The Adventures of Joshua Judson Rosen
(action man)

[ sections: VisualIDs | art | movies | everything ]

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Sun, 09 Aug 2020

20:40: Re: Remote Learning

With COVID-19 finally hitting New Hampshire (and Massachusetts), my kids' school switched

Seems like online learning is working mostly OK-ish....

It's nice that we have [the school's guidance counselor] going over "responsible digital citizenship", online safety protocols, etc. I wish the "platform choice" was more in-line with that....

I really wish [the school] was using something more trustworthy and socially responsible than Google-- and there are definitely options.

There are other tools that are actually more functional as well, though that's kind of secondary concern from my perspective as a parent....

Believe me, as an engineer having worked on the leading edge of high tech for the last 20 years, I really do want my kids to learn about technology and computing..., I just am not comfortable at all with the idea of "tech that learns about my children"-- and so I just can't bring myself to send voice or video footage of my kids to Google or any other company that has such a bad reputation with respect to ongoing violations of user privacy (including reading their user's e-mail and documents, looking at their `private' photos, running facial-recognition and voice-recognition, using people's faces to train facial-recognition systems without getting their permission....

As you know, we've had a standing "photographic non-consent" order with the school for years now regarding use of our children's likenesses in advertising and any distribution of video or photographs other than publication in the printed yearbook; this is out of respect and conern for our children's privacy and their right to keep control of their privacy as they grow up, and it should be obvious that the concerns about sharing photographs and video apply doubly so to ongoing video-chats that last for many hours a day, 5 days a week, for weeks or months on end. It would be different if the service (and company) being put in the trusted position of managing video streams were a well-known advocate and protector of user privacy instead of a frequent violator.

One tool I mentioned when we were at the school last week was Jitsi Meet:

In additional to "better citizenry", it does actually seem to work better--with a less clunky UI and even some nice extra features like:

- "raise your hand" button that marks participants as waiting to be called on

- a "follow me" option that automatically pins everyone's views to the teacher

- "mute this person" and "mute everyone" actions to deal with hot mics

- a "kick out" action to deal with "someone's logged in twice at the same
  time which is causing problems and they can't figure out how to close their extra login"

- much more usable URLs / conference IDs as well...

Another tool I know of is BigBlueButton, which is what a lot of schools are using these days (I believe they usually buy support as part of some sort of e-learning services package like MoodleCloud; I know [my wife] uses it frequently as part of some classes at [her college]).

Both Jitsi and BigBlueButton have much better track-records regarding respect of user privacy than Google does, and both systems are frankly built and managed in a much socially-responsible way-- where everything about how the system works is open for peer review (and public review!) and the engineers are directly accessible to the public, all in a way that's very strongly compliant with the highest educational ideals that we try to maintain: that everyone who wants to know things work should be allowed to learn and dig in to whatever extent they're interested, and barriers to self-actualization are kept as low as possible.

I'd actually love to have my kids using either of those in their full capacities-- including video/audio chat, because sharing voice and video with the people in class has value.

But sharing voice and video with the people and machinery at Google has negative value; so as long as we're stuck with Google, we'll have to opt out of the voice and video features.


Sun, 16 Apr 2017

21:48: Cutting the Cord on SMS

To everyone in my phonebook with whom I've somehow got into the habit of communicating via SMS:

Effective 26 April 2017, I will be shutting down SMS messaging on my mobile phone service in favor of more functional, more featureful, more reliable, more broadly available, and just flat-out more usable Internet messaging using the standard IM system on the Internet: XMPP.

So, while you will no longer be able to reach me via SMS, I will continue to be reachable via XMPP at like I have been for nearly a decade now (my XMPP messaging address is the same as my e-mail address).

read more after the break...


Fri, 31 Mar 2017

04:11: E-mail deletion autoconspiracy

I just looked at my inbox in Icedove, and noticed that an old thread had been moved to the head of the chronological listing--as if it had new messages..., but there were no new messages in that thread. Not visible in Icedove, not in the inbox on the server..., and not even in any of the other folders on the server.

  1. Icedove#1 thinks incoming e-mail is spam, and moves it to the spam-folder
  2. server uses that folder to train spamassassin and marks them for deletion
  3. Icedove#2 expunges all messages marked for deletion because `oh look how much space I could save!'


Sat, 12 Nov 2016

01:38: Remembering my Grandfather's Memories

On 2008-06-08, I wrote:

We celebrated my grandfather's 100th birthday with him and the rest of the family, this weekend.

Pam just found the photographs that he took after liberating the Dachau concentration-camp: they're in the Israeli Holocaust Memorial, which is online at Unfortunately, I can't link to them, because us using some sort of session-cookie system....

Today was Veteran's Day, 8 years later--time to remember people like my grandfather; especially now that he's no longer here to tell the stories himself (not that he ever really wanted to).

It looks like may actually have fixed their problem at some point in the intervening years--or at least lessened it; even if the links no longer expire, their URLs are still pretty close to impossible to actually capture and convey to anyone....

Considering the purpose of something like Yad Vashem, it seems just about unconscionable that whoever was presumably hired to build it actually built it the way they did: actually made it hard to direct people to it, made it a memorial that's hard to commit to memory. At the very least, someone seriously screwed up.

In case the the the link into is still fragile, I've pulled down the dozen photographs and republished them in a more usable--and more conveyable--gallery on my website:


Thu, 22 Sep 2016

01:31: Funding Schools, and Wars

I noticed this poster on the wall at my son's school, this morning:

It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

It's seems easy to agree with that, because the purpose of schools is ostensibly to educate and we like education and want more of that, and the purpose of the military is ostensibly to wage war and we hate wars and want less of those.

But one problem here is that it's also easy to miss the more subtle, and perhaps more genuine, perversities of warfare—like the perverse fundamental economics of the whole thing. Not the "economic issues" of wealthier vs. poorer states, or wealthier vs. poorer people, or of war-chests or "war millionaires" or the impact of war on the anyone's bank accounts; but rather that the basic premise of war is that there is something that is actually worth both killing and dying for, and that once we've accepted the cost of ending human lives, no amount of mere money adds significantly to that cost.

Contrariwise, because any education budget is just money (nobody has to die in order to educate our children), the cost is small enough that almost any change is significant enough to notice. Especially when we accept it as given that education budgets recur, while we try hard to believe that any given war will have an end and be a cost that we'll only have to incur once.


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