Libraries, the Internet we were promised, and the Internet we got

Today Devine Lu Linvega is documenting some of their (incredibly frustrating) internet issues.

2FA isn’t an option for everybody.

Forced browser updates go from being a mere inconvenience to an internet-breaking nightmare.

I believe that in the not-too-distant future, many of us — even those of us who don’t live on sailboats — will be living with networks much like 100r’s, composed of multiple computers happily chatting with each other on a LAN, with slow, intermittent access to the Internet. Seeing these pain points makes me feel like I’m looking into my own future.

Someone might say “that’s not so bad, we used to have LANs that didn’t have any internet access at all, and it worked fine.” I remember those days too (I’ve even carried a PC and CRT monitor to a friend’s house to play games). But software in the 90s (and early 00s) was written without the assumption of constant internet access, and 20 years later that’s not always true anymore. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but it ought to be criminal for companies like Adobe to turn their programs into “subscription services”.

One random idea: for people using networks like these, it would be useful if some *nix distro (perhaps one that targets old hardware already) distributed a stripped-down version of their software repository over BitTorrent. I imagine something on the order of tens of gigabytes of packages that are important, popular, or frequently updated. Maybe it’s as simple as a network of caching proxies for packages that share the latest version of everything with each other?

A quick search uncovered some efforts in this direction 10+ years ago with Debian.

Networks like this also offer a reason to prefer media piracy via BitTorrent over sanctioned streaming services (other reasons include: lower carbon consumption, the illegitimacy of intellectual property laws). I am aware of some private trackers that are still kicking, but it seems that even pirates have mostly moved to streaming. And why shouldn’t they have? Along with the content people want, they can stream the gross, scammy, and often malicious ads that make the prospect of running a piracy website profitable.

Maybe a piece of the solution to these problems is a collection of data combining these ideas, distributed over BitTorrent (or something like it), and shared between geographically scattered “cultural centers” (which can include people’s homes/sailboats). It could contain a choice selection of OS packages, movies, music, ebooks, journal articles (scientific and otherwise), games, encyclopedia entries, and a few gigs of “good content” from the web.

I guess I’ve just described “a library”.

Or maybe I’m describing the Internet that we were promised, with one (not fully thought out) method for delivering it over the Internet we got.