, you will be cornered by a hostile establishment and regarded as a dangerous member of a fifth column. In the previous suit against him, Bakri apparently won on a technicality. The latest suit, according to the TV news, he lost because the plaintiffs, a soldier or group of soldiers, could claim that their good name had been injured by the film: the Jenin residents interviewed in it had accused the army of committing a massacre. Bakri, in his defence, said that he was just a film-maker, not an investigative journalist, and had no ability to check the validity of the narrators' stories. "This was their narrative", he said. But the court did not agree. The judges said that he had a responsibility also to air the other side of the story, i.e. the army's version of what happened. As if every lie put out by the military spokesperson were to be balanced by the version of the Palestinian victims - the media just swallow whatever the army says. But, to its credit, the TV channel at least used footage (without commentary) of destroyed houses, and women standing among the ruins, as the backdrop to their voice-over. It created a jarring contrast to the former soldiers elation that justice had been served and their name had been finally cleared.

In the world's eye, they will always remain war criminals, even if international human rights agencies eventually decided that this was not a massacre. In the eyes of Israelis, the battle of Jenin was a just response to a town that had sent more than two dozen suicide bombers to kill innocent people in Israeli cities. In the eyes of the Palestinian residents, hundreds of whom found themselves homeless, this was the latest and greatest in a long stream of injustices. "Arna's Children" shows very well the background story of how children in the town grew up to be fighters. "Paradise Now" shows well how young men become suicide bombers. In the Middle East, it is not truth that wins out, but always the narrative, the story that has been told to you and which you tell to your children. Perhaps it's the same everywhere.

4 January, 2021

Stargazing

Went with my granddaughter to the top of the hill to look at the stars, just after sunset. I was no longer able to find Saturn next to Jupiter; either because of clouds, or because the stars were still too faint, or because Saturn had moved (the name for planets in Hebrew translates to "stars that walk/move"). She was most excited by the sight of Orion's belt.

Ubuntu Media PC

The Ubuntu system on the computer we use as a Media PC (I think it was 16.4 or even 14.4) expired a long time ago and wouldn't upgrade, so I decided to install a new version. I thought this would be easy (as in, something I've done dozens of times). But this time all kinds of obstacles presented themselves. First, it somehow got stuck on formatting a partition. Then it got stuck right at the end of the install and wouldn't re-boot. Then, just at the last stage of the install, when it asks you to remove removable media, I accidentally unplugged the computer when I was reaching for the usb stick (which wrecked the install). On the next install, I tried installing without erasing the previous install. It painstakingly copied all the existing programs, which took much longer than downloading them. But again it failed. The next install worked fine, but I made a dumb mistake afterwards and I deleted an essential directory (thought I was deleting something in a previous Ubuntu installation on another disk). Installed again. Now it all works. But, my Firefox won't run Netflix; even after allowing it to work with DRM. I'm tired of Chrome and refuse to sign in, so I tried to download Vivaldi. It downloaded, but Ubuntu refused to install it. Another gripe is that Vivaldi isn't in Ubuntu's Appstore. Why? And the Appstore itself doesn't seem well thought out. Under what category is one supposed to find browsers? There isn't one, at least not a category that makes any sense.

I chose Ubuntu for the media PC only because that's what my wife has on her PC, and I wanted it to be familiar to her. Otherwise I would install my favourite, which remains MX.

Image/photo

Complexity

We are forced to deal with ever more complex systems that are beyond our natural abilities. I fear what will happen in old age. It isn't just Linux (which actually works very well most of the time). I mean, we recently bought 7 new Lenovo Thinkpads with Windows 10 installed. On every one of them there's a problem with the speakers. A Windows update makes the driver stop working. The first time, after not being able to fix the issue, I called in the company repair guy. He showed me what to do, but said also that sometimes the fix works other times not - just the previous week he'd had to send a computer back for re-formatting and reinstallation. The next time, I managed myself, but the problem came back after a new Windows Update.

These sorts of problems are beyond what ordinary users can solve. We are at the mercy of complex systems, wherever we look, while using technology is no longer a choice. During the pandemic, it's been the only way many of us could communicate with family members, order food, obtain the stopover grants provided by the government, obtain health services, interact with the bank, and so many other things.

Reading and spiritual life

Reading is an activity that brings one in contact with a writer's consciousness, and the experience is sometimes unpleasant, in that it involves you in their issues; their paranoia, their violence, their appetites, their obsessions. A spiritual seeker isn't supposed to read novels, watch movies, etc. But it isn't just because the mind gets wrapped up in stories, and you end up populating your consciousness with ghosts, rather than attempting to look into the essential nature of reality (or contemplate the divine, understand the meaning of ahankara, calm the vrittis, perform zikr, intuit the meaning of the koan, or whatever). It is also due to this communion with the lower consciousness of the writers and producers of fiction, and their "demons".

Links blog

✭ Librera Reader: an All-Format eBook Reader for Android
https://librera.mobi/
All-Format eBook Reader for Android. Interestingly, purportedly supports RTL languages
#technology
✭ The Julian Assange extradition ruling: right result, wrong reason | Julian Assange | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jan/04/julian-assange-extradition-ruling-us
"The US war machine depends on being able to airbrush out of existence the brutal human realities. If innocent civilians can be silently killed without consequences, then there is nothing to stop even more suffering the same fate. The US military cannot be allowed to operate with impunity: that’s what this case is really about. And while Assange’s freedom may be saved – though this is not certain – the argument for revealing the truth about wars conducted in the name of the American people must be made more stridently than ever."
#Assange #US #press-freedom

✭ Julian Assange cannot be extradited to US, British judge rules | Julian Assange | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/jan/04/julian-assange-cannot-be-extradited-to-us-br
Judge says it would be ‘oppressive’ to extradite WikiLeaks founder to US, citing concerns for his mental health
#Assange #freedom-of-speech

✭ Australian women’s rights activist faces charges in Tanzania | Australia news | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/jan/03/australian-womens-rights-activist-f
An Australian ex-Muslim women’s rights activist faces “politically motivated” charges in Tanzania, including for a tweet allegedly critical of the country’s president, according to her supporters.

I read almost to the end of the article thinking this was Tazmania

✭ Palestinians excluded from Israeli Covid vaccine rollout as jabs go to settlers | Israel | The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/03/palestinians-excluded-from-israeli-covid-vac
Israeli, Palestinian and international rights groups have accused Israel of dodging moral, humanitarian and legal obligations as an occupying power during the pandemic.
#palestine

✭ Israeli soldier shoots and paralyzes Palestinian man in dispute over power generator - CNN
https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/02/middleeast/israeli-soldier-shoots-palestinian/index.htm
"An Israeli soldier shot a Palestinian man, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down, after an altercation over a portable electric generator, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health."

"Video of the incident, which occurred on Friday near Hebron in the south of the West Bank, appears to show Haroun Abu Aram, 24, along with three other men, attempting to hold on to the generator while Israeli soldiers seek to take it away."
(At-Tuwani)

7 December, 2021

Laptop Displays

One thing I notice with my Thinkpad, is that, after a time, the keys leave permanent marks or scratches on the screen. I think this is the first laptop in which I've noticed this. I only ever met one fellow who owned a special clothe between the keys and the screen and conscientiously put it there every time he would close his computer. That was quite a few years ago and he owned a Mac.

Browsers and FOSS

@⚧POLⒶRIS⚧ has an interesting thread on browsers, beginning with Brave browser and the developers' efforts to prevent forking of it (though it's under an open source license; and comparisons with PaleMoon (whose developer is also very zealous about protecting its' name and LibreWolf (a Firefox fork that sounds similar to Waterfox before it's developer sold out). That's all information I wasn't aware of (though now I think about it, I think I did once hear reports about Moonchild Productions going after trademark infringers). I'm not at all surprised about Brave, and decided some time ago not to go near it. If I'm not wrong, it seems that Palemoon's main interest is in protecting its' branding: "Pale Moon rampantly abuses trademark law, they're perhaps one of the worst when it comes to this. They go as far as threatening people on AUR for "distributing unauthorized builds" that use their branding."

I feel more tolerant when an organization wants to protect their branding than when they are trying to keep ownership of the code. Developers who fork a project while keeping a similar name are exploiting familiarity with the name in order to advance their product. On the other hand, giving a nod to an existing product can seem respectful. Ideally I would use a browser that's completely clear of such interests like Epiphany, but it isn't very usable for me right now. Its predecessors were better - I was once a happy Galeon user.

What I do like about Palemoon and its sister Basilisk, which I'm currently using, is that the rendering engine is also forked (from Gecko); in terms of rendering engines we've now got Webkit - Blink - Edge and Gecko - Goanna. Goanna is the only one of those that isn't owned or backed by a big company, now that Mozilla is basically controlled by Google. It seems that KHTML, though it is still used in Konqueror, has not been actively developed since 2016.

Plain text and Left to Right Languages

There is no solution for the writing of plain text email messages in right to left languages. Thunderbird and other email clients sometimes have a means to write from right-to-left so that in the compose window the message appears correctly for the sender, however the receiver still gets the message with the text aligned at the left hand side, with all the end-of-sentence punctuation backwards.* If there is a single word or term (such as a hyperlink) in Latin letters, the words that appear before that word are moved to the opposite side of the line, so the sentence will be garbled and unintelligible. (The latter is a problem that pops up also in dialogue boxes of the operating system, when the interface language is in a right-to-left language.)

Basically, one is forced to use rich text or html for right to left languages because only there you have direction tags. For email purists, like I try to be, this is an unresolved problem.

★ Introduction to typing and using RTL (Right to Left) text, and configuring software applications to support RTL.

"In plain text and Email there are no paragraphs to set the directionality for, and the document directionality is usually LTR. Some text editors and Email editors allow the user to change the apparent directionality on a per-document or a per-line basis. It is important to note that this apparent directionality is not a property of the document, and it will be lost when the file is closed or the Email is sent. It is up to the user who opens the document or the email (or his software) to set the proper apparent directionality."

New computer

My son has given me a new computer; one which he purchased himself for coding a couple of years ago. It's Thinkpad T470P, which comes with a good 7th generation i7-7000HQ processor, 32GB of RAM and an SSD. So it's the most powerful computer I've had. It has one flaw, which prevents him from just selling it on eBay, which is that if the computer is jolted, it turns off. This isn't a problem if work is being done on a stable surface, but I could imagine that it might be a problem if working on one's lap or on an airplane. It's possible to move it around the house in an 'on' state, usually, but there's always the chance that it could turn off. Anyway, that's not a serious impediment for the way I use a computer. What is more questionable is that the computer comes with Windows 10 Pro, and I don't want to remove it in case he needs the computer back at some time.

It's been years since I worked under Windows. I don't mind getting back up to speed with it, since I occasionally need to help people with their computers. So I will continue using it for a while. Afterwards, I might just go back to working with AntiX, MX or even Puppy Linux from a pen drive, as I've done quite often previously. In terms of software, there is one advantage for my work, in that Windows works natively with Google Drive file stream. My experience with the 3rd party equivalents (of the earlier form of Google Drive sync) have not been good, and on one occasion, disastrous. With regard to the other software that I use, I have really no difficulties. Almost all the programs that I use in Linux exist under Windows: Waterfox, Libreoffice, Gimp, Cherrytree, Xnview, Clementine, Bluefish, Atom, Filezilla, Keepass, Scribus, Inkscape, VLC, Telegram desktop, Tor, Calibr, Transmission. I've also now installed Ubuntu under Windows, so that I can use command line utilities. I haven't checked yet regarding Audacity sound editor or the possibilities regarding movie editing, but I remember that Windows' own possibilities for the latter were adequate for my needs.

Anyway, it's a joy to be working on a more powerful machine again finally, as my 7 year old computers, with their slow processors and limited RAM were becoming annoying for some things. I also love the Thinkpad keyboard, which on this model is also back-lit, so I hope to get some nice work done on this thing. The battery lasts for several hours, which is also very nice.

One interesting thing that I have discovered is that Linux is more flexible regarding keyboard language input.  On a Windows US keyboard it's a bit difficult to obtain a € sign or a £ sign without a numerical keyboard.  What I've decided to do is to work under the UK keyboard.  Five keys are switched, but these are mostly obscure, and I can remember the equivalents.  The main switch is regarding the @ and " symbols.  It's a weird position for the double inverted comma/quotation mark.  Brits tend to use this less than Americans, but I see that nowadays, they are tending to use double quotes in the same situations as Americans.  The Guardian style guide , like the BBC, Telegraph and Reuters style guides, calls for the use of double quotes for main quotes, with the use of single inverted commas preserved only for internal quotes (or apostrophes).  Both British and US journals use single quotes in headlines and titles, but double quotes in the articles themselves.  If this is true it would probably make sense to move the " sign back into the QWERTY line.  Anyway, I think I can work with it.