Outdoor Gaming Ep. 1

Gamers spend way too much time indoors. And why is that? Because our gaming systems have screens that can’t be viewed outside! Yes, sometimes you see a gamer hunched over their super-reflective mobile phone screen, squinting and trying to make out what the hell is going on, playing a game in the park. It might work if they’re sitting in the shade of a tree, but it’s a very bad gaming experience in broad sunlight.

There are (or were) a few systems that can be played just fine outdoors, though. That even prefer strong sunlight: the Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance all have transflective or reflective screens. So did the Neo Geo Pocket and Neo Geo Pocket Color. There was also the WonderSwan, but you can’t play any of those because Kelsey bought all of them. I’m ignoring the backlit Game Boy SP AGS-001 and Game Boy Micro for the purpose of this article, since what would be the point taking those into the sun?

Owning all those Game Boy iterations, I tried thinking of an excuse to avoid being outdoors and couldn’t, so I decided to work this the other way and actually go somewhere. Just take the first road I find and walk until I’m bored, but at least for an hour, then play some Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.

Here’s the story, with pictures.

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Google shutting down XMPP interoperability is a sad sign of the age of communication silos

Google just shut down the last piece of Google Talk, killing XMPP. This means that people using standards-based open and interoperable chat systems can no longer talk to their friends who use Google’s proprietary and closed chat system, Hangouts. For example, people who use Pidgin on any of the thousands of free and open XMPP servers in the world cannot message Google users anymore.

Instead of working towards standardization, making sure that all chat systems from all vendors can talk to each other, each large company now has their own communications silo. Skype is not compatible with Hangouts is not compatible with Apple FaceTime is not compatible with WeChat is not compatible with WhatsApp. Even though all these systems perform mostly the same function, have roughly the same features and could be built using open, mutually compatible standards. Could even be built from the same source code.

But Google, Microsoft and Facebook make more money by preventing you from talking to your friends on other systems. They want to analyze both parts of a conversation, they want to control the sender and the receiver and read all the content. This is harder to do when you have a standardized, federated system, and even harder in the case of XMPP where users can employ message encryption with just a few clicks. Encryption that is not controlled by Microsoft or Facebook but by the users themselves.

What can you do against this?

  • Geting an XMPP JID would be the first step. You can register for an account on any public XMPP server (sometimes called Jabber servers, but Jabber is now a closed product by Cisco, adding insult to injury, while the XMPP standard remains open).
  • Then get an XMPP client, for example Pidgin for the desktop and Conversations for Android. Set up your account and log in. People can now invite you to their XMPP contacts and you can start chatting.
  • If you want message encryption, make sure to enable OTR. There are many tutorials on this, I’ll just link to a random one I found.

What if you don’t do this? Then we’ll end up in a world with more and more communication silos, where people find it harder and harder to talk to each other, and huge multinational companies with very bad privacy policies will control and record more and more of our communication. Because these closed platforms create inconvenience for anyone not inside those closed platforms, group pressure will then pull everyone towards such closed platforms, until a dangerous oligopoly emerges. This latest move by Google is one more step in this direction.

I’ll leave you with a link to a relevant XKCD comic. If you want to chat with me, as always, you can do so via XMPP. The JID is on the about page.

I’m also on IRC, #linux on IRCnet is a good place to look.

Google is trying to destroy the ad blocker market

Like I guessed about two years ago, Google are now trying to undermine the ad blocking market by releasing their own ad blocker, which will of course not block ads served by Google. It will probably also not block other privacy invasions or tracking systems that would benefit Google or its customers. Since Google is the world’s largest advertisement company, that’s quite a few.

This is likely just the first step of several that they might take while abusing their browser dominance. Watch carefully as things get worse the higher Chrome’s market share climbs.

You can still use an independent web browser, but who knows for how long? The effects I described in that old article linked above might lead to content no longer working correctly on anything but Google Chrome, and by that time Google’s control of what you can and cannot see, and also of how much of your privacy you are forced to surrender, will be total.

55'555 kilometers in a Tesla Model S in the Swiss Alps

Well, okay, we didn’t cover that entire length just in the Alps, but I needed a catchy title. If you want the short version: there is nothing to say here, and that’s the most significant thing I can tell you about electric driving in Europe today.

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Solar-powered Supercharger in Denmark

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How Microsoft and Google are manipulating your children into addiction

Microsoft yesterday announced Windows 10 S, a cut-down version of Windows 10 for the education market. They plan to make it available to PC makers to sell laptops with, for as little as US$ 200 a pop. “Like a Chromebook, then”, you say? Exactly, like a Chromebook.

Services as drugs for kids

This is the start of a new turf war for child mindshare. Like drug dealers, Microsoft and Google know that it’s best to get them early, get them young, make them depend on your products. Microsoft even helpfully supplies teaching aids to make sure that only Microsoft technologies are taught to these poor children, who would probably go through IT life without guidance and learn independent knowledge otherwise, like programming Python or having the ability to choose between different word processors. Microsoft does not want independent child minds, they want dependence. If they could, they’d add heroin injections to Windows 10 just to cause a bodily addiction.

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Your freedoms are eroding as technology becomes more closed

TL;DR: We’re not doing a good job of keeping the Internet and related technologies as open and egalitarian as they used to be, allowing a dangerous oligopoly to reemerge. How can we reverse the trend? And by we, I actually mean you.

I see some worrying signs that we’re going backwards in terms of freedom. Read on for some scaremongering.

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Reviews of 10 vegan cheese alternatives

I recently bragged that I would be sampling many vegan cheese alternatives. So I went ahead and ordered entire boxes full of different vegan cheeses. This is the selection:

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From top left to bottom right:

  1. Sheese Smoked Cheddar Style
  2. Sheese Blue Style
  3. Violife Cheese Slices Cheddar
  4. Violife Cheese Slices Smoked
  5. No-Moo Blue Classic (German: No-Muh Blue Classic)
  6. No-Moo Herbs (German: No-Muh Kräuter)
  7. No-Moo Piquant (German: No-Muh Rezent, not pictured)
  8. No-Moo Mild-aromatic (German: No-Muh Dezent, not pictured)
  9. Wilmersburger slices mushroom
  10. Wilmersburger wedge strong
  11. Wilmersburger wedge herbs

Read on to find out what I think about each of them.

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Switzerland's own anti-Muslim campaign

The Swiss People’s Party (one of the most powerful parties in Switzerland) has recently launched a campaign against easier naturalization of third-generation foreigners. This is one of the billboards:

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People’s Party campaign, photo by Newsnetz. Note the nazi color scheme.

As a Swiss person, I am way more afraid of the old white men behind this campaign than I am of that hypothetical woman behind her niqab.

These men have in the past:

  • Weakened our education by cutting funding.
  • Managed to make the building of minarets illegal while building Christian churches and Jewish synagogues is still legal.
  • Supported not one but two new laws that undermine privacy, increase surveillance and allow remote wiretapping of Swiss citizens and others on pure suspicion, without a court order. These laws are BÜPF and NDG.
  • Are now supporting another new law that reduces taxes for large corporations while increasing them for individuals, the Corporate Tax Reform Act III.

And they are mostly men. Only 11 of their 65 seats in the national council are under the butts of women.

As a reaction to their billboards I would love to see an interview with a third-generation foreigner who likes to wear the niqab, but I’m pretty sure you won’t find one. The only person I am aware of in Switzerland who even wears a niqab is Swiss through and through: Nora Illi. On the right in this picture as you can surely guess:

Anne Will
Photo by Spiegel/WDR

But since she’s had Swiss citizenship since birth, I guess that won’t be a problem for our geniuses at the People’s Party, eh?

Where will you step when there is no more safe ground?

You thought you’re safe and you have privacy because you use some fancy-schmancy encrypted email provider? I don’t think so.

This year saw some remarkable changes, bear with me while I go off on some tangents:

  • The UK voted to leave the EU and subsequently introduced one of the most far-reaching and invasive surveillance laws in the world.
  • The USA elected Donald Trump under speculations of Russian involvement, possibly thawing US-Russian relations and forcing Edward Snowden to be extradited to the US, where he might be executed for revealing truths the US didn’t want revealed. Keep in mind that he never invented anything, he didn’t lie, unlike the US President-elect. He merely told the truth.
  • Switzerland, which had formerly been ready to offer asylum to Snowden, was pressured by the US government to stop that. All the while, US intelligence agencies were illegaly patrolling through Swiss cities and running surveillance operations in Berne and Geneva. The Swiss government stopped any investigation of these operations after the US increased their pressure.

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Time to leave Dyn and go to something like Afraid.org/FreeDNS

Now that Oracle is rumored to be taking over Dyn, this should be the last signal you need: Dyn is nothing like the cute little company called DynDNS that we liked so much in the 90s of the last century. Remember talking on IRC when someone gives you an address for an FTP hosted via their 28.8k modem on flyingdickweasels.dyndns.org? No? Damn, I’m too old, then!

Dyn has become more and more corporate over the years and is nothing like the cool little company that gave so many of our younger selves free dynamic DNS. But you know who’s a cool little company with free dynamic DNS? Afraid.org/FreeDNS. It used to be that afraid.org’s dynamic DNS mode isn’t directly supported in home router firmware or NAS devices, but that’s changed. Even Synology NAS now support it easily. If your router doesn’t have support for it, you can get it to work on anything that can run shell scripts, Windows batch scripts or PowerShell. Instructions are included when you set up your domain.

They also support the nice trick of using your own custom domain and dynamically updating its subdomains, but you’ll have to pay US$ 30/year for a pro account if you need that. If you just want to use their top-level domains and don’t need your own, that’s still free and has been for over a decade. They own chickenkiller.com, for example. You can work with that, can’t you?

Full disclosure: I’m not paid anything for this. I’ve just been a happy afraid.org customer for more than 10 years now without a single issue, and I laugh in the face of Dyn, whose slide into zombie corporate culture couldn’t find a more fitting end than being absorbed by the ultimate peddler in corporate zombieism; Oracle.