The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The burning pile of money has attracted the Feds

The Federal Trade Commission, which has become the de-facto enforcer for Silicon Valley shenanigans, has decided the smell coming from Twitter HQ can no longer be ignored after their top privacy and security people have left:

It marked the second time in two days that a federal official has expressed concern about the chaotic developments at the company, coming less than 24 hours after President Biden said Musk’s relationships with other countries deserved scrutiny.

The agency said that it was “tracking the developments at Twitter with deep concern” and that it was prepared to take action to ensure the company was complying with a settlement known as a consent order, which requires Twitter to comply with certain privacy and security requirements because of allegations of past data misuse.

Twitter was first put under a consent order in 2011 and it agreed to a new order earlier this year. If the FTC finds Twitter is not complying with that order, it could fine the company hundreds of millions of dollars, potentially damaging the company’s already precarious financial state.

The FTC is the only government agency that could act through its consent decrees as a check on Musk, whose first two weeks at the helm of Twitter have been chaotic. The federal government has only limited oversight of social media companies, but the FTC has used its oversight of consumer protection and competition to establish itself as the country’s top data privacy regulator. The agency has used consent orders to hold some of the country’s largest tech companies, including Google, Facebook, and Snap, accountable for alleged privacy missteps. In 2019, the agency reached a $5 billion settlement with Facebook for its alleged violation of a prior order.

I wondered if there were a deadpool on Twitter...

Fifteen minutes of voting

Even with Chicago's 1,642 judges on the ballot ("Shall NERDLY McSNOOD be retained as a circuit court judge in Cook County?"), I still got in and out of my polling place in about 15 minutes. It helped that the various bar associations only gave "not recommended" marks to two of them, which still left 1,640 little "yes" ovals to fill in.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world...

Finally, Chicago gets a new brewery taproom on Thursday when Hop Butcher to the World opens in Half Acre's former Lincoln Avenue space, just over 2 km from my house. Cassie and I might find out on Saturday whether they let dogs in, assuming the forecast holds. (And there it is: a post that literally checks all the boxes for Daily Parker categories!)

Between a demo and a 5-point feature

I'm running all 538 unit tests in my real job's application right now after updating all the NuGet packages. This is why I like automated testing: if one of the updated packages broke anything, tests will fail, and I can fix the affected code. (So far they've all passed.)

This comes after a major demo this morning, and a new feature that will consume the rest of the sprint, which ends next Monday. Oh, and I have two opera rehearsals this week. Plus I have to vote tomorrow, which could take 15 minutes or two hours.

So it's not likely I'll have time to read all of these:

Regardless, I'm setting an alarm for just past 4am to see the total lunar eclipse tonight. NOAA predicts 17% sky cover, so I should get a good view of it. Unless I go back to sleep.

How to light $44 billion on fire

Elon Musk had a lot going for him when he started his first company: rich parents, being white in Apartheid South Africa, malignant narcissism, etc. Like other well-known billionaire charlatans, he has had his share of spectacular successes, and still decided to find his own little corner of the Peter Principle. So let it be with Twitter:

Some might say Elon Musk, who last week became Twitter’s official new owner, has buyer’s remorse. But that implies he had actually wanted the thing before he bought it. Back in April, the mercurial billionaire made an overpriced takeover bid, which he then tried to back out of.

Perhaps understandably: Twitter has been plagued by problems for years, of both the monetary and moral kinds. When Musk made his offer, tech stocks were already tanking, and it was clear he had neither a plan for fixing the company nor the inclination to fritter away a big chunk of his fortune figuring it out. After some legal back-and-forth, he reluctantly agreed to complete the $44 billion acquisition.

He has already begun pursuing a few controversial changes. They include charging users for their “blue check” verification badges, as well as developing a new paid-video feature, which will probably be used for “adult” material. But his most perplexing moves involve simultaneous plans to A) police content less, while B) increasing advertising revenue.

These objectives are somewhat at odds.

Mother Jones's Ali Breland wonders if Musk "made it his job to look dumb:"

[A]s has become increasingly obvious after Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter this week, getting rich does not make you deserving of praise. In fact, Elon Musk’s Twitter timeline is making one of the clearest cases that meritocracy is a myth. The reason Silicon Valley people, to their absolute chagrin, can’t be idolized like the maniacal bankers that came before them, is that they got rich by engineering the precise platforms that make them look awful.

The problem with the new tech sets’ desire to be heralded is that they got rich off tools for their own demise. There was a lengthy period in which Mark Zuckerberg was idolized. He achieved the national dream of going to Harvard, then eschewed it and conventional paths to wealth into a massively successful tech company and balked at a $1 billion offer to sell it years before it became profitable. The more Zuckerberg went out on his own platform though, posting videos of himself “smoking meats” and just generally being awkward and charisma-less, the harder it became to believe that his life is aspirational.

Marc Andreessen, who also invested in Twitter, albeit much earlier than Musk, could have ridden off into the metaphorical sunset looking like a genius for developing Mosaic and then Netscape, pioneering how we would all experience the internet. Instead, he showed us all of his mental shortcomings, by tweeting about the harms of anti-colonialism; liking tweets from people like date-rape apologist and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich; and being thin-skinned by blocking anyone who said anything slightly less than complimentary about him. Again: He did all of this on a platform he funded.

Elon Musk bought Twitter and Twitter makes people dislike Elon Musk. For once, the story of the stupidity of rich people—and how they got rich—is making sense to the masses. It just had to be written by the overlords themselves, in 280 characters or less.

Regardless of what happens with Twitter, I'm glad that the SNAFU of the US House of Representatives has at least forestalled an even bigger stupidity, year-round daylight saving time...

Threads to read

Here are some short thoughts that add up to longer thoughts today:

Finally, from 2021, the Calgary Real Estate Board (no kidding) extols the virtues of the conversation pit.

Happy November!

I've spent the morning playing matchmaker between disparate time-streams of data, trying to see what relationships (if any) exist between them. They all seem pretty cool to each other at the moment, which is sub-optimal from my perspective. If I can get a couple to get together amicably, then I can get baby time streams to analyze, which I need desperately.

Speaking of sub-optimal:

OK, back to work. Does anyone have an aphrodisiac for data streams?

Foggy Hallowe'en

A week after moving, I'm averaging 30 minutes more sleep and my Body Battery score is back to normal levels after two weeks of waking up like a zombie. I might even have all the boxes unpacked by this time next year.

Meanwhile, me shifting a couple tonnes of matter a few hundred meters did not affect the world's spin by any measurable amount:

Finally, the Tribune reviewed a new New York-style pizzeria in East Lakeview that...doesn't sound like it sells the greasy slices I used to get on Lexington after midnight. But I'll try it.

Tick tick tick

I always find it interesting when a literary magazine takes on technology. In that spirit, the New Yorker does its best to explain the Network Time Protocol:

Today, we take global time synchronization for granted. It is critical to the Internet, and therefore to civilization. Vital systems—power grids, financial markets, telecommunications networks—rely on it to keep records and sort cause from effect. N.T.P. works in partnership with satellite systems, such as the Global Positioning System (G.P.S.), and other technologies to synchronize time on our many online devices. The time kept by precise and closely aligned atomic clocks, for instance, can be broadcast via G.P.S. to numerous receivers, including those in cell towers; those receivers can be attached to N.T.P. servers that then distribute the time across devices linked together by the Internet, almost all of which run N.T.P. (Atomic clocks can also directly feed the time to N.T.P. servers.) The protocol operates on billions of devices, coördinating the time on every continent. Society has never been more synchronized.

In N.T.P., [David] Mills built a system that allowed for endless tinkering, and he found joy in optimization. “The actual use of the time information was not of central interest,” he recalled. The fledgling Internet had few clocks to synchronize. But during the nineteen-eighties the network grew quickly, and by the nineties the widespread adoption of personal computers required the Internet to incorporate millions more devices than its first designers had envisioned. Coders created versions of N.T.P. that worked on Unix and Windows machines. Others wrote “reference implementations” of N.T.P.—open-source codebases that exemplified how the protocol should be run, and which were freely available for users to adapt. Government agencies, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (nist) and the U.S. Naval Observatory, started distributing the time kept by their master clocks using N.T.P.

A loose community of people across the world set up their own servers to provide time through the protocol. In 2000, N.T.P. servers fielded eighteen billion time-synchronization requests from several million computers—and in the following few years, as broadband proliferated, requests to the busiest N.T.P. servers increased tenfold. The time servers had once been “well lit in the US and Europe but dark elsewhere in South America, Africa and the Pacific Rim,” Mills wrote, in a 2003 paper. “Today, the Sun never sets or even gets close to the horizon on NTP.” Programmers began to treat the protocol like an assumption—it seemed natural to them that synchronized time was dependably and easily available. Mills’s little fief was everywhere.

This being the New Yorker, one could describe the article as the author explaining how he met this programmer Mills and the politics around Mills' retirement from computing. It's better-written than the Wikipedia article, anyway.

Anthony's Song

I'm movin' out. A lovely young couple have offered to buy Inner Drive World Headquarters v5.0, and the rest of the place along with it. I've already gotten through the attorney-review period for IDTWHQ v6.0, so this means I'm now more likely than not to move house next month.

Which means I have even less time to read stuff like this:

Finally, American Airlines plans to get rid of its First Class offerings, replacing them with high-tech Business Class and more premium coach seats. I'd better use my miles soon.

Notable Friday afternoon stories

Just a few before I take a brick to my laptop for taking a damned half-hour to reformat a JSON file:

Oh, good. My laptop has finished parsing the file. (In fairness it's 400,000 lines of JSON, but still, that's only 22 megabytes uncompressed.) I will now continue with my coding.