Archive for the 'technology' Category

iPhone Agorism

May 21, 2009

It’s hard to be part of the counter-economy.

Most people want to be free of the clutches of the state and the manipulation by their corporate benefactors and lackeys. Agorism and counter-economics is, theoretically, a perfect way to starve the state and ignore the corporations, to “grow a new society within the shell of the old” as Kevin Carson is wont to say.

Of course what works in theory is harder  to do in practice.   Often, for most people, counter-economics brings up visions of “black markets” where nefarious people buy drugs and guns, indulge in hookers or take giant, risky leaps of faith like refusing to pay their taxes. For most it is a scary, dangerous leap that prevents most people from engaging in counter-economics who would like to.

But what if there was a small step, a small almost unnoticed action one could take that would start the journey? What if there was a way to join a counter-economy while still maintaining a facade, at least, of being a “law abiding citizen” and still participating in the regular economy on occasion?

There is.  If you own an  iPhone, jailbreak it and join in the growing market in applications for jailbroken phones.

Jailbreaking is easy and safe (and reversible) and opens up whole new worlds and capabilities for your phone. What it really does, however, if free you. YOU actually “own” your phone. No more restrictions on software and use implemented by Apple in order for them to enforce their monopoly on where these phones are used or from whom you can get applications. You also get capabilities (already built into the phone but turned off by Apple) such as a full bluetooth stack or full motion video and sound.

The iPhone is actually a high end 400 Meg desktop computer from 1999, but with modern graphics and 3D acceleration, an always on modern, high-speed network and a large hard drive. And it fits in you pocket and can make phone calls. But Apple won’t let you harness the full potential of this. Even after selling it to you, they seem to think its still “their” phone. Anything you can run on Unix, BSD or Linux can be run on an iPhone.

For the consumer, there is a wider selection of applications, both free and comercial covering a wider range of functions. Admittedly some are of a lower quality than the official App Store (Cycorder mentioned above has a pretty bad UI) but some simply blow away anything the App Store can offer. The consumer can still buy from the App Store, but now has alternatives and can can choose to purchase apps with capabilities not allowed by official Apple App store applications – record calls, scramble voices, games etc. And as more people use these alternate sources, the better the quality will be, from competition and the action of a truly free market.

For the developer and entreprenuer, applications for jailbroken phones opens avenues for better, more productive offerings (because Apple’s restrictions are gone) but also opens avenues for more revenue. As a legitimate Apple iPhone Developer, I can testify to the high barrier to entry of Apple’s process – it took months to get my acceptance to the program (while larger companies took days), still cost $99 USD, had a complex system for phone provisioning, and requires numerous, onerous tax forms to be filled out before they will accept applications to the App Store. They are know to reject apps for vague or no reasons and not provide pointers for developers to make the changes needed. Once in the store, Apple gets a 30% cut. This makes getting updates and add-ons out to clients very difficult and slow (though, to be fair, rumour has it this might be changing in iPhone 3.0).  The jailbroken app market is wide open. For the cost of creating a repository and maintaining it on a web host, a developer and entrepreneur can be to market almost imidieately and push out updated, changes and add-ons just as fast. One can give away or sell their applications and use a variety of payment methods not available in the App Store. And none of it need be reported.

It is a near perfect market and a real world demonstration of agorist principles that is easy to do and available to anyone of the 10 million+  iPhone users in the world.  Really own your phone, put on it what  you want, buy from where you want, earn money from your efforts without being forced to give up a cut or to pay the taxes against your will. For most people this could be the first, and easiest step into the counter-economy and truly the first step into “jailbreaking” their lives.

Jailbreak your iPhone and gain your freedom.

(or use an Android based G-phone and get all this without jaoilbreaking…;-) )

Update: Learning to proof read…thanks Mike

WALL*E, the libertarian

July 5, 2008

Since it came out, the Pixar film WALL*E has generated great kudos. On the second night it was out, I took my entire family – my wife, my 9 year-old daughter, my 7 year-old son and their 2 1/2 year-old brother  – to see the film.

It is a wonderful, heart-warming and cute film, with incredible animation and a fairly good story.

Unfortunately, that has not stopped some knee-jerk, anti-environmentalist Randroids and slack-jawed conservative idiots from labeling it as “environmentalist, anticapitalist, and antitechnological propaganda” (sic).

Really?

**Spoiler Alert – do not read any further if you haven’t seen the film**

Lets see, we have an planet ruined by garbage, as the result of what appears to be the monopoly of a single company – Big and Large (BNL) – because they cater to every whim. They seem to be able to dump garbage because they seem to be able to externalize the cost of doing so. Now that could be a metaphor for pure socialism, but it seems more likely to me to be a metaphor for our current state capitalism.

Now, when faced with environmental disaster, what is the answer? why a more technological and nanny state existence on a cruise ship in space. Every aspect of life, from cradle to grave, is taken care of by the State – the cruise ship – and its minions – the service robots. Indeed, the humans become so lazy and distracted by this they do not realize they are always following the carefully controlled and laid out plans of the State to the point that they don’t realize the ship has a pool and that other people are more than just picture on a view screen.

It is not until the people of the ship are awakened and remember their past, fight against the agents of the state – the service robots trying to stop them from going to earth – shut off the “Autopilot” and leave the ship are they truly free.

They leave the control and comfort of the ship (state) and enter a fairly barren, despoiled land. It is not a paradise, but harsh – literally a garbage dump. But they courageously step forward, awkwardly, and start their new lives without the ship and its nanny-state society.

And if you stayed to watch the credits, the back story that unfold in the background animation, you’ll see they better their world not by taking orders from the “Autopilot”  but by cooperating and working together to plant food, recover from garbage and to rebuild without the over arching authority.

That certainly seems like a libertarian storyline to me?

I would also add that WALL*E indulges in a few verboten activities that libertarians would love and the MPAA and the RIAA would despise – he watches his pirated version of  “Hello Dolly” on his iPod and plays the ripped version of the music on his internal tape deck. He is self reliant, gathering and using spare parts he finds to fix himself and create his home, without relying on “the mother ship” to do it for him, like the bots on the Axiom do.

All that, but some people still call it a liberal propaganda film.

As others have pointed out, if you are so humourless as to be caterwauling about a kids movie like this, without seeing that obviously there are elements of both liberal and conservative politics, than how can anyone take you seriously.

“The fundamental story of the movie is about a culture beholden to a nanny state – in this case, a literal nanny state that coddles them like babies from the cradle to the grave, a world where individual initiative is destroyed and cultural history is entirely alien to the entire human race.  Basically, it’s the exact thing that conservatives have been warning us about for years, wrapped up in a movie with cute robots who rebel against it and lead humanity to a hunting-gathering-growing Earth.”

Indeed.

Environmental destruction happens and sometimes, the best laid plans of a statist, technological solution are worse. Only when people are free to face adversity and make free choices, not preprogrammed one, will the world be saved.

That is the message of WALL*E. That is the message to the environmentalists who think tha answer to state capitalist created pollutions and environmental destruction is more state regulation and exemption.

And it has cute robots, which will be used to market thousands of toys for the next two year.

But its anti-capitalist.

Right.

These people really need to get a sense of humour and get over themselves.

Models for the Stateless Society

January 4, 2008

A few weeks ago, Brad Spangler did a post on how the Russian Business Network (RBN), a nefarious malware, spamming and phishing cybercrime organization, can be used as a model for private, consensual counter-economic activity that can undermine the state. Indeed, there have been studies that demonstrate that this grey market organization’s business practices, evolving clearly without state interference, hare highly effective, efficient and, ironically, “client centric.”

Of course, RBN is a criminal organization, so using it as a model makes many people uncomfortable. But in examining the RBN model, we can see in the response to RBN, and to malware in general, a model of a truly anarchistic “law enforcment” and protection agency – the IT security research community.

The Security Research community is generally made up of independent individuals and small groups that like to hack. They like to find ways to break software, to find ways to break in and exploit it. Many do it for the challenge, some for the profit. Indeed a market has arisen in vulnerability information just as the one for malware has arisen. It is used by individuals and major IT security companies alike.

Even with this kind of market, most researchers also share information such as malware binaries and source, intelligence, IRC botnet channel lists, malware hash rainbow lists and more.

The community is decentralized and redundant. If I don’t get good information or service from SANS, I can go to Offensive Computing. There is no central control. The idea of this kind of private enforcement and research can easily be applied to ‘meatspace’, physical security, for protecting not just IT assets, but homes, cars and lives.

Walking the Walk

April 13, 2007

Posting has been terribly light of late for a few good reasons:

1. Wading through the daily e-mail blast from the LeftLibertarian2 Yahoo Group eats a lot of evening free time that doesn’t involve playing with my kids, eating or sleeping. Don’t get me wrong, I love the list and it has some amazing threads, but there are a lot of them. Great reading.

2. I have given up being a wage-slave and started my own consulting business. I’m still doing what I always did, but now I am an independent IT consultant with a long-term contract and a great per diem. More money, more freedom, less taxes. Why didn’t I do this years ago? (Oh yeah, I wasn’t a market anarchist back then)

So I am quite busy between these two things, especially establishing my business and taking a small step to living the anarchist and agorist ideal.

Enabling Anarchy

March 25, 2007

Cross Posted at the Carnival of Anarchy:

In my relatively short time as an anarchist, one of the biggest areas of resistance form the idea of a decentralized, voluntary society has been the seeming inability of such a society to deliver basic services like power and communications. Many people believe that only a central authority can deliver these.

But the same technological advances that have been previously used – via Fordism and Taylorism  – to make us dependent on such central authority can be used to free us. There exists today technology and technological solutions that can enable decentralized, independent services to free us from central control and to begin enabling anarchy as a true, acceptable alternative for the common person.

The first such example is now nearly three years out of date. Andrew Grieg, a Toronto Open Source consultant with Starnix, has outfitted his home to be the model of a decentralized communications and entertainment service for his community, something previously thought to be the exclusive pervue of large telecoms and cable companies:

“Andrew uses his WiFi network for Internet, television, and telephone. He cancelled his telephone line and cable TV service. Then his neighbors dropped-by, saw what Andrew had done, and they cancelled their telephone and cable TV services, too, many of them without having a wired broadband connection of their own. They get their service from Andrew, who added an inline amplifier and put a better antenna in his attic. Now most of Andrew’s neighborhood is watching digital TV with full PVR capability, making unmetered VoIP telephone calls, and downloading data at prodigious rates thanks to shared bandwidth.”

Andrew does this perfectly legally by buying his shows via the C-channel, just a hotels and cable companies do, for pennies per show, per subscriber. He able to get the high quality VOIP phone service, PVR service and network connectivity to his community using fully, freely available open source products like MythTV, Asterisk PBX, Wifi, and Linux. He freely subscribes to other services like the C-Band, Vonage and other cellular systems. Each of these can be swapped out and interchanged if and when the technology changes and improves. If this were to happen today as opposed to 3 years ago, one might choose Skype over Vonage or FreeBSD over Linux. The components can be replaced with something better, fostering competition and giving maximum flexibility.

So not only has Andrew’s set up duplicated the services offered by the big cable  and telecom companies, he has improved them. His service offers on demand TV(of any show ever made at any time, with the ability to pause, rewind and fast forward) as well as live feeds, always on phone service and the ability to have access to your computing and entertainment resources via a small hand-held device. That kind of service is not available from any current service provider, even 2.5 years after Andrew created them himself and serviced his neighbourhood.

This solution is usable in both an urban and rural setting, providing the kind of communications services to rural Canada right now, that they can only dream of getting from the telcos and cable companies.

And the user is in control, voluntarily cooperating with their provider, getting what they want and not what the don’t.

But what about the power for all of this? Surely Ontario Hydro is still needed?

No.

As the Make Magazine link shows, it is entirely possible to use a combination of decentralized power sources – wind, solar, local hydro – to provide off the grid power solutions to your home and your neighbourhood (although not in any of the links, the author of the first article from Make 05 reports that he powers his entire home with the wind turbine described and a 1000 watt solar array). Home heating can be provided nearly anywhere using geothermal technology.

So clearly, much of our needs in power, heat, communications and entertainment can be provided by individuals themselves, in a decentralized fashion because of advances in technology, especially in open source software.

And that is the first step. Once people are able to get much of their immediate infrastructure needs without the state or their cartel corporate monopoly accomplices, they will realize they need them for little else. They will become anarchist in an anti-climatic, matter-of-fact way and the revolution will not come with a bang of guns and change, but the whimper of a dying state that has been found to be useless.

And rather than some Utopian future vision, this is something that can be done, now today, in order to create the new world in the shell of the old.