Link Technology

‘They Were Opposed To Government Surveillance. Then The Coronavirus Pandemic Began.’

Good follow up read in BuzzFeed.News in the same vein of the Maciej Cegłowski article I linked to yesterday.

Is the coronavirus the kind of emergency that requires setting aside otherwise sacrosanct commitments to privacy and civil liberties? Or like the 9/11 attacks before it, does it mark a moment in which panicked Americans will accept new erosions on their freedoms, only to regret it when the immediate danger recedes?

Many countries have already taken creepy steps:

In South Korea, the government is mapping the movements of COVID-19 patients using data from mobile carriers, credit card companies, and the Institute of Public Health and Environment. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the country’s internal security agency to tap into a previously undisclosed cache of cellphone data to trace the movements of infected persons in that country and in the West Bank. And in the Indian state of Karnataka, the government is requiring people in lockdown to send it selfies every hour to prove they are staying home.

But the real question is less about what elements of digital privacy we as a society are willing to trade in right now to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and more about wether we’ll ever get them back.

The article ends with this:

Sanchez worried that the coronavirus, like the war on terror, is an open-ended threat with no clear end — inviting opportunities for those surveillance measures to be abused long after the threat has passed. In the same week that he spoke, the US Senate voted to extend until June the FBI’s expanded powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, originally passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks 19 years ago.

I think it’s safe to presume that anything we lose will never be returned.

Links and Notes

Links and Notes – Week 13, 2020

Music streaming has actually decreased since coronavirus has increased around the world. Hypebeast. I find this fascinating and unexpected. I myself listen to most of my music whilst at home, prefering podcasts whilst commuting and exercising. But maybe commuting is when most people listen to music?

Is it OK to go for a walk? New York Times. Yes! Well, for now. Italy recently put a stop outside exercise as they grow more and more desperate.

Maciej Cegłowski, creator of Pinboard and usually an advocate for digital privacy rights, argues that compromising some of them to save lives during the COVID-19 crisis is worth the trade-off. Idle Words. I personally disagree (the death rate isn’t high enough and governments these days are looking for any little excuse to totally lock down the internet) but he makes a lot of good points.

What happens when a city gives its citizens $500 a month, no questions asked? The New Republic.

YouTube videos will default to standard definition now. But you can still manually chose HD quality. Bloomberg.

Edgar Wright (director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) on life in quarantine London. Vulture.

Victims of domestic abuse are in for an even worse time than usual as households around the world enter lockdown. Time.

[Gallery] Beautiful libraries from around the world. Colossal.


I was glad this week to see that grocy, ‘a web-based self-hosted groceries & household management solution’ was near the top of Pinboard’s most-bookmarked list. Ever since the COVID-19 crisis has begun I’ve done my very best to ensure I don’t waste any food (something I’m sadly not usually too good at). I’m yet to try grocy as it seems a little overkill for my needs and fridge. But whenever I buy food at the moment I add the various products ‘use-by’ date to a text file so I can ensure nothing gets wasted.

I’ve moved from Safari to Firefox. I have 16GB of RAM on my MacBook Pro but I was still getting ‘no application memory’ warnings thanks to Safari eating too much RAM all the time. Also Safari kept on hanging on my increasingly-old Mac mini. So I thought I’d give Firefox a go for the first time in a long time and I like it. It’s no where near as beautiful as Safari. But it feels light and my open-tab addicton doesn’t seem to bog it down like it did with Safari. Also, the cloud syncing features of Safari I like are now on Firefox. You can sync all data (including browser extensions), see open tabs on other devices, and ‘send’ tabs to other devices, which is nice.

I also abandoned another Apple product this week: iCloud Drive. Because if one of my macOS devices wasn’t restarted for a while iCloud Drive would just stop syncing properly. It was always a risk trusting an Apple cloud product (not exactly their strong suit) and sadly it was a risk that didn’t pay off this time. I’ve now moved to Resilio Sync. It doesn’t offer any cloud backup features, instead – as the name implies – it just syncs files between computers. So I let Arq and Backblaze handle the cloud backup side. But so far I like it. If you need to access your files on your phone a lot then I wouldn’t reccomend it because the app is poor, confusing and slow. But luckily it’s not a feature I need so I’ll happily keep on using it for the time being.

Link Technology

China wants to create a whole new goverment-controlled internet

At the gathering, held at the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency that establishes common global standards for technologies, they presented a simple PowerPoint. It didn’t bother with much detail on how this new network would work, or what specific problem it was solving. Instead, it was peppered with images of futuristic technologies, from life-size holograms to self-driving cars.

The idea was to illustrate that the current internet is a relic that has reached the limits of its technical prowess. It was time, Huawei proposed, for a new global network with a top-down design, and the Chinese should be the ones to build it. #

This is scary:

China is already in the process of building a credit-scoring system for its population, based on online and offline behaviour and past “misdemeanours”, the delegation member noted. “So if somebody’s social credit score dipped below a certain amount because they were posting on social media too much, you could actually prevent that phone from connecting to the network.”

Note: the Finanical Times’ paywall and website is awful. They even inject this when you copy and paste something:

Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email [email protected] to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found at

So I’ve linked to a cached copy of the article. But if want you can read it at its original URL here.


‘DJI Won the Drone Wars, and Now It’s Paying the Price’

[DJI CEO, Frank Wang] is perhaps the most private tech CEO of them all, shunning all but a handful of media requests over his 14 years as DJI’s boss and figurehead. He stoodup a planned interview for this story twice, leaving his representatives to apologize and explain that they just never quite know what the man will do. In fact, the rumor going around DJI’s press office is that Wang might not speak to a reporter ever again. […] Wang once threatened to dock the pay of a public-relations executive because Wang had received too much attention in the media.

[…] DJI’s hiring standards are famously strict… Those who seem engineering-focused enough eventually face a hands-on challenge: soldering drone components together. Until recently, even potential sales and marketing hires were asked to complete this task. The tests don’t stop once an employee is hired. DJI has become infamous for its competitive atmosphere. The company separates workers into groups and challenges them to come up with rival takes on a new product. The winning group gets the glory of seeing its ideas come to market; the losers must help make that happen. Employees are often asked to judge one another in surveys and to rate the performance of other departments. This data is then used to help decide salaries. #

The article ends a little abruptly, but it’s still worth your time.

Health Link

Symptom of COVID-19 may be loss of smell

“Almost everybody who is hospitalized has this same story,” said Dr. Marco Metra, chief of the cardiology department at the main hospital in Brescia, where 700 of 1,200 inpatients have the coronavirus. “You ask about the patient’s wife or husband. And the patient says, ‘My wife has just lost her smell and taste but otherwise she is well.’ So she is likely infected, and she is spreading it with a very mild form.” […]

Hendrik Streeck, a German virologist from the University of Bonn who went from house to house in the country’s Heinsberg district to interview coronavirus patients, has said in interviews that at least two-thirds of the more than 100 he talked to with mild disease reported experiencing loss of smell and taste lasting several days. #

A UK Health Minister Nadine Dorries who had COVID-19 tweeted about not being able to smell or taste too.

More coverage.


How will coronavirus effect…

  • the recreational drug market? Will cross border drug movement increase and how will production change?
  • dog ownership? Now is a good time to have a dog. From both the human and canine perspectives.
  • people with mental health issues? Being stuck indoors is going to massively alter even the mostly mentally strong.
  • climate change? Will the world start to focus on it more?
  • travel post-virus? Will there be a boom as people take on a carpe diem attitude in the years following coronavirus?
  • the number of children born? Couples don’t have a lot else to do.
  • long term success of school children? Will being essentially home schooled be good or bad for the education and development for this current crop of children?
  • advancement of technology? Will this be the final nail in the coffin of Moore’s law?
  • music, writing and other creative outputs? How much will free time increase them?
  • gym-based exercise? Will outdoor activities like running and cycling experience more than just a short term uptake as some people discover their joys and benefits for the first time?
  • the number of people who start ‘prepping’ and off grid living? At the very least I expect the average homes pantry and freezer size to increase post-virus.
  • conflict around the world? Will more than just a brief pause happen? Will many essentially fizzle out? Or will tensions actually increase?
  • society as a whole when so many elderly are likely to die? What will we lose?
  • future preparedness? Will this be treated as a dress rehearsal for potentially more devestating pandemics in the future or will it be treated as more of a final test unlikely to happen again this century?
  • minimum wage? Will ‘unskilled’ labour be more highly valued and appreciated going forward?
  • journalism? Will their perceived value in society increase due to the large coronavirus-based output and more people reading their (digital only) work?
  • air travel? Is this the end of budget airlines? Will airports and airlines be nationalised?
  • the quality of roads? Will governments take advantage of the lack of cars on the road and rebuild and update major motorways?
  • alchohol consumption? And how many new alcoholics will be created by citizens having no work, more anxiety and little else to do? As well as the chance for nightly drinking to become a habit.
  • dating and sex? Are new relationships totally on hold, or will pen-pal and video dating take over? Will single people desperate for sex help spread coronavirus? Will goverments ban one-night stands?
  • sleep patterns? With less work to wake up for will people become more in tune with their natural circadian rhythm?
  • the price of oil? How low will the per-barrel cost go?
  • divorces? Will they increase by as much as I expect?
  • will siblings grow closer or further apart?
  • traditional broadcast television? Will every channel just air reruns as they can no longer make new programming?
  • christmas? How many less presents will be under the tree at the end of 2020?
  • endangered animals? Will their numbers start to recover? Or as those who protect them disappear into their homes will poachers risk coronavirus infection for financial reward?
  • the restaurant industry? How many can actually wait out the financial storm?
  • sport? Will this just be a year unrecorded in sports history?
  • doctors and nurses long term? With so many potentially dying will there be a massive shortage over the next decade?
  • food consumption? Will it force the move to less intensive farming? How will vegans and meat eaters be effected differently?
  • the price of chickens? If eggs are hard to come by in supermarkets will people start selling their back garden chickens for thousands of pounds?
  • the flu long-term? Will peoples potentially better hygiene habits stop the flu being as dangerous as it once was?
  • remote working? Will it bring about a great change to the average office workplace?
  • the ability for women to get abortions?
  • air quality? Will the lack of cars make a massive long term difference?
  • gardens? With so much time on their hands will people decend upon their gardens for fresh air and start to pamper them into beautiful oblivion? Or will they become essential food growing areas and become like allotments?
  • drone deliveries? Will it finally become more than just a publicity stunt and actually be a viable delivery option?
  • domestic abuse? Many sufferers are now stuck in their homes with their abusers with no where to go.
  • economies world wide? Are we entering a decade long depression? How can poorer countries survive when they can’t borrow from other wealthier countries who have taken on massive debts themselves?
  • civil unrest? Will the national lockdowns go on so long that one day the public will have enough, spill onto the streets, and riot?

I have a lot of questions. But sadly not a lot of answers. We will just have to wait and see…

Main Technology

Developers: Show Users What You’re Working On

Today I stumbled on the website for a blogging engine called Blot that I’d never heard of before. The general design of the site and the fact that it ‘turns a folder into a blog’ made me think it was probably created by some dude about five years ago and is now probably long abandoned.

But while it turns out that it is about five years old and is also made by just some dude it most certainly isn’t abandoned. Because after some more poking I found a really cool ‘news’ page. Essentially it’s a mirror of the developers to do list along with their recently completed tasks. It’s a simple but wonderful idea and does a great job of quietly broadcasting the hard work of the developer and signals to users that the service is still very much in development. I wish more services and software did something similar. And Blot itself looks cool. Check it out.

Books History

Toilet Paper Shortages in 1940 and 2020

I’m currently reading The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson. It’s great (I might post some more extracts in the coming days) and it feels like a particularly appropriate read during the ongoing coronavirus crisis as the book focuses a lot on the the day-to-day realities of the Blitz, which all too often are starting to vaguely resemble what people are currently going through today. Example in point, toilet paper shortages:

Many other products, while not rationed, were nonetheless in short supply. A visiting American found that he could buy chocolate cake and a lemon meringue pie at Selfridges, but cocoa was impossible to find. Shortages made some realms of hygiene more problematic. Women found tampons increasingly difficult to acquire. At least one brand of toilet paper was also in perilously short supply, as the king himself discovered. He managed to sidestep this particular scarcity by arranging shipments direct from the British embassy in Washington, D.C. With kingly discretion, he wrote to his ambassador, “We are getting short of a certain type of paper which is made in America and is unprocurable here. A packet or two of 500 sheets at intervals would be most acceptable. You will understand this and its name begins with B!!!” The paper in question was identified by historian Andrew Roberts as Bromo soft lavatory paper.


‘Comfort food sales rise amid coronavirus self-isolation orders’

In the week that ended March 14, popcorn sales were up 48%, pretzels up 47% and potato chips up 30% compared to a year earlier, according to Nielsen data cited by the outlet.

“People are retreating back into comfort habits,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jennifer Bartashus. #

I think this is less about these items being ‘comfort food’ and more about them having a long shelf life. Lots of shops currently have very limited frozen goods and most people only have so much fridge and freezer space so buying items you can store at room temperature for a long time makes sense. I’m making sure I have plenty of nuts, tuna and tinned meats and vegetables.

Link Technology

‘Apple Acknowledges Personal Hotspot Issues’


In an internal document distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers this week, obtained by MacRumors, Apple has acknowledged that some iOS 13 or iPadOS 13 users may experience issues with Personal Hotspot.

I have had nothing but problems with Personal Hotspot for a long time. Long before iOS 13. And that’s actually a big problem because when I turn it on it’s because I can’t find Wi-Fi anywhere and I really need it to just bloody work right now. But all too often it fails. An iPhone is increasingly a digital Swiss Army knife and Personal Hotspot is an important part of that. It has to work 100% of the time. Imagine if Apple Pay didn’t work every single time?