The Digital Curmudgeon
Welcome to the dark side of the digital and on-line revolution.
It's not that the conversion of all of our creative efforts to bits and
the relevation of all those bits to "the cloud" is necessarily bad, but
any revolution, and what has happened is certainly a revolution, has
consequences, and this site contains essays where I explore those
Who I am
First, be assured I'm not a techology luddite. I am a Ph.D.
computer scientist who worked for 30 years on many of the technologies
that underpin today's digital world: Multi-user, secure, reliable
computing platforms, distributed data, the internet, VoIP, mobile
computing and communications, and many more. I was involved in
some of the earliest social networking software (Usenet and netnews),
and in countless efforts to open up the telecommunications network and
the operating systems that run our critical software to enable
What I feel about the modern digital world
While the conversion of all our information to bits has lead to many
advancements, it has also created many new problems. Most arise
because the digital world is less transparent, more complex, and
less easily understood by the average person, who often has no idea how
things like mobile payments, social networking, and mobile "apps"
really work, and thus what risks are involved and how to minimize
them. Many of the issues are new even to old timers because, in
short, "this isn't your fathers digital world".
In the early days of the internet and many of the other technologies we
now depend on the key technologies were built by academic and industry
researchers, volunteers, and others driven by the notion that what they
were doing was building a better world. Profit rarely entered the
discussion, and "hacking" was something done by students exploring the
world motivated mainly by gaining knowledge or leaving a mark.
Many implementations were public domain or "open source", (even before
that term was defined), and standards were set by volunteer committees
of those pioneers whose motivation was simply insuring things worked.
As the network became an important part of our modern world, the
character of networking changed. Major corporations got involved
building web and mobile technology, and those companies wanted to find
ways to make money. Many built proprietary solutions (AOL,
Facebook, Twitter, etc.) which deliver services to their users in a
"walled garden" approach, where the company controls what users see and
do in an impleentation proprietary to the provider rather than driven
by standards to interwork with solutions built by others. As the
value off the information we entrust to the network has increased, it
hasn't escaped the notice of criminals and con artists, who "hack" our
networks for financial gain.
Unfortunately, it has been demonstrated many times that people are all
too willing to place their trust in computers, and this is where the
dark side lies. People trust that the web site they are viewing
really represents their bank and that information they enter cannot be
viewed by others, but in fact that trust may be misplaced. Just
as thousands are decieved by telephone scammers claiming to be someone
they aren't or fraudulent mailings, fraud and crime in the digital
world is all too easy and too common. People also tend to believe
that information in their computers or cloud accounts is as permanent
as documents in a bank safe deposit box, but again, there are many ways
things can go wrong.