[Freedombox-discuss] Cory Doctorow's fictional FreedomBox helps us ?visualize it

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Wed Apr 13 20:43:31 UTC 2011

----- Forwarded message from Ted Smith <teddks at gmail.com> -----

From: Ted Smith <teddks at gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2011 13:19:11 -0400
To: Cypherpunks list <cypherpunks at al-qaeda.net>
Subject: Re: [Freedombox-discuss] Cory Doctorow's fictional FreedomBox 
	helps us  visualize it
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I really disliked Little Brother. It treated young people in a very
condescending way, and for all the lip service paid to anarchism and
revolution, was ultimately limply liberal (spoiler: the book ends with
the protagonist urging the reader to get the Bad Guys out of power... by
VOTING! radical!).

More disturbingly, the book eschewed actually-existing technology in
favor of fictionalizing reality. Instead of using, say, Pidgin and OTR,
the characters used "ParanoidIM", which did _exactly_ the same thing.
Instead of using Freenet in darknet-mode, Doctorow invented the "XNet"
crap. Doctorow was good enough to include a real description of an
OpenPGP signing party, and an okay handling of webs of trust (he
conflated key-authenticity assertions with real trust, but at least he
acknowledge the subject at all), but for some reason didn't take the
friend-to-friend aspect far enough for it to be effective in real life.
If the Little Brother protagonist could get all his dissident friends to
generate and install OpenPGP software, they could have installed Freenet
and Tor. I know from experience it's possible for high school kids to do

A hilarious anecdote about the ParanoidLinux/ParanoidXbox is that one of
the highlighted characteristics in the book, and something (IIRC) the
real-world copycat project tried to reproduce, was "chaff".
ParanoidLinux had some program that automatically connected to "clean"
websites (I think MySpace was an example) and made it look like you
weren't doing anything special by "hiding the secure traffic in a
haystack of innocent connections". This chaff wasn't encrypted noise, it
didn't go out over Tor or anything like that, it just went out, in the
clear, directly to myspace.com.

I haven't read anything else of Doctorow's, but I hope that he got
himself a tech consultant after Little Brother, because his writing is
too good to be wasted on fictional revolution-manuals.

On Wed, 2011-04-13 at 13:24 +0200, Eugen Leitl wrote:
> ----- Forwarded message from John Gilmore <gnu at toad.com> -----
> From: John Gilmore <gnu at toad.com>
> Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2011 04:17:59 -0700
> To: freedombox-discuss at lists.alioth.debian.org, gnu at toad.com
> Subject: [Freedombox-discuss] Cory Doctorow's fictional FreedomBox helps us
> 	visualize it
> It seems that once you follow a genius, you often find that other
> geniuses had already thought about that topic.
> Science fiction writer Cory Doctorow wrote a kids' book called Little
> Brother, whose plot revolves around high-school kids successfully
> culture-jamming against the Department of Homeland Security after it
> runs amok and starts kidnapping San Francisco residents into secret
> prisons.  Lots of cool tech tricks are described, which frequently
> really work in the real world.  One of them is a software distro
> called ParanoidLinux that runs on discarded zero-cost Microsoft XBox
> gaming hardware, creating an encrypted overlay network called Xnet.
> I'll let you read the story without saying more.  ParanoidLinux is
> definitely one man's vision of solid Freedom Box software, useful
> when your government is trying to spy out and suppress anybody who
> disagrees with what it's doing.  It's well worth reading that section.
> Cory offers all his books for free public downloads under a CC
> license.  He makes money when people buy his books; but he gets more
> readers when people download and share them, and he wants both money
> and readers, so he does both.  Get Little Brother in dozens of online
> formats (or printed copies) here:
>   http://craphound.com/littlebrother/
>   http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/
> Search the online format for ParanoidLinux, then start reading...
> and if and when you get hooked, go back and start from the beginning.
> When you're done, give the book or file to a kid you know.
> 	John

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