Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY


One of the great radio voices is gone. This is from Time- Old from a collection of Hearing Voices on PRX.

If billions of years preceded our existence on Earth, billions of years will surely follow after our existence as well. So that our life here is like one flash of a strobe light. The wink of an eye. And if your life is merely a microscopic blip in the vast dimension of time, is its importance to you just an illusion?

Also worth a listen: Dreamers on Unfictional



This year for xmas I made Raspberry Pi video players for everyone in my family, so they could share my love for BergensBanen minutt for minutt HD:

When the Pi boots up, it updates its time using ntpdate, pulls down any updates from this git repo, then plays back starting from a specific timestamp based on the current UTC time. This allows for a communal slow TV viewing experience.


Without Net Neutrality, Is It Time To Build Your Own Internet?

I was happy to provide comments for an article by Eileen Guo about Net Neutrality and mesh networking. It was was helpful in formulating my thoughts on the FCC’s recent decision to rescind Net Neutrality rules (see also: my last email newsletter).

I’m including the emailed questions for the article and my responses here in full.

Eileen: There has been a lot of interest in net neutrality in the past, does this time feel any different?

Me: Compared to the 2010 battle over SOPA/PIPA, this year’s FCC vote has felt like there’s way more at stake. The political landscape has shifted so dramatically this year. I’m still trying to figure out if Net Neutrality advocates are all spread thin protesting other issues, or if 2017 is when resistance became normalized along with Trump normalizing creeping authoritarianism. Dismantling what paltry telecom oversight was in place feels like just another front on the Trump administration’s war on journalism and civic discourse. The response coming from state government and congress has me cautiously optimistic, but this last year has conditioned me to expect that the fight will only demand more organizing and collective action.

Eileen: Is mesh internet technology in the U.S. now at the point where mesh can be an alternative to ISPs?

Me: What’s interesting to me about mesh technology is that you can build out the infrastructure without digging up a trench. However, it occupies a place in the public imagination that may not always sync up with the boring reality. A lot of what people think about when they hear “mesh” are community mesh projects like Catalonia’s GUIFI or NYC Mesh. The two parts aren’t tightly coupled: the mesh technology and the peer-to-peer community possibilities can be understood separately. For example, the ISP I have in Troy, NY, MassiveMesh, uses mesh networking technology, but aside from the antenna on my roof it provides a service that is entirely equivalent to Comcast or Spectrum. On the other hand, my wifi darknet project relies on the community dynamics you find in community mesh, but does not actually use mesh technology.

Listening to Ajit Pai’s statement during the FCC vote had me nodding in agreement when he listed big Internet tech companies that aren’t scrutinized, but it was a bad faith attempt at whataboutism, and belies his disinterest in actually regulating the industry he came from himself as a former Verizon attorney. Yes, we should be concerned about tech monopolies, as Nathan Schneider argued well in his Quartz piece. But we should understand why smaller firms, like my local ISP, are less likely to treat me poorly compared to the bigger players who monopolize broadband markets. Sometimes regulation is designed to protect the bigger players from local upstarts, like my mesh ISP. We need to be arguing in terms of human rights and not technical minutiae that are boring and difficult to understand.

So, while I’m pleased to have a good mesh ISP option where I live, I am still going to fight hard for those who don’t have that privilege.

Eileen: I wanted to clarify: you can connect to your community ISP (and would that be the correct term?) completely separately from mesh, but you ALSO connect to a mesh Internet network, right? Do you share wifi from your ISP on mesh with others that don’t have it? And is this allowed by your ISP’s user agreement?

Me: I honestly haven’t read the fine print for MassiveMesh, but now I am curious if they allow customer peering beyond their own infrastructure. Basically they use rooftop mesh connections to create a point-to-point network from their office outward to each customer. Each time they stand up an antenna it means they can reach new customers who have line of sight to that structure. I don’t think of it as “community mesh” (even though it is local) because I can’t connect to the other customers directly. At least, I can’t connect to the other customers on the application layer of the network, we are connected on the lower-level physical layer. One thing that is different is that they agreed to give me a public static IPv4 address for a reasonable $5/month extra charge. Basically it’s a locally-run, non-monopolizing ISP that also happens to use mesh technology to minimize infrastructure costs.

I am a big fan of community mesh projects like NYC Mesh, which I think of as being defined by volunteerism and mutual aid. But for my ISP, that I depend on for my work, I am happy with the arrangement to pay MassiveMesh so I don’t need to be the one to debug problems when they arise.

One other related project: Dhruv Mehrotra’s Othernet.

Another big Twitter

You may have heard that today the FCC voted against Net Neutrality rules. During the deliberations Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said:

Clearly there are cases today, and many more that will develop in time, in which the option of a paid prioritization offering would be a necessity based on either technology or needs of consumer welfare. I for one see great value in the prioritization of telemedicine and autonomous car technology over cat videos. (1:43:20 into the C-Span archive)

My response on Twitter seems to have struck a chord:

I liked how An Xiao Mina responded in her quote tweet:

This is now more popular than my previous big day on Twitter and sadly they’re both about things breaking on the Internet.


Learning from

I called into this morning’s Brian Lehrer show. I am “Dan from up in Troy” and I have a cold, so I probably sounded terrible. My question was inspired by this Twitter thread describing tactics the Mobile County NAACP (and other groups) used in the AL Senate special election. I think there’s a lot to learn here for turning out votes in the 2018 Midterm Elections.


Pancakes recipe

This recipe makes 15 pancakes

I made pancakes this morning, based on an Oatmeal Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes recipe Ellie suggested from the NYTimes. It uses yogurt instead of buttermilk, since that’s what we had around. At some point I should resolve this with my Dad’s pancakes recipe.

  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup regular milk
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 cup fruit and walnuts (I used a pear, next time I’ll chop it into larger chunks)

Combine the milk, yogurt, and rolled oats in a bowl, and set aside.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in another bowl.

In a third larger bowl, whisk the eggs. Then whisk in the vanilla extract and the oil.

Mix everything into the larger bowl and quickly whisk together. Do not overbeat; a few lumps are okay.

We ate them with butter, maple syrup, whipped cream, and some homemade cranberry sauce leftover from Thanksgiving.

The digital hippies want to integrate life and work—but not in a good

WeWork as the new company town:

In WeWork’s future, the hastily privatised public space is returned to citizens. However, it comes back as a commercial service provided by a lavishly funded data company, not as a right. Meetup’s civil society will keep on talking, inside WeWork’s buildings. But the struggle against alienation will now consist of applying even more data analytics and nudging to the tortured souls of overworked cognitive workers, who, in escaping alienated workplaces in the comfort of makerspaces and face-to-face meetings, have discovered that the workplaces have colonised their non-work lives instead.


Thursday, Thursday, Friday

Three things coming up later this week in NYC:

On Behalf of

I helped build a website with the Other EPA encouraging you to submit a Public Comment on the EPA’s draft 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, which presently has no mention of Climate Change.

The deadline to submit your Public Comment is tonight, 11:59pm ET!


Never Use

Khoi Vinh on the book Never Use Futura:

I’m so happy to see this new book by designer, writer, and historian Douglas Thomas all about the typeface Futura which, it’s worth noting, predated Helvetica by three full decades—and it looks as beautiful and timely as ever.

Futura is probably my favorite typeface that ships with macOS by default. It’s one of the few bundled with an OS with more weights than just Regular and Bold.


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