Lynx Browser: The Land That Time Revived

Popzazzle | Tuesday, 7 June 2022 |
"If you don't perceive using the Internet in the 2020s to be a constant fight, you have absolutely no online privacy whatsoever."
Lynx browser in the Terminology terminal
Lynx browser, browsing the post Cyber Freedom: No Gain Without Pain, from my Neocities site Backlit.

It might look scarily primitive at first glance, but Lynx browser - a product as old as the World Wide Web itself - could not be more of a friend. And neither could it be more relevant amid the surveillance dystopia of the 2020s. If you find it hard to keep up with the latest content-blocking customisations... If your brain is fried with endless reports of new tracking technologies... If you're sick of seeing a page of static text hang your system because some pillock of a front-end dev decided to hit your RAM with a one gigabyte JavaScript object... Well, Lynx is here to take the confusion out of dodging Big/Stupid Tech.

Word Processing Software: Revolution Pending?

Popzazzle | Thursday, 5 May 2022 |

“The divide between the progress of the Internet and the progress of the word processor could not be more stark. The word processor launches to something that looks barely any different today than it looked decades ago.”

Microsoft Office Word 2003

Do you remember the days of WordStar, when a mouse was just a rather timid rodent that inadvertently antagonised cats and fantasised about processed cheese? If you're too young to know what I’m rambling on about, WordStar was the premier word processor of the 1980s, and it primarily existed on computers with non-graphical operating systems.

For the majority of PC users there was no mouse. Every instruction to a PC program had to come via the keyboard. And because the era's foremost operating system - DOS - had no graphical capability, the word processor couldn't represent elements of formatting as literal variations on screen. For a given display resolution, text would always reproduce at the same size, and with the same CP437 styling. It couldn't be italicised on screen, or displayed in bold. And many PCs of the 1980s only had monochromatic monitors, so even colour-coding was off the agenda as a universal means to represent format changes.

Whilst one might imagine that word processing software would be roundly unpopular under such unconducive conditions, offices couldn't get their hands on WordStar fast enough, and sales went through the roof. The software's renowned mail merge capability linked it up with the database behemoth dBASE, and suddenly, SMEs could produce their own mailshots, run off personalised invitations, autoprint customer/client/patient reminder letters... The future had arrived.

Why "Fact-Checkers" Need to Fact Right Off

Popzazzle | Thursday, 27 January 2022 |

"Fact-checkers" have managed to persuade us that we need to question everything we see on the internet, except for them. That slice of hypocritical dick-logic alone exposes the sham of "fact-checking", and tells us what these people really are."

Mars bars on a plain surface, renamed as Believe bars during 2006 World Cup period
Image by Bob Leggitt

Last August, when one of the internet's most eminent "fact-checkers" was outed as a liar, a sockpuppet and a thief, we, the discerning public, took one peep above our propaganda feeds, raised an eyebrow, and then promptly resumed linking to his site. Like "fact-checking" could still be worth something after the genre's top dude had admitted simply ripping off shit from news sites. Yes, news sites. As in "don't believe everything you read in the papers".

New "Protection" Extension Blows The Lid Off The Startpage Privacy Charade

Popzazzle | Thursday, 20 January 2022 |

"Out front, we find a grand, feelgood gloss, extending around us a warm hug of protection. But behind the curtain, it's just another cybertech company pimping us out to the preds."

Startpage Privacy Protection letting through Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager hitting the firewall after Startpage Privacy Protection waved it through without even a cursory mention.

For years, we've been wondering whether the Startpage search engine might warrant a little more scrutiny. Whether the notion of "actual Google without the tracking" should perhaps be tentatively subjected to the old adage:

"If it sounds too good to be true... It probably is."

But Startpage's recent release of a so-called "privacy protection" extension for browsers, might just have burst the brand's carefully-cultivated integrity bubble for us.

The Ethics and Consequences of Dodging Paywalls

Popzazzle | Thursday, 6 January 2022 |

"Some paywalls are so weak that those of us who adhere to high privacy standards online don't even realise they're there."

Door slightly ajar
Photo by Dima Pechurin on Unsplash

It's a really interesting question. Is dodging an online paywall worse than blocking ads? What are the potential consequences when we bypass paywalls and access "premium" content without compensating the provider? If publishers tell us we must pay to read their content, do the technical means by which we evade their 'digital checkout' even matter? Is bypassing paywalls akin to stealing books - something we can do, but know is wrong? That really depends on how "paywalled" the content is.

There are different strengths of paywalling. Some paywalls are rigid lockouts that genuinely do solely let in those who pay. Others essentially employ a sucker-gate, which only monetises the visitors who don't realise they have a choice. The site may, for example, let you in for free if you're hitting a link on Twitter or Facebook, but not if you're responding to an email nudge from an existing subscriber. Let you in for free if you're using this browser setup, but not that one.

The Journey To Digital Dictatorship

Popzazzle | Saturday, 11 December 2021 |

"Once they gain as much control over us as they currently have over their employees, what then? Do we not get to financially transact unless we sign up to Google Serum and take a shot of happy juice?"

Login screen

What happens when the law stops working? When the lawmakers are not only ten years behind the technological curve, but also so open to bribery that they'll happily let Amazon write the statute? What happens when regulators don't understand the technology they're regulating? What happens when unelected commercial giants gain more power than governments? When a country's authorities are so desperate to retain the obscenely rich Facebook as a resident that they begin defending the lawbreaker instead of the citizens they're assigned to protect? What happens when you have to take a data protection regulator to court in order for it to do its job at all?

The Problem With Tracker-Blocking Browser Extensions...

Popzazzle | Sunday, 28 November 2021 |

"In the end, there's way too much money in surveillance capitalism for any of these pathological stalkers to simply sit back and allow us to block them. They're on us today; they'll be on us tomorrow."

Tracker blocker meets Facebook tracking script

If you've ever installed a content-blocker (often known as a tracker-blocker) as a browser extension, you were probably pretty confident that it would block trackers. Like Domestos killing germs. One squirt, and it's goodbye bacteria. But blocking silent online trackers is a complex affair. Much more difficult than blocking adverts. And that means you're probably being watched by the bulk of Big Tech - even with the eminent extension uBlock Origin guarding your fort.