So my university has shutdown the campus for the remainder of the semester due to Coronavirus concerns and asked all students to attend classes remotely (mainly using Zoom for live-streaming lectures). I went looking for an open source cross platform video conferencing solution with a fast onboarding process to keep in touch with fellow students and found Jitsi to fit the bill.
It’s free, it’s FOSS, and there are no accounts required to create a chat session on their website. You just need to enter a name for your room, and they give you a link to share for people to join.
The only officially supported web browser is Google Chrome which kinda sucks. But it seems to work okay in Firefox except I couldn’t get it to detect any of my microphones (your usage may vary). Instead, I’m using it in Falkon and it works flawlessly.
Unfortunately, it also doesn’t appear that video chats are end-to-end encrypted which means whoever runs the server can see the raw footage (but you can self-host).
Overall it’s good enough and it looks like the public service is hosted by 8×8, which is a public VoIP company, so I’m not overly concerned about eavesdropping (due to the lack of end-to-end encryption). I’ll keep an eye out for better options but for now I’m sticking with Jitsi.
I have previously mentioned how I felt that Tor should offer some way for users to pay for bandwidth on its network to incentivize more nodes to join. Well, today I found out about Orchid which is a decentralized VPN that allows users to do just that.
It’s basically a marketplace for bandwidth between clients and VPN providers. Anyone can set up a node and act as exit point. From what I’ve read it seems like exit nodes can even choose what type of content will go through them: torrents, email, specific websites, etc. can all be blocked or allowed. The app will automatically pick providers that support the type of content that you’re trying to access.
Given this dynamic I would imagine that different types of content will start to cost more. For example, bandwidth providers who allow torrents will charge a premium due to the increased legal risk. On the other hand, providers who only allow access to known safe sites like YouTube, Reddit, etc. would be much cheaper.
Orchid even supports multiple hops within the network just like Tor. There are a few concerns I have:
Since it’s decentralized there is no way to ban exit nodes for logging peoples traffic
Everything is done in OXT which is Orchid’s native currency on Ethereum so it’s kinda a pain to pay for the service
I’ve decided to set up a monthly donation to the Signal Foundation. I’m not the biggest fan of Signal and I’ve been critical of the fact that it relies on central servers that can be shut off at any time.
But none of the peer-to-peer apps I’ve tried (such as Tox) seem competitive in this space. I need something I can give a non-technical friend and not have them feel like its a downgrade from WhatsApp.
For now I’m going to stick with Signal but I’ll keep an eye on some other promising projects like Matrix.
There seems to have been lots of talk of an impending stock market
crash recently. Some people seem to be absolutely certain of it for
reasons such as the inverted yield curve, high PE multiples, and the
trade war with China. I’ve even heard people talk about the “2020
recession” as if it has already happened.
Personally, I’m skeptical. I don’t think there is any greater risk of
a market downturn today then there was 5 years ago. Everyone knows that
the yield curve has inverted and that inversions have historically
preceded recessions in the United States. But the expectation of an
upcoming recession is already priced into the market.
Similarly, the risks associated with the Chinese trade war have also been priced in.
Now I’m not saying that there won’t be a market crash, but I am
saying that if there is one the cause will be something that is not
currently priced into the market (in other words, something that isn’t
receiving 24/7 news coverage).