Links, Lynx, Orbot and R. Stallman
Thursday, February 20, 2020
Brr. Winter is halfway through and there’s been so much news about politics and the flu and viruses. So we thought we would go back to a easier simpler time when we could concentrate on equipment and tools that worked and did simple tasks and were reliable and just did what needed to be done.
Most of the time people overdo things and are in excess. Examples:
Holidays – people overeat and buy too much stuff that they don’t need any way. They put stuff on credit and leveraged debt and they end up mad at themselves because then they live paycheck to paycheck or rely solely on their tax refunds or other funding that may or may not come and is not always reliable as a source of funds.
Superbowl – People get nachos and wings and the biggest TV’s to watch the big game and then when the party is over they’ve over spent once again and overate and also spent too much on a big screen TV that they don’t need to be that big in size to watch your Lifetime movies or game shows.
There’s a saying to only eat till you’re 80% full and most people are on a seafood/seefood diet and when they see food they just want to eat it mindlessly and compulsively. The media and advertising keeps plugging the fact that there are sandwiches which have all the meats or that you’re lovin’ the beef burgers or that you crave all the tiny sandwiches or whatever other slogans they come up with. People are bombarded with subliminal messages all the time and it’s such a pervasive phenomenon that advertises and psychologists have gotten in bed together figuratively to figure out how to sell more product through media. You ever see the “hot dog” doing back flips at the movie theater. Or you may have heard of subliminal mind studies through covert gov operations to get people to like things or propaganda during the wars.
The fact is that there is a lot of products and things out there that have planned obsolence or lack efficiency. And we should be aware of this in our daily lives and not be a pawn to mass indoctrination to go out and buy the latest and greatest and scrap working products that exist unless truly needed.
The older boomer generation and previous elders had a mindset of “fixing it” and getting it to work. They had practical real world experience with just being thrifty and also mentality from the Great Depression and wars. And so it was common place to patch a tire or take equipment to fix it and replace parts. It wasn’t like the current generation where we care just about shiny parts and if it breaks you throw it away and buy a new one. Although in a sense even the younger generation understand reuse and frugality. An example is that the iPhones and other phones are notorious for screens that break and spider-pattern shatter but most “kids” these days can’t just run out and buy another $300 to $700 phone every time they flip it into the concrete. And so they know to hold onto it for a while longer even before upgrading to the next two year subsidized model.
But why shouldn’t you go out and get the latest and greatest. For one, maybe you can afford that $2500 Macbook Air with 1TB of memory and brushed space gray aluminum or maybe you can afford to buy a new automobile… Certainly everyone has a freedom of choice as a consumer and should exercise their right to buy what they earned their time for or have money to afford to do so. One man’s treasure is another man’s cash profit right? People that argue that spending frivolously impacts others but who’s to say you can spend or splurge once in a while or whenever because you learn lessons when you do it and realize whether you need it and it brought you a Marie-Kondo-esque spark of joy or in actuality it was a fading temporary joygasm that didn’t actually satiate your desires as you hoped and now you’re stuck in an endless rebirth and death cycle of trying to find joy in physical things that you might never really find joy in. Alas, we digress spiritually.
In a previous article about “Planned Obsolescence”, we ruminated over the fact that many products especially phones are planned to die or lose battery life such that it’s not desired any longer. There was a brouhaha about Apple throttling its batteries in the news a while back.
And even recently Microsoft retired its much loved Windows 7 products which in our opinion was a very usable system. Many in the Free Open Source Software (FOSS) and Open Source or GNU and Libre community of course advocate for alternatives and we have a deep passion ourselves for learning alternate tools because for one it’s just cool and secondly we want and need choice in everything because not everything is a once size fits all for everyone and people want to be able to customize and be free to do what they want with their products. It is said that those that know for example Linux have a deeper understanding of their computers because they are forced to learn more inner workings of their computers than those with software that hides away much of the interface insides. Though this is debatable as any tool can be made to serve various purposes if given enough time, skill and training.
As our site advocates being well trained, well rounded for a better quality of life we advocate using and understanding many different technologies. Not only should you understand some Microsoft operating systems, but Linux, and even Macintosh software and even Android operating systems. To illustrate, during college years of study a recollected memory including standing in line to use the public terminals available. I was a student and didn’t have a computer and couldn’t afford to lug one to college much less a laptop and so there were the Dell G1 systems all lined up on one side of the computer labs. And on the other side there was a whole other half of the lab with Green Apple Macs with YoYo Mouse that were almost completely unused. I remember students would occasionally stand there waiting to have PC’s relinquished for use as the PC’s were almost always packed but the Apples hardly ever had any line. And I learned to relish the fact that I had in my arsenal the knowledge that I no longer really had to stand in line waiting for the PC’s when they also had Microsoft Word and other compatible software and I could upload things to my cloud storage that was available back then or to my email and send it back to the other computer when needed or things became available. I just had to learn to adjust my usage and the fact that the YoYo mouse didn’t have a middle or right click button. But I could use the Apple key buttons and learned various shortcuts that were equivalent to Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V for copy and paste respectively. It just took a bit of gradual learning changes and I adapted.
In fact I also learned that QWERTY layouts were originally designed to slow down typing as people were typing so fast their fingers just getting tangled is one anecdotal story (you can look up the origins of QWERTY layout for the history). And I learned that Dvorak layout was a more efficient method of typing and so during my college years even had time to try to learn this layout. Eventually I went back to mainstream and my typing has even gotten faster.
The gist of all this is that:
1) Things become obsolete too fast
2) We can be more efficient in our use of technology
3) We adapt if given a chance to learn or if we trick and force ourselves to become immersed
4) Many things that we use can still be reused or repurposed to this day
An example of repurposing and efficient use of technology is our web browsers.
We have gotten so use to graphical interfaces and pretty pictures and colors in our computers that earlier generations didn’t have the luxury to have. Many old computers with Wordstar, vi, VIM, ncurses based 40×80 text interfaces are still great and unfortunately we’ve thrown away working XT or 8086s or abandoned them to Goodwill and forgotten that they might still be usable. These tank-like computers still had many years of use but technology just moved so fast.
Green text based terminals (which as a trivia side-note green is said to be very good and easiest on the eyes and our eyes can see more variance and large range of the green spectrum than any other) are still usable and very much beloved but unfortunately many of the modern generation and will likely never know or have the joy of owning or working with older equipment. They will be born with silver iPhones in their mouths … erm, silver spoons of technology so to speak and never had to figure out how to get several floppies and drivers and dependencies working so never have exercised the brain power to figure things out. Which brings us to the next tenet.
5) Part of adapting and figuring things out in life is having a varied range of experiences.
Let’s say that again. In order to figure out how things work your mind is an open constant flowing devices and needs to constantly get new experiences, adapt, theorize, make new formulations of how the world works and continually adjust. So if a person closes off their minds to new experiences and new learn the mind grinds its gears on the same data input. The chess computer tries to figure new moves but it’s stalemated because there’s no new information and it’s just got the same old tired moves.
As a millennial entrepreneur also the web and Google and YouTube and world is continually changing and a person must adapt constantly. They have to adapt their business proposals and change their plan. If a person is blogging for instance they might start on one niche but realize it’s not what people have interest enough in and thus need to change and adapt the content for traffic management to the changing needs of its audience.
Which also brings us to why we think that text based browsers like Lynx and Links are such great tools that people should have in their arsenal. If you have Android based phones for instance you can install Linux terminals and busyboxes and other software that almost mimics full distributions as well as minimal text based computer OS’es that existed before the newer graphical interfaces. People believe it or not got by for many years and survived without many things.
We didn’t have tire pressure checkers. We didn’t have speech recognition. We didn’t have DoorDash and deliver to your door grocery services. And people survived. (Think about the Japanese rolled mats at the end of the day and their minimalism while United States beds are several layers of foam this and memory that, and are we truly getting the restful quality sleep in our part of country even with this convenient new bed-in-box technology?) Many people adapted from typewriters to computers and people with adapt one day to Roomba vacuum cleaners and AI powered glasses and self driving vehicles and other conveniences. But we have to realize that these are still for the majority just “conveniences” to help make life easier. Of course we can have rear-parking camera alert systems. One day our cars will probably be safer than ever and hopefully people will still know how to drive in reverse etc. Or safety belts for example will be built into vehicles and airport screenings will be safer and hopefully more private to ensure quality of life is better.
As technology moves ahead where old intersects new we should keep in perspective and not trade convenience for stuff that puts us as a disadvantage.
For example you can pair modern Tor and Orbot technology to maintain privacy while keeping text based ncurses environment in Links and Lynx. These are two early text based browsers that continue to be popular in Linux based environments but are also available for Windows and other operating systems. They are popular also because say you’re remoting into a computer and it’s only a text interface and you also need access to the internet. You can still do maintenance and other tasks with this “minimal” basic interface. Think telnet, ssh for instance.
You might ask why one would want to do all this? Well, one of the nice advantages of these minimal interfaces is power consumption. With people talking about waste and reducing and recycling and energy efficiency and reduction of coal and fossil fuels just having a basic text interface on your phone can make your battery last longer, means you have to charge less and that means more time being productive. At the end of the day for example using lynx versus a full browser like Opera we were able to achieve around 87% battery life versus 63% to 69%. We even tested a phone with a dimmer filter and ran a text emulator to web surf and found that our battery was at 99% even at right before noon. This was terrific.
In another article we debated and offered to posit the idea that privacy should be a universal freedom and people should have choices in software and how it works and also the ability to look for information and access it in a private manner.
So when we see that sites are “blocking” or “censoring” or throwing up verification firewalls of sorts due simply to the fact that a websurfer is using a proxy, Orbot or Tor based browser then we think it is unfortunate. Because a person doesn’t need to be doing anything illicit or malicious in any way and just want to maintain anonymity and not have to have surveillance of what they are viewing. It’s the Big Brother 1984 “if you don’t have anything to hide then you have nothing to fear” theory. But really it should be “I DO have something to hide and it’s my own privacy and my own darn business what I want to learn and search for and I should not have to fear I’m sending stuff to Alexa or Google or whatever other place”. (No offense to Alexa or Google or any other services). How many of the people surveying and overlooking our information can be trusted or able to safeguard it as well?
So the last points is that:
Again all tools and technology facilitate someone to perform functions somehow. Macs, Windows and Linux operating systems all have flaws and advantages. Some systems are prettier than others and some are prettier than others, and some more customizable. But there are tools that can be created to pretty much do any task possible. The more choices and options we have, the more we can choose and take advantage and select the most efficient tool for the task.
We should not intentionally cripple our future even with new technology. While some claim Windows 10 is basically spyware, it also has amazing modern features that are useful for many and even today we learned of Linux news that floppy disk support was being written out of support for newer Linux OS kernels. Perhaps it is the best choice for future technological development but remember that somewhere in the world someone might want that feature even if you don’t want it and vice versa.
Hopefully future generations will have a museum and plethora of choices of free and public domain open source software even if it’s considered “abandonware”. It will aid in future research and educational purposes for the next generation of computer scientists, punk-techies / nerds /geeks, and toddler flipping through mom or dad’s iPhone / iPad.
Did you like this article? If so, go find an older piece of technology and install something on it or try some new hardware or software you’ve never tried and put software on it and play with it like DDWRT or Tomato. Go learn a new thing and open your mind today.