Pluralistic: 16 Mar 2020

Today's links

  1. Covid At Home: A guide for isolation, illness and recovery
  2. Trump wants a US-only vaccine: Reality has a well-known globalist/collectivist bias.
  3. Folding@Home to beat covid: 23 distcomp projects to give your CPU to.
  4. Italian hospitals fix their ventilators with 3D printed parts: Fablabs to the rescue.
  5. How to prepare for coming layoffs: A guide for techies junior, senior and prickly.
  6. Leaked Tiktok moderation guidelines are a censoring mess: No poors or ugly people welcome.
  7. Canceled Bar Mitzvah is still a mitzvah: Today I am a mensch.
  8. Shmoocon 2020 videos online: Hours of entertainment and infosec funnies.
  9. This day in history: 2005, 2010
  10. Colophon: Recent publications, current writing projects, upcoming appearances, current reading

Covid At Home (permalink)

Dutch hacker and XS4ALL cofounder Rop Gonggrijp and artist Vera Wilde have produced Covid At Home, an open-access guide to staying healthy, treating illness, and general pandemic preparedness.
It's an excellent, sober, accessible guide, produced with help from medical professionals.

They're seeking help to translate it into other languages as well. German edition coming next.

Trump wants a US-only vaccine (permalink)

The Trump administration has offered "large sums" to a German manufacturer for US-only access to a potential covid-19 vaccine

According to Die Welt, Curevac has made progress on the vaccine, and the Trump admin is seeking access "but for the US only."

The company's recently departed CEO, Daniel Menichella, is a US citizen who recently visited the White House.

The Trump administration's failure to understand our shared collective microbial destiny is emblematic. Trump epitomizes the neoliberal sociopathy of "enlightened self-interest" and "meritocracy" and the belief that "there is no such thing as society." It's a pathology as dangerous as any virus, and could yet kill us all. Immunizing America against coronavirus only works if

  1. The vaccine is perfect (they never are) and
  2. The US blocks all entry into the country by unvaccinated people (which it cannot do).

Instead of figuring out how to orient 100% of US capacity to producing enough vaccine to eliminate the virus worldwide, Trump is engaged in isolationist, superstitious fantasies.

Within hours, Curvac had told Trump to go fuck himself and announced that any vaccine they produce will be available worldwide.

Folding@Home to beat covid (permalink)

Since the year 2000 (!), Folding@Home has been harnessing the power of idle personal computers to do scientific work on protein folding, using donated cycles to improve science. Now they're running 23 (!!) projects to help improve our scientific understanding of covid-19.

"We’re simulating the dynamics of COVID-19 proteins to hunt for new therapeutic opportunities."

They've already used this to locate sites in the Ebola protein that can be targeted by therapeutics.

Download your Folding@Home client here (Mac/Win/Lin)

Then choose your simulation from here. Be prepared to wait for your computer to be given work – they're overwhelmed with cycles at the moment.

Italian hospitals fix their ventilators with 3D printed parts (permalink)

A Brescia hospital urgenty needed valves for their ventilators. A journalist contacted the local Fablab, who contacted a local 3D printing expert who came to the hospital, redesigned the part, and printed a replacement on the spot.

Within a day, 10 patients were breathing with respirators incorporating 3D printed parts.

How to prepare for coming layoffs (permalink)

It's not outlandish to prepare for a recession (and hence layoffs) as a result of Covid-19. And while techies have a robust labor-market relative to other sectors, tech-workers are not immune from mass layoffs when their employers contract sharply or shut down altogether.

Jacob Kaplan-Moss has been here before and has some tips for techies to prepare for unemployment. He points out that the highest layoff risk comes to juniors (unprotected and easy to jettison), seniors (highest paid), and prickly people (politically easier to lay off) and underperformers (obvs).

How do you prep for layoffs? First, try to have 1 year's savings in the bank (advice from the 2000 dotcom crash). You probably can't do this, but start saving now. Cancel all nonessential expenses.

Next, update your resume. When layoffs start cascading, being ready to start applying for jobs can give you a head-start over your competition.

Kaplan-Moss suggests setting aside an hour every quarter to update your CV – this is good advice generally, as you never know when someone will ask for your resume (periodically I have to produce one for a visa or a grant, for example).

Practice interviews, using online resources, like this one:

In addition, contact your "professional network" and start feeling them out;Tb and brush up on your tech skills.

Leaked Tiktok moderation guidelines are a censoring mess (permalink)

There's a lot going on in The Intercept's deep dive into two leaked set of moderation guidelines from Bytedance, parent company of Tiktok, ably reported (as ever) by Sam Biddle.

First is a confirmaton of Tiktok's policy of telling moderators to downrank videos from unattractive, fat, old or poor people, and signs of poverty. Homes need to have "no obvious slummy charactor" (sic), without a "crack on the wall" or "old and disreputable decorations."

The reasoning is clear "This kind of environment is not that suitable for new users for being less fancy and appealing" (overweight, poor, old or unattractive users lower the tone). Tiktok spox Josh Gartner said these were to prevent bullying, (but they don't mention bullying).

The leaks are pretty frank about their ableism and lookism, banning "low quality" traits including "abnormal body shape," "ugly facial looks," dwarfism, "obvious beer belly," "too many wrinkles," and "eye disorders."

They also ban "slums, rural fields" and "dilapidated housing."

The flipside of this is that Tiktok mods secretly contacting influencers to clue them in on secret moderation criteria that might get them downranked or banned, creating a group of insiders who are protected from the arbitrary, shadow regulation regime other Tiktokers never see.

That shadow regime is documented in a second set of leaks, which details the subjects and views that can get you kicked, suspended or downranked from the platform. Anything that embarrasses or upsets China is obviously out, like Falun Gong or Tiananmen.

Beyond that, livestreams of encounters with cops, videos that criticize the military, or criticism Tiktok itself are all lifetime bannable offenses – while racism and hate speech get you a one-month suspension.

Also revealed: Tiktok has a bunch of fake accounts maintained by its own staff, who gank influencer videos from Instagram that look classy and fun, as a way of shifting the content mix on the platform.

But even as these accounts were focusing on tags like "#BeachGirl," actual Tiktok users who posted pictures of themselves in swimwear faced temporary or permanent bans.

(You can get a permanent ban for wearing a garment that reveals "outline of female nipples").

There's also a "voice vulgarity" category of guidelines, including bans for "Singing or playing music pornography contents, sexual cues, etc," or "discussing the topic of sexual reproduction." You can also get banned for flipping the bird – but only if you do it more than twice.

Tiktok's appeal is that they use secret sauce to elevate accounts with few followers and share them with millions of viewers. The legend is that this is a way to rocket the humble but meretricious to fame, but the leaks reveal that no olds, fats, or poors need apply.

Canceled Bar Mitzvah is still a mitzvah (permalink)

A heartwarming story of "Covered Dish" behavior in the time of coronavirus! "Friends canceled their son's Bar Mitzvah this weekend but decided to keep the contract with their caterer, a tiny Hmong-owned business. They delivered the food to friends in quarantine & sent pans home with others."

(Image: Eli, CC BY)

Shmoocon 2020 videos online (permalink)

It's been years since I last attended a Shmoocon, but holy moly, is it ever a great annual infosec con. They've just put the 2020 videos online, which affords you plenty of viewing for your lockdown pleasure.

You might have already heard about Samantha Mosely's presentation about how she and her teen friends defeat Instagram's privacy invasions:

Here's some gnarly stuff: securing satellites and space-base comms, presented by three researchers styling themselves Yakko, Wakko and Dot (swoon!).

Feed your inner technothriller writer with this one, on "anti-forensics" ("the practice of modifying or removing data so that others cannot find it later during an investigation").

How NGOs – and you at home – can use "open source intelligence" to help support human rights and survivors of human rights abuses.

A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure guide to surviving ransomware attacks, using data gleaned from real attacks and recoveries.

Analyzing the effects of 200 data-breaches on public companies' share prices (shareholder capitalism won't save us from overcollection, overretention and bad security).

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Apple steals iTunes customers' paid-for rights to stream

#15yrago My talk from ETECH: All Complex Ecosystems Have Parasites

#15yrsago ETECH Notes: Folksonomy, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mess (Schachter, Wales, Shirky and Butterfield)

#15yrsago ETECH Notes: Feral Robotics and Some Other Quacking, Shaking, Bubbling Robots (Natalie Jeremijenko)

#10yrsago Downloadable 3D cover for MAKERS is now also an article of commerce

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Geoff MacDougall (, Bleeping Computer (, Javier Candiera (, Four Short Links (, Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing: I've just finished rewrites on a short story, "The Canadian Miracle," for MIT Tech Review. It's a story set in the world of my next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. I've also just completed "Baby Twitter," a piece of design fiction also set in The Lost Cause's prehistory, for a British think-tank. I'm getting geared up to start work on the novel next.

Currently reading: Just started Lauren Beukes's forthcoming Afterland: it's Y the Last Man plus plus, and two chapters in, it's amazeballs. Last month, I finished Andrea Bernstein's "American Oligarchs"; it's a magnificent history of the Kushner and Trump families, showing how they cheated, stole and lied their way into power. I'm getting really into Anna Weiner's memoir about tech, "Uncanny Valley." I just loaded Matt Stoller's "Goliath" onto my underwater MP3 player and I'm listening to it as I swim laps.

Latest podcast: When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth

Upcoming books: "Poesy the Monster Slayer" (Jul 2020), a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here:

(we're having a launch for it in Burbank on July 11 at Dark Delicacies and you can get me AND Poesy to sign it and Dark Del will ship it to the monster kids in your life in time for the release date).

"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden:

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