Today's episode is a work-in-progress essay about the role of UX and "ease of use" in tech, with a specific focus on Bitcoin. Here are some links to what I'm talking about in the episode. The full essay will be published on my blog someday. Thank you for your patience.
Bitcoin Node Q+A
Bitcoin bites the bullet
"Don’t make me think" thread
So I screwed up and didn't select my nice podcasting microphone for this episode and am instead speaking to you through that joke of a pinhole mic on my MacBook Pro.
The good news is that we're not here to listen to me, we're here to hear from the fascinating Jonathan Pallant: Town Mayor, retro computing enthusiast, and embedded systems engineer.
Jonathan Pallant, Town Mayor of St Ives, Cambridgeshire
thejpster on GitHub
Monotron and some context
Monotron - a 1980s style home computer written in Rust
Monotron - Building a Retro Computer in Embedded Rust
On The Metal podcast
Neotron and abstraction
Let's Try PCB Etching!
Tiva C Series TM4C123G LaunchPad
JLCPCB SMT assembly service
"Woohoo! Made my EME-232 into Drive B: so I can boot from the Gotek but still read 3" disks. @ZxSpectROM, this has been so much fun :)"
Bill Herd's Story of Commodore from the Computer Engineers' Perspective
Something that's been refreshing about doing this new podcast is how little of my time is spent thinking about what "big" companies are doing.
But these big companies keep doing stuff. So let's talk about it!
Skate 4 has been announced!
Vergecast segment about Skate 4 in 2019 (at around the one hour mark)
Will Skate be the "Quake 3: Arena" of skateboarding games?
What I also want is a skateboarding shooter game. Trick combos generate shields.
Hey email app
Vergecast interview with @dhh and Rep. David Cicilline
Starting to think big companies and big government sort of deserve each other. Will whatever antitrust tribunals we end up with this time around catch the subtlety and just ask Apple to allow sideloading? Or are we going to get a "Apple forever" mentality and enshrine it into law somehow?
Also patents = monopoly.
Twitter audio tweets
I almost tried to care about this but I didn't pull it off. I always wonder if we can make it to a post-literate society tho. Interesting to think about.
It looks so dumb I'm sorry.
Also it has approximately 10,000x more "next-gen" games than the Xbox so far so I'm feeling pretty bullish on it. Might have to learn to use those stupid thumbsticks.
Wish there was a duck demo.
These are getting very, very good. Scratch AND Python? Yes, please.
On this episode I had the pleasure of speaking with John Cantrell, the lead of the Juggernaut decentralized messaging project.
I'm very enamoured with the idea of decentralized, peer-to-peer, e2ee messaging. But there are so many drawbacks and pitfalls, and it's hard enough to get your friends to even use something like Signal, that I had begun to give up hope. Lately, however, a handful of Lightning-based messaging experiments have popped up, and it feels like they're on to something.
Accouncing Juggernaut blog post
whatsat Lightning messaging demo
Lightning key send
The ecosystem is moving
Dr. Maxim Orlovsky
Lightning Labs Loop
LN-Juggernaut on GitHub
These are some books I like!
Fire in the Valley
by Michael Swaine and Paul Freiberger
by Lionel Shriver
The Soul of a New Machine
by Tracy Kidder
by Neal Stephenson
by Dr. Kai-Fu Lee
How the Internet Happened
by Brian McCullough
Life After Google
by George Gilder
The Bitcoin Standard
by Saifedean Ammous
The Order of Time
by Carlo Rovelli
The Master Algorithm
by Pedro Domingus
by Joe Quirk
by Neal Stephenson
Stories of Your Life and Others
by Ted Chiang
by Greg Egan
by James Gleick
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels
by Alex Epstein
Where Wizards Stay Up Late
by Katie Hafner
by Vernor Vinge
Today's episode is a little different. Basically, I want to convince you that you can and should learn to engage with the command line on your computer. There are a lot of tools that are only accessed, or best accessed, through the command line. In a perfect world maybe this wouldn't be the case, but in the world we live in the command line unlocks a lot of the hidden potential for your computer, and I feel like it's almost essential in the "owning" of modern technology.
Here are the basics:
pwd - short for "print working directory"
Type this into the terminal and press enter. You'll see the full path to wherever you "are" right now on your computer.
ls - short for "list"
This will show the files, folders, and executables that are in your current working directory.
cd - short for "change directory"
If you just type cd nothing happens, you need to tell it where you want to go. A few examples:
cd .. go to the parent directory
cd foldername go to foldername
cd ~ go to your home directory
If you get lost in the command line or you want to do something you don't know how to do using the command line, try xdg-open . (note the trailing dot, that means "right here"). This should open the the current directory in your GUI file browser.
Check out this week's newsletter (I'll link it on Twitter) for a more in-depth guide.
Here's the list of basic tools I start the episode off with.
DuckDuckGo for search.
BitWarden for password management.
Signal for messaging.
Refurbished enterprise SFF PCs for home server.
Fastmail for email. (Even cooler people are using Tutanota these days, but I haven't tried it personally)
Firefox + AdBlocker Ultimate for web browsing.
Today I'm joined by William Casarin who is one of my favorite twitter follows. William is a freelance software developer, he runs a bitcoin consultancy called bitcoin wizard, and he's constantly building wild and weird projects that seem to "own" technology in the sense I'm always chasing after.
Explain Yourself (talking about tweets)
"thinking about hooking CI build events into my system notifications..."
z - jump around
Noise Protocol Framework
Diffie-Hellman key exchange
"just scraped 20k chess puzzles from http://wtharvey.com maybe I'll get around to using my C game engine for a 3d+2d fics/lichess client with puzzle support."
"bitcoind + usdt + ebpf + bpftrace ohhh I'm going to have fun with this."
"So when people ask me why I write mostly C now..."
"I need to figure out a good fediverse crossposting setup..."
"I have a gopher client running on my paper tablet lol"
sacc gopher client
"I think for my satellite nix-bitcoin node, I would want..."
Nix: The Purely Functional Manager
"You can't stop other people from reading that which you disagree with."
@pierre_rochard on Noded 0.62.0
Speech laws and regulation and platform moderation are always about what "others" should see. Because you have to see it to moderate it. Just something to think about.
The first amendment
The way I'm thinking about "free speech," as a principle, is that I'm not going to use my power proactively to silence your speech. The actual law, of course, is about prohibiting the government from using its power to silence speech. But we're adults, we can talk about right and wrong it's okay.
Censorship is not an educational tool, it's a tool of control. You don't know what's being censored because you never see it. That was the whole point. So how do you know whether the right things are being censored? The potential for misapplication and the lack of means of correction are sky-high.
But platforms like Facebook and Twitter are in a dumb no-man's land where their "speech" is primarily the promulgation of other people's speech.
I personally would not want to be forced promulgate information I find abhorrent. But I also don't want to stop other people from accessing information I disagree with. Censorship doesn't restrain conspiracy theories, it validates them. The cure for wrongthink isn't a ban, it's better information. I also believe people who have facts on their side aren't afraid of people hearing "different facts."
And as great as I sound to myself when I say these things, none of it is useful as a prescription for how Twitter or Facebook should act.
Maybe there's like a range of speech-adjacent activities we can define:
Censorship: actively using power to limit what someone can say or hear.
Non-promulgation: "silencing" others through inactivity.
Promulgation: republishing others.
Self-publication: creating your own platform to host your own speech or the speech of others.
Promulgation is really some of the most powerful speech there is. And, of course, there's no promulgation without non-promulgation. Otherwise you're just transmitting static.
Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are self publishers with a truly historic level of promulgation, and now they're trending toward non-promulgation, which seems only reasonable. Meanwhile government is flirting with censorship, because it really has no power other than to destroy and oppose. Meanwhile meanwhile I'm thinking I need to get myself some of that self-publishing apparatus to secure and promote the ideas I think are good.
As a sidenote, I do find it sad sometimes how narrow a view we often have of what is acceptable and useful discourse, but there's really nothing I can do to change that. If it's easy to stay within the appropriate bubble of thought, then times seem good. But it leaves you with no recourse if you start getting extra-bubble ideas. And it might be actively harming the formation of extra-bubble ideas (which was the whole point of non-promulgation, obviously).
So what can I do?
Richard Myers is a "decentralized applications engineer" at Global Mesh Labs, which is a very good job title in my opinion. We talk about his work on Lot49, a protocol for incentivized mobile peer-to-peer communication.
A Richard Myers primer
@remyers_ on Twitter
Global Mesh Labs
Tales from the Crypt #88: Richard Myers
Stephan Livera's podcast with Richard Myers
RISE:NYC Small Business Resiliency Program
One NSA data center
How to Hide in Plain Sight (with Pictures) - wikiHow
How Lot49 could help
Lightning Network for BEGINNERS playlist
Lot49: A lightweight protocol to incentivize mobile peer-to-peer communication
Tor (onion routing)
goTenna VINE protocol
Where we're at
lightning payment over (simulated) HAM radio
Lnproxy - Proxy connections from a patched C-Lightning
Lot49 in C++
Bigger picture: when Netflix?
Incentives Build Robustness in BitTorrent
Change.org Abolish the FCC petition (11 signers)
A quick plug for my favorite programming language
Square Crypto's Rust-based LDK
I did a pod about Bitcoin, I hope that's okay!
Bitcoin resources I recommend
Tales from the Crypt
Satoshi Nakamoto Institute
The Bitcoin Standard
A Bitcoin Future
What if everything you bought got cheaper every year, but your salary stayed the same? You'd eventually go to space, right?
Human material needs are in some sense finite, but human wants are infinite. Human time is absolutely finite, but human ingenuity -- the ability to do more with the same amount of time -- is multiplicative and exponential.
In an economy we create value as we transact voluntarily, and in an economy with money we use money as an intermediary to store that value we create. In a Federal Reserve economy, that value creation is skimmed off the top and given to banks so they can give us more credit card debt. In a Bitcoin economy, we all get to benefit from value creation.
Bitcoin wouldn't fix theft, or the desire to steal. It just makes theft no longer our national monetary policy.
Internet of Shit: the origin story
"Samsung smart fridge leaves Gmail logins open to attack"
"Hackers can hijack Wi-Fi Hello Barbie to spy on your children"
"how many servers could it take to turn on a light bulb lol"
A history of IoT
Gartner 2014: "In 2020, 25 Billion Connected "Things" Will Be in Use"
Smart socket botnet
Highlights of IoT
A better way? (Probably not)
HUGE: INTERNET OF SHIT FULLY ENDORSES GOOGLE HOME
I always forget GlassWire exists and then I look like a dummy when I talk like it doesn't exist.
Sony patent where you yell "McDonald's!" to skip an ad
Less internet, less shit
Stagg EKG electric kettle
Oh dang there's a Bluetooth version now
IoT might be useful if you can "own" it
Ring + police
UniFi doorbell (early access)
Apple Bounjour / Rendezvous
Internet of Shit merch
The next generation of consoles
Faster storage, ray tracing, higher resolutions.
Unreal 5: "nearly a polygon per pixel"
But what about
Simulation? Single shard MMOs? Multiplayer physics?
To me, Dwarf Fortress still feels like the most next-gen game on the planet
Minecraft with RTX is the perfect example of what's going well and what's not improving in games.
Portable assets and avatars
As photogrammetry matures and we approach photorealism, assets might be more shareable. And easier to create.
See: Quixel Megascans
There's probably a rough DIY photogrammetry aesthetic that will differentiate non-pro games from "pro", but it will still look great IMO.
If there's unification of the art pipeline, "remixing" game assets and game modes seems more possible. That would be truly groundbreaking.
What I want is a skateboard game that's also a multiplayer shooter.
What would a game be like where everyone was running the maximum amount of cheats they can get their hands on?
If you think about it, cheating is a form of "AR" for a virtual space. Maybe it doesn't have to be a bad thing for all games, it could be a feature!
What about the holy grail of anti-cheat: peer to peer multiplayer games. It works with chess!
I think it could come down to multiplayer physics simulation. If your character is only capable of producing forces within a certain range... those could be the rules you abide by. just thinking out loud.
Eve Online and Dual Universe are "next-gen" in this sense.
Beyond single shard: the "metaverse."
Whatever happend to VRML?
Reamde. Hats. Real money poker.
"The dream is, I want a 12 year old camper from thailand to help pay for his family's food by killing me in an online video game and my slow reflexes" - Matt on TFTC
How do you have digital scarcity without centralized control? Bitcoin actually only solved Bitcoin's problem in this regard.
In Minecraft you choose to have scarcity to maximize fun.
What's the point of games?
Path of Exile
Everybody needs an operating system. But do we need a new kind of operating system?
Right now we basically have three major options: Windows, macOS, and Linux. Windows and macOS aren't open source, but that's not the only thing that's wrong with them. Linux is open source, but oftentimes that feels like its only advantage over the other two.
For years now I've dreamed of an alternative desktop OS with a fresh new foundation. Something we can build the future on with more speed and confidence because it got the fundamental abstractions correct. An operating system shouldn't feel bloated or fragile or like a monumental hack on top of 70s-era technology. It should be the minimal layer of software that can effectively and safely abstract hardware and allow multiple user programs to run together in harmony.
For the past five years, my guest Jeremy Soller has been actually building an alternative operating system: Redox OS. I think it might be our best hope.
This conversation is extremely technical. In a sense, this is the sort of technical stuff that most users never have to think about. But I find it interesting because someone has to care about these technical details or nothing would get done. I'm interested in the low-level details because I think getting those right can enable more capabilities and excellence at the user level.
If you absolutely hate operating system talk, you can fast forward to around the hour mark where we talk about the Linux computer company Jeremy works at: System76.
Setting the stage
A Taxonomy of Kernels
How drivers work
Trying Redox in a virtual machine
The problem with phones
Making Linux computers
Lemur Pro laptop
How to pitch in
Follow @jeremy_soller on twitter
Redox OS website
Donate to Redox OS
Redox Summer of Code
Meltdown and Spectre
A skateboard for our minds
The computer is "a bicycle for our minds," as Steve Jobs once said.
Do you ever watch those velodrome events in the Olympics? They either have a rolling start, or they have to have someone holding them up for a standing start. The bikers look silly and helpless until they get moving. And then they go in a loop, round and round, very, very fast. If you turn a little too hard your wheels slide out from under you and you eat it. When bikers crash in the velodrome the road rash is horriffic and their paper-thin costumes are torn the shreds.
What if we thought of the computer as a "skateboard for the mind?" What would a "skateboard" computer be like? How do we get there?
The Cuckoo's Egg
“The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed." - William Gibson
I brought this up on the last episode, but I'm reading a book called "The Cuckoo's Egg," and it's making me very jealous of how much agency this guy has over his machines. In 1989!
The Unix Philosophy
I don't want to brag but I've been thinking about how we use computers, and how I'm disappointed by how we use computers, for a while. Here's a piece I wrote about the history of wearable computers in 2012, and how I was pretty sure Google Glass was the wrong direction.
Along the lines of affective computing, another piece I wrote even longer ago attempted to explain how much our computers are dropping on the floor when they interact with us.
My comparison was to a Dyson sphere. Here's the Wikipedia definition:
A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure that completely encompasses a star and captures a large percentage of its power output.
There are some really cool people in the computer industry who are challenging the assumptions of inherent complexity. Jonathan Blow, Casey Muratori, Raph Levien. Sometimes they might come across and curmudgeons on Twitter. But I think they're fighting the good fight.
There's also a really good talk about what's gone wrong in computing called called "The Mess We're In" by Joe Armstrong, RIP.
Finally, I recommend the On The Metal podcast for a dive into this from fairly technical perspective. There's a whole battle raging just to make it simpler and more secure to boot a computer. I know not everyone can dip into this particular battle usefully, but it's at least cool to know it's happening.
I love riding my bike. And I'm actually really bad at skateboarding. But I want to get better.
This week I'm joined by Matt Odell, the co-host of the Tales from the Crypt podcast. Not only is Matt Bitcoin-famous, he's also hugely informed on technology in general, especially when it comes to security and privacy. I'm grateful to have him as my first guest on Cyberdeck Users Weekly, and grateful to have someone as practically paranoid as Matt in the world pushing for better ways to use and own technology.
Here's what we talked about:
Tales from the Crypt
Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System
Bitcoin Core on Github
Dear Family, Dear Friends, A letter to all of you who still have no bitcoin
Ethereum Web 3.0
Matt's dead man's switch
SCANDAL: Paul doesn't use a VPN
Carl Dong's Mullvad top-up service
Practical Bitcoin privacy
Open source image processing
Paul's Bitcoin setup
Let Paul scam you out of BTC
"Bugatti of nodes"
Matt's recommended resources
Matt's YouTube guides
Matt Odell's website
WELCOME TO THE POD
In this episode of Cyberdeck Users Weekly we'll review a bunch of tech giants and what their potential weaknesses are:
AMAZON: MAKE IT MORE LIKE DEPOP
Amazon can't track counterfiets (scale fail) and it uses its vendors for market research (evil).
Solution Why can't I just order from local stores and self-run warehouses? Why can't I buy masks from the guy who stockpiled masks?
See also: https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/14/21065894/google-pointy-acquisition-in-store-products-stock-inventory-shopping
GOOGLE: MAKE IT MORE LIKE RIPGREP
Google simultaneously knows too much about me and yet can't know enough to give me truly amazing and deep results (scale fail), and it attempts to control what I see (evil).
Solution Run searches locally before hitting the network. Most search just me trying to find that one CSS Tricks guide to Flexbox.
See also: https://minbrowser.org/
SEAMLESS: MAKE IT MORE LIKE SQUARESPACE
Seamless takes a gigantic cut. What are they reallllyy actually offering? So much less than even something like Uber.
Solution A protocol you can adhere to for listing things.
See also: https://twitter.com/susie_c/status/1255971900599046144
FACEBOOK / YOUTUBE: MAKE IT MORE LIKE WORDPRESS
Like Seamless, Facebook starts out by letting you build an audience, and then at some point it pivots and starts to charge you for access to your own audience.
Solution Matrix? Mastadon? Jitsi?
See also: https://pauljmiller.com/posts/how-to-fix-the-internet.html
APPLE: MAKE ME MY COMPUTER CARTRIDGES!
Alternatives to Apple: Pi / Pine / Librem / Redox OS / Oxide Computer / System76
I didn't bring this up on the pod but my dream for phones is that when you "retire" one you remove the battery and plug it into your home server setup and it becomes part of the borg that hosts all your local services.
BIG PROBLEMS WITH DECENTRALIZATION:
Decentralization of messaging (Lightning?)
Polish and ease of use
BIG systems like operating systems and UI frameworks are rare or bad and possibly unwanted in the first place?
HOW TO EVALUATE A TECHNOLOGY:
Is it actively harming me?
Can it be taken away, and how easily?