Uncategorized

Designing the New Internet

By Jim Collinson

I first logged on to the internet back in the early days of the web. A hand-me-down computer from a programmer uncle meant that Christmas of ’94 was a revelation; a new frontier of knowledge opened up in-front of me. The sum of human understanding was being amassed, and was right at my fingertips: graphic design, politics, music, race car engineering… it was all there to be absorbed, pored over, discussed, contributed to. And that, to me, is the essence of the internet. A meeting of like minded individuals; teaching, learning, collaborating, trading, connecting, sharing. A place of science, of wonder, exploration, and unconstrained thought. A space where all information is equal, even information published by a teenager in a Scottish fishing town, hacking away on a cast-off 386.

The internet took me to a career in the music industry where I’ve spent the best part of the last 15 years. I’ve built independent labels, high-resolution music services, and have helped design new ways for people to experience and interact with music in their home; all thanks to the power of the computer network.

And the web, for a fleeting moment, seemed truly revolutionary for music. Suddenly layers of middlemen evaporated and the gap between the artist and their audience became vanishingly small: music distribution was becoming accessible to everyone.

But like the same situations faced in many industries, the prospect of fair and open access to music — to information — faces strangulation from corporations deploying technology and the brute strength of centralisation to control supply chains and the ability of individuals to create and distribute data.

It was just this kind of challenge that led me to the find other people working to solve the problem at its core: rebuilding the web from the ground up. Little did I know that the best of them were right on my doorstep!

So I’m thrilled to be joining the MaidSafe team as UX/UI designer, to lend a hand in building the solution.

It’s of course a privilege, but also a huge responsibility. The nature of the web as we now know it has given an inordinate amount of power to bureaucracies and the platforms that it is built upon. Sidestepping these structures gives us a unique opportunity to rebuild the web with the individual at the centre; the network serving the needs of humans, not users serving the needs of corporations. How’s that for a design brief?

With the SAFE Network, security and privacy will come as standard, but its implications go way beyond that. How people use and experience the web will be transformed through decentralisation, and being handed absolute control over their personal data.

When we no longer pay for technology with our personal information and our attention, it allows something remarkable: the worth of a product is based on its utility — what it can do for society — not on its ability to exploit people’s intimate data.

Portable, ownable data means competition between design solutions, not on how effectively customers can be locked in and commoditised. This is the start of a renaissance in user experience design, where businesses, developers, and designers sole focus must be on meeting the needs of humans.

It’s people that will shape the future of the internet, not corporations, nor governments. So what do we want it to be?

Another David Joins Team MaidSafe

Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Hi all, I’m David Geddes and I’m very happy to have joined this impressively dedicated and motivated team to take on the task of managing customer support.  Everyone has made me feel so welcome during my first couple of days and I’m looking forward to getting to know each one of them a little better over the next few weeks.

So a little about me… I started at the University of Strathclyde studying a joint Computer Science and Electronic Engineering degree where it took me the best part of three years to realise that I simply didn’t “get” analogue electronics (I guess my mind isn’t wired that way).  I switched focus for my third year to purely Computer Science modules for my BSc. On leaving university I signed up with a Scottish Enterprise scheme in Glasgow called Graduate Into Business which aimed to place graduates with local start-ups. I found myself attracted to a software company called IES who wanted to play their environmentalist part by reducing the amount of energy buildings consume through sustainable design and intelligent building control.  My first tasks were to learn a new programming language (Visual Basic) and create database tables of which I can say that the former was definitely more interesting than the latter. I moved on to creating front-end interfaces using Visual Basic to link with Fortran calculation engines and learned many lessons through trial and error about the importance of a good user-experience. After a couple of years we created the second and third generations of what became the Virtual Environment and by now I was working almost exclusively in C++.  I had gained responsibility in multiple projects for the full application lifecycle: design; coding; testing; delivery and end user support and I have to say that if I never have to document a product again it’ll be too soon. I did however find that I was able to build up a good rapport with many of our regular users which I guess led to my next career move.

I moved into technical support in 2006 after a very enjoyable secondment to Boston in the States where I was both continuing to develop software and provide user support to the NA market.  In the beginning it was just myself handling all technical enquiries but as time went on I was allowed to grow the team and take management responsibility for it. I set up the procedures required to run the department and had to establish these in person by visiting the Pune (India), Boston (MA) and San Francisco (CA) operations… a dirty job indeed but somebody had to do it.  By the end of my tenure as Technical Support Manager we had support staff in Australia, India, Scotland, Ireland and the USA meaning that we could provide 24 hour support – the sun never set on the IES support team!

During 2011 I transferred back in to the software development department to assist the Technical Director in the administrative and planning management of the team.  We were working within a hybrid waterfall/agile methodology until a restructure in 2013 where I moved to a more hands-on development role again heading up a team responsible for adding productivity enhancements to the Virtual Environment.  Having squared the circle and being back in C++ development I felt that I’d probably done all I could within IES and it was time again for a change so I set my sights on pastures new… which resulted in me coming to MaidSafe.

I’ve been playing more and more tennis over the last couple of years and I think that I am driving poor my poor wife Victoria crazy with how obsessed I’m becoming.  I joined the local David Lloyd club where I’m very active in the tennis community there and while I’m not exactly brilliant I’m starting to get the hang of how to hold the, err, “bat” is it?  Recently I’ve learned how to string a racquet and am threatening to buy my own stringing machine… I told you… obsessed!

One thing that Victoria and myself are obsessed about together is travel.  We’ve seen some pretty beautiful places all over this wonderful world and to be honest our own country of Scotland is right up there with the best of them.  I try and take the occasional photograph when we are away and now and again if the timing is just right they come out quite well.

That’s probably more than enough from me at this time so I’ll not take up any more of your day other than to finish by reiterating how excited I am to be part of the SAFE revolution.

David.

 

New Team Member – Connor Wood

room with rows of server hardware in the data center

I started writing software when I was 9 years old, after my brother, entirely by accident, discovered an easter egg in a game he was playing. A face, hidden inside a lamp (for those of you familiar with the matter, this was Dan Johnson’s face, a running gag at Insomniac Games for a few years). “I want to learn how to do that.”

Fast forwards a few months of having dabbled in various dialects of BASIC, a family member recommended I pick up C, as it was a far more serious language and would carry me much further. Later on, I started to pick up C++ as well. This lead to projects such as writing a relatively simple text editor for Windows, which I now realise was a poor attempt at re-inventing Emacs.

As my knowledge grew, so did my ideas. I started toying with writing my own operating system, among other things, and this led me to get into systems development. Around this time, I also started experimenting, mentally, with the idea of what I called a “global file system”. My idea was to have people sign up to some network, somehow, and donate storage. However much they donated, they got that much back on the network. Alright on paper, but had a series of problems that weren’t very obvious to 14 year old me.

After starting at the University of Essex, things began to clarify for me significantly. The project complexity I was able to handle rapidly increased, with all these incredibly smart people surrounding me, that I could bounce ideas off, and collaborate with. The course itself was somewhat incidental to this. This was the communal mindset, driving me to greater heights. I played with some network protocols in C, toyed around a lot with LISP, and eventually found Rust.

This facilitated me to then apply to the Google Summer of Code, at the end of my final year, for Redox. My project was to write an ACPI machine language interpreter for the kernel. AML is used, as a bit of background, to control the interface between the hardware and the software – hardware can request the software to spin up fans, for example, and the software will do it through AML. Or, the software might want to turn off a disk it isn’t using, which is again done through an AML function – probably a different one though.

I was sold on Rust for several years, and worked on all kinds of projects in the language. Redox was but one. A ray tracer, an implementation of ping (which I originally intended to flesh out into a remote server management thing, but that didn’t quite come into fruition), etc.

All this was helped by my time at Rolls-Royce. I’d seen safety critical code, and the way it used to be written. Very careful management of C, Ada, and so on. While it worked, it was a little clunky. A lot of manual processes were in place to ensure safety was maintaned, as well as a lot of automated processes which could take a very long time. Rust avoided all of this, by taking an altogether more modern approach to the same goal.

While all this was going on, I started to build up a moral framework for my work. I was strongly in favour of open source, both for moral and practical reasons. Knowledge should be shared, and if a tool doesn’t do what I need it to, why shouldn’t I modify the tool?

I also became heavily involved in electronic rights – privacy, anti-censorship, and so on. I made a personal vow that no software I wrote would ever weaken somebody’s electronic rights, nor put their life in danger, nor do anything else which could actively harm somebody. And, where I could, I would work towards improving said rights of people, through technology.

When MaidSafe reached out to me, I was pretty much instantly sold. It combined an idea I’d had years ago, which I was still mulling over, with my favourite language to code in, along with a company that had all of the same morals as me. And, to boot, it was remote, giving me all the flexibility I got to enjoy while coding for Redox. All this seems right up my street as far as work goes, allowing me to solve exactly the sort of problems I’m interested in solving, using all the technologies I want to use.

 

Alpha 3 Update

The SAFE Network is a self-configuring and autonomous network designed to manage all our data and communications without any human intervention and without intermediaries. In the past, it has been likened to a cyber brain, complex in nature and requires all component parts to all work in unison to achieve our vision of digital privacy, security and freedom for all.

No need to reinvent the wheel
It has never been our intention to invent everything ourselves, although this has quite often ended up being the case. SAFE Network features like Self Authentication, Self Encryption and Disjoint Sections are testament to that fact. However, we have always worked to reuse or repurpose existing technology if it worked well within the network design. No need to reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to!

In fact, one of the SAFE Network’s fundamental structures is Kademlia, a Distributed Hash Table (DHT) designed by Petar Maymounkov and David Mazières in 2002 that ‘specifies the structure of the network and the exchange of information through node lookups’. Our network design has required us to upgrade the original Kademlia design and introduce Disjoint Sections as mentioned above, but being able to take a design standard and repurpose it saves considerable resource and time.

In order for the network to reach an agreed state and to achieve consensus, members (nodes) of the network vote and democratically agree on a network state. These votes take the form of messages and may determine who has authority to access a file or to store a piece of data for example. Disjoint Sections requires an algorithm that asynchronously accumulates and orders the messages it receives from its members. This has been a challenging issue for our engineers to overcome and has in part required MaidSafe to release so many iterations and test networks (around 25) to this point.

Ordering algorithms
We have spent a lot of time working in this area and have looked at many state of the art ordering algorithms in addition to working on our own. We have found a few that are very promising and could be adapted and one that we feel will work well within the SAFE Network. We believe this to be significant in that it would radically simplify our code, save a lot of development time and minimise the number of future testnets. This would enable us to reach our future milestones (the next of which is Alpha 3) much more rapidly and with much greater confidence as we can focus on the network’s unique features rather than dealing with the complexity of our existing approach which requires us to handle order related issues individually.

Unfortunately the solution we have found conflicts with our own open source ethos and is in fact closed source. We are currently working on a solution to this issue and while this effort is ongoing we will respect the developers license and keep the consensus ordering mechanism closed source and in a private repository as a temporary measure to enable the rest of the team to complete the Alpha 3 features.

We will never launch the Network with code that is closed source – so please be assured this is only a staging point on the road to achieving that result. This is an area that has caused us much internal debate but ultimately we have made the decision that we feel gets us to a full release more quickly. In essence, we believe the prospect of the end result justifies the route – and as the pressure builds across society for a solution to the status quo (as evidenced by the current Facebook/Cambridge Analytica story), our role remains the same as it has ever been – to create a system that is free to everyone to use around the globe in which each individual has the opportunity to gain full control of his or her digital rights.

New Team Members at MaidSafe!

We’ve had a few new starts here at MaidSafe this week. So, as is traditional around here, we’ll let them introduce themselves. Welcome to Pierre, Lionel and Kayley!

PIERRE CHEVALIER

One more ant joins the colony. And that particular ant can’t wait to be an active part of this ambitious project. Let’s rebuild the internet the way it should have been built in the first place: decentralized, resilient, safe, for everyone.

Hi, I’m Pierre, French Londoner, Rust programmer, open-source enthusiast, SAFE Network advocate in pubs.

I’ve been a Londoner since 2012, when I started my career as a C++ programmer. For the first 5 years, I worked on the numerical engine behind gPROMS™, a chemical plant simulation/optimization platform. I learnt C++ on the job as I was coming from a chemical engineering background. During my time there, I wrote NLPSQP, a gradient based optimizer, made the MAXLKHD parameter estimation solver faster by distributing the load across CPU cores and performed large scale code cleanups on the ~500,000 lines of code. I also started being really interested in Linux and the Open-Source world around that time.

In 2013, there was a pretty consistent buzz in the Open-Source community about Bitcoin. Pretty sure the buzz started earlier, but that’s when it started registering on my radar. I read the White Paper and was very impressed at how such a simple algorithm could have such groundbreaking implications in the world. There could now be a democratic, trustless peer-to-peer currency and this was all made possible by the blockchain: an elegant algorithm that could be explained in a 9-page White Paper.

At the time, the entire internet was bubbling with ideas on how to use the blockchain or more generally crypto technologies for solving an array of technical problems that never had an adequate solution before. Many projects started: alt-coins, smart contracts, layers on top of the Bitcoin blockchain itself, decentralized data storage, you name it. Some of these solutions were truly innovative and many of them were a mix of vaporware and scams.

Somewhere in 2014, while looking into this exciting world of possibilities, I learnt about the SAFE network. In this crowded space of crypto solutions, MaidSafe stood head and shoulders above its peers.

Instead of focusing on a specific problem like decentralized encrypted file storage and throwing a blockchain at it, MaidSafe was trying to rethink the foundations of our internet so that solving such a specific problem would be made trivial for any app developer on the SAFE network. The white papers and the few talks from David that I could find made complete sense and even though all the fine details weren’t fleshed out, I could see that this architecture ought to deliver on its promises if executed right. So I started following the project and enthusiastically sharing it with my friends.

A bit later, in 2015 the team decided to rewrite the network in Rust. I had barely heard of Rust back then, but it was supposed to be ‘that cool language by Mozilla’. It claimed to offer C++ speeds without the security pitfalls. I soon started learning Rust in my spare time. It delivered on all the expectations I had from it. For all of C++ faults, I had never really been onboard with more ergonomic languages as they generally sacrificed performance and control over one’s code for usability. With Rust, the language is concise and a pleasure to write in, but I have exact control of what happens to the memory. Oh! And also: no invalid memory access, no use after free, not even a race condition! All thanks to the compiler guiding the programmer towards writing correct code. Long story short, I’ve been working with Rust in my spare time for the last two years and I am completely sold on the language.

The decision for MaidSafe to switch to Rust exemplified an important aspect of the team: they’re in it for the long haul. In software, and especially in the startup world, it is common to favor the quickest path to a minimum viable product over any other solution. MaidSafe picks the solution that will make the network the most closely aligned with the vision. Rust was simply a better choice for security, so the team switched to it despite the costs and risks associated with it. When there is so much pressure to be the first to market, this engineering focus is rare. It is also the only viable way to deliver on the many promises of the network.

So here we are in 2018. I left the quantitative analytics team at a large bank with which I had been working for the last eight months, and decided to follow my passion. I am joining this crazy team of dreamers, ready to change the world one engineering decision at a time.

Watch out! The ants are coming 🙂

LIONEL FABER

Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

Hey guys! It’s really thrilling to be here and thank you for the warm welcome.

I’m a soon-to-be CS graduate from Anna University, Chennai, India. During my journey in Engineering, I’ve always had a thirst for new tech and how it can make everyday life better. Early on in this adventure, I came across the Open Source community and I was instantly inspired. They made a big deal of privacy and freedom and I realised how important both had to be in today’s data-populated internet world.

Among the various types of technology that I explored along the way, I had discovered that I loved building apps for Android. So many ideas could be implemented — and Android as a platform was so much fun to work with. By this stage, I’d ended up working as a web dev — but there was something missing:

Every night I lie in bed, the brightest colours fill my head, a million dreams are keeping me awake. — Hugh Jackman

This feeling was something I could relate to at that time. Being a part of something new has always given me extra drive but this was missing while I was working for a ‘corporate’ firm. Then, out of the blue, I came across MaidSafe. Browsing through videos about the SAFE Network, one phrase caught my attention.

Privacy, Security and Freedom. For everyone.

MIND == BLOWN

So many great ideas and such impressive work. All this and OPEN SOURCE!

That was it. I joined MaidSafe! 😀

I’m so excited to be here as an Android developer and being a part of this community has been a great experience so far. I look forward to working with you all. Cheers!

(Also posted on Medium)

KAYLEY SNADDON

keith-bremner-521872-unsplash

Photo by Keith Bremner on Unsplash

Hi Guys! Just a little intro to tell you a bit more about myself.

I am Ayrshire born and bred.  I grew up in Irvine and then moved to Ayr.  I do enjoy travelling Scotland and all of its beautiful scenery – but I’m a homebird so I never see myself leaving for any length of time!

At home, I have an amazing, supportive wife and two wonderful little boys, Caleb and Hayyden.

I spent my childhood and teenage years doing musical theatre and am still known to break into show tunes every now and then. I trained as a Hairdresser in 2009 and went on to train in Media Make Up in 2012; however I had to stop due to ill health during my training for Fashion Make Up so I unfortunately wasn’t able to pursue a career in that industry. When getting back on my feet, I found myself working in mainly Customer Service and Admin roles.

Having had all of the training that I could get from my previous employer, I’ve now moved onto work with MaidSafe as an Accounts Admin, where I feel that my strengths lie. I’m really excited to start my journey with you all and see what the future brings! 

February 2018 Update

Snowman

The Beast from the East snow storm in Scotland may have stopped traffic across the country but it certainly hasn’t slowed progress of the SAFE Network.  This month has been full of new hires, new guidelines for developers and development updates.

Thanks to the continued hard work of Victoria, our Office Manager, we are now welcoming many new faces to the Maidsafe team.  We have now filled the Test and Release Manager, Rust Engineer, Software Support Analyst, UX/UI Designer and Admin Assistant roles.  This is not only testament to the ever growing needs of the network but the speed of its growth. We look forward to these new staffers becoming part of the community.

We are very excited to have announced our first European DevCon in Scotland in April 2018.  As the majority of the MaidSafe global team will in the Ayr HQ for a staff weekend we are inviting developers to join us for a one day development conference to learn more about the network, recent developments and share community projects.  If you would like to join us please email outreach@maidsafe.net.  We will also be sharing the conference via a livestream and will post joining details closer to the time.  

Following a very successful funding cycle the Safecoin animated video Community Engagement Programme was over funded.  In light of this we have agreed with Hypercube to create a second video in addition to the Safecoin video. There has been good progress on the Safecoin video and we are expecting to see initial animations in the coming weeks.  

Progress for the  new MaidSafe website is also coming along.  We have now completed the wireframing and are expecting the designs from the agency  later this week. This is an exciting stage and will give us a better idea of the end product. We will continue to share updates on the forum.  

Dug, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator, has been increasing his outreach work this week and has been attending and speaking at a number of events.   It is not practical for Dug to create or attend meet ups around the globe so we are once again looking to the community to help us spread the SAFE Network word.  The long term vision is to have meet ups in every major city around the world. More information on this can be found on this forum thread and if you would like to lead or set up a Meet Up locally please contact Dug Campbell (outreach@maidsafe.net).

The front-end team and Shona have been working hard in the last few months and have now released UX Guidelines. We hope that this will be helpful for app developers and we will continue to see several new and exciting apps being developed on the SAFE Network.  

Following the development of Peruse Browser earlier this year we have now released V0.4.0 with new features and functions. There has also been a new new version of the SAFE Browser released this month, v0.9.0.

Routing has been busy in the last few weeks and we have now outlined the milestones for implementations onto our workflow system (JIRA). Although this is still an ongoing process as we continuously improving the design.    Steady progress is being made with tasks being picked off towards the DataChains first milestone.

Thanks for your continued support!

Starting 2018 with a Bang – Monthly update on SAFE Network

Start window of the peruse browser

It has been a very successful and busy start to 2018. Here’s the round up of the best bits from January at the SAFE Network.

Development

We are almost ready to release a new custom Browser, Peruse following extensive planning and development. The existing SAFE Browser as you may be aware is a fork of the Beaker Browser and this has worked well, however, recent changes including a move towards DAT has created extra work for the team with conflicting code.  The decision was therefore taken to develop a new custom browser and it is hoped that the reduced time needed to handle upstream merges and bugs will allow for quicker updates going forward.  

Early this month we also published new versions of SAFE Client Libs.  From this we hope to see more developers building on the network and adding to the apps already in development which include a decentralised forum, SAFE Content Management System, a wallet app, as well as messaging and storage apps.  

The Routing team have been busy and having conducted a number of simulations are implementing a well considered design as they progress toward alpha 3. With these simulations we will be able to test various outcomes and hope this will signal the next step for the network.

Marketing

Following the growth of the Marketing team at the end of last year we have now published some high level strategy plans for the coming months. As we increase the marketing activities as well as the visibility of these we will be including a marketing updates within the weekly Dev Update every Thursday.   

We have begun work on a new MaidSafe website and anticipate launch in early April.  The current site was created to support the release of Alpha 2 in September 2017 and as planned we are updating this as we move toward Alpha 3.  

Early in January we were able to launch our first video of 2018 with an animated piece explaining the differences between the SAFE Network and the blockchain. The Next Internet Shouldn’t be Blockchain based can be viewed on our Facebook or YouTube channel and has been translated subtitles in a number of languages submitted by our community.  

Following the successful relaunch of the Community Engagement Program (CEP) before Christmas we have now appointed Hypercube to develop an animated video about Safecoin.  Having created 2 of our previous videos we are excited to see what they will come up with and look forward to sharing it with you all very soon.  As this project has been over funded we have also come to an agreement with Hypercube that they will create a second video which will help explain the consensus mechanism behind the SAFE Network.

As well as the CEP we have been increasing our resources for newcomers and have recently announced our plans for a SAFE Network Academy.  Aiming to provide short courses that build up the knowledge and awareness among interested parties. We envision this to be an incremental series of courses and will release more news on these very soon. In the meantime if you are looking for comprehensive information on the network the new Safe Primer is now available.  This fantastic resource was created by a team from our community and we are very grateful for all of their hard work.

Recruitment and Growth

As the company and the Network continues to grow we continue to recruit for a number of roles with some success. At the MaidSafe HQ in Ayr we recently recruited Nadia Burborough  as a Technical Executive Assistant on 26th January, she will work closely with the engineers and will assist Viv in staying updated with the work of the ever growing team.  

Bank of desks

 

 

We have also just recruited a Test and Release Manager and a UI/UX Designer who will both be based from our HQ as well as a new remote Rust Engineer who will start with us in the coming weeks. This activity comes on the back of the successful launch of a dedicated office for the front-end team in Chennai, India, and our partners there are working to hard to expand the team and fill this wonderful new space.

Media

This year has kicked off with some strong media coverage.  COO Nick Lambert has spoken on both BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio 4 on 4th January BBC 5 Live earlier this week.  We have also had two blog pieces from Sarah in the BraveNewCoin and The Block, both on topic of autonomous cars. To round of January David spoke with John Harris from Guardian with this resulting article “The punk rock internet – how DIY rebels are working to replace tech giants”.

As someone posted recently on the forum ‘the community is buzzing’ at the moment, thanks to everyone for your continued time, support and commitment!

Regards MaidSafe.