A Desire for Privacy? Or Selling Out?

Some years ago, when faced with the decision to be anonymous or not, I basically said “fuck it” to anonymity. At the time, I was focusing on not being interested in selling my liberty to speak out (on my own spare time, on a web site paid for with my own money) for a salary.

I also thought it was basically impossible to remove any trace of myself. Technically, that is correct. Practically, it will take extra work to locate any such stuff, work that some employer Googling my name probably won’t bother to engage in. So effectively, it is indeed possible to grab back lost anonymity. Plus, I haven’t really lost all that much anonymity, because I have been mostly anonymous already.

Furthermore, I have come to an alternate “fuck it”: The Internet combines the lack of privacy of the village with the lack of humanity of the big, cold city — fuck it.

On the other hand, it does make me pause a little that I might be turning my back on my earlier principles and hiding who I am just for employment’s sake. I’ve pretty much decided that I’m not, if I’m mostly going for privacy and anonymity: leaving only a tiny bit on the Internet that is easily attributable to me, and otherwise being as invisible as possible in cyberspace. Which is why I have no plans to create any Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social networking pages.

But still, the whole exercise does stir vaguely unsettling feelings in me.

(And if you are an employer who found this entry by searching my name: Congratulations, you are far more persistent in your explorations than most.)

Ferrite Beads Work Wonders for RFI

Ferrite bead as installed on thermostat wires.

Ferrite bead as installed on thermostat wires.

It never ceases to amaze me how something so simple can be so brutally effective at muzzling the worst radio frequency interference (RFI) sources. The above picture shows the one I installed on the thermostat wires of the new furnace (whose fan motor controller was using those wires as an antenna to spew RFI). It took multiple turns through the core, but I did end up mostly driving the RFI from the new furnace into the local noise floor.

Some Internet searching reveals that some individuals go inside the furnace to install beads on wires. I didn’t want to open it up, because it’s not mine, and I don’t want to void the warranty. I reasoned (correctly) that since it has a grounded metal case, it’s essentially a Faraday cage already and I could address the issue it by dealing with the wires that exit it.

Haven’t gotten around to those two lower yellow wires yet. Was going to put that bead around both sets of wires, but experimentation revealed that the thermostat wires were by far the worst offenders (to the point where I needed to wrap as many turns of them as possible through the bead), and the lower wires (which control the condensate pump) don’t have a very long run outside the furnace anyhow.

Why Shortwave Still Matters

OK, you’ve just seen (in my last post) how much better than shortwave Internet audio quality can be. One might be tempted to conclude that demonstrates shortwave broadcasting is now obsolete. Not so fast.

First, this is an example where shortwave fares unusually poorly, even by its own standards. The signal paths between India and the USA are so difficult that India has never even tried to target the USA for their shortwave broadcasts. Even though I’ve been lucking out with a strong signal and low local interference the past two mornings, the signal still ends up seriously degraded by being forced to take a multi-hop path over the polar regions. That’s why it has such a fluttery character to it.

If India were to rent time on a transmitter in Eastern Canada or the Caribbean, for example, my audio recording would have had significantly better quality. It still wouldn’t have been as good as the Internet download, of course, but the newscast would have been completely intelligible instead of only partly so.

Second, the US Government does not particularly care if I listen to news broadcasts from India or not. So the government is not blocking my ability to download podcasts of their news bulletins, or requiring ISPs to report the names of their customers that attempt to do so. The Chinese are not so fortunate. If they want to hear news that has not been subject to their government’s censors, the Internet is of little or no use to them. On shortwave, they often end up in cat-and-mouse games with jamming transmitters, but in such games sometimes the mouse wins.

Basically, any communications medium that requires either payment for access and/or third-party (beyond the producer and consumer, that is) infrastructure is extremely vulnerable to censorship. Governments can track or block payments, or pressure the third parties into not carrying the offensive material. Pretty much any satellite or Internet-based means of delivering information ends up falling onto this category.

Direct-broadcast satellites could theoretically provide a real alternative, once there are free (to the consumer) options and they get to the point where there are a large number of such options under a wide diversity of ownership. Those latter points are critical, and current satellite broadcast options do not satisfy either one.

Therefore, shortwave is still really the only option for getting information into an area against the will of the government which controls it. Crappy audio quality beats no audio any day.

Actually, The Internet Is Now an Option for AIR

I just discovered today that All India Radio news broadcasts actually are available on line. It’s just that AIR has done a very good job of hiding them, by hosting the audio files on a completely separate site from their main site.

It’s actually a good thing for me, as while the diction of their announcers is pretty good, it is still accented English, and when one adds the degradation of a long propagation path to the signal, it turns what was a perfectly intelligible news bulletin into something only partly intelligible.

To see what I mean, compare what I recorded over the air (note that this contains a minute or two of the music that aired prior to the news bulletin) to what I downloaded from their web site.

All India Radio

I ran across All India Radio’s Bengaluru transmitter on 9425 kHz quite by chance late this morning, coming in with a very strong signal considering the distance. A recording of a brief musical interlude, followed by some announcements in Hindi then the news in English may be found here.

This is another of those stations where the Internet is still not an option.

Latest Voice of Korea Recording

My latest Voice of Korea recording may be found here.

The audio quality is sort of iffy in this recording, but it’s actually the best signal of any of the times I’ve thought to tune in recently. Trans-Pacific propagation has been sort of crappy recently; this has adversely affected my ability to receive Australia and New Zealand as well.

Voice of Korea has less to say for themselves in this recording than they do in some of my earlier ones. Starting several months ago, the amount of spoken word programming declined greatly, to be replaced by programming consisting mostly of music. There’s actually more spoken material in this recording than there has been in some other recent broadcasts, so maybe this trend is reversing itself.

Perhaps of particular note is the piece on wind power at the end of the transmission, which in a marked departure from virtually all Voice of Korea programming, appears to have nothing to do with praising the “Great Leader”.

As usual, the “news” is dominated by whatever the “Great Leader” has done recently (this always leads); mention of any favorable things said by foreigners about the DPRK also figures prominently. The latter is frequently from those belonging to insignificant Stalinist splinter groups, or items in a foreign paper which are actually a paid ads taken out by the DPRK foreign ministry.

Hopefully someday soon I’ll take another camping trip and be able to furnish something recorded in a more RF-quiet, rural location.

Well, So Much For That

I did not get the job east of the lake after all. I’m almost certain it was because I expressed my antipathy about doing systems administration work; my interviewers kept revisiting the issue of sysadmin work and my (lack of) willingness to consider doing any more of it.

So be it. There was only one systems administrator at that company. He’s only human, so he’s going to get sick. And if I was to be the one called upon to fill in when that happens, forget it. Worse, suppose he departed for greener pastures — Guess Who would be appointed the new sysadmin (quite possibly permanently!) in such a case?

Really, I never want to do such work again. Ever. I’m completely burned out on it. A job where I am literally a heartbeat away from becoming a sysadmin again is one gigantic turkey of a job.

It pales in comparison to the above issue, but it’s also nice not to be compelled to move again, particularly if the move does not involve leaving the megalopolis. Simply too much hassle for too little improvement in my lifestyle, particularly after I’ve spent so much effort getting settled where I currently live.