Sunday, June 29, 2014

I do still have this blog!

Long forgotten, I will return to do more musings

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"A Good Name"

"A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,and favor is better than silver or gold." -Proverbs 22:1

  Those who know me are aware that the vast majority of the Christian bible (really, all "holy" books) holds no sway with me, so this may come as a shock that I quote a verse from such in a blog post.  Whatever.  This is a fitting proverb to the subject at hand:  Reputation.  In particular, the role of reputation in the developing digital economies.

  In discussions of online economies that are not regulated by nor dependent upon centralized states, a major point of discussion surrounds the need for trust (though truthfully, nation-states do not do away with this need, and the downgrading of the U.S. government's S&P rating demonstrates that many trust/rating systems are flawed) .  That is, if you are offering a product or service, and accepting payment in a form of currency/exchange that cannot be charged back (such as bitcoin.  Chargeback fraud has been the bane of seller's utilizing PayPal since its inception-through-merger in 2000.  Just search "paypal sucks" for more information on this), the buyer needs to then trust you to make good on the delivery of the product/service.  Many reputation systems exist, but for the most part they are mind-numbingly simple, and equally mind-numbingly elementary to game. 

  Take Ebay for example.  A person can setup several accounts, conduct "business" between the accounts, give themselves a high positive rating, then when someone else buys that $800 guitar they're advertising, they just take the money and run. 

  Wavyhill and Andre Goldman wrote "Toward a Private Digital Economy" in 2004 and within described a concept/protocol for  trust systems that would make it harder to game.  Ideally, it would make it impossible, but economics is notorious for listening less to what is "ideal" and more to the cost/benefit analysis.  So in actuality a trust system does not have to be "perfect", it just has to make it so that the costs of gaming the system outweigh the potential benefit/payout of gaming the system.

  For a real-life example/explanation of systems that currently implement reputational protocols (and could only benefit from a more robust protocol implementing secure features of crypto-identities), check out this Tedx presentation on the rise of collaborative consumption.

  Curiously enough, the differential calculus that describes the velocity and acceleration of physical objects, the motion of stocks/bonds/futures and (*snicker*, derivatives) can also be applied to more comprehensive representations of reputation.  When engaging in business with individuals, one can compare the reputation of the individual to the level and types of risk you are willing to undertake, and thus facilitate safe/rewarding commerce.

As is discussed in "Towards a Private Digital Economy", bonds-persons can alleviate the boot-strapping issue of trust systems, through the commoditization of reputation.

*deep breath*

Now to go and code out a distributed reputation server and hope someone finds it useful enough to put together a gui front-end, since most people won't want to have to manually perform differential calculus before conducting business every time.

Truly, a good name is more valuable than silver or gold, and curiously, all of the above can now be digitized.

In "Towards a Private Digital Economy"  (under the sidebar "Reputation as Capital") the authors draw a rather Marxist conclusion from the idea of commodifying reputation that I feel is rather unwarranted. More to come on this (perhaps)
Another recommended read is "Future of Reputation" by Daniel J. Solove

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Protecting your Intellectual "Property"

So the discussion concerning what constitutes intellectual "property" (talk of scarce goods, do I own my own thoughts/data-machine, etc.) aside, many creators of content wish to "protect" their creations (art and what-not), and understandably so.

Traditional copyrights are rapidly becoming obsolete in the age of widespread p2p technology, cloud-computing/file-hosting and darknets.  Not to mention the fact that seeking legal recourse to a traditional copyright infringement is liable to bankrupt all but the most well financially-endowed.

Old-school tricks (as in, late 90's) a la disabling "right-click"  using JavaScript are in no way preventing people from downloading and using your images.  If the image is showing on your webpage, each visitor who loads your webpage has a copy of that image on their machine.  So there's a few things you can do to prevent your original material from being used by others.

1.) Don't publicly publish your material.  This especially goes for things like photos of your children.  A publicly viewable blog/webpage is no place to be pasting the image of your (or anyone else's) offspring.  Want to show off pictures of the kids to your family?  Well of course, but public blogs is *not* the way to do it if you have any respect for your posterity.  Wait until they are old enough to grant informed consent (like you would for any other human).  Now, this does not help with the aforementioned intellectual property (content that you have authored/created), so let's peruse some other options for these things.

2.) Only publish images that have a watermark.  I will not go into detail on this, just search ( is a way to search the net without playing into google's marketing/profiling scheme) for "photoshop watermark tutorial youtube" (change search to reflect your image manipulation program if you're not using photoshop).  Putting out watermarks allows you to advertise without giving away the original/usable image.

3.) My personal favorite.  Cryptographically sign your image files.  Yes, that sounds technical (most things in life worth doing are), but it is not that hard to get the hang of the basics to give strong security to your images.

So, I haven't touched a MS (Windows) system in yeeeeeeears, so this tutorial is geared more towards Linux (I'll try to give adequate references for Windows users)

So, if you are on Windows, download the program "gpg4win" (  There is a ton of user information for the program.

If on Linux (I'm using Ubuntu. . .yes, go ahead and laugh) open the terminal and enter

sudo apt-get install gpg
(enter password)

Alright?  Good.

Oh yeah, now you need what is called a "key".  I won't go into the mathematics of gpg keys, suffice it to say, make it the strongest allowable.

In linux, enter
gpg --gen-key
follow the prompts

In Windows, consult the documentation for gpg4win on creating a new keypair.  There may be a way to do all this with simple DOS prompt commands, but again, I don't deal with Windows myself.

Now, there's lots of nifty stuff you can do with GPG like secure email encryption (yes, regular email is the equivalent of sending your personal mail on open-faced postcards.  Email encryption ensures that only the intended recipient can view the message), protecting sensitive files on your hard drive, and many other things besides.

What we're going to use it for in this tutorial is a little function called "detached signature".  What this does is it creates a .sig file to accompany your image file (.gif, .jpg, whatever).


Ahh, glad you asked.  Since strong cryptography keys are thus far unbreakable (and it seems they will be until the advent of quantum computing, and even then quantum encryption is already being developed) and unforgeable  (it's harder to forge a cryptographic signature than it is to forge a hand-written one), the signing of your file with your signature validates you as the original owner of the image (since if anyone else tries to sign it, it will be an younger signature).

So, for linux users, open your terminal.

cd /directory-of-image-file

gpg --detach-sign image.gif (this works for any image file, I'm just using .gif for the example)
enter your passphrase

A file has now been created in the directory (that's "folder" for you Windows users) that has the same name as the image, but with .sig after it (for example, image.gif.sig)

The image looks just the same, but can now be verified with

gpg --verify image.gif.sig image.gif  (assuming you're still in the directory containing these 2 files)

If the file is modified in any way, an error is returned.  If it is the original with the good signature, it will state as much.

So, what this means is, if you sign your work, and store the original image file (and the .sig file) in a safe place, you have a validated copy of your design.  You can copy the image, use it on your website, product, whatever.  If someone else is using your image for profit without your permission, you can present the signed copy (original image + the accompanying .sig file) to prove precedence.

In developing economies, the classic "web of trust" is developing to inter-operate with an accompanying "web of reputation" (some tasty algebra/calc discussion on this topic to come!).  In the case of crypto-signed content, it is viewable/usable by anyone (just like it is now on your blogs/webpages/etc) but anyone trying to claim authorship of your content will lose reputation by doing so (I remember a scripture verse about "a good name is to be cherished above gold/silver" <--paraphrased.  Well, this is how it plays out into the technical realm)

In short, use a watermark since you're already using an image manipulation program

P.S. Look into Creative-commons share-alike license vs traditional copyright.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Observations on the 24/7 zen exercise

It's not that I really resent the 24/7 zen exercise.  By "24/7 zen exercise" I mean that every cognitive action of the waking day requires clear focus.
As I said, it's not so much that I resent it, it's that I have grown to really like "thinking".  And having abstract thought during a mandatory zen exercise is a little counterproductive (it has taken me 40 minutes to write the blog post to this point).

I accept the notion that this will clear.  I accept that I must teach myself to juggle again.  I accept that this partial reboot/rewrite section of my previous usual cognitive ability is occurring in a new society and a language that is not my native language.

Life's a bitch, but she's my bitch.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"No Thank-You"

When having a conversation on the (im)morality/(in)efficiencies of centralized state (using primarily definition of state as presented by the likes of Samuel Edward Konkin III, Hogeye Bill among others)  governments, one always encounters a great classic piece of advice hurled definitively by folks:
"If you don't like taxes/services, move to Somalia."

This award-winning gem of life-planning consultation has a cousin, some folks think it sounds more sophisticated:
"We have/live under a social contract, if you disagree with the social contract, get out."

Well, thanks, but no thanks.  Maybe you find this to be a bit hypocritical, and it's understandable that you do so, ergo let us explore these assertions/advice, their inherent implications and the underlying fallacies, and maybe this will help explain to you why this holds no water/sway/impact for the person it is intended to pwn.

In the first place. . .oh, what is the first place?...

This succinct response also has a cousin, some think it sounds more casual/relaxed:

  See, for many AnCap/agorism/stateless-voluntary-systems proponents, the big gripe with statist*/centralized systems is the use of force/coercion by said systems.  One who would propose freedom from government coercion is not likely to respond well at all to you directing/ordering them to do something, and touting it as a moral/logical/ethical truism or foregone conclusion.

*So, for those that haven't/won't  read/use google to find the definition used in this blog post (and in the general modern state/less discussion, more or less.), here it is (you lazy bastards):

"1. an organization with an effective monopoly on the legitimate/legal use of force in a particular geographic area"

  Just for shins and giggles, let's go ahead and make sure we're all aware of the used definition of "force" here.

"interference with the freedom of action of another agent"

  If you need me to bold-type the definition of "agent", "freedom", and "action" then I'm sorry, I do not believe we can have any meaningful interaction/communication.

For those of you still comprehending thus far, let us proceed:

  The idea of social contract goes back to the mid-1600's (starting with Thomas Hobbes) and is used as an intellectual device to relate human groups to their governments.  As a philosophical/intellectual device, it played a key part in the development of "the consent of the governed" as an idea which grants "legitimacy" to state governments.  The problems with it are

a) The idea that children can be born into a "social contract" (infants are unable to grant consent to contracts).  My family's "social contract" involves servitude to another invisible/imaginary, self-contradictory, and tyrannical entity, but I am in no way compelled to lower myself just because "everyone else is".

b) The implied premise that governments/the majority/"the will of the people" own, rule over, or can otherwise usurp an individual's property or freedom.  The United States government (to take just one example) does not "own" all the property within the geographical region it claims sovereignty.  Individuals (and corporations, with the help of protection granted by government violence) own property.

c) If governments derive their authority by the consent of the governed, then I withhold my consent: therefore they have no authority over me.

d) Even if the constitution of the United States were a valid social contract (again, unless it was adopted with 100% of the voting population's support, it is invalid), it was written in the 1700's and has utterly failed to protect the citizen's rights.  Those present-day individuals who propose the "right candidate" for president who will return us to the constitution are relying on the immoral democracy/mob-rule scheme to solve the problems it itself is allowing (or outright creating).  Maybe the constitutional republic won't fail so tragically this time like it has every other time. . . 
For it to be a valid "social contract" then all members have to consent, else it is little (if any) better than a mafia.  Social contracts work well for clubs, where all membership and participation is voluntary and there is no violent retribution for opting-out of the club.  For populations of geographical regions, social contracts just don't work, because after all, people are different.  Get over it.

  Hence comes the inevitable backlash about moving to Somalia and/or ceasing to drive on roads.

  For one, individuals live where they live, and own property where they own property, and your "consent of the governed" leviathan has no right to demand they move.   To do so would out it as being at its core against the principles of freedom.

 Shall they stop using the roads?  Why the hell should they do that?  Forced violent monopoly has made damn sure that there are no other ways to travel throughout those regions they claim sovereignty over.
  Sure, you could put up toll booths or find other ways of deriving payment voluntarily from those that wish to fund/use the services provided, but the people that have already been robbed through taxation will probably take issue with that plan.

  See, just because the roads and other services were provided through the use of force (extracting money/tax under threat of violence) by a monopolistic entity (no, getting to choose the PR representatives every 4 years does not change the fact that the state claims/enforces a monopoly) without free market quality of service and just price does not mean that individuals who resist the violence/aggression therefore have a moral responsibility to not use them.  Those taxes that I do pay, I pay under duress. . .you see, if you don't pay taxes, armed clowns in blue costumes will come and do violence against my person/property.  Those services I do use, I use under duress. . .because this large gang arose to "provide services" and then expects me (and everyone else) to pay for their inefficiencies.  There are no other services to utilize (currently)

The internet was originally created by the U.S. military (or Al Gore), but just because people disagree with U.S. military policy does not mean they should not have email, a website, or use google+.

  So for anyone paying attention to the whole Somalia situation, it is quite obvious that the majority of the turmoil is caused as the aftershock of a failed state (the rest is caused by other states trying to "help" or assert themselves as the new regional monopoly) and is not the logical end of "anarchy".

A further note:  for each time your hackles have been raised while reading this and the inbred statist response came bubbling up out of the lizard-brain. . .check out this great website:
And enter your statement ("but what about the roads?" etc.)
You'd be amazed at the ongoing discussion occurring through this great tool called the internet (itself a product of the violent monopoly, however open-source/free-market influences are having a great effect on it)

If the vision that springs to your mind when the word "anarchy" or "anarchist" comes up involves violent protest/sabotage, throwing molotov cocktails, etc. . .you would do well to read up on the history and evolution of stateless theory/practice, it might make you sound less like a redneck next time you're discussing these things, and who knows, you may actually contribute something meaningful to the conversation!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A lesson to be learned from the Anonymous fiasco

A lesson from Anonymous

  The majority of the "hacking" going on by anonymous isn't even hacking.  I know, it sounds kind of like Christians claiming the Westboro Baptist Church congregation aren't "real" Christians.  If it is "real" hacking, then the term "hacking" has changed in the last 15 years.  The "hacking" in recent news is primarily just running scripts and signing onto botnets, and that's part of the point to be made.

  It doesn't take these ominous, spooky "hackers" to compromise so many systems, because the security utilized by these agencies (mastercard, visa, paypal, etc) is virtually non-existent.  If we are to believe the press releases (note: I do not actually recommend trusting the press) this chicanery has been accomplished largely by 14 year-olds.

  Centralized government requirements for security are WAAY behind what open-source independent collaboration has come up with for security.
Between bitcoin, Open-Transactions (by FellowTraveler *gasp* a pseudonymous individual, that's almost as bad as being Anonymous!), and the Loom network ( the idea of "security" in the more traditional services (online banks, credit card services, and paypal) have been horribly shamed.

  It also sheds greater light on the great security flaw of the internet itself.  While there is great collaboration and a greater venue for free-speech than in past epochs, there is still a bottleneck in the flow: Internet Service Providers, and the hands of government that are firmly (and only becoming more firm) stationed around the bottleneck.  "Oh, but we can access the internet over our phones, kindles, whatever!" many companies own all of those?  Internet access itself is centralized (look up how many providers there are in the U.S.), and subject to government abuse.  Yes, I know "we're a constitutional republic" but so is the people's republic of China, among many other notable ones, and our "republic" or "democracy", whichever it is, is NOT protecting the people, providing common defense, or helping to "secure our liberties", it is playing that same sad age-old plot of buying the consent of the governed with their own money and oppressing us monopolistic controlled market options instead of allowing people to go about their own damn business.  In nation-states with a lower population and a higher density of tax-payers, the perks offered by the state to buy consent seem pretty good.  I understand why people allow their consent to be bought. Many people are coming to the understanding that we need to FREE THE INTERNET.  Now we need to learn from past/current experiences that GOVERNMENT CAN/WILL NOT FREE THE INTERNET.
   MondoNet and p2pnet are two open-source, peer-to-peer projects working at decentralizing internet connectivity itself.  There are others of course, these are just the ones that show the most promise as far as I can see.  Communications technology  has progressed along a Moore's curve and is only more and more affordable to manufacture and purchase.  In 1st world countries the population density of individuals with wifi and 3g devices (just to name a couple) is sufficient to support a decentralized server system.  In the same way that bitcoin, namecoin (a decentralized domain system built on a bitcoin-like protocol), and p2p torrents do not depend on any individual users to stay online and broadcasting, we need an internet structure that cannot just be "turned off" by governments or corporations (as evidence, I call the Peoples Republic of China, among others to the stand).  We understand, it's "for our own good", but nah...going through a litigation process to get this freedom of expression/association over the world is just not doing it for me.For those that are comfy and cozy in the current online-life model of facebook/twitter/gmail/youtube, don't worry!  Having a decentralized open-source internet would not require you to change all your habits and normal routines.  The goal is not to "replace" the current internet, it is to have a functioning infrastructure running in parallel that is not dependent on government approval.  So that if/when any government shuts down the internet in the bit of geography they claim monopolistic control over, there is still internet access available to individuals, aside from the artificially regulated market (and thus not as cost-prohibitive) 

  Remember:  If you trust the government, you are trusting people, and every worry that we have about people is only made worse when they're protected by a large centralized monopoly.  Why not trust people (not at the exclusion of using your own judgment), and cut out the expensive/inefficient/centralized/corruption-prone middle-man, and KEEP LEARNING.

EDIT:  It occurs to me that "hacker" is not synonymous with "cracker" There is a great difference, and it would behoove one to familiarize oneself with that difference.  Apologies/regards to hackers for the nomenclature fubar
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