While I don't intend on writing anything so blatantly brain crushingly Eighties Computer Nerd Saves the Day I like using my characters where I feel appropriate, and Richard Fawkes isn't being let off the hook just yet. Of course I generally start with a 'wouldn't it be cool if...' idea then try bouncing a story from there.
What if you woke up and realized The Internet was dead in the water? There and usable, but beyond youtube, facebook and the like there's nothing deeper. No obscure forums over steampunk subculture, or instructables or any of that because site owners couldn't keep up with new fees imposed.
Yes yes alarmist bleating at commercial interests stifling creativity and the whole 'US Identity' whatchimacallit thing that's been floated around as a consolidation of your different online bits of self (If you're American.) It's rarely as bad as they say it's going to be, and the world hasn't fallen apart yet in spite of people claiming for the past couple thousand years, if not since civilization began, that 'Soon all of this will be gone.'
Still. Let's run with the idea, see where it leads. Don't worry. This is a one-shot/one-part thing. Just enough to get the bug out of my system. Yes I'm fairly sure I'm playing fast and loose, yet again, with how things work in the Real World, but I feel I have an excuse given I'm keeping consistant with what the setting has already established is internally 'normal.'
I blame the PirateBox centered discussion I've had about trying to weld a set of community-type features into the thing, my watching BBS; The Documentery (Creative Commons license but I only got the main feature. If what I've heard is correct I want to wait till I have the dvd set, along with Get Lamp, to do a proper review on blag,) and reading lots of stuff from textfiles.com while my home connection's gone. Well, all that plus an overactive imagination.
Takes place a few months after 'Deep Six'.
A Goodbye to the Internet
Been awhile since I've posted anything. Not sure really if I should but Miko thought it would be a good idea. You see, my job has let me get a better look at the web than most people bother with and I'm not at all happy with what I've seen. Oh sure from the surface it's just a bunch of tin-foil hattery over the rearrangement caused by DMCA 2 but for Joe Average to see what's got me in such a twist they have to sit where I am for a minute.
First though let's put some credentials out on the proverbial table so the next bit won't be dismissed as crazy speak. I've been using ever since I could reach the keyboard and even if it never amounted to much I've been posting stuff since I learned how Youtube worked and had stuff posted with me in it ever since I started walking. There's all manner of civil and not so civil discussion I've been part of. Been in and out of so many social networks I could only give you the highlight reel. Even managed, for a couple months anyway, to get national ranking in Black Ops: Man Down. My life is on the web, or at least enough chunks of it for me to care about any changes that go on there.
However since merely having 'lived' in the web since infancy probably won't cut it here's a picture of my different credentials. [ALT TEXT: WALL-O-CERTIFICATES] I've been working in the bowels of different help desks and call centers for the past five years. For the past three months I've been working as an independent security consultant. This doesn't make me an all seeing all knowing font of information, but hopefully if anyone in the comments section wants to have a few rounds I have a little high ground to use.
For the past three months I've been working with a small startup helping groups unable to hire a full time staff get prepared (and more importantly perhaps have documentation they can show off saying they are prepared) for the new processor lines coming out (yes yes the magic mythical quantum computer is here. I'm starting to hate those two words...) My job lets me look at otherwise confidential material, and I have to sign a Nondisclosure Agreement with most places since, to be completely fair, otherwise there wouldn't really be much legally stopping me from taking what I can from Company A then selling to Companies B and C for however much they're willing to buy for. So I'm going to have to talk in generalities and be non-specific. Granted we're not dealing with Apple, or IBM, or the like, more like your friendly local startup with maybe three dozen or so employees trying to keep up with the big boys by using any means at their disposal.
I'm using my box to see if the client's network has any holes I can get in through. Normally I do this alongside their people (if they have any dedicated tech support) so they can not only see what I'm doing but so I can see what happens on their end even if I can't get through. Fine. Dandy. Oversimplified explanation but it works. This time was different since I was checking different access points they've got scattered around (why is unimportant, don't ask.) At the time I only had one guy with me and he seemed more interested in hitting on a co-worker through his phone than the job at hand. So when I got in it was just me and no real oversight. Well me being nosey I took a quick peek at a few things. Nothing I'd get in trouble for accessing; at least I haven't gotten sued/fined/whatever yet.
Short of it was they were scaling back on the whole viral marketing campaign they had planned till after such and such got passed. Just a quick skim and the document author could've easily had an agenda, but it made me keep an ear out. Next place I had to work with had a similar situation. Web marketing scaled back to see what shook out from voting on The Hill. I didn't like this and started asking friends I know if they'd seen anything about what would end up being DMCA 2 on the news.
They'd told me it's been going on for months. Demanded to know what rock I was living under. Was huge unavoidable. Even had some mainstream coverage if you paid attention. Only answer I could give was if I wasn't at work I was either asleep or trying to get things squared away from where that month of crazy I had to put up with last January kinda knocked everything out of whack (Long Story. I'd posted my version of events elsewhere. There won't be a condensed version.)
Contacted my Representatives. Gave them at least eight good reasons why packet shaping was still a bad idea and why this was even worse. Still waiting on word back. Don't really expect anything but a pat on the head and 'son you're overreacting. Everything's just fine' if they do. It's been painfully clear that businesses have managed to get around the sort of legislation brought out in the teens to stop the first major government grab by entertainment groups. It's going to make things so much easier. Right. Hack away content and direct users to your local teleco-run media archive. Lots simpler than letting a user get bogged down by actual choices and definitely easier on your local provider since they won't have to compete with anybody unless thier customers pay an extra fee for 'unlimited' access.
Dio. I'm sounding like my dad. OK. Fine. They won the Internet and since the US can strong arm whatever it wants down the world's neck since most of the other major governments are also run by media giants that don't really care about us except as temporary holders of their money. What do we do now?
Turns out, a couple years before I was born, a professor started popularizing the idea of portable servers completely disconnected from the web. At first these things were pretty much confined to file sharing dumps. Think the brits call 'em Mandlebots. For awhile Pirate Box was a popular term but the name's changed a few times. Not sure even if this part of the narrative will remain uncensored or not.
Oh what the hell. I'm gonna violate the living daylights out of the terms of service but let's go ahead and post a nice detailed how-to. What's the worst that can happen to me? Getting banned from the web? They haven't criminalize the actual boxes yet, just made it a violation of that boring thing most people ignore when they get a new service provider.
Exert of "Interview with a Web Refugee" article from .Monkey. Reprinted with permission.
But you won't be able to do X anymore!
Actually compared to the Web I've grown up with this's entirely too restrictive. Used to be anybody could write a game that could be played online. Used to be any clip, sound, piece of art, writing, any of it could be posted. Sure you'd get some takedown notices and more often than not, depending on the group that had the rights, it'd go down inside of a couple hours, but not always. Not like now where everything you upload has to get approved before it goes 'live.' The way I see it, I don't wanna be here anymore.
What will you do if they suspend your account?
Contrary to what Big Media and Big News want to put out there SeedNet does more than traffic in the latest award winning songs and movies everyone says is complete garbage. Took me digging around but I found out they've supported community features, mailing lists, discussion groups, and even per-box news feeds, media streams, and all sorts of goodness that gets distributed through the 'real' internet for the past couple decades. It just hops from one box to the next till it gets around to whoever made the request.
Wait that sounds like that'd take forever to get around the world. What will you do about current events?
That used to be the case, back when SeedNet was in it's infancy and only a few people in a given area might have one. Now more often than not you'll find one or two and after initial setup and picking through the initial sort your box will get a general idea of what to look for next time. Sure the sort takes a few hours, or even days depending on your tastes, what's available, and if you want to whittle away all the pop stuff floating around. Think of it less as a barrier to entry and more a rite of initiation. Everyone passes through and learns from it.
Can't you get in trouble? What if somebody stuffs something on your box using fake metadata then gets the feds to arrest you for kiddie animal snuff bank robbery porn?
[Laughs] What's to keep someone from finding a way into your home network, or even your phone, and doing that anyway? While it's a threat, and these bad things do exist out there, most of the seed boxes I've browsed have been fairly well maintained by their users. Plus if someone's a known poisoner their box can be blacklisted and people can and do trade blacklists. Imperfect, but we live in an imperfect world.
If these Seed Boxes are so great why haven't I heard of them sooner?
Mostly because information not conforming to the approved image of SeedNet being full of morally bankrupt people that care only for themselves and have the maturity of your average twelve year old gets removed from the web in a hurry. I know. I've seen it happen on different feeds friends of mine run. They've been knocking around for about thirty years now and I'm only just now finding out how useful the things are. Chew on that one for awhile.
This whole thing seems to be mostly pie in the sky ramblings. Why do you hate "Big Media" so much?
I don't 'hate' media, or any other corporations as a reflexive action. Corporations and other global entities have done the world countless good over the past century or so of 'modern' history.
No, really. You seem to have a thing against how the internet has shaped up. When the graphical interface came people complained. When services like Youtube, Steam, and BUGS came people complained. Why should we take this time any more seriously than any of the other times that the internet has been Ruined Forever?
Mostly because I'm an extreme case. Most people that use SeedNet haven't abandoned the traditional web completely. In fact most view the web as still holding some use. I just happen to believe otherwise. Think of it less as me being yet another person feeling like the next generation is passing him by and more like someone who doesn't like the services being offered and decided to let his money do the talking since that seems to be the only language anyone in charge listens to.
As I said in the interview I'm letting my dollars do the talking. Enclosed here is a detailed how-to on building one of these beasties on the cheap. Obviously with a little fiddling and a bit of asking around you could probably get better hardware working. Wait. Why haven't the 'big bad all seeing Media Giants' taken this site down? Well... Let's just say it's been up for a very very long time and has been mirrored by so many different systems that it literally cannot be taken down.
I'm not fighting to 'save' the web from anything. They've won the game after making sure it was rigged. They can keep their prize.
END OF LINE.