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Kill Switches and File Hoarding

I am so flat on my ass.

My own fault, too. Back in December Carol went in for a re-check on her pancreatitis issue, and the doc said, “Hey, how about a flu shot?” We’re usually good about getting them every year, but this year she got one almost by accident, and the whole issue then slipped my mind. So this past Tuesday afternoon the nausea began, and by Wednesday lunch I was coughing hard and so wobbly I could barely stand. I crawled out of bed here and there during the week to clear my spam and maybe answer an email or two, but more than that just wasn’t in the cards. This morning I’m feeling better than I have since Wednesday, but my chest still aches from the coughing and I’ve lost five pounds.

Shame; lots of interesting things have been going on this week, and I just haven’t been able to write about them. I got two notes from the Jolly Pirate after a long absence. I’ll take up the first one tomorrow. The second one was shorter, and cooks down to one sentence: “Egypt is why I hoard.”

I’ve talked about him here before. He’s one of my eccentric fans, an unapologetic file hoarder who fills hard drive after hard drive with pirated content and freely admits he’ll never even look at (or listen to) most of it. He’s not some sort of wunderkind topsite scenemaster. He’s a thirtyish single guy, and (in his own words) “not especially high tech.” We’re not talking about mysterious Darknet interconnections here. Jolly gets most of his stuff from Usenet or from his friends. They have occasional LAN parties (which are often about file sharing as much as gaming) but mostly they just pass external hard drives around, and copy content among their laptops by the terabyte while watching TV. 2 TB drives are down to $80 on NewEgg. I’m guessing his habit isn’t making him broke.

He worries a lot about the “kill switch” idea, and won’t assume that content you find in the Cloud today will still be there tomorrow, nor that it will still be safe to grab it. Mubarak very quickly and effectively knocked Egypt out of the Cloud this week. Jolly isn’t worried that our President will literally take the Net offline to combat file sharing, but that security concerns will lead to forced logging of all server traffic and detailed monitoring of every packet we send and receive, nominally to keep order but with the full encouragement of Big Content.

In essence, the Kill Switch will be the threat, and a tightening of Net surveillance will be the fallback, since, hey, we’re better than Egypt. We don’t have to shut it off. We just haveta watch it harder.

The real problem with kill switches may be something like that: They’re a form of theater, pandering to popular fears but in reality serving multiple interlocking agendas that few people understand. Lots of powerful groups dislike the Internet. Big Content is only one of them.

Pay attention to what the weasels you elect to office are doing. In the meantime, the Jolly Pirate is responding what may well be rationally: Get It While You Can. The buckets are cheap and the faucets are still wide open.

One Comment

  1. Erbo says:

    The Jolly Pirate sounds a lot like Pamela’s new husband Arto, who has a multi-terabyte RAID array in his computer for storing all the stuff he downloads. (Pamela did make him get rid of the porn.) Pamela herself has taken up the habit, to the point where she’s asked me for advice on how to clear off her machine’s hard disk. I recommended getting an external USB hard drive for storage purposes, as, as you’ve noted, they’re cheap enough these days.

    Of course, they’re in Finland, where the legal issues surrounding this are different. Probably not “better,” though. In the meantime, if the Feds ever do establish an Internet “kill switch,” I may have to dust off one of my old modems, get a land line hooked up again, and install UUCP software on one of my Linux servers…

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