Digital Life suffers under the Tyranny of Idiots

Erg.. Long time no talk, eh?

Let me start by summarizing: life kinda sucks, and never, ever do any business with A.R.P.A.E.

Now, for the rest, but I warn you: it kind of sucks.

I’m surprised that I can talk at all, really. You see, I’m living under oppression.

Nah, that’s too evil a word, despite how much I like the way that it rolls around in my mind, picking up little bits of bile and frustration in my cerebellum, become a hairball of injustice.


I’ve been writing lately, and rather more than a little insane, so my mind is prone to wandering of into interesting word-pastures, in search of pretty phrase-flowers, greedily grabbing as many as possible.


I’m tempted to simple label my time here in France as miserable, disappointing and an overall a waste of time and money (a large portion of it my own). I probably will, inevitably, unless I can find some diamond in this pile of dirty carbon. I came to France with the hope that I would find my way, finish my PhD, see some interesting sights, get cultured, who knows?

What did I really get so far? Bills (when I return, I will be about $4000 more in debt, with even larger balances on my expanded credit cards), loneliness (I don’t have any avenue to really meet people, and my French isn’t quite conversational enough; not that I meet many new people at home, either..), frustration (despite my telling them “I will not be working on this research project for the summer”, I spent nearly 50 hours one week working on it, and burnt out for a week), obligation (more and more “requirements” for the measly “opportunity” they have given me  seem to be attempted, and I resist as many as possible), isolation (there are no colleagues here, that I can see, only a bunch of low-level grad students in different fields and indifferent/uninterested/busy profs), disorganization (I can’t see any organization supporting me here, since I’ve had to arrange everything myself), disturbance (the heat has caused my laptop’s battery to swell and disrupt the keyboard; it sits aside now, leaving me no recourse if the power fails), insanity (my PhD is my albatross — my 4,000 kilo albatross of pure stone; it’s hard to concentrate on it when everything else is turning to crap), overheating (being too hot to work at my computer during the day, I’ve taken to working from midnight until 5am, disrupting any sort of rhythm my at-the-best-of-times-broken circadians might establish), and finally: anger.

No, wrong word again.. Let’s try these ones: seething hatred.

I am a creature of the modern age. I am an Internet citizen. I read RSS feeds as my newspaper. I read articles on blogs as my magazines, and research for my radio shows and my mind. I consume podcasts as my radio, watch Youtube and video podcasts as my TV. My friends are all connected, and I have friends around the world, forming my 24/7 family.

I connect to people with Skype and messagers, not telephones. I use email, and have only sent snail mail when I send postcards. I (irregularly) produce three podcasts, plan to publish works online, in digital form. I buy my music as bits, not atoms, and my library is distant but always available to me online. I don’t print photos, I upload them to Flickr where they are searchable and open and backed up. I don’t want to even buy books any more — the very least technical books! — but want digital versions I can search and view at any size, that take up no weight at all, and don’t cram my shelves full.

Up until last week, I felt like I still had some sanity left, still had my connections to this other half of my life, my digital life.

This was severed.

Not cleanly, no — that might be easier to take, a smooth cut, a clipped limb. No, it’s been done by degrees, tauntingly squeezed until what is left is unrecognizeable, twisted into a mockery of itself.

The web is about cross-references, about what you see coming from a dozen different places, combined together to make a point.

Here’s a shortlist of the things that are currently blocked:

SSH, FTP, Skype, Flickr, Dropbox, iTunes,, LibSyn ((nearly) no podcasts for me!), Amazon S3 ( looks pretty bare!), Google’s image service (iGoogle is empty!), eMusic, The BBC, CNN, NPR, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, Yahoo! UK News, The Denver Post, XKCD, The Bruns (my University newspaper!), Slashdot, YouTube, Google Video, Reddit, uStream, TwitPic (just the pictures, tho), Gawker (but not io9, just the media served from

By the way: with no FTP, SSH or Dropbox, I have no offsite backup, and I cannot access my machine at home, or assist with work at the university I come from..

And not having LibSyn means I can’t push a podcast out, or get most of my podcasts. Podiobooks? Nope.

(Curiously, I can still access Audible; do I suspect collusion? Back-room dealing to avoid being blocked? A poor excuse for a badly-constructed list? Pretty much all three..)

(EDIT: Oh, did I forget to point out that I can’t access the iTunes store or software updates? Or even get updated weather in the weather widget? So. Much. DUMB. POLICY..)

Some of those come from trying to do research for the WEIRD Show, some of them are purely for fun.. But once you get past the first 10, you realize how interconnected the web is, and how asinine this kind of blocking policy was.

My French is moderate, enough to get by, but the claim made when I confronted them (I found them digging in the IT closet..) was essentially that they were concerned with bandwidth issues.

Apparently, they’ve never heard of throttling, or say ANY TECHNIQUE WHICH ACTUALLY MONITORS BANDWIDTH.

(Oh, and the patronizing bastard had the GALL to say, “Well, this isn’t like your Internet at home..” NO SHIT — that actually works!)

My needs aren’t for great amount of bandwidth. I’ve done much the same kind of websurfing over dialup. My needs are for a working Internet connection.

The guy mumbled something about it being in my contract. I looked at the contract. It says that they block things like Bittorrent and Kazaa — I don’t have a problem with that, although they end the list with an ellipsis and the weasel words: “not a complete list”.

They also insert a little clause in there that suggests that I don’t have the right to demand my money back.

But the damning one that might be in my favour is the one that suggests that they have to notify the clients of changes/disruptions in services.

You see, this service I have now? It’s not what I signed up for. It’s not even what I had. No, last Thursday they changed something — perhaps they realized a filter wasn’t working, or they realized that the service was bogged down. (Note: I didn’t notice this at all; it’s been a fairly snappy service all through.)

Last Thursday, I couldn’t update my podcasts. Then I could access my pictures. Instead, I get this message:


Via Google translate (because I don’t feel like doing it right now, too pissed off): “Exiled SITE BY PROVISIONS OF OUR CHARTER OF USE OF INTERNET SERVICE”

I get this message all the time, now. A lot of ads are blocked by this message. iGoogle looks like someone hacked it, with things missing. Page layouts all over the place are broken because the images or embedded stuff is broken.

So, I ask you again: if you ever come to La Rochelle in Western France, DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH A.R.P.A.E.

The technician gave me only one option: write down all the things I need, and send them to him. Of course, when I returned with my initial list, he vanished. But I got an email address out of him, before. (It’s the generic address, really, so I don’t have much hope.)

I’ve sent him my request list. I plan to add to it every day, re-send it until I get some action.

As if my sanity weren’t already hang by a thread, I get hit with this idiocy. I am a patient person, but this is one trigger that gets me every time (thankfully, it happens rarely).

7 thoughts on “Digital Life suffers under the Tyranny of Idiots

  1. Yes, you’re a patient person. Hmm. Want me to come over with some guys and kick some ass?

  2. Heh.. No, I’m no ass-kicker — I prefer intellectual violence to a punch and kick. Frankly, I’d just rather see this kind of asinine policy ridiculed universally and repealed as the inappropriate approach that it is..

    So, if you ever found yourself implementing such a thing, just go ahead an kick your own ass, OK? 😉

  3. It must be bad, I’d never seen you drop an F bomb on Twitter before this all happened, then suddenly I’m seeing two or three of them. I mean, everybody who follows my main podcast knows I’ve the mouth of a sailor, but coming from you…

  4. Heh.. Well, in personal life, among friends, I tend to swear as much as the next person, but yeah: I tend to moderate my language much more in my more “public” communications.

    This has gotten me rather indignant, I guess. I’m mortified that anyone could consider this to be actual “service”.. And it cuts me rather personally, with my huge personal reliance on the Internet.

    I’ll try to stop with the f-bombs, tho’. 😉

  5. Pingback: Breaking (and Using!) the Chains That Bind Us | Understanding Podcasting!

  6. I’m French and I live in such flats of the ARPAE. I’m not as upset as you are (for the moment), however, this anger is quite understandable, as the situation reached absurd proportions.

    I have read the contract of the Internet Service, and I accepted it. It says:
    “7.7 : ARPAE forbids any access to audio or video streaming websites, pornography websites, hacking and proxy websites, violence websites, or online sports betting websites. (non-exhaustive list of sites may change without prior agreement).”

    Indeed, I fully understand the “spirit of the law”. Online sports betting is forbidden for people under 18 in France; the same for pornography (and I am part of these who are not 18 for now); and hateful websites are of course illegal. Therefore, the best intentions are met in thiss text.

    But, how strange, this evening, as I tried to visit more “innocent” websites such as (online art galleries) or (DailyMotion being a sort of french YouTube), I also got blocked.

    This shocks me for several reasons:

    #1 These websites were not blocked in the afternoon, but are blocked this evening. Difficult to understand.
    #2 DailyMotion and Wat.TV are blocked, but YouTube isn’t. And what do they call “streaming”?
    #3 Pornography is not an excuse; there are some porno videos on DailyMotion and on Wat.TV, but also on… YouTube. And more than this, when DeviantArt displays something about sex, it is mainly “erotic” stuff, very few is adult-rated (and when it is adult-rated, the website forbids the access to anyone under 18). In contrast, the ARPAE systems didn’t avoid me to display accidentally a “hardcore” website this afternoon.
    #4 The website list isn’t available anywhere. This is a regrettable lack of information for the users.

    I will perhaps send an e-mail to the person responsible for the Internet Service. An URL restriction system can really have good sides if it is well used and good built. This is still not the case today, and if this situation continues, digital life will actually suffer under an idiot tyranny.

    This is my personal point of view and it does neither affect my obedience to the contract I hired, nor my respect towards the ARPAE staff.

  7. Something more that I forgot to write in my comment…

    A very few things are more true that the fact we are living with new technologies. It’s our way to communicate, to share, to consume – so our times should allow us to live according to our needs. The bandwidth problems and this blind Internet restriction system, unfortunately, do not answer these needs… it’s sincerely sad. You’re quite right when you say “can you call that a service?”. It IS actually a service, but that could be seriously improved. Let’s hope for better next year!

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