The Coming War On General Computation – Cory Doctorow

The copyright was was just the beginning. – Recorded at the 28th Chaos Communication Congress.

The last 20 years of Internet policy have been dominated by the copyright war, but the war turns out only to have been a skirmish. The coming century will be dominated by war against the general purpose computer, and the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race.

The problem is twofold: first, there is no known general-purpose computer that can execute all the programs we can think of except the naughty ones; second, general-purpose computers have replaced every other device in our world. There are no airplanes, only computers that fly. There are no cars, only computers we sit in. There are no hearing aids, only computers we put in our ears. There are no 3D printers, only computers that drive peripherals. There are no radios, only computers with fast ADCs and DACs and phased-array antennas. Consequently anything you do to “secure” anything with a computer in it ends up undermining the capabilities and security of every other corner of modern human society.

And general purpose computers can cause harm — whether it’s printing out AR15 components, causing mid-air collisions, or snarling traffic. So the number of parties with legitimate grievances against computers are going to continue to multiply, as will the cries to regulate PCs.

The primary regulatory impulse is to use combinations of code-signing and other “trust” mechanisms to create computers that run programs that users can’t inspect or terminate, that run without users’ consent or knowledge, and that run even when users don’t want them to.

The upshot: a world of ubiquitous malware, where everything we do to make things better only makes it worse, where the tools of liberation become tools of oppression.

Our duty and challenge is to devise systems for mitigating the harm of general purpose computing without recourse to spyware, first to keep ourselves safe, and second to keep computers safe from the regulatory impulse.

A Taste Of Home

No matter where I’ve lived outside of Ireland, one thing that’s always irked me was (without going to rare specialty stores) the ability to get proper Irish brown bread, bacon, beans, and black and white pudding.

It’s not that other countries didn’t have their own variations on this stuff but everybody does it their own way. It’s always slightly different, cured for a different palate or simply not available.

Well, look what just arrived via UPS courtesy of my beautiful wife. Bread, bacon, beans, pudding, tea, Irish butter and Irish sausages… OMG you have no idea how much I’ve missed those…

My wife clearly knows the way to my heart and I love her for it!

Irish Food Swag

Is W3 Total Cache Still Supported?

Is W3 Total Cache still in development for WordPress or has it been abandoned?

W3 Total Cache is one of those really cool WordPress plugins that everybody who’s serious about WordPress knows about, and even a lot of people who just have a passing knowledge have at least heard of it. It’s one of the two caching plugins that reign supreme in the world of WordPress and the last few times I’ve presented on WordPress it’s always come up in the Q&A.

I’m in the midst of prototyping a new site and I decided I’d give W3 a spin as opposed to my usual work horse, WP Super Cache, and noted that W3 still is only rated as working with WP 3.21.

There has been no submitted updates in 4 months and people are posting incompatibilities between WP 3.3 (which has been out for 8 days) and the latest version of W3 Total Cache.

I know Frederick Townes, (the guy behind W3) has been relatively quite online recently and he’s a very busy guy, so I’m, wondering if Frederick or anybody else in the know can tell me if W3 Total Cache is still in production?

Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

Hitchens

Famous people die every day and I most certainly don’t write about them here, but the passing of Christopher Hitchens is one that touches me, very deeply, as in recent years more than anybody he has provided the insights and perhaps the standard to which I wish to aspire as an atheist and I suppose as a human being.

Yes, Christopher had his faults, don’t we all, but Christopher would have been the first to embrace that truth safe in the knowledge that his faults weren’t hurting anybody else so were his to be indulged upon.

Vanity Fair described Hitchens as “the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant” – glowing words which barely scratch the surface of a man who’s wit, and dare I say, deadpan sarcasm were so sharp as to have the term “Hitchslap” used to refer to those moments when debating opponents invariably fell to his seemingly limitless knowledge and ability to nonchalantly admonish you.

With the passing of Christopher Hitchens the world has lost one of it’s shining lights. The Atheist community has lost a great leader in the man who described himself not as an atheist, but an anti-theist.

Hitches wouldn’t find anything wrong in the timing of his passing. He worked tirelessly to the end even though he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010. Yet, while his pasisng touches many of us profoundly, I’m sure than Christopher would have looked at it as simply having no more Gin for the Campari.

Tonight I shall raise a glass to Christopher Hitchens as I’m confident he would want us to celebrate his passing rather than to mourn, and I shall leave you with this quote which has been most instructional and shaping for and of me:

“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”

C’mon Ireland We Can Be Just Like The Worst Of America – Tallafornia

No seriously, with just a smidgen of effort we can be exactly like the Americans that even the Americans despise!

Never before have I felt as much second-hand shame and embarrassment at being Irish.

Tallafornia? Is this some sort of a sick joke? Who are these wankers? TV3 you have a lot to answer for!

For the love of St. Patrick and the pints, even most Americans I know (and I live in the US) think Jersey Shore is a piece of desiccated donkeys excrement and we’re going to start emulating that shite?

The marketing genius (and I use that term with as much sarcasm as I can muster) that came up with this idea needs to have the crack supply cut off, that polo shirt shoved up his (or her) arse and be force fed some Guinness down the pub, preferably without being allowed to leave,  for 6 months straight before they’re even allowed to consider pitching an idea again.

If it wasn’t for people like Peter Ganley and Chris Greene who did the commentary on this clip, I’d have no hope left…

Facebook fb_xd_fragment Problem – .htaccess Solution

FacebookSara was trawling through Google Analytics for our sites and noted that a number of posts showed their URL’s with an appended “?fb_xd_fragment=” like this:

http://sitename.com/postname/index.php?fb_xd_fragment=
http://sitename.com/postname/?fb_xd_fragment=

This is a known Facebook bug with the “Like button” and one that Facebook probably won’t resolve as it has been ongoing for quite a while now. It hasn’t been a huge problem for us and happens a negligible amout of times, for instance according to Google Analytics it happened on only 631 out of nearly 1.84 million pageviews on Geek Is Awesome in the past 30 days.

Still, that’s 631 times that users were confronted with a blank white screen and had to refresh, and 631 times that AdSense and other advertisers ads were shown but couldn’t be seen by the reader. 631 times too many in my book.

Eric Enge posted a solution over on Search Engine Land back in June, but I think this solution may be simpler and have just finished adding it to a number of our sites. Eric’s solution may be more complete in that it may work better on things like WordPress Network (multi-site) installs but this simple .htaccess solution should work for everyone else by doing a 301 redirect back to the post URL if the bug occurs.

Eric also noted that some of their posts were showing up in the search engine results with the “?fb_xd_fragment=” attached, which is of course a potential content duplication problem. We’ve not seen any results for our sites in the SERP’s with the fragment attached but this solution (found on the Webmaster World AdSense forum) should solve that too as it provides a 301 redirect for the fragment.

Anyhow, enough rambling, here’s the bit of code to drop in your .htaccess file.

#Redirect For Added FB Fragment
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} ^fb_xd_fragment=.*$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomain.com/$1? [R=301,L]

Hope this helps and remember that if you’re using something like WP Super Cache in WordPress don’t forget to hit the “update mod rewrite” rule button after adding the code so that it doesn’t throw that message at you telling you that a difference has been detected.

As always – you’re mileage may vary and any comments, questions and / or improvements are encouraged.

Explicit ‘href’ Problem With Facebook Comments

On all of our sites which are using Facebook comments we’re currently getting the following warning:

Warning: this comments plugin is operating in compatibility mode, but has no posts yet. Consider specifying an explicit ‘href’ as suggested in the comments plugin documentation to take advantage of all plugin features.

Facebook has (again) changed the code for displaying Facebook comments and wants it to look like this:

After the <body> tag:

<div id="fb-root"></div>
<script>(function(d, s, id) {
  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1&appId=OURAPID";
  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Where you want your comments to appear HTML5 OR XFBML:

HTML5:

<div data-href="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/"
data-num-posts="20" data-width="610"></div>

XFBML:

<fb:comments href="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/"
num_posts="20" width="610"></fb:comments>

This is what we are currently using where the comments appear (XFBML):

url="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/" numposts="60"
width="610" publish_feed="true" migrated="1">

If we move to the newer code it becomes:

<fb:comments href="http://geekisawesome.com/2309/super-mario-earrings/"
num_posts="20" width="610"></fb:comments>

It’s fairly obvious that FB is moving away from having the XID as the post identifier in favor of “href” but if we move to the new code then all of our comments disappear.

I’ve tried replacing the “url” with “href” in the old code, and passing “href” alongside “url” in the old code to no avail. It did result in the warning disappearing but at the expense of all the comments disappearing as well.

I’ve also tried passing the XID to the new code, XID with the post ID, adding the XID with “migrate=’1′” and numerous variations there of.

It appears to me that the only way to make the warning disappear is to switch over to the newer code which uses “href” instead of “url” and lose our comments in the process.

Obviously we don’t want to the lose the thousands of comments we’ve built up since switching to FB comments and we don’t want to move away from FB comments as they’ve provided a massive increase in interactivity on our sites, but this is an annoying problem.

Has anybody else come across or developed a solution for this yet? Am I missing something glaringly obvious?

Vanity Searches – Do You Use Them?

Google AlertsVanity searches is a terrible term. It’s fitting, it’s accurate (in most cases) but it just sounds so… well, vain!

I am subscribed to quite a number of  RSS feeds of Google Alerts for my name (and variations of it) , searches for my mentions of my websites and associated social media pages, feeds of Twitter searches for my name and sites and other things.

The reason I do this is to allow me keep track of an be involved in conversations I might otherwise not be a part of, such as me failing  to see a reply on Twitter or when somebody links to a post I’ve written here but their blog doesn’t send a trackback.

If I’m to be honest there’s also a fair dollop of vanity involved too – I want to know who’s talking about  me.

What tools do you use to keep track of the conversation surrounding you, your product or your sites?