“Guerilla Open Access Manifesto” by Aaron Swartz

July 29, 2017

Aaron_Swartz_profile

Aaron Swartz was a computer programmer, writer, political organiser, hacker, and hacktivist of note.  Amongst other accomplishments he founded Watchdog.net, “the good government site with teeth,” to aggregate and visualize data about politicians, was a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Demand Progress; with Virgil Griffith he worked on Tor2web, an early (2008) HTTP proxy for Tor-hidden services and with Kevin Poulsen he created Dead Drop (now known as “Secure Drop”), a mechanism allowing whistleblowers to send files to the media anonymously.  He was prosecuted for making the data in JSTOR, a digital repository of academic journal articles, available to users for free.  He refused a plea bargain that would have seen him serve 6 months in a low-security prison, preferring to make the authorities justify the prosecution.  He faced a possible 50 years of imprisonment and $1 million in fines, for pursuing the hacker belief that all information wants to be free.  Swartz committed suicide on January 11, 2013. After his death, federal prosecutors dropped the charges. [Thanks to Wikipedia.org for the above.]  He was a champion for freedom, in the best hacker tradition, and nine years ago he wrote the following manifesto.

Guerilla Open Access Manifesto

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for
themselves. The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries
in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of
private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the
sciences? You’ll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought
valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure
their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But
even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future.
Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their
colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them?
Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to
children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

“I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they
make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal —
there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s
already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been
given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world
is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for
yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords
with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

 

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been
sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by
the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or
piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a
ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only
those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they operate
require it — their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the politicians they
have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the exclusive power to decide who
can make copies.

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the
grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public
culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with
the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need
to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific
journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open
Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the
privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?

Aaron Swartz

July 2008, Eremo, Italy


OMG! How dare women go to the beach with their clothes on?

August 28, 2016

As everyone knows, people go to the beach to leer at scantily-clad folk, or to be leered at while scantily-clad.  So how dare anyone go to the beach without flashing their bits at everyone?

burkini1

The burkini is obscene and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere!  At all!

burkini2

Wow, that burkini is really offensive!  It’s got a hood.  And it covers the woman’s legs.  How obscene…

Ok, so burkinis look stupid.  But lots of clothes look stupid, should they be banned?  Like those caps with cupholders so you can drink through a straw without having to carry the can in your hand.  Shall we ban them too?

cup-holder-caps

Spot the dickhead

(Actually, maybe we should ban the cup-holder cap.  And French people.  If we just banned France and fizzy pop, all the world’s problems would be solved, in one (two?) fell swoop.

Now, if you wear clothes on the beach, it’s absolutely appropriate for the police to come and make you strip.  In public.  At gunpoint.

burkini-ban-on-beach-cops

I know France is all tense and stuff after the terrorist crap going on there.  But when terrorists attacked the London Tube did the British government ban hijabs and turbans and white baggy trousers?  Answer: No.  Cos although the Brit government is really really stupid, reactionary and anti-human rights, it wasn’t that  really really stupid, reactionary and anti-human rights.  (I hope our present government hasn’t got that stupid yet…).

 

Oh yeah… don’t forget that the thought police know what you’re thinking:

olivia-thirlby-as-anderson-1

Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson: the acceptable face of thought crime control…

 

 


How to rip dvds – including “copy-protected disks” – with dvd::rip and vlc

March 27, 2016

Disclaimer: I never ever break the law.  Any suggestion that I do so, regularly and in flagrant disregard of conventional norms, is unintended and all I can say in my defence is that you must have misunderstood what I’ve written (I often write fiction – maybe this blog entry is fiction.  Lies, lies; all is lies!).  Anyway, don’t never do wrong!! (was that a double negative?)

I hate buying DVDs.  Bittorrent is beautiful, it takes away all that parting with money nonsense.  But another way to get cool videos is having friends who buy DVDs then lend them out to their friends.  Including you!  Except you don’t watch the thing once then give it back – you riiip it first!

piracy-is-not-a-victimless-crime-resized

Don’t copy DVDs!  Not only is it illegal, it’s not a victimless crime.  Think of the poor movie stars, the directors, the multi-millionaire producers.  And the children!  Won’t somebody please think of the children? [image shamelessly borrowed from the Intellectual Property Rights Center (whoever they are).  Don’t sweat it, IPRCENTER, you can have the image back when we’ve finished using it…]

I like using dvd::rip despite its stupid name.  I mean, what’s up with the double-colons?  They’re invisible to Google as far as I can make out.  Luckily for you, I (the King of stealing shit) found the dvd::rip download page.

Now for the bad news (so far as most of you are concerned – it’s a Linux program!!!  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  Linux FTW!!  If you want to learn how to rip DVDs with Windows or Mac, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  But don’t give up the hunt too quickly.  Tenacity is a great quality for a pirate, hacker, oil-field surveyer, just about anyone to have.  And if that doesn’t work out for ya, get yerself a Linux OS.  Ubuntu is my favourite (also my first, so I may be biased) but there are lots of other distros to try.

Okay, so you have Linux (Ubuntu!  Ubuntu!  Choose Ubuntu!) installed.  Now you need a DVD ripping software.  My personal choice is dvd::rip, despite its stupid name.  It’s a stupid name because those dumb double-colons stop you from installing the program via the command line (ie sudo apt-get install application-x).  But the Ubuntu Software Centre will find it easily enough, or the package manager of whatever Linux distro you’ve installed.  Tell it to install, and in a jiffy dvd::rip will be downloaded and installed, stupid double-colons and all  (depending on how fast your internet connection is and how long you consider a jiffy to be).

If, for some reason, your distro installation system doesn’t find dvd::rip, you can find downloads in various formats here.

Okay, you have dvd::rip installed on your system and you have a DVD you want to rip.  We’re nearly there: all you gotta do is to stick in the DVD and rriiiip it.

Insert the DVD, then run dvd::rip.  Under the File menu, click on New Project.  The next screen will want some storage path information.  By default the project is called unnamed.  If you change it in the Project name box, it will automagically change in the other boxes too.  Note that the files created by dvd::rip will appear in a sub-directory of your home directory. Now click on the button labelled +create project. dvd::rip will want to know where to put the *.zip file.  For this example, I’m ripping the DVD of the movie The Departed, so I called the project “departed”.  So dvd::rip wants to know where to put the file departed.rip file.  I generally just stick them in my home directory.  Choose where you want your *.rip file to be stored, then click OK.

Now the program wants some info about the DVD device you’re using.  Generally leave this as it is, unless you’re using an external or non-default DVD device.  You’ll be offered a ripping choice: Copy data from DVD to harddisk before encoding or Encode DVD on the fly.  I choose the first because it is quicker and puts less strain on the DVD devices.  It also enables “interesting features”, but I haven’t explored these yet.

 

dvdrip-save-project-departed

So, you’ve selected the DVD device and ripping mode.  Now click on the greyed-out button RIP Title.  This brings you to a new screen.  There’s a big empty space here which will fill with the DVD’s contents when you click the button Read DVD table of contents. Click it.

A list of the table of contents will be printed to the screen.  In the case of The Departed it’s pretty obvious which particular title you want to rip: there are only 2 options, and one is only 1 second long.  So title 2, all 2 hours and 25 minutes of it, is the one you want.

dvdrip-tableofcontents

 

Sometimes choosing is more difficult.  Generally, the longer item is the one you want.  Sometimes though. a sneaky attempt at “copy protection” (hah!) presents you with a long list of titles of almost identical lengths.  There’s a pretty easy way of working out which title is the one you want to rip.  I will explain how to get past this ridiculous attempt at “copy-protection” later*.  But, to continue with this example, it’s clear which track you want to rip. So high-light it (by clicking on it) then click on Rip selected title(s)/chapter(s) near the bottom of the screen.  The status bar at the bottom of the screen will start turning orange – the more orange you can see, the more of the DVD has been ripped.  So now it’s a waiting game.  Large files can take 45 minutes or more ro rip!  So now’s a good time to make some coffee, maybe watch some TV show you downloaded from the internet, you naughty pirate, you!

When  the ripping is done, the status bar at the bottom of the screen will not be orange any more.  It will  be clear, except for some text telling you how much free space you have left on your hard disk.  Now click on Transcode.  On the Transcoding page, usually the only changes from the default are under Video Bitrate Calculation: by Target media I choose from the drop-down menus One x 850 MB  Then I click on Transcode, and sit back to watch the status bar fill with orange again – or maybe watch some more illegal content while waiting for the transcoding to finish…  By default dvd::rip makes 2 passes transcoding, which can take some time…

At the end of all this transcoding… and waiting… and transcoding… and waiting… that status bar will trn colourless again, with some text saying how much diskspace is left.  The ripping is complete.  Go to ~/dvdrip-data, and in the directory named avi you will find your movie in an avi video file -move it to where you keep your video files .  The sub-directories tmp and vob may as well be deleted, as I haven’t found a use for them yet. The files in the vob directory are especially large – in the case of The Departed, there were 8 .vob files, all but one weighing in at 1.1 GB each!  They may be useful (perhaps for transferring the movie to another video DVD?) but I haven’t looked into that yet.  So I do myself a favour by deleting the contents of the dvdrip-data directory and freeing up the disk space.

*The sneaky yet futile attempt at “copy protecting”.

I told you that I’d get to this nonsense, and so I have.  Some DVDs, when their tables of content are open, list many titles as the one you want to copy.  You can’t tell them apart very easily, as they are all near enough the same length.  But only one of them is the track you want.  The others are a school of red herrings, containing just parts of the movie or other such crap.  What you need is “The 99 Video Titles Fix”.  What you need is vlc.

vlc should be available through the Software Centre or Synaptic (I’m assuming that you’re using Ubuntu. It might be in the package manager of other Linux distros.  If you’re having problems finding it, have a look at the VideoLAN site for possibly useful information. And Google.  Never forget the mantra: Google Is Your Friend.)  If you’re going to rip one of these “copy protected” disks with dvd::rip you are going to need vlc.  Unless you know of another method, in which case please share this other method in Comments below (or if you’re shy, send it to me direct via the Contact Form button at the top of this page.

captain-america-the-first-avenger-resized

This guy is a dick.  Really!  I ended up cheering for the Red Skull, that Captain was so goody-two-shoed.  And a shield?  FFS! [image stolen, I mean borrowed, from amazon.com]

Anyway.  A friend of mine lent me his DVD of Captain America: The First Avenger, and an evil voice in my ear whispered “Rip the DVD and add it to your goodly-sized collection of comics-based movies.”  You see, I collect comics-based movies.  The good voice in my other ear said something like “Mmph! Mmmph!” like it had been gagged or something.  Anyway, I’m easily led, so I set to ripping Captain America.

But those evil guys at Hydra, I mean Marvel Studios, had employed a fool-proof method of copy protection.  I fired up dvd::rip, had it read the table of contents, and look what it showed me!

cappy-table-of-contents

99 tracks in total, 16 of which were about the right size to be the one I wanted.  But only one was the right one.  So what to do?  Rip all 16 possibles?  That would take a bloody long time.  There had to be a quicker way, I thought.  And I was right.  I consulted my good friend Google and it found this for me.

Basically, fire up vlc,  then select Media > Open Disc.

vlc-open-disc

Next select the type of disc you’re about to play (DVD), enter the device name and path (VLC will select the most likely device – or use Browse and click Play to start playback.

vlc-disk-selection

Now start watching the movie – make sure you’ve gone through any menus and the correct movie you want to rip is playing, then click Playback > Title.  In the example below you can see it’s Title 1; but when this so-called “copy protection” is in use the correct Title could be any, from 1 to 99 or however many they’ve decided to put on the disk to dissuade potential pirates.  Bloody idiots: no matter how many layers of armour they embed their precious movie in, there’s always a way through!

vlc-title

So now you know which Title is the one you want, go back to dvd::rip and select that Title.  And Abracadabra!  The movie is yours!  If you’re a wicked pirate, that is, and I would never condone piracy.  I feel I must repeat: this blog post is fictional – I’ve never ripped a DVD in my life – and all th info is strictly for educative, abstract purposes.  They hang pirates, you know?  Seen the end of Pirates of the Caribbean, where cunning Jack Sparrow escapes the hangman’s noose?  Well, that’s fiction.  (If you haven’t seen that movie, you could probably find it via bittorrent; or a friend may have a DVD you could borrow… 😉 )

giffgaff1

Click on Stewie if you want amazing value mobile phone service including 4G and £5 extra free credit!

 


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Apple vs the FBI: Go on, Apple!

February 18, 2016

At the FBI’s urging, a federal magistrate has ordered Apple to create a program that will allow the FBI to get into an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters.  They claim this a one-off thing; they just want to gain access to the shooter’s phone.  On the radio I heard a federal justice spokesman explain it like this:  “If the FBI had a warrant to enter and search a house, but the house had a combination lock that would permanently lock the door if the wrong combination was entered a few times, the FBI would knock the door in using a tank.  All we want is for Apple to supply us with the tank.”

But that is nonsense.  If the locked-door scenario happened, the FBI would bring their own tank to knock the door in.  They wouldn’t ask a lock manufacturer to build the tank for them.

The US government have wanted a back-door into Apple’s iPhones for a while now. This has especially been the case since September 2014, when Apple introduced new encryption into its iPhone operating system that would make it mathematically impossible for the company to unlock them for investigators. This was a departure from the past, when investigators could get access to a device if they sent it to Apple headquarters with a search warrant.

The US authorities are painting this as strictly an anti-terrorism move, and that it would apply only to the iPhone in question.  But that is plain wrong.  Ever since the Ed Snowden revelations, FBI director James Comey has been trying to figure out a way around the software as he and Apple’s Tim Cook have traded barbs publicly and privately.  And now he and his colleagues are using thie San Bernadino murders as a way to create case law that could force tech companies to provide back doors into their products.  The FBI claim they want Apple to create a master key just for the one iPhone; but once the precedence had been set, the authorities would use the Apple master key whenever they felt like it, and would be on sure ground to insist other Silicon Valley companies do the same.

Security professionals have pointed out that back doors are not the way to carry out investigations: see here and here for just a couple of examples.  The tragic San Bernadino shootings are, I’m sorry to say, just a way for the US authorities to get the back doors they want on faulty reasoning.  I’m happy Apple have contested this court order.  I don’t like Apple products or their propriety approach, but I’m at one with them that individual freedom is paramount.  After all, isn’t individual freedom what we are trying to defend from people like ISIS?

In addition to that: criminals might get hold of back door tools and use them to steal identities, bank details etc; and oppressive foreign governments might use them to persecute pro-democracy activists.  The authorities will obviously claim that no one will be able to access these master keys.  But the US government, among others, have suffered theft of data frequently; and foreign governments have spies, whose job is to steal secret tools and information.

To go back to the locked door and tank scenario: in this case the US authorities should bring their own tank – the NSA.  Or do they really expect us to believe that the NSA couldn’t crack this one phone?

Apple-Logo

Apple: doing the right thing


Blowing Whistles

February 18, 2016

If you’re at all interested in the case of NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden, you may be interested in watching the excellent documentary film Citizen 4.  You can download it from here.  Well worth checking out.

Edward_Snowden-2

Ed Snowden.  Image from Wikimedia.


Thank the Goddess I’m not a Palestinian – cos the Israeli “defence” forces are wiping them out!

November 18, 2014

First, a truly incomprehensible attack on innocent Jewish men, women and children, using the excuse there are a lot of Israelis “in danger” from “Palestine officials”.

Let’s examine the charges by Israeri concerning the “oh-so-dangerous Militants”:
Here’s the low-down on why Netenyahu is overseeing these brutality. The Israelis have state-of-the-art firearms, whereas the Palestinian community have virtually nothing left.

Sling vs helicopter gunships, automatic rifles, grenades, the rape of Palestinian women and children... how can any sane person see the Israeli response as proportional???

Sling vs helicopter gunships, automatic rifles, grenades, the rape of Palestinian women and children… how can any sane person see the Israeli response as proportional???

An example (thanks to the Guardian: after Palestinians allegedly killed in a terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, 2 PFLP suspects (note that word: suspects) killed “in retaliation by Israeli “security” forces. Netenyahu ordered the destruction of the homes of alleged suspects (no judicial oversight, no rule of law, Netenyahu decides these men did the attack, and not only killed the “suspects” but also ordered the demolishment of these so-called “suspects” homes. Was that proportionate action? Making families homeless, even though the people living there would have had no idea of what, if anything, the “suspects” may have been up to. This is not justice: it’s a bare-faced landgrab, designed to make Palestinian families homeless and leave the way clear for more Kibbutzin and other illegal “settlers”.

US leader Obama criticized the attack on the Synagogue, which killed four innocent people, including US citizens Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary William Levine, and Moshe Twersky, and injured several more. He said:

There is and can be no justification for such attacks against innocent civilians.

“The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the victims and families of all those who were killed and injured in this horrific attack and in other recent violence. At sensitive moment, it is all the more important for Israeli and Palestinian leaders and ordinary citizens to work cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence and seek a path forward towards peace.”

So you can see, Obama deplores the attacks on the Jews in Synagogue, but didn’t make any mention of the fact that the families of the alleged killers have had their homes demolished. Isn’t there something in American society about the right for private, family life? Oops, I nearly forgot: Any provisions in the US constitution only apply to US citizens. Palestinians being forcibly removed from their homes is okay as far as Uncle Sam is concerned. Plus Israel is an important ally of the USA’s. Whereas the USA, like Israel, consider Palestinians to be the enemy. Even the children are viewed as terrorists-in-waiting. It’d be funny, if you didn’t realize it was about actual living human beings. Fucking Netanyahu, fucking Obama.

This is a public service announcement... with wrecking balls!!!

This is a public service announcement… with wrecking balls!!!

Why oh why doesn’t someone put an end to the Israeli’s war on innocents and its seizure of Palestinian property? Can someone explain to me: let’s assume one of the “suspects” did something wrong. Surely the suspect should be arrested and face a fair trial. But no, the “suspects” are killed, or tortured, or similarly disappeared. And an entire family is made homeless. Is this right? I’d love to hear a rational argument from pro-Israeli figures on this subject.

The Israeli government is despicable. Collective punishment, ghettoization, arrest and murder of innocent people. That’s the kind of crap the Nazis got up to. And now the Israelis are up to it. Makes me feel disgustingly sick. I hate the authorities in Israel, and I hate the Western powers (eg USA, UK, France) who support them. Leave the Palestinians alone FFS! Even the Nazis didn’t keep up their war of terror for this long!

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Robin Walker – what a nasty piece of Tory to find on the sole of your shoe!

May 1, 2013

I am a member of online campaign groups like 38 Degrees and Open Rights Group. These are groups that ask members what campaigns it should get involved with, then the group will call on its members to send to local MPs. ministers and other such, so our will is focused and targeted and helps ensure that the government and others can’t just ignore us. Divided we are nothing. United we can do anything… well, the government can’t just ignore us.

My local MP is the Tory Robin Walker. Incidentally, his late father Peter Walker (1932-2010) was MP for Worcester until 1992, when he resigned as MP and was sent to the House of Lords to do his masters’ work. Robin has been a pretty engaged MP – he has replied to every email I’ve sent him (he uses official House of Commons writing paper and envelopes – you would have thought that Parliament had discouraged use of snail mail) but only once has he expressed agreement with my point, about the Defamation Bill). Most recently he sent me a (probably form) letter telling me how important it was that the government keep my communication and other logs for all eternity just in case I were a terrorist or paedophile. He wrote:

Communications data is vital for the police in their fight against crime, including serious offences, such as child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism.

Note the use of the “big 3″: child abuse, drug-dealing and terrorism”. The suggestion is that opposing the Data Communications Data Bill is, or supports, nonces, pushers and suicide bombers. Thanks Robin; yet another reason to avoid voting for him when the general election comes round.

Right now, I don’t have a clue who’ll get my vote: it won’t be the Conservatives, the Lib Dems are no longer a viable choice…if Ed Miliband can drag Labour back to the left I might put my mark by his name; but how likely will that happen?

Brits are wage-slaves, with mortgages and their children’s educations keeping the populace keeping their nose to the stone, while bankers, corporate directors and other vested interests keep their money in tax havens. But don’t worry: the Conservatives want your personal data, phone logs, emails, bowel movements, whatever, stored for all eternity in a massive computer system that probably fail (as do most government-contracted computer systems do). We’re stuck with this situation unless someone does something about it.

Who’s your MP? Does he care about you? I’d love to see along string of Comments to this post, telling us how our MPs act for our best interests. And my current voting advice regarding the next election: go to the voting station, spoil your ballot (I like to write at the bottom of the voting card “None of the above” and a X in a box next to it), put it in the black box, and be on your way. This is not apathy, this is showing the establishment that the status quo must end.

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