Items of Interest, November 27, 2021: Creative Commons licenses considered harmful

First things first: A while ago, I wondered out loud how having Creative Commons licenses on some of my work affects the likelihood of someone appropriating it to mint NFTs, and my recourse against them doing that. At the time, I thought the news was mixed: while Creative Commons people argued that minting NFTs was against the spirit of the less restrictive licenses such as [CC BY-SA], crucially, it was not against the letter of them, so these licenses could not be invoked to forbid such practices. Which, fair enough, that’s not what they were designed to do, so obviously, the best course of action would be to adopt the most restrictive license, and wait for Version 5 licenses that addressed this issue. Maybe get involved and make the case for a separate “Derivative Works and Commercial Use Allowed, but no Fucking Crypto” license.

Turns out there are two problems with that.

The first is, by itself, still minor: if you go to the Creative Commons website and use their choose-a-license interface, whenever you choose a restrictive license, it will show a message saying “This is not a Free Culture license”, in your language (hopefully – I get this page in Dutch, by the way). This is a nudge; the message exists to encourage you to choose one of the less restrictive licenses, so you get the warm fuzzy dopamine hit, the clout and – dare I say it – the virtue signaling points of choosing a good license, the better-than-the-other-one version, the one that causes “This is a Free Culture license” to show up, so you know you done right. As I said, by itself, this bit of nudging is mostly harmless, but…
The second problem has to do with the spirit of the licenses. David Gerrard has been paying more attention to the NFT infestation than I have, because it is his, like, his job to do so, and what he’s finding is that Creative Commons is Shilling for NFTs:

Creative Commons isn’t explicitly telling you to get into NFTs, you understand. They’re just taking the time to mention how NFTs are totally cool things that museums are totally using.

NFTs are about coming up with new ways to enclose content and control its dissemination, with gratuitous financialisation. This is literally the opposite of a creative commons.

It turns out that NFTs don’t have a good reputation with the wider public — and, in particular, they have a bad reputation with Creative Commons’ Internet-native, technically-knowledgeable and strongly opinionated base.

Specifically, CC director Catherine Stihler and others in the organization have been shilling for NFTs and have allowed FileCoin, a cryptocurrency scamming company, to sponsor them. Interestingly, Gerrard cites the same article that I read a while ago, At The Intersection of NFTs and Creative Commons Licenses, that made me think “Okay then”, but places it in the context of other communications from Stihler and others, such as this Tweet by Brigitte Vezina, and these paint a much more alarming picture than one article by itself.

So why does this matter and why is it alarming? Remember what I said about waiting for Creative Commons Version 5 licenses that specifically address NFTs minted by third parties. These will be written and approved by the people currently leading the Creative Commons organizations, and if they are pro-NFT, if they don’t see how NFTs are the antithesis of a true Creative Commons, how likely is it that they will address this problem adequately? And if they’re actively shilling for NFTs, and are in the pockets of crypto scamming companies, there’s a clear conflict of interest in the moral sense, if not in the legal one. So while no one can predict the future, we should proceed as if nothing good will come out of Creative Commons the organization when it comes to preventing the appropriation* of one’s creative work for a money-laundering scam that also accelerates the rate at which the planet burns.

So here’s what I will do: effective immediately and at a minimum until the present board resigns and its successors implement policies to prevent conflicts of interest and update the licenses to allow users to spefically disallow third-party NFTs, all my old work that used to be under any Creative Commons license will revert to being under conventional copyright, as much as is legally possible. I will start removing CC language from my websites where I find it. Luckily here, my old webcomics have become quite obscure over time, so this won’t have a big effect in practice.
I will also not promote or support Creative Commons in any way, shape of form, including donating money to them or recommending their licenses to people as a solution for allowing or restricting the reuse of their creative work. This is not a boycott as I am making this decision alone and have no leverage over Creative Commons; I simply believe this is the right thing for me to do.

Sadly, this is not going to be the end of it. The rate at which this bullshit has infested the online world is appalling. The Doublespeak of referring to the blockchained internet as “Web3” (whatever Web3 might have meant two years ago, this is not it) and “decentralized” (it is very centralized and designed to exclude) is already so endemic that it seems hardly worth pointing out that this is Not What These Words Mean. For example, in the same post linked above, Gerrard mentions that the venerable EFF has also taken to shilling NFTs, and in the Mastodon thread where I found out about Gerrard’s post, there is already some whataboutery being mooted about Patreon’s owners being neck-deep in NFTs. This stuff is everywhere.

My take on this is that sadly, we live in a society and if a problem in society is pervasive, the best we can do is pick our battles. I will cut off organizations where I feel empowered to do so and where the benefits of doing so outweigh the harm to myself and others. Quitting Patreon over their owners involvement in this particular problem (and keep in mind that they are problematic in other ways) would not just deprive me of a modest reward for making webcomics, it would mean that I’d cut off funding to about a dozen other creators and other people who need money much more than I do. In cases like this, advocacy is the best I can do.

Cheerier stuff now. I’ve been meaning to post this: Nude Art Is Getting Censored On Social Media For A Tourism Board. So They Went To OnlyFans. Meera Navlakha at Mashable (India) on the online Vienna Laid Bare exhibit. This actually seems like the principle outlined in the last paragraph put into action: in 2021, we need social media platforms to promote and inform, but you can Never Trust A Platform Not To Sell You Out, so you play the platforms against one another.

Yesterday was Black Friday and I spotted several posts on Mastodon.art saying that stock/reference photo providers that I hadn’t heard of before were offering discounts. These are:

These are always useful to have around and I will look into their offerings in more detail later.

Speaking of checking things out, Luminance by Sinevibes is a lovely software shimmer reverb that I’ve already tried a little bit but will be testing further this weekend. If I choose to purchase it, it’ll be 40 dollars, but considering that budget hardware shimmer reverbs are often several 100s of dollars and I can use this in a mobile studio setup while traveling in a converted Mercedes Sprinter van this winter, it’s worth it if it sounds good.

* Remember, to call it “stealing” would be to recognize the ownership claims made by NFTs, which are bogus and should not be recognized at all.

Items of Interest, November 17, 2021

Dependency Hell in web dev has become so bad that there is now a new way for npm coders to make a quick buck: I will pay you cash to delete your npm module. The “I” in this is Drew DeVault, not me. Don’t come to me for module-deleting money; I’m an absolute web dev boomer and have only a vague idea what an npm module even is.

Relatedly, in some vague way: Programming is Forgetting: Toward a New Hacker Ethic, a talk by Allison Parrish given at the Open Hardware Summit in 2016. Critiques the hacker ethic on its own merits.

Cassetteblogging: the state of the four-track

A Fostex X26 4-track cassette recorder
A Fostex X26 4-track cassette recorder in excellent cosmetic condition

I won a Fostex X-26 4-track cassette portastudio on Marktplaats. People have asked me why I want to record on a 4-track cassette portastudio in 2021 and the best answer that I can find is that a cassette portastudio isn’t going to suddenly roll out a feature to export my mix as a NFT. As answers go, I think that’s quite a showstopper.

In reality, there’s more going on than that. I’ve become a fan of the Bedroom Cassette Masters series of digital releases and want to try making something like that. Those recordings, most of them made by teenagers who knew next to nothing about recording and had only the most primitive tools, sound perfectly good to me in most cases, and even the ones that sound bad, at least sound interestingly bad. Also, I feel nostalgic for the way I used to do things in the 1990s; I just turned 50 this year and I think I’m allowed a little bit of nostalgia as long as I stay aware of the many ways in which the 1990s sucked (as well as the ways they sucked less than today). Also, I have a big problem with choice paralysis and using very limited tools will help me focus on the task at hand (I think. We’ll see). Also, I already spend most of my waking moments behind a computer screen and want a hobby that does not involve a computer.

But disgust with the way tech is going in 2021 is a strong motivation for me to go spend some time as if I’m back in a bygone age, and to refresh the skills that that involves.

Now, the X26 arrived in perfect cosmetic condition but without a manual or a power brick. This is not a problem, because I already have a manual and a power brick, because I already have a Fostex X26. It does not work – the last time I tried to use it, a few years ago, the transport mechanism got stuck in the ‘engaged’ position and I could not even get the cassette out without destroying it. The year before, Aggie and I had cleaned it out and tested it, and it worked fine. We also cleaned out an even more primitive Fostex model, an X15, which turned out, a year later, to also have a problem with the transport mechanism that it didn’t have before.

So I put those away and started looking for an alternative because at the time, that still seemed easier than to repair the issue. However, this year I found that four-track machines have gone up in price dramatically and the higher end models are now no longer worth it for what I want to do. It took me a while to find another X26, and when I tested it after arrival, guess what! The mixing desk section was fine, but the cassette transport didn’t run and disengaged just enough for me to get the cassette out. So Aggie and I did some digging and this is like the number one problem with these devices and a relatively easy fix. It will need four belts and we’ve been able to find sources for the correct belts online. Let’s hope their webshops are up-to-date because these are getting scarce. If we can get belts, we can probably fix both devices, and maybe the X15 as well. Having two identical units will allow us to experiment a bit and maybe cannibalize one for parts.

I do hope we won’t have to re-cap it. That sounds like a drag. But if we must, we will. I plan to have one system in full working order by January.

References:
Cassette Decks for Dummies – basic testing, cleaning and what to expect for general cassette decks. Some of its recommendations are difficult to do with online marketplaces but the testing and cleaning can be done at home and will resolve a lot of issues.
Fostex X-26 Belt Repair. Cooper Dalrymple
Fixing The Forgotten – Fostex X26. Repairing much more severe physical damage to a Fostex X26 using 3D printed parts.
GEC 4-track cassette transport | 1 | Porta One, Porta Two, Porta 05, MT2X, MT3X, X-15 for a more detailed teardown of the mechanism itself.
Fostex X26 belts on Vbrixla, a webstore in Germany. Product description indicates that the belts are of a square type.
Kit 1 für Fostex X-26 Multitrack Recorder. Another German webstore that has a belt kit, with a pinch roller added, at a lower price.
*4 NEW Replacement Belts* for Fostex X-26 4 Track Cassette Recorder. If you’re in the US, this may be a better place for you to order from.

Items of Interest, November 11, 2021

Happy Martinmas!

Steve Albini addresses edgelord past in new interview. Chris Deville in stereogum. I’ve always had a mix of admiration and contempt for Albini. As a producer/recording engineer, he’s clearly dedicated to his craft and his way of doing things, which is a way that I like: not getting in the musicians’ way and just letting them sink or swim based on how they play. He’s a giant of American punk. But on the other hand, I find little of value in his own projects, and the historic edgelordery is too much even though I have high tolerance for that sort of thing. The way he addresses this history and admits fault makes me respect him more. Though I won’t forgive the ‘purple dwarf in assless chaps’ quip from one of his most famous articles.

I have taken delivery of an old Fostex X-26 4-track cassette recorder in excellent cosmetic condition, so I will spend some time this week inspecting and testing it.

How to scam people with NTFS and how the IRS is going to ruin it: a beginners guide – thread by Foone on Twitter

Items of interest, November 10, 2021

System76: A Case Study on How Not To Collaborate With Upstream, Christopher Davis at gnome.org. I have been interested in getting a System76 laptop (not now, but in 2025 when multiple systems that I own are expected to reach end-of-life by my definition). This long post highlighting problems with how the System76 sausage is made is not yet a dealbreaker for me as a potential buyer, but it is concerning. (Disclaimer: as a non-techy, I haven’t felt the need to read the thing very closely. All I needed to know about is the behavior of the people involved.)

Ah well, there’s always a chance that by 2025 I’ll be so disenchanted with tech in general that I will choose to keep my by then 10+-year-old systems going for a little longer and use my saved-up money to buy a flagship analog synthesizer instead.

I did not know that some online head shops also sold pepper seeds, but here I am. I’m very tempted to buy these.

Items of Interest, November 9, 2021

I have added the new user oscillator Unity from tSoniQ to my wife’s KORG NTS-1 micro-synthesizer, which I’ve been using more than her lately. Will play with this some later this week.

Risk compensation is bunk. Tim Requarth at Slate.

Yesterday, I suggested that it might be a good time to delete your Reddit account if you have one, because Reddit is trying to join the planet-burning cryptocurrency scam in order to monetize upvotes. It doesn’t make a lick of sense but then neither does their own motivation for building cryptocurrency into its interface. For me personally, cancelling Reddit was low hanging fruit. I had an account but often didn’t use it for months on end and when I did, it was only for a handful of niche subs, most of which had to do with synthesizers of some sort.
Discord is not low-hanging fruit. It is practically infrastructure. So seeing them push bullshit polls that seem designed to sell people on some sort of bullshit ‘web3’ scheme (BTW I hate that cryptobros are using that as one of their buzzwords. Web3 was supposed to be Web 2.0 but better, not Web 2.0 but with your every utterance being monetized by a third party as part of a global MLM/money laundering scheme that also destroys our natural habitat) is a problem. It won’t be easy for me to cancel Discord.

Sherpa‘s black and white edition of the Incal cycle by Jodorowski and Moebius is a thing of beauty.

Items of Interest, October 30, 2021

I am waiting for a seller to respond to my formal winning bid on a Fostex X-26 4-track cassette recorder; the same model I already have a defective unit of. I keep losing bids on the superior Tascam devices that are still on offer, and prices are trending strongly up. The X-26 should work; if not, having two identical units should make troubleshooting and cannibalization a lot easier – not that I’m going to do that myself.
I’m a little wary because surely there’s a reason Fostex devices go for lower prices than Tascam despite there being fewer of them on the market. But if it does work, it should scratch my cassette-producing itch.

Advantages of the X-26 over others I bid on:

  • still inexpensive
  • familiar
  • good enough for what I want to do
  • lightweight; actually portable.

Disadvantages:

  • Flimsier and more prone to random defects than Tascams?
  • Not very exciting.

My first project on it should be a jam on all-second-hand instruments, of which I’ve collected several over the summer.
I’m leaving one other bid open on a TEAC 144 that for some reason or other is going nowhere. I think it’s the lack of name recognition; TEAC is Tascam, but not everyone is aware of that or looks for TEAC devices by name.

Systems of Indoctrination: Accelerated Christian Education in England. PHD thesis on the effects of Accelerated Christian Education in English schools that offer this curriculum. From the abstract:

While some participants found their ACE experience beneficial, the majority experienced inadequate education, sexism, homophobia, excessive punishment, and discrimination against those considered ‘ungodly’. Many participants described continued effects of indoctrination despite their rejection of ACE’s teachings. Inspection reports from ACE schools do not indicate awareness of these issues. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the possible effects of increased regulation on these schools.

The Radical Capitalist Behind the Critical Race Theory Furor, The Nation. A familiar villain is funding the push against accurate teaching of the US’s racial history.

Items of Interest, October 29, 2021 (NFT Edition)

HERE IS THE ARTICLE YOU CAN SEND TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY SAY “BUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES WITH CRYPTOART WILL BE SOLVED SOON, RIGHT?” by Everest Pipkin (Medium link).

Also, it breaks my heart that Anil Dash, formerly of Movable Type, is a co-inventor of NFTs. He’s not a bad person, I swear. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/nfts-werent-supposed-end-like/618488/ (at The Atlantic so possibly paywalled).

I’m considering doing a website listing all the high-profile artists who have joined in the NFT scam, so I won’t accidentally send them money for any reason whatsoever, or support their work in any way whatsoever. It also breaks my heart that Colleen Doran, David Lynch and a nature photographer whose name I can’t remember have decided to squander their legacies like that (the nature photographer turned up in my Twitter timeline and the artwork they NFT-ized was a photograph of a magnificent blue whale – a creature that often appears as a symbol for the very concept of nature conservation. It was obscene and I will go to my grave hating that this has happened). If I end up doing it, I will call it “One Sheep” after the punchline of a very old, very bad joke.

A couple of other NFT-related links that I collected earlier:

What is BlockChain Crypto Art at the Verge. This article has been edited and revised to smithereens since it was first published, but vestiges of its original clarity remain, for now.

NFTs: crypto grifters try to scam artists, again by David Gerrard, who knows about this sort of thing. Worth it for this paragraph alone:

I don’t understand any of this. Please explain it like I’m five.

“Would you like to watch your favourite CBeebies show — or would you like me to write on a piece of paper that you own the show? All you get is the piece of paper.”

The trouble with explaining NFTs to a five-year-old is that you’ll have a hard time convincing a five-year-old that this nonsense isn’t the nonsense it obviously is. It sounds unfathomably stupid because it’s unfathomably stupid.

Why NFTs are Bad: The Long version is a technical deep dive into why NFTs are bad. There’s also a short version, both on Medium.

Related: Why you should think twice about buying a ‘star name’ online

Items of interest, October 19, 2021

The Dutch magazine De Groene Amsterdammer has done a few articles on right-wing populism in the periphery, arguing that this populism is filling the gap where the ‘visible government’ disappeared. These are in Dutch but are of lasting interest, so I’m linking them here:

Hoe Den Haag uit Nederland verdween (How The Hague disappeared from the Netherlands – The Hague being the seat of government). This article talks to people from across the political spectrum, including the leader of the local PVV in Pekela, who is trying to win support by focusing on issues that are more like the old school labour party’s focus than that of a far-right anti-immigration party.

Nederland kent ook een geografische kloof (The Netherlands also has a geographic rift) offers more of the same, including some numbers on local school and library closures over the past few decades.

After the latest Apple Event, I had some thoughts on the value proposition of M1 Pro and Max chipsets and my own computer use. I’m reposting the thread here with minor revisions:

Once again, I have been successfully Marketed To in the sense that these new superpowered MacBook Pros are definitely Things I Want. However, I have no use case for them for as long as my 2013 iMac and 2015 MacBook Pro can handle everything I actually use them for, which are the same things I used them for in 2013 and 2015, apart from some simple music stuff that I’ve been doing this year.

Takeaways from the #AppleEvent :

  1. US prices less outrageous than I expected (NOTE: EU Prices actually as outrageous as I expected with EUR amounts greater than the USD amounts);
  2. Super-powerful laptops that are worth every penny IF you have the use case. If not, don’t bother;
  3. Apple is backtracking from bad decisions from the later half of the Jony Ive era by getting rid of the Touch Bar, reintroducing ports including HDMI, and generally not trying to make the lightest laptop ever;
  4. In that context, the notch is probably a fresh bad decision, but not one that matters that much. The notch is a minor quirk that you can mock for a few seconds and then move on. It won’t ruin the user experience like the Touch Bar and the lack of ports did. There’s even an odd charm to its bodgyness – proof that it’s not a form-over-function device. (That’s not quite the whole truth but it’s not far from it.)/li>
  5. Finally, Tim Cook’s presentation skills work so much better in these pre-recorded events than live. Let the guy have his tall grass and his room full of memojis. Like the notch, Tim Cook is often a bit ridiculous, so it’s arguably the case that the new MacBook Pros are the first that reflect the company CEO’s personality.

Asahi linux is not a distro but “an overall project to develop support for [M1] Macs” and as such may become more important as these Macs age.