The Null Device

2001/7/13

Those zany zucchinis at the Cult of the Dead Cow, who brought you Back Orifice, are at it again. Their latest project, soon to be released, is named Peekabooty, and is a tool which supposedly makes life really difficult for anyone wanting to censor or control the Internet. Peekabooty isn't out yet, but they have a lengthy manifesto/rant/FAQ about it and their new Hacktivismo project.

Q: You mean you aren't interested in advancing human rights in the real world, on the ground?
A: Sure, but that's not where our competence lies. We're hackers, not social justice activists. Let's put it this way. Some groups and individuals are well suited to fight for social and economic progress around the world. If as a result of an initiative in Africa, for instance, economic standards were raised and more people could obtain computers -- that would be a good thing. But what kind of Internet would they eventually have access to? One where censorship or the proliferation of vulnerable software left them at risk? We're not willing to sit by and watch that happen. We think of hacktivism and the Internet the same way that homeopathist's think of the body: you have to introduce a little poison to create health. Code has consciousness and healing power whether you like it or not.

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I recently got an Agenda VR3 through work. The VR3 is a PDA, a small device, physically not unlike a PalmPilot. The main difference is that it runs Linux; when you turn it on, you see the Linux boot messages scrolling past in a tiny font, and then the familiar X11 stippled background. There is also a Terminal application which gives you a UNIX shell (one of those tiny stripped-down rescue-disk shells, mind you; everything on the Agenda is done with economy in mind). How useful that is is another matter; the handwriting recognition system also seemed a bit slower and more erratic than the PalmPilot's (even than my aging Pilot 5000, whose digitiser seems to be going senile), making entering UNIX commands somewhat painful.

The software built into the Agenda is what you'd expect: notes, address book, scheduler, &c. However, much of it is somewhat rudimentary compared to the Palm. For example, there is no way to tell the scheduler to display days from 2pm to midnight, rather than the hegemonic 9 to 5 of the Morning People who rule the world, and adding events means going through dialogs.

The Agenda probably won't replace my aging Pilot; however, the fact that it's Linux-based and hackable raises some interesting possibilities.

agenda vr3 gadgets linux pda tech 0