Monday, December 19, 2011

Use Google Alternative YaCy for Anonymous Search and Facebook Alternative Diaspora for Social networking

Big Brother (1984) is watching you, and he is watching me. We have no privacy. Although I love Google and Facebook prima facie, I don't love their privacy policies. Moreover, I worry that Facebook will permanently store everything I say -- for better or for worse. There are times I would like to retract a comment made in haste.

An example of Michael Aaronson MD's facebook page that includes ads, the inability to delete stupid posts (crystal pistol reference), and a total lack of privacy. The facebook alternative Diaspora*, on the contrary, simultaneously lets you social network and maintain your privacy. By the way, with respect to the derriere at 3 o'clock: any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

We need a Google and Facebook alternative. However, I'm not looking for a competitor that uses a central server with one location or company in charge. Rather, I opine we need to take a decentralized approach to both search and social networking. Fortunately, we have real options today: YaCy and Diaspora. YaCy is an anonymous search engine that uses bit torrent technology. Instead of connecting to a central Google server, where one company controls all of the information, your computer connects to other people's computers all over the earth. This "team" of computers works together to create a search result. Similar to how the internet works, if one computer is down, the other computers pick up the slack. The team of computers can be located all over the world. Moreover, since there is no one company in charge of the search results, you end up getting a non-censored result. The following graphic helps solidify the premise.

You do have some control such as modifying the look of your interface. For example, I can modify the YaCy initial search view. However, I cannot censor the results of an organic search. Here is an example of my YaCy search page:

The anonymous, uncensored Google search alternative YaCy.
Notice that I added my QR scan code in place of the traditional YaCy picture.

The traditional YaCy picture.
As my youngest son would say: the QR code is "much more funner" than the traditional YaCy picture. By the way, please feel free to search anonymously using my offering at the top of this article. Please note that my computer may be busy helping other patrons find the results they need. So you may have to wait a bit.

Are you a seed, or are you a leach? Simply put, you should consider downloading the YaCy software and using the computer you install the software on to perform your internet searches. Without getting too technical, the software acts as a server which enables you to connect to your own search engine anywhere in the world. If you wish, you can limit who searches through your "instance" of YaCy.

I actually have 2 search sites: the Michael Aaronson MD offering is my freely searchable peer and allows anyone to use it to search the internet -- although you do see my advertisement and do have the opportunity to scan the QR code into your smart phone!  The other instance of YaCy is strong password protected to allow only certain people with the access code to search. (Read more about creating a strong password here.)

"Bad seeds come and go, for which you must allow" - Morrissey, Date of Birth of quote: March 14, 1994.

"Leaches" are defined as those who take but do not give back. A web searcher that uses another person's seed without giving back to the project makes that person a leach at the end of the day. That said, please feel free to use my search engine if you want because my "payback" is the advertising on the main page. Capice? That said, in my opinion, it is still better to create your own YaCy presence to help the search engine grow. It's important to support the global internet index. After all, we still have around 18 billion pages to index to catch up to Google.

If YaCy ends up a strong competitor to Google, feel good that your small contribution gives you privacy and does not, as Morrissey says, "siphon all your dough."

For those organizations that want to help out and advertise a product, consider offering a YaCy instance! You are allowed to market yourself as shown above. If you would rather keep the search page looking as the designers initially intended, you can still market yourself by completing the supplied peer profile page. Check out my profile below:

YaCy offers a free advertising peer owner profile page as a special "thank you" to those willing to contribute to the project. Did you know that Dr. Aaronson is Omaha, Nebraska's official kidney consultant?
After using the product for a while, I have found that YaCy is not as complete as Google or Bing; however, it really gets the job done most of the time. Let's check out the user interface using a search I did on

Surf anonymously. Also, don't forget to scan Michael Aaronson MD's QR code with your smart device.
You have the option to search either text, images, audio or video. To search for audio and video please select the "more options" button. In this example, a search for "Michael Aaronson" on my website provides 209 options as of today. If you can't find what you are looking for with the 1st 10 provided links, consider pressing the tab key to see your next 10 choices. You may also select 2-10 (shown at 3 o'clock) if you wish.

YaCy also offers a word cloud. The word cloud shows key words associated with your search term. How did YaCy do with respect to your friendly neighborhood nephrologist? I think the software did quite well. I am a kidney doctor / nephrology consultant. I work for Alegent Health Clinic in the nephrology division. I am the world's expert, from a kidney perspective, in aquapheresis. I like using the word "perspective" when I write my kidney medblogs because "perspective" allows for awesome verbiage. Finally, the first result YaCy found was the "about me, business card page." Not bad for a system that has at the current time around 500-700 peers ("seeds" using the terminology from above). Check out the YaCy peer list here if you wish. If my search is bogged down with leaches, consider any of the peers listed on that page to perform your internet search.

As of this juncture, YaCy has indexed around 2 billion web pages. This very large number represents around 10% of Google's index of 20 billion web pages (personal communication from a "trusted" source). The point to remember is that much of the web is garbage. So at the end of the day YaCy's quality is quite good.

Here is a little secret between good friends regarding an approach to use YaCy, with Google as a back up, to generate a complete search. From the main search page select "administration" in the upper left hand corner. Then select "compare search." Input your search term remembering to choose either or another search engine as your "backup." With this approach you not only get the information you need, but you also through the use of heuristics help build the YaCy search engine for others to enjoy. How does it work? The YaCy program "crawls" or indexes the sites it missed. Some call this step "harvesting" a website.

"All you need is me!" -- Morrissey. Date of birth of quote June 2, 2008.
Let's move on to social networking. Diaspora* is a facebook alternative. More similar to Google plus than facebook, Diaspora gives you everything you need to interact with your social network sans bull pucky and grab arse.

Michael Aaronson's offerings on Google+
Diaspora approaches the centralization problem a little differently than YaCy. Diaspora works by connecting computers just like YaCy; however, at this juncture you can either join an existing pod by creating a "user" on someone else's server like I did (see figure below for the Diaspora user interface). Or you can set up your own server (currently a high level of difficulty) and connect to other friends using your user name. The server method is the best approach in my opinion because your data is "housed" on your server, and you own it. Also, by maintaining your own server, the cost of the bandwidth is distributed among the participants more equitably.

Follow Doctor Aaronson on Diaspora
At the present time, I am a user of Diaspora with my information housed on because I cannot get my own pod working. You can see the instructions on setting up your own Diaspora pod here. Beware. If you manage to get the first part working, in order to connect to the outside world, you need to get an account with Pagekite to link a domain name to a Diaspora Pod on a local network computer (instructions are here). The Diaspora coders (and friends of) are trying to come up with a "for dummies" way to set this up. Until that time, I'll have to wait to set up my own pod. Hopefully someone smarter than a simple country nephrologist from Omaha, Nebraska working at Alegent Health Clinic can provide more understandable instructions so I can make my own pod happen soon and contribute to the project. (At this point my only contribution is the "Buzz" I create by blogging.)

Subscribe. You are my only hope! "[Blog] your life. Walk right up to the [computer] and name all the things you love. All the things you loathe. [Blog] your life."


After being banned from Wordpress, I know first hand the harmful affects of censorship. "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1. Also,"I've zig-zagged all over America [and my website] cannot find a safety haven" (Morrissey. Date of birth of quote: October 11, 2004). And this is why I feel so strongly that we must embrace peer to peer, decentralized communication on the internet.

Dr. Aaronson, the Other Oracle of Omaha, presenting his shareholder badge at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting.
In conclusion, I'm no Warren Buffet; although the family does drink from the same water source (wink!). That said, my prediction is that you will see the rise and the fall of facebook -- when the IPO happens. Said another way, based on the Red Hat IPO, if past results predict future events, the put option proponents are going to make a killin'.

I opine that people will eventually choose the route of freedom and surveillance avoidance. Back in the day, Google did no evil. They now stink so putrid that I have to spray air freshener on my portable. There are so many ad placements everywhere that the incessant pitches get in the way of my productivity. Everyone seems to be trying to emulate Steve Jobs (read my detailed analysis here) -- excluding Meg Whitman, the President and Chief Executive officer of Hewlett-Packard, who brilliantly chose to open source WebOS. WebOS has the potential to be the phone operating system of choice in the future.

Cell phones are different from computer systems. Every two years (and every one year for very important people), customers upgrade their phones. There is no loyalty to a particular phone operating system, excluding the Apple fanatics and to Blackberry's chagrin. And with Steve Jobs no longer at the helm of Apple, I wonder how loyal these fanatics will be over time. Android is a "cute" operating system on par with iOS, Apple's iPhone / iPad operating system. Over time I predict that many will appreciate that there is a problem with these "cloud" based operating systems. They are simply not powerful enough for real work. For real productivity you need a full-fledged Linux-based, Microsoft Windows, or OS X operating system. Future systems will blend the two worlds (that is, personal computing and cloud based computing) such that productivity and return on investment is maximized.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee. He chose to bring his Mac instead of Google's Chromebook. Good call!

Google may be in big trouble (eventually) because their search patent expires soon, people are getting annoyed with their shenanigans, and their leaders have lost focus. Hopefully with all that said, Blogger will not ban me. "And [they] won't smile until my loving mouth is shut good and proper FOREVER" (Morrissey: 3/14/1994). That said, I'll close with the following quote from the living legend: "And no regime can buy or sell me" (Morrissey. Date quote was delivered: May 4, 2004).

P.S., no, I do not want Blogger to track my location. So please stop offering! Geez!

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