[clug] The end of the personal computer age is nigh !

Paul Wayper paulway at mabula.net
Sat Feb 14 15:50:00 MST 2015

Hash: SHA1

On 14/02/15 22:50, Bob Edwards wrote:
> On 14/02/15 13:01, Brendan Jurd wrote:
>> George,
>> I sympathise with your concerns, but in the end the convenience offered
>> by these cloud services may be overwhelming.
>> Back in the old days, it was pretty common for a person to have at most
>> one computing device -- their desktop PC.  Nowadays, folks tend to have
>> a phone plus some combination of  tablet, desktop, laptop.  In such an
>> environment, having your stuff located on this or that particular
>> device really isn't much fun.
>> Is the amount of data these large companies collect about us
>> disturbing? Yes. Can companies be trusted to keep our data safe and to
>> use it ethically? Obviously not. Does this create some very attractive
>> targets for identity theft and other kinds of fraud?  Yep. Now that the
>> horse has bolted, is there any point fiddling with the barn door?
>> Unlikely.
> Yeah, I completely agree.
> For example, I find the convenience offered by petrol-fueled vehicles 
> overwhelming. I don't understand why people don't get that "the horse has
> bolted" and give up on "fiddling with the barn doors", with crazy schemes
> such as push bikes, electric/hybrid vehicles, light rail, solar cars,
> bio-diesel etc. Why don't they just accept that petrol has won and trust
> the law-abiding oil companies, who only have our best interests at heart,
> to do what they are much better able to do than we are?

Wait - Bob, are you arguing by analogy that we should let foreign companies
host our data?  :-)

Seriously, I think that the good news is that there is a vast spectrum of
options between "give everything to Apple/Google/Microsoft/Dropbox/Whoever"
and "keep all your data on one machine and do everything manually".

For people that want to be able to synchronise and back up all their devices
to an online service they control, there's Owncloud and various similar options.

For people who don't want their information being shared without their
permission, there's FreedomBox, Qubes, Tails[1] and more.  This approach
just comes down to being careful with how much you share, and it depends on
what you see as the threat that you're protecting against.

These outlooks overlap but they aren't the same.  There are also other areas
to cover - anonymity or deniability for example.

And the range of options we have are huge - from sophisticated all-in-one
projects like Owncloud and FreedomBox to just setting up your own Apache
server on your home machine or using rsync.

IMO the fundamental point - and this to me is what Eben Moglen was talking
about in his keynote at LCA, go watch it - is that open source software
gives you the control.  You can verify that what you're using is doing what
you think it should, and has no flaws you can spot[2].  You can modify it to
do what you want it to do.  Many people can contribute to a project so as to
make something larger than any one of them could on their own.  And you can
know that the project is governed by your interests rather than those of a
private corporation.

Which (to pick up Bob's point) means that we've got a huge range of new
opportunities.  The answer to "my data is in the cloud and I don't control
it" is not necessarily "I'll go back to just having data on my own PC", any
more than the cost of petrol will force us to go back to horses and carts.
Technology enables us, but like everything in life there are compromises.
We pick which benefits we want and which costs we're willing to pay.

Hope this cheers you up George :-)

Have fun,


[1] The Amnesiac Incognito Live System: https://tails.boum.org/
[2] Modulo Ken Thompson's talk "Reflections on Trusting Trust":
Version: GnuPG v1


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