Letter to MPs from a Remain voter: a plea for realism, tolerance and honesty

This is the text of a letter written by Richard Bronk, a Visiting Fellow at the European Institute of the London School of Economics, to two Conservative MPs, one a friend, with whom he was in correspondence. The letter (which has been anonymised) was written to foster a better understanding of how many of the 48% who voted Remain are thinking and feeling following the vote – and thereby contribute to efforts to bridge the dangerous chasm opening up between most of the UK’s great cities, universities and the young, on the one hand, and the new Brexit government on the other. 

Source: Letter to MPs from a Remain voter: a plea for realism, tolerance and honesty

Does my dream desktop exist?

For years now, I’ve been looking (on and off) for a GUI/shell/operating system/database/CMS/what-have-you that would suit my preferred way of working on the desktop, regardless of the operating system. So far, I have found little that even approaches it.

So I’m posting this short specification here in the off-chance that some developer may find this, who knows about these things and might be able to tell me where I can find what I want, or be inspired to create something along these lines, or tell me why the idea is impractical so I don’t waste any more time thinking about it.

If anyone is interested in this idea, please get in touch. If it could ever be developed into anything, I’d be more than happy to help write the full spec.

1.Regardless of what follows, the user is still able to run conventional applications for the OS in their conventional ways. However, this may  enable a different way of writing applications.

2.Everything in the environment that is user-accessible in any way, whether software, hardware, on the computer or in the cloud, is an object that can be exposed to the user on the desktop (and there will be multiple desktops to expose them on). By everything, I mean everything. For example:

  • Files, including documents, spreadsheets and so on
  • System devices and configurations
  • Programs and scripts
  • Web pages, emails and other communications
  • databases and database objects

3.Every object in the above (where it is meaningful) has a class object that can also be exposed on the desktop and used to create new instances of the objects above.

4.The desktop has method(s) (for example, right-click menus) that enable the user to bring any of the existing objects or classes on to the desktop, or to create new objects or classes where this is feasible.

5.Every object has a set of methods that represent things that the user can do with this object, for example, read, edit, play and so on. This set of methods is accessed (say) by a right-click on the object on the desktop. The user can create a new method where this is feasible (if necessary by programming a new use of that object). (This is not all that different from what you can do on the Windows desktop already.)

6.Every object can have an indefinite number of independent associations with any other objects in the environment, where these are meaningful. These associations can be represented and defined graphically. Some of these associations may be built-in, others are user-definable. For example:

  • The underlying file system is a built-in association between objects
  • A user might be able to define a notebook, and then associate a variety of objects with a page of that notebook, say a few documents, some emails, some web pages and a program all related to a particular subject
  • The user could look up the emails, above, together with a number of other files all associated through having been received from or written by a particular person
  • Some objects could be defined as personal, others related with different aspects of work

7.An association is, itself, an object.

8.Methods can be put together in sequences of execution, macro fashion. Such a macro might  itself be an object.

9.Export and import can be to and from XML files.

Legal risks of a proxy

[BPSDB] It seems a good idea to run a proxy like Squid or (perhaps better) an anonymizer like Tor (because Squid is not anonymous) to give internet access to users in other countries where the internet is not free.  It’s something you can easily do with a small investment of time and some of your spare bandwidth. But you should be aware that not only Iranian or Chinese dissidents may use your server. Your local plods may note that something nasty is coming from your IP address, as happened to this man who found he was inadvertently distributing child porn or this one who found he was liable for a bomb threat.

The law currently appears very uncertain in the UK over the liabilities of server administrators for what passes through their systems. So far it seems that no-one has been convicted of anything in the UK arising from the use of an anonymizing server, but be aware the police are unlikely to have much expertise in this area, and you may lose your equipment for some time while they try to pin a terrorist or child porn charge on you. In the current authoritarian atmosphere it is most likely that any legal doubts will eventually be settled against the admins.

In accordance with my theory that all authoritarians have more in common than their superficial political differences, note that if you are arrested (even if not convicted) while trying to assist dissidents in authoritarian countries you will lose your eligibility to visa waiver if you visit the USA.