MonthMay 2014

The Tiny Box That Lets You Take Your Data Back From Google

Indie Box

My lastest for Wired:

The National Security Agency is scanning your email. Google and Facebook are hoarding your personal data. And online advertisers are selling your shopping habits to the highest bidder.

Today, more than ever, people are thinking about how to opt out of this madness without quitting the internet entirely. The obvious answer is to host your own web apps on your own computer server. And thanks to the burgeoning Indie Web Movement, there’s no shortage of open source alternatives to popular services like Google Calendar, Facebook’s photo albums, or Dropbox’s file sharing. The problem is that setting up and managing your own server is a pain in the neck–at least for the average consumer.

For open source developer Johannes Ernst, what the world really needs is a simple device that anyone can use to take their data back from the wilds of the internet. So he designed the Indie Box, a personal web server preloaded with open source software that lets you run your own web services from your home network–and run them with relative ease. Any system administrator will tell you that setting up a server is just the first step. Maintaining it is the other big problem. Indie Box seeks to simplify both, with an option to fully automate all updates and maintenance tasks, from operating system patches to routine database migrations.

Full Story: Wired: The Tiny Box That Lets You Take Your Data Back From Google

Or you can skip straight to the Indie GoGo.

See also:

Genshi Box

Freedom Box

Cozy Cloud

What Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto Has to Tell Us About the “Lean In” Era

Haley Mlotek writes:

I cannot abide by that tone claiming ladies are just in this together: girls nights and other segregated socializing, grouping us by the most tenuous links, like that I was born with a vagina and live as a female-identified person, and that’s enough for the publishing industry to feel confident that Sandberg will speak to me. There’s a special place in hell for people who sincerely say, “Listen up, ladies,” which must be the last thing you hear before you enter the underworld, and, “We’re all in this together,” the first after passing through the rings of fire.

Haraway, by contrast, writes that “there is nothing about being ‘female’ that naturally binds women,” a welcome reprieve from a false sisterhood. In 1985, decades before Sheryl Sandberg left Google to work for Facebook and asked us to make similar leans in our lives, Haraway warned, “Work is being redefined as both literally female and feminized, whether performed by men or women. To be feminized means to be made extremely vulnerable; able to be disassembled, reassembled, exploited as a reserve labour force… leading an existence that always borders on being obscene, out of place, and reducible to sex.” The cyborg that Haraway wants to be is “an imagination of a feminist speaking in tongues to strike fear into the circuits of the super-saves of the new right. It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories.” I would rather be that cyborg than ban bossy.

When I consider what a woman is — or what a woman should be, according to the peanut gallery offering helpful suggestions at a reasonable price — I wonder, like Donna Haraway, if the category we call woman is not already some sort of cyborg, a hybrid body made up of organic material and the implanted subconsciousness of those voices telling women how to behave, how to be better. These suggestions seek to make women robotic in their uniformity; voluntary Stepford Wives.

Maybe, instead, we should think of our consciousness as a circuit board that we are in control of. Instead of being something that must be formed, we can hold ourselves as individual units open to being rewired, to adapting to new advances, and not simply mechanisms who are in need of constant repair from some sort of patriarchal tool box.

Full Story: Buzz Feed: You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine

(via Today in Tabs)

The Minimum Wage Worker Strikes Back

Sarah Kendzior writes:

Jenina dropped out of nursing school after her mother lost her job, because she needed the tuition money to pay bills. Her income from McDonald’s, where she started working as a high school senior, helps support her mother and younger sister. Patrick’s Chipotle income helps support his mother, a makeup artist who has struggled to find steady work since the recession. Krystal’s Taco Bell income helps support her son; her sister, who lives with her and works at Jack in the Box; and now, her newborn daughter.

Every worker I interview is supporting someone: an unemployed parent, a child, a sibling, a friend. Most of their friends and family members work in fast food or other service industries. Everyone is in their twenties or older. All but one is African-American.

They dream of different jobs. The women want to be nurses, the men want to work in the automotive or culinary industries. But no one can pay for training when they cannot save for day to day, much less for the future.

As a result, fast food workers are turning to activism: not out of ideological motives, but because overturning the economic system seems more feasible than purchasing the credentials for a new career.

Full Story: Medium: The Minimum Wage Worker Strikes Back


New York City Fast Food Workers Go On Strike, Demand $15 An Hour

The Alt-Labor Movement: Low-wage workers fight to make bad jobs better

Mutation Vectors 5/10/2014

You Can Run But You Can't Hide

I’m in Des Moines this weekend, writing this over bad hotel coffee and posting via hotel wifi, so this is going to be a quick one.


This week I sounded off on Twitter about how journalism and blogging has colonized my brain, making it difficult for me to tell what I’m really interested in anymore. I think it came off more self-pitying than I meant, when really I just find it sort of puzzling. It’s probably a mistake to even think in terms of what I “really” want to read. But here’s an example: was I interested in this article on DIY transcranial direct current stimulation because I really care about the topic, or because I thought immediately “that’s a perfect story for Technoccult”?

I’d love to take a few months off work and blogging and just see where my interests gravitate if I’m not trying to cover particular beats for particular audiences. But that’s not gonna happen.

All that said, I did find some time to catch-up on some long reads while stranded at DFW for like eight hours yesterday. I’m pretty sure I found all of this interesting:



Strip Her” by Amanda Sledz.

Move Over Cybercrime, Food Crime is Here

The Guardian reports:

The horsemeat scandal of 2013 proved how vulnerable our food chains are to blatant fraud perpetrated on an industrial scale. Sixteen months later, the fact that no one died or was taken seriously ill as a result of the contamination of processed beef products has seen the issue demoted as a cause for concern. But, as in China in 2008, when an industrial chemical, melamine, was added to increase the protein content of baby milk, and in the Czech Republic in 2012, when vodka was laced with methanol, it is tragically evident that food fraud can be fatal.

It is to be hoped that it will not take something catastrophic to make us pay attention to the findings of the forthcoming Elliott report (the independent inquiry set up by the government in response to the horsemeat scandal) into the integrity of our food chains. But we note that, since the scandal broke, only a couple of individuals have been charged, despite manifold evidence of fraud perpetrated by organised criminal gangs. This, it can be suggested, reflects the limited importance that law enforcement, both in the UK and further afield, attaches to food crime. Indeed, it is noticeable that there is no unit within the major police organisations, such as Acpo or the Metropolitan police, that speaks out on the issue. The National Crime Agency’s national strategic assessment of serious and organised crime threats 2014, published last Thursday, made no mention at all of food crime.

And yet the evidence of its ubiquity is there for all to see. In February, Interpol’s annual blitz against criminal networks engaged in food crime, Operation Opson III, recovered 1,200 tons of fake or substandard food and nearly 400,000 litres of counterfeit drink seized in 33 countries across Europe, the US and Asia. Reports of food crime to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are rising sharply year on year. In April, it emerged that roughly a third of lamb takeaways sampled by local authorities’ trading standards teams contained meat other than lamb.

Full Story: The Guardian: We must be alert to the new age of food crime

(via Justin Pickard)

Meanwhile, according to The Economist, organized crime gangs are diversifying out of drugs and into new markets:

The buyers may be besotted ornithophiles, air-brained fashionistas or greedy gourmets. But the sellers are crooks, supplying a market which, according to America’s Congressional Research Service, is worth as much as $133 billion annually. Commodities such as rhino horn and caviar offer criminals two benefits rarely found together: high prices and low risk. Rhino horn can fetch up to $50,000 per kilogram, more than gold or the American street value of cocaine. Get caught bringing a kilogram of cocaine into America and you could face 40 years in prison and a $5m fine. On January 10th, by contrast, a New York court sentenced a rhino-horn trafficker to just 14 months.

Mindful Cyborgs: Farm Drones, the Human API and More

I missed recording the latest Mindful Cyborgs, but Chris Dancy and Alex Williams talked about farm drones, the Human API, Moves (before it was acquired by Facebook!), the Indie Web and more.

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Drone Shopping with Farmers

The Strange World of DIY Brain Zapping

DIY transcranial direct current stimulation

Wired reports on DIY transcranial direct current stimulation, and why the science behind it might not be all it’s cracked up to be:

It’s a rare thing for a scientist to stand up in front of a roomful of his peers and rip apart a study from his own lab. But that’s exactly what Vincent Walsh did in September at a symposium on brain stimulation at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain. Walsh is a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London, and his lab has done some of the studies that first made a splash in the media. One, published in Current Biology in 2010, found that brain stimulation enhanced people’s ability to learn a new number system based on made-up symbols.

Only it didn’t really.

“It doesn’t show what we said it shows; it doesn’t show what people think it shows,” Walsh said before launching into a dissection of his paper’s flaws. They ranged from the technical (guesswork about whether parts of the brain are being excited or inhibited) to the practical (a modest effect with questionable impact on any actual learning outside the lab). When he finished this devastating critique, he tore into two more studies from other high-profile labs. And the problems aren’t limited to these few papers, Walsh said, they’re endemic in this whole subfield of neuroscience.

Full Story: Wired: Inside the Strange New World of DIY Brain Stimulation

See Also:

Doctors Worry About DIY Brain Shocks

The Next God Helmet? Zap Your Brain for Insight

Mutation Vectors 5/3/2014

After posting this, I decide to rename it from Media Diet to Mutation Vectors because it sounds cooler



Hey, look it’s a new week already and once again I haven’t posted any new articles here on Technoccult. You can always tell when I’m having trouble meeting my deadlines for work by the dearth of posts here.

This week’s must read is Betsy Haibel’s epic article about the technology industry’s utter disregard for getting your consent to do… well almost anything. Companies will sign you up for spam e-mails, let people tag you in photos, gather your location information and so much more — and it’s all opt-out, not opt-in.

The article was published by Model View Culture, which publishes lots of “must read” articles critiquing the tech industry.

Speaking of the tech industry, my friend and Mindful Cyborgs co-host Alex Williams launched a site this week called The New Stack, all about the technology behind the technology that we use today. I’m doing a series of guest posts there on the history of this so-called new stack to figure out what, if anything, is actually new about it. The first one is a history of scale-out architecture. If that puts you to sleep, don’t worry. It’s geeky even by my standards. You might be more interested in reading Curt Hopkins’ articles “New Tech Needed to Stop Train Crashes” and “Drones Muster Out and Head for Wine Country.” Curt’s an amazing writer, I wish I could write half as well as him, or at least think up story ideas as good as his.

Elsewhere on the web, Jon Evans thinks technology may destroy capitalism. Well, you know I’d be down, though of course I always worry that we’ll end up with something worse than capitalism. But I’m also not so sure what we’re seeing happening is going to displace capitalism. After all the sharing economy is anything but. And while I am hoping for what Jon calls the low-scarcity future, I fear that climate change, ocean acidification and peak soil may lead to even more scarcity. The Windup Girl is a frighteningly plausible scenario (see last week’s Media Diet).

While we’re waiting to find out what happens to capitalism, Seattle is considering raising its minimum wage to $15. Jordan Weissmann thinks higher minimum wages are a good thing, but worries that Seattle might be raising its wage too high too fast. I also rather like the idea of higher wages for America’s most disadvantaged works, but I would have to agree that going from $9.32 to $15 overnight might be a little too quick. But as Weissmann tells us at the end of his article:

To his credit, Murray’s is trying to implement the idea gradually. Under his proposal, businesses would have between three and seven years to phase in the new minimum, depending on their size and whether employees get health care coverage or tips. Through 2024, some businesses will also be able to count $3 worth of tips or benefits toward the $15 total. By introducing the change over time, the city will give businesses leeway to adjust, if they can.

Of course that still might not be enough time to absorb an almost 50% increase in wages, but kinda weird that he didn’t mention the timeline sooner.

It’s hard to find a job that pays more than minimum wage these days, and the ones you can find often really suck. Even the ones that are supposed to be good. For example, The Daily Beast says being a primary care physician really sucks. My dad’s a family practitioner and he says that article is right on the money. Also, it turns out that doctoring has surpassed dentistry in a ranking of the most suicide prone professions, at least among white males. (But marine engineers are the most suicidal of all.) Please don’t kill your self, Dad.

Ten thousand people still die of asbestos in the United States every year. That’s about the same number of people that were killed by gun violence last year. And yet we’re still using asbestos for some purposes, and even exporting to other countries. Mosiac has the dirt.

If you read Rusty Foster’s Today in Tabs, you’ve probably noticed I’m ripping off his style. I might continue to do that until I get back in the habit of posting links here on a more than weekly basis, and/or I find my own style. In the meantime, if you want to read a great, near daily thing sort of like this only better, check out Today in Tabs.




Everyone’s been recommending Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, so this week I finally read the first issue, which I bought months ago. It was pretty good, but it didn’t really make me want to keep reading it. I’ll probably give it a couple more issues, though.

Today I wandered down to Floating World for free comics day. By the time I got there there just a few local indie comics left, which suited me just fine. I picked up Runner Runner # 3 from Tugboat Press, Courtney Crumrin # 1 from Oni and Barrio Mothes, which was co-published by like four different publishers, including Floating World. They all look great.

I also bought the Multiple Warheads collection by Brandon Graham and the Bartkira exhibition book, which looks amazing. If you want to know more about Bartkira, check out this interview and these two Tumblrs.

I’m really behind on reading comics, but then again, like Zack Soto:



Been catching up on Parks and Recreation this week. It’s also refreshing chaser to all the violent, nihilistic shows I watch.


I’m a big fan of an app called Freedom, which kills your internet connection for a set amount of time. The only way to get your connection back before the time is up is to restart your computer.

Unfortunately, it’s not yet available for Linux, and although it’s totally worth the $10, it would be nice if the source code were available. But free/open source software purists are in luck: there’s now a F/OSS alternative for Linux called ColettesHusband.

I hosed up my Linux Mint partition so I haven’t been able to test it yet. Looks like it’s a bash script that disables your ethernet and wifi drivers for a set amount of time. I’m not sure if it, like Freedom, will stop you from re-enabling the drivers manually without having to restart your computer.

BTW, a Linux version of Freedom is in beta, and the new version adds nifty new features like scheduling your disconnections in advance, so don’t count it out of the running yet.

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