An update on InI and other ramblings By William Bowles

20 August 2011

The first piece to appear on this WordPress Blog is dated 17 May, 2007 but the site has been here since 14 March, 2003 when the first essay appeared on InI[1]. I know, it’s confusing but that’s computers for you as in reality InI is two sites in one; the old, ‘flat’ InI and the new, database-driven WordPress Blog. And never the twain shall meet, unless I want to build a complicated Index that leads to all the old pages. Thousands of them. Forget it. Search the site instead if you know what you are looking for.

But of course, rather than just leave it as a repository of my own musings on the mess we’ve got ourselves into, I had to go and get involved in trying to supplying everything that I’d thought readers would be interested in reading.

It’s the reason I can’t keep up with all the newslinks I compile, or try to, every day. It’s too much damn time wasted doing repetitive, tedious tasks when I should be using my time more usefully. My time, it’s the only thing I truly own. And anyway, are they being read (see below)?

Somewhere, on some now obsolete media, thus irrecoverable, and maybe even in print, there exists the very first thing I ever wrote specifically for my first online endeavour, New York On-Line. If I can be bothered (you’ll know soon enough) I’ll try and dig out the hard copy as I’m sure I have it in one of a load of manilla folders from my Nuyorican days. But anyway, it must have been the beginning of the 1980s, sometime after I got my first pc and modem.

Then, just as now, I had designs to network real, independent news to the planet. Then I got a Mac, the very first one. Expensive and totally impractical, but a thing of beauty nevertheless and it blew me away. Here was a computer for all of us!

Then, dumb capitalists that they were, Apple proprietized (privatized) its operating system when it was/is crying out to be owned by all! Instead, we got Windoze and the rest is history. Actually, it was a radical turning point in the evolution of computing under capitalism. It’s the point at which Microsoft was born, then the rest is (an unfortunate) history…

Who knows how it might have developed if the Mac OS had been UNIX from the start. But UNIX was in the public domain, so Apple could not make (as) much money, or more accurately, Apple couldn’t predict the future the way Bill Gates did. He knew the future, where the money was; in software, not hardware.

So most of us end up with second best in the public domain field, Linux, itself a ‘flavour’ of UNIX just as the MacOS is (but with a ‘Maccish’ front-end stuck on the the UNIX core). Windows started out life as very bad copy of the original MacOS glued onto Microsoft’s ancient operating system.

Interestingly, the original Apple MacOS, is itself not original as it’s basically a rip-off from software developed in Xerox’s research lab, running under, you guessed it, UNIX. All Apple did was rip off the GUI and wrote its own proprietary operating system to run it. Big mistake as far as users are concerned.

The evolution of computing went through precisely the same process as that of the industrial revolution, it just did it in a far shorter time: fifty years instead of two hundred. And quite often, those first with innovation end up last when it comes to financial success (not that Apple is a failure, once it too realized that content was King!). It’s how Bill Gates got to where he is now by astutely buying and ‘borrowing’ key ideas that became ‘gateways’ such as computer operating systems and essential software tools.

Making the operating system effectively open to all meant that other people and companies did all the work developing products. And once the MS operating system achieved a ‘critical mass’ of users (eg a monopoly), they are effectively tied to Microsoft like some latter-day serfs.

But the computer is inherently a product of our collective labour, literally so, with millions contributing directly to its development. What could be more illustrative of the socialised nature of work than the fact that every time you use your computer you are tapping into the the sum of all human knowledge.

Locked up in the OS and associated programs are thousands of physical and mathematical laws, all reduced to equations: measurements of space and time; maths and so on that programs call on to perform tasks like typing or drawing.

In my original essay on the MacOS written in 1987, I called it a ‘general’, general tool; the ubiquitous Graphical User Interface or GUI, that we now take for granted.

And, just as the industrial revolution socialized physical labour through the factory system and machine tools, so computers socialized intellectual labour by embedding it in computer chips.

And from Day 1, when the first PC clattered out a message on a teletype machine that ‘all information was free!’, the battle for ownership of our minds as well as our bodies, commenced.

There’s log statistics and there’s log statistics and then there’s lies

Oh yeah, I was going to give you an update on the site. Depending on which log I believe, InI is now getting something like 4000 articles a week ‘read’, that is to say, somebody, maybe you, clicked on a link and opened a page in your browser. I’ve got no way of knowing if you read it or not.

However that’s not the end of story as this is the log made by the WordPress software and it only looks at WordPress pages stored in my (Microsoft) database. My other log, supplied by my hosting co, paints a very different picture as it includes visits to all the pages on the site. Here’s part of the log for the seven days ending on 15 August 2011.

Successful requests: 914,848
Average successful requests per day: 130,705
Successful requests for pages: 136,091
Average successful requests for pages per day: 19,443
Failed requests: 14,461
Distinct hosts served: 13,719
Data transferred: 14.65 gigabytes
Average data transferred per day: 2.09 gigabytes

That’s nearly a million a week! Four million a month! What’s going on here? Actually the figures are misleading. I think the only one that reflects actual readers is the Successful requests for pages: 136,091. The 914,848 number I think represents every ‘object’ downloaded like images and linked files. In any case, it answers the question I posed at the beginning, it’s still an awful lot of readers in one week. Call it 125,000 or half-a-million a month.

My first online essay

Ok, I found it, at least some of them (but not my first online foray which I wrote on Compuserve around 1979-80), published and networked on my Mac was 17 November 1984. I think the first was earlier in 1983 but lost forever.

NEW YORK ON-LINE VOL. ONE No.1
NOVEMBER 17 1984

This is the first official edition of New York On-Line, an alternative to the engineered “news” that we are fed babyfood style on the TV and in the mass circulation newspapers. Each week, or whenever the Editor feels up to it, NYOL will deal with issues that the mainstrtam media either ignore or so distort that they bear only the vaguest resemblence to reality. NYOL will also deal with the MEDIA itself; the way it presents the “news”; how it decides what counts as news, and why.

That’s enough of that. Hopefully my writing has improved since then.

Note

  1. It resides here, on this my new site and much easier to read.
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4 thoughts on “An update on InI and other ramblings By William Bowles

  1. Clark says:

    “So most of us end up with second best in the public domain field, Linux”
    .
    Well, I dispute that “second best” label. My GNU/Linux system may not be as slick as OS-X; I wouldn’t know as I can’t afford such fancy stuff. But it’s fast, secure, reliable, and connects securely to a repository of tens of thousands of community generated software packages. The Synaptic software package manager is a joy to use. And because it’s community software, I have confidence that the software does what it says, with no hidden features like the tracking facilities of the spyPhone (iPhone) – Hey, Apple are NOT your friend, Bill, they’re just another company that want your money, and then want to sell data about you as well.
    .
    If you want to see the power of community, GNU/Linux is the place to start. And I include the GNU, because (a) it’s the greater part of the system and (b) it was Richard Stallman’s GNU organisation that gave us the General Public License or GPL, the first Copyleft license that gave us freedom in the domain of software, and started the whole field of Free / Creative Commons licenses.
    .
    GNU/Linux respects my freedom. I never want to use proprietary software again.

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  2. InI says:

    Yeah, okay Clark, maybe not second best but in terms of what dominates the ‘market’, Windoze has it. And yes, of course Apple is not my friend, I thought I made that quite clear but that doesn’t diminish the innovative design that has become the standard. As a tool, the Mac is hard to beat (which is why Microsoft copied it).

    I’d love to use Linux, it runs on my Mac but the problem is the software available for it.

    Bill

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  3. Clark says:

    Well, I agree, the Mac IS a good tool, and if you’re after video editing, about the only system worth considering. Really, its only drawbacks are that it’s proprietary (and thus restricts your freedom and is probably reporting your activity to Apple) and high cost. So if I’d bought a Mac, I’d probably run OS X on it.

    GNU/Linux is just amazing if, like me, you have little money, and hate the waste produced by our wonderful market economy. Used PCs fall out of skips. GNU/Linux is so much less demanding than Windoze that you can put it on a five year old computer and it’ll run faster than the latest Win7 machine. And the LiveCDs are just excellent; I don’t know how I managed before I discovered them.

    As a Free software advocate, I encourage people to use the term “GNU/Linux” rather than just “Linux”, because (1) the freedom of the system is enforced by the GNU organisation through their General Public License, and (2) GNU is by far the larger part of the system. In fact, the Linux kernel is the least free part of the system; it includes “binary blobs” of proprietary software. A sanitised kernel is available from gnu.org

    As for software for GNU/Linux, obviously it doesn’t natively run Mac or Windows software, but there is masses of good software, securely installable from the built-in package manager. Image editing, audio recording, office software and scientific software are all well covered. Video editing remains a problem.

    Yeah, Windoze dominates PC personal machines, desktops and laptops alike, but I don’t call that popularity because most users don’t make a choice – Windoze comes pre-installed. Those who DO make a choice mainly choose GNU/Linux. And in the web-server domain, free systems are more popular by more than a factor of two.

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