Twenty years ago (Jan 5th, 2020) Steve Jobs demoed Internet Explorer 5 for Mac. The app was chosen by Jobs for its bold UI, which was developed in complete secrecy within Microsoft but had an uncanny resemblance of the yet-to-be-unveiled Acqua interface of Mac OS X.

Maf Vosburgh, one of the developers who worked on the project, writes:

Coming from the artist-influenced multimedia world, the visual style Microsoft had in progress for Mac IE 5 looked ancient to me. Everything was the MacOS platinum style, shades of gray like cement, with a horde of tiny 16 by 16 pixel toolbar icons (in 4-bit color with a 1 bit mask) most of which had obviously been designed by engineers in a pixel editor like ResEdit.

I had the idea of making our browser chrome match the actual hardware you were on. If your Mac’s bezel was Bondi blue, we’d make our UI Bondi blue. That way our “frame” around the web page would match the bezel and so would be seen as part of the background and be distinct from the content. By being more vivid we would paradoxically blend into the background, and look more at home. […]

I put my idea to the rest of the Mac IE team, and they loved it. […] It rapidly came together and in Summer 1999 we demoed the secret New Look build of Mac IE5 to Steve Jobs, the first person to see it outside Nykris and a few people on the Mac IE team. Steve gave it his enthusiastic approval. Yeah!

So eventually MacWorld January 2000 came along, the venue for unveiling the Mac IE 5 beta. Steve Jobs insisted on doing the Mac IE 5 demo himself. Tnis is where things got a little surprising. Steve first showed a new build of Mac OS X which had a new user interface called “Aqua”. This looked, well, just like the Nykris design we’d been using for half a year at that point.

The debate around 5G is being framed as if picking Huawei instead of an European vendor would upset the control telecommunication providers have over their networks. The reality is more grim: we’ve long crossed that bridge, and most providers already do not have a full understanding of their own infrastructure:

In a modern telecommunications service provider, new equipment is deployed, configured, maintained and often financed by the vendor. Just to let that sink in, Huawei (and their close partners) already run and directly operate the mobile telecommunication infrastructure for over 100 million European subscribers.

The host service provider often has no detailed insight in what is going on, and would have a hard time figuring this out through their remaining staff.

L.M. Sacasas:

“When I was a child,” the Apostle wrote, “I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.” And, we may add, I looked like a child. Thus the appropriateness of my childishness was evident in my appearance. Yes, that was me as I was, but that is no longer me as I now am, and this critical difference was implicit in the evolution of my physical appearance, which signaled as much to all who saw me. No such signals are available to the self as it exists online.

Indeed, we might say that the self that exists online is in one important respect a very poor representation of the self precisely because of its tendency toward completeness of memory. Digital media, particularly social media platforms, condense the rich narrative of the self’s evolution over time into a chaotic and perpetual moment. We might think of it as the self stripped of its story.

Oona Räisänen:

If you ever connected to the Internet before the 2000s, you probably remember that it made a peculiar sound. But despite becoming so familiar, it remained a mystery for most of us. What do these sounds mean? […]

The first thing we hear in this example is a dial tone, the same tone you would hear when picking up your landline phone. The modem now knows it’s connected to a phone line and can dial a number. The number is signaled to the network using Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency signaling, or DTMF, the same sounds a telephone makes when dialing a number.

The remote modem answers with a distinct tone that our calling modem can recognize. They then exchange short bursts of binary data to assess what kind of protocol is appropriate. This is called a V.8 bis transaction.

The New York Times, in an article full of impressive photos:

A conveyor that staff members call “the Cable Highway” moves the cable directly into Durable, docked in the Piscataqua River. The ship will carry over 4,000 miles of cable weighing about 3,500 metric tons when fully loaded.

Inside the ship, workers spool the cable into cavernous tanks. One person walks the cable swiftly in a circle, as if laying out a massive garden hose, while others lie down to hold it in place to ensure it doesn’t snag or knot. Even with teams working around the clock, it takes about four weeks before the ship is loaded up with enough cable to hit the open sea.

Internet writing uses subtle punctuation choices to convey sarcasm and other tone of voice nuances. It’s not lazy.

That’s Gretchen McCulloch, who wrote a book on how we write on the internet (it’s not out yet, but it’s available for preorders).

You know, the fact that for example the fullstop in the context of a text isn’t used to mark the ending of said text but rather to convey to the recipient our utter aversion to their existence.

The Guardian:

In Cuba, internet access is limited. But if you can’t get to the internet, there are ways of bringing it physically to you.

It’s known as “el paquete semanal” or “the weekly packet”, an external drive loaded with thousands of hours of media content that is delivered to customers by enterprising ‘suppliers’ like Alberto Jorge.

I remember reading about this same story a while ago, and yet it never ceases to dumbfound me — internet access in Cuba is expensive to the point that it less convenient than having a person coming around the house regularly to deliver a dump of the data via HTP (Hand Transfer Protocol).

From a CloudFlare post of a couple of years ago:

El Paquete is a weekly service where someone (typically found through word of mouth) comes to your home with a disk (usually a 1TB external USB drive) containing a weekly download of the most recent films, soap operas, documentaries, sport, music, mobile apps, magazines, and even web sites. For 2 CUC a week Cubans have access to a huge repository of media while turning a blind eye to copyright.

Cubans told me of children waiting anxiously for “El Paquete Day” when they’d get the next set of cartoons, music and shows.

Technology Review ricorda che non tutti hanno connessioni iper veloci e dati illimitati:

Ma’Niyah has a special-education plan for math; to help her, she’s been assigned problems to do online through Khan Academy. But her mother says she cannot afford broadband from Time Warner Cable, which would begin at around $50 a month, even for an entry-level offering, plus modem and taxes (and the price would rise significantly after the 12-month teaser rate expired). The family has a smartphone, but it’s harder for Ma’Niyah to use the small screen, and Marcella watches her data caps closely; just a few hours of Khan Academy videos would blow past monthly limits. Fast Internet access is available in a library a few blocks away, but “it’s so bad down here that it’s not really safe to walk outside,” Marcella Larry says. […]

A survey by Pew Research shows that fully one-third of American adults do not subscribe to any Internet access faster than dial-up at their home.

La questione sembra venire ignorata presso gli sviluppatori web che conosco, abituati a disegnare su schermi retina e a testare il loro lavoro da connessioni su fibra ottica. La performance di un’app o un sito, per molti, viene dopo la convenienza dello sviluppatore.

La pubblicità è un problema non perché sia brutta da vedere o dia fastidio, ma perché sta rovinando una tecnologia (il web) attribuendogli difetti che in realtà sono dovuti a cattive pratiche. Questa situazione ci ha portato tecnologie e soluzioni completamente futili (per dirne due: Google AMP, Instant Articles) che mettono una pezza a un problema che ci siamo creati da soli. Bloccare la pubblicità — quelle istanze di pubblicità che rovinano il web — è giusto e direi anzi doveroso: si può fare di meglio, ed é giusto penalizzare chi ricorre a behavioural tracking e cattive pratiche senza un minimo ritegno per l’utente finale.

Un sito più veloce è conveniente anche per il business. WPO Stats è un buon sito che raccoglie statistiche e dati che lo dimostrano: se non siete ancora riusciti a convincere il vostro capo, indirizzatelo lì.

(via Ethan Marcotte)

Quelle volte in cui riesco a ignorare per giorni i social network, lo stream di notizie, twitter, blog, e a sparire brevemente da altri luoghi sociali della rete noto, come Kottke, che dell’assenza non frega nulla a nessuno:

Not a single person noticed that I had stopped using social media. (Not enough to tell me anyway.) Perhaps if it had been two weeks? For me, this reinforced that social media is actually not a good way to “stay connected with friends”. Social media aggregates interactions between loved ones so that you get industrialized communication rather than personal connection. No one really notices if a particular person goes missing because they’re just one interchangeable node in a network.

Google uProxy è un’estensione per Chrome e Firefox per aggirare i blocchi e la censura locale di internet, creando una rete parallela e sicura sfruttando le connessioni dei propri amici:

When you are getting access from a friend, all the web traffic from your browser first travels encrypted to your friend’s computer and from there, to the Internet. This means that, to most websites, the request will appear to be coming from your friend’s computer, and someone monitoring your connection will only see that you have a secure connection to your friend.

Qualcuno ha caricato su YouTube (partendo da un VHS) uno show del 1996 che insegna come accedere con il proprio computer a questo nuovo “internet” di cui si parla.

In this tutorial, we’ll take a look at the differences between The Internet and The World Wide Web, the differences between commercial OnLine Services such as the Microsoft Network, Prodigy, or America Online and the Internet, how to get connected to the Web, how to use something called a Web browser to navigate the Web, what a Web Page is, and how to search, locate, and download all types of files, from information files to video and audio files.

(via kottke)

Quando si devono caricare enormi quantità di dati sulla cloud resta tuttora più veloce spedirli – fisicamente, mettendoli dentro un camion o su un aereo – piuttosto che fare un upload.

Il nuovo servizio di Amazon per AWS va incontro a quest’esigenza: è un camion, capace di trasportare circa 100 petabyte di dati. Per riempirlo completamente ci si mettono 10 giorni. Poi inizia l’upload, che in questo caso significa che il camion si mette in viaggio verso il datacenter di Amazon.

Bruce Schneier:

Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. […]

Who would do this? It doesn’t seem like something an activist, criminal, or researcher would do. Profiling core infrastructure is common practice in espionage and intelligence gathering. It’s not normal for companies to do that. Furthermore, the size and scale of these probes — and especially their persistence — points to state actors. It feels like a nation’s military cybercommand trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar.

Uno dei modi più semplici e efficaci per buttare giù un pezzo di internet è tramite un attacco DDoS (denial of service attack): come suggerisce il nome, un attacco che invia continue richieste fasulle a un sito finché questo non regge più, prevenendo utenti legittimi dall’accedervi.

Nel corso del weekend, il blog di uno dei maggiori esperti di sicurezza informatica (Krebs on Security) è stato buttato giù da uno dei più grandi attacchi DDoS della storia, al punto che Akamai — che si occupava di proteggerlo e di fornire banda — a un certo punto ha semplicemente rimosso il supporto al sito. Contrastare l’attacco, dice Akamai, sarebbe finito con il costare milioni di dollari. Krebs on Security è poi tornato online grazie a Project Shield, un programma di Google per difendere la libertà di parola in rete e, appunto, per proteggere siti e giornalisti indipendenti che non hanno la capacità e le risorse per difendersi:

We’ve met news organizations around the world who suffer crippling digital attacks when they publish something controversial or that questions powerful institutions. Project Shield uses Google’s infrastructure to protect independent news sites from distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS).

Schneier, nel passaggio riportato in apertura, suggerisce che dietro a questi attacchi ci possa essere la Russia o la Cina, agenzie di sicurezza, enti statali — al contrario Krebs parla di “democratizzazione della censura“: nel suo caso, un botnet è riuscito ad impossessarsi di milioni di dispositivi collegati a internet — cose come router, videocamere di sorveglianza, e altri oggetti dell’internet delle cose con standard di sicurezza scarsi — e ad utilizzarli per effettuare l’attacco:

There are currently millions — if not tens of millions — of insecure or poorly secured IoT devices that are ripe for being enlisted in these attacks at any given time. And we’re adding millions more each year. […]

What we’re allowing by our inaction is for individual actors to build the instrumentality of tyranny. And to be clear, these weapons can be wielded by anyone — with any motivation — who’s willing to expend a modicum of time and effort to learn the most basic principles of its operation.

The sad truth these days is that it’s a lot easier to censor the digital media on the Internet than it is to censor printed books and newspapers in the physical world. On the Internet, anyone with an axe to grind and the willingness to learn a bit about the technology can become an instant, self-appointed global censor.

Internet non è particolarmente diffuso a Cuba. Il costo d’accesso è di circa 2$ all’ora tramite uno dei 175 hotspot WiFi pubblici, o di 1$ per MB tramite la connessione del cellulare.

Questa situazione ha portato alla nascita di El Paquete Semanal, praticamente un dump di musica, film e riviste che si trovano online. Invece di accedere a Internet direttamente, una persona — una volta alla settimana — viene a casa tua con un hard disk di circa 1TB contenente “internet”. Il contenuto è organizzato in cartelle, dentro vi si trovano interi siti, film, aggiornamenti software, applicazioni (per PC o Android), riviste in PDF e quant’altro:

Everyone I spoke to had access to Cuba’s private “CDN”: El Paquete Semanal. El Paquete is a weekly service where someone (typically found through word of mouth) comes to your home with a disk (usually a 1TB external USB drive) containing a weekly download of the most recent films, soap operas, documentaries, sport, music, mobile apps, magazines, and even web sites. For 2 CUC a week Cubans have access to a huge repository of media while turning a blind eye to copyright.

Cubans told me of children waiting anxiously for “El Paquete Day” when they’d get the next set of cartoons, music and shows.