EmacsConf 2019

I attended the EmacsConf 2019 on 2nd November. It was offered as a video stream that anyone can watch over the internet, with audience conversations over IRC. The conference was powered entirely by free software tools. RMS and some FSF members were also among the audience. More details about any of the talks mentioned here can be found in the notes. Updates There was an Emacs community update and an Emacs development update.

Surveillance Capitalism and the Climate Crisis

When the climate crisis is the biggest problem of our time, you might wonder if something like surveillance capitalism is worth bothering about. What if I told you that they are related? Surveillance Capitalism created an attention economy where your attention is sold to the highest bidder. The most important problems of our time are masked behind the endless personalized advertising, media addiction and attention grabbing techniques of surveillance capitalism.

Parable of the Chainsaw

One fine Spring morning, a Java programmer was outdoors sawing a log in half with his good old t’rusty’ hacksaw. A Scala programmer passing by feels sorry for the Java programmer working so hard and gives him a chainsaw. Before leaving, he explains all the benefits of this new kind of saw while reassuring that it’s not very different from the hacksaw that he’s used to. The Java programmer tries hacking away with the new chainsaw.

The Surveillance Capitalist's Playbook

Disclaimer: This is purely fictional, no real persons or incidents were used in making this playbook, etc. Imagine running a corporation that’s funded by venture capital or is being publicly traded. You have an obligation to your investors/shareholders to show some growth quarter to quarter. Your only revenue source is advertising. If your site has too many ads, you drive away users. So, you start making your apps addictive so that users are exposed to more ads.

Behavioral data, not Biodata

tl;dr It’s not your biodata that surveillance capitalism is interested in. It’s your behavioral data. Introduction We hear people saying that they have nothing to hide. Though this argument is obviously misguided in many ways, the most basic thing it gets wrong is the assumption that companies that make money off your data are doing it with your biodata. Biographical data, also known as biodata is data about you - like your date of birth, details of family members, your home address, your educational qualifications, job history etc.

On Privilege

A number of things we take for granted are actually privileges. The following are a few things I’ve recently identified as privileges through personal experience: mental health being born without birth defects being cis gender being accepted by society place of birth color of skin supportive parents clean water affordable healthy food electricity internet access technical knowledge free time for hobbies disposable income The following are more relevant in the Indian context:

Demystifying the term Serverless

Server, the physical hardware When people think of servers, they imagine a big machine or a large stack of them making humming noises and furiously serving millions of requests. A server can also mean a computer program that is continuously running, listening for client requests and serving them. Think Apache, Nginx or Tomcat. Apache HTTP server, the software When someone says that they have gone serverless, what they actually mean is that they are no longer running a software program listening to requests.

Block ads on Android using proxy server

Ad blocking on Android is a huge mess. On the Firefox browser for mobile, we have ad-blocking add-ons but for ads in the apps, there’s nearly no good option other than to use ad-blocking proxies. Installing a proxy on the phone itself might drain battery as it has to be running continuously. This article explains how to use an ad-blocking proxy server on your LAN instead of installing one on your phone.

Of statements and expressions

By Arnold Reinhold [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons In the beginning there was FORTRAN. Programming was done line by line with each line printed on a punch card. There were no conditionals, only GOTOs that pointed to line numbers. This is where statements in programming came from. Then there was structured programming (like in C). Structured programming introduced blocks and kept the statements and GOTOs. GOTOs were slowly thrown out as they were too troublesome.

Replacing cloud-based To-Do apps with Orgzly and Syncthing

In the past few years I tried out multiple To-Do list apps like Todoist, Pomotodo, Trello (which was a bit of an overkill for this purpose) etc., and finally settled on Google Keep for personal tasks and Emacs Org-mode for work-related To-Do lists since I do all my work on my work laptop and wouldn’t need mobile synchronization for it. Recently, I was looking for a non-cloud alternatives for most of my cloud-based apps, basically to reduce my dependence on the entire Google suite of apps.

You don’t have to be a geek to setup FreedomBox!

What is this FreedomBox thingy? See this 4-minute video to learn what it is. Well, the important concept to grasp here is that, servers that enable communication for a lot of people can be big and expensive, but to serve the needs of one family, all you need is a simple Single Board Computer like Raspberry Pi or OLinuXino-Lime2 Apart from the privacy-enabling stuff, it also has a chat client, web-based bit-torrent client, blogging software, ad-blocking using proxy server, file synchronization, a social networking server, VoIP server etc.