Revelations in Web Starvation

Yes­ter­day, I fin­ished mov­ing out of the sit­u­a­tion I’d been liv­ing in for ~6 weeks in the base­ment of a south­east Port­land home near the west­ern base of Mt. Tabor. You’d see it just across from the flat Wash­ing­ton Mall-ish grass rec­tan­gle that pro­vides dar­ing sub­ur­ban explor­ers their most worth­while reward for reach­ing the top. It resem­bles one of many local res­i­den­tial tem­plates which I was com­plete­ly unequipped to under­stand when I arrived in the area last year. You’ll nev­er observe any of its inhab­i­tants out­side doing any of the things peo­ple do when they are unaware of — or uncon­cerned with being observed. Walk­ing by an after­noon front yard “fam­i­ly gath­er­ing” (young white par­ents and their one or two chil­dren) is a prospect of haste. Intro­duc­ing new move­ment to the vicin­i­ty after the sun has gone down stirs a dis­rup­tion from deep with­in its ener­gy. Every­one in this town is afraid. I say it’s an unnat­ur­al way to live, but I’m just a fuck­ing bump­kin.

As you may or may not have observed, the vast major­i­ty of my work­ing being lives on the World Wide Web, which requires, fun­da­men­tal­ly…. An inter­net con­nec­tion. In most any oth­er present-day first world cir­cum­stance, these are infi­nite­ly avail­able, but I dis­cov­ered – after the mov­ing process was entire­ly com­plet­ed, of course – that my ten­ants did actu­al­ly have an in-house con­nec­tion of their own. They explained to me that their neigh­bor – an “IT pro­fes­sion­al” for IBM – had offered to let them use his WiFi net­work, and they’d found the arrange­ment suf­fi­cient. How­ev­er, because IBM is The archa­ic mar­que of dig­i­tal fas­cism (dis­clo­sure: they are also my sworn blood ene­my,) it wasn’t alto­geth­er a sur­prise when they told me that his offer did not extend to “guests.”

I con­sid­ered that a defined peri­od of WiFi fast­ing at home could make for an inter­est­ing exper­i­ment — per­haps even a need­ed men­tal reset — and I couldn’t rea­son­ably afford to acquire my own ded­i­cat­ed 4G hotspot, any­way. The real­i­ty became a relent­less para­noid bat­tle for any trick­le of access — some­times for a dozen bytes per sec­ond; for just the most basic dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions like SMS and email — which led to more super­sti­tious hypothe­ses about pre­car­i­ous anten­na ori­en­ta­tion, progress bar hal­lu­ci­na­tions, out-of-con­trol frus­tra­tion, and hope­less fix­a­tion with refresh com­mands than I remem­ber from 2nd gen­er­a­tion cell net­works in the Mid­west, 10 years ago, or even domes­tic dial-up, and tru­ly revealed the extent to which I’d tak­en con­nec­tiv­i­ty for grant­ed.

My obser­va­tions of my own behav­ior through­out this drought are worth more than their mild amuse­ment: even this pet­ty dis­par­i­ty (I was nev­er more than two or three yards from near­ly-whole sig­nal at the top of the out­side stairs) re-sen­si­tized my per­spec­tive to the abstract con­cept of net­work unre­li­a­bil­i­ty which I’d been entire­ly spared since pre­pu­bes­cence. Though 4 bil­lion human beings now reg­u­lar­ly inter­act with the World Wide Web, their con­nec­tions span a math­e­mat­i­cal­ly gar­gan­tu­an spec­trum of speed and reli­a­bil­i­ty. In urban­iz­ing myself as an adult, I have uncon­scious­ly latched on to the enti­tled ide­al that inter­net access is a pub­lic ser­vice and accept­ed dra­mat­i­cal­ly-increas­ing depen­dence on ser­vices that engorge greater and greater vol­umes of band­width with­out any expla­na­tion but their lack of incen­tives for effi­cien­cy. I reflect on my rela­tion­ship with tech­nol­o­gy every day, yet I still became an obliv­i­ous data glut­ton in mind-bog­gling­ly lit­tle time.

The cur­rent state of con­nec­tiv­i­ty in the Unit­ed States, alone is quite alarm­ing under 5-year-absent exam­i­na­tion. Mobile car­ri­ers are still merg­ing and the com­part­men­tal­iza­tion of all ISP cus­tomers between pri­or­i­ti­za­tion tiers con­tin­ues to be test­ed, less encum­bered by reg­u­la­to­ry safe­guards than ever. I don’t know my pol­i­tics on this issue, nor do I have any spe­cif­ic solu­tions, but I’d point to the work of the Nation­al Dig­i­tal Inclu­sion Alliance, and express only that I hope the pace of the technology’s progress is greater than the growth of its mer­chants’ imag­i­na­tions and the scope of their greed so that the sheer vol­ume of plen­ty over­comes even the short­est-sight­ed, and human­i­ty as a whole con­tin­ues toward a more just dis­tri­b­u­tion of con­nec­tiv­i­ty. What I am in a posi­tion to share are the rev­e­la­tions about our cur­rent infra­struc­ture, soft­ware ser­vices, and hard­ware devices I could only have dis­cov­ered from such an expe­ri­ence.

Variables

Opera’s con­nec­tiv­i­ty error mas­cot is the cutest brows­er char­ac­ter. Chal­lenge Me.

I remem­ber stand­ing on top of a John Deere combine’s 15ft-high roof in order to suc­cess­ful­ly make a tele­phone call 10 years ago — one of thou­sands of behav­iors which were more abrupt­ly and uni­ver­sal­ly required for a few years and sub­se­quent­ly more abrupt­ly for­got­ten than any oth­er such unit­ed tick in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. This blip of shared tech­no­log­i­cal adver­si­ty also led to an unfath­omably vast col­lec­tive mythol­o­gy sur­round­ing incred­i­bly tedious manip­u­la­tion of our archa­ic hand­sets in vary­ing degrees of des­per­a­tion for just one bar.


My Sprint plan includes unlim­it­ed 4G LTE data for my iPhone 8 Plus with a 10GB teth­er­ing lim­it — which per­formed so admirably in the lone­ly role of my thin teth­er to the rest of the world that I am oblig­at­ed to actu­al­ly use the phrase like a champ, but the gen­er­al qual­i­ty of its mobile data con­nec­tion was dra­mat­i­cal­ly fucked by the stu­dio apartment’s depth. From the space’s geo­met­ric cen­ter at stom­ach-lev­el, the hand­set indi­cates “1x,” mean­ing CDMA 1x, which is tech­ni­cal­ly a data con­nec­tion, but cer­tain­ly not in any usable sense for the net­work appli­ca­tions of 2018. The native Twit­ter app, Apple Mail, Snapchat, Insta­gram & Face­book, Safari, Opera Mini, Fire­fox, Chrome, and all oth­ers I test­ed in this con­di­tion would sim­ply time­out – giv­ing up after a minute or two of repeat­ed attempts before declin­ing to con­tin­ue, each in their own minor vari­a­tions. An inter­est­ing anec­dote: in a per­ti­nent reflec­tion our human bal­loon­ing expec­ta­tions for con­nec­tiv­i­ty at all times, the lan­guage of our cre­ations across both iOS and desk­top appli­ca­tions has recent­ly become notice­ably less account­able and more accusato­ry. Instead of say­ing “____ can’t con­nect to the inter­net,” many of the browsers will declare an absolute: three is no inter­net con­nec­tion, or just straight up blame the user: “you are not con­nect­ed to the inter­net.” (Empha­sis mine.) No apolo­gies… No regrets.

Dude, no wifi? Where the fuck are U?

Direct­ly above my head’s place on the bed, the phone could be propped on the sill of the East-fac­ing win­dow on a clear-skied day, enabling it to scrounge up and loose­ly estab­lish enough con­tact to receive calls and text mes­sages, claim­ing 1–4 3G “bars,” and a sin­gle in 4G at night, though one over­cast North­west­ern week basi­cal­ly did it in com­plete­ly. If we were actu­al­ly doing some­thing to notice­ably increase our old Nokia box­es’ band­width bids on those ear­ly net­works by turn­ing them every which way to find “bet­ter recep­tion,” it’s com­plete­ly futile on cur­rent devices. (I’m fair­ly sure I remem­ber a net­work pro­fes­sion­al explain­ing this to me when LTE was first gain­ing trac­tion.) It was imme­di­ate­ly appar­ent that ori­en­ta­tion had no effect, but the handset’s bear­ing cer­tain­ly did… Most sen­si­tive­ly so. I real­ized quite ear­ly on that I should endeav­or not to spend too much time stand­ing in dif­fer­ent posi­tions through­out the space attempt­ing to will on a brows­er loader bar above a sto­ry I’ve prob­a­bly read already. Intstead, I com­mit­ted to the very first posi­tion that indi­cat­ed any cor­re­la­tion what­so­ev­er with a bet­ter con­nec­tion: atop the bis­cuit tin on the met­al rack near­est the out­side door.

It’s been three months, but I’m still using my tired old Hewlett-Packard 6930p back­up machine, so I was very skep­ti­cal about the odds we’d be suc­cess­ful­ly reli­ably pair­ing its ancient net­work adapter – now worth just $9.99 – with that of A Cel­lu­lar Phone 10 years its junior with­out strug­gling sig­nif­i­cant­ly with range or reli­a­bil­i­ty, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing that it can­not run a sin­gle one of its vast library of pro­pri­etary dri­vers on Lin­ux. You’d at least assume they’d need to be prac­ti­cal­ly touch­ing each oth­er to main­tain a smooth mar­riage, yet the only com­pro­mise I had to make on the local end was to bring them near to each oth­er as they paired. After­wards, I could return the phone to its tin and work on the lap­top from the kitchen table, 12–15 feet away. (Curi­ous­ly enough, the 6930p itself shipped with hotspot capa­bil­i­ty by way of the SIM card slot behind the unit’s main bat­tery.)

Quan­ti­fy­ing the speed of a mobile data con­nec­tion as you would a ded­i­cat­ed WiFi net­work is incon­gru­ent because the for­mer trades in a much less con­sis­tent pack­et stream. That’s the extent of my knowl­edge, but it’s easy to visu­al­ize: a sig­nal that can trav­el a mile or two in big glob­ules bound to be inter­cept­ed in splash­es upon the device’s lit­tle anten­nae, ver­sus your home network’s local, even­ly dis­trib­uted sauna of irra­di­at­ed mist. It’s much less def­i­nite, to say the least, and I can’t actu­al­ly com­pre­hend the sort of voodoo that’s required in order to expand and main­tain the net­works as they are, nor would I ever wish to bur­den myself with such knowl­edge ever again, which prob­a­bly makes these words noth­ing more than a hasty account of none but anoth­er aver­age, exces­sive­ly net­work-priv­i­leged moth­er­fuck­er. How­ev­er, if I’m some­how gain­ing on some­thing in my recent Y2K, holy shit how did the time fly by so fast quarter(?)-life cri­sis bull­shit, some worth­while answers might be found.

It’s not just that it’d be enter­tain­ing to trav­el the Bible belt snatch­ing up the flick­ers of pecu­liar rur­al Ame­ri­ans’ most tech­no­log­i­cal­ly-vul­ner­a­ble moments in an attempt to dis­cov­er some kind of telecom/Nextel/U.S. Cel­lu­lar pro­to-folk­lore (though I am 100% fuck­ing seri­ous about such a com­pi­la­tion, and rel­e­vant par­ties should Hit Me Up,) — it’s an absolute­ly essen­tial require­ment for us to keep our col­lec­tive heads and retain any abil­i­ty to bal­ance our sov­er­eign per­spec­tives. I have thought about tech­nol­o­gy and our greater rela­tion­ship with it every day, yet a sin­gle month spent just six feet from a sol­id inter­net con­nec­tion ren­dered me at times com­plete­ly and far too obliv­i­ous­ly inef­fec­tive.

The heroes of this Tedious Tale are Opera’s web brows­er and Telegram, espe­cial­ly. As I men­tioned last week on End User’s rec­ol­lec­tion of the ordeal, their band­width fru­gal­i­ty wouldn’t be rad­i­cal­ly con­ser­v­a­tive had the rest of us Online Folk not become so utter­ly waste­ful. The former’s “Opera Tur­bo” fea­ture is a fair­ly-recent and piti­ful­ly-under­hyped inno­va­tion which routes user traf­fic through Opera’s own CDN and choice meth­ods of com­pres­sion to con­serve capped data and bridge poor con­nec­tions as the infor­ma­tion is divert­ed toward the range of their penul­ti­mate snip­ping, skim­ming, and trim­ming. The result? My total band­width con­sump­tion plum­met­ed dra­mat­i­cal­ly, along with the qual­i­ty in con­nec­tion that was required for web pages to actu­al­ly dis­play. So mirac­u­lous and dra­mat­ic was its con­tri­bu­tion that I end­ed the month with a whole 3 giga­bytes to spare of my 10GB hotspot cap. In the process of writ­ing the above two para­graphs direct­ly to Word­Press’ new Guten­berg block edi­tor via Fire­fox, this machine has already burned away 899.2MB after no more than 90 min­utes spent in a con­di­tion some might even call idle, though it’s tech­ni­cal­ly a beta release, and I am in the midst of an acute reac­tionary desire to feast on the web.

The most impres­sive play­er by far, though, was the red-blood­ed VoIP and IM ser­vice Telegram, which I and my friend found to be sig­nif­i­cant­ly more reli­able than SMS mes­sages, even, which would send tele­com engi­neers to skulk away their crip­pling shame in dark places for no less than twen­ty years, in a more  ide­al cul­ture. How­ev­er, our real­i­ty is one of such abun­dance that com­par­ing between thou­sands or mil­lions of bytes per sec­ond has descend­ed into the deep­est chasms of irrel­e­vance. More like­ly than not, you’ll nev­er again live with­out an excep­tion­al near­by con­nec­tion for any notice­able stretch of time — not for the rest of your whole dang Online Life. Espe­cial­ly since you’ve found your­self here — this web­site is a hun­dred times or more heav­ier than it actu­al­ly needs to be, not because its cre­ator is a brain­dead cyberid­iot, but because vir­tu­al­ly every com­po­nent of web devel­op­ment cul­ture some­how man­aged to end up in a griz­zly divorce with vir­tu­al­ly every com­mand­ment from its foun­da­tion­al lit­er­a­ture of Best Prac­tices. Thanks in part to an intrigu­ing online project by LOW TECH MAGAZINE, such an accu­sa­tion no longer comes exclu­sive­ly from a place of aes­thet­ic, tech­ni­cal, or socioe­co­nom­ic judge­ment, but one of envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­i­ty.

Instead of con­tin­u­ing upon anoth­er rant about the hor­rors of this place where Matt and Bill left us to die, though, I’ve got to return to the essen­tial, human­i­tar­i­an work of archiv­ing the entire­ty of The Com­put­er Chron­i­cles, but I must leave you with a strange lit­tle piece of the truth we’ve just dis­cov­ered togeth­er: keep­ing a Tum­blr account is too envi­ron­men­tal­ly destruc­tive to be veg­an.

Transformation & Migration

Last month, I announced on Extra­tone’s Patre­on that I’d reached a cer­tain epiphany: the best course of action is to relaunch Extra­tone as an Elec­tron­ic Music Mag­a­zine.

While a few flag­ships of the Amer­i­can under­ground tech­no mag­a­zine like Trax have man­aged to remain afloat, they’ve been worn down into com­pla­cen­cy by the mel­low­ing of their scene and unavoid­ably shift­ing pri­or­i­ties after the years they’ve got on us. It’s been alarm­ing­ly appar­ent since 2012 that music jour­nal­ism would be total­ly unequipped to spot the heroes of the genre and DAW bust­ing Twit­ter gang in the cru­cial moment.

I’ve been less quick to begin the nec­es­sary changes than would be ide­al, but the idea is com­ing togeth­er. In the first of our new month­ly free­lance album reviews, Adam Bex­ten did a won­der­ful job of sum­ming the sig­nif­i­cance and the tech­ni­cal expe­ri­ence of Robyn’s Body Talk.

Robyn arrives just in the knick of time, offer­ing the escapism of grand pro­duc­tion, unfor­get­table lyrics and a per­fect world where even our great­est prob­lems can be solved out on the dance­floor… [It’s] not going to actu­al­ly save the world, but it pro­vides lis­ten­ers a per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to escape the heat, dance it out and – at its best – see them­selves in a remark­ably hon­est way.

I’m glad our call for reviews found its way to Adam — his work cer­tain­ly made me a Robyn fan, and we’d be priv­i­leged to pub­lish more of his thoughts in the future.

Extranet V. 4.4

Before I/we can fig­ure out how much redesign­ing will real­ly be nec­es­sary for the future, slim, music-cen­tric web­site (Ver­sion 5,) let’s take a moment to doc­u­ment a few in-the-mean­time changes which may or may not car­ry over. After a bunch of fid­dling in late July, I changed most of the Extranet’s lega­cy typog­ra­phy in favor of mod­ern, most­ly open source, most­ly well-loved Google fonts. Body text now wears Crim­son Text, Head­ings are now in my per­son­al favorite IBM Plex Sans Con­densed, and Nav­i­ga­tion is in the infa­mous Incon­so­la­ta.

I also end­ed up rad­i­cal­ly chang­ing the col­or palette around the newsletter’s new vin­tage NSA poster-inspired land­ing page, expand­ing upon FEFBEA. “FRESH” has been replaced with “MUSIC” on the main menu, link­ing to the new ver­ti­cal, which I intend to make much less plain in the near future. Linked in the cat­e­go­ry descrip­tion is the in-progress ‘E List’ — a new page meant to define who Extra­tone is for as explic­it­ly and pre­cise­ly as pos­si­ble. The pre­vi­ous­ly-des­ti­tute Gerogerigegege chan­nel in our Dis­cord has been allo­cat­ed for links to music and music-relat­ed reads. Please do invite any­one you know in the gen­er­al orbit of elec­tron­ic music (lis­ten­er, cre­ator, crit­ic) by spread­ing extratone.com/talkmusic.

It’s near­ly a sure thing: I’ll be migrat­ing the archive of my Let­ters from the Edi­tor to this blog. It’s as yet unde­cid­ed whether or not the work of our past 2.5 years will be kept “hid­den” on the main CMS (min­i­mal­ly hyper­linked to,) or if it’s worth mov­ing the whole thing as it is to a sub­do­main. As always, if you’d like to share any thoughts/insights you may have on this, do please con­tact me by Email or Twit­ter.

Per­haps the new pri­ma­ry ban­ner. What do you think?

Sorry Mom, I’m Still Fucking Blogging

Though its rel­e­vant to per­haps 2 oth­er liv­ing peo­ple, my ultra-con­nect­ed Word­Press exper­i­ment at extratone.com/shife is in the process of being moved here as part of sep­a­rat­ing my own work from Extra­tone. I’m going to leave most of the triv­ial design exper­i­ments behind and per­haps actu­al­ly write explic­it­ly with­in the blog­ging medi­um? (I doubt there’ll be much con­sis­ten­cy or reg­u­lar­i­ty.)

The Future

I’ve real­ly wast­ed a lot of your time in the process of fig­ur­ing out what the fuck the World Wide Web real­ly is, but this is it — I actu­al­ly know how to get out of the way and do what I’ve been try­ing to do all along, and it’s fuck­ing impor­tant. Through­out my recent, exten­sive jour­ney through a sig­nif­i­cant breadth of online prop­er­ties, I’ve as yet been unable to find any pub­li­ca­tions — estab­lish­ment or oth­er­wise — who are even the slight­est bit equipped to cel­e­brate LGBTQ, genre-bust­ing elec­tron­ic musi­cians. I pas­sion­ate­ly believe this stuff is urgent­ly need­ed by a bunch of young lis­ten­ers who’s explo­ration is being active­ly and dis­as­trous­ly lim­it­ed by stream­ing ser­vices and the cur­rent music crit­i­cism estab­lish­ment.

I sup­pose the future ele­va­tor pitch would be some­thing like “imag­ine The Vil­lage Voice but with a glob­al eye and a tru­ly diverse, ded­i­cat­ed readership/community which pri­mar­i­ly publishes/employs LGBTQ and non-white writ­ers.” If that elic­its even a frac­tion of the excite­ment with­in you as it does with­in me, here’s how you can help

  • If you’ve got some cash to spare, sub­scribe via our Patre­on and help us reach $25/month so that I may buy hot pock­ets instead of spend­ing my own mon­ey on month­ly free­lance album reviews.
  • If you’ve got some thoughts/interesting tunes/compelling reads to spare, we’d be delight­ed to have you stop by our Dis­cord.
  • If you’ve got some friends, bring us up! If you just hate Extratone.com, itself, then just tell them about the work of the extra­or­di­nary cre­ators we endeav­or to uplift.

The spe­cial print edi­tion is com­ing, but I’m going to focus my ener­gy on accomplishing/pondering the future as I can for the time being.

WordPress, MovableType

Kara Swish­er inter­viewed Matt Mul­len­weg on Recode Decode! It’s extreme­ly sad how excit­ed I was to see this in my pod­cast feed (and that I’m already writ­ing about it before the post has actu­al­ly gone up on Recode, itself.)

We Called it Guten­berg for a Rea­son

They dis­cussed Mov­able­Type briefly, which was revived in 2013 and now has a 50% Japan­ese lan­guage user­ship, and I’d real­ly like to know how that hap­pened.

Also, I had no idea his and Word­Press’ com­pa­ny, Automat­tic owned Lon­greads and Atavist. Hilar­i­ous­ly, I also found out his old blog themes are now avail­able in the Word­Press theme direc­to­ry. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I had to wait a whole darned week for a “light­ly-edit­ed tran­script” [local back­up] of this episode, but frankly, I’m just glad they decid­ed it was worth tran­scrib­ing at all, con­sid­er­ing Word­Press’ out-of-the-excitable-for-dab­blers sta­tus. I mean… it was prob­a­bly a bit cru­el to place Mullenweg’s episode in direct fol­lowup to Kara Swisher’s inter­view with Mark Zucker­berg the pre­vi­ous week, which — for obvi­ous and entire­ly-jus­ti­fied rea­sons — will sure­ly be the most-lis­tened-to Recode Decode episode by far in its recent his­to­ry, at least. 

I’ve been doing Word­Press for 15 years and I’d like to do it the rest of my life.”

Yiokes! Ya know? You’re damned right, “oof.”

I think every tech com­pa­ny should have an edi­to­r­i­al team.”

Out of sign­f­i­cant and near­ly-unbear­ably heavy bias, I must agree whole­heart­ed­ly with this state­ment — and Mullenweg’s req­ui­site elab­o­ra­tion — and I must leave you with the expres­sion of one final wish: that Zucker­berg had been inter­viewed post-Matt, instead, and Kara Swish­er would’ve brought this up with him.

BANG

I can’t believe I for­got about that !s are referred to in the pub­lish­ing indus­try with “bang,” but from now on, I’m going to make an effort to use it “banal­ly,” con­sid­er­ing how much I already make an effort to uti­lize the whole uni­code library. The 99% Invis­i­ble web­site is 100% Nerd Shit, but it does look pret­ty great.