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5
May

Life on the Internet, is the only one possible?

Today, there are no options. Only two things remain: the digital life and the computing devices in our homes, which are currently the real “exit doors”. The mandatory confinement which has been imposed by the tragic COVID-19 plague — aka coronavirus —, is giving us no option. The resistant jobs, e.g., Education, ICT, Press and Entertainment, which are now more necessary than ever, only remain thanks to those devices called computers (laptops, smartphones, desktop PCs).

A brutal change in the cultural and behavioural paradigms has suddenly happened without alternatives… “you are up for it or you are up for it”. This kind of situation usually generates uncertainty. Besides, we have found that we cannot coexist with this damned word — even to such a point of accepting lies to feel a little bit safer — and that is really stressing us. But do not panic. There are a lot of unanswered questions. We know neither how long the isolation will last nor how the desired moment of coming back to normal life will be. However, it is possible to decide what we can do during our “incarceration”. There it is where necessity appears – it is a necessity, not a virtue — the necessity of creating a digital life for working, for entertaining us, for studying, for gathering information and for communicating. Within this process, we may have found that we are not very “skilled” in living in that digital world because we have not much experience on that. Besides, we are not used to it, and we are lacking the basic physical means to do it: bandwidth, computers, cameras, microphones, and the knowledge of using software tools and applications. Some of these lacks can be easily solved by online shopping, acquiring devices or services, but others will have to be postponed until a better occasion.

The communities, which are nothing more than a bunch of people, face the same challenge: either they suspend their “community” life until further notice, or they try to keep their usual activities going on and becoming, at least for a while, 100% digital communities or online communities. HackMadrid%27, the community to which I belong and I helped to create, has decided to foster an intense online life with the goal of keeping the community alive. Additionally, we want to collaborate to make this “incarceration” more bearable and less harmful to the people currently living on “survive” mode. We have also identified several shortages of means and/or knowledge in many aspects. However, we are good hackers, we do not hesitate learning, experimenting and sharing our knowledge by developing an intelligent and amusing hacking. We must honour the name of our community after all. That is the reason why we are developing, with a remarkable effort, an intense agenda of online events from talks, workshops, courses, meetings and CTFs. I take the liberty of including the link where all those activities are currently announced: Online Activities of HackMadrid.

Some real “stars” share the knowledge with an enthusiastic audience, and the others, who are usually behind the scenes, it is because we are not skilled enough to, for example, choose the right platform for webinars or online talks /video conference. As a guiding principle and our main priority, we select open source software and open source platforms, and we avoid using applications which request a lot of “unnecessary data”, just simply because we don’t want to pay them with our private information. Guided by these principles, we are using Jitsi, an open source multi-platform software for video conferences and webinars, and OBS Studio, another open-source tool for video recording and live streaming. The live streaming is frequently done using Twitch and occasionally YouTube. We use Twitter and Telegram channels to allow the audience to ask questions to the speakers. Of course, it is the technical part and the production part where we need more experience. It means that we need to make an extra effort to improve, and we will do it for sure. We know that we only can make it if we mobilise the “collective intelligence”, which is our major strength. It means that we need the participation and the ideas of all the community. Therefore, I also include the link of our discussion and activities forum: t.me/hackmadrid. We plan to turn it into a hive of ideas and projects, keeping always in mind, of course, that open-source and non-profit activities are our roots.

Some suggestions which may help those who feel now trapped in this confinement period and don’t own a very powerful computer. Attention! Many times it is not necessary to change the device, only operating system. GNU/Linux has some light “operating systems” or distributions which allow you to comfortably re-use the old machines. You can find a great offer of open-source videogames, entertainment platforms movies and TV show such as Stremio, videoconferencing applications and VOIP software such as Signal (encrypted communications, much more secure than the usual ones). Maybe it is the right moment to explore those technologies which are unknown for us but can make our access to the internet and our emails more secure. Software tools such as Tor (a web browser which has excellent security and anonymity capabilities), ProtonMail and/or CTemplar, both are end-to-end encrypted email platforms and with many additional security capabilities. There are numerous platforms hosting educational courses about a huge variety of themes. Therefore, our proposal is #weStayAtHome, but #weKeepSharingKnowledge for an #AmusingIntelligentHacking.

Daniel Mery

Happy online hacking

HackMadrid co-founder – BlockMAD co-founder – HaskellMAD co-founder

Translation by Santiago Moreira 

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