back to article Connectivity's value is almost erased by the costs it can impose

I spent the first half of my career coding and while I don't miss the day-in-day-out grind of coding, but do still enjoy the computer-as-infinite-toy. So from time to time I try to spend a few days with my head in the machine, playing, exploring and learning. Lately I've done that with Glitch, a browser-based programming …

  1. m0rt Silver badge

    "...piping intelligence into our toys..."

    How did you get these stuff? Mine just has connection to the internet o' shite™ pumped in regularly.

    This hallowed site being the obvious exception.

  2. James 51 Silver badge

    So that is why Argos keep printing those big books.

  3. jake Silver badge

    They call us neo-luddites.

    All you need to do to join is question if the Internet being nearly ubiquitous is actually a good thing. And then notice that in some cases it's actually a bad thing.

    Welcome to the ranks, Mark.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    And it only took you 25 years to realize this..

    Impressive.

    Like most things in life "connectivity" is useful in moderation.

    Loosing your way because your phone lost its connection. WTF is that about? Your phone hasn't the memory to cache (roughly) your surrounding area? You'll die if you FB page does not update anyone who's interested on your exact progress?

    There's a reason why all browsers came with a cache directory. At any given time how much of the data any given application is running is out of date?

    We know have the capability to (literally) put a late 80's or early 90's supercomputer in your pocket and equip it with enough memory to store (if needed) a large chunk of the computer data created on the whole planet before say 1970.

    Yet still people have to be tethered to a connection 24/7/365.

    And it's getting worse.

    "Cloud" (or to give it a more meaningful description "anonymous server farms in unknown jurisdictions") now know your data and as someone pointed out "knowing is owning.":-( .

    Don't keep up the payments? You lose access. Who owns your data then?

    Simple.

    Not you.

    Does that sound like ransomware to you?

    Meanwhile if you're reading this in the UK the Commons will have to vote on a Technical Measure in the IPA to require operators to supply on demand access (by the government) to any data. IE outlawying end to end encryption.

    This puts the UK on the cutting edge of destroying privacy, with China and North Korea of course.

    This architecture offers all the lack of control and privacy of a mainframe without its security or resiliency. Literally the worst of both worlds.

    Keep this up and the phrase "I have it right here" will be meaningless. You have no local data storage. You are totally dependent on your data umbilical.

    Like a fetus.

    And just as helpless.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "Your phone hasn't the memory to cache (roughly) your surrounding area?"

      Luckily, mine store the whole country map (and some other countries of interest). Battery is another matter, though... <G>

      Google Maps is fine on my desktop. I would never rely on it while traveling (there are the roaming issues too).

      The "dumb terminal" model should have died years ago. Unluckily Internet, Google and the cloud resurrected it, but it's ugly as a zombie.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "Luckily, mine store the whole country map "

        That's rather my point. BTW the battery life of any device I've ever used greatly increases whenever I switch off its radio links. Needing to be connected to that website is not a necessity, it's a design decision of the company.

        "The "dumb terminal" model should have died years ago. Unluckily Internet, Google and the cloud resurrected it, but it's ugly as a zombie."

        I think you have the issue backwards.

        The first web browsers (at CERN) along with their web servers, were developed to allow experimenters to view data from vastly different back end data sources.

        Today your phone (probably) runs Android or iOS, your desktop probably Windows yet both have to look at the same website, since the idea of phone specific web sites died with WAP. And how many people's phones run on x86 processors?

        The problem is still compatibility, but now it's joined by security.

        Do you let every website you use drop a big binary on your phone? Do you leave it as just a link to their servers with (relatively) simple pages?

        Web sites will no doubt point out that most of the time they aren't sending you data and you only pay for the data sent. So what happens when you choose a browsers "offline" option (assuming your browser has one)?

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: "Luckily, mine store the whole country map "

          The "hypertext document" which the first browser was about makes sense for what it was designed for. You're at your lab desk, and it's fine to look for data across systems, without duplicating them locally (especially in an era where local storage was limited).

          If instead of working at a lab desk at an organization like CERN using state-of-the-art technology and data links, he worked on a ship, plane, or at a remote location maybe he would have developed a different system with a far bigger interest in local data availability for situations when no connectivity is available. For example, look at how SMTP/POP/IMAP work well when no alway-on link is available, but HTTP doesn't.

          "Web sites" are different from "web applications". Why a mapping applications needs to fetch map data continuously from a remote server (the dumb terminal approach) when it can use local data and maybe just fetch updates when a connection is available? Why a mail application shouldn't allow me to access information stored there if I have no data link, or it is too expensive to use over and over again?

          "Web sites" are designed to be consumed remotely - i.e. news sites and e-commerce, where local data will be obsolete quickly and thereby useless - they imply the need of a data link.

          The idea of application always need a links is to held you hostage, and if your data held hostage too, the better.

    2. Loud Speaker

      Re: And it only took you 25 years to realize this..

      Technical Measure in the IPA

      If this means they want to be putting chips in my Hadron Flavoured India Pale Ale - I'm not having it, I tell you. Not now, not ever.

  5. Milton Silver badge

    Internet = ( IsSecure ) ? Valuable : Useless

    The article is one of probably thousands by now which all evaluate to the same quite simple truth: if non-trivial use of the internet is to be better than useless, it absolutely HAS to be SECURE. No one seriously believes that online banking will cease to be a thing—especially with banks closing branches all over the place—nor does any literate human being imagine it can be done without excellent security.

    The lesson extends seamlessly to shopping, medical records, access to government services and everything that is "non-trivial".

    Why politicians keep raising the question of supposed "good guys' backdoors" in encryption systems therefore remains a mystery. I know they're mostly tech-illiterate and fairly stupid anyway, not to mention as dishonest as the day is long, but surely even a politician must realise at some point that s/he is flogging a long since expired horse?

    Good strong crypto keeps everybody safer. And yes, it allows tiny minority of black hats privacy too. Weakening it makes *everybody* much less safe (and probably, taken to its logical conclusion, makes much internet use unworkable) except the black hats, who will be the first to switch to systems which ... don't have backdoors.

    Sighs in despair.

    1. RichardB

      Re: Internet = ( IsSecure ) ? Valuable : Useless

      "if non-trivial use of the internet is to be better than useless, it absolutely HAS to be SECURE. No one seriously believes that online banking will cease to be a thing"

      Um... I do. There will come a point at which security simply cannot keep up and it's just game over.

      Not long to go now, I reckon.

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        The disappearance of online banking

        That will be an interesting time. As it is, possessing cash over a certain threshold (as low as $50, apparently, in some places) makes you a target for LEOs who can "arrest the money" and make you jump through hoops that may not even prevail. So, you have a few choices:

        1) Carry cash and hope you look rich enough and white enough to reduce the frequency of such predation. YMMV if you are dressed poorly or have an excess of melanin.

        2) Use various "online" money transfer capabilities (including most cards these days), which can be shut off at whim (or the tracking details become the "six lines" the Cardinal needs).

        3) raise all your own food, make all your own clothes, and barter for anything else.

        (Yes, I know, "asset forfeiture" is mainly a U.S. thing today, but so was rock and roll at one time)

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    "question of supposed "good guys' backdoors"

    I think that's only a thing on grindr.

  7. InNY
    Coat

    ... and a descent into a kind of stupidity we haven’t seen in many years.

    I take it that you don't have any social media accounts? Lucky sod...

    1. Fatman Silver badge

      Re: ... and a descent into a kind of stupidity we haven’t seen in many years.

      You are wrong on that one.

      THAT level of stupidity was most recently observed in the recent USofA election cycle. One only has to notice the outcome.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: ... and a descent into a kind of stupidity we haven’t seen in many years.

        > One only has to notice the outcome.

        The outcome wasn't bad considering what was on offer. Sometimes you have to roll the hard six.

        At least we haven't WWIII yet, even if Trump has been assimiliated by the swamp things he was supposed to be draining and we are moving to the realization of the neocon wet dream fast.

        1. Keven E

          Re: ... and a descent into a kind of stupidity we haven’t seen in many years.

          It doesn't help when one blurs what is "intelligence" with what is truly/only "access to information"... like this article does. Sure... perhaps we that come here may know what you are intending to say... but telling Mary and Joe flipflop that having a smart phone makes them more intelligent is disingenuous at best. Notice (as of this post) no comments yet are calling what it is the internet offers "intelligence". It's like calling Uber "ride sharing".

        2. Rasslin ' in the mud

          Re: ... and a descent into a kind of stupidity we haven’t seen in many years.

          "we are moving to the realization of the neocon wet dream fast."

          WTF does that mean?

          Given a choice between a socialist, a candidate under investigation by the FBI, and a businessman who isn't part of the DC cesspool, I think the outcome is acceptable.

          What's a "neocon".

  8. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Error handling

    "My browser window froze up. Glitch reported a connection error, and asked me politely to reload the page. When I did, I discovered Glitch had lost everything I’d typed in the previous two hours."

    Welcome to the modern world of hipster programming, where the response to any exception is "fail-fast" and just bomb out and start again.

    a) The on-the-fly saving hadn't been working. And you didn't get told. Proably because the layers of libraries, toolkits and frameworks cobbed together lose the ability to propagate status messages.

    b) The error response of just "dump, start again" is sooo much easier to code. After all, aren't all "real" people at the end of a Valley-grade 100Mbps pipe?

    1. Meph
      Pirate

      Re: Error handling

      "aren't all "real" people at the end of a Valley-grade 100Mbps pipe?"

      This has always been my gripe with the "must have internet connection to play" type stand-alone games. If I'm playing a single player game, heaven forbid I'm doing it somewhere that isn't connected to broadband, or in a country where such a thing is either incredibly uncommon, hideously expensive or both.

      This invariably steps in the way of such things like recurring software licensing or releasing an incomplete software product in a way that allows the surreptitious upload of the missing components before the end-user realizes. Oddly enough, both are symptoms that can be linked to the quest for the almighty dollar...

  9. Daedalus Silver badge

    Amazingly still not going dark...

    Some years ago I noted how easy it was to wirelessly link up two laptops while connecting one to the wired network. If I could do it across a room, it could be done between the building and a car parked outside. We've also had plenty of "stupid luser" tales where a rogue wireless network appeared in an installation because some sales droids snuck in a router. Wireless networks = zero security.

    And yet, probably because of expense and the fact that it would rob the suits of their ability to stream pr0n on their phones, buildings are not going in for EM shielding, even at the room level. It's not enough to secure your own stuff, you have to prevent any other stuff from running inside your "secure" zone. Whether you're running a brokerage or a prison, smuggled in wireless equipment is going to destroy your security.

    There will probably be a massive incident sooner or later that will set the trend to turn buildings into Faraday cages. Then there'll be laser links, so goodbye windows....

    1. CustardGannet
      Linux

      Re: "goodbye windows"

      So the future is not totally bleak, then ? - > - > - >

    2. Mr. Flibble

      Re: Amazingly still not going dark...

      Our house is rapidly turning into that due to us adding that aluminium foil-backed celotex/quinn therm insulation :(

      If we're not careful we'll need an AP in each room and an expensive controller :(

  10. Esme

    Woah, hold on there..

    "If things become just a little more hostile out there (with four billion people using the Internet, that’s pretty much assured) the scales could tip in favour of disconnection, isolation, and a descent into a kind of stupidity we haven’t seen in many years."

    I'd argue that the stupidity has been increasing for many years, in that too much stuff which absolutely needs to be handled securely in order to work as intended has been shoved onto the internet with too little appreciation of the fact that the internet was not designed with security in mind, it was designed for robustness in getting messages from A to B. Such security as there is has been a long series of bolt-ons, and as history has demonstrated, some of those bolt-ons have had more than a touch of the Heath-Robinsons to them.

    IMHO paring back what is connected to the internet and what gets handled via the interent to only that which actually needs to be handled that way would be a boon to humanity. I like technology, appropriately used - but there are way too many Clarkson-equivalent types out there who seem to think that the best solution to everything involves sticking it on the internet. IT and t'internet are tools, and like all tools have inappropriate use cases as well as appropriate ones.

  11. Flakk Silver badge

    "...the scales could tip in favour of disconnection, isolation, and a descent into a kind of stupidity we haven’t seen in many years."

    I think "stupidity" is an awfully loaded word here. I'm hardly anti-Internet or a Luddite. I do, however, think that intelligence may be enhanced with an occasional foray into offline answer-seeking. I don't think that Google having all of the answers (some of them even correct) to satisfy our every inquisitive impulse is always healthy. Likewise, I think that useful knowledge experts are often drowned out by a cacophonous army of online celebrities keen to offer a bombastic "hot take" on everything.

    Disconnection may offer its share of stupidity, but connectivity has its pitfalls, too.

  12. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Glitch had lost everything I’d typed in the previous two hours."

    Getting the name right is essential for a project.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Can the big, slow, sclerotic businesses of today survive connected hostility?"

    If one of the reasons they're considered slow and sclerotic is because they have paranoid sysadmins insisting on decent security, not only will they survive, they'll outlive the move-fast-and-break-things businesses.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The network activates, piping intelligence into our toys"

    Isn't that the cruz of IoT right there.... But the second part: 'making them irresistible'.. Meh, not so much even when connected !

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Can the big, slow, sclerotic businesses of today survive connected hostility?"

    Critical Mass / Tipping Point - You know its coming... How long til we hear calls for a Rewind of this splendid progress...

    Whether its death by a billion rogue IoT devices or human helpfulness like the BA power-out, there's going to be a day of reckoning...

    Smartphones: Compared to 10 years ago functionality is far more entrenched on a live connection. Without it, its a brick!

    Plus saturation point still kills cloud! How about days where there's a crisis. Think natural causes / transport outage / terrorism... That's when truth wins out on limits of cloud / net access, especially over airwaves...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Stupidity we haven’t seen in many years"

    I take issue with that claim as well. In my observation, the most striking fact of the internet is that it seems to make us dumber as a society, even though it tremendously enhances our individual access to knowledge and understanding of the universe. Does anybody have a good theory of this phenomenon?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: "Stupidity we haven’t seen in many years"

      Does the term "ochlocracy" mean anything to you?

      It should. We're getting there. Be afraid, be very afraid ...

    2. Psion1k

      Re: "Stupidity we haven’t seen in many years"

      "Does anybody have a good theory of this phenomenon?"

      That one is, unfortunately, a fairly easy answer.

      It takes "effort" to analyse or try to recall something, and people (in general) are basically lazy.

      It is just easier to go to the local oracle (usually google) and get the answer. To make it even worse, as it is a subconscious tenet that "it is easier", people are likely to persist in entering the same question in different ways to get a desirable answer, rather than to stop and try to figure it out themselves, regardless of objective difficulty.

      I'm fairly certain that I have seen at least one study coming to the conclusion that easy access to information sources such as Google are having a direct effect on physical brain size, and ability to store facts and figures. People are literally downsizing their brains from lack of use in certain ways.

      Another way of looking at it is that we have added the internet as a queriable external memory device to our brains / thought processes, and use it in preference to our "on-board" facilities. Like a muscle not used much, you can expect deterioration.

    3. Rasslin ' in the mud

      Re: "Stupidity we haven’t seen in many years"

      Certainly, The inability to distinguish between "knowledge" and "information" plays a key role.

  17. jtaylor

    This isn't new

    The Internet is incredibly useful and increasingly ubiquitous, and incomprehensibly complex, but (most of) our lives are rather broader than that.

    Web sites are ephemeral, yes. That's always been true.

    Online services offer you value, then hold your data hostage. Yes, this is why I know someone who still pays for AOL: she's had that email account since forever, and it is easier to rent it than to find everyone who might want to contact her to give them another email address. Also, years of email will disappear once the account is terminated.

    Glitzy things value shiny over substance. This is as true at the supermarket check-stand as online.

    Projects appear from nowhere and last until the creator loses interest. How many guys are forever "fixing" an old car or building a Wendy house, until one day it goes out by the curb?

    Some people rely on smartphone apps to navigate wilderness areas, then get caught short. Such people got equally lost before smartphones, simply by going for a walk without being prepared.

    Fundamentally, I spend most of my money with established businesses. I trust and listen to people whom I know. Sure, some people live on AirBnB and buy their groceries and gasoline from Groupon, but for most of us, I suspect that the Internet is merely one part of life and didn't replace everything. And it won't.

  18. mildy bemused

    It all started in the 80's

    I spent the 80's writing code for the first generation of routers and I look at where our good intentions ended up and I think "what the f did we do"?

    At that time there we two main candidates for network protocols: TCP/IP which grew up organically as systems communicated beyond a length of yellow cable, and there was the OSI stack which was a spec created by a standards group.

    TCP/IP could be coded efficiently. OSI was impossible.

    You know which won, but what was in OSI that isn't in the TCP/IP was an authentication layer at the network level.

  19. mksteve

    I saw the world in the naughties as a fragmentation between "trust the cloud" and "trust my ipod". In one of those worlds, I would turn up at a terminal, type my access passwords, and would have my digital life at my fingertips.

    In the other world, I would carry my trusty (i?)-storage device around, arrive at a terminal, and have my digital life at my fingertips.

    The cloud variant seems to have won, but I feel we have lost something. I bought some stuff on the BBC Store (recently announced closed). Although this cloud based service simplified my interaction and allowed my content to be used wherever I was, just from my memory of a password, it finally let me down, by refusing to download, or serve me usable content. The offer of a refund, being not brilliant, as there was no other place to buy the content.

    On the other hand, when I have my local DVDs, as long as I keep the kids at arms length, I can expect easily an acceptable life of the media.

    I have been on training, where programming styles were suggested to limit band-width, and the explanation was that un-metered bandwidth was a dying thing. This seems to cause the user to pay twice for the same service. They have trusted in the cloud, and can use netflix to watch their stuff, but also have to pay ISP.COM for the bandwidth.

    I have loved the creativity and effectiveness of google-docs, where I can see colleagues editing items at the same time as I am, but I feel we may be leaping too early into the cloud infrastructure, when it is not always in your control when you can get internet bandwidth at an affordable level, against the always in your control to deliver a USB disk, or suchlike with the reliable non-cloud solution

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