Computing is on the path to the dark side

Your data, give it to me!Introduction

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend over the past few years, which started with the introduction of smartphones and has continued at an accelerated rate with all devices, and that is the complete removal of ownership over your devices and personal computers. Corporations now have more power over your device than at any point in history.

Software control

Companies can control what software runs on your machine, update your machine without your consent, run hidden background services that can’t be removed, remotely delete files, track your devices location, and even limit what operating system your device can run. Many PC’s now run protected EFI bios software that prevents unsigned operating systems from loading, and although the major Linux distros now have signed boot loaders and the boot protection can be disabled, this could easily be used in the future to lock out any operating system from running on the hardware. This is already being done with locked boot-loaders on Android and all of this is being done under the guise of securing things, however if proper sand-boxing environments were developed and implemented then you wouldn’t have to sacrifice software freedom for security.

Planned obsolesce through updates

Companies are now allegedly slowing down old devices with updates. Apple was recently targeted with a class-action lawsuit for slowing down and in many cases crippling old devices with software updates, when the old software ran perfectly fine the same device. This could be attributed to bad programming, however if a company’s primary revenue stream depends on you constantly buying the latest phone, I wouldn’t put it past them to cripple old devices to influence you into buying the latest version. Even if you refuse to update, newer software will refuse to run on the older version of the operating system even though no API incompatibilities exist.  Microsoft has consistently attempted to force you to upgrade Windows by not making the latest versions of Internet Explorer, DirectX and Windows Media Player available to older versions of Windows, potentially opening the door for security flaws in the older software, and causing you to lose out on the latest features.

Blatant data collection

Companies run countless services designed to send every single activity you perform on your device back to the software companies. Almost all of it is enabled by default, and the average Joe has no idea how to disable it once they’ve inadvertently enabled it. Some of it can’t even be disabled, and is active even when the device is in a lower-power state. It’s claimed to all be for convenience, customer improvement, and advertising and that there is no malicious intent, however as history as shown, absolute power corrupts absolutely. It’s only a matter of time before this information is sold to someone who will use that information for something more nefarious, or it is hacked by a foreign government or rogue hackers. If you want to see the damage information can have, you only need to look at the Ashley Madison hack; millions of people exposed for the world to see, lives being destroyed, and countless others being blackmailed. Some say they deserved it, however, it shows what can happen if private information is leaked.

The coercive push towards the cloud

There is a relentless push to store all of your documents on the cloud, rather than stored locally on your own machine. Many smart phones, tablets, chromebooks and laptops now come with the bare minimum of storage required to run the OS and applications with no external media options, so that you are forced to store your media remotely on to the cloud or suffer the consequences. I’d like to cite the celebrity photo-hacking scandal of 2014 as a real example of the dangers of the cloud. It was believed to be caused by a lax set of security standards on iCloud. However, even if the security was top grade, anyone who can guess some security answers can gain access to your personal files. You also have the risk of these companies being hacked and back doors being found. Many of the hacked celebrities had no idea their personal images had even been synced to the cloud, and some of them had reported that the images had been deleted off their phones but somehow remained on the cloud. This brings up further concerns because it means that anything synced to the cloud could potentially stay on the cloud forever, and is not able to be deleted by the user. How would you feel if personal photos of your loved one ended up all over the internet?

Linking your real identity to the data

You are now coerced and sometimes even forced to login with an account just to use the operating system, this is true for Android (Google Account), iOS (Apple ID), Mac OS X (Apple ID), and Windows 8.x and above (Microsoft Account). Even if you decline to use an account, many of the built in applications will refuse to operate or be severely limited. Again, this is done for advertising and convenience, however it further solidifies the theory that they want to catalog everything they collect on you under a single identity.

Loss of true software and software ownership

Software is now moving towards being either subscription based, adware, or spyware based. Much like data storage it’s also being shifted towards web services; with your PC, phone or tablet being nothing more than a terminal used to access it. You never truly own any of your devices, and the very notion is becoming obsolete. Software can now be discontinued and erased from existence, and nobody will have the means to use it ever again. Companies can also decide to start charging a high premium to use their cloud based software once enough users become dependent on it.

You are now the product

Now you and your data are the product, and the software is nothing more than the means to extract value out of you. This is why so many companies are pushing to give you free software and services. They aren’t really free; you’re paying with your usage.

Conclusion

Aside from some massive public shift in thinking, I see these dark trends continuing. Devices will continue to transition to be nothing more than ad-filled data-mining terminals, alternative desktop and mobile operating systems will continue to die out because of the lack of interest and lack of capable open devices capable of running them, and companies will continue to get more and more brazen with their data-mining and closed-platform efforts. I hope users wake up before it’s entirely too late to turn back, but we are quickly reaching that precipice.

Anyway, contact me if you have a differing opinion, or you have anything else to add, I’d love to hear what other people think.

Switched hosts again, this time to DigitalOcean

Well, I’ve got my site moved over to DigitalOcean now, so let’s hope this is where it stays here for at least a year. So for DigitalOcean has been pretty amazing; the control panel is simple, well designed and easy to use, the plans are affordable, and best of all I get to manage the server by myself and run whatever cutting edge software I want to. I also made all of my domains point to xeonproductions.com now, the reason for this change was because having multiple domains pointing to the same website and content hurts your page ranking, so I’ve centralized everything.

As for projects, I’ve been working on AcmlmBoard 2 experimental branch when I’ve had time, not really sure when that will make it to a release stage. I’ve been messing around with the Twig template engine, Symphony, Composer, and some of the other cutting edge PHP technologies, so those should improve my projects somewhat.

That’s about it for now, I might add some new content this week since I’m off.

Goodbye DreamHost, our relationship was short lived.

Dear DreamHost VPS Aficionado,

Change is good! I’m not just talking about the kind that jingles in your pocket like sleigh bells, but that’s nice too. I’m talking about HOSTING!

You may have noticed over the past year or two that we’ve totally amped up our VPS game. We’ve increased memory. We’ve installed super-fast slick new SSDs for lightning-fast data access. AND we’ve lowered prices.

Now we’re about to roll out another change to our VPS services that may affect you!

We will be removing admin (sudo) access from all DreamHost VPS instances.

All of our Virtual Private Servers are managed. That is to say that we provide you with a specific software environment and we work hard to keep it up to date with security patches and all the latest updates. When users take server management into their own hands with the “sudo” command, this can limit our own ability to provide a safe and reliable managed hosting environment.

The good news, for users looking to have more control over their hosting environment, is that our cloud computing service, DreamCompute, is completely unmanaged. Install whatever software you like! Don’t need a web server? No problem! We’ll provide you with a base OS install (or you can even upload your own!) and that’s it. Use sudo, or heck, just login as root if you want!

DreamCompute provides the full and complete remote server control that so many of our VPS users have been craving for years.

Timing!

Sudo access will be disabled on Monday, November 30, 2015.

Please be sure to check out DreamCompute if you’re looking for virtual computing resources but want full control of everything! We think you’ll find it’s a great complement to traditional, managed VPS services.

As always, our brilliant tech support team is on standby if you’ve got any questions about this change. You can contact them from the Support section of your account control panel at any time.

Love Forever,

– The Happy DreamHost VPS Ongoing Improvements Team

Well after spending hours compiling and configuring a custom Apache 2.2/PHP7-FPM configuration on DreamHost not even a month ago, they decided that on November 30th they were going to disable sudo/admin access to their VPS offerings. That wouldn’t be such a bad problem had they actually offered an alternative, but instead they keep referring everyone to their DreamCompute platform which is currently at capacity and not taking any new signups. I’m not sure what their game plan was here, but it was clearly not well thought out.  I’m going to be setting up a DigitalOcean droplet here soon, which should offer everything I need, and isn’t “managed” by a bunch of boneheads. I’m not sure why they advertise these as Virtual Private Servers, they clearly don’t want you having any ownership over them.

I’m sorry you missed me too, I guess I won’t be using you.

dreamhostdreamcompute