• Drones, stings, and whistleblowers – Where are the cyberpunk superheroes?

    I’ve just watched Into The Spider-Verse for the first time. It was for The Teen’s birthday – what with the danger of virus transmission in enclosed public places, we decided to stay in The Crow’s nest and watch a film on our 55 inch screen rather than venture out to the cinema along with other potential plague vectors. It was pretty awesome – the animation style was captivating; the story was good; the kids loved it. All three of the juvenile viewers wanted to be one of the Spidermen – to have superhero powers to fight crime, injustice, supervillains, [...]
  • AntiSocial media – The Crow dives headlong into the Fediverse

    Last time I used the Fediverse, I ended up sending £10 via Paypal to a suicidal teen Canadian non-binary furry. Or possibly to a suicidal non-binary furry Canadian teen. Are words supposed to go in a specific order? Are there rules for when there are this many descriptors? The Crow has nothing against teens or furries, or even Canadians, and my only issue with non-binaries is that the pronouns tend to fuck up sentence structure and readability – but there seemed to be quite a lot of suicidal appeals for cash popping up on my feed, and the thought [...]
  • Forget Net Nanny – PiHole will keep your kids’ late-night activity in check

    Teenagers are hard work. Here at The Crow’s nest, we have two teenage fledgings stretching their wings and doing normal teenage stuff. Most of it doesn’t concern us. We don’t want to know the details of their social lives, we don’t want to know who they’re meeting up with at the weekend, and we don’t particularly care what Minecraft server they’re using at 2am. We do care that they’re playing Minecraft at 2am because we don’t particularly want to have to deal with a sullen 13 year old who’s had – at most – five hours sleep. We care [...]
  • The First President of the Second Confederacy

    We’re going to make a couple of assumptions about November 2020 here. You’ll have to excuse us, we’re not Americans, and we don’t have the kind of total immersion in your political systems that perhaps we should have before starting an article of this type. We’re not there. We don’t know for sure. What we do have is blanket coverage of US news media. We read The Atlantic, the New York Times, Washington Post. We watch highlights from Fox News and One America News Network. It doesn’t make us experts, but it gives us a viewpoint you can only [...]
  • Your data wants to be free – but only because you’re a terrible admin

    A midddle-aged man named Tom has been watching your porn  – the home movies you recorded, along with a woman he assumes is (or was) your wife, back in the mid 90s on a Sony Digital8 handycam. Tom is guessing it was the mid 1990s because of the decor – Laura Ashley furniture and full length mirrors. He pays attention to details. At some point, you’ve decided to digitise the videos and upload them, along with memories, documents, and music from the intervening decades. The stains are probably still on the sofa too… | Credit: Dublin Live You keep [...]
  • FreshRSS – Stay safe and never visit another website again

    Here at The Crow, we love to read. It comes even higher on our things-we-love-to-do list than tinkering with computers – but only just. Of course we read books, moreso now we’ve sorted out our bizarre and unexpected Undernet problem, we also like to read magazines and other magazine-like publications on the internet. We love it. What we don’t love is terrible layouts, adverts, tracking, soft paywalls, article limits, pop-up adverts, and pop-ups in general. The web sucks in its current state, and pop-ups of all varieties suck more than most things – they ruin the immersion of a [...]
  • Nextcloud Cookbook is the recipe manager you didn’t know you needed

    Cooking is a joy. On any given evening, you’ll find The Crow slaving away over a hot stove, preparing culinary delights for a family of four. On Saturday nights (date nights in The Crow’s nest), we’re usually trying something new which, if successful, will make its way onto our regular roster of food for the whole family. We scour the net for recipes, and in the dim and distant past, we bookmarked them for later reference. Often, the page has changed or been deleted by the time we get round to looking at them again. Cooking blogs are abandoned [...]
  • G-lined by Undernet? Welcome to the world of 2020

    We’re old school here at The Crow. We entered our teen years in the 90s, and we have a love of retro-futuristic tech and software. If you could imagine it looking at home in Hackers or The Matrix or Blade Runner, the chances are good that we sporadically run it on our home system. Because, believe it or not, the old protocols still work, and if we developed a particular way of doing things back in the 90s and it still works today, we’re still going to be doing it. A prime example is IRC – Internet Relay Chat [...]
  • The Trump Twitter storm could reshape the internet – and that’s a good thing.

    On the other side of the Atlantic, there’s a shitstorm brewing over censorship, communications, and the right of private companies to censor and edit what you say and do online. We’ve felt its chilly gusts before, but the winds which threatened to become gales always petered out before any major damage was done to the structure and landscape known as the internet. As right now, gusts from the ongoing Trump / Twitter spat look set to strengthen into a force nine hurricane which could destroy the online world as we know and love it. The American president is not [...]
  • The Pandemic Playlist – survive lockdown with these viral classics

    Living through the coronavirus pandemic of 2019 /2020 is like living in a movie – watching the world change beyond recognition as everyday life grinds to a halt. Death counts are in the hundreds of thousands, industry has ground to a halt, and if you’re brave enough to venture out in public, you’ll see people wearing medical masks, dust masks, respirators. For bizarre and unrelated (although not altogether surprising) reasons, most of the US is on fire. It’s the perfect backdrop for an action film – although not one in which we’re planning on becoming protagonists. We’d be happy [...]
  • What’s in a name? Planetearth.press will be changing

    Planet Earth Press has changed from how it was originally envisioned when we started it up a couple of months back. The idea was that we would be writing about environmental topics, about space and science, and showing lovely pictures of nature. We started off well – with (variable quality) original articles and photos (pinched from r/earthporn) every week. But honestly, although we are concerned about planet Earth, we can’t say that we love writing about it exclusively. We want to write about… other stuff, and being tied to the planet earth theme is holding us back. So we’ve [...]
  • Neal Stephenson’s ‘Fall’ – How deep does the rabbit hole go?

    Fall, or Dodge In Hell, is a direct sequel to Neal Stephenson’s 2011 techno-thriller, Reamde – possibly the most action-packed 1,500 pages that has ever been written in any genre, ever. It’s also set in the same alternate universe as Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle – an eight book epic,  describing a world which diverged from our own in the late 17th century and gave the characters early access to computers, fractal geometry, steam engines and cryptocurrency – as well as several unique European microstates. So it’s a relief to find that in such a world, today’s tech giants still exist [...]
  • The problem with Pi – Extreme competence

    Man, the Raspberry Pi is a cool piece of kit. Eight years after its initial release, and the tiny, open-source bare-bones PC can do pretty much anything a desktop computer can do. Honestly, that’s a problem. At the head office of Planet Earth Press, we have two Pi4Bs, and frankly, we’re at a loss for what to do with them. One of the Pis is in permanent employment as a web server. It’s hosting this site and a couple of other WordPress sites; In the background, as we write this piece, we’re listening to Camila Cabello through the the [...]
  • Freelancing in a time of quarantine – and why RSS is the greatest

    Being ill sucks – especially when the world is banging on your eardrums to make you aware that there is a non-zero chance of the current malaise leading to your untimely death – along with millions of others. For the young and healthy, the odds of staying alive through the current crisis are over 99%. For the elderly, the odds are somewhere in the region of 80%, which means that if you’re 75 years or older, you have a one in five chance of choking to death on your own mucous membranes in the next few months. That sucks, [...]
  • The Outer Worlds – The game Fallout 4 should have been

    Imagine The Fallout series of games if the world had never fallen to nuclear apocalypse and was able to colonise the stars. Or Skyrim in Space. Or Bioshock Infinite if it was an open-world exploration game rather than a strictly limited, almost on-rails murder fest. The Outer Worlds, released by Obsidian Entertainment in October 2019, resembles all three of these concepts, taking the best of each – and while it falls short of the awe-inspiring wonder of exploring Skyrim for the first time, it is the game Fallout 4 should have been, and pays tribute to the hyper-capitalist feel [...]
  • How Coffee is Priced and Traded – do you want the good stuff or the floor sweepings?

    There are two pouches of coffee perched on top of my espresso machine. The first was bought for a measly 80 cents from a discount chain in a major city in the North of England. The second was purchased for the princely sum of $5.60 from a corner shop in the rain-soaked valleys of north Wales, only five miles from where it was produced. Both pouches contain an identical quantity (250 grams, or about half a pound) of ground beans, and when tamped into the two-cup filter, both produce drinkable, if not exceptional, coffee. What could possibly account for [...]
  • Mining the moon – pick and rocket required

    On December 19th 1972, mankind left the lunar surface for the last time. It was unspectacular – in a way that lofting 12,000 lb of men and materiel into orbit on a pillar of fire can be. Viewing figures for broadcasts from the Apollo 17 moon exploration mission were low, and as the New York Times put it, “pictures, no matter how incredibly good their technical quality, of barren moonscapes and floating astronauts become ordinary and even tedious rather quickly.” Since Gene Cernan left his bootprints in the Taurus–Littrow valley, the moon has been visited by unmanned spacecraft from [...]
  • Healthier and fitter population after Coronavirus – maybe

    You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Cinderella said it; Linkin Park said it; Monica from friends said it. Right now for hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions of people, ‘it’ is freedom to move outside the confines of their homes. Yesterday India, the world’s second most populous nation, went into lockdown. The United Kingdom entered lockdown earlier this week, while Spain, and Italy placed severe restrictions on movements starting March 9th. Millions, used to the freedom to walk, to run, to spend lazy days drinking tequila on the beach are stuck inside. It’s cabin fever everywhere. [...]
  • Dumpster diving for tech – a real life study in the art of reduce, reuse, recycle

    Electronics, much like people in the 21st century, are disposable. We are slaves to Moore’s law whereby the capabilities of computers grow evermore formidable and blindingly fast. Every new generation of processors, of data storage modules, of screens makes previous ones obsolete in a never ending arms race of technological one-upmanship. Lawmakers argue about the best way to deal with electronic waste, and environmentalists wax wrathful on the costs associated with recycling 20 year old laptops which were never designed with recycling in mind, while humanitarians wail about the life-shortening conditions in which miners slave to extract the precious [...]
  • Has the global pandemic really helped the environment? It won’t last

    Summer 2019 was a fantastic year for the environmental movement, as it was dragged, shouting and screaming, to the forefront of public consciousness. Around the world, protesters harassed passers-by with calls for action on climate change, on single use plastics, and on sustainable environmental policy. Swedish teen, Greta Tintin Thunberg, was on every major news channel as she crossed the Atlantic in a racing yacht to attend climate conferences in New York, prompting the great European and American middle classes to start thinking that maybe, just perhaps, flying across the world on budget airlines twice every year wasn’t such [...]
  • Networks can’t take the strain – streaming giants to throttle HD viewing

    Paranoia is in the air, and self-isolation is the order of the day, the week, the month, and just possibly, the entire year – or longer. People are staying home to avoid becoming ill, and to avoid spreading the dreaded disease to other people including elderly relatives. Schools are closed down indefinitely from this afternoon, business are rolling down their roller blinds, and while its not illegal to go to pubs and restaurants in the UK, it’s highly discouraged, borderline foolish, and may actually be illegal soon. So what are the housebound supposed to do in a time of [...]
  • We’re dying down here – Coronavirus makes life miserable for Earth’s human inhabitants

    Being human sucks right now. Sure, it’s great to be alive as the dominant species on the only planet in the universe (currently )known to support life, but it sucks all the same. The Covid 19 Coronavirus variant is not quite in full swing but it’s getting ready. Currently, we’re sitting on the slope of an exponential curve, which is about to explode upwards – the virus is about to go viral if you will. On the off-chance you’ve been living under a rock for the last to months, or if I’m reading this in my dotage at the [...]
  • Why do we exist?

    Note – this piece was written for planetearth.press, which has migrated wholesale to thecrow.uk   Well that’s the big question. At the time of writing, planetearth.press exists behind my couch. I bought the name through namecheap last week (nice, eh?) for a couple of quid, and decided to host it (and a bunch of other sites) myself. The hardware it runs on is a 4GB Raspberry pi model 4B, which is sitting on top of my radiator, and which is also hosting a pretty solid Nextcloud 18 instance through a yet another domain. It’s an ARM powered beast. I’m [...]