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Historical Discussions: How I cut GTA Online loading times by 70% (February 28, 2021: 3796 points)

(3813) How I cut GTA Online loading times by 70%

3813 points 3 days ago by kuroguro in 10000th position

nee.lv | Estimated reading time – 15 minutes | comments | anchor

GTA Online. Infamous for its slow loading times. Having picked up the game again to finish some of the newer heists I was shocked (/s) to discover that it still loads just as slow as the day it was released 7 years ago.

It was time. Time to get to the bottom of this.


First I wanted to check if someone had already solved this problem. Most of the results I found pointed towards anecdata about how the game is so sophisticated that it needs to load so long, stories on how the p2p network architecture is rubbish (not saying that it isn't), some elaborate ways of loading into story mode and a solo session after that and a couple of mods that allowed skipping the startup R* logo video. Some more reading told me we could save a whopping 10-30 seconds with these combined!

Meanwhile on my PC...


1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  
Story mode load time:  ~1m 10s  Online mode load time: ~6m flat  Startup menu disabled, time from R* logo until in-game (social club login time isn't counted).    Old but decent CPU:   AMD FX-8350  Cheap-o SSD:          KINGSTON SA400S37120G  We have to have RAM:  2x Kingston 8192 MB (DDR3-1337) 99U5471  Good-ish GPU:         NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070  

I know my setup is dated but what on earth could take 6x longer to load into online mode? I couldn't measure any difference using the story-to-online loading technique as others have found before me. Even if it did work the results would be down in the noise.

I Am (Not) Alone

If this poll is to be trusted then the issue is widespread enough to mildly annoy more than 80% of the player base. It's been 7 years R*!

Looking around a bit to find who are the lucky ~20% that get sub 3 minute load times I came across a few benchmarks with high-end gaming PCs and an online mode load time of about 2 minutes. I would kill hack for a 2 minute load time! It does seem to be hardware-dependent but something doesn't add up here...

How come their story mode still takes near a minute to load? (The M.2 one didn't count the startup logos btw.) Also, loading story to online takes them only a minute more while I'm getting about five more. I know that their hardware specs are a lot better but surely not 5x better.

Highly accurate measurements

Armed with such powerful tools as the Task Manager I began to investigate what resources could be the bottleneck.

After taking a minute to load the common resources used for both story and online modes (which is near on par with high-end PCs) GTA decides to max out a single core on my machine for four minutes and do nothing else.

Disk usage? None! Network usage? There's a bit, but it drops basically to zero after a few seconds (apart from loading the rotating info banners). GPU usage? Zero. Memory usage? Completely flat...

What, is it mining crypto or something? I smell code. Really bad code.

Single thread-bound

While my old AMD CPU has 8 cores and it does pack a punch, it was made in the olden days. Back when AMD's single-thread performance was way behind Intel's. This might not explain all of the load time differences but it should explain most of it.

What's odd is that it's using up just the CPU. I was expecting vast amounts of disk reads loading up resources or loads of network requests trying to negotiate a session in the p2p network. But this? This is probably a bug.


Profilers are a great way of finding CPU bottlenecks. There's only one problem - most of them rely on instrumenting the source code to get a perfect picture of what's happening in the process. And I don't have the source code. Nor do I need microsecond-perfect readings - I have 4 minutes' worth of a bottleneck.

Enter stack sampling: for closed source applications there's only one option. Dump the running process' stack and current instruction pointer's location to build a calling tree in set intervals. Then add them up to get statistics on what's going on. There's only one profiler that I know of (might be ignorant here) that can do this on Windows. And it hasn't been updated in over 10 years. It's Luke Stackwalker! Someone, please give this project some love :)

Normally Luke would group the same functions together but since I don't have debugging symbols I had to eyeball nearby addresses to guess if it's the same place. And what do we see? Not one bottleneck but two of them!

Down the rabbit hole

Having borrowed my friend's completely legitimate copy of the industry-standard disassembler (no, I really can't afford the thing... gonna learn to ghidra one of these days) I went to take GTA apart.

That doesn't look right at all. Most high-profile games come with built-in protection against reverse engineering to keep away pirates, cheaters, and modders. Not that it has ever stopped them.

There seems to be some sort of an obfuscation/encryption at play here that has replaced most instructions with gibberish. Not to worry, we simply need to dump the game's memory while it's executing the part we want to look at. The instructions have to be de-obfuscated before running one way or another. I had Process Dump lying around, so I used that, but there are plenty of other tools available to do this sort of thing.

Problem one: It's... strlen?!

Disassembling the now-less-obfuscated dump reveals that one of the addresses has a label pulled out of somewhere! It's strlen? Going down the call stack the next one is labeled vscan_fn and after that the labels end, tho I'm fairly confident it's sscanf.

It's parsing something. Parsing what? Untangling the disassembly would take forever so I decided to dump some samples from the running process using x64dbg. Some debug-stepping later it turns out it's... JSON! They're parsing JSON. A whopping 10 megabytes worth of JSON with some 63k item entries.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  
...,  {      'key': 'WP_WCT_TINT_21_t2_v9_n2',      'price': 45000,      'statName': 'CHAR_KIT_FM_PURCHASE20',      'storageType': 'BITFIELD',      'bitShift': 7,      'bitSize': 1,      'category': ['CATEGORY_WEAPON_MOD']  },  ...  

What is it? It appears to be data for a "net shop catalog" according to some references. I assume it contains a list of all the possible items and upgrades you can buy in GTA Online.

Clearing up some confusion: I beleive these are in-game money purchasable items, not directly linked with microtransactions.

But 10 megs? That's nothing! And using sscanf may not be optimal but surely it's not that bad? Well...

Yeah, that's gonna take a while... To be fair I had no idea most sscanf implementations called strlen so I can't blame the developer who wrote this. I would assume it just scanned byte by byte and could stop on a NULL.

Problem two: Let's use a Hash- ... Array?

Turns out the second offender is called right next to the first one. They're both even called in the same if statement as seen in this ugly decompilation:

All labels are mine, no idea what the functions/parameters are actually called.

The second problem? Right after parsing an item, it's stored in an array (or an inlined C++ list? not sure). Each entry looks something like this:

1  2  3  4  
struct {      uint64_t *hash;      item_t   *item;  } entry;  

But before it's stored? It checks the entire array, one by one, comparing the hash of the item to see if it's in the list or not. With ~63k entries that's (n^2+n)/2 = (63000^2+63000)/2 = 1984531500 checks if my math is right. Most of them useless. You have unique hashes why not use a hash map.

I named it hashmap while reversing but it's clearly not_a_hashmap. And it gets even better. The hash-array-list-thing is empty before loading the JSON. And all of the items in the JSON are unique! They don't even need to check if it's in the list or not! They even have a function to directly insert the items! Just use that! Srsly, WAT!?


Now that's nice and all, but no one is going to take me seriously unless I test this so I can write a clickbait title for the post.

The plan? Write a .dll, inject it in GTA, hook some functions, ???, profit.

The JSON problem is hairy, I can't realistically replace their parser. Replacing sscanf with one that doesn't depend on strlen would be more realistic. But there's an even easier way.

  • hook strlen
  • wait for a long string
  • "cache" the start and length of it
  • if it's called again within the string's range, return cached value

Something like:

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34  35  36  
size_t strlen_cacher(char* str)  {    static char* start;    static char* end;    size_t len;    const size_t cap = 20000;          if (start && str >= start && str <= end) {            len = end - str;                    if (len < cap / 2)        MH_DisableHook((LPVOID)strlen_addr);              return len;    }                  len = builtin_strlen(str);              if (len > cap) {      start = str;      end = str + len;    }          return len;  }  

And as for the hash-array problem, it's more straightforward - just skip the duplicate checks entirely and insert the items directly since we know the values are unique.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  
char __fastcall netcat_insert_dedupe_hooked(uint64_t catalog, uint64_t* key, uint64_t* item)  {        uint64_t not_a_hashmap = catalog + 88;          if (!(*(uint8_t(__fastcall**)(uint64_t*))(*item + 48))(item))      return 0;          netcat_insert_direct(not_a_hashmap, key, &item);              if (*key == 0x7FFFD6BE) {      MH_DisableHook((LPVOID)netcat_insert_dedupe_addr);      unload();    }      return 1;  }  

Full source of PoC here.


Well, did it work then?

1  2  3  4  5  6  
Original online mode load time:        ~6m flat  Time with only duplication check patch: 4m 30s  Time with only JSON parser patch:       2m 50s  Time with both issues patched:          1m 50s    (6*60 - (1*60+50)) / (6*60) = 69.4% load time improvement (nice!)  

Hell yes, it did! :))

Most likely, this won't solve everyone's load times - there might be other bottlenecks on different systems, but it's such a gaping hole that I have no idea how R* has missed it all these years.


  • There's a single thread CPU bottleneck while starting up GTA Online
  • It turns out GTA struggles to parse a 10MB JSON file
  • The JSON parser itself is poorly built / naive and
  • After parsing there's a slow item de-duplication routine

R* please fix

If this somehow reaches Rockstar: the problems shouldn't take more than a day for a single dev to solve. Please do something about it :<

You could either switch to a hashmap for the de-duplication or completely skip it on startup as a faster fix. For the JSON parser - just swap out the library for a more performant one. I don't think there's any easier way out.

ty <3

Small update

I was expecting to get some attention but nowhere near this much! After reaching the top of HN this post has spread like wildfire! Thank you for the overwhelming response :)

I'll do more writing if something interesting comes along, but don't expect anything of this scale soon - there was a lot of luck involved.

A few people suggested spamming this post to Rockstar's support - please don't! I'm sure they've seen this by now. Continuing would only bog down support tickets for everyone else. Social media is fair game in my book tho.

Several HN comments suggested I add a donate button, as they would like to buy me a beer (thank you!) so I'm placing a link in the footer.

Thank you for reading and all the support :)

All Comments: [-] | anchor

ufo(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The part that puzzles me the most was this comment about sscanf:

> To be fair I had no idea most sscanf implementations called strlen so I can't blame the developer who wrote this.

Is this true? Is sscanf really O(N) on the size of the string? Why does it need to call strlen in the first place?

JdeBP(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I think that the author hasn't checked them all. Even this isn't checking them all.

The MUSL C library' sscanf() does not do this, but does call memchr() on limited substrings of the input string as it refills its input buffer, so it's not entirely free of this behaviour.

* https://git.musl-libc.org/cgit/musl/tree/src/stdio/vsscanf.c

The sscanf() in Microsoft's C library does this because it all passes through a __stdio_common_vsscanf() function which uses length-counted rather than NUL-terminated strings internally.

* https://github.com/tpn/winsdk-10/blob/master/Include/10.0.16...

* https://github.com/huangqinjin/ucrt/blob/master/inc/corecrt_...

The GNU C library does something similar, using a FILE structure alongside a special 'operations' table, with a _rawmemchr() in the initialization.

* https://github.com/bminor/glibc/blob/master/libio/strops.c#L...

* https://github.com/bminor/glibc/blob/master/libio/strfile.h#...

The FreeBSD C library does not use a separate 'operations' table.

* https://github.com/freebsd/freebsd-src/blob/main/lib/libc/st...

A glib summary is that sscanf() in these implementations has to set up state on every call that fscanf() has the luxury of keeping around over multiple calls in the FILE structure. They're setting up special nonce FILE objects for each sscanf() call, and that involves finding out how long the input string is every time.

It is food for thought. How much could life be improved if these implementations exported the way to set up these nonce FILE structures from a string, and callers used fscanf() instead of sscanf()? How many applications are scanning long strings with lots of calls to sscanf()?

JoshMcguigan(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> Normally Luke would group the same functions together but since I don't have debugging symbols I had to eyeball nearby addresses to guess if it's the same place.

I really enjoyed this article, but I do have a question about this part. Why would a single function be listed at mutliple addresses?

kuroguro(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Well it's not actually the function's start address, it's the instruction pointer's address for the top function (so it moves around while executing).

And going down the call tree, it's also not the start address, but the return address - so the place where in the previous function called this one.

Without debug symbols there's no way to tell if we're inside the same function block or not - it's all just addresses somewhere in the machine code.

tiddles(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'd guess it's just using the value of the instruction pointer at each point it samples, and the way to resolve the function from that is to look backwards to find the symbol of the function it's in. As he has no symbols Luke has no (easy) way of knowing where functions start so it can't do this lookup.

tomgs(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm going to make the valid assumption that someone, at some point, was assigned to fix this. The issue here, IMHO, is why they didn't. It comes down to how complicated it was to fix this from the organizational perspective, and not from the technical perspective. I'll explain.

First, a disclaimer: I have no idea how much Rockstar employees are paid, nor how their workdays look like. I don't know what their team sizes are, where they worked before, or who manages who and in what fashion. I actually don't know anything about the Rockstar engineering organization at all.

I am also not a GTA player (or, more accurately, haven't been since San Andreas came out many moons ago). This is my perspective as someone who has worked for various organizations in his life ( SWE-centered ones but also other, more 'traditional' ones too).

We're all familiar with technical debt - it's a well established concept by now. Reducing it is part of the normal workload for well-functioning organizations, and (good) tech leads think about it often.

What isn't talked about as often is the 'organizational' debt. Some things are 'verboten' - you don't touch them, you don't talk about them, and you run like hell if you're ever assigned to deal with them.

Every large enough company has (at least) one of those. It might be a critical service written in a language nobody in the team knows anymore. Maybe it's a central piece of infra that somebody wrote and then left, and it's seen patch after patch ever since. These are things that end your career at the company if the BLAME points to you after you attempted to fix them.

I have a gut feeling - not based on anything concrete, as I mentioned - that the loading part for GTA Online might be one of those things. If someone breaks the process that loads the game - that's a big deal. No one would be able to play. Money would be lost, and business-folk will come knocking.

So sure, there might be some mitigations in place - if some part fails to load they allow the game to load anyways, and then attempt to fix it mid-fly. It's not black and white. But it feels like one of those things, and so people might have just been running like hell from it for years and years. Teams change. Projects change hands. People leave, more people join. It's life in the industry.

I would be REALLY interested in learning how software orgs deal with these types of behemoths in their projects. I have yet to find someone who knows how to - methodically and repetitively - break these apart when they appear.

op00to(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> I would be REALLY interested in learning how software orgs deal with these types of behemoths in their projects. I have yet to find someone who knows how to - methodically and repetitively - break these apart when they appear.

I ignore them until a big, big customer complains and threatens revenue, then I scream and scream until it gets fixed.

will4274(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Doesn't surprise me at all. It's an O(n^2) algorithm (strlen called in a loop) in a part of the code where N is likely much smaller in the test environment (in-app purchases).

Overwatch is another an incredibly popular game with obvious bugs (the matchmaking time) front and center. And gamers are quick to excuse it as some sort of incredibly sophisticated matchmaking - just like the gamers mentioned in OP.

It's easy to to say it's something about gamers / gaming / fandom - but I have a locked down laptop issued by my bigcorp which is unbelievably slow. I'd bet a dollar there's a bug in the enterprise management software that spins the CPU. A lot of software just sucks and people use it anyway.

jrockway(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I am not sure Overwatch's matchmaking time is a bug per se. The time estimates are bad for sure. But the matchmaker can really only be sure of one state -- if you queue for a match, a match will be made. The rest is predicting who will show up, along with some time-based scale for making a suboptimal match in the interest of time. Players absolutely hate these suboptimal matches, so the time threshold ends up being pretty high. The rest seems to just be luck; will the right combination of 11 other people be in the right place at the right time?

I think it could be improved, but it doesn't strike me as being buggy.

(Overwatch itself, lots of bugs. Tons of bugs. If they have any automated tests for game mechanics I would be pretty surprised.)

qyi(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It's certainly not unique to game consumers. People in general just blame every fault on 'it's physically impossible to solve'. One big reason why corporations get away with creating non stop worse and worse products.

ufo(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The surprising part is that sscanf calls strlen behind the scenes.

ksec(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Even after cutting loading by 70% it still take a minute? I haven't played any AAA titles for a long time. But even 30s is way too long. Especially I used to play with HDD. Considering modern SSD can be 30x Faster in Seq Read and Random Read up to 200x.

Is 1 min loading time even normal? Why did it take so long? I never played GTA Online so could someone explain?

Red_Leaves_Flyy(10000) 3 days ago [-]
iknowstuff(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Could be due to decompression of lots of huge assets.

wun0ne(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Incredible work. Hopefully R* acknowledge this and compensate you in some way. I won't be holding my breath.

Maybe set up a donation page? I'd be more than happy to send some beer money your way for your time spent on this!

emptyparadise(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The author's reward will probably be a DMCA takedown.

sundvor(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Agree, this is up there in the top tier of amazing stories I've read here on HN. I admire T0ST's technical and writing skills; first rate combination. Massive kudos, would like to shout a cup of coffee.

(I also really like the design and presentation of the article; I'm running out of superlatives here.)

kuroguro(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Thanks for the suggestion, probably missed most of the traffic but just added it :)


raggi(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Spicy hot take: the root cause here is the awful c++ library ecosystem.

steerablesafe(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Yeah no. While the C++ library ecosystem is painful to use, it still doesn't justify hand-rolling a JSON parser and there are certainly high quality hash-based container implementations available too, but even the standard one should beat the one used here.

Aissen(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It would make a great addition to the Accidentally Quadratic blog: https://accidentallyquadratic.tumblr.com/ (haven't been updated in ~2 years, but maybe the author is around).

Dragonai(10000) 3 days ago [-]

There's some great information here. Thanks so much for sharing!

capableweb(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> the problems shouldn't take more than a day for a single dev to solve

It bothers me that so many of us developers are annoyed by managers saying stupid stuff like 'shouldn't be too hard' about things they don't understand, but then other developers walk into the same trap.

Yes, it looks simple at the surface. It most likely isn't. The problem is not that it looks simple, the problem is that you assume it is simple, probably because you don't have the full context.

asadlionpk(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The person posted a PoC that works. Surely they have context now?

stevemk14ebr(10000) 3 days ago [-]

it _is_ simple, as evident by the article if you read it in full

blt(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I agree 'shouldn't be too hard' should be avoided, but in this case the developers should fix it even if it is hard.

bspammer(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I hope you at least agree this isn't a bug that should go unfixed for 7 years.

trollied(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Wow. I always assumed that profiling would be part of the pre-release test processes for AAA games...

gbl08ma(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I had heard about this giant JSON from friends in the GTA V modding community. OP's idea of what it is used for is right. My guess is that this JSON was quite smaller when the game released and has been increasing in size as they add more and more items to sell in-game. Additionally, I speculate that most of the people with the knowledge to do this sort of profiling moved on to work on other Rockstar titles, and the 'secondary team(s)' maintaining GTA Online throughout most of its lifespan either didn't notice the problem, since it's something that has become worse slowly over the years, or don't have enough bandwidth to focus on it and fix it.

It's also possible they are very aware of it and are saving up this improvement for the next iteration of GTA Online, running on a newer version of their game engine :)

Negitivefrags(10000) 3 days ago [-]

When it was released the game didn't have all the microtransactions so it probably took no time at all to process the JSON even with this issue.

Then over time they slowly add data to the JSON and then this O(n^2) stuff starts to creep up and up, but the farther away from release you are, the less likely that the kind of engineers to who do optimisation and paying any attention.

They are all off working on the next game.

paulryanrogers(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Could it be that MMO players are just more accustomed to long load times? (Lack of loading patience is one of the reasons I don't play SWOTOR.)

jimbob45(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Same. I wonder if the dev didn't bother to fix it because they assumed profiling would identify it as a non-issue.

yread(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Could be that at release the JSON was just 200kb with 1000 entries or something and this quadratic 'algorithm' wasn't the slowest part of the process

IgorPartola(10000) 3 days ago [-]

More importantly how do you release a game that takes 6 minutes to load? This is why mobile gaming has the advantage. In those 6 minutes I could have played a round of a game that's quite satisfying and put it down already. This just seems sloppy.

faebi(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Wow, many people argue how optimized GTA was and then this. I wonder how much money they lost because of this. I often stopped playing because it just took too long to load.

formerly_proven(10000) 3 days ago [-]

GTA V (the single player game) is quite well optimized and needs a frame rate limiter on most newer systems because it will run at over ~180 fps, at which point the engine starts to barf all over itself.

GTA Online is a huge, enormously buggy and slow mess that will generally struggle to run at 80 fps on a top-of-the-line 2020 system (think 10900K at over 5 GHz with a 3090) and will almost never cross the 120 fps threshold no matter how fast your system is and how low the settings are.

eznzt(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The 3D engine is highly optimised.

alborzb(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It always fascinates me how sometimes people defend things just because they're a fan, even if the particular aspect they're defending doesn't make sense!

I've seen this happen with some other games which are not the best optimised for PCs, but the fans will still defend the developers, just because they like the brand

_the_inflator(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I disagree. There is no contradiction. JSON can be a different beast for C, C++, Java, backend coders. You can implement complex 3D graphics while struggling with JSON.

For example, my backend Java guys struggled heavily with JSON mappers. It took them forever to apply changes safely. My department consumes a lot of data from backend systems and we have to aggregate and transform them. Unfortunately the consumed structure changes often.

While a JSON mapper in our case in JAVA was sort of exceptionally hard to handle, a simple NodeJS layer in JavaScript did the job exceptionally easy and fast. So we used a small NodeJS layer to handle the mapping instead of doing this in Java.

Moral of the story: Sometimes there are better tools outside your view. And this seems to be many times the case for JSON. JSON means JavaScript Object Notation. It is still tough for OO languages to handle.

This is my observation.

c7DJTLrn(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Yep, sometimes I feel like having a drive around, and then I remember how long it takes to load and play something else instead. If you end up in a lobby with undesirables and are forced to switch, you've got another long wait.

connicpu(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm willing to bet the developers who wrote the in game store are not the same developers who optimized the rendering pipeline

blibble(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I tried GTA online once and indeed got fed up of the load times

jeroenhd(10000) 3 days ago [-]

GTA, at least the core gameplay and the single player mode, is quite well optimised. The game ran well even on the cheaper side of gaming PC hardware.

This... this is GTA online. It's a cash cow designed to suck cash out of your pocket. Ads for things you can spend your money on are shown while 'connecting', so if this delay wasn't introduced intentionally, it sure isn't a high priority fix. The code isn't part of the optimised, streamlined, interactive part of the game, it's part of the menu and loader system.

Most of these online games/services have so-called 'whales' that contribute most if not all of the income the platform makes. If these whales are willing to spend the wads of cash they throw at the platform, they won't even care for another five minutes of ads. The amounts of cash some of these people spend is obscene; the millions Take Two profit from GTA every year are generally generated by only a tiny (usually a single number percentage) of the total player base.

In the end, I doubt they've lost much money on this. They might've even made some from the extra ads.

psyklic(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I wouldn't be surprised if the long wait increases profits -- as you wait, Rockstar shows you ads for on-sale items.

fastball(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Why in the world would you roll your own JSON parser?

For reference, I just ran a 10MB file through the JSON parser I use in Python and it finished in 0.047s (vs 190s)

lordnacho(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I wonder if there's some corporate policy against using external libs. You'd think most of them would have solved this.

rapsey(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Python has a package manager and a rich standard library.

ed25519FUUU(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I love reading about this type of hacking/debugging, where they disassemble the binary and patch it.

Can anyone recommend a youtube video where I can watch (not necessarily learn) people doing this sort of work? I'm in the mood for some vicarious hacking :-)

notriv(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I highly recommend this forum :)


voltagex_(10000) 3 days ago [-]

liveoverflow and stacksmashing channels on YouTube.

kevinventullo(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I gave up on playing GTA:O because everything took so long to load, having never spent a dime. I have to imagine there is so much lost revenue because of this bug; I hate to be harsh but it is truly an embarrassment that someone external to R* debugged and fixed this before they did (given they had 6 years!).

ThomW(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Load times is absolutely the primary reason I quit playing.

josalhor(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I have a friend who works at Rockstar. I have forwarded the blog post to him.

computronus(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I don't play GTA Online, but I'll just say thanks for forwarding, since it's a concrete step towards possibly fixing the bugs.

marshmallow_12(10000) 3 days ago [-]

ask him from me what on earth is wrong with R*

MarekKnapek(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Please don't compute speed-up like that.

Old time: 6 minutes (360 seconds). New time: 1 minute and 50 seconds (110 seconds). Speed-up calculated by article author: 1-110/360=0.694 (69.4% saved). Speed-up calculated by me: 360/110=3.27 (3 times faster).

Please calculate it the other way around. It makes great difference when you say you made something 10× faster than when you say you saved 90% of work even if both mean exactly the same thing.

Bruce Dawson has great article about this: https://randomascii.wordpress.com/2018/02/04/what-we-talk-ab...

woko(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I don't think this remark is warranted here. Your sentence ('3.27 times faster') is clear, but conveys the same meaning. His sentence ('loading times are cut down by 70%') does not refer to 'speed' or 'fast' (Ctrl+F the blog post to check for yourself) and is technically correct and clear. So the criticism raised in the WordPress article (about the usage of the words 'speed' and 'fast') does not apply. The mistake would have been to talk about '70% faster' or a '70% speed-up', because then there is ambiguity for the reader.

tgtweak(10000) 3 days ago [-]

That's how you know he's a pure engineer - he used math not marketing

Agreed however that this is 3x faster.

ohwaitnvm(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I haven't played GTAO in a couple years, but I vaguely remember using the suspend process option of windows task manager to jump into online much faster.

Googling gave me this result, which sounds about right for what I remember. https://www.gfinityesports.com/grand-theft-auto/gta-online-h...

I'm not certain it's still a valid workaround, and it's not nearly as sophisticated as the OP method, but at least everyone can do it :)

dEnigma(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I had to use this trick to kick GTA Online back into action when it got stuck forever on entering buildings (mid-2020). Didn't know it could be used to cut the load times in general.

pityJuke(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I remember doing this to create a private online session (i.e. no other users).

powerfulclick(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is really cool - how did you develop the background knowledge to solve this? I'm trying to learn more about low-level stuff and I would have no idea how to approach solving a problem like this

waterheater(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Here's a good book on software reverse engineering (SRE): https://www.amazon.com/Practical-Reverse-Engineering-Reversi...

It won't help you with PowerPC, but the chapter list is: x86 and x64, ARM, The Windows Kernel, Debugging and Automation, and Obfuscation.

The book was written in 2014, so it should be reasonably relevant for modern purposes, and especially so if digging into any software older than 2014.

spuz(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'd recommend searching HN for threads about learning reverse engineering. Here are a few that I've found:

Reverse Engineering Course: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22061842

Reverse Engineering For Beginners: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21640669

Introduction to reverse engineering for beginners: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16104958

tyingq(10000) 3 days ago [-]

'They're parsing JSON. A whopping 10 megabytes worth of JSON with some 63k item entries.'

Ahh. Modern software rocks.

LukvonStrom(10000) 3 days ago [-]

why not embed node.js to do this efficiently :D

ed25519FUUU(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Parsing 63k items in a 10 MB json string is pretty much a breeze on any modern system, including raspberry pi. I wouldn't even consider json as an anti-pattern with storing that much data if it's going over the wire (compressed with gzip).

Down a little in the article and you'll see one of the real issues:

> But before it's stored? It checks the entire array, one by one, comparing the hash of the item to see if it's in the list or not. With ~63k entries that's (n^2+n)/2 = (63000^2+63000)/2 = 1984531500 checks if my math is right. Most of them useless.

bombcar(10000) 3 days ago [-]

At least parse it into SQLite. Once.

animal531(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I played the game on PS3 and PC. The loading time at launch for PS3 (and later for PC, albeit on SSD) wasn't great, but it also wasn't nearly this terrible.

From a game programming perspective, I'm sure at launch there were very few extras to obtain, so this method ran fast and didn't raise any red flags.

But as time has worn on they've added a ton of extra items and it's become a real problem. What it does show is that probably most of their team are working on creating new things they can sell, vs testing and maintaining the codebase for the last N years.

dijit(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It's never been 'good', I played since 2013, Xbox 360 and later repurchased the game for PS4, the online load times were not just annoying they outright broke the game for me. To be having fun and then have a many minute delay while being pinned to the screen (because after loading from a mission you're never in a safe place).

Looking down on the ground through the clouds at the san Andreas's streets with that wispy air sound while waiting for those large thud noises which could come randomly will forever be etched into my memory as something which completely broke the fun I was having, especially when playing with friends and trying to do Heists later in the products life.

And because of this: getting people to play was really difficult, the combination of huge updates which took hours to download (PS4 has slow access to it's drive even if you upgrade to SSD) and the insanely long loading times once you have the patch culminated in many hours of lost gameplay.

I remember a quote from Steve Jobs which fits here: 'Let's say you can shave 10 seconds off of the boot time. Multiply that by five million users and thats 50 million seconds, every single day. Over a year, that's probably dozens of lifetimes. So if you make it boot ten seconds faster, you've saved a dozen lives. That's really worth it, don't you think?'[0]

[0]: https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=Saving_Lives.txt

z92(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Also note that the way he fixed it, strlen only caches the last call and returns quickly on an immediate second call with the same string.

Another reason why C styled null terminated strings suck. Use a class or structure and store both the string pointer and its length.

I have seen other programs where strlen was gobbling up 95% of execution time.

ip26(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Could this be worked into a compiler/stdlib from the back-end? Could a compiler/stdlib quietly treat all strings as a struct of {length,string} and redefine strlen to just fetch the length field? Perhaps setting a hook to transparently update 'length' when 'string' is updated is not trivial.

Edit: hah, I'm decades late to the party, here we go:

Most modern libraries replace C strings with a structure containing a 32-bit or larger length value (far more than were ever considered for length-prefixed strings), and often add another pointer, a reference count, and even a NUL to speed up conversion back to a C string. Memory is far larger now, such that if the addition of 3 (or 16, or more) bytes to each string is a real problem the software will have to be dealing with so many small strings that some other storage method will save even more memory (for instance there may be so many duplicates that a hash table will use less memory). Examples include the C++ Standard Template Library std::string...


ziml77(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm with you. I hate null terminated strings. In my first experiences with C, I specifically hated them because of strlen needing to scan them fully. When C++ introduced string_view, my hate grew when I realized that I could have zero-copy slices all the way up until I needed to interface with a C API. At that point you're forced to copy, even if your string_view came from something that was null terminated!

wruza(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Not that C strings do not suck, but with pascal strings we could discuss in this thread how implicitly copying a slowly decreasing part of a 10mb string at every tokenizer iteration could miss a developer's attention. It's completely unrelated to C strings and is completely related to bytefucking by hand. Once you throw a task like "write a low-level edge-case riddled primitive value shuffling machine" into an usual middle level corporative production pipeline, you're screwed by default.

ww520(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Yep, O(n^2) has the problem that no matter how fast you upgrade your hardware it would still lag.

Another pet peeve of mine is Civ 6's loading time for a saved game is atrocious. I'm sure there's a O(n^2) loop in there somewhere.

wruza(10000) 3 days ago [-]

My personal pet peeve is Windows Update (and their products installation routine in general). I bet that it's n^3 somewhere deep and they carefully curb than n for decades.

GuB-42(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Maybe even more surprising to me is that sscanf() relies on strlen().

I would have expected libc to take that use case in consideration and use a different algorithm when the string exceeds a certain size. Even if the GTA parser is not optimal, I would blame libc here. The worst part is that some machines may have an optimized libc and others don't, making the problem apparent only in some configuration.

I believe standard libraries should always have a reasonable worst case by default. It doesn't have to be perfectly optimized, but I think it is important to have the best reasonable complexity class, to avoid these kinds of problems. The best implementations usually have several algorithms for different cases. For example, a sort function may do insertion (n^2, good for small n) -> quicksort (avg. nlog(n), worst n^2, good overall) -> heapsort (guaranteed nlog(n), slower than quicksort except in edge cases). This way, you will never hit n^2 but not at the cost of slow algorithm for the most common cases.

The pseudo hash table is all GTA devs fault though.

ziml77(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I don't understand why it would need to use strlen anyway. Why wouldn't it treat the string like a stream when scanf is already coded to operate on an actual stream?

masklinn(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> For example, a sort function may do insertion [...]

That's generally called "adaptive". A famous example of that is timsort.

Your version has issues though: insertion sort is stable, which can dangerously mislead users.

thitcanh(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is why people should use commonly-available packages instead of rolling their own version of whatever dumb algorithm they think they can write. This happens all the time. Bugs have been fixed by others, but everyone is too smart to use someone else's code.

xyst(10000) 3 days ago [-]

seems more like a bad copy and paste situation to me. it's sort of what you get when you pay for the lowest bid for contractors.

mixologic(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Sometimes those commonly used packages end up being whatever dumb algorithm the author came up with, and nobody spends the time to verify if the package is worth it's popularity.

breakingcups(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It is absolutely unbelievable (and unforgivable) that a cash cow such as GTA V has a problem like this present for over 6 years and it turns out to be something so absolutely simple.

I do not agree with the sibling comment saying that this problem only looks simple and that we are missing context.

This online gamemode alone made $1 billion in 2017 alone.

Tweaking two functions to go from a load time of 6 minutes to less than two minutes is something any developer worth their salt should be able to do in a codebase like this equipped with a good profiler.

Instead, someone with no source code managed to do this to an obfuscated executable loaded with anti-cheat measures.

The fact that this problem is caused by Rockstar's excessive microtransaction policy (the 10MB of JSON causing this bottleneck are all available microtransaction items) is the cherry on top.

(And yes, I might also still be salty because their parent company unjustly DMCA'd re3 (https://github.com/GTAmodding/re3), the reverse engineered version of GTA III and Vice City. A twenty-year-old game. Which wasn't even playable without purchasing the original game.)

crazygringo(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I imagine the conversation between the programmer(s) and management went exactly like this:

Management: So, what can we do about the loading times?

Programmer(s): That's just how long it takes to load JSON. After all, the algorithm/function couldn't be more straightforward. Most of the complaints are probably coming from older hardware. And with new PC's and next-gen consoles it probably won't be noticeable at all.

Management: OK, guess that's that then. Sucks but nothing we can do.

Management had no idea of knowing whether this is true or not -- they have to trust what their devs tell them. And every time over the years someone asked 'hey why is loading so slow?' they get told 'yeah they looked into it when it was built, turns out there was no way to speed it up, so not worth looking into again.'

And I'm guessing that while Rockstar's best devs are put on the really complex in-game performance stuff... their least experienced ones are put on stuff like... loading a game's JSON config from servers.

I've seen it personally in the past where the supposedly 'easy' dev tasks are given to a separate team entirely, accountable to management directly, instead of accountable to the highly capable tech lead in charge of all the rest. I've got to assume that was basically the root cause here.

But I agree, this is incredibly embarrassing and unforgiveable. Whatever chain of accountability allowed this to happen... goddamn there's got to be one hell of an internal postmortem on this one.

greggman3(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Tell that to Valve. The Source engine and all its games (Half Life 1, 2, Portal, Alyx) have horrible load times. They might not be as bad as the GTA example but they're long and extremely frustrating.

And yet, no one cares, Those games (and GTA5) all sold millions of copies.

The only way this stuff gets fixed is if (a) some programmer takes pride in load times or (b) customers stop buying games with slow load times.

(b) never happens. If the game itself is good then people put up with the load times. If the game is bad and it has bad load times they'll point to the load times as a reason it's bad but the truth is it's the game itself that's bad because plenty of popular games have bad load times

Also, any game programmer loading and parsing text at runtime by definition, doesn't care about load times. If you want fast load times you setup your data so you can load it directly into memory, fix a few pointers and then use it where it is. If you have to parse text or even parse binary and move things around then you've already failed.

kuroguro(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Small nitpick: I believe these are items/prices for the in-game currency, not micro-transactions.

You can buy in-game currency for real world money tho: https://gta.fandom.com/wiki/Cash_Cards

Not 100% sure, never bought anything.

imglorp(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> This online gamemode alone made $1 billion in 2017 alone.

There's the answer right there. They figure it's making $1B/yr, leave it alone. Maintenance? That cuts into the billion. Everyone moved onto the next project.

rustybolt(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Not very surprising. Twitter doesn't work properly on my desktop, google freezes when showing the cookiewall, github freezes my phone. These are all important projects of billion dollar companies.

Zak(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I played through GTA V, enjoyed it, and tried out the online mode afterward.

I've logged in exactly twice. Load times like that may be worth it to a hardcore gamer, but I have no patience for it. There's no shortage of entertainment available to someone with a PC, a reasonable internet connection, and a modicum of disposable income. Waste my time and I'll go elsewhere for my entertainment.

Thaxll(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It was probably fast 10years ago when the store had couple of items, the dev back then never thought that it would grow to 60k items. Classic programming right there.

As for profiling, Windows Performance Toolkit is the best available no?

masklinn(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> The fact that this problem is caused by Rockstar's excessive microtransaction policy (the 10MB of JSON causing this bottleneck are all available microtransaction items) is the cherry on top.

For what it's worth, 10MB of JSON is not much. Duplicating the example entry from the article 63000 times (replacing `key` by a uuid4 for unicity) yields 11.5MB JSON.

Deserialising that JSON then inserting each entry in a dict (indexed by key) takes 450ms in Python.

But as Bruce Dawson oft notes, quadratic behaviour is the sweet spot because it's 'fast enough to go into production, and slow enough to fall over once it gets there'. Here odds are there were only dozens or hundreds of items during dev so nobody noticed it would become slow as balls beyond a few thousand items.

Plus load times are usually the one thing you start ignoring early on, just start the session, go take a coffee or a piss, and by the time you're back it's loaded. Especially after QA has notified of slow load times half a dozen times, the devs (with fast machines and possibly smaller development dataset) go 'works fine', and QA just gives up.

gameswithgo(10000) 3 days ago [-]

What is complicated about it is that an online modern 3d game is huge, and there are 95,000 places where a dumb mistake could hurt performance a lot for some customers. You catch 94,999 of them and then 'unforgiveable'

neatze(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I am not saying it is the case, nor understand details of solution in depth to comment on it, but in analogy, this reads to me, like an yelling at person who figure out how to solve rubix cube puzzle steps, because once steps are known solution is simple.

db48x(10000) 3 days ago [-]

In my experience most engineers have never used a profiler even once. They write the code, and if you're lucky they get it working correctly.

lucideer(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> It is absolutely unbelievable [...] that a cash cow [...] has a problem like this

Likely it wasn't fixed precisely because it's such a cash cow. 'It's making money, don't fuck with it'.

hibikir(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It's not just believable, but it's normal. I have spent quite a bit of my career maintaining software, and I don't recall one employers where low hanging fruit like this wasn't available everywhere.

The problem is not that developers can't optimize things: you will find some developers capable of figuring this problem out anywhere. What makes this low hanging fruit so popular is the fact that we aren't measuring enough, and even when we do, we aren't necessarily prioritizing looking into things that are suspiciously slow.

In the case of this example, the issue is also client-side, so it's not as if it's costing CPU time to Rockstar, so it's unlikely you'll have someone who can claim their job description includes wondering if the load times are worth optimizing. When problems like this one get solved is because someone who is very annoyed by the problem and either convinces a developer to even look into the problem. Most of the time, the people that suffer, the people that get to decide how to allocate the time, and the people that are in a position to evaluate the root cause of the problem never even get to talk to each other. It's the price we often pay for specialization and organizations with poor communication.

Organizations where the people deciding what has to be done next, and where the company culture dictates that the way forward is to either complete more tickets faster, or find ways to be liked by your manager, are not going to be fostering the kind of thinking that solves a problem like this one, but that's a lot of what you find in many places. A developer with a full plate that is just working on the next feature isn't going to spend their time wondering about load times.

But instead we end up blaming the developers themselves, instead of the culture that they swim in.

moonchild(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> salty because their parent company unjustly DMCA'd re3

Unjustly, but legally. The people you should be salty at are the lawmakers.

Scoundreller(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> obfuscated executable loaded with anti-cheat measures

I'm impressed that gamecopyworld.com is still online, updated, and has the same UI that it did in 2003

uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Can you quantify the additional profit they would have made if this were fixed N years ago?

oh_sigh(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Maybe long load times are advantageous? Because it creates longer user sessions on average? If you devote 10 minutes to loading the game you will probably want to play for at least 30 minutes.

thrwyoilarticle(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The popular view is that companies who write software know how to prioritise, so if a problem like this isn't fixed, it's because they've done the calculations and decided it's not worthwhile.

I disagree. If there are no internal incentives for the people who know how to fix this to fix it, or if there's no path from them thinking fixing it could improve revenues to being assigned the ticket, things like this won't get fixed. I can fully believe the load times will result in fewer users and lower expenditure.

I think we'll see this happen with Facebook Messenger. Both the apps and the website have become slow and painful to use and get worse every month. I think we'll start to see engagement numbers dropping because of this.

formerly_proven(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Also: Rockstar being too cheap to implement anti-cheat on the by far most successful online shooter on the planet.


> I don't think there's any easier way out.


omgJustTest(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Focus is on the money, not on the technicals, on the production side. It is a game, to entertain and ultimately "waste time" on the consumer side. Also on the topic of parsing, +1-11gbyte/sec is possible if you go binary. Point is: this isn't a technical problem, it's a choice.

grishka(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> the reverse engineered version of GTA III and Vice City

Ohhh. Thank you for telling me about this. I just found a mirror and successfully built it for macOS. Runs so much better than the wine version. But I guess I'll never finish that RC helicopter mission anyway lol

matheusmoreira(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I used to play this game a lot on PS4. I actually dropped it due to the ridiculous loading times... I still assumed it was doing something useful though. I can't believe they wasted so much of my time and electricity because of this. Even cheaply-made mobile games don't have bugs like this.

> their parent company unjustly DMCA'd re3

Wow, this is EA games level scumbaggery... I don't think I'm gonna buy games from them again.

zionic(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I stopped playing GTAV online a few years back because of the crazy load times, not only that but you have to go through 6+ minute load screens multiple times in many sessions.

This oversight has cost them millions of dollars easy.

anoncake(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I find it absolutely believable that a for-profit company does not prioritize fixing a game that is already a cash cow anyway.

pilif(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> This online gamemode alone made $1 billion in 2017 alone.

which of course goes to show that at least from a business side, this issue is completely inconsequential and all resources should be used to push for more monetization (and thus adding to the problem by adding more items to the JSON file) rather than fixing this issue, because, clearly, people don't seem to mind 6 minutes loading time.

I'm being snarky here, yes, but honestly: once you make $1 billion per year with that issue present, do you really think this issue matters at all in reality? Do you think they could make $1+n billion a year with this fixed?

Ansil849(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> It is absolutely unbelievable (and unforgivable) that a cash cow such as GTA V has a problem like this present for over 6 years and it turns out to be something so absolutely simple.

It is both believable and - by virtue of the fact that, as you said, the series continues to be a cash cow - is apparently forgivable.

Here's the thing: the company has zero reasons to fix this, or other ostensibly egregious affronts like DRM, because gamers keep buying the product. There is literally no economic incentive to 'fix' it.

0xy(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Something I've noticed in highly successful companies is that problems never get fixed because the sound of the money printer from the core business is deafening.

Our customer portal loads 2 versions of React, Angular, Knockout and jQuery on the same page? Doesn't matter, it's printing billions of dollars.

Rockstar's money printer is so loud that they don't care about problems.

Same thing for Valve, their money printer is so loud that they barely bother to make games anymore and let the Steam client languish for years (how did they let Discord/Twitch happen?).

Scaevolus(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I suspect that the core engine programmers moved onto other projects long ago, leaving GTA:O running with mostly artists and scenario designers to produce more DLC.

This bug wouldn't present in the first couple years with the limited amount of DLC, so by the time it got ridiculous there wasn't anyone left with the confidence to profile the game and optimize it. A junior dev could fix this, but would probably assume that slow loads are a deep complex engine problem that they won't be able to fix.

Alternatively, management would declare that there's too much risk doing more technical engine work, and not sign off on any proposed 'minor' optimizations because it's too risky.

umanwizard(10000) 3 days ago [-]

"worth their salt" is doing a lot of work here. No true Scotsman fallacy?

I think you might be surprised by how few programmers even know what a profiler is, let alone how to run one.

xwolfi(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I work in a large multi billion company and we have people staring at a slow problem for a decade before a noob comes with a profiler and find they browse every key of a Map instead of calling get and such. Or do 1 million db queries on a GUI startup...

Not surprised they didn't bother for 6 minutes when it takes us 10 years to fix a 30minutes locked startup.

randomNumber7(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> It is absolutely unbelievable (and unforgivable) that a cash cow such as GTA V has a problem like this present for over 6 years

Agree. I found the slow behavior of sscanf while writing one of my first C programs during an internship^^ You literally just have to google 'scanf slow' and find lots of information.

awpy(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Maybe it was outsourced. I don't understand how a team could make such an excellent game and fail to resolve such a simple bottleneck.

karmasimida(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It could be that at the time GTA online first publishes, the list as hashmap isn't too much of an issue, due to limited catalog, but get progressively worse as the inventory grows.

Ofc this is just a hypothesis, but I see the hesitation to change legacy code if it ain't broken as a wide spread mentality.

AnonsLadder(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Does anyone have a link to a copy of re3? Iirc, there was a gitrepo that kept a copy of all DMCA'd repos

xyst(10000) 3 days ago [-]

is it really unbelievable? companies this big tend to prioritize hiring a shit ton of middlemen (VPs, project managers, developer managers, offshore managers) in order to avoid paying out for talent to build and constantly maintain the project. I guess paying a shit ton of money to 1 person to manage 10+ poorly paid contractors works out for them, accounting wise.

If one really examined the accounting for GTAO, I would bet that most of the billions of dollars that were earned in micro transactions went to marketing, product research, and to middle management in the form of bonuses.

sillysaurusx(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Attitudes like yours are why gamedevs keep to themselves.

'Unbelievable' and 'unforgivable' eh? It's a greedy attitude. Instead of viewing GTA5 as a success that's brought a lot of people happiness, you view it as a money cow designed to extract every last bit of profit – and time, since this bug caused 70% longer loading times.

Perhaps it's both. But you, sitting here behind a keyboard with (correct me if I'm wrong) no gamedev experience, have no idea what it's like on a triple-A gamedev team with various priorities. The fact that the game works at all is a minor miracle, given the sheer complexity of the entire codebase.

The fact that someone was able to optimize the obfuscated executable is a wonderful thing. But they weren't a part of the team that shipped GTA 5. If they were, they certainly wouldn't have been able to spend their time on this.

serf(10000) 3 days ago [-]

>It is absolutely unbelievable (and unforgivable) that a cash cow such as GTA V has a problem like this present for over 6 years and it turns out to be something so absolutely simple.

Having played the game, it's not surprising to me in the least.

I have never yet encountered another such 'wild-west' online experience.

It's the only game that is so un-modereated that i've ever played where the common reaction to meeting a hacker that is interested in griefing you is to call your hacker friend white-knight and ask him to boot the griefer-hacker from the lobby.

Reports do next to nothing -- and 'modders' have some very real power in-game, with most fights between 'modders' ending in one of them being booted to desktop by the other exploiting a CTD bug (which are usually chat text-parser based..)

On top of all this, Rockstar attempts to have an in-game economy , even selling money outright to players in the form of 'Shark Cards' for real-life currency , while 'modders' (hackers) easily dupe gold for anyone that may ask in a public lobby.

This isn't just all coincidence; the game lacks any kind of realistic checks/balances with the server for the sake of latency and interoperability -- but this results in every 13 year old passing around the Cheat Engine structs on game-cheating forums and acting like virtual gods while tossing legitimate players around lobbies like ragdolls -- meanwhile Rockstar continues releasing GTA Online content while ignoring playerbase pleas for supervision.

It's truly unique though -- an online battlefield where one can literally watch battles between the metaphorical white hat and black hat hackers; but it's a definite indicator of a poorly ran business when vigilante customers need to replace customer service.

Also, an aside, most 'mod-menus' -- the small applets put together using publicly available memory structs for game exploit -- most all have a 'quick connect' feature that allows hackers to join lobbies much faster than the GTA V client usually allows for. This feature has existed for years and years, and I believe it performs tricks similar to those listed in the article.

nikanj(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The old maxim of 'Premature optimization is the root of all evil' has over time evolved to 'If you care one iota about performance, you are not a good programmer'.

hinkley(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've worked a number of places where the engineering culture discourages any sort of fishing expeditions at all, and if I weren't so stubborn everything would take 2-4x as long to run as it does. I say engineering culture, because at 2 of these places everyone was frustrated with engineering because the customers wanted something better, but the engineers would point at flat flame charts, shrug, and say there's nothing that can be done.

Bull. Shit.

There's plenty that can be done because there are parts of a process that don't deserve 15% of the overall budget. The fact that they are taking 1/6 of the time like 5 other things is a failure, not a hallmark of success. Finding 30% worth of improvements with this perspective is easy. 50% often just takes work, but post-discovery much of it is straightforward, if tedious.

My peers are lying with charts to get out of doing 'grunt work' when there's a new feature they could be implementing. But performance is a feature.

tamrix(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Well this sprint we didn't release any new features but we reduced the load.... Dammit hackernews!

luckystarr(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Well, that's embarrassing. I can't even imagine the level of shame I would feel if I had written the offending code.

But, you know, premature optimization yadda yadda.

Cakez0r(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It's not a premature optimisation to use a hashset instead of a list though!

nine_k(10000) 3 days ago [-]

As they say, a lot of classified stuff and closed-source code remains classified and closed not because it contains important secrets, but because those who hold the lock feel too ashamed and embarrassed to show the contents.

whatever1(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Probably this was written under a very strict release deadline and it worked ok at the time (less items for microtransactions). The problem lies with the management that never picked up the issue once it became a big problem. Pretty sure that any developer in R* is capable of optimizing this parser.

gridspy(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I imagine there is a senior programmer working for another game company. They are currently kicking themselves about the poorly performing and rushed loading code they wrote while still working at R*. But there is nothing they can do about it now, since they have moved on.

rcxdude(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It's the kind of thing that's very easy to accidentally write, it's not that shameful. What's shameful is not investigating the load times at all, since the problem is so easy to see when any measurement is done.

mekkkkkk(10000) 3 days ago [-]

As others have pointed out, this is a good illustration of why you need accurate data during development. I bet that the data set used during development was dirty with duplicates and way too small. It was faster and more convenient to just code defensive garbage than to be the annoying one nagging to another team about the state of data. So this was written, probably along with a TODO comment, and then forgotten about, and ultimately shipped. I've done this same thing. Not with any real consequences, but still. It's what happens when time is of the essence.

How it remained undetected for so long is really weird though. Surely they must've had a massive amount of complaints about the loading times. I completely stopped playing because of them. How could they not have investigated the root cause, atleast once, in six years?

chihuahua(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It seems that TODO comments just don't cut it. Either you create a bug/task for it, or you just forget about it.

comboy(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Holy cow, I'm a very casual gamer, I was excited about the game but when it came out I decided I don't want to wait that long and I'll wait until they sort it out. 2 years later it still sucked. So I abandoned it. But.. this... ?! This is unbelievable. I'm certain that many people left this game because of the waiting time. Then there are man-years wasted (in a way different than desired).

Parsing JSON?! I thought it was some network game logic finding session magic. If this is true that's the biggest WTF I saw in the last few years and we've just finished 2020.

Stunning work just having binary at hand. But how could R* not do this? GTAV is so full of great engineering. But if it was a CPU bottleneck then who works there that wouldn't just be irked to try to nail it? I mean it seems like a natural thing to try to understand what's going on inside when time is much higher than expected even in the case where performance is not crucial. It was crucial here. Almost directly translates to profits. Unbelievable.

lumberingjack(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It gets worse they're brand new game Red Dead online does the same thing as soon as it did it the first time I logged out and charged back

jiggawatts(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> Parsing JSON?!

Many developers I have spoken to out there in the wild in my role as a consultant have wildly distorted mental models of performance, often many orders of magnitude incorrect.

They hear somewhere that 'JSON is slow', which it is, but you and I know that it's not this slow. But 'slow' can encompass something like 10 orders of magnitude, depending on context. Is it slow relative to a non-validating linear binary format? Yes. Is it minutes slow for a trivial amount of data? No. But in their mind... it is, and there's 'nothing' that can be done about it.

Speaking of which: A HTTPS REST API call using JSON encoding between two PaaS web servers in Azure is about 3-10ms. A local function call is 3-10ns. In other words, a lightweight REST call is one million times slower than a local function call, yet many people assume that a distributed mesh microservices architecture has only 'small overheads'! Nothing could be further from the truth.

Similarly, a disk read on a mechanical drive is hundreds of thousands of times slower than local memory, which is a thousand times slower than L1 cache.

With ratios like that being involved on a regular basis, it's no wonder that programmers make mistakes like this...

dan-robertson(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I don't think the lesson here is "be careful when parsing json" so much as it's "stop writing quadratic code." The json quadratic algorithm was subtle. I think most people's mental model of sscanf is that it would be linear in the number of bytes it scans, not that it would be linear in the length of the input. With smaller test data this may have been harder to catch. The linear search was also an example of bad quadratic code that works fine for small inputs.

Some useful lessons might be:

- try to make test more like prod.

- actually measure performance and try to improve it

- it's very easy to write accidentally quadratic code and the canonical example is this sort of triangular computation where you do some linear amount of work processing all the finished or remaining items on each item you process.

As I read the article, my guess was that it was some terrible synchronisation bug (eg download a bit of data -> hand off to two sub tasks in parallel -> each tries to take out the same lock on something (eg some shared data or worse, a hash bucket but your hash function is really bad so collisions are frequent) -> one process takes a while doing something, the other doesn't take long but more data can't be downloaded until it's done -> the slow process consistently wins the race on some machines -> downloads get blocked and only 1 cpu is being used)

XCSme(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> But how could R* not do this? GTAV is so full of great engineering

I assume there were different people working on the core game engine and mechanics VS loading. It could as well be some modular system, where someone just implemented the task 'load items during online mode loading screen screen'.

mdoms(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Me and my twice-a-week gaming group enjoyed GTA V but abandoned it years ago simply because of the load times. We have 2x short slots (90-120 minutes) each week to play and don't want to waste them in loading screens.

We all would have picked this game back up in a second if the load times were reduced. Although I must say even with the same results as this author, 2 minutes is still too long. But I'll bet that, given the source code, there are other opportunities to improve.

eptcyka(10000) 3 days ago [-]

BTC mining is using a significant amount of global energy production every year now. The more cynical might say that ultimately it's a waste of human effort, but I have to say that this bug (and it's most definitely a bug) should be patched (and should've been patched) to save the kilowatts of power wasted parsing mostly the same data.

high_byte(10000) 3 days ago [-]

exactly my thinking

sim_card_map(10000) 3 days ago [-]

over the course of 7 years and millions of players

lots and lots of megawatts, not kilowatts

4cao(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Excellent investigation, and an elegant solution.

There's a 'but' though: you might end up getting banned from GTA Online altogether if this DLL injection is detected by some anti-cheat routine. The developers should really fix it on their end.

away_throw(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It's highly unlikely you are going to get banned on GTA even with cheats. The anti-cheat is a joke. The game is filled to the brim with cheaters. If me and my friends play, we play with cheats just to protect ourselves from other cheaters.

kuroguro(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Yeah, there's some disclaimers in the PoC repo. Definetly use at your own risk.

captain_price7(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I loved so much reading it, I was thinking that if someone were to write fictional, sherlock holmes like fantasy story where our sherlock would take some (maybe fictional) widely used software at each episode, investigate it like this, and reveal some (fictional) grand bug in the end- I'd totally read it.

Yeah I know it sounds stupid, but I suspect real Sherlock Holmes was inspired by a true story like this one too, and at least some contemporary detectives started to enjoy reading them.

saagarjha(10000) 3 days ago [-]

There's no need for the examples to be fictional, there are more than enough real world cases to share. Sadly, many of my personal ones end in "I filed a bug with an annotated screenshot of decompiled code indicating where they should fix it but nothing happened".

TamDenholm(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The Github link is dead, DMCA or incorrect link?

Avery3R(10000) 3 days ago [-]

probably just forgot to be unprivated. The blog post was published today

xyst(10000) 3 days ago [-]

not surprising - the game industry is absolutely notorious for cutting corners. didn't know they cut corners this much though.

will r* fix it? maybe, especially since some person literally did half of the work for them. But given R* is a large company, this probably wont be fixed for a long time, and GTAO is probably being maintained by the lowest bid contractor group.

They probably have all of their full time assets working on the next iteration of GTA.

fctorial(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> especially since some person literally did half of the work for them

All of the work.

jjulius(10000) 3 days ago [-]

>But given R* is a large company, this probably wont be fixed for a long time, and GTAO is probably being maintained by the lowest bid contractor group.

They've also made just an absolute assload of money from GTA:O in spite of the godawful load times. Why bother spending the money to fix it when people are happy to deal with it and keep giving you their own cash?

CTDOCodebases(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Imagine all the time that people are wasting if they are sitting there waiting for it to load. I wonder how many lifespans it adds up to?

samhh(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I wonder about the environmental impact of CPU cores churning away uselessly on so many machines so many times. Probably enough to power a home for a few years?

holyknight(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Thank god. I always suspected that those loading times were cause by some retarded implementation detail. GTA5 is not that complex to justify that kind of loading times. Even the hardware has scaled massively since their launch and it doesn't even matter.

josephg(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It so often is. This aspect of modern computing annoys me so much - modern computers, networks and cdns are so fast nowadays that most actions should be instant. My OS should boot basically instantly. Applications should launch instantly. Websites should load almost instantly. I'll give a pass for 3D modelling, video editing, AAA video games and maybe optimized release builds of code. But everything else should happen faster than I can blink.

But most programs are somehow still really slow! And when you look into why, the reason is always something like this. The code was either written by juniors and never optimized because they don't know how, or written by mids at the limit of their intelligence. And full of enough complex abstractions that nobody on the team can reason holistically about how the whole program works. Then things get slow at a macro level because fixing it feels hard.

Either way it's all avoidable. The only thing that makes your old computer feel sluggish for everyday computing is that programmers got faster computers, and then got lazy, and then shipped you crappy software.

c7DJTLrn(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Sad that the source (https://github.com/tostercx/GTAO_Booster_PoC) has been taken down, I wanted to give this a try myself. I imagine a lot of GTA Online players would.

kuroguro(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Author here, my bad, forgot to set it to public ^^;;

segmondy(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is why I come to HN, I was going to skip this because I thought it was about video games, but really glad to have read it, and loved every line of the article.

So much to get from this.

Even if you don't have the source, you can make a change if you are annoyed enough.

If you don't like something, and the source code is out there, really go contribute.

Performance matters, know how to profile and if using an external dependency, then figure out their implementation details.

Algorithms & Data structures matter, often I see devs talking about how it doesn't matter much but the difference between using a hashmap vs array is evident.

Attentive code reviews matter, chances are they gave this to a junior dev/intern, and it worked with a small dataset and no one noticed.

madeofpalk(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> Even if you don't have the source, you can make a change if you are annoyed enough.

Well, until you get flagged by the anti cheat and get your account and motherboard banned...

bluedino(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I always tell a story about an application we ran, it generated its own interface based on whatever was in inventory. Someone did something really stupid and duplicated each inventory item for each main unit we sold...so you had recursive mess. Assigning 100,000 items when previously it was 100-ish

Anyway, everyone just rolled their eyes and blamed the fact that the app was written in Java.

It ended up generating an XML file during that minute long startup....so we just saved the file to the network and loaded it on startup. If inventory changed, we'd re-generate the file once and be done with it.

closeparen(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I think this is a perfect example of "algorithms and data structures emphasis is overblown." Real world performance problems don't look like LeetCode Hard, they look like doing obviously stupid, wasteful work in tight loops.

fctorial(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This was probably a compiler bug. I don't think the programmers coding the business logic were using 'strlen' and 'sscanf' directly.

ce1lingisr00f(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I like this page design. It looks familiar. Does anyone know where this design comes from? Or if it's original?

kuroguro(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's a stripped down version of hexo's dark cactus theme: https://github.com/probberechts/hexo-theme-cactus

Don't think it's too popular, but the inspiration may be from elsewhere if you've seen it around.

avar(10000) 3 days ago [-]

GTA:O shows advertisements for in-game purchases on the loading screen. How many advertisements you see is a function of how long the loading screen takes.

Something tells me this 'problem' was discovered long ago at Rockstar HQ, and quietly deemed not to be a problem worth solving.

softwhale(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Could be, but I can imagine people giving up on GTA: Online altogether because it takes too much time to load.

vmception(10000) 3 days ago [-]

They either:

Found that they get more purchases BECAUSE of the long loading time, despite bouncing other players (the ad theory and happy coincidence for them to have the ad placement slots from shitty engineering)

The engagement team was told bullshit by the engineering team about how impossible it is to fix that issue

Or they are just making enough not to care

cmeacham98(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I was going to say surely this has extremely diminishing or even negative return past 30-60 seconds, but then I remembered lots of people are willing to sit through 10 minutes of commercials to watch 20-30 minutes of TV. So I guess for the right type of customer it works?

Historical Discussions: The Framework Laptop (February 25, 2021: 2560 points)

(2560) The Framework Laptop

2560 points 7 days ago by bitigchi in 10000th position

frame.work | Estimated reading time – 4 minutes | comments | anchor

At Framework, we believe the time has come for consumer electronics products that are designed to last. Founded in San Francisco in 2019, our mission is to empower you with great products you can easily customize, upgrade, and repair, increasing longevity and reducing e-waste in the process.

Today, we are excited to unveil our first product: the Framework Laptop, a thin, lightweight, high-performance 13.5" notebook that can be upgraded, customized, and repaired in ways that no other notebook can.

We're here to prove that designing products to last doesn't require sacrificing performance, quality, or style. The Framework Laptop meets or beats the best of what's in the category:

  • Crafted with a precision formed and milled aluminum housing, coming in at 15.85mm thick and 1.3kg.
  • Designed for the future of work with a 13.5" 3:2 screen with 2256x1504 resolution, a fantastic 1080p 60fps webcam (finally!) with hardware privacy switches, a high cycle-life 55Wh battery, and a great feeling keyboard with 1.5mm key travel.
  • Delivering excellent performance with 11th Gen Intel Core Processors configurable with Wi-Fi 6E, up to 64GB of DDR4 memory, and 4TB or more of Gen4 NVMe storage.

On top of that, the Framework Laptop offers unparalleled options to upgrade, customize and repair:

  • Our Expansion Card system makes adapters a thing of the past, letting you choose exactly the ports you want and which side of the notebook you want them on. With four bays, you can select from USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, MicroSD, ultra fast storage, a high-end headphone amp, and more.
  • Along with socketed storage, WiFi, and two slots of memory, the entire mainboard can be swapped to boost performance as we launch updated versions with new CPU generations.
  • High-use parts like the battery, screen, keyboard, and color-customizable magnetic-attach bezel are easy to replace. QR codes on each item take you directly to guides and the listing in our web store.
  • In addition to releasing new upgrades regularly, we're opening up the ecosystem to enable a community of partners to build and sell compatible modules through the Framework Marketplace.

Most consumer electronics devices are disposable one-offs by design. The single best way to reduce the environmental impact of electronics is to make them last longer. In addition to enabling longevity, we're focused on improving sustainability across the life of our products. The Framework Laptop is made of 50% post consumer recycled (PCR) aluminum and an average of 30% PCR plastic. Our packaging is fully recyclable with no single-use plastics, and all of our product shipments are carbon offset.

The Framework Laptop is available in a range of pre-configured models running Windows 10 Home or Pro. For those of you who love to tinker, we've also created the Framework Laptop DIY Edition, the only high-end notebook available as a kit of modules that you can customize and assemble yourself, with the ability to choose Windows or install your preferred Linux distribution. Regardless of the path you take, we include a screwdriver in the box so you can upgrade over time.

We're looking forward to sharing more and will announce our full line-up with specs, pricing, pre-order timing, and a summer 2021 ship date over the next weeks. Until then, please visit us at https://frame.work or follow our progress at @FrameworkComputer.

It's time for long-lasting products that respect your right to repair and upgrade. We're bringing this philosophy to notebooks this year and to additional categories as we go. We chose an ambitious mission and assembled an incredible team to deliver on it, bringing experience from the founding team of Oculus and design, engineering, and operations across Apple, Google, Lenovo, and more. We're working with fantastically capable component and manufacturing partners who believe in our mission too. We can't wait to build a better consumer electronics industry together.

- Nirav and the Framework Team

All Comments: [-] | anchor

varispeed(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This would be perfect think to spin off your own machines. Imagine downloading a Kicad files for motherboard, adding your own stuff, sending off to JLCPCB or similar for assembly and then stuffing into the laptop shell.

baybal2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

KiCAD is not the calibre of an EDA you would use to make PC motherboard.

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That's the goal! We will actually be publishing KiCad and OpenSCAD-based reference designs for the Expansion Cards for folks to be able to make their own. The mainboard is a bit more challenging, but we do want to enable an ecosystem around that as well.

SloopJon(10000) 7 days ago [-]

One of the repair challenges is access to old parts. The drain hose on our three year-old washer sprung a leak. When I called a repair man, he at first said that Samsung doesn't make that part anymore. Fortunately, he was mistaken, but if that's something that happens for a simple hose, imagine trying to replace the 'high-end headphone amp' expansion card on this laptop five years from now.

Even if I'm not too excited about the proprietary expansion card system, which will last as long as the founders' attention spans, if it gives access to standard memory and storage, that's an improvement over the current trend.

marzell(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Since the modules are just USB-C adapted, those parts would probably be easy to mimic by a third party. Maybe they need to be signed or something, hence the marketplace they allude to.

psalminen(10000) 7 days ago [-]

From the article: 'In addition to releasing new upgrades regularly, we're opening up the ecosystem to enable a community of partners to build and sell compatible modules through the Framework Marketplace.'

Maybe I am misinterpreting it but it sounds like its not a completely proprietary system?

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

It is definitely on us to prove that we'll provide long term support for the modules that we're developing, but we're also opening up documentation and reference designs for things like our Expansion Card system. If something ever happens to us, other companies and the community can continue to use and extend the ecosystem.

We designed the Expansion Cards in a way that it's possible to 3D print the housings for them on a home 3D printer and get PCBs fabbed through the normal hobby channels. We hope that folks in the community come up with interesting card ideas and bring them out themselves in addition to what we develop.

acomjean(10000) 7 days ago [-]

There used to be a pretty standard adapter card for laptops.

I had an 'ethernet modem card' from ibm in that form factor that worked well. And a scsi adapter for a zip drive I think. Its been a while...


wongarsu(10000) 7 days ago [-]

On the other hand in the laptop space I've never had problems with part availability. With brands like Dell or Lenovo there are plenty of new and used parts available on ebay or your trusted reseller, and official service handbooks are easy to download.

The real value-add of the framework laptop is imho the upgrade path: you can swap in newer components without replacing nearly everything. Usually that's limited to just SSD and RAM, with everything else being on one huge mainboard assembly.

99_00(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>if that's something that happens for a simple hose

But it didn't happen...

oblio(10000) 5 days ago [-]

To people hoping this will succeed (which I would very much like it to, personally), think about this:

1. Do you patch your socks, shirts, pants, jackets? Do you know regular, passive folks (so not the standard HN overachiever) doing this? I don't know anyone doing this.

2. Do you repair your home appliances? Same thing, I don't really know anyone doing this.

Of course, this being the internet, someone will reply 'yes, I do this', but my reply to that: 'of course someone does it, but it's not a real market, there isn't any money in this'.

Poor people tend to repair their stuff, well off or rich people don't do it because it's a negative status symbol. And poor people can't afford expensive stuff, which this will probably be. Poor people can't afford high up-front costs, even though TCO might be awesome.

salusinarduis(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't patch my clothing but I absolutely do repair appliances using guides I find on Youtube and blogs. I've also always been a custom parts pc guy, so it appeals to me, and I think there are tons of people like me based on Reddit's communities for this stuff.

vb6sp6(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Anecdotal but whatever: I know a lot of people who try and fix their own things. The most prolific fixer I know is quite well off

e12e(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Do you patch your socks, shirts, pants, jackets?

Socks, generally no - by the time they've got holes, they're usually overall worn down anyway.

I don't generally patch t-shirts or boxers (same reason), but I do sew worn seams, and patch pants, sweaters and jackets. I don't personally replaces zippers, but there's a local shop that does.

For eg gortex outwear, it's possible to fix minor holes (like from sparks from a bonfire) with repair tape.

tromp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

What led framework to choose Intel CPUs over AMD ones? Did it simplify the design of the system?

fiddlerwoaroof(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yeah, if I'm getting another laptop with an Intel CPU, I'll just get a Mac: a Ryzen 4XXX laptop with Mac-like build quality would make me reconsider.

CoolGuySteve(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Yeah it's too bad, if this laptop had a 16 thread AMD CPU, it would be exactly what I'm looking for: a 3lbs mobile workstation that I can service/upgrade myself.

chaosharmonic(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If I had to make an guess from how they're describing the I/O, USB4 would be the immediate limitation.

cpursley(10000) 6 days ago [-]

No AMD is an absolute deal breaker for me. Might as well get a mac.

freeopinion(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A modular laptop that doesn't offer an AMD module? So, so close.

Hopefully the AMD board will ship late Summer 2021. Lack of AMD support is a showstopper for some.

chaostheory(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This. I would bite if it was an AMD chip. Intel is just overpriced.

dfgdghdf(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Reading down the proposed spec sheet, I'm starting to see how crappy the competition is!

* Apple MacBook - Nothing configurable. Expensive and not build to be repaired.

* Microsoft Surface - Much the same, but with Windows

* Lenovo Thinkpad - A little more configurable than a MacBook, and much better value, but still difficult to repair. Missing premium features like an Aluminium case.

* Dell XPS 13 - Much like the Lenovo, but the Linux option is nice.

If they pull this off, developers are going to love it. I really wish them the best.

My advice? Make sure it works _flawlessly_ with the top 3 Linux distributions.

w0mbat(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Intel processors are done in the laptop market. I'll stick with fast, silent, ARM based machines like the M1 MacBooks.

f1refly(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My first thought on it was that I love it and I want one, my second thought was that its really sad they don't have a thinkpad-like rubberized alloy case but only a subpar mac-like shell available. Tastes differ, I guess.

protomyth(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My advice? Make sure it works _flawlessly_ with the top 3 Linux distributions.

May sure it works flawlessly with one of the BSD distributions and you know the Linux experience will be flawless.

arianvanp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> * Lenovo Thinkpad - A little more configurable than a MacBook, and much better value, but still difficult to repair. Missing premium features like an Aluminium case.

difficult to repair? They're super easy to repair! My T430 even came with a bay to access the RAM and hard drive without opening the case up.

Also replacing things like keyboard usually is only 2 screws even on the newer models.

All screws are standard philips too.

Lenovo also published comprehensive repair guides for all their thinkpad laptops.

codemac(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Missing premium features like an Aluminium case.

Magnesium is a different type of premium for some.

efficax(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Is the thinkpad better value than the MacBook?

The i7 16GB ram / 512GB ssd Thinkpad X1 Carbon is $1900 and you don't even get a nice display. The M1 16GB/512GB ssd Macbook Pro is only $1700 and you get a best-in-class display along with that.

The XPS 13 and Surface are similarly priced. Macbooks are very price competitive and have been for a long time.

fsflover(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> I'm starting to see how crappy the competition is!

What about this laptop? https://puri.sm/products/librem-14

nightowl_games(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Honestly this is exactly what I want (quality, repairable, upgradable), but I'm not all in yet. I feel like this space is extremely hard to break into, and I'm worried about their ability to pull it off. Is there massive capital in this corp? Will the price be really high? I'd pay a premium for this kind of thing, but if they start crowd funding it's gonna seem like a red flag.

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

We have the funding we need to bring the product to market (an odd downstream benefit of Oculus getting bought by Facebook), but we will be taking pre-orders with a deposit prior to shipping to make sure our SKU mix and production rates are matched to actual demand.

We won't be asking consumers to pay a premium for longevity, but it's nice to hear that you'd be willing to!

pbronez(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would love to see an e-ink display upgrade for this!

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

We'd love to see that too! The Dasung 13.3' is actually sized just about right to be able to mod into our lid assembly. It's probably not a thing that we'll do ourselves, but it would be great to see someone try it.

mark242(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Very disconcerting to launch a laptop without any mention of battery life.

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Apologies for that. We packed in a 55Wh battery and are using popular silicon and a display that is used in several other popular notebooks, so you can use those as a reference point. We didn't want to state a figure in hours until we wrap up our firmware work and can release reproducible benchmarks for it (since battery life marketing statements tend to be pretty questionable).

rkagerer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

With an aluminum rather than magnesium or other body, how bad do you anticipate the flex will be?

hinkley(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Reinforcing fins can do quite a bit. Macbooks don't have a lot of flex.

However, Apple has some patents that cover building up solid aluminum with stir welding instead of CNCing out of a solid block.

You might have to challenge that patent (prior art, Boeing patents that may be older) to make it cheap, but if it's enthusiast targeted, an extra 50 bucks or whatever might be just fine for people.

josefresco(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I can't imagine the stress of launching a 'sustainable' tech product like this, knowing every aspect of the product and business will be ultra-scrutinized.

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I had a 7 year long trial run for this by making consumer VR a thing ;)

ThinkBeat(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I really want to buy hardware that allows easy repair. That goes for laptops and cellphone in particular.

Laptops used to allow easy replacement of battery, memory and hardrives at the very least.

All that sacrificed in the name of making the devices 'thinner' and the design more attractive.

What bits me most is that a lot of younger friends I have, have no such expectations.

Talk to them about a cellphone the answer is usually 'well if you have had it for 2 years it is probably time to buy a new one anyway'

Apples wireless earplugs are use and throw away. With a life expectancy of a little over 2 years from what I have read. No way to swap the batteries. I do not know if that figure is accurate.

I live in Norway now and the government is doing all sorts of things 'for the environment' but have no interest in laws to force hardware makers to sell equipment that can be easily repaired.

Not that it would matter much for Norway, hardware makers would just pull out and the citizens would be very angry at the government.

If the EU and the US could join forces on it there would be repaid change.

I wonder if a latest generation Apple Air would be 'easily' updated by Apple to allow end user replacement.

I doubt it.

Let say such a law could be passed, and it mattered, how much thicker and 'less' attractive would things get. I wonder what engineering could come up with.

Buying less, keeping things longer, and making things repairable should be at the very top of the green agenda. That would all results in less sales so no major government seemsm to go that way.

poutrathor(10000) 6 days ago [-]

high tech and environment considerations are conflicting way harder than most nerds care to acknowledge and it's a real issue.

google234123(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm pretty sure Apple goes far more for the green agenda than the old PC makers ever did - even taking into account the tiny savings you get from the few people that upgraded or repaired their laptops in the past.

fsflover(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> I really want to buy hardware that allows easy repair. That goes for laptops and cellphone in particular.

IFixIt: Smartphone Doesn't Have to Be Glued Shut


crooked-v(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> All that sacrificed in the name of making the devices 'thinner' and the design more attractive.

I think the other major factor you're overlooking here is battery life. High-end laptops these days are mostly battery (right up to the 100 Wh carry-on limit set by the FAA), with everything else designed to fit into the space left over.

gwbas1c(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm a Mac user, mostly because I like the simplicity of the hardware.

If/when I return to Windows, a Framework laptop is definitely appealing. I'd rather change the ports than deal with a handful of dongles and adaptors.

One thing to consider:

I really want to try a laptop that comes with a good, well-supported Linux installation. (I haven't tried desktop Linux since the early 2000s.) I'm less concerned about 'distro of my choice,' because I really just want something that works well out of the box and is easy to learn.

deadmutex(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> I'm a Mac user, mostly because I like the simplicity of the hardware.

Do you mean software? Or are you referring to the iMac? because on the laptop side, the MacBooks seem very similar in terms of simplicity. Build quality is a different story, etc.

smoldesu(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Side note, I think you'd be pleasantly surprised with how far Linux has come. I recently returned to it for the first time in a decade, and it's pretty remarkable how mature the operating system is. Almost all of my 'essential' apps have native versions (eg. Matrix, Spotify, Discord, Steam) and the ones that don't can be pretty easily emulated through Wine. It only took 2 weeks of playing around with KDE on my Macbook before I put it on my desktop as well. 2 months later, I'm still loving the decision.

alex_duf(10000) 6 days ago [-]

it seems like nrp is answering questions around here, so here's another one: will you be shipping to the UK and / or continental Europe?

Edit: found the answer: 'We're shipping in the US and Canada this summer and opening up additional countries in Europe and Asia before the end of the year'

elric(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I hope they'll be partnering with an EU distributor so it's easier to reclaim VAT and to avoid having to pay import taxes.

ploxiln(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't see any mention of the firmware and drivers efforts for this. Firmware and drivers always end up more difficult to deal with than expected.

The Fairphone company was surprised by difficulties upgrading and patching android without support from their BSP vendor, causing many months delays of updates _and_ years shorter support life than they were planning for their earlier models.

I purchased the Purism Librem 13 laptop from their kickstarter, and they had great plans for firmware and drivers, but also great difficulty following through. The trackpad chosen for the first models took much longer than expected to get upstream linux support, and it was never great (it turned out to be impossible to reliably detect their variant automatically). They finally hired someone with sufficient skill to do the coreboot port _months_ after initial units were delivered, and delivered polished coreboot firmware for their initial laptops _years_ after they started the kickstarter.

So, why should we have confidence in the firmware and drivers that Framework will deliver :)

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Our Embedded Controller firmware is based on chromium ec, and we're using a mature off the shelf BIOS solution shipping in other notebooks today. We chose our key components with driver stability across both Windows and Linux in mind. We know this is something we have to get right to deliver a credible competitor to all the great notebooks already in the market, so it is something we focused on from the start.

bmd3991(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Semi off-topic, but how is working in the firmware/drivers/systems space? Everyone always talks about how hard it is, so that makes me think that companies would be paying a premium for good systems devs. On the other hand there aren't as many companies who have that need. I enjoyed the low level work I did in college and have been thinking about getting back into it, but there are no jobs involving it near me (moving to Seattle in a bit so this should change)

2020aj(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Librem was geared towards openness/security, this just has a focus on repairability. Can Framework not just use off the shelf parts that already have the proper firmware/drivers available for windows/linux and then encounter none of the same issues? Or is the issue the interfaces b/w the modules and mainboard?

adenozine(10000) 7 days ago [-]

No information about pricing?

sturza(10000) 7 days ago [-]

does not matter

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Framework founder here. We'll be announcing pricing shortly before we open pre-orders this spring. We won't be asking consumers to pay a premium for longevity, and will be setting pricing to be comparable to other popular notebooks using the same silicon.

GordonS(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This looks absolutely fantastic!

Any plans for a larger version, 14/15', or maybe even 16'?

zepearl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'll add that I'm looking since forever for a 16+/17'' *thin' laptop (currently using a Lenovo P71, which is a brick) - for some reason nowadays there are hundreds of 13/14/15'' laptops which are thin, but 17'' are always huge - the only thin one that exists, as far as I know, is the LG Gram 17, which is not available with my country's keyboard layout (Swiss German).

Very important things for me would be the keyboard (normal layout, include insert&delete&pgup/down&home&end-keys arrowkeys should have a bump or similar to be located easily without watching, ideally as well a number pad - the one of Lenovo is excellent) and the resolution (FullHD not good enough on a 17'' - must be something higher, max 4k, ideally IPS). About the rest: normal CPU (at least 4 threads), normal RAM (8GB probably not enough, better 16GB), normal storage (1 normal SSD/NVME), maybe an ethernet connection, no separate/discrete GPU, no cd/dvd, 2 USB connectors, no superfast/superhot CPU in any case something which does not make the fan spin up often, does not have to be superlight.

Cheers & good luck :)

trilinearnz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Cool idea. Reminds me a lot of the earlier Thinkpads which had legendary swappability of components between models. For example, it was trivial for me to swap the superior keyboard on my T60 for the one on my T500.

Not seeing anything about the ability to swap out the display, however... You seem to lose a bit of flexibility when embracing the unibody chassis.

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The display is held in with fasteners behind the magnetic attach bezel.

messo(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I was dreaming about such a laptop only a few days ago (admittedly with an IBM/Lenovo-like keyboard). Do you offer ANSI keyboards for European countries? It would be great if a nordic keyboard layout was an option and easily swapable.

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

We have both ANSI and ISO layouts, and we've designed the keyboard to be end-user replaceable. We'll be adding more keyboard languages as we expand into more countries. The clear keyboard shown in our product photos is actually real too! We'll be offering clear and blank for the people who want that.

apricot(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not a terribly important question in the grand scheme of things, but what's the rationale behind making the \ key and the Enter key touch each other? I've seen it on other keyboards as well and cannot imagine what's gained by doing it.

ali-tny(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Perhaps it's to make things (slightly) easier for people used to ISO layout keyboards? You could set both touching keys to be enter, and not have to relearn muscle memory - kind of, because you'd still have a weirdly long lower-enter compared to what you were used to.

nfw2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The purpose of this feature is to ward off those of us with design OCD. We are the most annoying users to support

jblow(10000) 7 days ago [-]


When I saw this announcement I was hoping that I could finally buy a laptop with a good trackpad, with buttons, and a good keyboard again. But looking at the announcement, it seems like trackpad and keyboard quality are far from anyone's mind, and it just looks like the laptop is copying Apple stylistically like everyone else, which means it is going to be kind-of unusable and I won't want to use it. (Especially when running Windows, those kinds of giant Apple-esque trackpads are death, because you'll keep accidentally moving files into places you didn't mean to, and then of course there's the general unresponsiveness once you add all the PalmCheck and turn-off-trackpad-for-n-secons after typing junk).

I like the idea of a laptop built for quality, but for me the #1 determinant of quality is my area of constant physical contact with the laptop, the keyboard and trackpad. And sadly, those look like afterthoughts here.

(For context -- I have bought and heavily used an average of more than one laptop per year, every year, since 1998, and have been dismayed to watch the quality trend constantly downward over that time).

ppezaris(10000) 6 days ago [-]

not intending to start an apple-vs-msft flamewar, but this has been a solved problem on the mac since forever. is the experience that bad on windows laptops that you don't want a big trackpad? genuine question.

wishinghand(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's strange to see a complaint about the Apple trackpad, because whenever I use a non-Apple laptop, I despair at the trackpad. The current design is too large, but the pre-USB-C models had a perfect size and UX. I haven't ever experienced an equal.

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Keyboard and touchpad quality were high priorities for us. We built in 1.5mm key travel, which is unusually high for a <16mm thick laptop. The touchpad surface feels great and performs well. I hear you on the touchpad buttons though. That is something we've done a little exploration on. The touchpad is an end-user replaceable module, but we can't commit to a three button version materializing just yet.

dcow(10000) 7 days ago [-]

In my experience trackpad and touch support on Windows has improved immensely since the introduction of the Surface. I recall the experience you're describing but associate it with the 2010-2015 era .

heroHACK17(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This product would make more sense if they defined 'consumer' as 'engineer-inclined consumer'. Swapping parts will drive the everyday consumer away from this product.

orthecreedence(10000) 6 days ago [-]

No? This opens up an entire repair market for normal consumers as well. Instead of buying a whole new laptop, you can replace the screen, or the keyboard, or etc etc.

Just because you won't be doing the repair yourself doesn't mean 'welp, repairable laptops are dumb and only nerds will use them!' Just means you don't have to buy a new laptop every time one little thing breaks.

ampdepolymerase(10000) 7 days ago [-]

So a ThinkPad in Mac shell? Is the framework flexible enough to switch an Intel processor for AMD Ryzen without having to replace the entire motherboard?

rrss(10000) 7 days ago [-]

No. You can't even do that in a desktop. AMD and Intel CPUs don't use the same socket or pinout.

f6v(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> with the ability to choose Windows or install your preferred Linux distribution.

10$ says it's going to be quite an effort to run Linux on it. Nice idea though.

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

We're putting in the work ourselves to make sure the most common distributions like Ubuntu LTS releases run smoothly. We had that in mind as we selected key components in the system.

Edit: And it's worth noting that a couple of folks on the team are diehard Linux users, including our software/firmware lead, and they run Ubuntu on their Framework Laptops.

kieranl(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Kieran from Framework Here - Using it as my main machine for development running Ubuntu 20.04 right now. The main tweak is running a mainline kernel with some distributions as Tigerlake support is new.

iFire(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Will you support Thunderbolt 3?

The use of going portable and then docking in with a top of the line video card, monitor and proper keyboards is so exciting.

kieranl(10000) 7 days ago [-]

We support USB4 - which has similar performance as thunderbolt 3. Multiple display pipes + USB + PCIE tunneling. It also supports 40gbps of aggregate bandwidth per port. Tigerlake also supports HBR3 with display compression - so you can run multiple 4k displays from a single port.

branon(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This looks great. Would like to see a model with a Zen 3 or ARM processor, as buying Intel hardware in 2021 is a bit of a hard sell for me.

Outside of that, anything modular/repairable gets an A+.

wcerfgba(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Agreed, I love everything about this but I'm currently waiting to buy something with a 5800H.

GekkePrutser(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Hmmm nice idea but they left some obvious gaps.. With custom port selection, there should be more port options, like ethernet. The chassis is thick enough to support one of those collapsible sockets at the very least.

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

We have a few more Expansion Cards currently in development and a very long list of cards in early exploration. The ones we've announced so far are the ones we plan to have available at launch: USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, MicroSD, and 250GB and 1TB storage.

marcodiego(10000) 7 days ago [-]

What is really needed is a common chassis. A common carcass that allows me the put whatever I want inside it. If I want a pinebook[1], I want to be able to put pinebook guts inside it, if I want a mnt reform[2], I want to be able to put mnt reform guts inside it.

Too bad eoma68[3] is still sci-fi.

[1] https://www.pine64.org/pinebook-pro/

[2] https://mntre.com/media/reform_md/2020-05-08-the-much-more-p...

[3] https://www.crowdsupply.com/eoma68/micro-desktop

CivBase(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> What is really needed is a common chassis.

I agree. I understand why that wasn't a thing 10 years ago while laptops continued to get thinner and bezels continued to get smaller and I/O was rapidly changing and evolving. Modern laptops are much more consistent, and standards like M.2 and USB-C have provide excellent support for low-profile expansion. Now seems like a great time to start rolling out standards for laptop motherboard connectivity, display housing, keyboard/trackpad housing, and I/O bays.

soared(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would expect this is similar to the tesla issue of building a common carcass (skateboard) to build different types of cars on top of.

vforvendettador(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There's a lot more to building laptop than putting different components together. Portability, mobility, heat dissipation, design to put as many things as safely (and profitably) possible etc.

Building a desktop is relatively easy. Desktop is designed to be stationary and it's a lot more forgiving when connecting parts. There's a lot more room to manoeuvre and for heat dissipation.

I think to achieve the purpose, where end-user will be able easily customise a laptop will require a larger footprint and won't be appealing to many users.

mtrovo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

In some sense Thinkpad X200 would fit what you're saying, its modding community is quite active and there are a lot of people selling old parts or parts designed to upgrade this laptop.

Last time I checked the only missing piece was a way to upgrade the display, which didn't age very well (IIRC original resolution was 1280x800 and no HiDPI)

eeZah7Ux(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The form factor of EOMA is simply unsuitable. Compared to any laptop motherboard or SBC, the volume available in the slot is tiny.

giberson(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I like the idea of a repairable/upgradable/modular laptop. However, to really buy in to the idea I want more than a promise of future upgradability. I'd really like to see a company roadmap that shows expected future dates of upgrade releases.

Show me if you're expecting to put out new CPU upgrade parts every 1, 2, 3 or 5 years.

Show me what type/generation of graphic card is available and your expectation of how far behind graphic card modules will lag behind current gen cards, 1,3,5,10 years?

Show me how long I'll expect to have to wait to double my storage, or ram.

And most of all, what are the target price points of current and future upgrades.

metalliqaz(10000) 6 days ago [-]

roadmaps are meaningless. talk is cheap. Just ask anyone who has ever bought into a 'live service' video game, or countless other ambitious but later abandoned products.

Here's what I can say for sure. The options for future upgrades will be correlated with the sales figures of the base laptop.

jrmann100(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This looks like a fantastic, albeit potentially costly, product, and I'm excited to see where it goes. For those of us who are happy with our current laptops but are still excited by the customizability of the Expansion Card system, are you considering creating USB-C hubs designed to work with the modules? The Cards obviously already adapt to USB-C but it'd be nice to have a dedicated hub to stack them and save space.

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A controller just became available that makes this more doable. It is something we're exploring to broaden the usability of the Expansion Cards.

mwcampbell(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> Designed for the future of work with a 13.5" 3:2 screen

I wonder if the 'future' this laptop is designed for was canceled by COVID. Now that so many of us are working from home, maybe we should optimize more for a stationary work environment with no compromises on input or output. That is, a desktop machine with unconstrained monitor and keyboard sizes.

salicideblock(10000) 7 days ago [-]

On the other hand, for more traditional companies, covid and expectations of post-covid mean replacing 100% office time with a mix of office and home time.

In these cases this mix means more mobility, so more value to laptops over desktops.

jakry(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is the Laptop also available with a AMD ryzen CPU?

enchiridion(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yep, this is my question too. If not is the CPU swapable?

Especially given that this product appeals to the PC builder types, it really should support AMD.

zafiro17(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Hey wow, I love this idea, this design philosophy, and this commitment to reuse. It occurs to me it may also solve another complaint I've always had with laptops, that you have to find the machine whose screen, trackpad, keyboard, weight, etc. ALL match your wishlist (with a desktop you buy the display you want, the external keyboard you want, the external mouse/trackball you want). This device lends itself to customization, almost like an ecosystem: hopefully some day they will offer a Dvorak, Workman, and Colemak keyboard variant, or similar customizations. Better yet, open it up to niche customized hardware manufacturers and make it a market. Suddenly it becomes the substrate for an ecosystem of customized components. I love this idea. (For reference, my current approach to hardware reuse is to sytematically only buy used laptops. I save a ton of money too).

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

We do plan to offer Dvorak, Workman, and Colemak keyboards. In a normal laptop, it would never really be feasible to do this because you'd be sitting on a lot of really niche, expensive inventory. In our case, the input assembly is one of the configurable items in the Framework Laptop DIY Edition, so we only have to stock the variants of that module, rather than full laptops.

This lets us cover languages and layouts that have historically been missing from notebooks.

pimterry(10000) 7 days ago [-]

How does this charge? Looks like it has 4 fully swappable ports, plus a headphone jack. Where does the power go?

Do I need to always have a USB-C adapter in one of those slots, and it charges through that maybe? That sort-of defeats some of the swappability though, if one port is effectively unchangeable. Might as well have a fixed USB-C port, since that's simpler and more space-efficient. Or is there another port or something planned that's just not shown on these prototypes?

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It charges through any of the four Expansion Card ports, currently through the USB-C card. Part of the reason we didn't use a fixed USB-C port for this is that the Expansion Card path allows for alternate power schemes in the future like magnetic attach, adapting to existing proprietary connectors, or even crazy things like POE.

blainsmith(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Great. Another laptop with 1/2 arrow keys. Such a shame.

chrismorgan(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I would strongly urge, if going with half-height arrow keys, to make the side arrows half height as well, rather than full height. This helps with both finding the key cluster and using it. Consider leaving a small gap to the left of the cluster as well, which in this case could conveniently be done by making the keys a bit narrower—they look unreasonably wide as it is. Ideally I'd also say shift them lower, breaking out of the rectangle and allowing taller arrows (even 2⁄3 or 3⁄4 height would be a good improvement), but I can imagine that may fall afoul of manufacturing practicalities.

Another nice feature for keyboard design is small gaps between Esc and F1, F4 and F5, F8 and F9, and F12 and what's to its right, as desktop keyboards have always done; this helps fingers to blindly find the right place. Not very many laptops do this; the main ones I've noticed doing it in my recent research is ASUS ROG laptops, which do seem to put more thought than most into these sorts of details. In the pictures shown here, the Escape and especially Delete keys look to be unnecessarily wide so that you could reduce their widths a bit to provide this space perhaps without shrinking anything else.

blainsmith(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I have noticed that most laptops under 14' have those 1/2 keys, but once you go to 15' the overall weight increases a lot. The only 14' laptop I've used with full arrow keys was the System76 Galago Pro Gen 3 (galp3).

ChuckNorris89(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I feel you. IMHO Lenovo still makes the best laptop keybaord layouts for coding, typing and gaming. Check out their Legion series.

mumblemumble(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The hjkl keys look full size to me.


mettamage(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Yea, fun fact: I like my Acer Nitro 5. I'm an Apple fan through and through, but I also like to run Linux and Windows and haven't done that in a while, so I bought an Acer.

I'm using my Acer now more as a dev laptop and my Mac more as a free time laptop. What I'm noticing is that I'm enjoying the typing experience on the Nitro 5 more, in particular because it has decent arrows (and a numpad :) ).

grenoire(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Is the upgrade system proprietary, i.e. will I be able to get in new parts besides RAM and disks when Framework is no more?

Will we ever get a laptop component system that's as robust and modular as the desktop ecosystem?

burlesona(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> Will we ever get a laptop component system that's as robust and modular as the desktop ecosystem?


The robust desktop ecosystem is powered by a bunch of categories that don't really want laptops: gamers, business, research, some developers, etc.

Desktops are "work trucks" while laptops are mostly "cars."

belval(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Lot of optimism in the comments, but unless they have their supply chain pinned down I really really doubt that it will ship in any significant quantity in Summer 2021.

The truth is that right now most components are insanely hard to get, not just GPUs and they will have to play the bidding game (which will make their laptop significantly more expansive) or delay. For a small volume like theirs, there is a non zero probability that they will get dropped by their manufacturer completely.

I'd love to get my hands on one of their laptop though!

hinkley(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm on a kickstarter that was supposed to ship in the fall and they've had quite a lot of trouble working with manufacturing partners to sort out quality control and pick one. Harder to discuss a physical object when you can't be in the same room.

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I shared this in another comment: We placed our forecasts and risk buys on most chips early in anticipation of the silicon crunch that is coming this year. So far, we don't see anything that puts us at risk, short of there being massive unexpected upside on consumer demand (a good problem to have!).

rathboma(10000) 6 days ago [-]

How much linux support are you going to be providing?

Eg S3 sleep and fingerprint sensor drivers?

kieranl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Tigerlake supports modern standby otherwise known as S0ix. We are also testing fingerprint support - but look out for Linux guides for instructions until things get upstreamed.

agnosticmantis(10000) 6 days ago [-]

"At Framework, we believe the time has come for consumer electronics products that are designed to last."

Is this another way of saying Moore's law is dead?

sangnoir(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think it's another way of saying 'We're bringing back non-soldered RAM/storage and standard slots and not chasing after thinness for thinness sake'.

dbeley(10000) 6 days ago [-]

For a laptop mainly targeting power users, I think it lacks several features for it to be a game changer:

- trackpoint - real mouse buttons - exotic keyboard layouts (i.e ortholinear)

unionpivo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

it has user replaceable TrackPoint and keyboard. So those could come later, if it succeeds.

Plus they say it will support 3rd party developing accessories, so maybe ?

EVa5I7bHFq9mnYK(10000) 6 days ago [-]

How many dongles can one install simultaneously? I see only 2 in the video. Are there more on the other side?

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Four Expansion Cards, two on each side.

CarVac(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I'd love a laptop where the keyboard is a removable PCB with low-profile switches and integrated USB connection so you can make a custom layout, like the Mitosis or ortholinear or anything you please.

leojfc(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yes, I would buy any laptop which offered an ortholinear keyboard option, with customisable firmware.

I switched to using an Ergodox after long hours working on a MacBook Pro made my wrists start to hurt and my pinkie finger to go numb (and this was back in the day when a MBP keyboard was still decent!). I can still type full speed on a regular keyboard but it doesn't feel as comfortable, and I think there's a genuine health issue at least for some people.

burlesona(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Well, HN will love this. Moddable laptop with a good webcam? Nice.


- I really dislike the arrow keys not having the air gap above left and right. You'd think they'd learn that from the MacBook butterfly keyboard era.

- it's a little disingenuous to say "no adapters" when in fact their little expansion cards are merely adapters that insert into the chassis of the laptop. Only four I/O ports is a little tight (despite Apple deeming it to be "enough")

- that laptop looks pretty thick and heavy by today's standards.

It'll be interesting to see how people respond, when many (especially in this crowd) have been clamoring for this kind of thing. How many will actually vote with their dollars, and will that be enough for Framework to survive and become a viable competitor in the laptop space?

I hope so, as I welcome the diversity and innovation that would represent. But I admit I'm skeptical as to their chances.

gregmac(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> Only four I/O ports is a little tight

Maybe, but how many do you really need?

I have lots of stuff plugged in at my desk -- but it's plugged into a dock, and there's just a single cable that goes into my laptop. Thinking about my usages in the past few years, I can't think of a time where 4 ports (of my choosing) wouldn't have worked for me -- so long as I could change them over the lifetime of the device.

intrasight(10000) 7 days ago [-]

If they indeed succeed in creating an open 'platform' then if you don't like the keyboard, you can replace it with one that you do like.

andrewflnr(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's not 'disingenuous'. Everyone knows they're talking about external dongles because those are the kind of adapter that's actually annoying. Complaining about their modules because they're implemented in terms of USB-C is the worst kind of technically true but semantically nonsensical nitpick, precisely because it takes a long comment like this to unpack it but only a few words to make it.

zerocrates(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I really do hate full-height left and right keys, they're strictly worse in my usage.

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The arrow keys were an interesting challenge. We actually prototyped both versions, and the full height ones ended up feeling better to most folks. It's definitely a matter of personal preference though.

The Framework Laptop comes in at 15.85mm thick and 1.3kg. So a couple of sheets of paper thicker than a 13' MacBook Pro, but a bit lighter.

On the Expansion Cards, that is fair. We can say we're getting rid of the need for adapters that protrude from the machine and need to be removed when you need to transport it.

GordonS(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not sure if we're looking at the same photos and specs, but it looks and seems thin and light to me - 16mm thick, and 1.3kg according to the specs. I'm aware you can get slightly thinner, but not much lighter. IMO, anything thinner that this is making horrible sacrifices elsewhere, for little more than diminishing aesthetic returns.

Let's not forget that this is repairable, upgradable and expandable - when I first saw the HN title, I was convinced it was going to be a brick. It actually looks great, like a premium laptop from Dell or Lenovo. But supporting up to 64GB or memory, and repairable etc. Pretty amazing, I think.

foobarian(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> - that laptop looks pretty thick and heavy by today's standards.

I am not a fan of today's standards. As I write (on an external A1243 keyboard) I look at the closed touchbar MBP in front of me and cringe at the gap between the cover and the body go from zero on the left to 1/4' on the right. This laptop is too thin for its own good, for no good reason, and I look forward to how sturdy this design would be with the extra thickness (not to mention all the other goodies they list).

mattowen_uk(10000) 7 days ago [-]

For me, the huge trackpad in the middle front is the problem. Centred trackpads, weren't a problem when they were about 1/2 the size, but they've steadily been getting bigger and bigger. Now almost all laptop trackpads are at a size where the base my thumb and the edge of my wrist brush against them, causing endless false touches. If I'm typing for any length of time on a laptop, I now always disable the touchpad and plug in a mouse. Give me a laptop with an offset smaller trackpad please. I suppose people who only use a laptop, learn to type with floating hands with claw-like fingers, but I use a desktop most of the time, so my resting-wrists-on-the-desk style of typing doesn't work.

I can't be the only person with this problem?

Edit: While I'm ranting, I am 100% sure that the touch-logic in trackpads favour right handed people (same with mobile phone screens) and as a leftie it seems harder for me to perform complex multi-touch actions than it does for right handed people.

freakynit(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Just add a GPU please. A whole community of people buy windows laptops just so that they can game on it. For work, Mac's are still best choice.

But hats off to the initiative. Wee needed this.

jpetso(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A laptop in this form factor won't be great for gaming even if you put a dedicated GPU inside, there's not enough room for cooling and especially not when replaceable components take up more space. For half-decent laptop gaming, you either want a giant beast or an eGPU (generally via Thunderbolt).

dorfsmay(10000) 6 days ago [-]


* An option for a good quality trackpoint and 3 buttons

* A possibility to order a fully assembled model without an OS

And you will quickly get a significant share of buyers from the ThinkPad/Linux crowd.

alrs(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The patents on Trackpoint must have expired by now. I need 3 physical buttons, at minimum.

akhilcacharya(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Looks promising, but having AMD chips would be killer.

imwillofficial(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Seconded! The value that AMD has been bringing to the table lately is shockingly good.

subaquamille(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Fairphone is doing interchangeability for... phones https://www.fairphone.com/en/ Although the feature/price is a bit below average brands, they are greatly priced if you take into account the sustainability. I Hope more brands will go this way so concurrence could help get better products and reduce electronic trash.

diurnalist(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I was excited to take the leap and try the FP2, and ended up really disappointed by it. The quality of both hardware and software was just pretty bad. The casing would warp and pop off over time; I had to order 2 replacements in the 2 years I had it. Separately, at the time (maybe still the case), they didn't ship parts at all to the USA, so when I moved there, I was unable to get replacement parts. My microphone module got so flaky that it would periodically lose a good connection to the bus and the person on the other end wouldn't hear anything I was saying, which took a while to figure out. The connectivity was also awful, maybe also a USA thing. I couldn't get reception at either my work place or several apartments I rented. It was incredibly frustrating because I really wanted it to work. That they phased out FP1 parts after 4 years confirmed to me that it just wasn't worth it. I keep my phones for that long anyways, it may as well at least be built well. Oh, there were also compatibility problems with Android apps because FP OS development often lagged pretty behind, but that's a different story.

bigpeopleareold(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I got my FP3+ on Friday, so here's to hoping for another 5-8 years of not buying another phone and repairing what I have :) (Switched after 8 years of using Nexus 5s and I did have to repair it, but someone gave me a new-ish one during that time.)

tweetle_beetle(10000) 7 days ago [-]

A bit like the comments about incongruous items in the recent Apple lab video, I find the presence of a Pocket Operator on the video demonstrating ease of assembly rather amusing.

They already ticked the expensive camera box, but for proper hipster bingo success, you would also need: some kind of branded grid paper notebook, a metal mechanical draughting pencil, a teapot with loose leaf tea, audiophile headphones and a 40% mechanical keyboard.

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

You joke, but my Grado headphones and Swanson Speed Square were only not in the video because the shipment didn't arrive at the shoot in time.

necrotic_comp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I wish new laptops would follow the form factor of the old Thinkpads instead of Macbooks. I realize that most people like trackpads and can't stand the trackpoint, but as someone who has used one for so long it would be fantastic if something like this existed.

That being said, this is a great project and it looks like it should be successful - having a laptop that is built to last with interchangable parts is a great idea and should've been done long ago.

jpetso(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yep. With swappable keyboards, I really hope that they consider an alternative option with trackpoint, trackpoint mouse buttons and full-size arrow keys, perhaps even adjacent PgUp/PgDown keys à la ThinkPad.

throwaway69123(10000) 6 days ago [-]

These things never work because consumers care more about brands than rights

whywhywhywhy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The job of their marketing team is to convince them to care

SilverRed(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Also these things tend to work worse than the branded stuff, fail faster, and then the project vanishes after a few years so you never get to upgrade it anyway.

maxrev17(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I hate to be negative, but the market has decided it wants un-repairable and un-upgradeable devices.

Udo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Judging by how much interest this has garnered on HN, there does seem to be a market. I think people would at least like the option.

Every time I buy a laptop, it's a matter of tradeoffs. Some of these tradeoffs are technical (like battery life vs power), but some are purely based on what level of planned obsolescence the manufacturer thinks they can get away with.

I'm not sure if there was ever a time when manufacturers competed solely on putting features into their hardware, but the situation right now is at least as much about how many antifeatures they can get away with. The 'free market' stops working when every manufacturer does this and the barrier for new offerings is impossibly high.

kinghtown(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I dig the concept, just hope the utilization pans out.

I'm holding out for an arm based Linux laptop which can handle Blender without too much fan noise... I would love to get a system76 laptop but I have doubts about the build quality. But they say that they are on tract to manufacture their own laptops this year. How does a framework laptop compare to System76? (Let alone a Lenovo or Asus.)

Any chance you guys could make your own distro in the future and brand it Lapdance?

baybal2(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I have few tricks in my sleeve, but my laptop project stalled with quarantine, and appearance of other things to spend money on.

kodah(10000) 7 days ago [-]

As someone who swaps laptops out a lot, I'm down to get one. I'm also the same kind of person that buys an X1 Extreme for it's ability to be repaired. I'm also curious about price, but I'm assuming that hasn't been decided.

That said:

> Founded in San Francisco in 2019

I'd love to see these kind of companies founded outside of this area in the future.

whoisburbansky(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Sorry, why does it matter where they're founded?

bombcar(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I can understand the strong benefits for startups starting in the Bay Area; I would like to see more of them migrate OUT at an appropriate time (which would be slightly before FAANG valuation in my mind).

Remote work may solve some of this, but eventually the extended runways available at 'lower altitudes' (to bend the metaphor) will become worthwhile.

fossuser(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Neat - I wonder how it'll turn out.

It's weird how little there is in the laptop space that's actually good.

Macs, Thinkpads, maybe Dell XPS?

Everything else sucks. It'd be cool to have another high quality option.

jtl999(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I've heard good things about Clevo based designs in the past but even those seem to be questionable now.

tomtheelder(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The Razer laptops are IMO the best Windows option available. Not as good as the other options if you're running Linux, though.

folkrav(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Thinkpads are far from being uniformly good, some models flat out suck. Macs aren't immune to lemons either - see all the issues with their keyboards after 2016, or the failing GPUs in some MBPs. Some XPSes are good, but many models had horrible coil whine as well.

The LG gram was fine, if light and portable was what you're looking for. The HP Envy line has been pretty decent recently. Back in school I've had an Asus Zenbook I've quite liked as well. I've heard good things about some System76 systems too, and they're basically Clevo rebrands.

There definitely is good stuff on the laptop market.

sriku(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The spec says 'Intel Xe Graphics'. Any more details on this GPU? Is it this one - https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/211013/... ?

jpetso(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They say Intel 11th Gen CPUs, so the particular one will likely be the one that ships with your pick of Tiger Lake SKU. The Xe MAX card is useful for particular niche cases, such as encoding videos with good power efficiency, but because it's no more powerful than the top-range built-in Tiger Lake iGPU, there would be little point in putting it in most laptops.

markyc(10000) 7 days ago [-]

the only thing I'd ask for is a no fan version

kieranl(10000) 7 days ago [-]

We have no no fan/low fan support on our firmware backlog - basically reducing the SOC TDP to the point where the laptop becomes a passively cooled and does not require the fan. So you can have performance when you want it, and silence when you want.

ceocoder(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I've added my name to preorder list, happy to pay premium for a laptop with high build quality and hardware. Please don't screw up the keyboard. Please. And a fingerprint reader would be welcome addition if possible.

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Keyboard feel was high on our list of priorities. We engaged one of the bigger keyboard suppliers and worked with them on a custom one with 1.5mm key travel.

We've built a fingerprint reader into the power button using a just-released sensor that has been performing really well in our testing so far. We're seeing False Reject Rates lower than the typical fingerprint readers built into laptops while keeping the right False Accept Rate.

rch(10000) 7 days ago [-]

That looks a lot like my first laptop, the Sharp Actius MM10. I'd get one of these on that basis alone.

The Ars article says the body is aluminium, but if I recall correctly, the Actius was a mag alloy of some kind (which I'd prefer). Either way, I'm curious.

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The body is 50% post consumer recycled aluminum. We did consider magnesium alloy, but availability of recycled material, infrastructure for recycling, and costs are all prohibitive compared to aluminum.

gillesjacobs(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Great initiative, but the proprietary expansion cards are entirely counter-productive to maintainability.

The expansion cards will only be available for as long as your company provides them. Using the most-commonly used, mass-manufactured standard interfaces for components would provide more long-term repairability and upgradeability.

The trade-off would be in design resulting in more bulk and in the economics of your company, of course. It seems cynical to me to sell maintainability while starting a walled-garden ecosystem of proprietary hardware.

kieranl(10000) 7 days ago [-]

We will open up the expansion card spec and share reference designs to enable partners and the community to build their own! I want it to be open as much as you do.

colonwqbang(10000) 7 days ago [-]

It looks like the expansion cards are just USB-C adapters that fit inside the case. If so, it should be pretty simple to make a compatible expansion card. Or just plug in any dongle you like, ignoring the form factor.

gregmac(10000) 7 days ago [-]

In the worst case (they change the interface spec and no one else produces old modules, or the company folds entirely) it's not any less maintainable than any other laptop on the market today. I think most laptops still allow storage and battery upgrades/replacement; RAM is questionable (some being soldered on the motherboard); and anything else basically means replacing the whole device.

freeone3000(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The port design is intriguing. My concern is your main competition, at least from me, is against Lenovo. Their thinkpads don't offer the modularity of IO ports, but instead simply offer 'one of everything', with user-replacable SSD, HDD, and RAM modules, which is enough for most users. Swappable screens might be enough of a selling point, but, I'm holding out for the actual final specs. It doesn't look like it can fit a dedicated video card, so it's no competition for the Legion line, but it might stand up to the Thinkpad line.

GordonS(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Do any of the modern Thinkpads offer user-replaceable parts? Any time I see Thinkpads recommend on HN, it's for older, 2nd hand laptops.

Also, do any of such Thinkpads approach the lightness, thinness and aesthetic of this laptop? Last time I looked at new Thinkpads, I seem to recall they were pretty chunky, with only the Ideapads being thin, light and nice to look at (it was a while ago, so I might have that wrong tho)

ksec(10000) 6 days ago [-]

>Designed for the future of work with a 13.5" 3:2 screen

Yes 3:2! Really wish Apple took this direction. But instead it was the PC industry moving towards it. For Desktop or Laptops that no longer has Gaming or Media consumption as their priorities, 3:2 is just much better for productivity.

bscphil(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I must be the only person on HN who really likes 16:9. Actually I'd go further and do 2:1 if I could.

The reason is that the vast majority of my work is done with two windows open, side by side. A wider aspect ratio gives you a much better picture of what's happening in both, especially if one of them is a web browser (so many sites assume a pretty large screen width these days). The fact that it works much better with media (e.g. watching or editing film footage) is just a bonus.

lifeisstillgood(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is a little off-topic, but it makes me proud that HN can have two major IPOs (one coinbase!) on the front page, but the top story is a damn-cool laptop we all want to tinker with.

We have not been subsumed by The Man yet :-)

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

We were pleasantly surprised too! It's great to see the interest, and we can't want to get it out there.

sho_hn(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I don't see any information on the licensing of the adapter card / inter-module interfaces.

Can others build a Framework laptop without approval? Can others build cards without approval? Will it be a platform?

Tell me how this isn't a Nespresso machine for silicon pods. :-)

Edit: To be clear, even a 'we have a generic base laptop and you can pick your I/O' concept is potentially a nice value prop, but it'd be good if the picture (and roadmap) was clear.

Eric_WVGG(10000) 7 days ago [-]

They're just USB-C dongles that snap into the chassis.. You can see better shots here: https://frame.work

This is an unpopular opinion, but I think this proves that Apple was right to dump legacy ports. This solution is sort of clever but it sacrifices a ton of internal space that could have been spent on a bigger battery. USB-C, and the correct cables, are all anyone needs.

(the Nespresso analogy is ridiculous, a laptop doesn't exist to consume adapters. But I presume you were enjoying a little tongue-in-cheek with your coffee)

znpy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

tbh the adapter card really looks like a simple adaptor with an usb-c/thunderbolt plug on one side. it'll take a week or two for chinese knock-off to appear on aliexpress etc.

what i wonder is:

- can those cards be locked in place?

- can i hotplug/hot-unplug them ?

oconnore(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Nespresso pods for silicon sound great! I'm not a hardware engineer, I'm just tired of $800 "replace the entire main board" repairs when I broke my 'H' key.

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

We will be releasing specifications and reference designs for the Expansion Card system under a permissive license. We want to make it easy for both other companies and members of the community to develop their own cards and sell them through the Framework Marketplace. That is something we'll be detailing and sharing between now and the time we start shipping out the product. We'll also provide documentation around internal interfaces, though those will be more technically challenging for an individual to be able to build something with.

owenversteeg(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This looks really cool. I'm especially loving the weight. I really dislike a lot of recent laptops for their fragility and lack of upgrade capacity, so currently I'm using a T440P which comes in around 2.26kg - so if this is 1.3kg that's nearly a kilo of weight savings.

The replaceable battery is great, the weight is great, the design is pretty good, and the keyboard seems fine - 1.5mm of key travel is usable. (The T440P has around 2.2mm, and according to [0] all current Thinkpads are 1.8mm except X1 Carbon/Yoga/L14/L15 at 1.5mm)

My big question, though, is the durability. If you drop this thing a few times, will I have any problems? What about water damage - have you tested anything (intentionally or unintentionally?) Any drain holes? If I was to spill a decent bit of water on the keyboard, would that have a 10%/30%/80% chance of killing it?

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/thinkpad/comments/jhay05/which_curr...

bogwog(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I too love my Thinkpad(s), but pitting this thing against such high standards is asking a lot.

Sure it'd be nice, but I'm not going to hold it against them if their laptop can't survive a fire/spill/drop.

owenversteeg(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Also, I'm sure there are lots of people in this thread who've tried a similar search, so what laptops are out there with most of the following: good keyboard, under 1.5kg, durable, battery life >6h, RAM > 8GB, semi-repairable?

My current model is a T440p, so using that as a comparison.

So far my search has turned up:

- Old Macbooks where the keyboard was still decent (but unfortunately they're not too tough or repairable)

- T470s or T460s: the T460s was the first model with the new magnesium case and the T470s keeps the same case (and is only a small change to the T460s.) Advantage of that is a 250g weight savings (1.35kg total!), 49 Wh battery that lasts 6-8 hours and charges to 80% in 90 minutes, traditional 'yellow' Thinkpad charger on the T460s and USB-C charging on the T470s. It doesn't come at a huge cost in terms of durability either - still passes the MIL-STD-810. The T460s was the last of the S line to have drainage holes - the T470 and T460s have them, the T470s and T480s do not, but instead claim to have a 'spillproof keyboard'. Versus the T450s, it has HDMI out instead of VGA, has both batteries inside the case (no increased battery capacity), and better battery life with the base config. Unfortunately the batteries aren't removable on the outside, so it's a bit more of a pain to buy a used version of these (as you'd want to replace the batteries.)

- T450s: same case as T440 versions, last model with VGA out (which is super useful, I had a popular rant on VGA here a year or two ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20431195) Basically a mildly upgraded T440s, which is a good, if heavy laptop. Default capacity of 48Wh (24+24) and total weight 1.58kg with standard battery - good for 5h new, or 96Wh (24+72) and total weight 1.77kg with extended battery - good for ~10h new. And you can hot swap because of the internal battery!

- T480s: very similar physically (weight + case + materials wise) to T470s. Significantly faster processor than T470s, continuing the trend started by the T470s of spill resistant + no drain holes. Mechanical shutter for the webcam! Same keyboard as T470s, aka very good. Better thermal management than T470s! Speakers still the same old Thinkpad speakers, aka shitty. Slightly larger battery - 57Wh vs 51Wh in T470s - and a fast charge to 80% in 60 minutes - so 9-12 hours of real world battery life.

If anyone has any additional models to suggest, please do!

samizdis(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Ars Technica has a sceptical but optimistic/hopeful take on it:


Edit to add quote from Ars article:

Framework is promising an awful lot in its very first product—'thin as an XPS 13, repairable as a custom-built gaming PC' is a pretty tall order to live up to. We very much want to believe, but it's going to take a full Ars Technica teardown before we're completely convinced.

Although we're skeptical, we are hopeful—the fledgling company does have a pretty solid pedigree. Framework founder Nirav Patel was Oculus VR's head of hardware from 2012 to 2017, and he was a Facebook director of engineering beyond that. The company's team also includes design, engineering, and operations people hailing from Apple, Google, and Lenovo.

arcturus17(10000) 7 days ago [-]

They've got the street cred but producing and marketing hardware is so damn hard.

Ouya and the Essential phone are two cases that immediately spring to mind where the founding teams were credible, but the products ended up being massive flops.

Good luck to them anyway. The idea is cool and I think if I were on the lookout for a Linux laptop and they delivered on their quality promise, I'd consider them.

waheoo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm very hopefully for this company. I just hope they drop the passive aggressive 'block' remarks.

Maybe its me but I suspect they're referring to decade old ThinkPad that have since evolved a lot to thin performance beasts.

Passive aggressive remarks towards things your target market holds nostalgia for is likely not going to end well.

It's also setting themselves up for failure if their cooling solution doesn't beat a modern ThinkPads dual fan solution.

The aluminium case is also extremely questionable. Is your target demo thinkpad users or Dell users that want to take things apart. Hate to break it to you but Dell users don't give a fuck. It's why they have a Dell. Most think pad users value plastic chassis. They're lighter (13' at 1.3kg, are you nuts?) more durable, and more palatable on your lap when they warm up they're also more cost effective.

agumonkey(10000) 6 days ago [-]

who else here had napkin design of just this ?

now let's have a pocket variant that revives the old google modular project

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

'thin as an XPS 13, repairable as a custom-built gaming PC' was not actually a direct quote from us, but it's nice that the folks at Ars think of our design that way!

Igelau(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> it's going to take a full Ars Technica teardown before we're completely convinced.

Read: please send us a free one

40four(10000) 6 days ago [-]

With all do respect, but who gives a sh*t what Ars Technica thinks in regards to this?

This project looks unbelievable! I am super excited for this, as many many others are too obviously. I'll be honest I'm not even going to click on the Ars Technical article, their opinion couldn't be less interesting to me.

No doubt this company still has a lot to prove. Can they put their money where their mouth is? Remains to be seen.

But the fact that there is a real company out there, making an attempt to build a product like this makes me so happy.

0xbadcafebee(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> The company's team also includes design, engineering, and operations people hailing from Apple, Google, and Lenovo.

They should avoid the appeal to authority fallacy. Those companies hire tens of thousands of people each. Statistically speaking, half of them could be idiots. Just because I worked at Cisco doesn't mean I'm some product genius. (Hell, I came from an acquisition!)

SnowProblem(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I went with a Thinkpad over a Macbook a couple years ago exactly for these goals - repairability and modularity - so this looks pretty amazing to me. Especially the modular ports. That said, the lack of a discrete GPU makes this a no-go for what I do. Does anyone know if a dGPU is planned, and also any pricing?

GordonS(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The XPS 13 was the first thing I thought of when I saw this - a repairable, upgradable, expandable XPS 13.

What they are promising sounds awesome. And AS a Brit, that is not a word I use often :)

I really, really hope this pans out, and this summer - this is something I'd very much like to get my hands on!

knz_(10000) 6 days ago [-]

As cool as this is, it's a DOA product with no real market outside super savvy consumers. Uninformed consumers already buy the cheapest laptops they can find on Amazon or in the store.

If repairability is super important to someone, what incentive is there to buy this over a used thinkpad? You can get skylake thinkpads for less than $200 on ebay - replacement batteries and displays cost less than $100.

eightails(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I really hope you're wrong and this device achieves success, but you may well be right honestly.

I suspect they'll have to charge premium prices, but that might be justifiable even considering the availability of cheap Thinkpads.

As good as $200 Thinkpads are, they are old devices, with dim, low res screens, old processors, poor battery life, relatively thick and heavy chassis, old ports, old wifi/bluetooth etc. Again, perfectly functional for many people, but I think there are legitimate reasons to want a newer device.

Maybe there's enough of a niche market there, who knows.

holri(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Will it run with completely free software? The limiting factor for lasting is not hardware but required proprietary software.

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Our Embedded Controller firmware is fully open source. We're using a proprietary BIOS solution at launch, but that is something we'd like to fix in the future.

whoisburbansky(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Are you implying they're going to stop you from popping Ubuntu on it somehow?

[Edit: Thanks for all the replies citing driver blobs and proprietary BIOS issues, totally slipped my mind that that was a concern, makes a ton more sense now.]

twobitshifter(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I love the idea. My suggestion: To make the laptop "you" as the site says, you need to make the laptop outwardly expressive. Nothing is less unique than a apple logo on the lid. Zune did an amazing job some time ago with custom engraving artist designs and patterns on the back of their MP3 players. Maybe Framework could do something similar?

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The bezel around the display is magnetic-attach and we'll be offering a range of colors for it.

pmontra(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Nice project. However I see no Gigabit ethernet port. USB dongle for the one of us that prefer the performance and the predictability of a cable over Wi-Fi's whims?

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

A Gigabit Ethernet Expansion Card is on our roadmap, though it is going to look a little goofy compared to the other cards, since it won't fit entirely in the current envelope.

remarkEon(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Who actually makes the boards for this? I want to believe here, but I need to know a little more about the supply chain before I'll pick one up.

nrp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

One of the big Taipei-based notebook manufacturers who builds machines for other popular brands. We'll be giving deeper transparency into our supply chain once we get full sign-off from the folks we work with there.

ibraheemdev(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Just curious, why Intel over AMD? AMD has been dominating the CPU market lately in price for performance.

Stevvo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

AMD's competitive mobile chips are bit different; higher TDP, higher core counts. Not ideal for a thin and light machine.

auraham(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This seems to be a really great product. I understand many of its features may change in the future. However, I would like to see a spec sheet in the website. Also, I wonder what is the difference between the standard model and the DIY version.

On the other hand, the interior and exterior of the laptop look gorgeous.

nrp(10000) 7 days ago [-]

At launch, the standard pre-built model and DIY have the same CPU options available. DIY allows a broader range of memory and storage options, including bringing your own. The pre-built offers Windows 10 Home or Pro, while DIY offers those plus the option to ship without an OS installed. Both versions allow Expansion Card selection at order time.

Edit: And we will be sharing full spec sheets before we open pre-orders.

wolfsayswof(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm just gonna say it. The design looks like a hard copy of the Macbook Air.

whywhywhywhy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Which honestly seems to undersell the machine, you make something so unique then just made it look like the problem its trying to solve.

Hope the design team have a little more bravery in future

VlijmenFileer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Another laptop with arrow keys so small they're unusable. No usable arrow keys means useless computer. What is wrong with laptop manufacturers making these broken keys standard? There's hardly any laptop left I could buy. A bit longer and I will have to drag an external keyboard everywhere just to use my laptop. Or just forgo laptop at all and start carrying some miny PC. It's insanity.

ben_(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Swappable keyboard

FPGAhacker(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I certainly can understand the frustration. To offer another point of view, I'm not sure I've touched my arrow keys once in the last several years. I might have, but I don't remember it if I did.

craftkiller(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The librem 14 has what looks to be full-sized arrow keys: https://puri.sm/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/11300004-edited.j...

kunalpowar1203(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My naive question is 'how do you guys manage profitability? and hence survive as a company'. That's the one point that I can't explain to someone when I rant about companies making devices that cannot be repaired and would last an average 3 years.

gohbgl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Well, in the tech space this is very easy to explain: They survive by selling new devices. People will eventually buy new laptops to get access to faster hardware.

desmap(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Nirav, I don't want to be the guy but yeah. One the one side, I like that somebody finally takes care of products we really need—notebooks. That somebody enters the hardware game, one of the hardest spaces to conquer. On the other side, I am a bit underwhelmed.

I mean this must the dream of every engineer, designer and 13-year old. Designing your own notebook. And what's the results? It's good, I would buy one, maybe. But is it a gadget I think of before I fall asleep?

This logo, then the centered trackpad (are you serious?), huge clumsy bays nobody asked for and a non-centered displays. Worst, a design that doesn't dare, that is afraid to go beyond the Macbook comfort zone, something that wants to be liked, something Chuwi and BMAX, two low-end Chinese brands, would have designed better. Btw, celebrating this reparability feature, maybe you should check out what Schenker/XMG/Clevo or the Thinkpads do for years. Not that all of aforementioned are dealbreakers but IDK, let's says they do not make a good first impression.

Look at following non-iconic notebooks[1]—I don't compare yours with iconic brands, this wouldn't be fair—but look what other non-premium brands are able to create. These are gadgets I dream of and you should think of restarting the project, seriously, I mean are you happy with this yourself or would Jobs be?


Brand new Chinese Yoga 14S https://www.reddit.com/r/AMDLaptops/comments/kifq5i/lenovo_y...

Brand new Asus Flow X13 https://www.reddit.com/r/eGPU/comments/l5fq7a/asus_rog_flow_...

Razer Book 13 https://www.razer.com/productivity-laptops/razer-book-13

Asus G14 ACRONYM limited editon, https://rog.asus.com/microsite/ROG-ZEPHYRUS-G14-ACRNM/


PS: If anyone disagrees, pls comment and let me know where I am wrong thanks.

RussianCow(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> This logo, then the centered trackpad (are you serious?), huge clumsy bays and a non-centered displays. Worst a design that doesn't dare, that is afraid to go beyond the Macbook comfort zone, something that wants to be liked. Not that all of these are dealbreakers but IDK, let's says they do not make a good first impression.

Personally, I don't think they want to change too many variables at the same time. It makes sense to first create something that is familiar to users while offering the benefits they advertise, instead of alienating users right off the bat with a weird/different design that may or may not be successful. It's just unnecessary risk at this point.

stephen(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I know trackpads won, but would love a trackpoint. I keep buying Thinkpads solely for that feature.

maximzxc(10000) 6 days ago [-]

same for me

Liskni_si(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I don't use the trackpoint often on my ThinkPad, but I wouldn't buy a laptop without it. It's impossible to use the touchpad in a confined space such as an airplane (economy class) or a bus.

messo(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Same for me, but I can understand if it is hard to implement in the current design.

bxparks(10000) 6 days ago [-]

How do I scroll a page up and down with a trackpoint (on Windows and Linux)? I've tried using a trackpoint, but the two-finger swipe up and down on a trackpad is a convenience that I cannot seem to live without.

cupofjoakim(10000) 7 days ago [-]

This actually looks promising but I wonder if I'm really the target group. While I do build custom computers every now and then i also cherish the 'completeness' of the unibody design that my MBP has. I also wonder about the availability of parts...

Also, big up for the 3:2 screen.

coldpie(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> Also, big up for the 3:2 screen.

Amen. Any chance I can buy one for my desktop?

hyperpl(10000) 7 days ago [-]

If the screen is swappable I'd really like to see a lower DPI version of 1920x1280. The Thinkpad X1C9 by comparison is 14' @ 1920x1200.

chrismorgan(10000) 7 days ago [-]

13.5′′ 2256×1504, that's 201ppi, not too shabby, just right for 1.5× scaling for an effective resolution of 1504×10022⁄3.

(I like my Surface Book's 13.5′′ 3000×2000 267ppi display which is just the right size for 2× scaling, yielding an effective resolution of 1500×1000.)

For reference, the common 13.3′′ 1920×1080 display is 166ppi, 13.3′′ 1366×768 is 118ppi, 15.6′′ 1920×1080 is 141ppi, and 15.6′′ 1366×768 is 100ppi.

(I'm idly curious why it's 2256×1504 rather than 2250×1500, which would scale to the more convenient effective resolution of 1500×1000 at 150%, and still 200ppi.)

skrebbel(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Love the logo on the back of the screen. No stupid slogans, just the cog, looks great! It makes no rational sense, but I'd want to own one just for that.

Hope there's gonna be a touchscreen version! After all, a UI that you can't touch is like coffee that you can't smell.

willyt(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I didn't get the idea of a touchscreen laptop until I got an iPad recently, now I'm constantly trying to touch my laptop screen and then getting confused when I doesn't do anything.

Gracana(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Do physical units exist yet? Where is the manufacturing done? It looks expensive to manufacture in small quantities. I do like the idea, but I'm afraid that this will become e-waste if Framework doesn't exist, grow, and succeed for years to come.

The MNT Reform also does the 'sustainable laptop' thing, via an open source approach. It's a lot simpler to manufacture and easier for end users to modify, and its longevity doesn't necessarily rely on MNT Research continuing to exist. I feel that's the safer approach.

spijdar(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They're just very different products, ultimately. I've preordered a Reform and they're just very different laptops, in that this project is aiming to produce a laptop that could satisfy 'the masses' buying Thinkpads or MBPs or XPS 13s etc and want the performance and software compatibility.

Reform makes sacrifices in performance and form factor (much bulkier) but makes up for it in basically all the parts being 3D printable on hardware you could feasibly have at home, and even the PCBs look simple enough I bet you could hand assemble everything except the SoM module.

I don't think the reform could ever become 'mainstream' but I don't think it really wants to, either. This could be great if, like you mentioned, it 'takes off' and converts more regular laptop users to a more repairable laptop than their old ones. We'll see...

Historical Discussions: Show HN: Redbean – Single-file distributable web server (February 26, 2021: 1991 points)

(1993) Show HN: Redbean – Single-file distributable web server

1993 points 6 days ago by jart in 10000th position

justine.lol | Estimated reading time – 4 minutes | comments | anchor

redbean single-file distributable web server

redbean makes it possible to share web applications that run offline as a single-file αcτμαlly pδrταblε εxεcμταblε zip archive which contains your assets. All you need to do is download the redbean.com program below, change the filename to .zip, add your content in a zip tool like InfoZIP, and change the extension back to .com.

redbean can serve 1 million+ gzip encoded responses per second on a cheap personal computer. That performance is thanks to zip and gzip using the same compression format, which enables kernelspace copies. Another reason redbean goes fast is that it's a tiny static binary, which makes fork memory paging nearly free.

redbean is also easy to modify to suit your own needs. The program itself is written as a single .c file.


redbean-asan-2021-03-02.com 500kb - PE+ELF+MachO+ZIP+SH+ASAN c48f8cc293a224e271ebd63e4eb74dddbfaad1f23bcfa84289787410a56a1fd2

redbean-asan-2021-03-02.com.dbg 3m - ELF debugger data (optional) af7b4dba47c00b94eab121f67c2b982f4d254b0a894a14cdf4c116415501c61d

redbean-2021-03-02.com 196kb - PE+ELF+MachO+ZIP+SH 447839f0c62b601c475582b3a6417c85b2865581c8fd74e48728ae65bdc64c4a

redbean-2021-03-02.com.dbg 2.2m - ELF debugger data (optional) 1b5cb76e4c047d710839bc89941fb91c91b2959e801850d4693446bdc3ca7c6d

redbean.c source code


  • HTTP v1.1
  • Content-Encoding
  • Range / Content-Range
  • Last-Modified / If-Modified-Since
  • Address Sanitizer Hardened Memory Safety


curl https://justine.lol/redbean/redbean-latest.com >redbean.com
curl https://justine.lol/redbean/redbean-latest.com.dbg >redbean.com.dbg
chmod +x redbean.com
bash -c './redbean.com -vv'


echo '<b>hello</b>' >index.html
zip redbean.com index.html
./redbean.com -vv
curl -v

source build

git clone https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan && cd cosmopolitan
make -j8 MODE=dbg o/dbg/tool/net/redbean.com
o/dbg/tool/net/redbean.com -vv


Assets can be listed by running the following command:

unzip -vl redbean.com        # lists files

Assets can be added to the zip archive as follows:

zip redbean.com index.html   # adds file

By default, anything you add to the archive gets compressed. Sometimes you don't want that to happen. A good example is video files. The web browser will want to send HTTP range requests to seek in the video, in which case redbean requires that the asset be uncompressed.

zip -0 redbean.com video.mp4  # adds file without compression

Each connection uses a point in time snapshot of your ZIP file. If your ZIP is deleted then serving continues. If it's replaced then issuing SIGUSR1 (or SIGHUP if daemon) will reindex the zip for subsequent connections without interrupting active ones. If SIGINT or SIGTERM is issued then a graceful shutdown is started but if it's issued a second time, active connections are reset.

You can run redbean in the background as a daemon as follows:

redbean.com -vv -d -L redbean.log -P redbean.pid
kill -HUP $(cat redbean.pid)
kill -TERM $(cat redbean.pid)


-h help
-v verbosity
-d daemonize
-u uniprocess
-m log messages
-c INT cache seconds
-r /X=/Y redirect X to Y
-l ADDR listen ip [default]
-p PORT listen port [default 8080]
-L PATH log file location
-P PATH pid file location
-U INT daemon set user id
-G INT daemon set group id
-B STR changes server header


$ wrk -H 'Accept-Encoding: gzip' -t 12 -c 120 \
Running 10s test @
  12 threads and 120 connections
  Thread Stats   Avg      Stdev     Max   +/- Stdev
    Latency   745.49us    8.79ms 406.77ms   99.54%
    Req/Sec    96.60k     6.10k  123.66k    77.36%
  11631210 requests in 10.10s, 7.96GB read
Requests/sec: 1151621.71
Transfer/sec:    807.23MB

see also

justine's web page αcτμαlly pδrταblε εxεcμταblε

Written by Justine Tunney [email protected]

All Comments: [-] | anchor

raphaelj(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The amount of work that went to this is insane. She made a (full ?) implementation of libc: https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan/tree/master/libc

dev-tacular(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Right? It's amazing to see what some people can accomplish with the same 24 hours a day we all get.

phkahler(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Can it be extended in a way similar to CGI back in the day? I would just want to compile it with the CGI program rather than expect it to dynamically load.

jart(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You should file a feature request! We could crowdsource some ideas about the best way to do that. For example if you read the APE blog post, we've already got a JavaScript interpreter (duktape) checked-in to the Cosmopolitan codebase. I could easily link that into redbean and define possibly a nodejs-like API.

hprx(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I just spent 30 minutes reading about this. I'm so shocked that I'm logging in to comment after 5 years of lurking.

Justine has built a c library that allows you compile a binary once and have it run it on any os or baremetal. The SAME binary. Quite frankly, that sentence doesn't even make sense to me.

Check out https://storage.googleapis.com/justine/cosmopolitan/index.ht...

As far as I'm concerned, this is literal magic. Look at the magic numbers: https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan/blob/37a4c70c3634862d8d...

I could go on, but there's no binary portability comparison with any other language. And she has made some pretty neat optimizations.

Back in the day, I saw some pretty neat stuff with the ELF format, but this takes the cake.


Edit: I'm editing because this is just so bloody absurd.


$ ./printimage.com someimage.jpg

Like wow. And also video.


I'm struggling to put my shock into words. I've been around.

There's engineering. There's academia.

But this falls into straight-up wizardry.

rustypython(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Could you please explain to someone from the web domain with very little experience with compiled C programs why this is significantly better than, say, distributing a python program? Python runs on all the platforms mentioned. Or alternatively requiring compilation from source?

ghoomketu(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I really don't understand internals ibut I've often downloaded cygwin exe file for commands like grep, tail, etc.. Are you telling me that is no longer required?

matheusmoreira(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Wow, that cosmopolitan C library is absolutely awesome. The ABI specialization is extremely interesting. Never seen anything like that before. I thought compilers did that. I don't understand why they couldn't properly optimize memcpy.

I wonder how it handles system calls. Let me check the source...



> void OpSyscall(struct Machine *, uint32_t);

Pretty interesting... Need some time to figure out how it works.

The system call entry points:



It uses a jump slot technique which is interesting:


System call numbers:



Looks like it packs the system call numbers of all operating systems into a single constant.

For some reason there are some dedicated implementations of Linux system calls using inline assembly rather than the entry point:


More related files:



Also funny how it calls Linux 'GNU/Systemd'!

yumraj(10000) 4 days ago [-]

While this is absolutely amazing, and I'm still trying to see if I'm even able to grok the how..

But, the paranoid in me is now curious/afraid if this approach can/will lead to multi-OS malware?

TeMPOraL(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Agreed. This single sentence at the end of αcτμαlly pδrταblε εxεcμταblε page:

> I believe the best chance we have of doing that [writing software that stands the test of time with minimal toil], is by gluing together the binary interfaces that've already achieved a decades-long consensus, and ignoring the APIs.

...it's a kind of thought I don't think I could ever come up with. Mind blown.

malux85(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I agree, I got to the page on actually portable executable, and had to read it a few times to make sure I was grokking it properly. This is just sheer cleverness, THIS is the stuff that should be on hacker news!

lambda_obrien(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Strong agree; someone needs to give her like a million dollars a year salary and unlimited resources to explore whatever she wants for life, just to see what she comes up with.

niDistinct(10000) 5 days ago [-]


skrebbel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Everything she does has this level of jaw-dropping amazingness. Between her and Fabrice Bellard i don't know many people who consistently get my chin to hit the table.

I hope that Cosmopolitan becomes mainstream, so much more software could have that It Just Works quality.

Proven(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That malware for OS X that does nothing (so far) from the news earlier this week also has one multi-arch binary for all modern Apple notebook architectures (AMD64 and ARM64)

alisonatwork(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Agreed, this is the best programming-related thing I've seen on the internet in a long time. It reminds me of when I was a teenager, excited to become a computer programmer. Then I grew up and joined the real world workforce and it was all far less exciting than I imagined.

The coolest thing about this Actually Portable Executable is that once there's a compiler and linker built with it, I can play around with writing C on Windows without having to faff about with WSL or MinGW or learning what makes MSVC different from the C I learned in university and coded in my first job before I became a Java/JavaScript/Python/etc programmer. When I discovered Go I thought I had discovered the better C that just worked everywhere, but the idea of having plain old C that also just works everywhere is very appealing.

lenkite(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Will this work if your code uses the C++ standard library ? Or is this just for pure C ?

user3939382(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's funny because the high-level introductions to C I would read as a kid before I really knew much about computing would almost always start out by explaining that one of the biggest strengths of C was its portability, and how it allowed you to write the same code that worked on every platform. Of course I came to learn that's true only in a sense that has no connection to practical reality, this looks like an exception.

safeaim(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Am I the only one having issues trying to get this working? The webserver starts just fine, but once I add the index.html with zip as in the example, it stops working. This is on Mac 10.15, CentOS 8 and Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

Centos: [[email protected] ~]$ ./redbean.com -vv

  error: Uncaught SIGSEGV on test.novalocal
  Linux test.novalocal 4.18.0-240.10.1.el8_3.x86_64 #1 SMP 
  Mon Jan 18 17:05:51 UTC 2021
On the mac: ~ my-Maccie$./redbean.com -vv Killed: 9

On Ubuntu: [email protected]:~$ ./redbean.com -vv

  error: Uncaught SIGSEGV on localhost
  Linux localhost 4.15.0-136-generic #140-Ubuntu SMP Thu Jan 
  28 05:20:47 UTC 2021
zimpenfish(10000) 6 days ago [-]

IIRC, from vague memories of things flying past, Big Sur won't let a modified binary run once it's been checked by Gatekeeper. Which means the first run gets checked and notarised but when you add the `index.html`, the on-disk binary has changed and Gatekeeper won't allow it to run - I guess it's to prevent malicious code modifications, etc.

r0b05(10000) 6 days ago [-]

After adding a new file with WinRAR, I get:

EINVAL/err=87/errno:2/GetLastError:203 The parameter is incorrect.

Probably the ZIP needs to be saved in a certain format.

jart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Author here. It works fine on RHEL5 / CentOs5 for me. I can also confirm RHEL7. Please file an issue. What will help in particular is if you can give me the faulting RIP address. That should be in the crash report or in your dmesg log.

fastball(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Fixed for me (macOS) in this[1] commit.

[1] https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan/commit/218ef491476f15ab...

TeddyDD(10000) 6 days ago [-]

No, I have the same issue on Linux Mint 20.1

lemniscare(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yeah another killed: 9 on Mac BigSur. Could you export the tool in a way that we don't have to zip new files into it? Instead we would have to gcc the whole thing once and be done with it.

tromp(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Same here on MacOS Catalina 10.15.7. The original invocation runs fine

    $ bash -c './redbean.com -vv'
    W2021-02-26T01:50:12.665277:tool/net/redbean.c:1144:redbean:3302] setsockopt(server, IPPROTO_TCP, TCP_FASTOPEN, &yes, sizeof(yes)) → EINVAL/err=22/errno:22/GetLastError:0
    W--------------------000015:tool/net/redbean.c:1145:redbean:3302] setsockopt(server, IPPROTO_TCP, TCP_QUICKACK, &yes, sizeof(yes)) → ENOPROTOOPT/err=42/errno:42/GetLastError:0
    V--------------------000022:tool/net/redbean.c:1166:redbean:3302] listen
Visiting in my web browser shows a nice redbean page with lobster graphic at but then following usage instructions in another shell:

    $ echo '<b>hello</b>' >index.html
    $ zip redbean.com index.html
      adding: index.html (stored 0%)
    $ ./redbean.com -vv
    Killed: 9
I blame my zip

    $ zip -v
    Copyright (c) 1990-2008 Info-ZIP - Type 'zip '-L'' for software license.
    This is Zip 3.0 (July 5th 2008), by Info-ZIP.
    Currently maintained by E. Gordon.
Addition of index.html shrinks(!) redbean.com from size 204800 to size 204348, with changes starting from char 172938. That clearly corrupts the portable executable format.
snarfy(10000) 5 days ago [-]

No luck for me on win10. I can open the archive but get errors trying to add to it. 7zip and win explorer zip both fail with either unsupported or corrupted archive errors.

Since it's a .com file, after downloading, win 10 also claims 'this dangerous file comes from the internet and is blocked' which you have to check a box to unblock it. I did, but still get the errors trying to add to it.

awestroke(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Disable Gatekeeper:

  sudo spctl --master-disable
oneeyedpigeon(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yup, I get 'Killed: 9' on macOS (Big Sur) too. I actually had some kind of problem (I think) with the original invocation:

    $ bash -c './redbean.com -vv'
    W2021-02-26T02:06:29.162953:tool/net/redbean.c:1144:redbean:83621] setsockopt(server, IPPROTO_TCP, TCP_FASTOPEN, &yes, sizeof(yes)) → EINVAL/err=22/errno:22/GetLastError:0
    W--------------------000026:tool/net/redbean.c:1145:redbean:83621] setsockopt(server, IPPROTO_TCP, TCP_QUICKACK, &yes, sizeof(yes)) → ENOPROTOOPT/err=42/errno:42/GetLastError:0
    error:./redbean.com: check failed: 0xffffffffffffffff != 0xffffffffffffffff (48)
    6fffffffff70 0000004034cf UNKNOWN
    6fffffffff80 000000403225 UNKNOWN
    6fffffffffc0 0000004027f3 UNKNOWN
    6fffffffffe0 000000402a21 UNKNOWN
    7ffeefbff870 00000040227b UNKNOWN
brabel(10000) 5 days ago [-]

On Mac Big Sur it doesn't seem to work either:

    ▶ zsh -c './redbean.com -vv' 
    W2021-02-26T12:12:24.019387:tool/net/redbean.c:1144:redbean:56779] setsockopt(server, IPPROTO_TCP, TCP_FASTOPEN, &yes, sizeof(yes)) → EINVAL/err=22/errno:22/GetLastError:0
W--------------------000028:tool/net/redbean.c:1145:redbean:56779] setsockopt(server, IPPROTO_TCP, TCP_QUICKACK, &yes, sizeof(yes)) → ENOPROTOOPT/err=42/errno:42/GetLastError:0 V--------------------000023:tool/net/redbean.c:1166:redbean:56779] listen ^CV2021-02-26T12:12:27.012972:tool/net/redbean.c:1183:redbean:56779] terminated

EDIT: I am an idiot: it's working just fine... the messages looked like an error to me, but visiting https://localhost:8080/ does show a nice HTML page!

johnx123-up(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Someone already reported the same https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan/issues/56

mixmastamyk(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is it a 'fat' binary?

mekkkkkk(10000) 6 days ago [-]

AFAIK a fat binary is just a binary with all dependencies included. It would still be compiled for a specific platform. The magic part about this is that it's a single file compiled once that can be run on most platforms. And it also adheres to the format of a zip file, so you can add, modify and remove assets as you please inside the actual file, post compilation.

arcticbull(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I absolutely love reading Justine's code. It comes up from time to time here and it just makes me happy. It reminds me of the passage from 'Programming Sucks' by Still Drinking [1]

  Every programmer occasionally, when nobody's home, turns off the lights, pours a glass of scotch, puts on some light German electronica, and opens up a file on their computer. It's a different file for every programmer. Sometimes they wrote it, sometimes they found it and knew they had to save it. They read over the lines, and weep at their beauty, then the tears turn bitter as they remember the rest of the files and the inevitable collapse of all that is good and true in the world.
  This file is Good Code. It has sensible and consistent names for functions and variables. It's concise. It doesn't do anything obviously stupid. It has never had to live in the wild, or answer to a sales team. It does exactly one, mundane, specific thing, and it does it well. It was written by a single person, and never touched by another. It reads like poetry written by someone over thirty.
Her work is always just a little bit trippy in a good way haha.

[1] http://stilldrinking.org/programming-sucks

erikpukinskis(10000) 5 days ago [-]

This is too real. Except at this point, after 25 years I have probably ten of these.

fctorial(10000) 6 days ago [-]

So it's a tiny virtual machine. Intriguing, but not really shocking.

mikewarot(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>So it's a tiny virtual machine. Intriguing, but not really shocking.

Nope... it's native code, that runs on multiple platforms, all in one small executable.

How? Lots of very clever hacking, and trimming all the accumulated dreck out of the normal C runtime, while making it work across all the supported platforms. (Polyfill is the term she uses)

This is the most amazing thing I've seen in a decade or so. It is right up there with GIT in terms of the possibility space it opens up.

vanderZwan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

What is your definition of a virtual machine and what do you think is happening here?

joh6nn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

'no wireless. less space than a nomad'

TickleSteve(10000) 6 days ago [-]

TLDR: This is a packed file format that can look to the OS as being executable (for Windows/Linux/OSX). The code is x86 and so offers native performance on those processors. On other platforms, an x86 emulator is built in so can't offer native execution speeds.

While neat, its not the 'best of all worlds' due to the lack of native code on anything other than x86/x64. Also, claiming 'bare metal' is supported is a stretch as you are limited to having no I/O of any form (as there is no platform code).

OOPMan(10000) 6 days ago [-]

No I/O eh?

I'm sure the FP zealots will love it :-)

jart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm just one woman. What Cosmopolitan does so far, it does really well. It was only as recently as a few days ago that I got mmap() and malloc() polyfilled on bare metal. It has serial uart i/o. It's going to have e1000/virtio sockets soon. You can help me will that future into existence. I need people who know o/s dev and can help me write code that does things like correctly set up pic controller.

tgbugs(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I looked into building SBCL using chibicc last weekend in the hope that one could build a truly portable lisp runtime using the ape toolchain (Yes, yes, I know you couldn't possibly pick two more different approaches to software portability). Turns out the GNUC extensions for __asm__ are the primary stumbling block (though I'm sure there are others). tcc supports the GNUC extensions needed, and chibicc supports the thread local storage needed for dynamic variables. Looking forward to future developments!

jart(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You need __asm__ in chibicc for sbcl? I have good news for you. I did exactly that in cosmopolitan's vendored fork of chibicc here: https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan/blob/master/third_party... I went on a coding rampage back in December, adding to chibicc pretty much every GNU extension under the moon: https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan/blob/master/third_party... It should be a perfect fit for use cases needed by Cosmopolitan and SBCL. Right now it's unlikely to get merged back upstream because Rui is still focusing on using Chibicc for his book, and that requires being more conservative about feature inclusion right now.

I would highly recommend using chibicc. Bellard's work on tcc was fantastic when it came out. However it didn't age well. Its GNU extension support is roughly equivalent to GCC 2.x. The x86_64 support that got bolted on later isn't very good. It was much more elegant back when it was only doing i386. Hackability was also laid low by merging a lot of external contributions. The TCC design, while amazingly fast, also carries the tradeoff of making things like inline assembly hacks really hard because it generates the x86 binary content directly, rather than going through the intermediate step of generating an assembly file and running it through a proper assembler -- which chibicc now has!

yters(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Hmm, somehow I knew Justine is a 'transwoman' by this feat. Lucky guess I suppose...

Question: if all the high achieving women in tech end up being 'transwomen', is that a step forward or backward for women in tech? Will 'transwomen' be able to take advantage of hiring privileges given to normal women? If so, won't this effectively shut normal women out of tech even more?

I think trans/self identifying people should be in a separate category so they don't exploit allowances made for under represented minorities.

tobz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Sincerely: what the fuck is wrong with you?

dang(10000) 4 days ago [-]

You have a long history of taking HN threads into ideological flamewar and we've asked you to stop many times. The slack we cut users may be large, but it is finite, and this was the last bit. I've banned this account.

If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email [email protected] and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future. I know you know where they are, but in case anyone is curious, they're here: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

mikewarot(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I really like your view of the world, that programs should be portable, tiny, and just work. The slamming of so much functionality into a zip file is inspiring.

Would it be possible to do something similar with Free Pascal, allowing the recreation of something like Turbo Pascal, except really, really portable .com output?

jart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Author here. Absolutely. I used to love Turbo Pascal and Delphi when I was younger. If Free Pascal uses GNU LD.BFD or LLVM LLD when it links programs, then all you'd need to do is is configure it to use cosmopolitan.a when linking system call functions like read(), write(), etc. See https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan Another option is if Free Pascal wants to write all the system call support from scratch, then doing that now is going to be a whole lot easier since the Cosmopolitan codebase does a really good job documenting all the magic numbers you'll need. See files like https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan/blob/master/libc/sysv/s... and https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan/blob/master/libc/sysv/c... I've been working on a tiny C11 compiler called chibicc which has most GNU extensions and I managed to get it working as an actually portable executable with an integrated assembler: https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan/blob/master/third_party... I also got Antirez's KILO text editor working as an APE binary. https://github.com/jart/cosmopolitan/blob/master/examples/ki... If we can build a linker too then we can get a freestanding single file toolchain + ide that's able to be a modern version of Turbo C.

text70(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I keep getting segfaults in running the executable, only after zip ...

I know this is x86_64, and have an am64 system. Does this only run on intel and arm architectures?

Does this use the same exploit in memory that spectre used for intel processors?

yberreby(10000) 4 days ago [-]

I'm unaware of an architecture named am64, so I assume you mean amd64, in which case that _is_ x86_64. Same ISA, different name.

th0ma5(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Presumably X86_64 only?

ZiiS(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Not sure the is a working example. But they talk of embeding qemu to create cross archetecture executables. But the Window's and actual compiled code would still be x86-64.

sscarduzio(10000) 6 days ago [-]

She says somewhere in her website that arm/apple silicon support is really easy to add, with no significant size or performance penalty, the same way she added qemu support.

r0b05(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Everybody is hyped up here but can someone explain to me what are the implications for the future of programming?

Will I be able to write apps in a single language and have then run truly native on any OS or what else will we be able to do?

alisonatwork(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is something like a 'fat binary' with some magic in the header that allows it to run out of the box on Windows and several different UNIXes, a bit like those sneaky shell scripts that run on several platforms[0]. It still needs to include some native code for each of the platforms inside the compiled binary, so it's perhaps better to see it as a slick packaging/distribution solution for C programmers than a total game changer for developers everywhere.

The more interesting thing I think is the mapping of C library functionality between Linux, BSD and Windows. There have been other attempts to do this, but they never seem to get much traction. I think it's because C programmers tend to get wedded to their OS of choice and then invest time in improving that platform's C libraries. The problem with trying to remain portable with everything is that you tend to be stuck working with the lowest common denominator functionality, which can be frustrating when doing OS-specific stuff would open up so many more options.

All that said, the cleverness of this project is inspirational in a way that might encourage other programmers to also focus more on building against simple functionality that is truly portable. It shows that you don't need all the bells and whistles to build cool stuff. That feels aligned with early UNIX philosophy and (more broadly) the hacker ethic, which is why it's neat to see, even if never gets adopted as a mainstream thing.

[0] https://github.com/llamasoft/polyshell

kidsil(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Odd, I'm getting $ ./printimage.com image.jpg

run-detectors: unable to find an interpreter for ./printimage.com

jart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Author here. That error happens if you have binfmt_misc enabled. The solution is simple:

    sudo sh -c 'echo ':APE:M::MZqFpD::/bin/sh:' >/proc/sys/fs/binfmt_misc/register'
I intend to upstream a patch with the Linux kernel so it can do this automatically. If any kernel devs are reading, please email me!
shaggy8871(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Nice job, Justine. This level of excitement reminds me of the early days of Linux. I think it has the potential to go far.

jart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Author here. Thanks! I was deeply inspired when I read the source code to early versions of Linux and UNIX. The dream of that simple elegant power is something I'm hoping to restore for a new generation. All I'm doing to achieve that is simply standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before me.

shaded-enmity(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If you want to learn more how these things work I'd highly suggest going through the PoC||GTFO archive (https://github.com/angea/pocorgtfo/blob/master/README.md) and check out entries by Ange Albertini or entries named like 'This ZIP is also a PDF'.

donaldihunter(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I came here for this. E.g. https://www.alchemistowl.org/pocorgtfo/pocorgtfo19.pdf

'This file, pocorgtfo19.pdf, is valid as a PDF document, a ZIP archive, and a HTML page. It is also available as a Windows PE executable, a PNG image and an MP4 video, all of which have the same MD5 as this PDF.'

soheil(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Ok well this doesn't work on Mac, so much for not needing to cross-compile on every architecture. It's because of the OSX Gatekeeper but if majority of people need to self-sign or otherwise compile this binary I'm not sure if it is that portable be it if it's only a Mac thing. This dumps the zip content directly on the wire skipping an extra kernel write. There have been attempts before to run the same binary on multiple architectures by inserting magic headers without having to recompile. There are shell/batch versions of the same thing [0]. The issue is such projects usually never get much traction since every programmer is wedded to their choice of OS and typically relies on APIs specific to each system. There are also "fat binaries" which accomplish the same thing if one truly wanted a cross platform single executable. There isn't a huge need for them currently and not just because they're "fat" (something this approach seems to tackle primarily) so I expect for the same reasons there won't be many needs for this approach either.

I see a lot of people making the comparison between this and the OG Linux tools. I absolutely don't think this qualifies as one, most old Linux tools are irreplaceable or at least were when they first came out and there were no alternatives. Serving a bundled zip file on a web server across many different platforms is not something people are dying to do. You can run a web server like nginx or Apache to index your files or if you really hate those why not a single line command which is supported on almost any platform:

  python -m http.server 8080
[0] https://github.com/llamasoft/polyshell
waheoo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Youre really missing the point here.

This zip file is an executable webserver, you just add files to it and it will serve them when you run it.

If you can't understand what is cool about that maybe just don't speak.

francislavoie(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Caddy is a single file web server as well :) https://caddyserver.com/

Admittedly they solve different usecases, where Redbean seems to want to serve a whole static site as a single file, which isn't currently possible with Caddy, (but you can run `caddy file-server` to serve the current directory as a static site), but it may become possible in the future with Golang's new embed package https://golang.org/pkg/embed/

mholt(10000) 6 days ago [-]

That's actually a pretty interesting idea. I wonder if we could make a lite version of Caddy bundled with your website embedded...no need to mess with file systems or permissions or devices and folders to run a static site. Might need some massaging to become a truly pleasant workflow though.

kapitalx(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Caddy is cool! Redbean is magic :p

Thanks for sharing.

goldenkey(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is that smile at the end of your first sentence meant to be condescending?

You are affiliated with Caddy and ought to mention that when you promote your own software. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16687686

This is not a competition. Caddy is not even in the same realm as Redbean.

Redbean is a multi-platform binary that doubles as a ZIP. It's roughly 1500 times smaller than Caddy too.

> different usecases

Right. :)

jart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Caddy is cool but it has a separate 33mb executable for each operating system. Redbean is a 128kb executable that runs on all platforms so it has fewer moving parts and is 1584x tinier. All the convenience of being able to 'just add your assets to the zip executable' wouldn't have been feasible if we needed to repeat that process n times for each operating system.

brainless(10000) 6 days ago [-]

OK I see we are going crazy, me too. Thanks @jart.

I have been thinking about portable web apps with embedded SQLite for some time. I do not have the technical chops at C level to pull this off. I am really inspired by this project. I hope Redbean leads a way to distribute self-hosted apps in today's era of the cloud.

BugWatch(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I still use the classic version of Tiddlywiki that is a single self-contained self-editing html file, and I 'app-ify' it on Windows by changing the extension to *.hta.

But having the similar solution with the SQLite, would be a perfect combination.

mhd(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's a neat coincidence that this is on at the same time as an article about CP/M, because I think there could be some overlap in the programs that would be a good fit for cosmopolitan.

Sure, there's server appliances like this, and I hope someone makes a neat services wrapper to abstract at least some platform's intricacies so you can do a 'cosmo-service up redbean' on BSD/Linux/Windows.

But coming back to CP/M, there you had a lowest common denominator of terminal applications, too, but spread across different architectures. And you could still produce some quite intersting, if a bit business-like applications. These days you probably can even rely on more ANSI colors and maybe even unicode fonts (hopefull as an option, not mandatory).

The ZIP characteristics of the APE format make it even easier to distribute a whole application in a rather simple way. Yes, sure, you can do regular Unix-style servers and pipe-it-together CLI tools, but I wouldn't mind more self-contained 'business' applications with a lo-fi aesthetic regarding interface and API usage. The PICO-8 of TUIs...

jart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Author here. We're living in the most exciting time for developing terminal applications. When Microsoft unexpectedly added support for VT100 and XTERM codes to CMD.EXE it totally changed the equation and ANSI became universal for the first time. Blinkenlights is an example of a TUI application I created using Cosmopolitan and it literally works everywhere. https://justine.lol/blinkenlights/index.html You don't need curses. All that's needed is an ioctl() call which flips a bit in termios. Cosmopolitan polyfills that across operating systems. Another cool example of a demo app is this conway's game of life tui gui: https://justine.lol/apelife/index.html

bni(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Why does the magic numbers list have a XENIX column?

jart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Author here. The name was chosen mostly out of playfulness to describe Windows since I seem to recall XENIX being the earliest example of Microsoft dipping their toes in the water with UNIX support.

bni(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Would GUI programs be possible with this? I don't mean some cross platform framework monstrosity.

But if some least common denominator was found to be able to create window, add some input fields and buttons using the native UI elements of the OS?

Does the Win32 and Cocoa APIs for example, also have 'magic numbers' that are kept stable?

hnarn(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Would GUI programs be possible with this?

This is a cross platform web server, not a cross platform web browser.

barbarbar(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I tried to run it on an old 32bit pc with Linux. But it complained about not knowing the format of the executable. But it would be awesome if I could get it to work somehow.

sounds(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Build a qemu to run a 64bit guest.

haolez(10000) 6 days ago [-]

This is so powerful that it can be used as a 'weapon': it's the perfect lib for making malware. I think this is a compliment!

cirowrc(10000) 6 days ago [-]

scary scary scary

nabla9(10000) 6 days ago [-]

She started her career with a very successful spam tool. She was 14 at the time.

aembleton(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Just make sure you don't have another server running on :8080.

I had syncthing running and kept getting some error whenever I tried to run redbean. The error didn't make much sense, but eventually I realised that this was the casue of the error.

I'm really impressed how portable this is. The only improvement I can see is if it auto-opened your browser to :8080. That way it would be easy to distribute the binary and have people run your application and just interact with it through their browser. No need to ship electron then!

r0b05(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Let's say we are able to do this. Would we have any security concerns to be addressed?

sva_(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think you could trivially issue a system() call, you'd just have to use the corresponding command to open the default browser for each particular system. (Linux: xdg-open, MacOs: open, Windows: start)

aero-(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Can someone explain this to me like I'm an 8 year old?

anderspitman(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Can someone explain this to me like I'm a 31 year old?

mikewarot(10000) 5 days ago [-]

On most computer systems these days can select a set of files and folders and tell the computer to 'Send to compressed file', the files that come out of that process usually end in '.zip', and are thus known as 'zip files'

This is a zip file, like any other... you can add and remove things from it. However, this ZIP file has a superpower, it can display the contents on the web... it has a web server built into it.

You can take this file, run it on a Windows, Linux, Macintosh, and it will work. You don't need separate versions for each different system... this just works on all three systems, unlike almost every program ever written.

This is one of the most impressive feats of programming things I've seen in my 40+ years of programming. The web serving is clever, but the superpower that it can run on anything really took a huge amount of work, which the author built into a tool called 'ape', and has shared with the world, so other people can use it, and help her make it better.

quickthrower2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Cute idea. Sounds like magic.

edoceo(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Built with actual magic: https://storage.googleapis.com/justine/ape.html

From the same person I think

txdv(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> That performance is thanks to zip and gzip using the same compression format, which enables kernelspace copies

Can someone elaborate on the relationship between gzip and kernel space copies?

jart(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Normally when a browser asks for Content-Encoding: gzip, the http server needs to schlep the file into memory, compress it, and only then is it able to send the output to the client. Since redbean reads files from a zip archive, that file is already compressed. So what it does is it uses mmap() to load the zip executable in memory. Therefore instead of read()+write() it can just call writev() on the mapped memory area. That enables us to skip the extra copy. The kernel can just copy the gzipped file contents directly to the network wire without having to pay any userspace context switching penalties.

ToJans(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The short description is a bit too short; this is mind blowing!

Redbean is a portable, single file executable webserver which also acts as a zip-file for the static content it hosts, and runs on Linux + Mac + Windows + FreeBSD + OpenBSD + NetBSD + BIOS without any recompilation...

You can manage the static content using standard pkzip tooling! Now that's what I call thinking out of the box!

Edited: some rewording and breathing space

tutfbhuf(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Is it that this binary does some tricks to run on Linux, Mac, Windows, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, BIOS or does it really work on all operating systems including something like Plan 9 or even TempleOS?

And does it run on different architectures like ARMv6?

modeless(10000) 6 days ago [-]

.apk files and .ipa files are secretly zip files too. With the addition of a few manifest files and other crufty things embedded in the zip, I bet you could add Android and iOS to the list of supported platforms too.

akavel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I've recently succeeded in building working .apk files byte-by-byte completely from scratch so I could maybe help some. Open an issue on https://github.com/akavel/hellomello if interested in some talking/advice and/or watch my talk on NimConf 2020 for an overview (I don't have a link handy as I'm on mobile).

nonameiguess(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Jars, rpms, whls, Microsoft Office, probably a bunch of other stuff I don't even know about are actually zip files.

canada_dry(10000) 4 days ago [-]

error:./printimage.com: check failed: 0x0 != 0x0 (0)

6ffffffffe30 0000004025db UNKNOWN

6ffffffffe40 0000004023a7 UNKNOWN

6fffffffffb0 000000401862 UNKNOWN

6ffffffffff0 000000401ed1 UNKNOWN

Run on ubuntu 14? There's nothing running on :8080. Not sure what I'm going wrong.

canada_dry(10000) 4 days ago [-]

Upd: works. printimage didn't like the jpeg I tried testing with the first time.

chriszhang(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Someone please be kind and explain to me how this works? Don't different executable formats need different headers?

Don't ELF need '0x7F ELF' header? Don't Windows executable need 'MZ' header? How is it fulfilling both requirements simultaneously?

thecodrr(10000) 6 days ago [-]

As amazing as this is unfortunately it doesn't work for me and I am on Linux.

I get bash: ./redbean.com: No such file or directory

after chmod-ing.

Maybe I am dumb but yeah.

zer0gravity(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I get the same :( I'm on Archlinux.

johnx123-up(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Did you make it executable with chmod +x ?

grumple(10000) 4 days ago [-]

When I downloaded the file, it also had the date in the name. You have to accommodate that change in the instructions. Also be sure to run bash -c './redbean.com -vv' (also with the name as downloaded).

anderspitman(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Is your system 32 bit by chance?

Lorin(10000) 6 days ago [-]

No relation to http://redbeanphp.com/ I guess :D

rebelpixel(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think that's still worth mentioning considering they're roughly in the same sphere of interest, to avoid the confusion.

Historical Discussions: Are Xiaomi browsers spyware? Yes, they are (2020) (March 01, 2021: 1204 points)

(1210) Are Xiaomi browsers spyware? Yes, they are (2020)

1210 points 2 days ago by autoditype in 10000th position

palant.info | Estimated reading time – 22 minutes | comments | anchor

In case you missed it, there was a Forbes article on Mi Browser Pro and Mint Browser which are preinstalled on Xiaomi phones. The article accuses Xiaomi of exfiltrating a history of all visited websites. Xiaomi on the other hand accuses Forbes of misrepresenting the facts. They claim that the data collection is following best practices, the data itself being aggregated and anonymized, without any connection to user's identity.

TL;DR: It is really that bad, and even worse actually.

If you've been following my blog for a while, you might find this argumentation familiar. It's almost identical to Avast's communication after they were found spying on the users and browser vendors pulled their extensions from add-on stores. In the end I was given proof that their data anonymization attempts were only moderately successful if you allow me this understatement.

Given that neither the Forbes article nor the security researchers involved seem to provide any technical details, I wanted to take a look for myself. I decompiled Mint Browser 3.4.0 and looked for clues. This isn't the latest version, just in case Xiaomi already modified to code in reaction to the Forbes article. Update (2020-05-08): If you don't need the technical explanation, the newer article gives an overview of the issue.

Disclaimer: I think that this is the first time I analyzed a larger Android application, so please be patient with me. I might have misinterpreted one thing or another, even though the big picture seems to be clear. Also, my conclusions are based exclusively on code analysis, I've never seen this browser in action.

The general analytics setup

The Forbes article explains that the data is being transmitted to a Sensors Analytics backend. The Xiaomi article then provides the important clue: sa.api.intl.miui.com is the host name of this backend. They then go on explaining how it's a server that Xiaomi owns rather than a third party. But they are merely trying to distract us: if sensitive data from my browser is being sent to this server, why would I care who owns it?

We find this server name mentioned in the class miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.i (yes, some package and class names are mangled). It's used in some initialization code:

final StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();
a = sb.toString();

Looking up A.e, it turns out to be a country code. So the i.a static member here ends up holding the endpoint URL with the user's country code filled in. And it is being used in the class' initialization function:

public void a(final Context c) {
    SensorsDataAPI.sharedInstance(this.c = c, i.a, this.d);

The Sensors Analytics API is public, so we can look up the SensorsDataAPI class and learn that the first sharedInstance() call creates an instance and sets its server URL. The next line calls identify() setting an "anonymous ID" for this instance which will be sent along with every data point, more on that later.

The call to this.c() is also worth noting as this will set a bunch of additional properties to be sent with each request:

public void c() {
    final JSONObject jsonObject = new JSONObject();
    jsonObject.put('uuid', (Object)com.xiaomi.mistatistic.sdk.e.a(this.c));
    int n;
    if (H.f(miui.globalbrowser.common.a.a())) {
        n = 1;
    else {
        n = 0;
    jsonObject.put('internet_status', n);
    jsonObject.put('platform', (Object)'AndroidApp');
    jsonObject.put('miui_version', (Object)Build$VERSION.INCREMENTAL);
    final String e = A.e;
    jsonObject.put('miui_region', (Object)e);
    jsonObject.put('system_language', (Object)A.b);

There we have the same "anonymous ID" sent as uuid parameter, just in case. In addition, the usual version, region, language data is being sent.

For me, it wasn't entirely trivial to figure out where this class is being initialized from. Turns out, from class miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.b:

public static void a(final String s, final Map<String, String> map) {
    a(s, map, true);
public static void a(final String s, final Map<String, String> map, final boolean b) {
    if (b) {
        i.a().a(s, map);
    miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.d.a().a(s, map);

So the miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.b.a() call will set the third parameter to true by default. This call accesses a singleton miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.i instance (will be created if it doesn't exist) and makes it actually track an event (s is the event name here and map are the parameters being sent in addition to the default ones). The additional miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.d.a() call triggers their MiStatistics analytics framework which I didn't investigate.

And that's it. We now have to find where in the code miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.b class is used and what data it receives. All that data will be sent to Sensors Analytics backend regularly.

How anonymous is that ID?

Looking up com.xiaomi.mistatistic.sdk.e.a() eventually turns up ID generation code very close to the one cited in the Xiaomi blog post:

public static String d(final Context context) {
    if (!TextUtils.isEmpty((CharSequence)y.g)) {
        return y.g;
    final long currentTimeMillis = System.currentTimeMillis();
    final String a = L.a(context, 'anonymous_id', '');
    final long a2 = L.a(context, 'aigt', 0L);
    final long a3 = L.a(context, 'anonymous_ei', 7776000000L);
    if (!TextUtils.isEmpty((CharSequence)a) && currentTimeMillis - a2 < a3) {
        y.g = a;
    else {
        L.b(context, 'anonymous_id', y.g = UUID.randomUUID().toString());
    L.c(context, 'aigt', currentTimeMillis);
    return y.g;

The L.a() call is retrieving a value from context.getSharedPreferences() with fallback. L.b() and L.c() calls will store a value there. So Xiaomi is trying to tell us: "Look, the ID is randomly generated, without any relation to the user. And it is renewed every 90 days!"

Now 90 days are a rather long time interval even for a randomly generated ID. With enough data points it should be easy to deduce the user's identity from it. But there is another catch. See that aigt preference? What is its value?

The intention here seems to be that aigt is the timestamp when the ID was generated. So if that timestamp deviates from current time by more than 7776000000 milliseconds (90 days) a new ID is going to be generated. However, this implementation is buggy, it will update aigt on every call rather than only when a new ID is generated. So the only scenario where a new ID will be generated is: this method wasn't called for 90 days, meaning that the browser wasn't started for 90 days. And that's rather unlikely, so one has to consider this ID permanent.

And if this weren't enough, there is another catch. If you look at the SensorsDataAPI class again, you will see that the "anonymous ID" is merely a fallback when a login ID isn't available. And what is the login ID here? We'll find it being set in the miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.i class:

public void b() {
    final Account a = miui.globalbrowser.common.c.b.a(this.c);
    if (a != null && !TextUtils.isEmpty((CharSequence)a.name)) {

That's exactly what it looks like: a Xiaomi account ID. So if the user is logged into the browser, the tracking data will be connected to their Xiaomi account. And that one is linked to the user's email address at the very least, probably to other identifying parameters as well.

What is being collected?

As mentioned above, we need to look at the places where miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.b class methods are called. And very often these are quite typical for product analytics, for example:

final HashMap<String, String> hashMap = new HashMap<String, String>();
if (ex.getCause() != null) {
    hashMap.put('cause', ex.getCause().toString());
miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.b.a('rv_crashed', hashMap);

So there was a crash and the vendor is notified about the issue. Elsewhere the data indicates that a particular element of the user interface was opened, also very useful information to improve the product. And then there is this in class com.miui.org.chromium.chrome.browser.webview.k:

public void onPageFinished(final WebView webView, final String d) {
    if (!this.c && !TextUtils.isEmpty((CharSequence)d)) {
        miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.b.a('page_load_event_finish', 'url', this.a(d));
public void onPageStarted(final WebView webView, final String e, final Bitmap bitmap) {
    if (!this.b && !TextUtils.isEmpty((CharSequence)e)) {
        miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.b.a('page_load_event_start', 'url', this.a(e));

That's the code sending all visited websites to an analytics server. Once when the page starts loading, and another time when it finishes. And the Xiaomi blog post explains why this code exists: "The URL is collected to identify web pages which load slowly; this gives us insight into how to best improve overall browsing performance."

Are you convinced by this explanation? Because I'm not. If this is all about slow websites, why not calculate the page load times locally and transmit only the slow ones? This still wouldn't be great for privacy but an order of magnitude better than what Xiaomi actually implemented. Xiaomi really needs to try harder if we are to assume incompetence rather than malice here. How was it decided that sending all visited addresses is a good compromise? Was privacy even considered in that decision? Would they still make the same decision today? And if not, how did they adapt their processes to reflect this?

But there are far more cases where their analytics code collects too much data. In class com.miui.org.chromium.chrome.browser.omnibox.NavigationBar we'll see:

final HashMap<String, String> hashMap = new HashMap<String, String>();
hashMap.put('used_searchengine', com.miui.org.chromium.chrome.browser.search.b.a(this.L).f());
hashMap.put('search_position', miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.e.c());
hashMap.put('search_method', miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.e.b());
hashMap.put('search_word', s);
miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.b.a('search', hashMap);

So searching from the navigation bar won't merely track the search engine used but also what you searched for. In the class miui.globalbrowser.download.J we see for example:

final HashMap<String, String> hashMap = new HashMap<String, String>();
hashMap.put('op', s);
hashMap.put('suffix', s2);
hashMap.put('url', s3);
if (d.c(s4)) {
    s = 'privacy';
else {
    s = 'general';
hashMap.put('type', s);
b.a('download_files', hashMap);

This isn't merely tracking the fact that files were downloaded but also the URLs downloaded. What kind of legitimate interest could Xiaomi have here?

And then this browser appears to provide some custom user interface for YouTube videos. Almost everything is being tracked there, for example in class miui.globalbrowser.news.YMTSearchActivity:

final HashMap<String, String> hashMap = new HashMap<String, String>();
hashMap.put('op', 'search');
hashMap.put('search_word', text);
hashMap.put('search_type', s);
hashMap.put('page', this.w);
miui.globalbrowser.common_business.g.b.a('youtube_search_op', hashMap);

Why does Xiaomi need to know what people search on YouTube? And not just that, elsewhere they seem to collect data on what videos people watch and how much time they spend doing that. Xiaomi also seems to know what websites people have configured in their speed dial and when they click those. This doesn't leave a good impression, could it be surveillance functionality after all?


If you use Mint Browser (and presumably Mi Browser Pro similarly), Xiaomi doesn't merely know which websites you visit but also what you search for, which videos you watch, what you download and what sites you added to the Quick Dial page. Heck, they even track which porn site triggered the reminder to switch to incognito mode! Yes, if Xiaomi wants anybody to believe that this wasn't malicious they have a lot more explaining to do.

The claim that this data is anonymized cannot be maintained either. Even given the random user ID (which appears to be permanent by mistake) deducing user's identity should be easy, we've seen it before. But they also transmit user's Xiaomi account ID if they know it, which is directly linked to the user's identity.

Xiaomi now announced that they will turn off collection of visited websites in incognito mode. That's a step in the right direction, albeit a tiny one. Will they still collecting all the other data in incognito mode? And even if not, why collect so much data during regular browsing? What reason is there that justifies all these privacy violations?

Update (2020-05-07): I looked into the privacy-related changes implemented in Mint Browser 3.4.3. It's was a bigger improvement than what it sounded like, the "statistics" collection functionality can be disabled entirely. However, you have to make sure that you have "Incognito Mode" turned on and "Enhanced Incognito Mode" turned off – that's the only configuration where you can have your privacy.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

danpalmer(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This paragraph stood out to me:

> The intention here seems to be that aigt is the timestamp when the ID was generated. So if that timestamp deviates from current time by more than 7776000000 milliseconds (90 days) a new ID is going to be generated. However, this implementation is buggy, it will update aigt on every call rather than only when a new ID is generated. So the only scenario where a new ID will be generated is: this method wasn't called for 90 days, meaning that the browser wasn't started for 90 days. And that's rather unlikely, so one has to consider this ID permanent.

If we assume that Xiaomi aren't literally trying to spy for a government and are in fact just poorly calibrated on what's legitimate to collect for product analytics purposes, this paragraph highlights why that's still incredibly dangerous despite 'good intentions'.

I remember the UK government investigation into Huawei concluding that not only was their security posture insufficient for critical infrastructure, but their engineering practices were likely a decade away from being at a point where they could start to claim good security practice.

This paragraph seems to suggest a similar problem at Xiaomi. This should have been caught at a security review stage during design, it should have been caught at the code review stage, it should have been caught by automated tests, it should have been caught by QA, it should have been caught once live by data tests, it should have been seen once live by analysts, it should have been fixed at so many different points. The fact it wasn't suggests that these stages either don't exist or are insufficient.

michaelcampbell(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> If we assume that Xiaomi aren't literally trying to spy for a government

Is that even allowed by Chinese law?

africanboy(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm writing this from a Xiaomi smartphone.

I know Xiaomi is not the best brand to buy for privacy, but I consider their products one of the best in terms of value for money

I own a few Xiaomi devices, I simply install Blokada on each one of them and I think you would be surprised by how many non Chinese domains it blocks, Google being one of the worst offenders.


see this screenshot


EDIT 2: paradoxically knowing that Xiaomi is a Chinese company make buyers more aware of the privacy risks involved. It breaks that false sense of security associated with electronic devices that many people believe in.

sammorrowdrums(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Genuinely, I really want to see Purism succeed and increasing numbers of competitors in that space, because we need tools that don't require so much blind trust. Whether caused by inept software devs, scope for malicious code / backdoors in firmware, analytics spyware, and whether this stuff is well intentioned or not, if it can be abused, it will be.

Open source and verifiable down to the firmware is the only chance we have at any real level of trust, otherwise as is always apparent in these conversations, it often falls otherwise to who you think could compromise your device and making your bed with it, like USA not China or vice versa

UnpossibleJim(10000) 2 days ago [-]

|This should have been caught at a security review stage during design, it should have been caught at the code review stage, it should have been caught by automated tests, it should have been caught by QA, it should have been caught once live by data tests, it should have been seen once live by analysts, it should have been fixed at so many different points.|

If the very first people (presumably the 'higher ups'/more prestigious designers) in the design process miss such things, it is very hard to call them out in a societal construct that is the business construct that has become Xiaomi and the Chinese Government.

It's hard enough in some companies for QA to question software engineers and not catch backlash in the US when making games. Companies like EA, Atari and Nintendo are notorious for it. Apple used to shitcan QA who didn't treat 'the talent' nice enough, and they weren't a quasi governmental entity.

You're right, of course. But man, that's a big frog in your throat to go up to your manager and say, 'Sir, I'm sorry but this whole process has issues. Here's the fix, but it means a redesign of a core process.' That's tough. That's double tough.

ComodoHacker(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Another possible explanation is this isn't a bug, but intended behavior. If the browser hasn't been used for 90 days, this might be a good indication that the phone has changed hands, and you need to generate a new ID.

dreamcompiler(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> This should have been caught at a security review stage during design, it should have been caught at the code review stage, it should have been caught by automated tests, it should have been caught by QA, it should have been caught once live by data tests, it should have been seen once live by analysts, it should have been fixed at so many different points.

Seems more likely this was done on purpose so if they got caught they could say 'Junior engineer made a mistake. So sorry.'

rsj_hn(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That can be explained as a bug, but tracking what you typed into youtube search boxes doesn't seem like a bug and has no justification in terms of performance optimization.

45ure(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>I remember the UK government investigation into Huawei concluding that not only was their security posture insufficient for critical infrastructure, but their engineering practices were likely a decade away from being at a point where they could start to claim good security practice. This paragraph seems to suggest a similar problem at Xiaomi.

ASFAIK, Xiaomi does not sell any critical infrastructure equipment, nor is it installed anywhere; not entirely sure why GCHQ or NCSC would be involved, especially when there is ambiguity around which/what equipment they should be conducting a code review upon?

With regard to Huawei, there was no decisive conclusion, despite a comprehensive security review. Furthermore, it has been business as usual for currently installed equipment. All future decisions will be based around the 5G infrastructure.

systemvoltage(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I am truly appalled at the level of discussion from intellectuals as I consider on HN. Comments here are repeatedly evaluating whether the same thing would apply to US.

I expect more from HN. Can we please discuss the problem in isolation and especially the interesting technical bits? Ask yourself, this kind of exploitation is bad regardless of whether any country does something similar. It's anti-user in every possible interpretation.

hungryhobo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

i think it provides context, if what they are doing is status quo, then maybe we should question the status quo rather than an individual company.

La1n(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Can we please discuss the problem in isolation and especially the interesting technical bits?

Sure, but you also see this problem doesn't exists in a vacuum. Noted by you bringing up concentration camp numbers in this exact comment section. Maybe you should listen to your own advice?

kzawisto(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Xiaomi is awesome phone for it's price tag you just needs to flash custom ROM like LineageOS. And they don't even make this problem contrary to other manufacturers like Samsung.

ignoramous(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Xiaomi is awesome phone for it's price tag you just needs to flash custom ROM like LineageOS.

There is likely tonnes of binaries that run outside of Android, so OEM you choose matters too.

sandworm101(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>>The article accuses Xiaomi of exfiltrating a history of all visited websites.

Is this our definition of spyware? I see countless articles float by on HN about super cookies, spy pixels and browser fingerprinting. Those do effectively the same things, track users against their expressed wishes, but we just don't call them spyware.

gkbrk(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>We just don't call them spyware.

Who doesn't call trackers spyware? Everyone with a slightly-above-average sense of privacy has been calling them spyware and blocking them for years.

pid_0(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Are all chinese products spyware? Yes, they are.

Don't use chinese brands for phones, software, etc.

gchrome(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Exactly! Fully agree with you pid_0.

People, please just use Google Chrome and stop with all these Chinese spyware!

aboringusername(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Are [computers] spyware? Yes, they are (2000) should be the title.

If you use a computer, smartphone or IoT device then yes, it collects data, just as Facebook runs ads.

What's collected these days:

Your social circle,

every time you connect to the mobile network, when, which tower you connected to, tx/rx bytes, who you phoned, where the callee is located

Whether you're in a car, walking (sensors)

Whether your sleeping...(a recent Google blog post talked about a new 'sleep tracking' API).

You generate data as a human, interested parties (governments) collect that and will store it for the rest of time. I suspect there's a database of every URL visited by any human in the last 20 years.

This is not surprising and should surprise nobody.

t0astbread(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Do you mind providing citations?

Roritharr(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I wonder more about their routers. For their specs they are extremely price competitive. Their AX6000 features a 2,5GBE Port, 4*4 5GHZ Antennas with supposedly 4800mbit/s max throughput over all clients for 120€ with shipping to the EU. The Netgear Orbi Pro is the only AP I could find that is similarly equipped and costs a handsome 400€.

The mostly chinese and russian reviews on YouTube seem to show those numbers to be at least not ouright lies, but people on the OpenWRT Forums talk about the Routers talking quite a lot back to China.

I really wish for somebody credible to do a teardown to look into these boxes.

nirui(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Well, if you're patient enough to sit through all the Chinese text, here is the teardown (with picture) you've been looking for: https://www.acwifi.net/12621.html.

Also that router is currently on sell on JD.COM (https://item.jd.com/100017450204.html) priced at ¥599.00, about 80€ I guess.

There are rumors says Xiao Mi has somewhat subsidized their line ups with intention to create their own ecosystem. If true, that's one of the reason why their devices can have such low price.

On the other hand, ¥599 is not exactly cheap in China. Somebody can literally survive a entire month on that amount of money. A 'normal' price for a 'regular' router is around ¥70~¥200.

cwhiz(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Chinese browser collects your data? Spyware.

American company collects your data? $1,400,000,000,000 valuation.

This reminds me of how we call Russian billionaires 'oligarchs' but we just call American billionaires...billionaires.

yumraj(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Chinese browser collects data for CCP which will use it for spying and for action against you, your family and your country.

American company will collect data to show you ads and profit.

Are they really same?

chomp(10000) 2 days ago [-]

1.) Xiaomi worth billions of dollars, not 1.4 trillion, but way more than most companies.

2.) People call out Google all. the. time. There's an article here weekly about dumping Google, finding alternatives, praying for antitrust regulation, etc.

3.) We don't commonly call billionaires who live in the middle east, china, and other non-western countries 'oligarchs', do you know why?

Why are you so upset about Xiaomi getting called out?

karaterobot(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I don't grant your premise that the U.S. government's level of access to Google data is the same as the Chinese government's access to Xiaomi's. I also don't grant that the two governments are equivalent threats to privacy. You would need to demonstrate both of those things for me to be on board with your argument.

But, the point I actually want to make is that this implies that people aren't concerned with Google's use of their private data, which I think is demonstrably not true, given that they've got multiple open lawsuits against them over it.

somethingwitty1(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm not sure oligarch means what you are thinking it does. Here is a wiki article which might help clarify why you'll sometimes hear the term used when describing certain Russian billionaires and why you won't generally hear the term used for billionaires from other countries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_oligarch

Note: it also isn't a derogatory term, as it appears to be implied here, it just is an identifier of how wealth was accumulated.

emptyparadise(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I find both to be disturbing and wrong. What do I win?

wendyshu(10000) 2 days ago [-]

'What about...'

theropost(10000) 2 days ago [-]

But does the Chinese company fund your pension plans, pay wealth back to the government, and employ tax paying citizens in America? Where do you want to asset valuations to be located - in your own nation, or another?

passivate(10000) 2 days ago [-]

They're just labels. Good polls are hard to do, and so it is quite hard to know whether these labels hold value in mainstream thought. For e.g. Do people under oppressive/spying regimes see Google in the same light when it comes to data collection?

toss1(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Ummm, Xaomi also has a high valuation, and Google gets called out on privacy all the time, including many times in this very discussion.

Russian Oligarchs are called that because they are about two dozen people who looted about 95% of the country's wealth and are basically a transnational crime syndicate masquerading as a govt.

I can't tell of you are deeply clueless, trolling, or spreading dezinformatziya. Either way, perhaps you should remember this quote from famous American author Mark Twain: 'It is better to remain silent and let people think you are a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt'.

tpmx(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> This reminds me of how we call Russian billionaires 'oligarchs' but we just call American billionaires...billionaires.

Seriously, this is what you're going with?

Russigan oligarchs are people who just straight out stole national assets from the Soviet Union/Russia, with the help of the current ruler. There's a relatively clear definition:


burntoutfire(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> This reminds me of how we call Russian billionaires 'oligarchs' but we just call American billionaires...billionaires.

Russian billionaires came to their wealth purely through corruption - i.e. using via their connections during the crucial years of transformation to market economy to buy huge state-owned industrial companies for 0.1-1% of their real value.

mads(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Yes, I think everyone got the memo about American companies. Thanks though..

de6u99er(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That's why I will never vecomr a billionaire. I would never do something to someone else, that I don't eant to be done to me.

throwawei369(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I can tell your age by this comment. I'll leave you with this quote.

'You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain'

crazypython(10000) 2 days ago [-]

A very good rule of thumb: Freedom-respecting (fully, 100% open-source) software won't screw you.

Simply knowing someone could be watching you and your source code reduces the chance of malicious code.

userbinator(10000) 2 days ago [-]

The Linux kernel is 100% open-source. Yet it's growing user-hostile features --- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26285683 --- and guess what all the locked-down Android phones run...?

Open-source doesn't mean anything for freedom if all you can do is look, because you don't have the signing keys and such to modify what you want. It just means they get to show you exactly how they put the noose on you, that's all.

Firefox is also chock-full of 'telemetry' and it's 100% open-source. That one you do get to modify, but it's still a bloody bastard to strip it all out and recompile to your liking.

monkeyingaround(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Xiaomi phones are insane, at least BlackShark. They replace virtually all the major user level stuff of Android with extreme data collecting alternatives. They then make it so that you cannot disable many of them (via adp, custom ROMs etc.) without bricking the phone, I'm talking wallpaper or clock apps that run with full, non-modifiable privileges. They subsidize cheap hardware with truly insane level of tracking.

They will also stop allowing custom ROMs once they've built up enough reputation, some newer models already will never have custom ROMs.

trasz(10000) 2 days ago [-]

So how is it different from a regular Android again?

phpisatrash(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Really interesting. But whether what Xiaomi browser does it's a spyware, what's is Google?

Does Google collects our navigation data? (Yes if we are using chrome or android and logged in)

Does Google knows what videos and what kind of videos do we watch? (Do you need an answer?)

Call it's a spyware because is a chinese company? Really? Nah. Google does the same or at least worst than it.

I'm neither defending Xiami nor Google. The question is: almost every application does data collection. And if you call it as spyware, therefore every app which does data collection is a spyware.

keepper(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Yes, it does matter that it's outside of US laws. Just like the inverse matters too. ( an American company collecting Chinese user data should matter to Chinese users ).

This 'whataboutism' is getting tiring. What Xiaomi does here is really bad. if google does/did the same thing it would ALSO be bad.

There is no 'but they do it too!'. It's bad, period.

nicolas_t(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Well yes, I also call Chrome a spyware and don't use it. That's why I use firefox. And from what I read on HN, other people say the same thing about Chrome.

jzebedee(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Yes, they are both spyware. Call a spade a spade.

EvilEy3(10000) 2 days ago [-]

What does Google have to do with Xiaomi spyware?

Or Google being spyware somehow makes Xiaomi spyware less shitty?

dangwu(10000) 2 days ago [-]

They're definitely both spyware at this point. Shoutout to Firefox, which makes a conscious effort to block tracking cookies and not collect data.

Darmody(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Google doing something bad is not an excuse for others doing the same thing.

Also Google isn't under the control of an authoritarian government who is committing genocide as we speak.

I'm no Google fan and I dislike what big tech have become but I rather let Google have my data than the CCP.

usr1106(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I know close to nothing about Android development in general and absolute nothing about Xiaomi in particular.

When looking at the code snippets in the article I wonder about the variable names. This doesn't look like decompiled code. And I don't think their whole browser is open source. What am I missing here?

kartoshechka(10000) 2 days ago [-]

To make discoveries like that harder and protect software from commercial standpoint, its code obfuscated before shipping. Something similar modern JS frameworks do to make code smaller and ship it through network faster

Darmody(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm using a firewall to block tens of IP addresses and several apps.

Why would Xiaomi tell me to download a 26MB update from their store if the one from Google Play, where I downloaded the app it's less than 15MB?

I'll be getting rid of this phone by the end of the month.

yc12340(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Why would Xiaomi tell me to download a 26MB update from their store if the one from Google Play, where I downloaded the app it's less than 15MB?

Because, unlike Google, they don't use app bundles and partial updates?

La1n(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Most Xiaomi phones are relatively easy to root/unlock and install a new rom on.

goodells(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Related to Xiaomi, the company is also doing some sketchy things in the smart home space under their brand 'Aqara'. I use HomeKit in my apartment and opted for Aqara branded wireless buttons and temp/humidity sensors because of the attractive hardware and good reviews. The devices require a wi-fi connected hub, not too strange for things that use Zigbee, so I gave that a go.

Well, on cursory examination, the Aqara/Xiaomi hub was talking to a bunch of Chinese servers constantly. I didn't dive too deep into what all they were actually for. When I blocked the device from phoning home with my router, all the connected devices stopped working! None of the buttons or sensors would work, the RGB light on the hub couldn't even be changed. As soon as it lost the ability to ping its servers in China, the thing actually started strobe light flashing blue. Re-enable the outside network access on it, starts working again. This was totally antithetical to why I use HomeKit in the first place, so I removed the hub and paired all the Aqara accessories with a generic open source Zigbee hub (ConBee II) and added it to HomeKit with HomeBridge.

In the future I plan to give brands more scrutiny before investing time/money in them and granting them unfettered access to my LAN...

riston(10000) 1 day ago [-]

About the smart home space, there is also Home Assistant which basically provides all the tools to keep everything isolated from internet.

ericd(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Does anyone know of any good resources on how to kit out a home with sensors that speak strictly locally/have no cloud connectivity?

Is the answer just to find zigbee-only gear?

cavendish3313(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Xiaomi did one thing wrong: It is a Chinese brand.

txdv(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I blocked all Chinese subnets because of the constant tries to log in to my servers.

Obviously Xiaomi devices do not work in my network anymore.

bombcar(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's absolutely infuriating how many IoT devices round trip to the cloud for no good reason at all.

jwr(10000) 1 day ago [-]

My Xiaomi devices (air purifiers) are on a different network, which I created specifically for sketchy 'IoT' devices. It is physically separated, with separate addressing, and connected only at the exit router, where it is firewalled from the rest of my network.

It doesn't mean Xiaomi doesn't learn everything about my air quality, temperature and humidity, but it at least decreases the attack surface.

sampo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> temp/humidity sensors

If you're into writing your own code, https://ruuvi.com/ has bluetooth low energy sensors that transmit temperature/humidity/air pressure/3d-acceleration data with an open protocol, also their firmware is open source. They have a mobile app that displays readings from sensors, but for anything else you'd need to set up your own data logging or home automation server.

paulcarroty(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> the Aqara/Xiaomi hub was talking to a bunch of Chinese servers constantly

It's not only Xiaomi issue: many Chinese top and noname smartphones stealing user data and show ads inside their UIs. Cheap hardware & users data mining - great business model.

The same with apps: https://www.vietnambreakingnews.com/2019/01/es-file-explorer...

melomal(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> was talking to a bunch of Chinese servers constantly

Out of curiosity do you want Chinese companies to use US servers? Or where would servers be ideally placed for a Chinese brand to be accepted? I genuinely am curious to know.

ornornor(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I use some xiaomi connected lamps. First thing I did was connect them to home assistant via a dedicated VLAN that has no internet access. I see pages and pages of denied connections in the firewall from the smart lamps. They work with HA just fine, I just wonder what they're trying to do with these servers. This is pure speculation but I'm convinced that all these smart devices from China are the largest state sponsored Trojan horse program in history. They're probably not interested in you and me but since everyone and their dog has these devices, it's possible to access and infiltrate any given high value target with these. No one even knows what's in the firmware. I have no illusions other countries are doing the same, but none have the reach that Chinese branded electronics do. Bar google maybe.

bigphishy(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Hahaha holy shit

nyx_(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I use a couple of Aqara sensors to report temperature back to my Home Assistant instance via a HUSBZB-1 USB Zigbee dongle[0]. They work pretty well, although they report data pretty infrequently absent any large temperature swings, so not great for data-viz purposes.

I'm not at all surprised the hub thing constantly chats with its family back in China, but a properly security-paranoid home automation aficionado wouldn't be caught dead giving some proprietary black box power and network inside their own home.

[0] https://shop.homeseer.com/products/nortek-usb-zigbee-zwave-i...

mensetmanusman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Amazon should be fined for selling IoT devices that do this. It is likely a threat to America's infrastructure.

Imagine if China could stop all smart homes from working if a politician said something about concentration camps.

Do you think the average american cares more about their garage door opener working or the camps?

gverrilla(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Couldn't you just return the hardware to the store and receive payback where you live?

deepstack(10000) 2 days ago [-]

the company is also doing some sketchy things in the smart home space under their brand 'Aqara'

The whole idea of connecting everything to the internet is getting out of hand.

1. Internet and digital infrastructure has no integrity as how it is currently.

2. Anything for home, machinery, all should work when there is NO internet connection. Just like an app should work (to some extend) in airplane mode. It really comes down to the idea of data/device sovereignty.

Is this my device or not? If I need to ping some place in China to get this working. Then make it clear on your front page that it is is a lease.

CountSessine(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Really, it's probably just telemetry data. It's probably for QA and maybe even follow-up sales.

Not that that is at all ok - it's really not. But China is a country where there's no concept of privacy - when companies are actually required to keep tabs on their customers and report data back to the state on a regular basis without legal oversight from an independent judiciary, the notion that the company isn't entitled to peek in on you must be an alien idea.

kennu(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I have a cheap air quality meter which basically connects to an MQTT broker server in China to transmit its readings constantly. The phone app connects to the same MQTT server, subscribes to a topic and receives the readings. I guess this is a very simple way to do it. Too bad the MQTT server has no authentication so you can actually subscribe to any topic. Many IoT solutions seem to be made by developers not very experienced in security.

nialv7(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> The devices require a wi-fi connected hub, not too strange for things that use Zigbee

Wait, why would Zigbee devices require Wi-Fi connection? That would be a red flag for me, I would have avoided products like this.

phh(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That's amongst the reason I do my AOSP GSI ( https://github.com/phhusson/treble_experimentations/releases... ; Generic System Image, an Android that works on pretty much all recent Android phones).

Xiaomi devices are usually at sweet spots price/performance-wise (not really great hardware imo, but well). With custom ROMs (including my GSIs, but other custom ROMs are fine as well), buy a phone for their hardware, not for their software. (BTW my daily driver is a Pixel 5... not running Google adwares! Only high-end-ish device that fits my hand).

However, Xiaomi devices are bricks for like a month, because before being able to install your own software, you need to be approved (connecting a smartphone on a Windows computer), and it's only once you get your smartphone that you can install your own software.

lostmsu(10000) 2 days ago [-]

My problem with GSI was last I checked (1 year ago) it still did not support storage encryption (Max 3), and SELinux was off.

Awesome project though.

antonzabirko(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Did you really need to investigate this to realize it's spyware?

This and chrome and most web browsers are spyware at this point.

BelenusMordred(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Chromes 'Software Reporter Tool' basically scans your whole computer and sends that data off to Google/NSA. It's literal spyware.

Firefox doesn't do this.

walrus01(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I truly don't understand, from a security and privacy perspective, why would anyone outside of China would voluntarily choose to run closed-source software from a company that's subject to domestic laws and regulations in China. The MSS is no joke.


This is the same reason that Zoom is banned at my workplace and many other partner companies.

You've actually got two problems here. One is the commercial advertising/for-profit related data sharing problem described in the article. The second is that Xiaomi, as a company with that collected data resident in China on its servers, is obliged to provide a pipeline for a copy of their database to the MSS upon request.

lucideer(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Could it be the same reason anyone outside of the US would voluntarily choose to run close-source software from a company that's subject to domestic laws and regulations in the US? The ECPA is no joke.

perryizgr8(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Because the products are literally 10x cheaper than the same thing from Apple or Samsung. The price gap is too large to ignore for most people.

duxup(10000) 2 days ago [-]

There's reason to be concerned about all software.

But I agree that software from significantly non free nations is extra concerning.

MisterTea(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Same could be said for countries outside of the USA buying US tech equipment.

vitorgrs(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Because it has cost benefit. Redmi Note here in Brazil are super popular. The only alternative for that, it's Samsung, but is not exactly better. I believe Xiaomi devices are still cheaper than Samsung here.

La1n(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I agree with your statement, but I'd like to get it a bit further. Why run any closed-sourced software from (or have servers in) countries that can request you data without a fair trial (e.g. secret courts). I feel just as uncomfortable about national security letters and the NSA/CIA as the MSS, this from someone who is not living in China or the US.

I do think this shows the perks of open source software and being able to self-host or federated solutions.

f6v(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> why would anyone outside of China would voluntarily choose to run closed-source software from a company that's subject to domestic laws and regulations in China

Because outside US it doesn't really matter whether it's Chinese or American company that has your data.

ClumsyPilot(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Maybe they are spreading rhe risk, now i can be spied on by agencies with conflicting interests, so noone has a complete picture?

onethought(10000) 2 days ago [-]

But in context:

- Australia has similar laws.

- Snowden releases showed the US don't even ask, they just take it.

So it's not like there is a huge amount of difference around the world.

matkoniecz(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I am using Xiaomi phone for roughly the same reasons as I am using Gmail.

I dislike results of either, replacement of both is on my oversized TODO list - and was there since at least two years.

I dislike that USA government, China government and God knows who else has full (partial?) copy of whatever I ever typed on my phone but I did nothing beyond selecting Android Zero, declining 'send all what I typed to Google' and declining gloud sync.

(I am already spending plenty of time on badgering local government about green spaces and bicycle infrastructure, massive amount of time on OpenStreetMap - and my time is limited)

bassman9000(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Ignorance and cost. Chinese phones are popular in Europe, where Apple/Google/Samsung flagship phones are prohibitive, and similarly spec'ed Chinese ones are a fraction of the cost.

And we can't forget many Euro citizens simply don't care.

dj_mc_merlin(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's a choice between being spied on by the West or the East.

eznzt(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> I truly don't understand, from a security and privacy perspective, why would anyone outside of China would voluntarily choose to run closed-source software from a company that's subject to domestic laws and regulations in China.

They make cheap phones.

BelenusMordred(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> I truly don't understand, from a security and privacy perspective, why would anyone would voluntarily choose to run closed-source software from a company that's subject to domestic laws and regulations in the United States.

Fixed that for you. Xiaomi offer an official bootlock unloader for their shitty MIUI roms which no one else on the planet does and is one of two companies out there that sells stock android phones. They are the easiest mobiles on the planet to install LineageOS on.

Imagine being on HackerNews and not at least slightly acknowledging the fact this company makes the most hacker friendly phones on Earth. It's honestly embarrassing.

Feel free to sniff the packets on any other device and realise how prevalent phonehomes are and how the eyes can access all of it on a whim if it's going to non-Chinese companies.

If you were an activist in the Western world I would only recommend a Chinese phone to protect yourself.

Cointelpro is still roaring hard today.


Havoc(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm running a Xiaomi air filter. Not connected to wifi.

Even without wifi access it is vastly superior to previous choices. At similar pricing to my previous one.

I'm quite wary of the whole monitoring scene but my next air filter purchase will be a Xiaomi again.

Can't really speak to their other products but on that front they have made a convert out of me despite my aversion to questionable data practices.

Also apparently it's home assistant compatible. So HA it and firewall it off is the plan

notsureaboutpg(10000) 2 days ago [-]

All you have to do is look at it from more than a security/privacy perspective.

Chrome is the most used browser despite Firefox doing nearly everything Chrome does the same and everyone knowing that Firefox doesn't track you like Chrome does.

It's obvious why. It's a little faster, it has more money behind it, it comes pre-installed (and unremovable) on most phones, etc.

HNfriend234(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I use a xiaomi phone and the reason I use it is because it is significantly cheaper compared to a samsung or apple phone. Example: A $200 xiaomi phone is equivalent in specs to a $600 Samsung.

Also it is likely the Chinese are spying on me indirectly (data collection where the chinses military can access the data if they want to) but I really have nothing significant on me that the Chinese would want to be concerned with me.

Sebb767(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> The second is that Xiaomi, as a company with that collected data resident in China on its servers, is obliged to provide a pipeline for a copy of their database to the MSS upon request.

If you're anywhere near any scene you might consider not liked by the current government (which surely also includes journalists and the likes), your domestic agencies are a far bigger threat than the MSS, as long as you don't choose to go to China - and even then, you're probably fine, unless you're fighting against the Chinese regime in particular.

And yes, the patriot act and the NSA are no joke. It's not like subpoenas are never head of (and the EU is, at least in parts, not much better).

grishka(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Xiaomi phones are frighteningly popular here in Russia because they're very cheap. Like, a-phone-could-not-cost-this-little cheap. A 7000₽ (around $100) phone? Why not, seems legit! And not many people really understand what Xiaomi is actually doing to offset that cost. Heck, when you open the built-in calculator app in MIUI, it has a freakin privacy policy and refuses to operate if you don't accept that. Same for the gallery and the music player — you know, all the apps that have no business knowing that the internet at all exists.

esperent(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Well, to play devils advocate, as a random Irish guy it seems like my choice is between Chinese companies spying on me or US companies spying on me. I don't see that huge a difference - although I do acknowledge there's a difference in freedom of speech and culture in the US, that applies to US citizens and when it comes to spying on people outside the US the difference is much smaller.

AntiImperialist(10000) 1 day ago [-]

For the same reason anyone chooses products created in any other country. All countries can force the companies to share data hosted in that country to companies which operate in those countries.

Zoom is banned as a result of marketing efforts of competitors like Microsoft and Google. I have worked in companies which have either Microsoft products banned or Google products banned.

justicezyx(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Hmm, I mean why Chinese capitalism is so powerful? Because the government sanctioned and allowed the capital's all-reaching power.

Do you believe CCP is so capable to utilize such tools?

If the answer is yes, then you should ask yourself is there any realistic chance of overpowering such a technologically advanced 'government'. And how much more powerful the private sectors would be. Think about how much gap is between silicon valley and US government in technological capabilities.

This framing of pin everything as government sponsored activities make it very difficult to correct such behavior effectively. Because they were easily brushed off as intentional attack on the nation.

Why not just put it as what is?

I mean 996 in Chinese high tech industry is killing the quality of the work. That's obviously the right reasoning right?

LegitShady(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I don't think whatever point you're trying to make is very clear. There's a lot of insinuations and suggestions, but you're not actually making a point here.

o_p(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Xiaomis are pretty good and cheap, funny that one would care about the browser (which is optional, as you can install any browser you want) while Google owns your entire OS, but China bad US good amrite?

monkeyingaround(10000) 2 days ago [-]

i can't remember the last time i felt fear expressing my beliefs on my phone here in the USA so you tell me

dheera(10000) 2 days ago [-]

In other news, Xiaomi Roborock vacuum cleaners require you to enable GPS permissions and transmit back Wi-Fi PASSWORDS and floor maps back to their server.

They've really been on a privacy invasion spree lately.

LegitShady(10000) 2 days ago [-]

...I returned a scale to amazon that required an app on my phone and location be on when its registered. For a scale. Wouldn't work without it.

lovelyviking(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Why don't we address the root of the problem? Who controls computer? If user of computer (with phone features) doesn't have a full control over it then this situation can and will be abused by some one who does. It seems a logical consequence of not having full control over your own computer.

Why we discuss mostly the degree of such abuse and not the core of the problem ?

Another core of the problem is dealing with communist regimes. We never learn? Communists are literally responsible for millions of deaths in the 20th century.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDTbNmUgeXk) They have a good record of disrespecting human rights. Why someone sane would expect them to respect any of his rights now?

SilverRed(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Because it hardly makes a difference to power users, let alone average people. The Pixel phones come loaded with Google spyware, but you can flash your own rom on it to do whatever you want. But unless someone is out there developing an alternative rom without spyware that does everything you need, it may as well be locked down.

superkuh(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I couldn't agree more. Software companies have latched on to the idea that they can sell software but the users can never own the software. This naturally led to worse abuses when the software could be loaded over a network. But the core problem is the assertion of ownership and control.

tomc1985(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Because there is a lot more money to be made when you don't control the computer.

We are in the middle of a data gold rush. Business types can't resist.

powerapple(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Unfortunately, xiaomi's business model is to sell hardwares with little to none profit margin and make profit as a internet company, I.e. advertising and so on. I give them the benefit of doubt that 90 days renewal was added and didn't work due to not unit tested maybe. Still, it is the same ad business as fb. I love the look of their phones, but I would pay for an iPhone for the benefit of secure os and better privacy

dicomdan(10000) 2 days ago [-]

They give away low cost hardware because it's a military branch of the government whose purpose is establishing a global surveillance network. Being profitable is a nice to have but not a primary purpose as they get subsidized by the state regardless.

asien(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> If you use Mint Browser (and presumably Mi Browser Pro similarly), Xiaomi doesn't merely know which websites you visit but also what you search for, which videos you watch, what you download and what sites you added to the Quick Dial page

Yet people in Europe they LOVE Xiaomi. I swear I've seen so many of my friends with those high end 500$ phones.

Even if they are tech guys it's like they just don't care , they want the most powerful phone with the most features at the cheapest price.

At this game Xiaomi and other Chinese brands have become very good.

That being said Google as been doing the exact same thing for 30 years. Nobody ever considered banning google from anything.

Daho0n(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I live in Europe. If I weren't a privacy nut I'd pick Xiaomi any day over Apple or Google. Now I use Android with OPNsense in front of it via VPN. Chinese phones doesn't log more than the other smartphones.

wooptoo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

What's worse is that the whole OS is actually spying on you, not just the Mi browser. Even when idle my phone is trying to send bits of data to their servers.

Xiaomi are great but for me this is the end of the line with their phones. Privacy comes at a premium nowadays and lots of us are willing to pay for it.

Those affected can block the following domains from resolving:

- data.mistat.intl.xiaomi.com

- sdkconfig.ad.intl.xiaomi.com

throwawei369(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> data.mistat.intl.xiaomi.com

Ah. I'd recognize this spy domain anywhere since it regularly features in my pihole's top 5 blacklisted ones

aembleton(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Also tracking.intl.miui.com

Daho0n(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Using pihole is effective but don't try blocking a Chromecast like this. I did and even using two piholes the network got killed by these hundreds of DNS requests per second to Google.

aroman(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I recently bought a Xiaomi phone (Poco m3) for development. I was shocked to learn that in order to enable USB debug mode in developer settings, I needed to BOTH:

1) make a Xiaomi account with


2) insert a SIM card to the device (!)

Is that not insane? Other people seem to think so too: https://android.stackexchange.com/a/186052

Apparently the only alternative to this is rooting the device, which may break it.

nottorp(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Yes, I returned it and got a Samsung instead for this exact reason.

grishka(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Xiaomi phones have unlockable bootloaders, so rooting is really trivial, but guess what? You need a Xiaomi account to unlock the bootloader too! And they make you wait several days to do it.

And no, you can't break an Android device by rooting it. Worst case you'll have to reflash the system partition through recovery.

asien(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Is that not insane?

Yes I personnaly find it very schocking.

Bought a Samsung A20 for the same purpose, no need for a sim or any sort of dev account.

Plugged the usb cable and a few minutes later my nativescript app was running.

monksy(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Same for the mi pad plus 4 to root it. You have to have it tied to an account for a month.

squarefoot(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I just bought the same phone as a gift for my girlfriend, and was considering getting one for me one day since it's a really nice piece of hardware for the price. Some searches around brought this link of a community of non official developers attempting to clean up the system from some preinstalled junk.


qwertox(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I bought a Poco X3 NFC about a month ago, and also was confronted with the Xiaomi account signup request when I tried to enable USB debugging.

For me this was enough of a reason to send the device back, but I started fiddling around and ended up being able to use USB debugging without an Xiaomi account. I don't remember how I managed to do this, I think I had to disable a specific MIUI optimization. No ADB had to be used for this. I think it was this https://android.stackexchange.com/a/185876

I'm also pretty sure that I did not insert a SIM card at that point, because I was still using the device-to-be-replaced on that and the following days.

I think it's just a lot of tactics which they use in order to push you to create an account, but ultimately it's not required.

That being said, I really despise their MIUI, all their modifications. Everything about it attempts to make you use their products, even if Google's apps are already installed.

For me, the Android experience which the Pixel devices give you are all I want. Even Motorola's minor enhancements are something I don't want on a new phone.

dheera(10000) 2 days ago [-]

That's terrible. Is it possible to even root it without enabling debug mode though? I've always had to use 'adb reboot-bootloader' to get into the bootloader because the stupid key combination doesn't seem to work on recent phones, or maybe it's just that my fingers aren't fast enough.

ev1(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've been told that the reasoning behind this is shady resellers loading unremovable system malware to the system partition (which runs as device admin++) before reselling this to you.

Apparently this is a huge problem in China, where there seems to be quite literally no trust at all on online shopping. This actually does seem to be the case if you try buying devices from any NON-xiaomi-official store Aliexpress shop. They're usually $0.01-$1.00 cheaper, and are guaranteed to be packed with massive amounts of malware. None of which can be pressed 'disable' or 'uninstall' (greyed out).

They use fake reviews and fake buyers much like Amazon in the west, to inflate their order count and ratings to be sorted above Xiaomi official store

gruez(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>2) insert a SIM card to the device (!)

You need to insert a SIM AND use mobile data on it (ie. turn off wifi, enable mobile data). Just inserting a dummy SIM card won't work.

SquareWheel(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I ran into the exact same thing. And because I don't have a SIM card (it's an at-home 'tablet'), I have no way to enable USB debugging. Pretty frustrating.

If Lineage starts supporting this device, I'll definitely move over from MIUI.

firebaze(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I use a Huawei matebook D14 as my personal device. Its primary use is in a WiFi-network (as in 99% of the time). Since I also use MS devices in the same network I log all IPs being accessed from my network (https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/configuration/wire...)

I'll leave the log results of accessed IPs as an exercise to the reader. Hint: no chinese/russian IP addresses are being accessed.

I'd guess a lot more people use Huawei devices (before they were outlawed) than explicitly using a Xiaomi browser.

And a lot of people didn't forget Snowden.

Addendum: I use a MacBook pro (32gig, I7) and a Win10 pro work device (32gig, I7) as well. Neither contacts China or russia. Both of them submit ~10x of unknown traffic than the Huawei device.

I don't want to paint the chinese dictatorship as 'good', not at all. But I do want to remind that the US is - as experienced by an EU consumer - worse. Not now, but maybe in the future, at least according to collected data.

ckozlowski(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I suspect that your point is that 'a Chinese device doesn't mean it's reporting to China.' I think it's good not to make this assumption.

That said, I also think it's incredibly naive to think that a collection system wouldn't make use of a local proxy to mask the ultimate destination of the information. It's such a trivial task to do, and provides a host of benefits to obfuscate and sow doubt as to where the data is going and will be ultimately used for.

I'm not assuming that 'it must be reporting back to China through a proxy!', but rather, the absence of certain national IPs in that list shouldn't be used to rule out scenarios either. An idea scenario for me would be that the device didn't call back period, or if it did, it did so to endpoints that could be authenticated and audited.

MauranKilom(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Hint: no chinese/russian IP addresses are being accessed.

As Snowden revealed, the NSA itself is way above that playing field. They (quite unsurprisingly) use IPs in the respective country, or just false-flag IPs in 'enemy' countries. And the data is not actually sent as plain packets but tacked in the form of metadata onto normal, innocent packets going elsewhere. Then servers on intermediate hops exfiltrate that data. And none of it might happen if you're not actually targeted.

That of course underlines your main point. I don't see 'sends nothing to foreign IPs' as an argument though.

charcircuit(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Spyware is based off intent. Collecting data doesn't necessarily make you spyware. You can literally call anything spyware depending on how schizo you want to be at this point.

unionpivo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This is bad argument nowadays.

Even if they just collect the data now, they might sell it 5 years down the line.

You have to consider the worst possible interpretation, even if its not true today. Companies can be sold or taken over, go bust and their assets get sold.

Companies can change too. Look at google. In 2000's I trusted google a lot more than I trust it now. You can bet google still has all my data from 2000's.

cwkoss(10000) 2 days ago [-]

How does this compare to google chrome's data collection?

shostack(10000) 2 days ago [-]

What does that have to do with the subject at hand?

Daho0n(10000) 2 days ago [-]

On its own? Worse than Google. With all things Google have access to from else where? Way better.

Historical Discussions: Beyond Meat signs global supply deals with McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut (March 02, 2021: 1045 points)

(1054) Beyond Meat signs global supply deals with McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut

1054 points 1 day ago by adrian_mrd in 10000th position

agfundernews.com | Estimated reading time – 2 minutes | comments | anchor

  • US plant-based protein company Beyond Meat has signed global supply deals with fast food firms McDonald's and Yum! Brands.
  • The three-year strategic agreement with McDonald's will see Beyond Meat become the 'preferred supplier' of patties for the fast food chain's new McPlant plant-based burger.
  • Under their separate strategic partnership, Beyond Meat and Yum! Brands will co-develop a range of exclusive plant-based protein menu items for the latter's KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell chains.

Why it matters:

Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, said in comments sent to AFN that the two deals represent "the clearest sign yet that the future of meat will be plant-based."

"The world's largest restaurant chains are placing plant-based meat directly on the plates of millions of customers around the world," he said.

"With more restaurants and revenue than any other food chains on the planet, McDonald's and Yum! Brands will bring plant-based meat onto the mainstream menus of millions of people. When these restaurant chains move, the entire food industry takes notice."

The deals mark a significant expansion of Beyond Meat's partnering strategy, which has seen it launch limited trials in multiple foodservice chains across North America, including some run by Yum! Brands.

Internationally, the Los Angeles-based company has already partnered with Yum China – which operates KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell restaurants in the country – as well as coffee chain Starbucks to pilot its plant-based protein with Chinese consumers last year.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

nafizh(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I feel the price is still quite high for daily consumption. For example, 3 lbs of impossible ground meat is ~50$, so per pound comes in about ~16$ (data from impossible website). Real ground beef, even when you buy high quality will be around 7-8$ per pound.

tommoor(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It has been high but it's already coming down, I don't know how permanently. Currently Impossible is:

- Costco: $16 for 2lbs

- Trader Joes: $5.99 for 12oz

trashface(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Great, another way to load up on Omega 6 acids via vegetable oil. Exactly what Americans need. Hello obesity and inflammation disorders. The for-profit medical industry in the US will love this.

I'm a vegetarian, so it doesn't affect me too much, but you meat eaters may be better off with moderate consumption of actual (good quality) meat.

danShumway(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If you're worried about health, then skip the fake meat debate and just tell people to stop eating at McDonald's.

People are comparing these patties to premium, unprocessed meat, and that's just not what McDonald's has ever been serving. I don't think anyone is going to McDonald's or Pizza Hut and thinking to themselves 'I need to make sure this burger doesn't have too many trans fats.' The fake meat on your pizza is not as big of a health problem as, for example, the massive amount of thick-bread pizza crust and sweetened tomato sauce.

So it's a bit like arguing about the health benefits of substituting almond milk in a chocolate fudge recipe. You may have a legitimate point, but the context around that point matters.

CyanBird(10000) 1 day ago [-]

So this is the next debate point from vegans etc towards meat eaters?

'don't eat that fake meat bs bc it is harmful to you, eat' natural meat instead '?

Don't you see that it is a bit against the general best interest of ppl? As to even begin most of the population are not eating organic meat by a long shot

therealmarv(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This brand was tested by German magazine called 'Öko-Test' on their ingredients. Also not for the first time. It got a BAD review again because it contains too much mineral oil in it (could have various reasons, packaging of ingredients or oily manufacturing machines) and 20g fat per 100g 'meat'.

So it's unhealthy on mineral oil (MOSH) which can easily accumulate in your body and fat percentage.

One of the sources which you can Google translate:


Another English article:


mathgorges(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The fat percentage criticism strikes me as a bit odd.

At least where I am (USA) ground meat is categorized by its fat percentage and 20% fat is the standard I usually see in the supermarket.

I guess what I'm saying is: 20% is indeed a high fat percentage, but it's also the typical fat percentage for conventional meat so it feels disingenuous to use it to criticize plant-based meats.

atombender(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You may want the primary source, Öko-Test [1], here. Your two links are really unclear about what they mean.

It's evident from the Öko-Test article that they are referring to contamination ('residue' of mineral oil, as they call it). Unfortunately, the published results are behind a paywall, and they don't explain in the article just how significant the contamination is. For all we know, it could be an insignificant amount. It's also unclear if they tested any meat products for similar types of contamination.

[1] https://www.oekotest.de/essen-trinken/Vegane-Burger-im-Test-...

submeta(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Just when you think there is no hope for this planet and for humanity something slowly emerges seemingly out of nowhere.

Fridays for future was one of those developments that caught me by surprise. Young people fighting for our planet while „angry white men" claiming there ain't no climate change.

Or take the sudden surge of interest in everything veggy / vegan. In Germany there is a growing demand for vegan products, and this demand seems to be very strong, because every grocery store has a growing number of vegan products lately.

I turned vegetarian last year not because I hate the taste of meat but because there are a dozen reasons we should not be eating meat. Environmental reasons, but also the pain we are causing these animals, every single day.

marknutter(10000) 1 day ago [-]

What's with the casual racism in your post?

scottLobster(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You can buy ethically sourced/farmed meat (albeit at a premium), and farmed fish in particular is quite sustainable.

I would dispute that there are 'a dozen' reasons we should not be eating meat. There are perhaps a few practical reasons we should not be eating low-quality mass-market meat (health, environment, animal cruelty), and a few moral reasons we should not eat unethically raised meat. And even those reasons are debatable (what if someone in a 3rd world country can only afford unethically raised meat? etc)

sparkling(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> In Germany there is a growing demand for vegan products, and this demand seems to be very strong, because every grocery store has a growing number of vegan products lately.

Greenwashing PR

Talk to any supermarket manager and they will tell you that the vegan specialty section is a net loss. HQ tells them do keep it, so they keep it.

harveywi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Why didn't you consider cannibalism?

dj_mc_merlin(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> In Germany there is a growing demand for vegan products, and this demand seems to be very strong, because every grocery store has a growing number of vegan products lately.

As somebody who used to live there, I think this has more to do with the Zeitgeist. Most Germans feel nowadays that one should cause no harm, no offensiveness, and be completely environmentally & socially sound. Which sounds great on paper, but I've found it a recipe for a soul-draining society of 'holier-than-thou' people. I do not mean this in the mean sense towards you, but it is one of the reasons I moved from there.

mutatio(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Interesting, are there studies in climate change denial demographics?

jordache(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I tried the impossible whopper. You literally could not tell the difference between that and a normal beef whopper. I realized a lot the attributes of these commercial food products are the additions, like sauce, and toppings that contribute to that precisely calibrated flavor.

kart23(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Impossible is really good, even the texture is nearly spot-on. However, I've found Beyond meat to give itself away pretty easily, and it has a distinctly chemical-ly, (plant?) aftertaste.

apozem(10000) 1 day ago [-]

My wife is vegan and let me try her Impossible Burger at a local chain. I am not vegan so she wanted to know how accurate the taste was. It tasted exactly like a frozen burger you'd cook on your backyard grill.

null0pointer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I tried the impossible whopper too and I could certainly tell the difference. It was very close, and if I wasn't paying attention I might not have noticed, but it does taste distinctly different.

Not trying to say you're wrong, just want to provide another datapoint. I tried it about a year ago, so maybe they've updated their recipe since then. I would encourage anyone reading to give it a try see what they think.

bitcharmer(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

You can definitely tell the difference and anyone with taste buds will tell you the same.

It's not that I'm against plant-based diet. I will totally switch once the experience becomes indistinguishable. We're just not there yet. No reason to pretend otherwise.

Judgmentality(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm not asking this to rain on the parade - I love what these guys are doing but I have a question about their process and the ethics of it.

So in order to grow the meat, they have to culture the cells in bovine fetal serum, which they get from cow fetuses on their way to slaughter. My question is how much meat is grown per fetus?

> Cell-grown meat, I told him, would be spurred on by synthetic serums refined from the crude system currently used, where cells are bathed in fetal bovine serum. The serum, which promotes cell growth, is collected from the hearts of calf fetuses found in pregnant cattle gone to slaughter.


jtdev(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Wow, that does not sound like something I want to eat.

astura(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You entirely missed the context of that quote, which was preceded by 'vegan meat replacements today, meat grown from cells tomorrow.'

'Cell-grown meat' isn't what Beyond or Impossible are doing - what they are doing is 'vegan meat replacements,' replicating the taste of meat using vegetable sources. Neither company is trying to grow real meat from cell cultures in a lab, which is what you're talking about.

zozin(10000) 1 day ago [-]

HN masses cheering on the success of Soylent Red or Soylent Yellow?? Just eat less meat if you think meat production is bad/bad for the planet, don't cheer on meat substitutes, which are just processed foods made from entirely processed ingredients.

Eating meat for every meal is not good for you, but you can bet that Beyond and Impossible will advertise themselves as something that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Enjoy your industrial slop, I'll just make a salad and eat meat a few days a week.

mft_(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I assume you're being downvoted because of the tone of your comment, but this is actually a really valuable point:

> processed foods made from entirely processed ingredients

There's evidence that suggests the degree to which foods are processed (generally) correlates with unhealthiness. And there's also good evidence that meat is unhealthy in various ways.

So, it's difficult to know where the balance would lie: unprocessed meat, vs. processed meat-substitute?

mindcandy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The founder of Impossible Foods has said that a major motivator for founding the company is

1. Global poverty is lifting. People around the world are starting to make more money. 2. A big point of pride when your family starts making money is literally putting meat on the table. 3. Our current meat production process cannot scale up to meet that demand.

But, good luck convincing billions of people coming out of extreme poverty that they're simply too late and they should give up on the dream that they can finally have meat too --for the sake of climate change. They are going to demand something. He believes plant-based meat can reach that scale at a tiny fraction of the impact if they can make it acceptably close in quality.

That's something I can cheer for.

poopoopeepee(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> industrial slop

Do you have a blender? Everything that comes out of a blender is industrial slop by definition. Why shame people because they allow someone to blend and form their food for them?

at_(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Their stuff is good. Here in the UK every supermarket chain now has their own vegan ranges putting out stuff almost (admittedly not quite) as good, priced very competitively. Even a couple of years ago that simply wasn't case.

Random stray thought I had earlier is how interesting things are going to be when we move further away from emulating existing meat products, and become more comfortable eating plant-based stuff that doesn't necessarily resemble (or have names that are a play on) anything else in nature, in the same way Pepsi is just Pepsi. I'd love to take a peak at what menus are gonna look like in 20 years, assuming this shift is the real deal. Are we gonna have to memorise a slapstick sounding list of dozens of engineered protein sources to get by? (Oomph, tofurky, shroomdog... and of course, quorn! etc)

theNJR(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The analogy of less water and more Pepsi is terrifying and potentially accurate.

hans-moleman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

BBQ Pepsi Burgers.

The future is beautiful.

ukyrgf(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Impossible is definitely better tasting, but I'm happy to see Taco Bell is included in this deal (though not in the headline here on HN). I haven't been there since they got rid of potatoes, so having a vegan option would make my taco consumption during lunch break skyrocket.

mrbuttons454(10000) 1 day ago [-]

They are bringing the potatoes back.

jfengel(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Taco meat [EDIT: in Taco Bell's usage] is a perfect application, since its texture is already squishy and the flavor is dominated by spice. Plus, it's wrapped in a shell and mixed with lettuce and other things. Even a mediocre fake meat is enough to pass. Beyond Meat should have no trouble producing a virtually-indistinguishable taco meat.

dleslie(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Sadly, Impossible is basically unavailable where I live; but Beyond is.

endisneigh(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Is beyond meat actually healthier than meat? If you search my question you'll see the results are hardly conclusive.

What's everyone's take?

mpalczewski(10000) 1 day ago [-]

A completely natural product eaten by humans for millenia, vs a new factory produced goo.

I prefer real food over fake.

mft_(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This is a reasonable look at exactly this question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMGV_dBTE-k

(no affiliation, just a subscriber)

dilap(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Personally, I very much doubt it.

Meat is an ancient food. We've evolved as hunter-gatheres, with most of our calories coming from hunting. It would be very surprising if we were not well-adapted to eating a lot of meat. Modern hunter-gatherer tribes which eat a lot of meat, like the Hadza, have excellent health.

Something like Beyond Meat is novel; it may well be OK, but I'd certainly exercise a lot of caution before trusting it.

Another way to look at the question, while incomplete, is just to look at the breakdown of the nutrients. Per cronometer.com, here's specimen A:


and specimen B:


Which of those looks healthier to you?

To me, they look pretty similar, except for A has a lot more PUFA, and a lot less vitamin B. There is a lot of controversy about PUFA, but my belief is too much of it is one of the main causes of disease in people eating 'Western-style' diets.

So I'd guess specimen B is healthier; that's the cow burger.

(Tangentially, is there a good website to easily share pngs? Imgur compression is pretty brutal for text stuff.)

nepeckman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Compared to what meat? Which animal, which cuts, which quality? Is it healthier than a really high quality meat, prepared well? Maybe not. Is it healthier than fast food 'beef'? Yeah probably. Either way, environmental and moral concerns are just as relevant as health concerns when considering diet.

kilroy123(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I personally don't think so. I'm no scientist.

I have, however, done a LOT of studying about food because I have some serious stomach issues.

What has finally worked for me? Intermittent fasting for 15-16 hours a day — eating a low-carb diet filled with veggies.

I feel a night and day difference eating like this.

Btw I was mostly vegan and vegetarian for half a decade before this.

Take it as you will.

dec0dedab0de(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think it tastes pretty good, but I would be surprised if it were any healthier.

therealmarv(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think it's more unhealthy because it contains too much mineral oil (search my other comment) according to various tests of a German magazine.

exabrial(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Personally I avoid their stuff. I'd rather have a locally raised steak from one of my neighbors who loves their cattle and their job.

Eating highly processed food just isn't good for you.

buzzy_hacker(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The vast majority of people don't have neighbors who lovingly raise cattle for slaughter.

beisner(10000) 1 day ago [-]

To be fair, neither is red meat. Unclear which is worse, though.

spark3k(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't understand when farmers say they 'love their cattle' but then industriously kill them at 12% of their normal lifespan. And repeat. In millions.

The meat lobby really has a grip on the culture and identity of the animal consuming public.

hyperpl(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I agree. I once tried beyond meat by accident (some vegans were visiting and did a switcheroo on me) and it was one of the most repulsive things I had ever tasted.

wdb(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Personally, I don't understand why they need to call it meat or vegetarian butcher while it isn't. I understand it's accepted by the EU courts but it feels odd.

I typically order my vegan meals/recipes from Riverford (https://www.riverford.co.uk) and Abel and Cole which are nice but I do think I need to swap it out occasionally with some vegetarian meals. I do think they could have some more mashes in their recipe collection

subungual(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think it's just easier to call it meat because it makes clear what dietary/textural/taste role it is supposed to fill. The spot is already cut out in people's schemata. Maybe language will shift and a new word will emerge to better characterize substitutes in the future, or maybe the definition will ultimately be subsumed by replacements. Honestly, it's not ever really bothered me, so maybe it's just a question of individual language aesthetic preferences.

I'll give you that using 'butcher' is a little weird, though for most places I've seen do that it's a marketing gimmick.

3131s(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The Chinese are big on this 'mock' meat too... which as a vegetarian I almost always find disgusting. Just give me legumes, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, leaves, roots, etc.

Tofu and seitan are about the only processed foods that I ever eat.

Kharvok(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Almost all of livestock farming emissions come from transportation and powering the processing facilities.

See Frank M. Mitloehner at UC Davis research on methane emission from livestock.

soyftware(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This paper:




Which says on page 17:

> Livestock emissions are almost entirely CH4 generated from enteric fermentation and manure management, and most of the livestock emissions are from dairy operations.

Enteric and manure management seem fairly close, both between 11-12 million tonnes with manure management being higher by some hundred thousand.

I'm not sure what manure management is, I'm sure part of it is transportation, etc, but that's not 'almost all of livestock farming emissions.'

In this paper (the errata):


> In total, the "no animal products" scenario delivers a 28% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy relative to 2010 emissions (table S17). The scenario of a 50% reduction in animal products targeting the highest-impact producers delivers a 20% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.

chasd00(10000) 1 day ago [-]

i've had it, it's not bad. It's no bone-in ribeye but it's not bad. more power to them.

chiph(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Same here. It's totally acceptable for something like a burger or ground meat 'crumbles' for pizza and tacos. It won't replace a good steak (yet).

Their problem as a company is that the product is pretty easy to copy. And the danger there (beyond the threat to the firm) is that one of the knock-offs will be so bad that it kills the entire meat-alternative product space because of the bad reputation. Which would be a shame - anyone who has driven by the stockyards on Interstate 5 in California would appreciate reducing our supply on cattle.

drewg123(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This is the best news I've heard all week. The more widely vegan 'meat' is available, the more likely it is to be adopted by average people and not just dedicated vegans.

Reducing the demand for real beef is probably one of the best things we can do in the short term for the environment, due to the amount of land required for cattle farming, and due to the surprising amount of methane emitted by cattle. (see the documentary 'Cowspiricy', or Mark Rober's 'Feeding Bill Gates a Fake Burger to save the world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-k-V3ESHcfA)

bendubuisson(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I'm a vegetarian, but Cowspiracy is not something I would use in an argument, the thing is full of shortcuts and misleading facts...

actuator(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> and not just dedicated vegans.

Are vegans actually adopting these? I would have assumed non vegetarians eating fake meat more. A significant part of the world is vegetarian/vegan, so we don't have dearth of just plant based food preparations from there. Isn't it easier to adopt those things for dedicated vegans?

seanmcdirmid(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

Unless there is a health benefit, why would normal people adopt vegan meat? Impossible meat has just as much fat and other bad things compared to real meat, I'm not sure why would be interested in it.

If we replace cattle grazing by more plant growing, what are we going to do with the marginal land that is arable enough for grazing but not for growing things? It's not like neveda is going to be able to switch from cattle to soy.

belorn(10000) 1 day ago [-]

When it comes to the climate I have two primary problems:

1: We use fossil fuels (natural gas) to create artificial fertilizers. We use manure from cattle to create organic fertilizers. The production of artificial fertilizers is seen as positive for the environment while the production of organic fertilizers is seen as an negative.

2: When we use artificial fertilizers to grow crops which get used to produce bio fuel we call it carbon neutral. Cattle eating grass is in contrast seen as a major if the largest contributor to climate change.

chovybizzass(10000) 1 day ago [-]

i don't believe cow farts are a bigger problem than cars.

notnestle(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Don't be fooled, not all plant based foods are good for the planet. Nestle makes them in Israel & sends them with refrigerated air freight around the world. That's more harmful than a cow...

hannob(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Unfortunately the documentary Cowspiracy is operating with massively exaggerated numbers (it claims meat is responsible for more than 50% of ghg emissions, it's explained on the wikipedia article of the film).

Real numbers from credible sources are that greenhouse gas emissions from the meat and dairy industry are around 15%. Which is large enough to take this problem seriously, but it's still far away from those claims.

I think this is harming the case. The problem is big enough to be passionate about fake meat. No need for exaggeration.

kvgr(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

I don't understand this vegan processed food propaganda to push people not eat meat. What would be much more efficient is making laws for more quality meat. US is very weirdly regulated(drugs, healthcare, doctors compared to food quality) Reduce the steroid meat. The prices would go up, the consumption down. If you want to eat meat, you would pay more. I would. I love meat, all types. You don't also have to eat beef every day. Chicken, pork and other types of meat are pretty much equal in quality if you avoid fat cuts for example of pork. I also love bread and vegetables. And I also think it is much better to eat fresh meat and fresh vegetables then heavily processed vegetables, grains and industrially processed oils. There are much more efficient ways to curb down emissions than fighting holy war against meat(coal anyone? trans oceanic shipping).

_cloudkate(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I share the same take with you! Reading some of the discussions going on in the comments, I'm surprised anyone thinks this is anything but good news. Like you said, it means:

1. non-vegetarians & non-vegans have more options. This is great for so many reasons! 2. Demand for beef will go down, which has a positive effect on the environment.

TheRealSteel(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've spent the last year vegan (only eating meat again this week because I'm in quarantine and can't get vegan food) and I:

- Firmly believe that lab grown and plant-based imitation meats will be the thing that makes the world vegan, not somehow convincing everybody to stop eating meat and dairy

- Would invest in lab-grown meat for profit if I had money to invest - it just makes sense to me that it will eventually become cheaper to manufacture than traditional meat for obvious reasons, and when it does, the McDonald's marketing machine will be out in full force to convince everyone that lab-grown meat is the manly masculine option (completely different to being one of those 'pussy vegans', right!?) and will succeed massively

Beyond is a plant-based imitation meat, not a lab grown meat (which I think will make more of a splash due to their variety and authenticity), but I still think it has its place and wish them success.

Even if you don't are about the animal cruelty, animal agriculture is a huge contributor to climate change - far bigger than international flights - and not eating meat is usually the best thing an individual can do to lower their contribution.

elktea(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The popular crusade against meat is one of the more misguided. Meat provides far more nutritional value than any plant and the environmental impacts have been greatly exaggerated. See below:

Regarding carbon: 'removal of livestock in the US would only lead to a net GHG reduction of 2.6% in national emissions. Similarly, removing all dairy would lead to a reduction of just 0.7%. At the same time, both transitions would create domestic deficiencies in critically limiting nutrients [White & Hall 2017; Liebe et al. 2020], which is not unexpected given that Animal Sourced Foods are valuable sources of essential nutrition [see elsewhere].

and methane: 'As argued above, this is not wishful thinking as there is still ample potential for mitigation of biogenic methane in global food systems. Moreover, the global cattle population has not been increasing during the last decade, making its contribution to global warming debatable [Shahbandeh 2020]. It is, however, true that methane has nonetheless been suddenly increasing since 2007. Yet, this can be ascribed to a multitude of potential reasons, incl. geological and fossil fuel emissions, wetlands, rice farming, and landfills [Gramling 2016; Nisbet et al. 2016; Alvarez et al. 2018; Rasmussen 2018; Etiope & Schwietzke 2019; Malik 2021], or a decrease in hydroxyl radical levels, the main sink for atmospheric methane [Turner et al. 2017]


jb_gericke(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

Agriculture accounts for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, of which livestock is only a portion (soil and crops are lumped in with agriculture). Focussing on the smallest denominator in reducing emissions is nonsensical (https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emis...).

I understand there is a morality aspect at play but it's frustrating hearing the vegan vitriol dolled out without thought for consequence. Meat is by far the most nutrient dense food available to humans. The vegan diet (as in strict vegan, not vegetarian) is incredibly unhealthy. Have you considered the land use required to grow the crops necessary to deliver the same amount of nutrients to a global populace?

There's a burgeoning industry growing which conflates health and veganism and snidely appeals to the morality aspect of the vegan diet while dangerously touting non-existent health benefits. The list of ingredients ina a beyond burger is longer than my arm.

My advice? Stay away from fast food (vegan or otherwise), eat whole, unprocessed foods much as possible, eat 'mindfully', make your own decisions regarding your health and diet and don't buy into anyone's snake oil/capitalistic agenda.

HenryBemis(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Marketing-wise, I remember reading about the Oil industry heavily advertising on the benefits of plastic RECYCLING, which helped remove the guilt on oil extraction and plastic production, thus helping the large growth in the business[0]. (APOLOGIES for the below sporadic CAPS - I really have to learn how to write bold/italics in HN)

I see the ethical and environmental benefits of eating meat without killing an animal. This makes me wonder the following:

-is this to ensure meat-eaters continue to eat meat (for their benefit) without the suffering of animals?

-is this to ensure that we eat cleaner/healthier/disease-free meat? [1]

-is this to industrialise meat production further with a smaller harmful footprint?

-is this to SELL TO VEGANS? (expand the customer base?). If I can break down the vegetarians/vegans into two categories: a) Those who don't want to eat meat because they prefer a plant-based diet (by choice, medical reasons, etc.) and b) Those who do it for ethical reasons - 'meat is murder'.

-is this to SELL TO various RELIGIONS FOLLOWERS? I am thinking that around 2-3-4bn people do NOT eat a certain type of meat (or another)(pork, beef) for religious reasons. Imagine selling 'non-beef beef burgers' to 1.5bn people in India, 'non-pork bacon' to 2-3bn Muslims, etc.

-how will 'permissible' (halal) meat consumers be affected by this? The 'halal' process defines a ritual that is not possile. Will religion follow/adapt?

[0]: https://www.npr.org/2020/09/11/897692090/how-big-oil-misled-... [1]: https://www.motherjones.com/food/2015/08/poop-ground-beef-su... (I was trying to remember the movie.. but I couldn't..)

shafyy(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

Pardon me for hijacking the top comment, but I see so much wrong information here that I want to address:

1) Direct emissions from livestock

Yes, direct emissions from livestock are around 15% of all GHG emissions globally, and less than that in the US or most developed countries. That's because a lot of developed countries 'import' emissions by buying cheap meat from livestock agriculture intensive coutries

2) Direct emissions are just the tip of the iceberg, though

The bigger threats from livestock agriculture are land use and loss of biodiversity.

Today, around 45% of usable land is used for or by livestock [1]. That's nuts. That land has something called the 'opportunity cost of carbon' - meaning how much carbon could be sequestrated there by natural vegetation if it wasn't used for livestock. And that's a lot. One study that was published in Nature estimated that: '[...] finding that shifts in global food production to plant-based diets by 2050 could lead to sequestration of 332–547 GtCO2, equivalent to 99–163% of the CO2 emissions budget consistent with a 66% chance of limiting warming to 1.5 °C [2]

Biodiversity is a separate issue than climate change (mostly), but if we start fucking it up more its consequences will be more dire, and it's not on the public's mind currently. Today, 60% of all mammals are cows. Only 4% of all mammals are wild life [3]. Let that sink in. Disturbing habitats of species, planting monocultures and changing the balance of biodiversity leads to the extinction of a lot of species. Humans are at the top of the food chain, and starting to erase species further downstream will lead to non-linear events that will endanger us. And don't get me started about zoonotic diseases.

3) Holistic grazing

One comment mentioned that it's better to have cattle on land that's considered 'marginal' than not having cattle, arguing that having cattle actually sequestrates more carbon than it emits. Of course, this is total bullshit or we would have some sort of cow pertuum mobile. This sort of livestock agriculture is often referred to 'holistic grazing' and is more a cult movement than something rooted in science. Their 'research' is often debunked by scientific studies [4].

It's always better to eat plants directly than to process it through a cow or chicken or goat. That's just basics physics.

Sources: https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food




fortran77(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Reducing the demand for real beef is probably one of the best things we can do in the short term for the environment,

And reducing the amount of food we eat in general! If the 66% of the U.S. population who are obese or overweight just started eating no more food than they needed, we'd go a long way to reducing greenhouse emissions.

Source: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/oby.22657

swiley(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Maybe. As someone who isn't a fan of the meat production process and accidentally bought some vegan 'meat' due to Amazon pushing it on everyone it's not the same. I threw it out because I couldn't eat it.

Solstinox(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

When you see this as the top comment on HN, you realize how good of a job Big Oil has done deflecting their sins onto animal husbandry.

partiallypro(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Are there stats to back up that non-vegans begin consuming more vegan based meals if they have the option? And I mean more than once. A consumer might try it but then go back to normal. At there good stats on repeat buying on a large scale?

spicyramen(10000) 1 day ago [-]

That doesn't taste as good as meat.

brightball(10000) 1 day ago [-]

IMO this is the better solution to methane...


YeGoblynQueenne(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>> This is the best news I've heard all week.

Not meaning to snark, but I don't see the good news. A manufacturer of mass-produced, low-quality, highly procesed food has struck a deal with large companies that specialise in selling exactly that kind of food. That the food in question is plant-based makes no difference at all. Companies like McDonalds, KFC and PizzaHut are responsible for the normalisation of industrial food production that is causing widespread environmental destruction and they have no incentive to solve the problems it creates. Switching to plant-based alternatives will simply change where the damage is done. This is just typical greenwash.

As a for instance of how companies like McDonalds encourage industrial farming and agriculuture tactics that are detrimental to the environment:

A Mongabay investigation, prompted by a report done earlier this year by the NGO Mighty Earth, suggests that customers buying chicken from some of Britain's largest supermarkets and fast food chains may unwittingly be fuelling rampant deforestation in the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian savanna.

Tesco, Morrisons and McDonald's buy their chicken from Cargill, the biggest private company in the world, which feeds its poultry with imported soy. The U.S. food distributor purchases its soy from large-scale agribusiness operations that often burn and clear large swathes of native forest to make way for their plantations.


war1025(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> The more widely vegan 'meat' is available, the more likely it is to be adopted by average people

This argument always reminds me of Margarine, which was promoted for years as having great health benefits, and then we later find out that it is loaded with trans fats and actually terrible for you.

otabdeveloper4(10000) about 20 hours ago [-]

Beef is a net positive for the environment while 'vegan' mass-produced cash crops are a net negative.

Beef can (and does) graze on natural pastures that would have been otherwise ruined and turned into something useless.

moltar(10000) about 21 hours ago [-]

The myth about beef and methane has been debunked many times. If you want a detailed accord please read the Sacred Cow or watch the doc.

acd10j(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

After reading some of the comments, I am increasingly thinking that People who eat beef/meat regularly will still seek Original/Farm grown/actual cattle beef. And Beyond meat style beef will be used for turning vegetarian people to get taste of beef, so that they can graduate to real beef later. Non Vegetarian people will never accept climate impact their eating habits have on environment.

therealmarv(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You should research on German Ökotest and beyond meat test. I don't get why things like beyond meat is not more tested. Why is mineral oil in their patties ???

megablast(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The real game changer will be when they price it cheaper than meat.

kleton(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If you fly over the country, you will see a bunch of green circles from center pivot irrigation systems mining 'fossil' groundwater. All the brown spots outside of those circles are vegetated, but the only way to get human food out of them is grazing. By necessity there will always be a large amount of cattle grazing area. Feedlots should be ended as a practice- wasteful of feedstock and poor quality and nutrition of the output.

rsj_hn(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The agreement isn't to make vegan meat more available, but to make Beyond Meat the 'preferred supplier' of vegan meat when they do sell it (so that they don't choose an alternate vegan beef supplier for their patties but buy all their alt-beef from BM).

E.g. this is an industry press release akin to saying 'We were chosen to supply the rubber for the new Toyota Tacoma'. People reading this as McDonald's promising to stop using beef or replacing beef with the fake beef or even putting the alt-beef into new dishes are misinterpreting this press release.

DamnYuppie(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I truly don't understand the methane issue. Historically worldwide the # of ungulates is probably well below historical averages. It looks like today we have around 98 million head of cattle in the US. Historically we had bison in excess of conservatively 60 million. This doesn't even begin to count all the animals in Africa. Overall wide life is declining.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/194297/total-number-of-c... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_bison

The point is the amount of large mammal farts, it appears to be burps, going on now is probably not that much higher than it always has been. We have merely swapped out one large untamed mammal for a more domesticated one.

EDIT: I should point out I am not advocating for more cows. I don't think we should be clear cutting forests to raise more of them. Yet I don't think we should be running to get rid of all of them either. Historically beef was quite expensive and was usually reserved for rare occasions or the very wealthy. I can see a path forward where we keep the herd size constant and let prices rise. This would obviously drive people to look for cheaper substitutes.

kmonsen(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

I'm not vegan, but I always pick the Beyond/impossible options when they are available. I hardly taste the difference and one less cow had to die for me having a tasty meal. And greenhouse gasses I guess, but for me animal cruelty is the most important.

yrgulation(10000) 1 day ago [-]

As a beef "fan" i was amazed by the taste of beyond meat. I am trying to reduce meat (due to practical moral considerations) so dont be harsh. Happy to try such alternatives.

macintux(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I always assumed the inefficient grain and water requirements alone would make it worthwhile.

ngngngng(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Raising cattle can easily become a net negative to carbon emissions if cows are given slightly more space to graze and moved around more often. If all cattle were raised in this way there would be slightly less cattle production but a far more positive environmental impact than if we all switched to vegan 'meat'.


frankfrankfrank(10000) 1 day ago [-]

That methane emission meme is not accurate, as simple logic reveals. The methane produced by cows is not going to be significantly more than the equivalent produced by the same amount of plant material left to rot/decompose. One would even have to reasonably theorize and possibly could even conclude that the energy the cow takes out of the plant material to produce milk and meat and heat, actually captures energy that rotting plant material would have converted into methane.

An interesting side story about this issue is that it has been shown a long time ago that ruminants actually enrich the environment (assuming non-industrial practices) through both processing the plant material and both converting it into compost and also seeding it with bacteria, while also trampling the plant material into the ground and thereby facilitating the breakdown. That lesson came out of the discovery of Allan Savory a Rhodesian/Zimbabwean ecologist that desertification only accelerated once huge herds were culled in an assumption that the grazing was causing the desertification, rather than that they were part of the system.

I encourage you to reassess what you surely are convinced about.

Chris2048(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I eat less meat because I think quality has declined; as meat is seen as the default-superior option, quality is less scrutinised, and has thus lowered.

As such, either I buy expensive, from a trusted location, I I stick to something else; Vegan options has been good quality so far, not that I don't expect this to change in the future.

Right now highly processed & shaped pink slime (with added salt + sugar) is sold at unreasonable prices, partly because people don't know what they are eating (or what it's really worth, often masquerading at other things), and partly because the main factor in consumer choice is PR budget - the low cost cheap meat therefore gets the higher marketing budget.

My one hope in this space is grocery delivery services becoming the norm will make it easier for people to scrutinise products from the comfort of home, with the convenience of a search engine.

waheoo(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't think you can call it vegan.

Millenia of meat eating went into the making of this 'meat'.

com2kid(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I agree that this is important, and less meat consumption is good, but I am kind of upset that the entire American culinary experience is being reduced to 'burgers, pizza, and fried chicken.'

I say that because most of the articles on meat alternatives are written from the perspective of 'if only Americans can stop eating hamburgers!'

First off, in terms of global solutions, that isn't going to fly. Try going to Italy and telling people 'we've replaced all your meat, with a ground beef alternative!' and see how pissed people get. Countries around the world have culinary traditions older than America itself. Many of these traditional preparations of various cuts of meat are a huge part of culture and history.

Second off, I, an American, don't even eat hamburgers[1] more than once or twice a year. And I'm not going to switch all my meat eating over to meat alternative hamburgers.

Of course replacing some meat is good, my main complaint is how so many articles reduce American food to just a few categories.

I have the same problem when friends come to visit from overseas, or even friends who've been in America for awhile (sometimes years!) who have no idea that American food is anything other than burgers and pizza.

[1] I eat sausages a bit more frequently, which I could fill with a plant based alternative.

legitster(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I enjoy eating meat and have no plans of going off of it completely. But we eat so much of it as a culture.

And when you add up every hot pocket, frozen pizza, slider, hot dog, or chicken nugget, it's hard to argue that most of meat actually being consumed can't be easily substituted. For something healthier and cheaper too!

And I know people blast tech companies for focusing too much on making things flashy and cool, but the people who are making electric cars and fake meat cool are the ones who are going to save our asses while we were busy scolding people for not trying harder to enjoy brown rice.

stephenr(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> hot pocket, frozen pizza, slider, hot dog, or chicken nugget, it's hard to argue that most of meat actually being consumed can't be easily substituted

But then what will they do with all the eyeballs, assholes, and cartilage?

I'd imagine that the amount of actual animal tissue humans would otherwise consume, that ends up in any of those products you mentioned is negligible.

redisman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've turned to mainly a restaurant meat eater. My day to day protein and fats are mainly from plants now. Especially garbage fast food meats really don't need to be from animals. If I feel like a long smoked brisket or carnitas or a steak or game meats, well there just isn't any meaningful analog so I don't feel too bad about indulging every once in a while.

somehnrdr14726(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

I started using Impossible in any beef recipe which highly seasons or sauces the meat, and can't tell the difference. Or don't care enough about the difference. Talking hamburger helpers, manwhiches, casseroles, that sort of thing.

The price of Impossible and Beyond per pound is still higher than real beef, probably due to government subsidies artificially reducing the cost of beef. Once the equation flips I expect just about every fast food menu item, freezer food, and quick prep box to switch to these new vegetable meats.

There is a snowball effect happening. More and more places and products are offering a meat alternative because Impossible and Beyond are 1:1 recipe substitutes. This brings the cost down as manufacturing processes can scale up. Confidence is growing and taste isn't suffering. Toward a vegetarian future, economics will succeed where ethics and wellness have failed.

teekert(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Yeah, recently I made a burger using lentils, with the lettuce, Ketchup and Mayonnaise added, the kids didn't even notice any difference... I did, but it was still pretty nice!

scottLobster(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Yeah and the health arguments tend to fall apart when you get into fast-food/highly processed crap territory, which probably accounts for a large portion of meat consumption in the developed world. Eating less of that stuff is probably a good thing.

That said quality meat is a good source of various nutrients and amino acids that can be difficult to get from plant-based sources, and fish in particular can be farmed very sustainably. I would never consider cutting meat out of my diet.

exyi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Beyond Meat is not like tofu or so, it is designed to be unrecognizable from meat by tasting it - so you won't have to give on our beloved meat. I also don't want to go with a vegan diet just because 'environment', but having a reasonably priced substituent which does not contain tortured animals and has lower env. impact - then just why not.

mywittyname(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This reminds me of how my dad would always blast taco bell for using filler in their beef. But from my perspective, it's tastes good and the filler makes it cheaper (and probably healthier).

I think you're right, most processed meat could be replaced partially, or entirely with vegetable proteins without anyone really noticing. The last time I had baked a frozen, breaded chicken, it tasted like little more than grease and pepper. I'm certain a plant substitute could be found that would maintain the flavor of nothingness and be suitable for dipping in honey mustard.

The current issue, I think, is price. Vegetarian substitutes I've seen are more expensive than the meat based products.

mleonhard(10000) 1 day ago [-]

The secret to enjoying brown rice is to add some sweet/sticky/'glutinous' rice to it. A good recipe:

1. 600 g brown rice

2. 200 g sticky rice

3. Mix the dry rices together. Use a spoon to avoid a sticky rice layer on the bottom.

3. 1200 mL water

4. Cook on 'rice' mode in a 3-quart Instant-Pot. Makes about 15 120 mL (0.5 cup) servings. These freeze nicely in containers. You can heat one up in 1:30 in a 1500 W microwave.

hammock(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>when you add up every hot pocket, frozen pizza, slider, hot dog, or chicken nugget, it's hard to argue that most of meat actually being consumed can't be easily substituted. For something healthier and cheaper too!

Read the labels more closely the next time you eat that hot pocket or frozen sausage pizza. A large number of these products already have 'textured vegetable protein' (TVP) or other meat substitute in them to pad out the protein on the label and reduce overall cost to produce.

For example, here are the ingredients for Digiorno Meat Lover's (you may have to scroll and click 'Nutrition' dropdown. They call it 'TEXTURED SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE': https://www.goodnes.com/digiorno/products/rising-crust-three...

corban1(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Thanks vegan meat, now I can enjoy my prime beef steak with less remorse. Go vegan meat!

pindab0ter(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Aren't Beyond and Impossible ground beef replacements, not steak and other kind of 'whole meat' replacements?

ecommerceguy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I tried the one from Burger King and was very off-put by the flavor. Of course I don't like beats too much either... so maybe that's why I found the flavors unpleasant. JM2C

astura(10000) 1 day ago [-]

At least in the US Burger King does not sell Beyond Burger made by Beyond Meat, they sell the Impossible Burger made by Impossible Foods. They are two different products from two different companies.

dekhn(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I really wanted to like Beyond Meat, but there's something about how it smells that seems... off... to me. I really want to go work there just to play with a GCMS and figure out what component smells bad to me and remove it.

Personally, I think the epitome of vegan meat replacement is Morningstar Veggie Breakfast Patties. most meat eaters I know who try them say 'huh... this is pretty damn good for something that doesn't have meat in it'

gowld(10000) 1 day ago [-]

It's the coconut oil. Coconut oil smells terrible when cooked, like burning rust.

redisman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

We have the same taste buds. Morningstar Hot Dogs are also really good for that cheapo hotdog experience.

alacombe(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I just slaughtered two muttons over the week end, enjoy your highly processed fake meat while I enjoy some tasty juicy ribs !

goatcode(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I wish we were neighbors :)

txsoftwaredev(10000) 1 day ago [-]

How does it compare to Japanese A5 Wagyu?

redisman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

A veggie meat with Wagyus fat content would be... interesting.

spacejam88(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I look at this as good but cautious news. People really need to be eating more vegetables in their diet, but I just don't think we need to go to such measures simply to mimic meat, when there are so many vegetarian options already exist. Remember that there is a large population of the world that doesn't even eat meat and that Beyond Meat is not serving those people, even though they are in the 'vegetarian' market.

Ensorceled(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Getting someone eating 4 or 5 big macs a week to switch to 4 or 5 big beyond macs, served at the takeout they've been going to for years, is much easier than getting them to switch to traditional Indian dishes made by nobody that lives within a three hour drive of them.

arduinomancer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Ehh I think it's fair to say that encouraging people to eat more vegetables didn't work.

m4tthumphrey(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I stopped eating meat in January 2018 and I can honestly say the only thing I miss is a Big Mac! This is VERY good news for me and a long overdue!

That being said, whilst I do love a Beyond burger, here in the UK, I was surprised to hear it was Beyond that McDonalds selected for this. While in Orlando 2 years ago, I tried an Impossible burger for the first time and it was incredible. The size, texture and taste would be perfect for McDonalds (Big Mac). Still, I will be all over this once it hits UK branches!

noneeeed(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I keep seeing people say that Impossible tastes better, bit Beyond keeps snagging big deals like this and it makes me wonder if they have either a price or supply-chain advantage.

redisman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I tried a Big Mac recently and it's really not that great, pretty dry. The sauce is the amazing part. I prefer getting a Impossible burger from a slightly more expensive burger place instead now. Maybe I just need to buy a gallon of that sauce and pour it on there.

marrone12(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I prefer the taste of impossible but this is great news for the category.

rsj_hn(10000) 1 day ago [-]

If you prefer the taste of Impossible, wouldn't you prefer that Yum brands select them as their fake beef provider? Why is this good news for the category?

tootie(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I think either beats any frozen beef that gets served at a cheap fast-food joints while neither comes close to beating fresh, high-quality beef. They can take over the entire bottom of the market which is probably the most unwholesome for the environment.

jandrese(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I agree, Beyond overdoes the fake smoke flavor. But they seem to be better equipped to scale up than Impossible, they've beaten them to mass market in almost every location I've seen.

JoshTriplett(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I prefer Impossible Burger as a substitute for grounds, but Beyond Meat also makes things like hot dogs and breakfast sausage, which Impossible doesn't.

tommoor(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Agreed, impossible is far superior. Impossible is only $5.99 for 12oz in Trader Joes at the moment

bredren(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Beyond nutritional or environmental reasons to reduce meat consumption, there are ethical considerations about the consciousness of the animals we slaughter.

It doesn't matter how we get people to be less reliant on factory farms, so long as we do.

We must examine every avenue that allows us to reduce the suffering of animals.

BitwiseFool(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Preface: I'm a hypocritical omnivore who likes animals.

If meat alternatives and lab grown meat become cheap and indistinguishable from real sources, I predict that within the span of two generations our descendants are going to look back on us as immoral savages. I use cognitive dissonance and distance from how my food is made to get over how horrible industrial farming is and how brutal life can be for livestock. They'll wonder how we were able to tolerate such brutality and all the answers come back to either 'out of sight, out of mind' or 'it's tasty'.

unchocked(10000) 1 day ago [-]

All of the sudden - I get it. These co's are dealing with a really shitty, commodified form of beef that they'd love to develop an alternative to. So the immediate benefit is they get to serve vegetarians, but the long term is they can transition off their price-above-all meat supply chain.

redisman(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Kind of a win-win-win. Companies like it if they can just press soy or peas and fats into patties, environment likes having less bottom of the barrel meat farms, animal welfare is better at the high end farms, maybe the veg patties are a bit healthier(?).

sf_rob(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I must be vague, but my friend works at a fast food chain's corporate office and said that their strategy team was the one pushing for alternative meats for supply chain alternatives more than dietary preferences.

swyx(10000) 1 day ago [-]

what prevented you from getting it before? this seems like it was the explicit goal of the meat substitute companies for forever

chovybizzass(10000) 1 day ago [-]

if they slip that shit in their food without telling us I will be very upset.

thomasfromcdnjs(10000) about 22 hours ago [-]

What I think is worse.

Is that they call it 'meat'.

People who aren't that switched on will start eating it, when there is no proof it is actually good for you.

I'd like to see a 10-20 year study before we just accept that Beyond Meat is actually good for long term health.

Supermarkets are putting this stuff in the 'meat' section too.

Poor old person who can barely see that actually needs real tried and test nutrition.

Kind of evil if you ask me but that is why this comment is at the very bottom.

umvi(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Impossible meat with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, etc., tastes just like a beef burger to me. If impossible patties were cheaper than beef patties at the supermarket I would definitely buy them.

psychometry(10000) 1 day ago [-]

There's huge variance in prices where I live. Some grocery stores sell a pack of two for about $5. If you were buying sustainable beef from humanely-raised cattle you'd probably be paying that much, too.

cptskippy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Rather than trying to encourage people to substitute the ingredients in their meals, I wish we'd encourage more healthy habits and work life balance.

So many people are either pressed for time or incapable of preparing a decent meal. If they aren't ordering takeout, they're falling back on boxed or prepared options.

Simply substituting fake meat for real meat isn't improving anyone's lives.

guerrilla(10000) about 19 hours ago [-]

> Simply substituting fake meat for real meat isn't improving anyone's lives.

This seems like a really impractical position. I'd rather we succeed than fantasize.

barbs(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Can't we do both?

notyourwork(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>Simply substituting fake meat for real meat isn't improving anyone's lives.

Is the goal improving lives or solving a supply chain problem in a scalable fashion?

arduinomancer(10000) 1 day ago [-]

You don't think less factory-farming is a good thing?

hahahahe(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I agree 100%. We need to eat more natural food. Farm our own. In that sense, I think ag tech will be a big disrupter in the next decade.

eatwater123(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Improving cow's lives though :)

thorin(10000) about 17 hours ago [-]

I'm not sure about these companies, in terms of getting massive uptake of meat alternatives they seem fine. However their product is heavily processed food, with ingredients you don't really need to be eating and massively marked up in prices. Other than marketing, what are you really gaining over a 3rd world diet of rice and beans/lentils.

Hey you could even prepare your own dinner from a selection of fresh vegetables and fruit (and if you're feeling absolutely crazy you could add a few eggs, milk, meat, fish or grains).

This seems like it solves a couple of problems and ignores/creates a whole load more. People who are content eating all their meals from McDonalds etc have their own issues, most of which can't be fixed by meat substitues.

whywhywhywhy(10000) about 16 hours ago [-]

>what are you really gaining over a 3rd world diet of rice and beans/lentils.

The working class doesn't want to eat beans/lentils they want to eat McDonalds and Taco Bell. This way we can swap out the meat and force them to eat meat substitute for the supposed greater good and eventually save money and the environment while we do it.

They're already being sold turkey meat when they order pork in some stores (Subway in particular does this) so what does it matter if it's just all switched out for artificial meat.

superkuh(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I wish companies were not able to label and sell these textured vegetable proteins as 'meat'. They are great products but they are not meat and as scale increases and they become less expensive than meat there will be strong commercial profit motives to replace real meat with '* meat' for monetary reasons.

I'd strongly prefer for increased funding to isolated tissue culture methods. That way we could have real meat without the environmental or ethical issues.

ausbah(10000) 1 day ago [-]

there was a small push by the meat lobby to do exactly that a couple years ago [1]

I think it's a silly form of regulation. there are plenty of non-milk milk products, or 'fruit flavor' things that don't have any fruit


p1necone(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I've never seen plant based meat labelled in a way that could trick a reasonable person into thinking it was animal meat.

I don't see what you'd gain from not allowing the word 'meat' to be used - it's very clearly a product that's trying to imitate various kinds of animal meat, and I want that communicated to me efficiently.

leereeves(10000) 1 day ago [-]

On a somewhat related topic, has anyone seen any information about how well the Impossible Whopper is selling?

silicon2401(10000) 1 day ago [-]

In hopes of boosting the Impossible Whopper, it's the first thing I've eaten from BK that I've enjoyed in over a decade. No hyperbole, it just tastes good whereas to my taste, the rest of BK food tastes pretty dismal.

TaylorAlexander(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't have that data, but I have an anecdote.

I buy them about 4 times a week on my way to work (its a really convenient stop and I don't get fries, cheese, or mayo with it).

When they were new, they would sometimes be out of stock. But I haven't encountered that in probably six month or more. They really seem to be fully supporting the product. So hopefully that means they're selling pretty well!

tssva(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I have never tried Beyond Meat and maybe I should give it a try but I am hesitant because of my experience with Impossible burgers. Obviously they must taste similar to meat and be tasty to the majority of people, but to me they taste nothing like meat and are quite disgusting. I know a few others that have the same reaction while most people at worse seem to think they taste like a low quality burger. I wonder what is in them that causes some like myself to have such a negative reaction to them and how large that percentage of people is.

dec0dedab0de(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I don't think they taste like meat, but i think they're both pretty good.

pdx6(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Impossible burger tastes like it is engineered. It isn't terrible but in San Francisco, it isn't any less expensive at a typical non-chain burger joint. I also had digestive issues, though I have only had it once so I can't claim it was the IB.

Veggie burgers just seem like a healthier, more delicious option, and a known quantity if I want to skip the beef.

grecy(10000) 1 day ago [-]

and yet their stock price is down..... this market is hard to read!

headmelted(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I would think this was less correlated as it's only a contract for supply.

In any case McDonalds isn't selling a co-branded Beyond Meat product, they're selling the McPlant. Beyond Meat's moat looks very shaky here.

It seems likely that Beyond Meat is only getting these contracts as it's a relatively cheap way for McDonalds to test the substitute market before producing their own alternatives. It makes no business sense for them to hand over the core of their product to BM when it's likely they can create something similar in-house.

aphextron(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>and yet their stock price is down..... this market is hard to read!

Stocks don't just magically go up forever on good news. They've run a loss for the last 4 years in a row, and they've missed their last two earnings by more than half. They're already massively overvalued as it is.

xnx(10000) 1 day ago [-]

I believe this good-news press release was timed to counter the narrative around their unfavorable earnings report.

ksec(10000) 1 day ago [-]

>market is hard to read!

The stock market guidelines has been the same for a very, very long time.

Shares collapse on bad news, fall on good news, and rise on no news.

bradgessler(10000) about 24 hours ago [-]

Have you ever eaten a burger at McDonald's and thought, "wow! This beef is juicy, sweet, succulent, and delicious!"? Probably never, so it's great to see these plant based alternatives that taste "just as good" become available.

There will always be demand for high quality beef, chicken, and pork ... and no substitute either.

ghayes(10000) about 23 hours ago [-]

While I largely agree, I would argue there might be a tipping point where people eat so little animal-based meat that the majority of people become vegetarian, and then the norms shift such that traditional meat is treated like we currently treat fois gras.

Black101(10000) 1 day ago [-]

And their stock dropped 5% today.... good time to buy!

hahahahe(10000) 1 day ago [-]

This was already discussed last week and it was essentially a PR stunt.

Historical Discussions: Judge in Google case disturbed that 'incognito' users are tracked (February 26, 2021: 925 points)

(925) Judge in Google case disturbed that 'incognito' users are tracked

925 points 5 days ago by johncena33 in 10000th position

www.bnnbloomberg.ca | Estimated reading time – 3 minutes | comments | anchor

When Google users browse in "Incognito" mode, just how hidden is their activity? The Alphabet Inc. unit says activating the stealth mode in Chrome, or "private browsing" in other browsers, means the company won't "remember your activity." But a judge with a history of taking Silicon Valley giants to task about their data collection raised doubts Thursday about whether Google is being as forthright as it needs to be about the personal information it's collecting from users.

At a hearing Thursday in San Jose, California, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh said she's "disturbed" by Google's data collection practices in a class-action lawsuit that describes the company's private browsing promises as a "ruse" and seeks US$5,000 in damages for each of the millions of people whose privacy has been compromised since June of 2016.

Weighing Google's attempt to get the suit dismissed, Koh said she finds it "unusual" that the company would make the "extra effort" of data collection if it doesn't use the information to build user profiles or targeted advertising. Google has become a target of antitrust complaints in the last year filed by state and federal officials -- as well as businesses -- accusing it of abusing its dominance in digital advertising and online search. Koh has a deeper history with the company as a vocal critic of its privacy policies. She forced Google in one notable case to disclose its scanning of emails to build profiles and target advertising.

In this case, Google is accused of relying on pieces of its code within websites that use its analytics and advertising services to scrape users' supposedly private browsing history and send copies of it to Google's servers. Google makes it seem like private browsing mode gives users more control of their data, Amanda Bonn, a lawyer representing users, told Koh. In reality, "Google is saying there's basically very little you can do to prevent us from collecting your data, and that's what you should assume we're doing," Bonn said.

Andrew Schapiro, a lawyer for Google, argued the company's privacy policy "expressly discloses" its practices. "The data collection at issue is disclosed," he said.Another lawyer for Google, Stephen Broome, said website owners who contract with the company to use its analytics or other services are well aware of the data collection described in the suit.

Broome's attempt to downplay the privacy concerns by pointing out that the federal court system's own website uses Google services ended up backfiring.

The judge demanded an explanation "about what exactly Google does," while voicing concern that visitors to the court's website are unwittingly disclosing information to the company. "I want a declaration from Google on what information they're collecting on users to the court's website, and what that's used for," Koh told the company's lawyers. The case is Brown v. Google, 20-cv-03664, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

All Comments: [-] | anchor

staticassertion(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I honestly think that the term 'tracking' is too benign. If I followed someone around, taking notes on them as I went, so that I could try to sell them something, I would be called a stalker.

But do it online and it's just 'tracking'.

yesenadam(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> If I followed someone around, taking notes on them as I went, so that I could try to sell them something

Well, stalking sounds like you're driven by some strong emotion or crazy plan. This sounds more like a private detective/investigator doing surveillance, or a 'social engineer' – itself an even more over-benign term – exploiting people to get what they want.

cirenehc(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Because in one case the target is the individual. The other case your data gets aggregated and sold as bulk in the form of ad impressions (tracking).

A better comparison would be, the gov uses your census data to mail you flyers.

5tefan(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Tracking should be illegal. I see it that simple.

smartician(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Can you define 'tracking'?

rdiddly(10000) 5 days ago [-]

My own comment deeper in the tree made me realize something, so I'm restating it at the top level. Basically the central misconception here, that Google is more than happy to leave unclear, is that Incognito Mode has ever been incognito. The only party not gathering data about your 'incognito' browsing is you, i.e. the only party to whom that browsing is incognito (unknown), is you. (Oh and anyone who were to use your computer and your login to view your browsing history; that's the flimsy pretext that prevents it from being a complete lie.)

In my other comment I joked that since you're basically wandering around forgetting where you've been, it should be called Forgetful Mode, and the icon should be, instead of a spy, an old man hunched over with a cane and little dots and curliques surrounding his head indicating a diffuse cognitive state. He doesn't remember where he's been! But don't worry, his caretakers will remember.

Nemo_bis(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Excellent point. Maybe 'Goldfish mode' might work too.

ocdtrekkie(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Broome's attempt to downplay the privacy concerns by pointing out that the federal court system's own website uses Google services ended up backfiring.

I'm amazed Google's lawyer was amateur hour enough to go with an 'everyone does it' approach here. He proved Google is a monopoly and that the court using their services poses a risk to the public.

jessaustin(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Not only that, but he identified 'website owners' (more properly this would have been 'some website administrators') as the parties aware of the situation. This is a completely different group from website visitors, whose interests are often completely opposed. By framing it this way he was admitting a problem no matter what the court's site does.

kop316(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Unless I am reading this incorrectly, I think this paragraph better summerizes the article versus the headline:

'In this case, Google is accused of relying on pieces of its code within websites that use its analytics and advertising services to scrape users' supposedly private browsing history and send copies of it to Google's servers. Google makes it seem like private browsing mode gives users more control of their data, Amanda Bonn, a lawyer representing users, told Koh. In reality, "Google is saying there's basically very little you can do to prevent us from collecting your data, and that's what you should assume we're doing," Bonn said.'

It doesn't seem like the complaint is that Chrome collects data on you in 'Incognito' mode, rather that websites (e.g. Google Analytics) still collect on you in 'Incognito' mode.

Blikkentrekker(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Going incognito on Chromium still gives a warning that it does little for website tracking and purely does not save browsing history.

So one can browse the finest pornography[1] without one's cohabitants finding out.

[1] https://nhentai.net/g/335688/3/

cptskippy(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think the question then becomes, is Google able to tie your Incongnito activity back to your regular activity?

darth_avocado(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why is this a surprising thing? The only thing incognito mode does is that your browser doesn't remember what you surfed on the internet, pretty much everything else is fair game. Your ISPs know what you're upto, adtech is so advanced that they can still track you purely based on your IP, all the websites pretty much know who you are (if you've visited them before) even if you don't log in, why is it so surprising?

zelon88(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The problem is that Google stands on both sides of this relationship. With Firefox there are borders around where your browser ends and the sites you visit begin.

Google has been blurring that line between browser and content ever since single sign on in Chrome 69. I think it's a fair exercise to explore the relationship between Chrome and Google services just because they put themselves in this position for a reason. We deserve to know what that reason is. I don't trust Google at their word.

With Firefox there's no question because Mozilla lacks the ability to leverage anything they might incidentally collect in private browsing. Google does have that ability and we should know if they are abusing it.

If you asked Google employees and Google fans if they thought Google was reading their Gmail for advertising they'd probably roll their eyes at you. And alas they turned out to be mistaken.

robteix(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> It doesn't seem like the complaint is that Chrome collects data on you in 'Incognito' mode, rather that websites (e.g. Google Analytics) still collect on you in 'Incognito' mode.

Isn't that a distinction without a difference though? It's not Chrome, it's Google Analytics. It's all Google in the end, isn't it?

nsgi(10000) 5 days ago [-]

How can there be a reasonable expectation that websites won't track users in incognito mode when browsers don't give websites that information (unless the website works it out in a backwards way)?

woah(10000) 5 days ago [-]

That's a pretty vague and ultimately meaningless distinction. You use a Google product that says it's not going to track you, and then it tracks you and sends your data to Google's servers.

The fact that the link to Google's servers is on 'other websites' doesn't really change the basic reality of what is happening.

eschulz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Upon opening an Incognito tab, Chrome warns you that your activity might be visible to websites that you visit. I'm sure Google's attorneys are aware of this.

PastaMonster(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The problem is that google refuse to fix bugs that allow fingerprinting. Those bugs can be years old!! This is why we need laws that force devs to fix privacy and security bugs or pay HUGE!!! fines. Hit them where it hurts. If each unfixed bug costs them 25% of the company's total worth per MONTH while it remains unfixed I bet they will fix them very fast. The dev tools window is still detectable by malicious javascript on sites. That stops and hides when the dev tools window is detected. I am certain google use that detection for their malicious behavior too. Why else drag their feet? They are hypocritical. First they are anal-retentive about security and on the other hand they ignore bugs for years.

Not to mention the double standard google have. Long ago they fixed chrome to detect auto-installed extensions when you installed other software and yet google is doing the same bloody thing themselves. Try it yourself on a fresh new profile and check the extension page and the extension folder. Extensions are auto installed without permission. Manually removing them doesn't work either. They will be reinstalled.

Edit: Speaking the truth will get you down voted. It's hilarious people down vote instead of coming with a counter argument. Perhaps they are so annoyed because they can't make a legitimate excuse for that nasty malicious behavior.

onlyrealcuzzo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Wasn't Incognito pretty much built so you could go to PornHub without every time you type P in your address bar it shows everyone looking at your screen what kind of porn you're into?

Did Incognito give anyone any indication that it was somehow making you untrackable? It just meant that the browser itself wasn't storing what you were doing.

ehnto(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I would agree. It's an interesting position to be put in. I think most of us in tech can see the technical separation between the two bits of software, and likely feel like Google Chrome is not responsible for Google Analytic's actions, but I wonder if the court will see it that way. I think it's not an unreasonable take that if a user has let Google know it doesn't want to be tracked, that Google shouldn't track them with any of the technology they have.

GeneralMayhem(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Right. Open up an incognito window right now, and you'll see, in plain English, front and center:

>Your activity might still be visible to websites you visit.

The error here is in treating all of Google and all of data as monoliths. The first paragraph of the article makes this... let's be generous and call it an honest mistake:

> The Alphabet Inc. unit says activating the stealth mode in Chrome, or "private browsing" in other browsers, means the company won't "remember your activity."

Yeah, I doubt anyone from Google says that, which is why they had to use phrases instead of sentences in quotes. Chrome won't remember your activity. That doesn't mean Google won't if they know who you are for some other reason.

andjd(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I mean, it's all Google, right? If Google analytics is de-anonymizing you in incognito mode, does it matter if Google build a back door into Chrome, or whether they just didn't develop patches in Chrome to plug whatever workaround it's own tool was using?

Furthermore, wouldn't a reasonable person expect when a company offers a product with a privacy feature, that at the very least it would provide privacy from trackers that the very same company controls?

macksd(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Yeah Google warns you when you enable Incognito mode that it's about Chrome won't store, and specifically says website's can still track you.

I think the complaint is that in this case, Google wrote the code that is commonly used to do both. I think the lawyer is arguing that since Google gives the option in one product, they should honor it in the other. Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about that argument, but it reminds me of the character Ned from 17 Again: 'I wrote the software the prevents people from stealing music. Of course, I also wrote the software that helps people steal music...' Selling weapons to both sides and all that.

buttersbrian(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I get the complaint, when the browser and analytics stack are both Google.

But what if the browser is Incognito Chrome, and the analytics is another company, say Adobe? Does the browser industry need a universal way to signal browsing is in 'incognito' and then all analytics and tracking software MUST adhere to that, or what?

marricks(10000) 5 days ago [-]

People often defend companies with explanations of how the world is, when common folk often expect (or just want) the world to behave differently.

Is it unreasonable to want, or even expect, an incognito window to disable all forms of tracking?

Wouldn't the world be far better if a phone alerted me to an app scanning my local area network or contacts? Or if I got warnings when it took such actions?

I think us tech folks need to, collectively, stop defending companies reasoning and explanations for the world they created, and start standing with and for a world which matches common folks expectations. It really seems like a better world.


EDIT: Ask what the layperson would think tracking is! Imagining the answer is pretty simple 'a website [or the web at large] learning or remembering anything about me.' If we start from there, rather than the mumbo-jumbo thrown at us, we can make progress.

themacguffinman(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why don't you ask the layperson what they think Chrome's Incognito mode is for? The answer I imagine is also pretty simple: 'hide my porn habits from my family or friends'. It's what everyone I know expects and what I expect, and that's what Incognito does. If anything, it's the tech folks who get hung up on what 'tracking' means.

glitchc(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Upton Sinclair is why you see this behaviour. Google pays well, very well indeed.

jka(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You might enjoy this article about 'positive' and 'negative' definitions of liberty (and discussion about whether a a clear division like that really exists) from Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/liberty-positive-negative...

titzer(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Well said! We're so deep in the details that we can't see that every long-winded explanation sounds like total BS to regular people but is really just a subconscious apology.

jeffbee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The problem is that 'tracking' has no meaning, unless you are trying to align the wheels on a car. It has no definition in the language, no definition as industry jargon, and definitely no definition in the law.

cmiles74(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I would say that, yes, no one wants 'incognito' or 'private browsing' to prevent any kind of tracking. Wouldn't this render the majority of websites useless? The average person is probably looking for something that allows tracking of some information by sites they deliberately want to use but not as much (or at all) for third party websites. Except third party sites that they use to log into sites that they want use. And so on.

Neither of these features is meant to address the use-case you outline: browsing the internet free of tracking. I do think there is a market for such a mode, but both 'incognito' and 'private browsing' are meant to hide your activity from _the physical computer you are using._ You would want to use this mode if you are using a shared computer, like in a library or a computer lab.

ggggtez(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Is it unreasonable to want, or even expect, an incognito window to disable all forms of tracking?

> Ask what the layperson would think tracking is!

No. No no no no no. There is a serious problem with this line of thinking. Lay people cannot dictate how technology must work. Because they don't understand what is possible.

This post is like the famous quote from that Australian politician

> The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia

It's simply not appropriate to assume that just because a lay person wants something to be true, that it must somehow be possible to actually do.

PragmaticPulp(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Is it unreasonable to want, or even expect, an incognito window to disable all forms of tracking?

'Tracking' is a nebulous term. If a company records your visit in their logs, is that tracking? If they increment a counter every time someone visits a page, is that tracking? If a user logs in under Incognito Mode and the site records their new last login IP and timestamp, is that tracking? These questions would have sounded facetious years ago, but now nearly every form of user tracking has come under scrutiny.

The common confusion is that Incognito mode isn't equivalent to using Tor or a VPN. For 99% of cases, that doesn't really matter. Explaining the distinction to the average user is a challenge, though.

> Wouldn't the world be far better if a phone alerted me to an app scanning my local area network or contacts? Or if I got warnings when it took such actions?

Modern phone OSes will ask for permission if an app wants to access your local network, your contacts, or your photos. That's not the concern here, though.

hvis(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I wonder if this could be the case where Chrome's dominant position would bite Google in the ass.

Because if you're just a website, you do what you can with the information provided to you by the user agent (browser).

But if you're also the browser manufacturer which provides an 'incognito' option, and your other (main) property explicitly goes around it as much as it can... that smells bad.

damagednoob(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think people are conflating Chrome and Google Search. A better example is Chrome and Facebook. Chrome Incognito can appear as an anonymous user but how is Chrome supposed to prevent Facebook from storing ip addresses and clicks?

nathanfig(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Man. So many comments responding with more descriptions of the world tech companies created. Fascinating how much even us tech folk don't realize how much of our work environment is subject to design.

MattGaiser(10000) 5 days ago [-]

> Is it unreasonable to want, or even expect, an incognito window to disable all forms of tracking?

Yes, because the product explicitly says it does not do that.

Your activity might still be visible to:

- Websites you visit

- Your employer or school

- Your internet service provider

SilasX(10000) 5 days ago [-]

>Is it unreasonable to want, or even expect, an incognito window to disable all forms of tracking?

No, because incognito doesn't have power over what sites do with request data.

As for the layperson, I think they hold the (reasonable) model that an incognito session is just like using a burner phone that you throw away after: it creates a dummy identity separate from your normal one. So at worst, the places you call can compare notes and see that the same number called both of them, and they might also secretly log or record the calls. A burner phone doesn't prevent any of that, and neither would incognito (prevent the analog of).

However, if the phone companies somehow learned which people bought which burner phones, and shared their 'normal' info with anyone who asked about a particular burner phone, then yes, that would break the expectation/agreement, and it sounds like Google does something similar to that.

boredumb(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Incognito is simply a poor name for this as it infers the identity is being concealed. Should be something more along the lines of 'unaccounted' or 'unrecorded' even 'off-the-record'.

If I go incognito I expect my identity to be concealed, if I am unrecorded I expect my identity to be obvious but for a trail of my actions to be off-the-record.

jeffbee(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Er, you are saying that it should do something other than what it does, and then also be called something else. Incognito perfectly describes what it actually does today.

jacquesm(10000) 5 days ago [-]

As he should be. It's not about what Google is able to do, it is all about what they should be allowed to do and clearly they are disrespecting users wishes in spite of pretty explicit signals.

jessaustin(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Judge Lucy Koh prefers the pronoun 'she'.

freyir(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Dumb question: Do browsers actually notify websites when the user is in incognito mode?

Or is it just presenting the user as a blank state with no cookies or other local season data?

I've always assumed the latter. So I've never assumed any implicit agreement that websites would turn off logging when I showed up in incognito mode.

gundmc(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Websites aren't supposed to be able to tell when a user is in incognito. That hasn't stopped them in the past though. Ever notice some news sites with N free articles per month would refuse to load if you were in Incognito?

It has been a cat and mouse back and forth between these site operators finding ways to detect incognito sessions and browser developers fixing them. They've had some creative methods in the past like inspecting the size and availability of the local storage.

estebarb(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I'm concerned that judges make statements about topics they are clearly not prepared to do so. In how many areas they intervene without proper knowledge?

Incognito was always a way to avoid storing visits and sessions locally (mostly for... Prevent family to see your Christmas gifts).

gowld(10000) 5 days ago [-]

The judge didn't 'make statements about topics they are clearly not prepared to do so'. The judge asked the party on court to explain the topic.

yawaworht1978(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Indeed it would be good to know what incognito sees and what it does not. If I look for a google query in incognito more, I get prompted with a consent pop up.

Look like it does not see you oauth accounts, search queries are not saved, there is no history logged but you can go back in browser history.

I have simply started using opera with the integrated vpn. It is good enough for my browsing.

Also sites like airbnb and skyscanner kinda force you to accept cookies. Tested results back and forth.they They def know who you are. Only solution so far is vpn.

samstave(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Can you point me to opera with VPN tut?

boringg(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Maybe but afaik Opera is owned in China.

twodave(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I hate tracking as much as the next person, but a simple reading of the 'You've gone incognito' screen ought to make obvious that its primary purpose is to hide your activity from others who use the same device. It's literally written on the first line:

'Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won't see your activity.'

It goes on to list other technical specifics about what is not saved, but those are pretty much just sub-points. I'm not sure it's fair to expect Incognito to do something it's not meant to do.

knjmooney(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Why not say,

'Now other people who use this device won't see your activity.'

What does the bit before the 'and' mean?

gowld(10000) 5 days ago [-]


'you can browse privately, and'


'you can browse privately, in the sense that'

What does a user think browse privately means? Do they think it means 'your browsing is shared with third-party data brokers that aren't displayed in the UI at all and you might not know exists?

It's one thing to say 'well obviously we can't control what you choose to do with foobar.com'; it's another to say, 'the same legal person who told you 'you can browse privately' is buying your browsing data from foobar.com'.

MrOxiMoron(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Fun story, if you have a Gmail account and share it with many people. Gmail won't like it people logging in from a lot of different places... except when in incognito mode, then you can login without issue.

rrmm(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think this is a difference between what someone who knows what's going on under the hood understands the disclaimer to mean, and what other/most people understand it.

The disclaimer put front and center is designed to tell you exactly what is going on. But, I'm not at all surprised that most people assume incognito/private modes provide far more protection than they actually do.

This is a fairly difficult and important technical communication problem: To make sure that most people after reading something understand what is meant. It's why you end up with all those really stupid sounding disclaimers on various products not do stupid things that seem obvious not to do.

evmar(10000) 5 days ago [-]

(I worked on Chrome.) I remember struggling over how to word this page. At a technical level Chrome the program can only control what it itself does, which is also what the page promises. Unfortunately despite that the result is still confusing to users (and judges, it appears).

newsbinator(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I find it's the reverse:

'You've gone incognito' doesn't mean what it says on the tin.

It means 'You've gone incognito... from other users of this computer, not from us. From us you're still plenty cognito.'

tiborsaas(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I learned it the hard way that Chrome adds DNT headers in incognito mode. I naively tried to debug a Mixpanel issue in incognito mode since I use a few privacy extensions in normal mode. I got a little mad that my code was still not working then I realized that everything is fine, tracking is blocked thanks to DNT this time :)

wildrhythms(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Chrome does not add DNT in incognito or otherwise unless you enable the switch explicitly in chrome://settings and acknowledge the warning. You can check this yourself, open any incognito window and check the request header source in dev tools.

gerash(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Next: Judge disturbed by the fact that Verizon still sees what number you called when you use a throw away phone.

I don't get why on HN such clickbait articles get upvoted to the front page.

AlexandrB(10000) 5 days ago [-]

A lot of people are replying to point out that this demonstrates the judge is technically illiterate like that's a bad thing. I think it's a good thing. This is how a normal person perceives this feature and the fact that it doesn't work as advertised is a failure of communication, implementation, or both. In my experience most technically illiterate people, when common tracking techniques are explained to them, are appalled and creeped out. There's a growing disconnect between what we in the industry consider acceptable and what the non-technical public would consider acceptable.

And yes, it's especially galling that when you use one Google product in a mode that's supposed to be private another Google product still tracks you.

pb7(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Heavy bias against Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

boredumb(10000) 5 days ago [-]

''Number concealing' phone only conceals the number you're calling from, from the 'Number concealing' phone itself'

CameronNemo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It could be an important case, and it demonstrates how technically illiterate judges are.

jeroenhd(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I think it's quite valuable to know how technically illiterate the judge is in a case that could have very real effects on the employment of people visiting these websites.

Tracking, trading of personal information and profiling are very important topics in computer ethics but when these topics hit the courts, the judge can get hung up by just the wording of the incognito mode, which, as we all know, opens with a page that explicitly states, in non-technical terms so as many people as possible can understand, that this information will still be collected.

All of the well thought-out narratives on these topics can be worthless when a judge bans a practice because they didn't read the instructions when they opened incognito mode.

mdtusz(10000) 5 days ago [-]

It's not a bad thing for these to get posted. If anything, it highlights how technically illiterate the powers that be really are.

It's all too easy to assume that everyone knows what http requests are and how a browser works when working in the tech industry, but the _vast_ majority of the population has no idea whatsoever how the (modern) technology they use and depend on works, on even basic levels.

Most people understand that when you phone someone, it has to go through a telecoms company. For some reason, the internet doesn't have that same understanding and people are still stuck with this idea that browsing to a website is still just a two-party transaction between them and the website they visit.

whoopdedo(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Private-mode browsing has to just go away. It has always been misrepresented about what it does. Even the one, narrow use case it was originally intended for -- hiding browsing history from other users of the computer -- it never did a very good job at. Its continued presence confuses and misleads people, as this article demonstrates. I imagine the only reason it sticks around is so developers don't have to face the 'bad optics' of removing a so-called privacy feature.

recursive(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I use it regularly. I find it extremely useful to repeat a request without any initial cookies. Without permanently removing the cookies I had

Some people probably don't have a use for it, but I'd be amazed if I'm the only one who does.

ggggtez(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Kids today are too young to know that Incognito/Private browsing was invented as a solution to clearing your history/cookies every time you looked at an Adult website so your parents wouldn't find out.

This feature is literally just a way of preventing porn from showing up in your URL autofill when your mom comes to look something up on the computer when you're not around.

jessaustin(10000) 5 days ago [-]

You may have a different impression of 'kids today' than I have...

ksm1717(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Read too quickly and thought I may be getting $5000

jaza(10000) 5 days ago [-]

$5000 * ~7 billion == ~35 trillion. New class action payout world record!

PastaMonster(10000) 5 days ago [-]

Google shot themselves in the foot by being corrupt. Claiming incognito protects you while the google analytics and google's other services can run around collecting your info without any issues. You don't give users a false sense of security. That's how your buildings catch fire, literally. Some do fantasize about doing it. Read enough forums to see that pattern emerging. I'd think that would be a humbling experience if a justified attack was executed on google buildings and server farms all around the planet. I would laugh my ass off from the karma google is getting alone from that. If coordinated correctly no lives will be lost either. Not promoting it, pointing out it's possible.

Companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and facebook needs to be forced to split up. Section 230 is also overdue for a rewrite. The recent example is facebook just blocked news in Australia. Just like that.

anchpop(10000) 5 days ago [-]

I don't think very many people care about online privacy or tracking. People in the HN bubble really overestimate the amount that most people care that some company is giving them targeted ads. We're not anywhere close to the level required for privacy-focused terrorist cells to start forming

Historical Discussions: DigitalOcean S-1 (February 25, 2021: 920 points)

(921) DigitalOcean S-1

921 points 7 days ago by marc__1 in 10000th position

www.sec.gov | Estimated reading time – 4 minutes | comments | anchor

Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property

Any failure to obtain, maintain, protect or enforce our intellectual property and proprietary rights could impair our ability to protect our proprietary technology and brand.

Our success depends to a significant degree on our ability to obtain, maintain, protect and enforce our intellectual property rights. We rely on a combination of trademarks, service marks, trade secrets, patents, copyrights, contractual restrictions, and confidentiality procedures to establish and protect our intellectual and proprietary rights, including in our technology, know-how, and brand. Legal standards relating to intellectual property rights are uncertain, in both the United States and other jurisdictions in which we operate, and protecting, monitoring, and defending our intellectual property rights might entail significant expense. Intellectual property rights that we have or may obtain may be challenged, circumvented, invalidated or held unenforceable. Furthermore, even though we attempt to enter into contractual provisions with third parties to control access to, or the distribution, use, misuse, misappropriation, reverse engineering or disclosure of, our intellectual property or technology, no assurance can be given that these agreements will be sufficient or effective in protecting our intellectual property rights.

Moreover, intellectual property laws, standards, and enforcement mechanisms in foreign countries may be uncertain, may not be as protective of intellectual property rights as those in the United States, or may not be available to us. As we expand our international activities, our exposure to unauthorized copying and use of our products, services, and other intellectual property will likely increase.

Despite our efforts, we may be unable to adequately obtain, maintain, protect, and enforce our intellectual property rights or prevent third parties from infringing upon, misappropriating or otherwise violating our intellectual property rights. If we fail to protect our intellectual property rights adequately, our competitors may gain access to, or be able to replicate, our proprietary technology, products, or services, and our business, financial condition, results of operations or prospects may be harmed. Our attempt to enforce our intellectual property rights, even if successful, could result in costly litigation or diversion of our management's attention and resources, and, as a result, delay sales or the implementation or introduction of our products and platform capabilities, or injure our reputation.

We may become subject to intellectual property claims from third parties, which may subject us to significant liability, increased costs, and impede our ability to operate our business.

Our success depends, in part, on our ability to develop and commercialize our products and services without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating the intellectual property rights of third parties. However, we may not be aware that our products, services, or intellectual property are infringing, misappropriating, or violating third party intellectual property rights. Additionally, the technology industry is characterized by the existence of a large number of patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and other intellectual and proprietary rights. Companies in the industry are often required to defend against litigation claims based on allegations of infringement, misappropriation or other violations of intellectual property rights, and third parties may bring such claims against us. In addition, we may become subject to intellectual property disputes or otherwise subjected to liability for customer content on our platform. In the past, we have been involved in intellectual property disputes regarding our customer's alleged infringement of third party intellectual property. We expect that the occurrence of infringement claims is likely to grow as the market for our platform and products grows.

Lawsuits are time-consuming and expensive to resolve, and they divert management's time and attention, and our technologies or intellectual property may not be able to withstand third party claims against their use. Any intellectual property litigation to which we might become a party, or for which we are required to provide indemnification, may require us to do one or more of the following:

cease selling or using products or services that incorporate the intellectual property rights that we allegedly infringe, misappropriate or violate;


All Comments: [-] | anchor

ivraatiems(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I might have mentioned this before, but DigitalOcean's support is (or was, before I stopped being their customer) absolutely abysmal.

I had a default card set up for auto billing. That card expired. I went to remove the default card -- you cannot remove a default card. Okay. I added a new card and tried to set it as default. It didn't take. (Refreshing the browser reverted the change.)

So I tried another browser, another computer, etc. The change never took. Finally, I contacted their support. It took a ton of back and forth with people who had dubious language comprehension before I finally convinced them anything other than user error was going on... but then, instead of fixing it, they demanded I take a video and upload it for them to prove it was real!

I did, and I paid the invoice manually. The bug was eventually fixed after a month or two, but it was a pain until that happened.

I found another provider who is cheaper for the resources I need and has better customer service by miles. If I can't get you to even take my money in an easy and reliable way, I can't trust you to operate anything I rely on.

oliverjudge(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Out of curiosity where did you move to?

sethammons(10000) 6 days ago [-]

My support issue was that I had a dead box and needed it to be available again. Their system thought it was up, but I could not reach it. There was no live support, just submit a ticket and pray. They need real-time support. I'm fine paying for it. Hell, bill me per minute, but I needed eyes in the issue. Instead of waiting for some unknown time for a support response, I deleted my stuff and rebuilt everything. If this were backing a commercial offering of mine, this would be unacceptable.

wakatime(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Maybe they have support tiers? Every time I created a support ticket I got a response within an hour from a technical person. Their support responds much faster than AWS in my experiences.

nerdbaggy(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Had the same problem, and switched to Linode, much better support. They recently won some support award, not sure if it actually means anything https://www.linode.com/blog/linode/linode-wins-5-stevie-awar...

mattnewton(10000) 7 days ago [-]

A small personal project of mine was flagged as compromised or something and taken down. Support couldn't tell me why, I suspect it had something to do with updating regularly through git? To this day I'll never know though, moved it to an aws ec2 instance.

rvz(10000) 7 days ago [-]

That sounds like a buy signal. I like this stock.

unixhero(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Well it is not listed just yet! What is it a buy signal for?

jtdev(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I was really considering moving from AWS to DO until I noticed this: https://www.digitalocean.com/company/contact/#abuse

So anyone who's offended by content you might host on DO can report your site and some identity politics obsessed bureauocrat decides if you're cancelled or not...? The public cloud has turned into an Orwellian nightmare.

riffic(10000) 6 days ago [-]

you do realize that the folks upstream to DigitalOcean, meaning the ISP and data centers, have their own AUP that DigitalOcean is required to meet in order to be their customer?

Every ISP has an abuse process, this isn't very unique here.

Sebguer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Are you mad about [email protected] emails on Whois lookups, too?

berniemadoff69(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If you are worried about 'offending people', moving away from AWS sounds like a good idea. AWS's 'Acceptable Use Policy' [0] states: You may not use [...] the Services [...] to [...] display [...] content that is [...] offensive.

However, moving to D.O. is a bad idea, because they have virtually the same policies. They can pull the plug if they want to, because it's their service.

[0] https://aws.amazon.com/aup/

1f60c(10000) 6 days ago [-]

From your link:

> Report abuse:


> - DMCA Takedown

> - Trademark Infringement

> - Spam

> - Phishing

> - Malware

> - Botnet

> - Intrusion/exploit attempts (Bruteforce, Scans etc)

> - Child Abuse

> - Violent Threats and Harassment

> - Other

That seems like a reasonable list of stuff I wouldn't want to have my platform be used for, either. Though, one might reasonably take issue with that 'Other' category, but note that--at least in the US--web hosts cannot be forced to host any content they don't want to.

yannoninator(10000) 7 days ago [-]

What is the point of DigitalOcean, Linode etc, when one can use the more reliable big cloud providers GCP/AWS/Azure.

I don't think DO's offerings are strong enough to compete with the big players long term, especially in production.

Seems like an exit for a later acquisition by a bigger company, like Slack with Salesforce.

tyingq(10000) 7 days ago [-]

For many use cases, the included free bandwidth and no 'oops I just spent a lot more than I intended to' features make DO vastly superior to AWS/GCP/Azure.

syshum(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The offerings of DO and others are simpliar

That is the target, AWS you need a math degree to understand the billing and even then you will never know exactly what you will be billed until you are actually billed...

This is not the case with DO and Linode

Sure for a large enterprise that needs that complexity and flexiblity to squeeze every penny out it would not be a good fit

but for SMB work loads, it is great

jsight(10000) 7 days ago [-]

It seems to me that these services are much more cost effective than AWS.

pmorici(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Simpler and less complex?

BasedInfra(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The pie is big enough and also don't think big cloud players and DO are after the same customers.

34% of the web still runs on Wordpress. A lot want somewhere cheap and easy to use with more power than shared hosting.

halfmatthalfcat(10000) 7 days ago [-]

More transparent pricing, faster iteration cycle on new features, easy-to-use cloud UI, developer tooling, etc

rmorey(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I think the value prop is simplicity and customer service. DO/Linode/Vultr offer a way simplified product that's perfect for the long tail of users that don't need all the more advanced aws/gcp features. Plenty of great businesses are already being run on these smaller platforms. And you just have to read one of the GCP account horror stories on here to get the opportunity for better customer service for SMB customers

lbotos(10000) 7 days ago [-]

for some of us, it's a desire to not give Google, Amazon, or Microsoft any money.

The big clouds offer great features, but My 5/mo Linode is fine to run a 3 user matrix server.

(I used to work at Linode, but that didn't sway my desire to avoid the big 3.)

tw04(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Do you think Kia or Toyota (the brand, not the company) have a long term play, or is everyone going to shift to Lexus, Mercedes and BMW?

Not everyone is interested in paying the exhorbitant pricing the big cloud providers charge, regardless of features.

Now they might get acquired by the big boys and run under their existing brands as a low cost alternative. But the services aren't going away. I'm willing to bet the big guys want nothing to do with them though. It'll just eat into their margin.

snarfy(10000) 7 days ago [-]

What's not strong about them? Not everybody needs or wants AWS's 1000+ service offerings. Managed k8s and databases are all most people want.

jnwatson(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The company I work for solely uses DO. It has all the things you might want that won't get you cloud vendor locked. Plus their UI is actually useable, unlike my experience with AWS.

Many SV startups just end up taking their VC investment and handing it to AWS over a period of 18 months.

nowherebeen(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I think it mostly comes down to price (at least for me). They will always have to be cheaper than big cloud providers to stay competitive.

leesalminen(10000) 7 days ago [-]

While I wouldn't use DO et. al. for my production environment (it's on AWS), I've got a handful of ancillary services that don't need the complexity of AWS.

They're so small and inconsequential to the business that I don't want to spend any time thinking about the security risk of keeping them anywhere near production. They don't need access to prod data so why put them in a position where they could potentially allow access to it?

So, for me, the easiest thing was to be put them with a completely different company. Don't have to worry about any potential issues with imitating it on AWS (via additional accounts, different region, etc) which are all prone to human failure over time.

Maybe I've a bad reason, but it works for me and DO gets ~$50/mo from us and I've never considered switching.

Kovah(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Easy setup and maintenance, and reliable pricing. Order a Unix server for $10 per month, 1TB traffic included, and you get a server with fixed hardware specs. If you get more customers, you scale the server and pay a higher price. On AWS and others: spin up a server that costs more in comparision to Digitalocean, and prepare to find costs on your bill you never thought you would have: traffic, permanent storage, logging,...

eljimmy(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I've been using Linode for 7 years now and I've had very little downtime. Pretty reliable in my experience.

Mind you, I'm just hosting a simple website and mail server.

brobdingnagians(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The point is that they aren't GCP/AWS/Azure. I don't want to give more money to Eric Schmidt, Bill Gates, or Jeff Bezos.

Also, GCP/AWS/Azure don't support OpenBSD. There are others who do. I just want a good dedicated server for a good price.

jwr(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I use DO because it's simple and easy. I got tired of dealing with AWS corporate-sized crap, all I want is to spin up several servers using terraform and get work done. They way you can automatically apply firewalling rules to server tags, for example, is exactly what I need.

And don't even mention Azure, where I feel like in a huge maze of mirrors. Nothing is simple, and you waste lots of time on clicking and figuring things out.

So yes, DO has very real value, and I'm glad they exist. The only roughly comparable provider I found was Vultr, which I like quite a bit, too.

mgkimsal(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Doing anything with those big vendors is an absolute headache, and requires a lot of vendor-specific knowledge/experience, which is expensive (and their offerings are generally expensive and/or harder to estimate pricing on).

DO/Linode and others are perfectly fine serving a sizable audience of users who do not need the complexities that those larger vendors offer.

I struggled for days trying to add more disk to an existing ubuntu image on Azure in 2018. Documentation sucked - both what was there and discoverability. Their instructions just... didn't work, the UI was incredibly .... Azure wasn't my choice - client had O365 and their 'IT vendor' had 'credits' on Azure, so... I had to go with Azure... and it was a huge time sink to do some basic stuff that is literally a few clicks with DO and Linode.

Yes, I don't think I can create private VPNs in the cloud with DO - I don't need to for most projects. The level of functionality DO/Linode/etc provide is adequate for a lot of projects, and they are growing their new functionality to serve needs in a way that seems usable by people without needing to be a certified expert in BigVendorCo.

azemetre(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I don't own a business just personal projects, but one reason why I prefer DO over AWS, GCP, and Azure is the billing aspect. With DO I just buy credits and if I go over the limit they cancel my services, I'm fine with that. With AWS I could rack up an insane bill, I'm not fine with that. Notifications about billing is not the same as suspending all services.

This is why I like DO. If other cloud providers do have this please lmk because nothing makes me more nervous than having my personal CC on file with very little retribution as a consumer (I don't want to get banned from all Google services for doing a charge back).

stanmancan(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Simplicity. As a solo dev I find AWS and GCP to be a nightmare. I do t have time to learn either interface, and not doing so is dangerous as not knowing the inner workings can have security or reliability consequences. Just look at all the exposed S3 buckets over the years.

Just picking a VPS from Amazon is an absolute nightmare. All the different levels, with the credit bullshit.

DO I can log in, pick a VPS with the specs I need and be done with it. I don't need to worry about over using it and running out of credits and being throttled and having that to troubleshoot.

DO has been reliable for me, affordable, and incredibly easy to understand and use.

stephenSinniah(10000) 7 days ago [-]

From the risk factors summary:

Implications of Being an Emerging Growth Company

We are an "emerging growth company" as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012, or the JOBS Act. We may take advantage of certain exemptions from various public company reporting requirements, including not being required to have our internal controls over financial reporting audited by our independent registered public accounting firm under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports and proxy statements and exemptions from the requirements of holding a non-binding advisory vote on executive compensation and any golden parachute payments. We may take advantage of these exemptions for up to five years or until we are no longer an emerging growth company, whichever is earlier. In addition, the JOBS Act provides that an "emerging growth company" can delay adopting new or revised accounting standards until those standards apply to private companies. We have elected to take advantage of certain of the reduced disclosure obligations in the registration statement of which this prospectus is a part and may elect to take advantage of other reduced reporting requirements in future filings. As a result, the information that we provide to our stockholders may be different than you might receive from other public reporting companies in which you hold equity interests.

Wow, I didn't know about this. Shouldn't financial reporting always be transparent?

calderarrow(10000) 7 days ago [-]

CPA here.

The short answer is theoretically, yes, but in practice, it's not always practical to have transparent financial reporting.

For context, financial reporting is a tradeoff between cost and effectiveness. Whenever you're reading audited financial statements, you're reading an accounting professional's opinion which would be reasonable given a certain level of constraints. In theory, auditors could audit every facet of an organization and obtain 99.99% assurance, but the financial cost of doing so typically doesn't make sense for the company nor shareholders.

Of the reduced disclosures, the most significant is not having their internal controls audited. For a big company, this is a red flag because the financial accounts are only reasonable if you also have reasonable assurance that there are controls in place to prevent fraud and that they're working effectively.

But for smaller companies where most of the ownership is usually owned by founder-workers, employees, or early investors who are monitoring it on the ground level, there aren't many benefits from increased reporting over internal controls because if they are committing fraud, they'd mostly be defrauding themselves! That, combined with the fact that most early stage companies are already resource-constrained, makes regulators a bit more lenient because they assume investors/employees know what they're getting themselves into.

Now, when a company decides to go public, they need some time to adopt best practices and comply with broader regulations. That takes time, so regulators give them a few years to get the personnel and processes in place without penalizing them. But to cover their bases, they're required to make disclosures like above, so that early investors buying into the IPO know that they won't have similar levels of assurance about the financials for a few years.

paws(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Huh, that's a bit surprising. Can anyone point to examples of what kinds of disclosure obligations are reduced? e.g. liquidation multipliers?

gen220(10000) 7 days ago [-]

From your snippet:

> We may take advantage of these exemptions for up to five years or until we are no longer an emerging growth company, whichever is earlier.

The definition of 'emerging growth company', from https://www.sec.gov/smallbusiness/goingpublic/EGC

> A company qualifies as an emerging growth company if it has total annual gross revenues of less than $1.07 billion during its most recently completed fiscal year and, as of December 8, 2011, had not sold common equity securities under a registration statement. A company continues to be an emerging growth company for the first five fiscal years after it completes an IPO, unless one of the following occurs:

> - its total annual gross revenues are $1.07 billion or more

> - it has issued more than $1 billion in non-convertible debt in the past three years or

> - it becomes a "large accelerated filer," as defined in Exchange Act Rule 12b-2

2020's gross revenue was 318m growing at 50-60m yoy from prior years. So, unless that growth is somehow compounding, the 5 years post-IPO is the most likely outcome.

The biggest implications are relaxed requirements around explaining executive compensation, and that financial control auditing (SOX-compliance) is not required.

It's not necessarily a bad thing for investors, but a trade-off. It means the company can focus more on growth and less elsewhere.

dukeofdoom(10000) 7 days ago [-]

So how does one buy ipo shares? One of my resolutions for this year was to buy shares in companies I do business with.

sithlord(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Be a giant investor, ie a bank. IPOs are there for banks to be able to buy up shares at a low price, then dump it when retail investors get their turn to run it up before banks sell off.

sct202(10000) 7 days ago [-]

You can sometimes buy pre-ipo shares on EquityZen or similar platforms if you meet certain standards. It's all very thinly offered though, and sometimes they bundle offers.

Havoc(10000) 7 days ago [-]

They allocate chunks to the big brokerages and you can apply for a piece. Think you need to meet sophisticated investor criteria tho

pqdbr(10000) 6 days ago [-]

If someone from DigitalOcean is reading this, PLEASE, we need a datacenter in Brazil.

toast0(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Brazil is really expensive to operate in. A DC in Miami would reduce latency noticably, but should be reasonable costwise.

gizmo(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Excellent growth, fair margins. Probably worth about $3bn. If it IPOs at less than $5bn it's probably worth picking up. Long term digitalocean will struggle to maintain its margins when competing with Azure and AWS on one side, and Cloudflare edge computing on the other side, so I don't think it can command the same kind of premium we've seen from other tech IPOs.

A big red flag is that 570,000 customers bring in only 357m in rev. That's $50 a month for the average customer. That's way too low.

lapnitnelav(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Hello, I'm the $50 / month customer.

Not an internet business per say, mostly used in the context of processing and storing data + internal apps.

Do is great value, although not the cheapest. They need to double down on the useful items, maybe go a bit offroad in what they offer, lest they might be a in rough spot.

jermaustin1(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> That's $50 a month for the average customer. That's way too low.

I vaguely remember a talk I had with an employee there was a time when I think the average user was paying only $20/mo, which at the time, I had a $250-500/mo bill depending on load.

This was before they even had a load balancer product (so 2012-2013-ish?), and I was running a fairly unsuccessful managed WordPress offering that had dynamic scaling based on the reported metrics.

The infrastructure was just a big server for MySql, and a tiny server for the orchestrator. Then it would use the DO API to spin up new servers off a snapshot, ssh into them, and run the setup script to point to the right Wordpress instance in the database, then add it to the nginx reverse proxy list for the domain.

The whole thing could scale up or down in 30 seconds. Sure it isn't as fast as AWS or Azure could scale, but we were in control, in code, before containerizing was even really a thing.

bklyn11201(10000) 6 days ago [-]

A newsletter about SAAS called CloudedJudgement sent this in January:

> SaaS businesses are valued on a multiple of their revenue - in most cases the projected revenue for the next 12 months. Multiples shown below are calculated by taking the Enterprise Value (market cap + debt - cash) / NTM revenue. In the buckets below I consider high growth >30% projected NTM growth, mid growth 15%-30% and low growth <15%

So if DO is mid growth, you could use 17x as the EV / NTM multiple. So if 2021 revenue will be 320mm + 25% = 397mm NTM * 17x = 6749mm EV.

Total debt is 263mm so best (rough) guess at equity market cap is 6749mm - 263mm debt + 100mm cash

jakelazaroff(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I wonder what the distribution of revenue per customer looks like. I bet (hope?) that at the low end there are a lot of consumers who set up a $5 droplet to tinker around for a few months without doing much more, and that the revenue figures are propped up by a small group of bigger customers spending much more.

nly(10000) 7 days ago [-]

$50 seems pretty good when you can get a $5 droplet.

staysaasy(10000) 7 days ago [-]

In today's frothy market, do you think that they'd only be at $3B? Not baiting at all, I'm curious on how you'd break this down as it's always an arcane art.

I mainly wonder as companies like C3.ai are above a $10B market cap on 50% or less of DO's revenue. And C3 (just to extend the example) is carrying lower margin services revenue as well. Growth is somewhat different, granted.

Thaxll(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Because DO is not used in enterprise, there is no reasons to use DO at work when you can use all other cloud providers.

archon810(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They raised money over the past several years at over $10bln valuation, there's no way they're going to debut at $3bln.

fasteo(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I saw this as an advantage though. They do not have whale customers bringing a significant % of their revenue. I see lower risk here

'Our average revenue per customer (which we refer to as ARPU) has increased significantly, from $35.97 in 2018 to $40.16 in 2019 to $47.78 in 2020. We have no material customer concentration as our top 25 customers made up 11%, 10% and 9% of our revenue in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively.'

halfmatthalfcat(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I love DigitalOcean. The simplicity of their UI, friendly CLI tooling and (as a hosted k8s customer) the frequency of updates to their offerings.


1. Their web UI stability is terrible (constantly hangs and errors out)

2. Their hosted DB IOPS aren't competitive with other PaaS providers. There's also no way to scale DB size dynamically without upgrading to a new price tier which is overkill.

3. Their Kubernetes Control Plane scaling is obfuscated. I had to contact support to realize that the control plane nodes are somehow tied to the size of your node pool when you create the cluster? That's not documented anywhere and was the cause of many control plane timeouts.

4. No ALIAS dns record, no way to serve Spaces from an apex domain. (I know this is a vendor specific implementation but it's table stakes imo)

Again, I'm a (mostly) happy DO customer and wish them the best but if they really want to be seen on the same level as AWS or GCP in terms of some parity, they need to include some of these QoL features.

nerdbaggy(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Their support is also very lacking, multi thousand a month spend with them buy tickets still take hours. But support seems the hardest thing to scale especially with the number of tickets they get about things not their fault.

sdflhasjd(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I actually think their UI is too form over function. One particular annoyance I had recently was with the DNS zone editor.

It truncates both the record contents and the domain name, which means that if you've got a bunch of long domains with TXT records, telling them apart means copying the contents into a text editor to see the truncated text.


  somekey._dkim.subdomaina.domain.com     k=rsa; t=s; p=MIGfAAAA
  somekey._dkim.subdomainb.domain.com     k=rsa; t=s; p=MIGfBBBB
  somekey._dkim.subdomainc.domain.com     k=rsa; t=s; p=MIGfAAAA
getting truncated down to

  somekey._dkim.subdo...     k=rsa; t=s; p=MI...
  somekey._dkim.subdo...     k=rsa; t=s; p=MI...
  somekey._dkim.subdo...     k=rsa; t=s; p=MI...
Compared to AWS, which is visually unappealing, but I can actually see my DNS records....
jandrese(10000) 6 days ago [-]

5. Their IPv6 support is pants on head.


Yes, you read that right, they assign a /124 if you enable IPv6. There is no provision for getting anything larger. All configuration is totally static as well. It's really incredible how botched the setup is, and it has been like this for years.

If you're wondering if you're sharing the same /64 with an entire datacenter worth of droplets, the answer is of course.

wakatime(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Nothing is perfect. We use DigitalOcean Droplets because they're more bang-for-buck than AWS EC2 instances, especially if you're doing a lot of disk IO. However, even though it's more expensive we use AWS S3 instead of DigitalOcean Spaces because it's faster, more reliable, and replicated automatically. I wrote about these decisions recently here:


invisiblea(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I'm _really_ disappointed with the managed DB service. The '75 simultaneous connections per gigabyte of usable memory' limitation means cost wise it's cheaper just to spin up a 'real' database droplet.

jiofih(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Not being on the same level of feature parity with AWS/GCP can be considered a feature. Not everyone wants to drown in service orchestration and configs

tehbeard(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I would add the DO API being all or nothing with permissions to that list.

Not being able to give just DNS access to a script for updating LE/ACME DNS challenges means it'd be a non-starter at work.

staticautomatic(10000) 7 days ago [-]

They also have some of the best technical documentation on the web.

bithavoc(10000) 7 days ago [-]

5. You can't upload a custom image and assign a Floating IP to the Droplet, one of the most basic of the functionality of any cloud.

MrSaints(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Agree on all points (and definitely, a mostly happy customer too).

(3) was the cause of numerous production incidents for us. We had to contact support to have it scaled up, and sometimes they'd take up to 3 working days to get back to us. Happily paid more for AWS to get better support, and stability.

ArtWomb(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Would be interesting to see App Platform growth numbers. Lot's of competition: Heroku, Netlify, Fly.io, App Engine, Cloud Run, etc. But they may have hit the sweet spot in terms of features and pricing.

mauflows(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The missing feature for me is more cache control. It's behind cloudflare but not configurable. So you can't cache json for instance

dartf(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I really want to love DO, but I just can't. 2 main pain points I had from working with it for ~3 month:

1. Spaces keys. There is no way to fine tune access rights. Anyone with spaces key can access any space in the organization and read/write to it. I trust people I work with, but there is always room for a mistake, so even a small chance that someone can accidentally nuke our production space makes me nervous.

2. Something from yesterday: we use new DO apps to deploy a static web app. Yesterday I started to get random 404s for some of the assets, so app become unusable. My colleague in Argentina had same issues, but for different assets. We are lucky that it was a staging app, but imagine it was a production app and that would happen over the weekend? How do you even detect that? Run uptime monitor form dozen different locations?

Sebguer(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Completely unrelated to DO, but for 2, yes? You should absolutely do something like that if an app needs to be accessible worldwide. There are many reasons an app might become unavailable for different parts of the world, especially if you're reliant on a CDN since POPs can fail or become unavailable in weird and silent ways. Something like Thousandeyes is good for this.

pjfin123(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Please add GPUs! Google cloud and AWS's interfaces are hard to use. I recently discovered vast.ai which is great but cheap DO GPUs would be more trusted/professional (even if they only had one option).

trsohmers(10000) 7 days ago [-]

(Shameless self promotion): Check out Lambda's GPU cloud: https://lambdalabs.com/service/gpu-cloud

czbond(10000) 6 days ago [-]

DOCN. Anyone know the date?

dizzydot(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Only official word I can find is Q4 2020 or Q1 2021. So....soon?

ing33k(10000) 6 days ago [-]

They have an almost perfect, managed K8S offering.

Major issue that I am facing with them currently is their managed load balancer offering. They have a cap of 40k Maximum Simultaneous Connections / second. I am mostly sure that they are not measuring it correctly.

they have random resource limits which don't make sense.

Also I think AWS lightsail is a competition to DO, but AWS doesn't seem to be promoting it that much.

stvnitt(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I had no idea they offered managed K8s. How does it compare to their competitors (if you're knowledgeable about them as well?)

Jamieee(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I used Nanobox quite heavily before DO bought them.

But was a bit surprised when I saw the below, does this mean that they only payed $3,544 for the company? Or is there more to it than that?

> On April 4, 2019, the Company acquired 100% of the outstanding equity of Nanobox, Inc., a Delaware corporation ("Nanobox"), a deployment and management platform provider for cloud infrastructure. The final purchase price for Nanobox was $3,544 and the acquisition has been accounted for as a business combination.

iav(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It's in thousands - $3.5mm

Graffur(10000) 7 days ago [-]

There's already a lot of positive comments in here but I'll throw in another one. Tried DO out recently and I like how it set up.

I feel like the biggest competition is specific, tailored services from the bigger players - Amazon Lightsail for example.

sofixa(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> I feel like the biggest competition is specific, tailored services from the bigger players - Amazon Lightsail for example.

Nope, the biggest competition is in the same niche - Linode, OVH, Scaleway.

tyingq(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I agree generally, but Lightsail is just obvious hot garbage. The CPU throttling is crazy aggressive, and you'll see it after 30 minutes of use, for all but the 2 most expensive of the 7 total plans.

I don't see how they could be maintaining a decent customer base with that setup, but I guess marketing is powerful.

nickjj(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I've been using DO for around 6-7 years now. Really happy with the services overall. I hope nothing changes after IPO'ing.

The only complaint I have with them is DO Spaces. This service seems to have issues related to degraded quality pretty often and there's so many horror stories of load times taking hundreds of milliseconds to serve content from their CDN if you Google around for folks using Spaces. I'm looking forward to the day where Spaces is as good as S3 because DO's offering of Spaces includes not only an object store but a free CDN on top. Seems like a good deal for $5 bucks a month if it were dependable.

It's weird because every other service I use by DO has been top notch.

wakatime(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Yep, same experience with Spaces here. That's why we use Spaces for backups only, since it's very affordable and backups don't need millisecond latency.


simonebrunozzi(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Should I disclose this? Well, why not?

I interviewed at DO a few years ago. I don't want to share the details, but it was the most annoying, unprofessional and disorganized set of interviews that I have ever witnessed in my life (I did ~140-150 interviews in my life for ~25 companies). The best part is that I was introduced to the company by one of their board members.

Since then I kept thinking that I really liked the product, but I would expect them to fail as a company.

Maybe DO's IPO proves that I was wrong, or maybe that they will be economically successful despite what I have witnessed.

ianlevesque(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Disclose what? There's no actionable details there.

vinay_ys(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Was it just that they didn't have the usual setup of recruiters, coordinators etc to manage the hiring loop well?

If they are less than 300 people company grown over a very slow pace, that's understandable.

neom(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Interestingly it was very clear at around $10MM ARR that DO was on a trajectory to IPO. You can thank Moisey Uretsky for a fantastic product idea and his brother Ben for CEOing it for so long. Congratulations to everyone who was involved in building DigitalOcean, it was an INCREDIBLY wild ride in the early days, lots of chaos but through all the chaos and disfunction, I think everyone involved knew this day would come.

Personally I'm really proud of the work we did, and I'm overjoyed to have been part of building a business that is going to be a public company. Thanks to the HN community for being so supportive over the years.

yte14(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The thesis of DigitalOcean was literally "this very established market needs a venture capital growth play because we saw Slicehost exit to Rackspace". In the beginning the entirety of DO's offering, tech for tech, was almost a direct lift of Linode and, as they scaled, made all the same technical mistakes and learning experiences that Linode did.

I guess you could call that a fantastic product idea. I'd call it applying an aggressive exit strategy to Chris Aker's fantastic product idea from 2003 and further commoditizing said product in its wake.

stjohnswarts(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I actually prefer that companies stay private so they can have more control over their long term outlook rather than slowly moving to quarterly profits and quarterly thinking mindset that haunts most of the industry tech and otherwise. It was great while it lasted, and I guess those early guys are going to make a killing on the options. Congrats to them. Nothing lasts forever.

tgtweak(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I'm really happy to see Ben and Moisey get this far. They are both extremely competent sysadmins and system architects too.

They retained a lot of equity as well - good to see.

nodesocket(10000) 6 days ago [-]

As somebody who followed SliceHost (Jason Seats and Matt Tanase) the predecessor to DigitalOcean, I 100% knew that DigitalOcean was on a trajectory to exit/IPO and be huge early on. Bravo, and congratulations to the entire team.

I was also building a startup piggybacking on hosting providers around 2012 and 2013 and saw the explosive growth. DigitalOcean should be the go-to case study on how to build a developer oriented company. Just like SliceHost and PickledOnion before; the technical guides on setting up LAMP stacks, Wordpress, NGINX, Node.js become resources just as important as Stackoverflow and Serverfault. DO showed up first in Google search results for technical questions.

kevinoconnor7(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I remember interviewing with DO back in late 2014 and it was nuts! The entire interview process took ~3 months and it was clear that they were defining the process as they went. The entire process was basically:

  1. initial call with recruiter
  2. homework project
  3. call with engineer to discuss said homework project
  4. two phone screens with engineers
  5. onsite interview with 6 engineers
Finally I had was at the final step which was a call with Ben who was really interesting to talking to as we shared the sysadmin background.

They we going through some pretty crazy growth at the time so I forgave a lot of disorganization in the interview process. Unfortunately I didn't end up getting the role but I'm glad to have had that experience; it was definitely an interesting point in DigitalOcean's history.

ivanvanderbyl(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The best year of my career was at DO in 2014/15. We were growing like a weed. It was hard to appreciate the magnitude of the growth until I compared it to everywhere I've worked since.

It was a heck of a lot of fun. Thanks for bringing me on board.

Zelphyr(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I love DigitalOcean and would prefer to build my new project on their platform. Unfortunately, the one and only thing that is keeping me from doing so is their support. It's great, don't get me wrong. Whenever I've contacted them I've gotten helpful responses.

However, for this particular project I feel like it is important to be able to get a human on a phone when I need support. If they offered that, I'd move away from AWS in a heartbeat.

mtnGoat(10000) 6 days ago [-]

but... have you ever gotten anyone useful and able to do anything for you on AWS exorbitantly priced support?

in almost a decade, i havent. actually gotten more done tech related by calling the billing support, then i have through calling paid technical support.

That said all my experiences with DO support were much worse.

emgo(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The biggest threat to DigitalOcean is that AWS, Google, and Microsoft are all going vertical by designing and manufacturing their own chips. Over times they'll be able to get hardware for cheaper, and also more specialized hardware that uses less power.

DigitalOcean will have to buy CPUs from Intel or Nvidia/ARM at a higher cost, and eventually maybe even from AWS or Microsoft, essentially giving money to their competition.

If DigitalOcean doesn't get into semiconductors quickly, the only two logical outcomes are to either go bust, or to be acquired by a major cloud provider as a low-cost branch, like airlines do.

natchy(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> the only two logical outcomes are to either go bust, or to be acquired by a major cloud provider

Or acquired by a chip maker, like Intel.

sabalaba(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> the only two logical outcomes are to either go bust, or to be acquired by a major cloud provider

Or just continue to build a profitable, cash flow positive business that continues to grow for years and years to come. Business outcomes are often not binary.

libria(10000) 7 days ago [-]

> AWS, Google, and Microsoft are all going vertical by designing and manufacturing their own chips

What are the GCP and Azure equivalents of AWS Nitro?

jmull(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I think there's a lot of doubt whether, in the long run, doing your own hardware makes sense for a cloud provider.

If you work yourself into a performance dead-end, you can spend billions and end up with a chip that isn't particularly competitive. Whereas if your supplier does that, you can switch suppliers.

You could spend $X billion, end up with a chip that isn't particularly competitive and just have to eat those billions.

You bring up airlines... airlines don't build their own airplanes.

dusing(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Interesting theory, maybe DO should partner with Apple.

pid_0(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I just cannot fathom why people would use a tier 2 cloud provider over AWS or GCP. It can't possibly be significantly cheaper. The tooling is non-existent. There is little third party tutorials/documentation compared to tier 1.

Why would anyone buy this?

johnthedebs(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Because (comparing DO to AWS) it is much cheaper for many use cases, there is good tooling and documentation, and the user experience is dramatically better. I'm curious - on what did you base your assumptions?

ksec(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Congrats to DO.

Really like the direction DO is going. Which is something in between millions of small VPS firm and giant like AWS. It also forced Linode to React. And proved the space in Cloud Hosting exist, which company like Vultr and UpCloud are now joining. And I think their features are finally close to hitting the perfect spot. With all the essential like DBaS, Object Storage and K8s.

They have also ( finally ) introduced AMD EPYC CPU, ( no more explicit mention of Intel CPU on their homepage ). Which is good for their margin since price / core count are cheaper.

So DO today is something I would like as an AWS competitor in 2016. And they are finally here. I am not sure if there are any other low hanging fruit at all. Or what features I would want for a company competing at this space. It will be things that people dont see, like CPU performance, SSD Performance, Services Reliability, Interconnect, Better Network, More Locations, security improvement....

There are only two suggestions I could think on top of my head right now.

First is the pricing structure and list. It is getting very messy and AWS like. SSD Storage variant should be a simple calculable option, not an extra line on pricing table that tries to bombard me with extra information. And I know Basic Droplet are burst-able CPU resources, but not showing they are vCPU ( a Single Thread ) and calling them CPU doesn't really rhymes with me.

Second is Full BareMetal Monthly option. Something like vultr [1] is offering. I am not sure if below $100 is feasible. Basically it should be something that offer much better price / performance at a monthly payment that pushes people with low spending to metal for baseline load with headroom as insurance. Pushing up Average User Spending. It should also be attractive to small business. ( Although arguably Linode and Vultr has yet to expand or launch Metal seems to suggest otherwise )

[1] https://www.vultr.com/products/bare-metal/

chrisweekly(10000) 6 days ago [-]

I'm a fan of DO too. In terms of 'what's missing?', how about the equivalent of AWS [email protected] or Cloudfront EdgeWorkers? ie, a NodeJS runtime as close to the end user as the nearest CDN edge.

cube00(10000) 7 days ago [-]

They lost me after I couldn't switch from CentOS unless I also agreed to lose my IP address. Reached out to support and got the unhelpful reply of 'use another OS version within the CentOS family' which didn't really help considering CentOS was charging its direction.

riffic(10000) 6 days ago [-]

droplets are cattle, not pets.

covidthrow(10000) 7 days ago [-]

They have 'floating IP addresses' as droplet-agnostic IPs for exactly this purpose.

dubcanada(10000) 7 days ago [-]

You lost me there, their CentOS products are in a separate area then the rest of the OS's?

Couldn't you just reformat with what ever OS you want?

breck(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Here are the problems I've had in my 7+ years as a DigitalOcean customer: .

Those are the ones just off the top of my head.

Love this company and it's made my life so much easier for the past near decade.

Excited to see they are financially very healthy.

firstfewshells(10000) 7 days ago [-]

They've accrued up losses of $43M, $40M and $35M in the 3 preceding years. Funny how that's considered financially healthy in the world we're living right now.

treesknees(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I ran into issues several years ago where the IP of my DigitalOcean droplet always seemed to be on block lists or banned for abuse from various services. As a result it made it impossible to use as a VPN server or mail server. The early ability to spin up and charge hourly rates made them good targets for spammers compared to companies like Linode, who at the time didn't have hourly rates.

I have to imagine things have gotten better, but it did taint my view of DO as more of a dev playing field than a reliable hosting provider.

wrycoder(10000) 7 days ago [-]

The only issue I've ever had is the login auth email can take 20 minutes to arrive at fastmail. This seems to have gotten better lately.

What a great service!!

arcticfox(10000) 7 days ago [-]

That's pretty much me too. I briefly thought they had a major Kubernetes fail recently, but they immediately diagnosed the issue and got back to us...We'd shot ourselves in the foot. I love DigitalOcean.

azinman2(10000) 6 days ago [-]

Anyone else find it interesting that their revenue graph only starts in 2017? At what I'd assume to be a pretty low number given how long they've been around and how explosive the VM world has grown? Seems like if they hadn't taken all that VC capital there's no way they could have afforded any of their growth.

It worried me that they're only at a couple hundred MM in a self-proclaimed 116B+ opportunity after 10 years.

quacker(10000) 6 days ago [-]

It worried me that they're only at a couple hundred MM in a self-proclaimed 116B+ opportunity after 10 years.

Yes. How do they grow further? DO will be compared to AWS and Azure in the market, and there's a good chance their stock will be punished as a result. Plus, if DO actually makes in-roads in market share, AWS is a beast that, if it wants, can crush them on pricing and features for long enough to kill them.

(796) Brave buys a search engine, promises no tracking, no profiling

796 points about 14 hours ago by samizdis in 10000th position

www.theregister.com | Estimated reading time – 7 minutes | comments | anchor

Brave, maker of the identically named privacy-focused web browser, has acquired its own search engine to offer as an alternative to Google Search and competing search engines that exist but aren't all that visible in Google's shadow.

On Wednesday, the company plans to announce that it's taking over Tailcat, a search engine developed by Cliqz, another privacy-focused browser biz that aspired to compete with Google and shut down last year. The deal, terms undisclosed, makes Cliqz owner Hubert Burda Media a Brave shareholder.

Brave intends to make Tailcat the foundation of its own search service, Brave Search. The company hopes that its more than 25 million monthly active Brave customers will, after an initial period of testing and courtship, choose to make Brave Search their default search engine and will use it alongside other parts of its privacy-oriented portfolio, which also includes Brave Ads, news reader Brave Today, Brave Firewall+VPN, and video conferencing system Brave Together.

Brave Search, the company insists, will respect people's privacy by not tracking or profiling those using the service. And it may even offer a way to end the debate about search engine bias by turning search result output over to a community-run filtering system called Goggles.

The service will, eventually, be available as a paid option – for those who want to pay for search results without ads – though its more common incarnation is likely to be ad-supported, in conjunction with Brave Ads. The latter offers participants the option to receive 70 per cent of the payment made by the advertiser in a cryptocurrency called BAT (Brave Attention Token).

Eich lays out his vision

In an interview with The Register, Brendan Eich, CEO of Brave, argued that the demand for privacy is real and cannot be ignored. 'I think the genie doesn't go back in the bottle,' he said. 'Consciousness doesn't revert.'

People used to hear about credit card breaches at large retailers like Target, Eich said, and think that privacy is hopeless but not something that necessarily affects them directly. But then it became more personal as technologies like ad retargeting did things like spoiling surprise gifts by showing the ad for the purchased item again to the intended recipient.

Eich sees the dominance of US tech companies contributing to the interest in privacy and making it a matter of concern for regulators around the world.

I think privacy is here to stay and now the question is how people do it and market it effectively

'It's not political in the broken US sense – which is kind of a Punch and Judy show – it's more like there are people of various commitments on all sides of politics who are aware not only of privacy being violated over time by the big tech players but of the big tech players being abusive monopolies,' he said.

Pointing to how many companies now make privacy claims, Eich said, 'I think privacy is here to stay and now the question is how people do it and market it effectively. If you don't market it, you can lose to somebody who just puts privacy perfume on a pig and tells you it smells great and tastes delicious.'

Eich's pitch is not that Brave Search aims to take on Google Search directly. He acknowledges that there's no way to match Google's vast index and ability to return relevant results for obscure (long tail) search terms. Rather, he sees an opportunity to improve specific types of search queries, referred to as vertical markets.

'Part of what we're trying to do here is innovate in the area where there's now monopoly,' he said in reference to Google Search, which has a market share of something like 92 per cent.'...The innovation through verticals is possible because it avoids having to take on Google's supreme competence, which is the rare or unique queries the long tail.'

'What we're trying to do is different, it's not based on crawling the web,' Eich explained. '...Trying to crawl the whole web, it's not going to work. What Cliqz worked on..that's an anonymous query log aggregator, and a partial click log aggregator, to see when you don't convert on the search ad you leave the results page and you find the better results through some number of clicks.'

Gathering that sort of query and click data requires consent, said Eich, and Brave isn't going to force Brave users to participate. But Cliqz started working on this and has a data set they called 'the Human Web,' and that's now the basis of Brave Search.

'The queries and the clicks matter but they are unlinkable,' he said. 'There has to be a property called record unlinkability. There's no IP address that gets dropped at the edge. Timing channels are blinded by adding some delays. And there's no way to say this query was from the same user as that query.'

Brave Search's index there will be informed the activities of participating Brave users, in terms of the URLs they search for or click on, and adjacent web resources that don't require extensive crawling.

There's a theoretical risk users could poison the index through repeated visits to irrelevant or harmful web pages, knowing their activities would inform the index, but Eich suggests Brave is big and savvy enough to avoid being trolled in this way.

Brave also envisions users taking a more active role in their search results through a filtering mechanism.

'It allows different groups to run their own sort of Turing complete filter rules, sort of like ad blocking rules in the search service and not in the browser, to have a community moderated view of the global index,' he explained. 'It's called 'Goggles.''

Eich observed with a chuckle that it isn't related to Google Goggles, an image recognition app that Google maintained from 2009 through 2018 until the arrival of Google Lens.

Shared search

The Brave Search team has written a paper explaining its use of the term, titled 'GOGGLES: Democracy dies in darkness, and so does the Web.' The browser upstart aims to replace the tyranny of Google's inscrutable, authoritative index with a multiverse of indices defined by anyone with the inclination to do so.

Brave's vision of search is based on 'an open and collaborative system by which a community, or a single user, can create sets of rules and filters, called Goggles, to define the space which a search engine can pull results from,' the paper explains.

'Instead of a single ranking algorithm, we could have as many as needed, overcoming the biases that a single actor (the search engine) embeds into the results.'

Goggles has its own Domain Specific Language (DSL) for writing search result filters. Brave hopes that Goggles will be adopted not only internally but among others search engines, too.

Brave Search users will be able to, for better or worse, see the world through filters they agree with or filters they detest. The point is it will be up to them rather than a large ad company located in Silicon Valley.

The Brave Search team acknowledges that not all filters will show results that are agreeable to everyone. 'There will be Goggles created by creationists, anti-vaccination supporters or flat-earthers,' the paper says. 'However, the biases will be explicit, and therefore, the choice is a conscious one.'

The paper contends that censorship will be unnecessary since illegal content should be caught by the host search engine and removed from the search index so no Goggle can see it in the first place.

'Brave is bringing back the idea of a user-first thick client, or a muscular client,' said Eich, differentiating his browser from just being 'a blind servant of ad tech that runs all the JavaScript Google throws at it.' ®

All Comments: [-] | anchor

ignoramous(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Excited that Brave is playing a pioneering role here with leveraging cryptocurrencies and distributed tech (including Web3) who's time, it looks like, will come. It helps that a Browser is close to a perfect environment from which to challenge the incumbents heavily dependent on ad revenues.

> Brave Search's index there will be informed the activities of participating Brave users, in terms of the URLs they search for or click on, and adjacent web resources that don't require extensive crawling.

This is quite similar to Amazon's now-defunct A9.com which, iirc, had some form of hybrid search engine that was built on search / ad results from Google and the data Amazon collected via the Alexa toolbar.

> The Brave Search team has written a paper explaining its use of the term, titled 'GOGGLES: Democracy dies in darkness, and so does the Web.' The browser upstart aims to replace the tyranny of Google's inscrutable, authoritative index with a multiverse of indices defined by anyone with the inclination to do so.

Again, very similar to WAIS. Has Eich been speaking to Brewster Kahle? :)

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A9.com#History

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_area_information_server

ketamine__(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

It's very exciting. So far Brave is not so popular in the cryptocurrency space compared to its peers. That will change I'm sure.

BrendanEich(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

No, I haven't been talking with Brewster. The Goggles paper is from the Tailcat team.

pkamb(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

I would love a search engine that searched mainly only Stack Overflow, Stack Exchange, Twitter, Flickr, and Reddit.

Google results are currently awful, full of blogspam and Pinterest-mirrored images. I don't remember when this changed.

mminer237(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

I mean, you can search only those sites with Google.

Just add:

  (site:stackoverflow.com OR site:superuser.com OR site:serverfault.com OR site:stackexchange.com OR site:twitter.com OR site:flickr.com OR site:reddit.com)
You could make your browser do that automatically.




samstave(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

A search funnel would be an interesting thing (does this exist?) whereby you whitelist 'only give me results from these resources' - and where 'resources' can include the whitelists of others that you trust or have subscribed to.

Basically you could have a search engine that only replies with information from whom are also of the same interest as you - or people you congenially follow etc...

So you could say ' show me everything about X' and the results are only from those who are actually connected to X in some way - based on the interest subscription graph as opposed to a keyword graph...

I may be a moron on this subject - but I do recog that there is room for improvement...

I added the following to a previous comment:

*'A cool way of implementing this would be instead of CTRL+SHIFT+N would be CTRL+SHIFT+N[1-9] to shift to VIEW and would take me to that tab-stack... and there would be a page that would allow me to manage each tab-stack around [TOPIC] - Meta Book marks...'*

penguin_booze(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

Looks like Brendan is, in a sense, in the process of cloning Google, only in reverse order: browser, ads, and now search!

ketamine__(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

Dismantling the shit one turd at a time.

ThePhysicist(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

In my understanding what Cliqz did, at least in the beginning, was to buy clickstream data and then build an index on top of that. So in a sense they just scraped Googles' search index, as almost all users rely on Google for finding stuff on the web. The clickstream data gives you both the search query and the website(s) users visit after searching, so it's pretty easy to build a search index from that, at least for popular searches (it might be more difficult for the long tail of search queries).

A lot of the clickstream data you can buy comes from browser extensions btw, and often gets collected without users knowing about it (looking at you, 'Web of Trust'). I think their reliance on such data was the reason Cliqz acquired Ghostery, which also collects a copious amount of 'anonymous' data from its users. On one hand it's a neat idea since you're basically standing on Googles' shoulders, on the other hand it's at least questionable for a 'privacy-first' company as the generation of the search index is based on personal data mined from (often unwitting) users.

That said I don't know how their system evolved, so maybe today they have another way to build their index.

samstave(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

As mentioned in my previous comment:

There is a better way to service users interests; initially it was 'keywords' - but now it can be more structured;

'I want to learn [topic]' and the response may be a step-by-step how-to on how to learn [topic]

TBH this was a subject addressed on NPR this morning.. People staying at home are talking about the old infra of edu where people cant be in person - but nobody is talking about the opportunity on changing the structure of learning at all - there should be seen the opportunity on changing the way in which we learn something.

wly_cdgr(10000) about 6 hours ago [-]

I work at Ghostery. Yes, Cliqz bought Ghostery for the Human Web data, since we have so many more users than Cliqz ever did. What gives you the impression that any data we are collecting is not appropriately anonymous?

The Ghostery extension is open source, so feel free to link to anything in the code that looks suspect to you

sytse(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Bing might have also done this to improve their index https://searchengineland.com/google-bing-is-cheating-copying...

atombender(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Cliqz seemed like a very promising search engine [1], so I'm glad that they've found a new home where they can try again.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20200501194956/https://cliqz.com...

onli(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

It really worked quite well, especially when compared against ddg. Fantastic that it will survive in some form and that the work was not for nothing.

gidam(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Brave has a long way to go to build real trust. Too many reckless stuff: hijacking links, suspicious url-rewriting, crypto-token stunts, forgetting to communicate with users about serious privacy leaks with their faulty TOR window... also it looks like they care about privacy only in their PR brochures.

lrae(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Also zero transparency for users and publishers.

On one browser installation I stopped getting payouts, reached out to them via reddit (like they asked for) and provided all the information they asked for: ghosted.

I'm also a publisher, for weeks now I can't login and it seems like I'm not getting payouts anymore either. Never got any mail about it. Sent them an email about it February 23rd, no answer so far.

If I'd have to guess, the one client somehow got blacklisted maybe because I used too many Brave installations and they think they're fraudulent? (Though I only used like 5, Brave & Brave Beta each on a desktop & laptop, then on another desktop just one installation. Also, I still get payouts for the other installations.) Or it's just another one of the bugs that eats payouts and users' BATs.

Publisher account I even have less of an idea, it's totally fine, teen-rated gaming websites with a couple of thousand organic (search traffic) uniques/month. I did sent BAT from my unconnected Browsers (you only can connect a maximum of 4 browsers to a wallet, ever) to my site to tip myself. As far as I know that isn't against the TOS either (even makes them more money because they douple dip).

But, even if they don't suspend you without any notice, it's completely non-transparent as a publisher too. You get zero statistics, just a bundled payout each month. I'd never use them like this as a publisher for bigger sites, pretty sure I mailed them about that too in the past and also did not get any reply.

techrat(10000) about 7 hours ago [-]

You forgot one. Whitelisting cross-site trackers from sites like Facebook and Twitter.

junon(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

Also the fact that they boast 'we blocked X many ads' directly above a Brave-owned embedded avertisement directly in the browser itself.

Scummy stuff.

BrendanEich(10000) 18 minutes ago [-]

The only recklessness in sight is your comment repeating a complete fabrication. We never 'hijacked links'. See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25841456.

The Tor leak was already fixed in Brave Nightly when independently discovered. We were fixing as part of a HackerOne bug report, which per standard practice is not disclosed until patched in all releases. The mistake there was not forgetting to disclose, it was not airlifting the fix into Brave Stable and intermediate releases right away. We have already made process fixes; automated network leak testing is the biggest one.

If you don't like crypto-tokens, don't use them. They're optional in Brave. They have no privacy impact.

kdtsh(10000) about 6 hours ago [-]

Agreed. I just don't see why I should not continue to use Firefox, Multi-Account Containers, and DuckDuckGo, and just use Tor Browser if I want to use TOR.

The whole crypto thing in Brave especially rubs me the wrong way, it feels like a Ponzi scheme.

JacobSuperslav(10000) about 6 hours ago [-]

Also doesn't help that Brave's CEO is a right wing guy (asked to leave Mozilla because of his radical comments) and a COVID conspiracy theorist 'masks don't do anything'

tharne(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Glad to see more interest in privacy focused search, but why not just not contribute to something like duckduckgo that's already doing good work in that space?

rasengan(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

As many mentioned, DDG is Bing and Google under the hood. That being said, DDG is great and I'm very thankful it exists.

Shameless Plug: I'm involved in a project called Private Search [1], and we are always interested in partnerships with browsers. Feel free to contact me directly. My email is in my profile!

[1] https://private.sh

jhoechtl(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

DDG is the wolf disguised as the sheep. If you consider the vast possibilities a company is able to trace you over the internets it's largely irrelevant where are you coming from, as long as you hop once over a server operated by BigCorp.

And in the case of DDG the results come from Bing. From the rain in the eaves.

lumost(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Duck duck go simply proxies other search engines. While they have been gaining traffic, they will never be as good as google/bing etc.

Good privacy focused search requires novel innovations and a solid attempt to 'solve' the problem rather than simply wrapping some other engine.

fsflover(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

Or better to https://yacy.net or SearX.

coldtea(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Because DDG merely uses Google and so under the covers.

Plus, we don't know DDG respects privacy, it's just some generic statement they make.

Imnimo(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Goggles sounds cool at first, but it's very hard for me to imagine goggles that I'd be interested in actually using. Maybe clever people will come up with something awesome, but the fact that I can't come up with an example that I would want is a bit of an alarm bell.

pkamb(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

Remove Pinterest results, remove Quora, remove blogspam...

mberning(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

I wish them the best of luck. DuckDuckGo is my go to, but it leaves a lot to be desired.

tumetab1(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

That also my reaction when reading the title.

More than a privacy focus search engine I want a equally good search engine as Google. Google has some defects but it's by far better than the competition.

WarOnPrivacy(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

> DuckDuckGo is my go to, but it leaves a lot to be desired

I have a fantasy where a lone basement nerd storms DDG HQ and teaches them about quotes at gunpoint.

imwillofficial(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Brave has earned the trust and respect of the community by fixing several high profile bugs. They have also dinged themselves by pushing their crypto ad system. How will this pan out?

'We'll see' said the zen master.

smaryjerry(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

The crypto ad system is their best feature. You get browser ads instead of website specific ads and so any website can get money simply from users using brave. Also you can choose which websites get some of your specific ad money. It feels more like the money being made off of you is also being spent by you. Taking power away from big tech.

imwillofficial(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

'The service will, eventually, be available as a paid option...'

This is the future of services on the internet. The 'cult of free' should die off as people realize they don't want to be bought and sold like digital cattle.

pier25(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

The SaaS project I'm working on won't have a free tier. We think it's unfair to make paying customers support free customers.

fullstop(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

I wonder if payment in BAT will be an option?

jay_kyburz(10000) about 7 hours ago [-]

As long as your crusade against free doesn't impact our free public libraries, free healthcare, free education.

(All of which are not really free because we pay for them with taxes. )

the__alchemist(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Matching the accuracy of Google results will be a challenge. It's remarkable how (at least for the topics I tend to search for) good the results are compared to every alternative (Bing, DDG etc). I made a search tool that filters, modifies, resorts, and adds to results from Bing's API. I no longer use it, because the base Bing results (This applies to everything else I've tried too) aren't on the same level as Google's.

kiwijamo(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

That's interesting cos on the few occassions I've accidentally used Google (e.g. when searching on someone else's device) I've been surprised by how bad Google is nowdays. I have the same experience when I set up a new device for myself. I'll be like 'Wow these results are unusually bad... Oh wait this is Google, let's change the default search engine to DDG now. Let's try again, ah that's much better!' Pretty much the only Google property I still fall back onto every now and then is Maps but even there OSM is improving all the time.

marshmallow_12(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

i find that google drive me towards certain websites. This ruins my user experience. They also omit many websites.

mrvenkman(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

Competing with Google is going to be difficult. I have a question: What is the consensus on forwarding any search 'terms' to Google and then 'scraping' the results back into the user - sort of a 'proxy' search.

I mean - Google built their business on searching the internet, why can't there be a business that starts by searching Google?

birdsbirdsbirds(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

How do you continue once you are big enough to be a threat to Google?

npteljes(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

You mean like Startpage?

ehsankia(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

Forget Google, how are they gonna compete with DDG who has the 'privacy conscious' market niche pretty well covered. That seems to be their main competitor here.

Having a semi-popular browser where they can set the default search engine would normally help, but if it's not free, I don't see why anyone would pay when, again, DDG does the same thing for free.

Let alone the rumors of Apple wanting to make its own search engine...

leprechaun1066(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

> What is the consensus on forwarding any search 'terms' to Google and then 'scraping' the results back into the user - sort of a 'proxy' search.

Isn't this what DuckDuckGo does but with Bing?

chanmad29(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

Are there any brave users out there? no pun. I use ff with DDG on PC and safari with DDG on ios. Never understood the reason for a move. The ad rewards was just too much information for me, from brave.

CodeGlitch(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

I've recently moved to Brave because of their addition of IPS (which I see as an interesting technology). I've been really happy with Brave - especially on Mobile which feel way snappier.

Also not having to install a 3rd pary ad blocker (uBlock Origin) makes me feel more comfortable. Firefox should ship with a good ad blocker - it does not.

I've not played around with BAT yet - it's on my TODO list.

Brave seems to be pushing the boundaries more than other browsers, and it'll be interesting to watch where things go.

pier25(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

Switched to Brave about 6 months ago on macOS, iOS, Android, and Windows. Very happy with it.

BrendanEich(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

See https://brave.com/transparency for our growth to date and other stats.

The ad system is off by default, AKA opt-in. Did you hear otherwise?

crorella(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

"What if we could give customers a button. They'd press it at the end of the year and it would automagically file their taxes for them."

This is exactly how it works in Chile, you pretty much check the numbers and make sure they match with your figures and done. For free.

kiwijamo(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

Are you posting in the right thread?

ErikVandeWater(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

I don't know much about Brave - What is their position on censorship (other than instances when it is legally required)?

samizdis(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

The Register article mentions it in passing, pointing to the 'Goggles' paper [1] that Brave has published. But the Brave paper actually gives no more information than that quoted in the article; it seems not to address its stance on censorship, but merely to pass the buck in the Goggles use case:

There will be Goggles created by creationists, anti-vaccination sup- porters or flat-earthers. However, the biases will be explicit, and therefore, the choice is a conscious one. We do not anticipate any need for censorship in the context of Goggles. Clearly illegal and sensitive content like child pornography or extreme violence should already be filtered out by the host search engine at the index layer. Consequently, such content should not be surfaced by any Goggle.

[1] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-B3ZvHpbnxsT2OdnUH8vS3-tvTv...

dazc(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Likely the same as Google, no policy on censorship until they feel like censoring something.

jakequade(10000) about 2 hours ago [-]

Brave is still based on Chromium, and Google is the opposite of 'no tracking, no profiling'.

I'll stick to Firefox + DDG, thanks.

BrendanEich(10000) 41 minutes ago [-]

Are you worried about tracking in the Chromium code? If so please see https://github.com/brave/brave-browser/wiki/Deviations-from-....

Otherwise if you are worried about engine monoculture, please see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26337402.

If neither of these is the issue, what is?

inthewoods(10000) about 4 hours ago [-]

I keep waiting for Apple to introduce their own search engine. They are already pushing on the privacy angle, so it would seem to make logical sense to dump Google and have their own search engine. I think switching the iPhone/Safari search engine to their own search would be devastating to Google.

Basically, they would be doing a similar strategy that Microsoft used against Netscape. As I remember it, in the MSFT/Netscape case, they gave away IE and the web server, crippling Netscape's ability to make money. MSFT didn't have to make money off either as they made money off the OS.

In this case, ads are the core of Google revenue. Apple, however, doesn't need to care about that (yes, it would be a loss in revenue). So they dump Google and Google loses a major source of revenue and data.

Obviously there would be some anti-trust issues - I assume that's what is holding them back.

sidibe(10000) about 3 hours ago [-]

If making a search engine like Google was easy to do Apple, Microsoft or Amazon would have done it long ago. Of any of these Apple is the worst position to do it since they don't have the same scale of infrastructure as the others.

qwertox(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

I don't feel that good about this.

The thing is that Cliqz was 'majority-owned by Hubert Burda Media' [1], and that 'The deal, terms undisclosed, makes Cliqz owner Hubert Burda Media a Brave shareholder.' [2]

Doesn't Hubert Burda Media have a interest in removing ad-blocking technologies from the web? Couldn't partnering with Brave get them into a privileged position where they are capable of displaying ads and build user profiles?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliqz [2] https://www.theregister.com/2021/03/03/brave_buys_a_search_e...

hellotomyrars(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

If so that makes sense as Brave is happy to show you 'ethical ads" instead of the ads already on a page if you so choose and reward you and the original content creator(maybe) with their very own funny money.

cute_boi(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

can we trust brave? They have become too shady in my opinion like inserting referral etc?

willis936(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

I tried brave a year ago because I heard good things. I stopped using it within a month. The cryptocurrency and referral stuff told me all I needed to know: their motives are not aligned with the user. If you let your monetization strategy alienate your users then you won't be getting far. Early adopters need clear messages of trust.

When the messaging is "we're desperate for money" and I don't trust you, why would I expect you to value my privacy? I won't be trying brave again until they at least try to address this.

NelsonMinar(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

You never could trust Brave. Their business has been unethical since its founding.

Daho0n(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

People are so desperate to like Brave that they can't see the bad things. I wouldn't trust Brave, especially when there are better options like Mozilla that isn't part of the monolith that is Chrome. It's the new Internet Explorer no matter what skin you theme it with.

jerf(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

'The service will, eventually, be available as a paid option...'

How my viewpoint has shifted over the years. 10-20 years ago this would have instantly turned me off, but now this is the most exciting line in the entire thing to me. As long as we all expect free, we can't expect privacy.

@Brave team, who I rather expect will be reading this, I can't believe that Cliqz doing tracking on me to improve its results for free will be in my interests if it's free. But if I'm a paying customer, you might be able to convince me that you're doing some semi-invasive tracking but not actually selling it to anyone, because it wouldn't be worth losing me as a customer.

I'm actually excited about the idea of a search engine that I pay for. Been waiting for DDG to do it but last I knew there's still no option there.

tylersmith(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

I've really 180'd on this over the past two years. I've always loved business models that allowed free access, but now I'm very much focused on a business models that are sustainable, and without relying on being able to sell my data to keep the lights on. A service I can pay for access, in a sustainable business arrangement, is my new preferred model.

jojobas(10000) 37 minutes ago [-]

Many things are free, such as Linux kernel and Debian distro.

However if someone's expenses grow with userbase, everything you said is right.

ohduran(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

100% this. There is a glass ceiling to the quality of a search engine if it's free; it starts with G.

The paid option hasn't been explored yet, and for good reason I think: in principle, you need training data for it to be any good. And, again in principle, the only way to amass user data is for the service to be free, leveraging that to sharpen the tool.

So in principle, I reckon this is doomed to fail. But I might be wrong. I HOPE I'm wrong. And that's enough.

boogies(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

> I'm actually excited about the idea of a search engine that I pay for.

Right now you can pay to host an instance of the internet meta-search engine SearX: https://searx.github.io/searx/

addicted(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

I do think that fewer things need to be free. But there's no reason to believe that free means we must lose our privacy.

OTA television, for example, had been providing decades worth of extremely expensive programming for free. And this lost us absolutely no privacy.

There is no reason that ads have to invade our privacy. They can go back to targeting based on broad geographical and age demographics.

Let's do a thought experiment. Let's say the government passes a law that says that ads cannot be based on any factors more privacy invasive than your zip code and 10 year age range. It's not like companies would stop paying for ads. They would pay less, but probably still enough to maintain free services, like Google did in its initial days.

xtracto(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

Back in the day (late 90s) there was a company called Copernic that had a good search engine with a REALLY good desktop client. I remember being able to do all sort of filters, sorting and crazy searches. IIRC It was paid, and it was really way ahead of the simple search operations you can even currently do with Google (actually, Google has constantly removed search abilities as time goes by, like for example, anyone remember when Google Search could show tweeter search results? or that you could 'block' domains from search results)

JMTQp8lwXL(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

What if it's less profitable to run a paid search engine? Will they run both free/paid side-by-side? And how can one be certain they won't profit off the query data on the backend anyways?

Is there any reason I should think Brave won't prioritize profit motives first in 5, 10 years when investors or markets expect returns?

michaelbrave(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

give me the option to block certain sites from results and prioritize others, I would pay a monthly fee just for that level of customization. I hate searching to download something and only finding spam in the top 5 results.

jcims(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

I don't really even want to think what I would pay Google to access their search engine if they made it a paid service tomorrow.

hlava(10000) about 8 hours ago [-]

have you heard of greed? Do you think they care about loosing customers in that scenario? Where will they go? Dont be soo naive... they might start with honest and clean intentions but that will most likely change, or the pople running the company will change, people are soo easily corupted, especialy in a world filled with vice

wayne(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

My views similarly changed on email. It would have been inconceivable for me to pay for email 10 years ago. Now I'm happy to pay for a service that does the basics well, is primarily considering my interests, and will have competent customer service if something goes wrong.

dimes(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

Simply paying for a service doesn't remove the economic incentive for the service provider to add tracking. It will always be more profitable to track users, except in cases like DDG or Brave that stake their reputation on privacy. For instance, I pay for groceries, yet my grocery store tracks my purchases and sells that information. We can't rely on the market to protect our privacy. Government regulation is needed.

solso(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

There was no tracking on Cliqz, nor it will be any in Brave. To know more about the underlying tech of Cliqz there are interesting posts at https://0x65.dev, some of them covering how signals are collected, data, but no tracking. I did work at Cliqz and now I work at Brave. I can tell for a fact, that all data was, is and will be, record-unlinkable. That means that no-one, not me, not the government, not the ad department can reconstruct a session with your activity. Again, there is no tracking, full anonymity, Brave would not do it any other way.

bogwog(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

> I'm actually excited about the idea of a search engine that I pay for. Been waiting for DDG to do it but last I knew there's still no option there.

I wonder if that's because they're using Bing search results rather than crawling the web themselves?

aloisdg(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

> As long as we all expect free, we can't expect privacy.

Not if the project is a non-profit. Wikipedia is free and privacy friendly (or pay what you want through donation if you want).

eznzt(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

So basically a search engine that is worse than Google and that I will have to pay for. Sign me right up!!

partiallypro(10000) about 4 hours ago [-]

It's still kinda not private, because GTM/GA/ etc on 3rd party sites are going to track where your click came from.

stjohnswarts(10000) about 5 hours ago [-]

I don't really mind the ads on search engine as long as they aren't tracked and are based on the search. This is the way startpage does it.

IgorPartola(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Consider that it's not just the changing times but also your own changing economic situation. Would you have had a spare $20/month foe a search engine subscription as a 16 year old? I sure had better uses for my money back then than something like this, privacy be damned.

glitchc(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Cable in the 1980s comes to mind:


Short answer: Yes, there will be ads eventually, even if you pay for it.

1vuio0pswjnm7(10000) about 7 hours ago [-]

I would not get too excited until you read the agreement they present you with. If you are a paying customer and they make promises, such as privacy-related ones, then those could theoretically be enforceable, with quantifiable damages at least equal to what you have paid. Will they accept that potential liability. Google won't. If Brave breaks their privacy promises to millions of paying end users, will they try to prevent the possibility of class-actions when potentially hundreds, maybe thousands or more of them all simultaneously 'ask for their money back'. Does paying by itself magically transform empty promises into kept ones What if the promisor can break the promise and keep the payments.

jcpham2(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

bat tokens will eventually make sense to everyone we're probably just 10 years too early into the private browsing space

jhoechtl(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

There is a cost in order to be free(ed).

Would be a nice study to determine the monthly rate one is willing to pay in order not to the be the service.

hoolihan(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

Paid services have the real name and credit card. It's too risky to assume they won't turn evil in the future.

I barely trust my ISP.

fouc(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

The Brave browser already has tracking itself, so even if the search engine doesn't..

jonathansampson(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

The browser does not track users. What have you seen to suggest otherwise? Any data? It's fairly trivial to examine the network activity of a browser, as Leith has done at https://www.scss.tcd.ie/Doug.Leith/pubs/browser_privacy.pdf, and determine to what degree (if at all) it is tracking a user.

MikusR(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Mozilla was sending your browser history to Cliqz in Germany. https://www.zdnet.com/article/firefox-tests-cliqz-engine-whi...

solso(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

Mozilla never did such a thing. The browsing history was never sent in any shape or form. As the journalistic article you quote states, Mozilla put in place the HumanWeb[1,2,3], which was a privacy preserving data collection which ensured record-unlinkability, hence no session or history. Anonymity was guaranteed and the framework was extensively tested by privacy researchers from both Cliqz and Mozilla. Disclaimer: I worked at Cliqz.

[1]https://0x65.dev/blog/2019-12-02/is-data-collection-evil.htm... [2]https://0x65.dev/blog/2019-12-03/human-web-collecting-data-i... [3]https://0x65.dev/blog/2019-12-04/human-web-proxy-network-hpn...

a254613e(10000) about 9 hours ago [-]

Yup. As far as I'm concerned cliqz (and mozilla) completely lost my trust with that spyware.

Modified installers, randomly served to customers with no notification, opt-out by default, and sending full browser history to random servers is just too much for me to ever trust them that they have my privacy interests as their goal.

simplecto(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

Anyone building (or in this case, buying) a search engine takes a fight they cannot meaningfully make impact.

1. Privacy is a feature, not a platform. If the search engine cannot deliver better results than google or bing (a tall order) then there is no reason to use it no matter how private.

2. Google has a 20+ year head start and billions invested. You will not catch up playing the same game (eg - broad search). Google, for all its faults, is amazing technology. If you try to be a general search engine and compete I do not see a win.

3. Find another strategy, like BETTER search results within a niche. Curated by subject matter experts and enthusiasts.

4. Source your search results from trustworthy data sources. SEO has ruined search. Google setup the rules and the Black/Grey/Whitehat practitioners out-smartted them every step of the way. It is full of crappy data sources.

5. Curation, not scale is the key here. I don't see a win for Brave.

rel2thr(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

You said it yourself that SEO has ruined search. That's a HUGE advantage for a smaller search engine. The seo people aren't going to spend their time targeting a small search engine. And they definitely won't target it at the risk of hurting their Google rankings

kibwen(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

It's good to see more competition in the search space, but I have to wonder: is Search really still the golden goose at Google? Between Android, Chrome, and YouTube, Google seems to have all the profiling data and all the eyeballs it could ever ask for. How wrong am I?

rank0(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

Yes I believe search produces the lion's share of revenue for the company still. But yeah, all of their products/services work together to build a comprehensive dataset about the user.

jcpham2(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

I still don't understand basic attention token, but I know people that do understand it and I support them!

mminer237(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

Instead of showing ads on websites, Brave blocks them and has an option to show you ads from the browser itself. If you elect to see these ads, it will pay the revenue from the ads to the websites you use or designate. It uses a cryptocurrency called BAT as the medium of transferring funds.

izacus(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

It's worth mentioning that Brave is also a browser which was silently replacing links in webpages for their affilate links to make a profit: https://decrypt.co/31522/crypto-brave-browser-redirect

I don't trust their promises.

mminer237(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

That's not true. It was never replacing links in webpages. It was redirecting if you typed the URL. Which, I would honestly be okay with. It's at no cost to me, and I understand Brave needs to make money. I could see how Binance would be upset, but not me myself. Virtually all browsers make money by search referrals, and I don't see how that would be different from my point-of-view. That seems extremely mild to me.

Also, when people got upset, Brave changed it too. It's not like they promised to never make money. I don't see that as a reason to trust Brave any less. It seems like a good influence on the web.

seph-reed(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

For whatever reason, this never bothered me. The service wasn't any worse for it, I didn't really feel taken advantage of... technically they were part of how I might have gotten to one of those links.

I guess there's the loss in privacy where it's known what browser I use, but that's not the kind of privacy loss that worries me.

They've got to pay the bills somehow, and while they should have been more up-front about doing it this way, and it is a breach of trust, it still landed in the realm of 'reasonable asking for forgiveness' to me.

> I don't trust their promises.

Maybe I'm just not seeing which promise it was that was broken so badly.

jonathansampson(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

> '...silently replacing links in webpages...'

That's incorrect. Brave added a feature to the browser which would list Affiliate Links, if any, in pre-search UI. As the user typed something into the address-bar (e.g. 'Bitcoin'), Brave (the browser) would check local data to see if there were any relevant affiliate links. If it found one, it would enumerate it among the other search suggestions in the address-bar dropdown.

Note, affiliate links were not inserted into pages. Links on pages were not modified. Requests en-route were not re-routed. There were many ways people described this feature; most of them were incorrect. So what was the problem?

Our implementation of this feature had a mistake; it matched against fully-qualified URLs. As such, if you typed 'binance.us' into your address bar, and Brave had an affiliate code for that domain (which would be visibly shown before the user navigates), the browser sent you to the affiliate link instead of the non-affiliate link.

When this issue was brought to our attention, we confirmed the (undesired) behavior, owned the mistake, fixed the issue, and confirmed that no revenue would be made from that affiliate link. Mistakes do happen in software, and they will happen with Brave (try as we might to avoid them). What's important is that we moved quickly, fixed the issue, and maintained transparency.

Traffic attribution is not uncommon in browsers though; open Firefox and type something in your address bar. When you hit Enter, you'll find that Firefox adds a traffic-attribution token to the URL too (although they do this only after the request is being issued; Brave showed the token before navigation).

I hope this helps provide a bit of context to a very misunderstood bug in Brave's past.

f430(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

The fact that they raised money through ICO and issued coins on a dubious blockchain just compounds to the suspicion.

I am using Firefox and I trust Mozilla more than I trust Bravo.

bhaile(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

They did address it as an error on their part. [https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2020/06/09/brave-ceo-apolog...]

samstave(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

I use BRave exclusively on both my machines and my mobile devices.

I have one request within brave:

I want 'Use Profiles' a switchable profile that states what I am using Brave for - and session states.

So let me explain:

1. I am using brave to do personal browsing at home and thus my 30 open tabs are related to my personal browsing etc.

A cool way of implementing this would be instead of CTRL+SHIFT+N would be CTRL+SHIFT+N[1-9] to shift to VIEW and would take me to that tab-stack... and there would be a page that would allow me to manage each tab-stack around [TOPIC] - Meta Book marks...

2. Educational tabs (bookmarks) associated with learning something - so I want tab grouping/session grouping around the resources I read for learning a topic

3. Work topics - so a group of resources related to work.

4. To sum up the above, basically VIEWS that I can dictate what bookmarks, sites, resources, etc relate to which view.

Kind of like multiple desktops - I want sep viewing environs that allow me to group, classify and segment knowledge tunnels... and overlap them as desired.

Love Brave.

digitalbase(10000) about 10 hours ago [-]

I use 1tab for this. works in Brave and Chrome

samizdis(10000) about 14 hours ago [-]

> Brave Search's index there will be informed the activities of participating Brave users, in terms of the URLs they search for or click on, and adjacent web resources that don't require extensive crawling.

> Brave also envisions users taking a more active role in their search results through a filtering mechanism.

'It allows different groups to run their own sort of Turing complete filter rules, sort of like ad blocking rules in the search service and not in the browser, to have a community moderated view of the global index,' he [Brendan Eich, Brave founder] explained. 'It's called 'Goggles.''

topspin(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

I'd love to be able to filter out, for instance, pinterest.

I'd actually pay nominal amounts of money for a search service that had my interests in mind; as opposed to advertisers and thought police.

BrendanEich(10000) about 11 hours ago [-]

Turing incomplete. Thanks, will get a correction to the reporter.

pmurt7(10000) about 13 hours ago [-]

There was this wonderful podcast featuring Eich a few days ago:

'Brendan Eich: JavaScript, Firefox, Mozilla, and Brave'


not_knuth(10000) about 12 hours ago [-]

There was quite a discussion on HN about the podcast joined by Brendan Eich himself:


Historical Discussions: On the Experience of Being Poor-Ish, for People Who Aren't (March 01, 2021: 760 points)

(771) On the Experience of Being Poor-Ish, for People Who Aren't

771 points 3 days ago by maxwelljoslyn in 10000th position

residentcontrarian.substack.com | Estimated reading time – 29 minutes | comments | anchor

Meta-Note: I'm sorry it's been so long between articles; for better or worse writing here is something that I do for fun, and sometimes work and family get in the way. In this case, I was spending a lot of time trying to learn SQL; you will be pleased to note I am now able to pad my resume with "Intermediate Database Language Skills" with the best of them.

A few years back, my wife was at a baby shower hosted by a friend by a mutual acquaintance. In a conversation with the hostess, my wife learned they were in a tough financial position - they were always broke, and no amount of budgeting seemed to help them get ahead; they had cut every cost they could and things were just getting worse and worse. She admitted to my wife that she just felt like she was sinking further and further underwater, and didn't see any way out for her or her family.

Note: The hostess and her husband were both doctors. They had a combined income somewhere upwards of $200,000 a year, and as the conversation developed my wife learned that their problems started and stopped with the hostess not being able to save quite as much as she'd like once the payments on their very nice house and current-year cars were made. At the time she leaned on my wife for emotional support over finances, our family of four's income was less than $30,000 a year.

You should know the hostess wasn't mean-spirited in the least, and we liked her then and continue to do so. But she did have a kind of tunnel vision I've since noticed is increasingly common: If you came from a family that did pretty well financially, went to college and then immediately started to do pretty well yourself, it's hard to get any kind of context for what life is like at lower income levels. This isn't a matter of the relatively-wealthy being dumb or insensitive; it's just legitimately difficult to get a handle on what it's like in a life you've never lived, and often being legitimately confused as to why anyone would opt to make less money instead of improving their lot with training and education.

In that spirit, I'd like to offer my services as a sort of has-been-poor guide, to fill you in on what it's like on the other side of the tracks. In this role, I'm qualified in two ways. The first is common - we've never done exceptionally well financially. Things have been better in recent years as I've finally clawed towards the upper-end of lower-class, but Covid has reminded us how short-lived that kind of qualified success can be. We've had to economize in dozens of interesting ways, make hard choices here and there and sometimes/often do entirely without. It hasn't been easy.

At the same time, I'm mostly happy. I have a wonderful wife who is very satisfying to be near, two kids who are about as custom-fit to my personality as possible, and dozens of friends online and off who would take a bullet for me, and vice versa. This is important because I want you to know I'm not trying to make you feel bad - I know and understand that everyone has a different set of problems, and that I'm not unique in living in an imperfect world. I'm not trying to exaggerate problems for political points or to try to get legislation passed. Take no guilt from this article - It's informational, not a call to arms.


One of the bigger disconnects I run into in talking to people at or above living wage levels of income is that it's usually assumed that the quality of things has a pretty linear association to the price. This is true at most price points, from "doing OK" all the way up to "Jeff Bezos" - if you pay a little more, you get a little more. If you pay a little less, you get a little less.

Because this relationship is what you'd expect, you get a lot of reasonable-sounding advice that, while not exactly wrong, fails to capture the nuance of poor-people-price-mechanics very well. According to this randomly selected article, I should really make sure not to spend more than 30% of my income on rent:

While everyone's circumstances are unique, many experts say it's best to spend no more than 30% of your monthly gross income on housing-related expenses, including rent and utilities. Under that rule, it's best to make sure that the amount you spend on rent is well below 30% of your household income. In other words, if you're making $3,000 a month, it's a good idea to pay no more than $900 for rent and other housing costs.

The general thinking here is that if I spend more than 30%, I'm making myself vulnerable in all other aspects of my budget; why burden yourself with more than you can handle, when I could take a slightly worse place and be that much closer to financial health? From the perspective of the 50k a year and up crowd, this makes sense - $1250, after all, will rent a reasonable house or apartment in a lot of markets. In metropolitan Phoenix, this might look something like this:

And this is perfectly livable - it's very small (think ~900 sqft), but otherwise it's a well-kept place. It's not exactly Versailles, but you wouldn't necessarily feel like a monster telling someone to live within their means by renting an apartment here. But what happens when you are dealing with someone making $17.50 an hour? What does 840 a month get you?

I'm not 100% sure this is a converted Motel 6, but I'm not 100% sure it's not. And while the first apartment I showed you was in a relatively nice, livable part of town this one is in a more gun-fire prone area ominously referred to by locals as "the triangle". Phoenix's mostly gravel-and-concrete landscaping style cleans up nice (note the still-wet recently hosed concrete), but make no mistake: this isn't the kind of apartment complex where hypodermic needles are exclusively owned by diabetics.

That's the drop-off you experience at the lower price levels - there's nothing between "This is a tiny but acceptable apartment" and "Slum apartments in stab-ville".

None of this is to discount the budget advice above completely - this is absolutely the kind of apartment I should be living in right now, if I was making perfect budgetary decisions. But consider that this is a choice I have to make - do I spend 50% more on an apartment and stress my budget to death, or make my wife and kids in a place where I have 5 front doors within 15 feet of ours in the murder-iest part of town? Neither choice is great, but the lack of intermediate choices forces you to do one or the other.

Whichever you choose, a person of less-than-intermediate income has to be prepared to stick with the rental long-term, should things not go well. This is because apartments at both of these levels quite accurately assume that you can't afford a lawyer - while it's normal to put down a month or two worth of rent as a security deposit, it's much less normal to get it back; the apartment complex has no reason to give back thousands of dollars they can simply keep. This means every time you move, you pay something like a third to a month's wages for the privilege. Since breaking a lease often means you lose your privilege to live anywhere non-hellish, this means if you don't have cash reserves (more on these later*) at the exact right time of year, you might end up in the same place for another full year whether you like it or not.

Note: It's been pointed out to me that I completely forgot to talk about cash reserves and how they effect this kind of thing. It's also been pointed out that these numbers only "make sense" in particular markets - i.e. it's cheaper or more expensive to live other places, so the exact figures here don't translate well for everyone. I'll write a follow up post incorporating some of this kind of feedback soon to make up for it.


I am always consistently shocked by how little people living at a decent-to-great income level fear their cars; it seems like they hardly lie awake at night thinking about their iffy alternator much, if at all. Scott Alexander does a pretty good job of explaining the obverse experience here:

When I first started working with poor patients, I was shocked how many of the problems in their lives were car-related. For well-off people like me, having a car is background noise; you buy or lease it for a reasonable price, then never worry about it again. Poor people can't afford to buy and don't always have good enough credit to lease. They tend to get older, sketchier cars that constantly break down. A constant complaint I heard: "My car broke, I can't afford repairs, and I'm going to get fired if I can't make it to my job". Some of them can't afford insurance and take their chances without it. Others have had various incidents with the police that cost them their license, but they can't just not show up to work, so they drive anyway and hope they don't get arrested.

This is actually pretty close to the experience. It's telling that Scott thinks the problem with a lease comes only from credit issues - a pretty bottom-barrel ford leases for 300-400 a month. For a person who makes 30,000-40000k a year, that's something like 10-15% of their income, before we talk about insurance; couple that with the fact that you can't squeak by on liability-only insurance in most leases, and we are already into a prohibitively expensive range.

But there's other things - liability insurance, as mentioned above, is often your only option that makes sense - if your car costs $2000, paying an extra $50-100 per month for high-deductible doesn't add up; you are still $1000 out of pocket to cover the deductible in the event you need to use it. But since you can't afford it in the first place, you don't think about that; you just start driving insanely carefully at all times and pray any accidents you get in aren't your fault. One slip-up and you either can't get to work at all, or you spend a lot more time doing it. Remember: Uber isn't an option here; the ~$400 a month it would cost would bankrupt you.

You are also more or less forced to learn to do mechanic work. I'm an administrator by trade - I usually work in the kind of jobs that have "assistant" appended to them. One of my greatest prides is typing speed, and when people ask me my hobby I tell them "Excel". If you were judging me by my interests and natural skillset, you wouldn't expect me to be able to change my own tires. But over the years necessity has forced me to get pretty decent at car work - I've done clutch rebuilds and head gasket jobs and a bunch of other miserable (for me) work that I would have rather avoided. But this was often the only option I had - it was either figuring out how to replace an alternator or do a full brake job over the weekend or lose my ability to get to the grocery store in under an hour. Keep in mind the money saved here is just the labor - parts still have a cost that's unavoidable.

The practical upshot of this is whenever I drive, it's very slowly, very carefully, and listening in terror to any small noise the car makes. It's a constant stress, and it's limiting; we don't go on long road trips often, and when we do my joke with my wife is usually something like "Well, if the car breaks down somewhere else, we'll just start living there".

It's reasonable to ask "If cars are so terrible, why not use public transport?". I live in a city, and this is in fact an option that would solve many of my problems: I wouldn't have to worry about repairs, my gasoline and insurance bills would disappear and anything that happened to the bus is the city's problem, not mine. Especially in an emergency public transit would be a godsend and might be the difference between keeping and losing my job.

But there's other things to consider on this, as well. My commute isn't short, and isn't bus-friendly; it would go from about 30 minutes each way to just under 4 hours roundtrip. And when your commute starts and ends in a bad area, which is typical of a low-income family in a low-paying job, this means those four hours a day are spent surrounded by people who range from normal commuters at best to visibly mentally imbalanced and trying to speak to you the whole ride. I understand from talking to friends in "our mass transit is great!" towns that this isn't the case everywhere but this is something that on average gets worse the poorer you get. I could make the commute shorter by taking a worse job (Maybe - the job market isn't great right now), but that comes with career-limiting downsides of it's own.


When I'm trying to explain to my sons how a company decides what to pay someone, it usually goes something like this: A company is looking to pay a person as little as they can and keep them, so a person's pay is determined by how rare their skills are and how much demand there is for those skills. The value of their work doesn't factor in as much - An administrative assistant might touch every department in the company every day and facilitate a massive amount of work, but they still don't get paid much - it's hard to justify when you could hire and train up someone to do the same thing nearly as well with very little difficulty.

I think this is a fairly accurate way to look at pay, but it applies to other aspects of the job. If you got sick more often than usual this year and used up your legally mandated sick days, would your company fire you for getting sick again, or demand you work sick? If the company decides it needs to cut wages, is your position the cheap-to-hire-for job the company didn't spend a lot of money and time filling? If you don't have rare skills, management is aware that they can ask for you to work extra hours, avoid letting you use paid time off and change your list of job duties on a whim - both they and you know that if you won't do it, they can find somebody who will tomorrow. Not every company is bad in these ways - good people do exist - but every company is aware they could, and that tends to color every aspect of the job whether they intend it to or not.

The worst treatment you tend to get is, perhaps counterintuitively, in jobs that approach living wage despite your low value and replaceability as a worker. These jobs tend towards needing someone who can put in a lot of hours for customer interactions that require a single point of contact; they reward intense focus over long periods of time in unpleasant situations. Another way to say this is that these are high-stress jobs with a lot of mandatory overtime and very fast pacing - they pay a lot because they can't get people to do them otherwise. Turnover in these jobs is absurd despite the pay - some people can keep up with them but it isn't typical. In my first (and hopefully last) claims adjuster job, two people had heart attacks in my office in a six month period.

The obvious solution for the worker here would seem to be to train themselves in such a way as to be more valuable, but this is often a bit harder or less plausible than it sounds. Some of this can be personal reasons (if you are barely holding things together, it's hard to find the time and energy to get a bachelors degree from scratch) or financial (It's nice to think you could learn a new skill and start a new career, but if you are barely keeping your family fed as it is, you might not actually be able to take the pay cut dropping back to entry level would require.

To give you an example of how this looks, 2020 started with me in my second month at a sustainable job with a salary around 50k, the most I had ever made. When the job was disrupted by Covid, I was the first to go - I had little tenure and no rare specialty absolutely required by the company, so my responsibilities could at least theoretically be divided among the retained employees. I then took one of those high-stress high-intensity jobs in the mortgage industry, made kind of a lot of money (for me, on pace to do about 60k in a year) but eventually had a minor nervous breakdown; the company informed me I couldn't use my paid time off without a month's notice to handle it, and that they'd simply let my workload pile up while I was gone, leaving me in a worse place. I managed to switch to another company, but found out once I started that the job duties, pay, and hours were all misrepresented in the interview process - I'm free to leave if I don't like it, since the job will be easy to fill.

In the meantime, I've added a few skills to my resume associated with better jobs and lifestyles, and I'm hopeful things get better. But "just the skill without an associated degree" means this is a slog - I've applied for about 100 jobs in the past month, but haven't had a single response; there's simply better qualified candidates at the kind of pay I can support my family with, and the kind of extremely junior positions I might have a better shot at would leave us unable to pay bills within a few months.

This isn't evil on anyone's part, and you shouldn't feel bad about it - I've made a lot of choices in my life that led to this point and I have a lot of responsibility in terms of where I find myself. But understand that even if you are willing to sacrifice the labor and time it takes to work towards an uncertain goal, there's still a fair amount of luck involved. And some people are at my level or below it because they simply lack the capability to do better - not everyone can or should learn to code, or would be able to successfully go back to school.

The summary here is that low-paying jobs are often uniquely bad for reasons beyond the pay itself. The people who work them aren't unwilling to change this, but often they are unable to, either because the means to change their circumstance is outside of their control or because their attempts to do so fail. Some are lazy and unmotivated, but not all.

"Paying the Bills" and Feeling Broke vs. Being Broke

When someone is telling me they are or have been poor and I'm trying to determine how poor exactly they were, there's one evergreen question I ask that has never failed to give me a good idea of what kind of situation I'm dealing with. That question is: "How many times have they turned off your water?".

The reason this question works is because it lets me know whether the person I'm talking to has "felt" broke - I.E. been in a situation where they felt resource strapped for some reason or another - or has "been broke", actually factually unable to pay for basic services they needed to survive at a minimally decent human level.

A person who feels broke might not have a lot of money, or might not have any liquid dollars in their wallet at all. But just being out of money doesn't make you broke in the sense that they turn off your water - that takes time. Usually you can be over a month late before the water company actually goes to the trouble of sending someone out to turn off your water. Even if someone feels broke and can't immediately pay their bills (this is rare for people who feel broke, by the way; they usually have a few hundred dollars they can get at somewhere, some space on a credit card, etc.) this only means they need to cut their spending somewhat the next month and catch up; they might not be King Midas after watching their budget for 30 days, but they won't turn the tap some morning and finds nothing comes out.

Obviously being broke is the opposite; you are legitimately out of funds you need to cover a bill. It's not a matter of watching your budget closer, either - you've cut the fat from every possible place and you still just don't have enough to make everything work. Sometimes this is because you lost a job and your income dried up (more common these Covid days) and sometimes it's because a surprise bill caused your budget to get behind in a way you couldn't recover from. But as opposed to someone who simply overspent, being broke implies you have some structural problem with your income and finances that you can't fix - all it took was a small bump of some kind to upset your apple cart, and now you've moved from "hanging on" to "asking your neighbor to use their hose to fill up a bucket so you can flush your toilet".

It also implies there's no place left to cut - you don't have a car payment, and your insurance is minimal if it hasn't lapsed already. You don't have cable. You are eating a lot of rice. There's simply nothing "extra" left to cut, and now you are choosing between things like power and internet (which you need to work and find work, these days) and water (which you need to survive). Often you've already even prioritized those things, because as I've said they don't turn off your water for a while; you've been juggling things like power and water, now with late fees, for a while. And one day your wife calls you and tells you the water is off, and there's nothing you can do; maybe some family member can help you out, or maybe you live without utilities for a week or so until you get paid and start the next pay cycle that much more behind.

The best case scenario is you get helped, and you try to accept that graciously and thankfully, but consider the shame of this - you can't support your family, and you've been forced to go to someone who can, implicitly admit you can't fulfil your basic purpose as a human, and ask them to take away from their family to do what you can't. And often they do - family and friends are a wonderful thing. I'm thankful more than I can say for mine; I'm blessed by them. But it's exhausting; you understand going through it why so many people give up on trying to make things better, because you've already reached this point where you and everyone around you understands that you just can't function to minimum levels as a father and husband; it's hard to wake up the next day and go "well, I'm sure that's all in the past - let's learn Java!".

Health and Dental Care

If you are broke enough, you get what in some ways is very good health insurance: zero deductible, all prescriptions paid for, and no coverage limits. The reason you get this is because everyone else in the country pays for it for you - it's government insurance, given to those at income levels so low it's clear they have no chance at all of covering their own bills. It's not without downsides (the doctors suck, for the most part, and referrals for anything beyond basic family care are time-consuming to get) but you know that if your children or wife got seriously hurt or sick, there would be some level of care available that wouldn't instantly bankrupt you.

There's a point at which you are making too much money to get government insurance, though. As of today this number is $36,156, or ~138% of the federal poverty limit. This creates an interesting situation - if you were making 35k at a job and offered a job at 40k with healthcare benefits, taking the job would actually leave you in a worse place than before in most cases; insurance is expensive, and the government offers exactly zero help if you A. make more than a certain amount of money and B. work for a place with benefits. So where you had insurance and made 35k before, now you have insurance and make 32k; your step forward put you further in the hole.

This is what's usually referred to as a perverse incentive - it's a situation that "pays" you for doing the wrong thing. In this case, the wrong thing is rejecting jobs that pay more and offer more advancement out of fear that someone will get sick and you either won't be able to get them care or will bankrupt yourself doing so. If you are smart, you probably take this risk - after all, you might eventually make 70k and be in a place where insurance is merely expensive rather than a complete budget disaster. But it's a real risk you have to take as you climb towards financial security, and not everyone chooses to take it.

Dental insurance is worse. There's an internet meme that says that teeth are "luxury bones" that insurance doesn't cover, and this is more or less true - even with dental insurance, you are still out of pocket significant amounts of money for even basic dental care. I haven't been to a dentist since I was 11 years old for reasons related to this. I often consider the fact that I'm in a bit of a race against time with my own teeth - at some point they will go from "merely crooked" to "visibly rotting", and very few people will hire a person with visibly rotten teeth for work.

Note for other people of limited income: Take the time to check and see if there's a dental school in your town. The care dental school clinics give isn't free, but it's significantly cheaper and in my experience pretty good. One of my children has significant dental care needs, and he regularly goes to the dentist at a clinic of this sort - they treat him well and do good work. I can't compare it to a "real dentist", but it's infinitely better than nothing.

Used Goods and Craigslist

I mentioned this before, but I can work on cars, and I'm able to do anything less complex than a full engine or transmission rebuild. This is an example of what I refer to with friends as "poor people skills", or capabilities you develop beyond the norm because it's necessary to survive.

The most fun poor person skill by far is buying things off of Craigslist. It's by no means rocket science, but having little money means you end up buying all but the very cheapest of durable goods used, and repeated practice at this makes you skilled at finding deals other people might miss.

It's been decades since I bought new furniture besides IKEA; most of that comes from Craigslist. Cars come from Craigslist - you can buy used cars at dealerships and it's less risky, but comes with a 25-50% markup for the safety that a lot of people can't afford. Durable cookware, like pots and pans? Craigslist, if you want anything kind of nice; the stuff you can afford at target starts flaking teflon into your eggs a week in.

Rich person tip: Unless you really, really need everything in your house to clearly be part of a unified set, you are a sucker if you buy furniture new; this is especially true for non-upholstered wooden furniture. Antique furniture is prettier, studier, has more street cred and can be had for a song compared to retail store prices; let other people pay those and look average while you put in a minimum effort, save money, and get cooler older furniture that makes you look like a person of taste rather than an every day jive-turkey retail sucker.

Poor people tip: Stop buying spatulas on Craigslist. Just work some more overtime. Yes, I know it's a lot of overtime already but spatulas cost $5 new - a $2 spatula is not a deal and the savings don't pay for even minimum-wage time spent driving to talk to a guy named "Pastor Dave" about used discount cookware in a Circle K parking lot.

That last tip to poor people seems like a joke, but at some point it's something you have to look out for - you get so used to thinking of money as an extremely finite resource that any amount of absolute savings in purchase price looks necessary to you. But once you conquer that, it's like a superpower; you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars furnishing a room; you can buy a box of books with the one book you want in it for less than the price of that individual book from a bookstore.

The only downside to your new found x-man discount used goods status is the possibility of getting stabbed; it's a good idea to look at the approximate area of the guy selling you a hamster cage before you find yourself in the more murder-prone parts of town at night, conspicuously button-down and muggable hoping nobody notices you. Get that one little bit down, though, and it's like the skies open up and the heavens beam savings down; all the discount archery sets and knock-off kitchen knives of the world are suddenly at your fingertips.

That's it! We made it through. As I said before, none of this was meant to make you feel guilty and I hope and pray I managed not to sound like I was whining - I really want to emphasize that outside of everything I've talked about here, I'm absurdly wealthy in terms of the people who choose to spend their lives in my vicinity. I'm mostly a happy guy, and anymore one who can often pay his bills on time. I can really honestly confirm that money isn't the operative thing that makes you happy; it really is more about having good people around to talk to, take care of and to be taken care of by.

And if you do better than I do - say, if you are a person who completed college on time and went on to your deserved place in the upper-middle class - I hereby command you not to feel bad about it. It's OK to do well, and I have an idea of the kind of work you've put in to get to where you are; there's a great chance you deserve to have the things you have. I hope this was instructive for you, and I wish you continued success.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

ajsnigrutin(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I have a possibly stupid question...

Parts of america have really really high housing costs... like really high... and a bunch of people want to live there, and a lot of people there are poor (atleast compared to housing prices).

Why the hell do you still build single family houses, or one/two floor buildings in areas where you need to fit a bunch of people (eg. both photos in the article)? I'm from a former socialist country, and housing for working families back then looked (still does) like this:

https://i.imgur.com/pmpcaOL.png https://i.imgur.com/YowiKVe.png

Modern buildings look a bit better, with ground floors for commercial use, and underground parking, but still:


I understand single or two floor buildings if you're building something in rural alabama... there's a lot of space there, and the land is cheap.... But places like san francisco? That, I don't get.

olalonde(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> Why the hell do you still build single family houses, or one/two floor buildings in areas where you need to fit a bunch of people (eg. both photos in the article)?

Mostly bad regulations like rent control and zoning.

TulliusCicero(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This question was made for me.

It's not the market; obviously there's demand for higher density housing, and were it allowed, people would make more of it. It's almost always local regulations that make producing such housing difficult, or more commonly, flat out impossible.

Most American residential land is zoned for exclusively large single family homes in big lots. This is true even in most major metro areas. You can read a little bit about this here in this article that compared American zoning with Japanese zoning: https://marketurbanism.com/2019/03/19/why-is-japanese-zoning...

The gist of how it got this way is: racism and classism. The racism used to be more relevant, these days the classism is. You see, if you require that to live in a neighborhood, you must be able to own or rent a property with a minimum amount of land, it's easy to keep out people of lesser economic resources. A poorer family that might be willing to live an apartment in a nicer area will find that no such housing exists there, and being unable to afford a full house, they are excluded, hence the term 'exclusionary zoning'. This also has the effect of keeping those poor kids out of local schools.

So yeah, it's economic segregation that America pretends doesn't count as segregation somehow, even though the effects are plain as day.

LandR(10000) 3 days ago [-]

In your first phot, In my country those sort of buildings would be viewed very negatively, many would expect the people in them to be poor, lower-class, living off benefits etc. There are lots of stereotypes about the sort of people that live in those type of buildings.

People would NOT want that sort of building near their home worried it would lead to more crime, lower property prices etc.

Now, your last modern building. People would pay a small fortune to live in something like that in a trendy area in a city...

They would probably be classed as luxury apartments, come with a large rents or buying costs.

wooger(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Lots of people want to live there. But do the people who live there (and own property there) want lots more people to live there? Not really no.

And in some cases definitely not anywhere near them.

Cities work well at a certain size and population, but the services and infrastructure never get upgraded to match big increases in population like tower blocks.

Not to mention the view from people's houses across the bay will be gone as soon as high rises are built. If I'm happy with the status quo & I have lots of money, why would I ever stop doing everything possible to maintain it?

Hard_Space(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm a British immigrant to Bucharest, nearly 4 years, and I live in a slightly smaller version of the housing in your images, a 4-floor 1986 block in the south of the city, adjacent to Vacaresti park.

In London, this type of housing might be depressing, but here it is normal -- and when you take away 'neighbor envy', it's hard to express the difference it makes to one's own sense that you've reached some equilibrium in your environment and your life.

The TV ads here might be full of people in detached houses, but that kind of residence is very rare in this country - at least in cities like Bucharest and Cluj.

In short, Bucharest folk are used to it, and practically no-one in the US is. For them, it's 'the projects'.

dagw(10000) 3 days ago [-]

But places like san francisco? That, I don't get.

Short answer. The people who already live there don't want to be neighbors with those sorts of buildings and any politician that suggests it will be voted out of office.

refurb(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The answer for a city like San Francisco is all the available land was built on 70 years ago (with a few exceptions).

bregma(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is interesting.

My wife is a case worker for the county welfare office. She deals with 'those' people for a living and sees first-hand every day all the real and imagined shit spouted by righteous ideologues. She tells me that amongst those living in poverty, wealth is measured in terms of friends and family. Any money you come into is spent immediately, often on gifts to build status within your social network.

It's only when you move into the middle classes that wealth starts to be measured in terms of money. Budgeting, saving, trying to get more and planning for a future when you have none is not something someone in poverty does: it's something someone not in poverty does when they have no money. Trying to climb the social ladder by accumulating more money marks you as middle class.

The third layer has enough money (but of course always try to get more because that's the game). Their concept of wealth tends to be oriented towards legacy: collecting artworks, donating to cultural or research endeavours, political involvement. Wealth is measured by what you leave behind, and money is wasted if it just goes to trust funds or taxes.

When I was a student, and for many years after, I had no money. I had enough to keep a squalid roof over my head and three square meals a week. I had no money and no savings but I did not live in poverty because I had a plan to earn and save and move up in the world. I had no money but I did not live in poverty.

I think it's important for people who are trying to leave their legacy by getting politically involved in eliminating poverty to understand that their world is not the world. They need to understand how the definition of wealth for those in poverty is not the same as their definition of wealth, and without understanding that difference they are bound for failure from the start.

mschuster91(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> Any money you come into is spent immediately, often on gifts to build status within your social network.

Rather, for immediate survival and whatever bill is the most urgent to make even a tiny partial payment to avoid cut-off and the occasional comfort food as a treat if you can afford it somehow.

Source: had a rough patch in my life a couple years ago (thankfully over now).

pessimizer(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The reason you spend money as soon as you get it when you're poor is 1) because when you're poor you accumulate debts, both formal and informal, and 2) when you're poor you know other people who are poor and who need things.

Thinking poor people like being poor because they value what's really important - friends and family - is like poverty version of the 'magical negro' trope. Poor people value friends and family because they need each other to survive. People with no money problems don't need anyone.

edit: I honestly believe in a harsher version of this, in that for me the difference between friend and acquaintance is that a friend has sacrificed their comfort or safety for yours when they didn't have to. A friend is an acquaintance that has been tested by your bad circumstances and passed. If you're wealthy, you are rarely in truly bad circumstances, so when they happen, you might find yourself surrounded by acquaintances. Poor people know who to trust because they've had to trust them before.

ajfjrbfbf(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> I had enough to keep a squalid roof over my head and three square meals a week.

Three meals a week sound pretty miserable. I assume that's a typo :)

sethammons(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Queue my first truck. My uncle gave it to me. S-15. The bench seat didn't lock, it slid forward and back when breaking or accelerating. Hard left hand turn and the keys would fly from the ignition and land on tue floorboard of the passenger seat (this did not turn off the truck). During the same hard left, some electrical thing would connect or un-short and my radio would temporarily turn on until the end of the turn. It ate oil and did not have a dip stick; thus you estimated how much oil to add daily. If the headlights were on, the gas gauge was zero. Oh, and it could only be pop-started (meaning I had to always park on a hill and get the thing rolling to get the ignition to pop start - it did not always work). A boyfriend of my mom's showed me how to arc the starter bolts with a screwdriver- and I could now start it on flat surfaces! That was great. I eventually didn't add enough oil and seized the engine. This is Southern California fwiw.

aembleton(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Does the US or California not have some sort of annual check to ensure that cars on the road are roadworthy? Something like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOT_test

carapace(10000) 2 days ago [-]

( s/Queue/Cue/ )

yibg(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I grew up poor (first gen immigrant family, the poor kind), so I empathize with the points raised. At the same time I don't really understand how some / a family can be (outside of some circumstances like health issues, disabilities etc) repeatedly behind on water bills or other necessities.

For the first few years my family had an income of ~$1000 / month (back in the 90s). My mother wasn't legally allowed to work and my father was on a stipend. The whole family lived in a studio apartment, that 900 sq ft place in the article would've been huge for us. Our car was a $1200 tiny little rust bucket, but it ran.

Sometimes I see documentaries about people living in poverty and going pay check to pay check, yet the kids are wearing Nikes and playing on iphones. Being poor was definitely stressful though, and I'm definitely grateful that stress isn't part of my life anymore.

pessimizer(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> the kids are wearing Nikes and playing on iphones.

This is investment. If your kids are socially rejected at school and can't get on the internet, are they going to be better off in the long term or worse off?

If you are poor, looking poor is not going to help you up, it's going to drive you farther into poverty. It's the same impulse that makes lower-middle class parents go into debt to put braces on their kids' perfectly functional teeth (in the US.) Your kids are going to have to impress fellow students, charm their teachers, get into colleges, and interview for jobs. A bunch of people who don't see class are going to see your crooked teeth.

devdas(10000) 3 days ago [-]

All that you needed to break down was the car failing, or someone falling sick.

Minimum wage in the US hasn't kept pace with inflation for decades, and rents, school fees and the costs of medication have kept rising even faster. Banks charge even higher overdraft fees, so the small joys of a pair of branded shoes or a fancy phone are affordable, but the longer term gains aren't likely to be in reach.

Escaping poverty needs 20 years of everything going right. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/04/economi...

telesilla(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Being poor is doable as long as there are no disasters or gross unfairness. Every student who gets buy without parental help will attest.

notsureaboutpg(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I grew up like you but you and I weren't poor.

If your parents immigrated like mine (wife legally not allowed to work, dad on stipend) then your father (and possibly mother) was very well educated in your home country, then immigrated to the US, finished his studies or did a temporary training and then took a well paying job.

When having a $1000 a month income is known to everyone to be temporary and you know a well paying job is on the other side, that's not the kind of poor the author is talking about. When you know you will have money soon you can make all sorts of wise choices to handle a period of low liquidity. When you don't know that, you can't make any of those choices.

mc32(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Some poor families handle it better than others. A lot has to do with the parents and how they manage the situation psychologically.

There is peer pressure on the kids (and even parents), so they upend Maslow's pyramid to their detriment.

Some of it may be educational —home ec is not taught in many schools. Some of it is cultural (advertising) and some of it is propaganda (we're Americans, we must have a TV and consume brand names!)

I recall in Japan if you went on the dole you first had to sell your 'luxury' items before getting government support. It indicated you had to be in need and not supplementing or aiding poor economic decisions.

lc9er(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> Nikes and playing on iphones.

This is the kind of statement you hear from conservatives that blame poor people for their poverty.

There's a number of reasons. Because when you churn through a dozen pairs of cheap no-name shoes, it ends up being more than just buying a better set of shoes. Maybe a relative gave you some Christmas money. Or maybe you got overtime for working an extra 20 hours.

Being poor, you are constantly judged on your appearance, and it has a huge effect on how you are treated by retailers, government (police, social services, etc), teachers/school admins, and friends.

When you're poor, everything you own is half broken, purchased used, worn thin. You most likely live in an area that has a high crime rate, is loud, has a long commute to your job, is dirty. You have access to terrible, low quality food. You skip doctors appointments (can't afford the time off or co-pays) and dental work. (American) society constantly blames you for your situation.

Whatever the reason, poverty is a daily assault on your human dignity. It's incredibly difficult to escape. Sometimes, you have to say, "Screw it" and buy your kid the expensive shoes. That money won't get you out of poverty, but it may make you and your child happy for a bit.

skinkestek(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> it seems like they hardly lie awake at night thinking about their iffy alternator much, if at all.

Sometimes someone can help someone and score big at the same time. Here's a story that I heard from someone who was there:

There was a small company that was in a position where they made money but not a lot so they saved on everything.

At one point the owner caught whiff that one of the employees, - a master craftsman in his traditional craft - was struggling extra because of the car.

So the ownwr told them to lease a brand new car to this particular employee.

Accounting said wait-a-bit, we are considering each and every expense twice and you want to lease a car for this guy to use off work.

Owner said yes.

Doing that gave him two things:

- his specialist stopped worrying about the car at work

- he stayed there for a long time

No, this time it is not a management-feel-good-story, I know the company and my friend was in the room arguing against the decision.

Of course this might backfire (jealousy from other employees, people who stop caring anyway etc) which is why it should be used with caution.

jschwartzi(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The employees who would be jealous are operating with a different definition of 'fair.' The common definition is that everyone gets the same thing, but a more humane definition is that everyone gets what they need. And if you switch from the former to the latter then the owner's decision becomes very fair. Everyone benefits from having the specialist focused on work. And the specialist gets what he needs too.

carmen_sandiego(10000) 3 days ago [-]

As another ex-poor person: some of this is OK and some of it doesn't really ring true.


> That's the drop-off you experience at the lower price levels - there's nothing between "This is a tiny but acceptable apartment" and "Slum apartments in stab-ville".

I don't think this is true, and why would it be? Unless you're in an area where the housing market is cliffed for some legislative or regulatory reason. But most places, no, I've not seen this. You might have to put effort in to find nicer places on a budget, research areas, etc. but isn't that true of any purchase?

It's true that when you're poor you never get close to those naive 'this is how much of your income to spend on rent' suggestions, but there are places that cover the whole spectrum.

> Whichever you choose, a person of less-than-intermediate income has to be prepared to stick with the rental long-term, should things not go well. This is because apartments at both of these levels quite accurately assume that you can't afford a lawyer - while it's normal to put down a month or two worth of rent as a security deposit, it's much less normal to get it back; the apartment complex has no reason to give back thousands of dollars they can simply keep. This means every time you move, you pay something like a third to a month's wages for the privilege. Since breaking a lease often means you lose your privilege to live anywhere non-hellish, this means if you don't have cash reserves (more on these later*) at the exact right time of year, you might end up in the same place for another full year whether you like it or not.

You stick with a rental longer term because of overheads, yeah, but I wouldn't go into a rental contract expecting with certainty to lose 100% of my deposit.

Rather what happens is you get good at doing minor legal research and writing terse emails about it. Maybe many are scummy by default, but most roll when they see you've got even a little knowledge about what you're entitled to. That's a valuable skill for life in general, so it's something you should be learning to do regardless.

> a person's pay is determined by how rare their skills are and how much demand there is for those skills. The value of their work doesn't factor in as much

What's the value of a person's work that isn't just determined by the first part? What does the author think drives demand, if not the prospective value you provide to the various companies in the labor market?

wizzwizz4(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Value, not demand. A nurse who helps stop 50 people from dying each week is doing very valuable work, but a talented lawyer helping to defeat valid class-action lawsuits (negative value work) is probably paid more.

ivanbakel(10000) 3 days ago [-]

>What's the value of a person's work that isn't just determined by the first part?

The value of the work done, either in a physical sense (because it produces something of value) or in a societal sense (because it involves doing something of value).

If you're the best hole-digger in the world, and people are constantly trying to hire you to dig holes so that they can fill them in, then you would be highly paid - but would your work be 'valuable'?

Probably very few people are true free-market believers when it comes to the idea of fair pay.

tonyedgecombe(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I don't think this is true, and why would it be? Unless you're in an area where the housing market is cliffed for some legislative or regulatory reason.

I have a friend who works in real estate and he tells me people in difficult circumstances pay a premium because of the risk of default and damage. The landlord needs more margin to cover those extra risks.

He also told me you could never make money at the bottom end of the market if you have middle class sensibilities. It's pretty ruthless at the bottom.

leoedin(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I've seen this effect a few times with housing. When viewing either apartments or shared rooms, not being discerning enough at the advert stage has resulted in viewing some absolutely terrible places - damp, poorly heated, unmaintained, and the sense from interacting with the landlord that their MO is firmly 'slumlord'. The really surprising thing is that the rent demanded for these places is often not much less than the rent for a much nicer space in the same area of the city - maybe £50-£100/month.

I think when supply and demand meets minimum wage you get an incredibly non-linear effect in bang for buck. I'm sure there are exceptions (the property market definitely has a negative survivorship bias where the nice cheap properties are never on the market for very long while the terrible ones are).

notauser(10000) 3 days ago [-]

There is definitely non-linear pricing in the London housing market as one example.

When I was last looking -

Studio apartments and one bed room apartments rented for similar amounts, and so did two beds and three beds.

But the price jump from one bed to two bed was much larger than any of the other jumps.

You can speculate on many reasons why this might be the case (smallest size apartment for a family in the city, smallest size you can split with a friend, smallest size with space for an office).

There are exceptions and I'm sure that more research time could help you find them.

But one of the points made convincingly in the artle is that if you are poor you don't have a lot of energy, time or gas-money to do that kind of research.

JanneVee(10000) 3 days ago [-]

>> That's the drop-off you experience at the lower price levels - there's nothing between "This is a tiny but acceptable apartment" and "Slum apartments in stab-ville".

>I don't think this is true, and why would it be? Unless you're in an area where the housing market is cliffed for some legislative or regulatory reason. But most places, no, I've not seen this. You might have to put effort in to find nicer places on a budget, research areas, etc. but isn't that true of any purchase?

The thing that I've noticed is that yes the sweet spot exists but the supply is always more limited. You have higher availability on living because it is so expensive that not everyone can afford it(or think it is worth it). And the cheap in not so good areas (not necessarily dangerous but gives e.g. longer commutes and has less services and so on) have a higher supply because of that. The sweet spot in good location and a good price is going to have all houses and/or apartments taken. Then the surprise happens, since supply is limited at this sweet spot the prices tend to rise so you get that cliff mentioned in the article.

burlesona(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I've lived in small towns in Illinois and Texas, mid-sized in North Carolina, and big cities in Texas and California. That's enough to know that housing markets are wildly divergent across the US, and really can't be generalized.

The author seems to be describing how things are in metro Phoenix. Having not lived there, I'd assume it's as described.

I will say that my experience has been that there's a paradox: it should be much easier to get by as a poor person in small towns as everything costs a lot less, but paradoxically there's even less work to do so it's hard to even come up with the low local costs. In the end, poverty is always relative to the local market.

simiones(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> > a person's pay is determined by how rare their skills are and how much demand there is for those skills. The value of their work doesn't factor in as much

> What's the value of a person's work that isn't just determined by the first part? What does the author think drives demand, if not the prospective value you provide to the various companies in the labor market?

The value of your work is 'how much money would the company lose if no one did the exact job I am doing'. This generally has 0 correlation to your wage, because in general a company will think in terms of 'how much money would the company lose if anyone else did the job this employee is doing', which is a very different question. This is how it happens that many absolutely essential jobs, without which society would simply stop functioning, are also among the lowest payed. Probably one of the best examples is nurses, but also warehouse workers, transport people, construction workers, farm hands.

Havoc(10000) 3 days ago [-]

TIL US actually turns off your water if you don't pay. More used to flow restrictions. i.e. You'll have water to keep you alive but good luck showering with 10% the normal pressure.

throwaway0a5e(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is highly refined (I'm gonna stop just short of calling if 'pure') FUD.

In practice nobody gets their utilities shut off except people who were intending to pay their bill and slip through the bureaucratic cracks (elderly with kids managing it is a common scenario) or the person paying the bill doesn't live there and stopped paying (e.g. landlord in foreclosure so they stopped paying). I can't speak for literally every municipality but there are defined timelines and it takes months to shut utilities off. By the time they get around to shutting off your water or electricity you've already missed god knows how many payments on your rent and been through the full eviction proceedings. I've also never seen a utility provider that won't accept minimum payments. Providing some sort of financial assistance services, payment plans and doing everything possible to not shut people's utilities off is generally a requirement of getting a government granted utility monopoly in the first place.

Anyone who has to choose between utilities and something else should choose the something else. Utilities tend to be incredibly forgiving and willing to work with you if your financial situation doesn't permit payment in full. In some jurisdictions the debt doesn't even get reported (they just keep trying to collect)

sethammons(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Fwiw, many water providers will continue services if any amount is paid in good faith. Also worth noting (at least in California): no water to the building means it is legally uninhabitable: you can be forced from the property.

refurb(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Hmmm... not always and it would take a long time and if it puts the tenants at risk (kids in the house) it likely wouldn't happen.

Ensorceled(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This article should have been titled 'On being Poor-ish in Phoenix' ... I don't think many of these issues apply to being poor in, say, a small town/a smaller city/a city with transit or in a country with a better social net.

TulliusCicero(10000) 3 days ago [-]

There's definitely an American perspective there, where few cities have decent transit, let alone good transit. But you're not gonna escape the car problems in the states by moving to a smaller town. If anything, that usually makes things worse.

telesilla(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Sorry we missed you does a superb job of showing the cycle of poverty and how it affects families. The accuracy of the film stems from interviews while director Ken Loach was filming I, Daniel Blake in Newcastle.

robtherobber(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I can wholeheartedly recommend that film (and Ken Loach's filmns in general). The following review excerpt [1] is telling and heartbreaking:

The stakes of the film are simultaneously huge and small. The Turners don't need much. Some stability; a steady income, of course; more time would be a dream. Really, though, the most precious thing they have is each other. But there's no time for that because then there'd be no money.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/04/movies/sorry-we-missed-yo...

sethammons(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> You are also more or less forced to learn to do mechanic work.

You are forced to do all your own work, unless the landlord will help. I am no longer poor and broke, but I spent roughly my first three decades there. I recall a colleague saying they were redoing their walk way; it blew my mind they paid someone to do it — the concept of paying someone to do something for you is not something I experienced growing up. I now can afford contractors and it still is not my first (or second or third) thought when I need work done.

sanderjd(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I think that interestingly, once you can afford to have someone do something for you, it is often (even usually) cheaper to do it that way than to do it yourself. If it is something you don't know how to do, then you are paying for the education in some way, either in your own time to learn how to do it, or in the lower quality that usually comes out of future value somehow (either resale value or it-needs-to-be-done-again cost). If it's something you already know how to do, then you're paying yourself for your own time rather than someone else paying you for that time. Of course there are lots of trade offs and balances to strike, but as a rule the bigger the project is the less I think I can save money by doing it myself.

Terretta(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The article touches on this with "don't by a spatula from Craigslist".

No matter your income, what you're really doing is trading time for goods and services, the money is just a token.

When "doing your own work", be mindful of the opportunity cost of your time. What's your rate versus the handyman's rate? If you fix the porch, are you less able to pick up that overtime shift?

This needs to be genuine trade off, not aspirational. For example, one lots of folks don't consider: what's the cost of your commute time, and if you could live significantly closer for a little more rent or mortgage, could you and would you put that time to a use with payback/upside? In a recent datascience article, the author analyzed rents and locations to save a few pounds, tolerating a 50 minute commute. What could they generate with an extra 40 hours of productive time a month, and would they do that or watch the telly?

Reframe as: what can you do with your tradeoffs on time that adds pay-it-forward energy to your financial flywheel?

mudita(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I was poor for some time after deciding to quit my computer science phd for a career in art. I guess I still am compared to others, but it does not feel that way any more. When I was really poor, worrying about money and how to pay the next rent was a regular source of stress for me, which took quite a lot of emotional energy.

Now I still have much lower income than people, who have regular well-paying jobs, but I do not feel poor. I have no savings and there are some things, which feel totally out of reach like owning a car or house, but I do not have to worry about money and I can afford a lot of luxuries like visiting theatres very often and eating out.

Regarding housing: I remember living in a tiny room in a shared flat in the worst part of town, above a brothel, a shady car dealer and a Hookah lounge (which was often very loud, very late into the night). Sometimes I had problems paying rent, but there just was no cheaper less-quality alternative.

Regarding transportation: I am so glad, that I live in a place, where you can live very comfortably without a car.

Similarly with health care. I think the US is just an especially bad place to be poor in compared to Europe.

Financially switching from computer science to art has been a very bad decision, but overall it was the best decision in my life. It really helped me deal with my tendencies for depressions, because it allows me to feel more meaning in my life and suits me better. I do not think that I would have dared this switch in the US. I don't know what would have happened if I had lived in the states, if I would have found other ways to cope with depression or if I would have slipped into deeper and deeper depressive episodes without a way out, but I am glad that I did not have to find out.

thaumasiotes(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> Financially switching from computer science to art has been a very bad decision, but overall it was the best decision in my life.

This reminded me of a friend who graduated with a BA in 'design' (I'm not sure), got a high-paying job as a web designer, and quit that to become a teacher at some type of extracurricular enrichment place for very young children.

The new place didn't pay well -- or even reliably -- but she liked it more.

sql_monkey(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Thank you for sharing. Your comment highlights something important I believe when talking about poverty. One common argument against any type of government help is that poor people should just work harder and pull themselves by the bootstrap.

However the situation you describe above shows the many side-effects of being poor which impede life in general: lack of proper sleep (because you live in a noisy area with no other choice), constant stress (paying rent, maybe dangerous neighborhood, etc.), probably not affording good quality food, etc. etc.

Add these side-effects up and one quickly understand that getting out of poverty is an herculean task and I personally couldn't blame someone for not making it.

airhead969(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Ever slept in a bus station? I have, in the US. I went for 3 years without any healthcare, and then it took another 7 years and a lawyer (who took $16k USD) to get more permanent help.

One thing is for certain: with 99.99% of people, their friendliness (or meanness) is proportional to the size of your bank account.

If you want to know how people truly are, become actually poor, filthy, and seem depressed, then you will know their nature.

fallingknife(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm surprised he doesn't know not to pay rent for the last month and make them use the deposit for it. That's what I always did when I was poor. No way they're gonna evict you in 30 days, especially if they know you're leaving anyway.

Also his car cost is way off: https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/cheapest-lease-deals

choeger(10000) 3 days ago [-]

That came to my mind as well. If I don't expect the deposit back and cannot afford to claim it, let's just turn the tables and make them claim something from me.

buescher(10000) 3 days ago [-]

He chose a car manufacturer that no longer makes compact sedans for his example, which is flat-out deceptive.

Someone who can write that well can probably find ways to make more money if he needs it - what else is he trying to deceive us about?

cableshaft(10000) 3 days ago [-]

You can't even get a lease with bad credit. And with poor credit you're not getting these '$200/month' offers for leases. Those assume pretty good credit scores, which you almost certainly won't have if you're poor enough you have to let utilities get shut off.

watertom(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Maybe in the old days not paying your last month's rent would be an option but not today.

Nobody who is truly poor would skip out on the last month rent unless they were desperate, because the landlord will find things wrong with the apartment and will charge you the most or all of the security deposit. Then they will file an unpaid dept claim, turn it over to a debt collection agency and it will hit your credit score. Which means in the future you have to rent in the really scary parts of the city, and if you don't want to rent in the really scary part of the city you'll pay your last month's rent. Also a lot of jobs check credit scores, a bad report could keep the author from getting hired.

In regard to the car, the author doesn't have the credit score or income level to even qualify for the lease let alone, 'the cheapest lease deals', not to mention the author certainly doesn't have the $3K down payment. If you are thinking that they can just roll the down payment into the lease, well they only let you do that if you have the best credit score.

burlesona(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This is a great write-up, and as someone who spent time being poor-ish, it really resonated.

What I realized from my own life experience: the US sawed the bottom rungs off the ladder in the 1950s when it suburbanized. There is no affordable housing or transportation in 95% of the North American land area, and virtually every societal problem we deal with either stems from this or is made worse by it. Then the healthcare disaster is the cherry on top.

The US is a great place to live and work with tremendous upward mobility —— but only if you can stay above the event horizon which is reliable car ownership and insurance coverage (health, home/renters, auto). If you fall under that, you will need help or a lot of good luck to get back out.

deeeeplearning(10000) 3 days ago [-]

>The US is a great place to live and work with tremendous upward mobility

Always confused by this notion. People act as if the US is the only place this is possible but not only is it possible in most of the western world, there is in fact BETTER mobility in the much of the western world relative to the US. The US isn't even in the Top 10!


treis(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>There is no affordable housing or transportation in 95% of the North American land area

This just isn't true. The majority of the US has cheap housing. The person who wrote the article lives in Pheonix where you can get houses for 200k or under. Like this perfectly good 3 bed 2 br for 200k:


Housing costs are out of control in a handful of places in the US. In the rest of them it's as cheap as ever. Or even cheaper given the very low interest rates.

It can be stupid cheap to live in the US. Rent a room for $4-500, buy a late model Toyota for $5k, and eat like a poor person. It's pretty easy to accumulate enough money to break the cycle of poverty.

The big pitfall is health. If you're sick then yeah you're pretty screwed. But outside of that as long as you avoid unplanned kids, jail, and drugs it's pretty smooth sailing

skohan(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I sometimes wonder if that event horizon is encroaching higher and higher up the economic ladder over time. Most of the people in my personal cohort - with university degrees and good careers - have no problem living a good life in the US. But with the rapid inflation of the cost of healthcare, higher education and housing, I wonder how that lifestyle can possibly become accessible to people who weren't essentially born into it. I think increased stratification in terms of lifestyle and opportunity is not good long term for social cohesion or political stability.

cwp(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I noticed this after spending time in developing countries. They are set up much better for being poor. Trivial example: you can go into a pharmacy and buy two aspirin. Some people can't afford 100 at a time, and don't need that many anyway.

Or rent: you can get a place to live for only $60/month. There's no running water, but it's clean and dry and it has a lock on the door. The cheapest place you can find in the US is a lot nicer, but also much more expensive.

Buses have no route maps, no shelters and no doors. They might not come to a complete stop when they pick you up. But you can ride for 25¢.

The US has a kind of minimum standard of living, but it comes with a minimum cost of living. If you can't afford that, you end up with nothing.

EliRivers(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The car. As he says, the car. The goddamned car.

Every time you get into it, hoping that it will start. And not just when it's been sat outside your house for a while. When you stop for petrol (gas), or in the car park after buying food, sitting behind the wheel and hoping it starts again. The restrictions that get placed on you when you just can't rely on the car always starting.

For your life, a mostly-starts car is in theory better than no car, but for mental health it's corrosive. Every plan you make carries the rider 'unless the car doesn't start' and you end up restricting where you drive to places that, if you were suddenly carless, you could still get home from. Any time you're outside the safety zone, there is the constant fear 'what if it doesn't start?' Being afraid, having that stress, all the time is just mentally corrosive.

If a better job comes up and it's not near public transport, every day is a gamble on being able to get to work, and get home again. Spending your evening worrying about whether you'll be able to get to work in the morning is a horrible way to live; perpetually unable to relax. At least once I simply sold it for scrap and gave up entirely on doing anything that needed a car. Such a relief, but I was in the privileged position of being able to live and work without one.

dfgdghdf(10000) 3 days ago [-]

For the wealthy, a car is expensive but mostly a convenient way to get around. For the poor, car maintenance costs can be ruinous. However, our society (excluding a few large cities) all but requires a car for day-to-day activities. Everyone drivers, but the poor bear the brunt of the cost, since they are more likely to live near noisy, polluted roads. Meanwhile, the wealthy can afford to live on quiet suburbs and cul-de-sacs. Cities and infrastructure designed for cars ('car dependency') disproportionately hurts the poor.

lastofthemojito(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm really curious to see how electric cars work for the poor (maybe 25 years from now, not presently).

One of the big selling points of electric cars is simplicity - with far fewer moving parts, less can go wrong and you can hopefully expect a car to last longer.

That's the hope anyways, but the big maintenance item in an electric car is the battery, and of course that's an expensive thing to replace. Will folks be able to do DIY repairs like cobble together battery packs from various sources? Will a decades-old battery that is 50% depleted or more still allow that car to function properly, just with less range? Or will it refuse to 'start'?

marktangotango(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Dude this is so true, in the US reliable transportation is so important. Particularly given the abysmal, non existent public transportation in the majority of the country. Having an unreliable car is a major source of stress for a lot of people.

sandworm101(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This ties into covid too. Low paid jobs are more likely...scratch that. Low paid jobs always require physical presence, most often at strange hours not served by public transportation. There are no work-from-home days for tradespeople, for cleaners, for food workers.

issamehh(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This has been my problem for years now. I'm in the middle of nowhere and I can't count on the thing. I don't know how many times I've been stuck and also almost towed because I couldn't move it. I've luckily managed to avoid it so far but I'd not be able to do much about it if it happened.

zaphar(10000) 3 days ago [-]

That moment when you come out of the grocery store and the car doesn't start on the first try...

I'm not in that situation anymore but I can still remember the absolute sinking feeling. And then the overwhelming sense of relief when it started on the second try. I've had my water turned off. I've had my heat turned off. I've scavenged wooden pallets on the side of the road to burn in a wood stove for heat. I've broken the seal on the gas meter so I could turn it on at my most desparate. I escaped those circumstances thanks to family, and church friends. But this article is spot on as to what it's like to poor or poor-ish.

rvn1045(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Low income people in the U.S still have a chance of improving their station in life, although it is very hard. It's nearly impossible in other countries where poor takes on a whole new meaning.

ed25519FUUU(10000) 3 days ago [-]

We just need to make sure we don't get "used to it" in the USA, lest we become a place where class becomes ossified in daily life, or descend into the aristocracy class hierarchy that plagued much of early European history.

rob74(10000) 3 days ago [-]

And what boggles the mind even more than this sorry state of affairs in the USA is that a significant part of these 'working poor' are voting for a party that angrily rejects any notion of a European-style welfare system that would help improve this situation as 'socialism'...

refurb(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Agreed. Not only are they poor but apparently quite stupid! I mean, who vote against a European-style welfare system? Who doesn't want to be just like Europe?

throwaway284239(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Boy, does the stuff about cars hit home. When I was poor I had to drive on tires so old that the steel was exposed.

The worst was when my insurance got canceled because I couldn't afford it. This led to a chain reaction of absolute dumpster-fire awfulness:

- Can't afford insurance

- Insurance gets canceled

- This automatically triggers registration getting canceled

- I can't stop going to work, and there's no public transit where I lived, so what choice do I have but to keep driving?

- Highway patrol scans my plate, notices I'm not registered, pulls me over

- Car gets impounded for not being insured, which is actually the more lenient punishment, because (as I learned that day) not having insurance is a criminal offense

- Can't afford the ticket I got for not being registered, so my license gets suspended for non-payment

So because I couldn't make an insurance payment, my registration got canceled ($), my car got impounded ($$$), and my license got suspended ($). And is any of this money going to fund public transportation? Of course not.

I did eventually get my car back, got new insurance, re-registered, and reinstated my license, at great personal expense including the time it took to go to the DMV (the nearest one of which is in the next town).

But it was another year before I could afford to replace my tires.

vmception(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> because (as I learned that day) not having insurance is a criminal offense

> Can't afford the ticket I got for not being registered

so here is where you got lucky, not having prior outstanding non-payment or not having prior potentially or actual criminal offenses on your record.

non-payment of the ticket would have led to harsher punishment upon your next infraction, which is much more likely to happen when your neighbors and the police are looking specifically at you all the time, which may have been your experience but just food for thought for anyone browsing this thread.

dnautics(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've had the experiences of:

1. being on the high end of poor while being oblivious and in a socially highbrow environment (STEM grad school, $26k/yr salary, high cost-of-living city). I also felt privileged because i lived in a 'foreign postdoc ghetto' where my neighbors were a single family on a postdoc salary (probably somewhere between 27-30k) living in a one-bedroom with two kids.

2. the experience of being 'service-collar' middle-class while having peers that have mostly emerged from being poor (Lyft driver, $56k/yr earnings)

Now I'm a dev, on the lower end of the pay scale for bay area devs but one thing is I'm pretty fearless about winding up poor again because I know I can hack it and still live happily. Now I'm a dev, probably on the lower end of the spectrum for the bay area

selimthegrim(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Believe me some places like New Orleans would love to have a foreign postdoc ghetto if it meant educated people would stick around.

TrackerFF(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I think the biggest threat to poor people, would be the ridiculous housing market. It's not just in big expensive cities, it's pretty much everywhere. Only places that are being spared, are those in destitute areas with some serious emigration problems - but those things happen for a reason (no work).

In my country (Norway), the housing market has appreciated around 5.5% ANNUALLY, compared to annual wage increase of some 2.5%. In some cities, that growth is much higher - almost 8%

We have a very decent welfare system, but a spread like that will surely create a hard class-divide between owners and renters. Renters will be forced further away from the cities, having to rely on longer commutes.

Some places it's already that bad. Certain normal salaried professions can not, and will probably never, be able to own even 'starter' homes (as in small apartments), because they need to spend more and more time on saving for the down-payment (15% here) - and once they've reached their original goal, the goalpost have been moved. I'm talking about professions like teachers, nurses, etc. Not even legit poor people!

Having been raised by a poor-ish single mother, I can remember that at least in the 80s/90s, there was a lot less debt around. At least here, credit cards and consumer debt wasn't being handed out like free candy, back then. You had to rely on your salary, and then either get help from family/friends, or the welfare office. My mother had too much pride for that, even though my dads side were loaded.

These days, it seems like poor people are also getting trapped in debt. Everything is driven by debt, and every bill you fall behind on, is compounded by some fee, which is applied the second you're overdue.

I can absolutely understand why many poor people feel complete helplessness and apathy.

ThrustVectoring(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Having been raised by a poor-ish single mother, I can remember that at least in the 80s/90s, there was a lot less debt around. At least here, credit cards and consumer debt wasn't being handed out like free candy, back then. You had to rely on your salary, and then either get help from family/friends, or the welfare office. My mother had too much pride for that, even though my dads side were loaded.

> These days, it seems like poor people are also getting trapped in debt. Everything is driven by debt, and every bill you fall behind on, is compounded by some fee, which is applied the second you're overdue.

This all is a side-effect of the one-two punch of aging demographics and switching from pay-as-you-go to defined-contribution retirement schemes. Every debt is someone else's asset, so if the market is demanding more assets, interest rates will fall until asset values rise, debt loads increase, and the market clears.

The situation is just cursed, IMHO. If you want to ease conditions, you have to reduce the payments various debtors and tenants make to asset-holders, which is ultimately infeasible on the grounds of impoverishing retirees and ruining pension funds. If you use government spending on this, you either raise taxes or foist off the problem to public borrowing and/or inflation. At the end of the day, the real goods and services that the working public produces but does not consume is the same size as the real goods and services that the non-working public consumes but does not produce; at best you can redistribute spending within these demographics.

huevosabio(10000) 2 days ago [-]

You can't have an eternally appreciating housing market and affordable housing [0], one has to give. Our current housing market appreciation comes from systematic housing shortage.

Rognlie finds out that the increase in return to capital (vs return to labor) observed by Piketty comes largely from the residential real estate sector [1].

It turns out, Henry George was right. We need to tax the value of land such that we capture all of the economic rent that rightfully belongs to the community and distribute it to the community as a dividend. The same tax will spur a more efficient use of land and, thus, more housing supply. The dividend will serve as a cash-based safety net for the community members.

Additionally, at some point we have to make the switch that Japan did in how we view housing: as a depreciating asset.

[0] Note that the only sustainable way to have affordable housing is if market-rate housing is affordable. Publicly owned/built/subsidized housing is useful for handling exceptions, but not for your main point of supply.

[1] https://www.brookings.edu/bpea-articles/deciphering-the-fall...

pmiller2(10000) 2 days ago [-]

You are absolutely right.

I live in the Bay Area now, which everyone knows has absurd rental prices. In my home town, I can rent a comparable sized apartment to what I have now for around 1/3 what I currently pay. But, there's no way I could earn 1/3 the income I make as a Bay Area software engineer working at a non-remote job in my home town.

Even making 1/4 what I'm making would be highly optimistic. I just did a search on Google for '$HOMETOWN $HOME_STATE jobs,' and pretty much everything I could qualify for was retail level jobs. In my home town, that means probably $10/hour, or, $20k/year, if you can manage to get full time hours. Even in retail management, it would be tough to hit 1/5 of what I make now. Add in student loans, which are a fixed expense, no matter where I go, unless I want to go to a repayment plan that depends on my income and never pay them off, and we see the advantage goes squarely to the Bay Area.

Now, imagine starting in my home town and actually making it to the Bay Area. If you move with a job already lined up, you'll need to have at least 1 month's rent + 1 month security deposit saved up, plus moving expenses. First month's rent and security deposit will be at least $3500. Think about how long it takes to save up $3500 making $20k per year. Then, think about how this doesn't include moving expenses, which, even if everything you own fits in your personal vehicle, is going to amount to another several hundred for gas and probably at least one night in a hotel if you drive. Call it another $500.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, at $20k per year in my home town, you're probably either spending 35-40% of your gross income on rent, or living with roommates. So, good luck saving up nearly 1/4 of your gross annual income just to GTFO.

sbarre(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> I think the biggest threat to poor people, would be the ridiculous housing market.

I have heard this referred to as the 'financialization of housing' in articles I've read over the last few years. Google that term to find out more..

Basically more and more multinational corporations (structured as REITs and similar) have turned their eyes towards the housing market, buying up stock in major cities and wherever there is arbitrage opportunity...

And of course this means maximizing profits and minimizing costs, which is squeezing the average person harder and harder as rents go up more aggressively than before (which also drives up home prices etc)...

The idea of treating people's homes as 'assets' to be bought and sold and optimized for profit is, personally speaking, horrendous..

But hey, capitalism, right?

ImaCake(10000) 3 days ago [-]

>while it's normal to put down a month or two worth of rent as a security deposit, it's much less normal to get it back

This looks insane to an Australian. I have moved house 4 times in the past 5 years and I have never not got all of my bond back. Some states here have a rule that the bond money is held by the state so that the landowner doesn't just take that money for themselves. How can the poor ever break the cycle if no one is willing to help protect them from shitty rent-seekers?

blackshaw(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Yeah, a bunch of things in this article strike me as very American (I'm British). No-one in the UK worries about not being able to afford healthcare if they're poor, nor do they need a car to get to the grocery store in under an hour (unless they live in an isolated home out in the countryside, which probably means they're rich, not poor.) There are many, many places you can live in the UK without needing a car to get to work.

The deposit thing looks insane to me too. My rental deposit is held in escrow by some third party; I've never heard of anyone not getting their deposit back when they move (unless they did something to deserve it e.g. trashing the place). The only issue around deposits is that you usually have to pay a deposit for the new place before you've received the deposit back for the old place, which can cause cashflow issues.

I've always thought of the U.S. as a great place to be rich, but a terrible place to be poor.

On the other hand, I find it laughable that this author describes a 900sqft apartment as 'very small'. 900sqft would be considered a decent-sized, mid-range apartment in London, and if you're poor you'll live somewhere MUCH smaller. Americans have such ginormous houses, even the poor ones.

kayodelycaon(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The last place I rented from took my deposit for damage they knew existed before I started renting. (They literally painted over mold in the kitchen closet.) Then they tried to send me a $1000+ bill over a year later for "damages".

toomanybeersies(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Although bond is held by the RTBA (or whatever it's called outside Vic), it's pretty common for landlords/property managers to try and strong arm tenants into giving up part of their bond for 'damages', most of which are either resonable wear and tear, pre-existing, or not the responsibility of the tenant. For poorer people, who need the money sooner than later, it's often easier to agree to get half your bond back than to apply to VCAT (not to mention a lot of tenants fear they'll get blacklisted if they do) and possibly get all your bond back several months later.

I'm currently in the process of trying to claw my bond back from my previous landlord, it's been over 3 months now. Luckily I can afford it, but I know a lot of people who can't.

elhudy(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This varies on a state-by-state basis. In Chicago, rental protections allow for the rentee to sue for beyond the deposit, as well as their lawyer's wages, in the case of a security deposit being wrongly taken. I know because I won back a lot of money from bogus 'damage' claims. Other states have laws that lean towards favoring the renter.

Since we're throwing anecdotes out there, I've had my landlords attempt to wrongly and knowingly take money from my security deposit about 30% of the time. The lower-class the apartment is, the more likely the owner is a slumlord, and will try to scam you.

trynumber9(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm American and my experience matches yours. I've always got my deposit back. However, if there is a country that embodies 'your mileage may vary' it is the USA.

Havoc(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Yeah some. Landlord pocketing the interest on it can happen, and if they're nasty they might argue re you can't get it all back cause of a scratch on the floor over there but just straight up refusal is insane

a_bonobo(10000) 3 days ago [-]

>I have never not got all of my bond back.

Then you're lucky - I've had enough friends in QLD and WA who have had their bond partially kept back because the landlord company thought they could get a few hundred or thousand for free. Usually the trick is to say that pre-existing damage was caused by my friends. It's impossible to defend from if you don't claim the damage when you move in!

I've personally only had one huge battle with the company as they thought our place was dirty when we moved out, despite spending two full days cleaning it (townhouse). I now always pay a cleaning company to avoid the hassle, but that's $100-200 not everyone can afford.

I found these 2018 numbers that say that 30% of bonds are not returned in Australia; https://www.finder.com.au/30-of-aussie-tenants-dont-get-thei...

gambiting(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Same in UK. I have moved 8 times in the past 11 years and I always got my full deposit back.

Also yes, the entire article just screams 'the experience of being poor....in America'. From the lack of social net, to the absurd costs of insurance and healthcare. I don't mean to say that life elsewhere is all rosy and there are no problems at all, but I can't even imagine worrying about costs of health treatments - it's just a given you will get them and you won't pay anything. I guess it's part of the author's point - that some people don't realize how good they have it.

lotsofpulp(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I don't know the statistics, but I live in the US, and had rented for 10+ years with 5 of 6 different landlords in 3 cities, and I always got my deposit back, and I don't know anyone who was stiffed either. But I wasn't staying in the worst places, but not the best either. One was an informal cash transaction rental from a Craigslist ad and it worked out.

WalterBright(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I always got my security deposit back when I rented. No drama, they just checked the apartment and gave it back.

gizmo686(10000) 2 days ago [-]

American here. I've always gotten my deposit back, but more often then not it involves work and knowledge on my part. Most tenets (even my wealthy peers) don't really know there rights and just write off the deposits as a cost of moving, so most landlords assume they can get away with stealing them.

I have always gotten payed after sending a letter to the effect of 'I moved on XXX date. With interest (as required by the lease and state law) you owe me my security deposit of $YYY within 45 days or I am entitled to sue for 3x that amount and attorneys fees.'

There are also some procedural rules around how to deduct from security deposits (among other things, you must send an itemized list by certified mail to the last known address of the former tenet within 45 days of the end of the lease). I'm pretty sure most landlords don't even follow that for otherwise valid deductions

throwaway-0987(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Throwaway because I don't want my co-workers to know.

I was poor. My father left home when I was a kid in middle school. My mom worked part time cleaning houses and left us when she found a new husband. I dropped out of high-school in the 9th grade and went to work. Low paying jobs. I lived with my aunt on the bad side of town.

Fast-forward 35 years. Today, I make about 200K per year. I got a GED, went to trade school, then got into college (full Pell Grant because I was so poor) and came out with a few degrees.

Everything I own is fully paid for. House, cars, etc. because I'm always afraid I'm going to be poor again. Of course, I only own modest things. Nothing fancy.

If you have never been poor, you may not realize how awesome Small houses and Toyota Corollas are.

My fears about being poor again drive my wife and kids crazy. They think I'm nuts and say I need counseling. I probably do.

Anyway, people think I'm 'privileged' now because I earn a lot of money, but they have no idea that I used to sleep on the floor and eat in soup lines.

I made it and you can too. Poverty has no color. It impacts everyone. You can't tell just by looking at someone.

you_know_the_(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I don't think we ever can overcome the fear of being poor again. I struggle with it as well.

walkedaway(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Your general story of poor-to-doing-well is the majority story in the US (not sure of other countries). Income mobility is a huge thing in the US, a great feature that I see mentioned very little outside of academics. Something like 80% of people will be in the top 10% of earners at some point in their lifetime, and 98% of people will be in the top 50%. 'poor' and 'rich' are not static labels, and they vary greatly even year to year (Thomas Sowell has excellent data and analysis on this).

FWIW I grew up poor and I do the same as you - no debt, pay cash for cars (even expensive ones) and despite millions in the bank, I fear not being able to provide for the family. At my age, I've learned that this is a good thing, as opposed to people my age that have spent lavishly and are now wondering how to start saving for their retirement in 10 years.

technofiend(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Go read The Millionaire Next Door. You'll see that there are plenty of people like yourself who remain frugal after managing to pull themselves out of poverty. I'm suggesting the book to both validate your behavior but also give you some examples so you can perhaps moderate it if you still feel that's needed. I can give a single example from my life: my uncle managed to snag a liquor distributorship after WW II. It was a license to print money. He never moved out of the first postwar house he purchased when he started his business because he just didn't see the need and he felt showing off his newfound wealth in poor taste.

In short, you're not alone and as long as you're not making yourself or people in your life miserable well maybe you're not too far off from where you need to be.


I will say the folks who come from richer backgrounds do have some advantages over us who grew up poor. For instance I had no idea how much scholarships subsidized learning and went to the state school I could afford to fund on my own.

zusemo(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Joining the throwaway train here...

> My fears about being poor again drive my wife and kids crazy. They think I'm nuts and say I need counseling. I probably do.

Do it. This is on the PTSD spectrum and in my own case the habits of poverty have substantially impacted how I've experienced my own life.

10 years of working 2-3 jobs was enough to crawl out of deferred expenses land and pay for a few community college classes. I lucked my way into an unexpected pile of cash and a decent paying job. I bought a house and a car, and savings started piling up. I continued to be hounded by anxiety that I didn't notice, because it was the same pot of anxiety I'd been boiled in to that point.

Everything was fine and rosy for a while. Eventually the anxiety burned out enough fuses to start directing choices. What seemed like interests became obsessions. Unpowered hand tools can't run out of gas, work when the electricity's off, and are easy to fix if they break. Gardening replaced more of the shopping list. Wild edibles supplemented gardening. Bicycle commuting saves money and makes scavenging more accessible. Years of anxiety slowly bloomed into delusions, one thing led to another, and quite suddenly I was living out of a bicycle and two panniers. The persisting anxiety of poverty pulled the plug on my success.

Homelessness, poverty, and mental illness are all outcomes of one another. Removing someone from the circumstances of poverty or homelessness is only the first step.

I got lucky again, managing to stumble over housing and a surfeit of income before homelessness made its recognizable mark. Profoundly lucky that by chance I came to know folks who've done social work with others recovering from homelessness, who told me to get some counseling so I could learn to experience the life I had, feel like I own the things I own, and stop alternating between resentfulness and fear of my own success.

Anyway, I'm gonna be that person now and offer the perspective that poverty in the USA is only transactionally similar across lines of discrimination. People of color (and other marginalized persons) do experience a source of trauma and hardship that doesn't go away like poverty does, but does additionally compound the frequency and quality of poverty they experience.

bsanr2(10000) 2 days ago [-]

You were lucky.

By that, I mean that a non-trivial percentage of the people in your circumstances at every step of the way (soup kitchen, GED attainment, degree attainment, buying your Corolla, buying your house, applying for your $200k/yr job) didn't make it.

I admire your accomplishments. I loathe and rebuke your, 'And you can too!'. The entire point of the essay you're replying to is to encourage sympathy and empathy for the people who cannot and will not, who will continue to exist in large numbers as long as our society remains as it is. You missed the point.

throwaway-0987(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I can't edit the original post, but I wanted to clarify that the last paragraph was intended to give other poor people hope, not to make them feel inadequate. Sort of a cheer leader type thing. I probably should have left it out.

You are all right. I was lucky. We all are to some extent. I consider my aunt my only real family. I still drive to visit her grave each year.

steve_adams_86(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> My fears about being poor again drive my wife and kids crazy. They think I'm nuts and say I need counseling. I probably do.

Same with mine. I never travelled outside of Canada until my mid thirties because the notion of spending that kind of money (despite having it) seemed absurd. My kids lost opportunities because in the back of my mind, we're constantly on the brink of homelessness. I have a seriously difficult time shaking this state of mind.

Something I've found useful is reminding myself that 1) I managed to survive and stay healthy despite how poor I was, and when things go wrong, there is typically a way forward. If something were to go wrong, it would likely be outside of my control. 2) my energy is better spent being moderate about money, otherwise relaxing about it, but then focusing my energy on immediate things which matter and are within my control. 3) most people I know carry and manage more debt that I've had in my entire lifetime. If I were to lose everything tomorrow, I'd still be ahead of them. I always exaggerate my risks.

Good luck.

throw0932439(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Just want to say I hate the 'yeah but luck'/'yeah but you're still privileged because x' going on in the comments and I found your comment inspiring, in case you ever doubt it.

I'm poor, but not extreme poverty poor only because I'm 'lucky' that I've had my parents be able to support me. I have several health problems which border on being disabilities (for which actually getting support would be very hard). Without my parents I'd probably be dead. My goal isn't even not being poor just self-sufficient. Of course I'm grateful for having them and how hard they've worked to get where they are now, but anyone pointing out this 'luck' anytime I try to comment about my experiences pisses me off to no end. Do you think I don't ponder how much worse off I could be? Will dwelling on that even more than usual help me or anyone like me? No. It already depresses me enough as it is. What helps is hearing that other people have managed to improve their lives too (I also look at ways I could apply what they did). The worse part is when people say it in a way that dismisses all effort on my part (which is how it's usually put even if the people writing it don't realize it). As if, because statistically there are people at my level with worse/better luck that somehow should mean anything to me. I'd rather some ignorant rich person complain about being 'poor' than that sort of thinking. If I had put in no effort I would probably still be stuck at home, in pain, probably suicidal.

I can't speak for people in extreme poverty, but I can't imagine 'well, you got the short end of the stick' helps them in any way. I would say, yeah, you got the short end of the stick, but even more because of that, if you don't try to dig yourself out, no one is going to come do it for you. You'll fail, again and again and again probably. It's not your fault, and yeah, it's not fair. But if you give up there is not even the chance of getting out.

zouhair(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> I made it and you can too. Poverty has no color. It impacts everyone. You can't tell just by looking at someone.

You lost me at this conclusion. This is wrong in every sense of the word and perfect case of Survivorship Bias[0]

The point of having societies is so we should not fend for ourselves, especially rich societies. In rich countries there should be no poor people and charity should not exist because it is not needed.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

adkadskhj(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I think similarly. Add in a pinch of imposter syndrome and the anxiety hiding under my privileged life is.. interesting. Eg i am super, super fortunate. I definitely don't make 200k, but i had no experience, managed to work my way into some experience and now make a comfortable living.

My wife and I are DINKs, so while neither of us make amazing money in combination we make a solid wage. No retirement (yet), but a house, and an income that is starting to pay off life (house/retirement/etc) with lots of safety buffer.

With all that said, i'm still terrified of losing everything. I'm sure i've acquired some skills, but passing interviews is difficult so i always think losing it all is one job loss away.

I just have to focus on improving myself, to mitigate my fear of losing it all. I'd like to build software to help people. I'd like to make enough money to eventually help some individuals, too.

Maybe being poor gives you perspective, but i loathe the 'bootstraps' mantra. The overwhelming hopelessness you can feel when you're poor and see no path upwards. Yea, you can get a job, but minimum wage barely pays for itself. You want some modest things in life like a house, a car.. but saving for those at $200/m takes a long, long time.

I got out. I hope to stay out. But i consider myself lucky.

sandworm101(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>> My father left home ... My mom ... left us when she found a new husband.

The horrible thing is that much worse situations are common today. The most common one I've witnessed into is 'Dad left, mom is sick'. The children become primary care givers to the remaining disabled parent. That basically axes higher education options. Such kids often cannot work outside the home and if they do it will be at most part time and very local. One can choose not to have children. One can decide not to commit crimes. But one cannot choose whether or not to have disabled parents/siblings that need 24/7 care. The really dark aspect is that children grow up. An unplanned child will grow and eventually not need 24/7 care. An aging disabled parent can remain at the same level need for many decades, normally progressing to greater need with time.

ubermonkey(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I have never been Poor, but the kinds of reactions you describe can take root with even pretty transient financial stress.

I had a couple very thin years -- savings dwindling, and then gone; work was scarce. Collectors were calling. I was afraid I was going to lose my house. My power got cut off.

I scraped by, and got out of it, and find myself now in a very fortunate position -- better off than I was before, excellent income, minimal debt (and zero consumer debt), etc. -- but even a couple years of that kind of instability leaves a mark. It's not as much as throwaway's, but I'm very debt-averse. I'm very risk-averse. We save a LOT. I'll never be in that position again.

I find that most people never consider how precarious their position really is until an object lesson comes along.

rafiki6(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> If you have never been poor, you may not realize how awesome Small houses and Toyota Corollas are.

Love this. These are luxury products for upper middle class folks in a lot of developing countries. I don't think people really grasp this until they experience it themselves.

phunster(10000) 3 days ago [-]

'Throwaway because I don't want my co-workers to know.' -Why don't you want your co-workers to find out?

'I made it and you can too' - That's just either ignorance or really wishful thinking.

oblio(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> I made it and you can too. Poverty has no color. It impacts everyone. You can't tell just by looking at someone.

And yet statistics disagree with you...

Edit: Nevermind, I saw your other comment. You meant to cheer people up, not make a moral judgment.

game_the0ry(10000) 2 days ago [-]

This comment was a gut punch.

I came from a family that was lower middle class when I was young, then upper middle class, then back to lower class before I graduated college. And I graduated into the 2008 recession.

When I got my current job back in 2017, I finally felt what I though was economic optimism - a sense that the future would be better than the past. What a feeling. This phrase is over-used, but it did feel like a weight off my shoulders.

Then COVID happened...

SMAAART(10000) 2 days ago [-]

My story is somewhat similar to yours, grew up poor AF and in a toxic environment. I escaped in my late 20's, moved cross country and put myself through college and then MBA part time while working full time.

Fast forward to today I am doing well, like you I have no debt whatsoever, decent cash flow, and decent net work.

A couple of interesting things:

1. 1/3 of homeowners in the US are mortgage free

2. Read the book 'The Millionaire Next door'

Third anecdotal note: I have recently switched job, and I work in a company where there are about 25 people. Well I have noticed that the amount of $ spend on lunch is inversely proportional to the pay: the highest paid employees pack their lunch from home; the lowest paid go out and buy lunch most days, and more expensive lunches.

pnutjam(10000) 3 days ago [-]

$200k per year is in the top 10% of salary, I think it's actually around top 8%. So, obviously not everyone is going to be able to do that. Errors can cause big problems that compound, so early in your career it's much easier to be derailed. We all like to say, 'you could do this too', but it's more accurate to say, 'I could have ended up like you too, but I got lucky'.

Speaking as a very lucky person who makes less then you.

birdyrooster(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I was poor, received food stamps, stole to eat, and was unemployed selling drugs on the side to make scratch. Now I make half a million a year and I still recognize my privilege, I was a huge outlier. No matter how bad it got, I was still a fairly attractive white male who had been introduced to computing by his single mother as a very small boy and spent my latch key kid time on donated computers. Had I gotten caught up in the criminal justice system as a black man, or interviewed as a black man, or any of that and my success could not have been achieved.

standardUser(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I really enjoy your story, but to say 'I made it and you can too' presumes there is an endless supply of $200k jobs in this country. There obviously is not, and we can't conceive of an economy wherein there would be, so the 'you' who can make it 'too' is always going to be an exclusive and finite group.

Grustaf(10000) 1 day ago [-]

> Anyway, people think I'm 'privileged' now because I earn a lot of money, but they have no idea that I used to sleep on the floor and eat in soup lines.

Don't worry too much about that, I've seen people here seriously claim that you're privileged unless you are destitute and homeless. The word has lost all meaning.

WrtCdEvrydy(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm on the same path.

House cost 200% yearly pay... drive 2005 Toyota Corolla. I'm the poorest dressed millionare you will know. I buy two shirts a year and wear conference shirts.

sologoub(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Thank you for sharing your experience and the optimism.

That fear feels similar to PTSD - we experienced something we never want us or anyone else to experience.

A lot of people don't really understand how much space and luxuries we actually have around us. The trick is that in that modest house everything works, nothing leaks. The car starts and is safe and comfortable enough. If you take these for granted, it's no big deal. But if you understand that this is in and of itself better than many places, boy is it satisfying when you have it. It is also terrifying that you may lose it again.

The knowledge I feel makes for the better life. The fear unfortunately poisoned it for me for a long time, but I think I'm almost past it. Hope you are as well!

mc32(10000) 3 days ago [-]

One of the things I know poverty did was make me hesitate to take on a mortgage. It was such a burden to think at any moment I might not have a job and then lose everything.

I also remember being the kid who didn't buy Nikes or the natural rubber soles to play sports on parquet, so had to do with other sports that didn't have that requirement.

I also remember the PE teacher telling me I could not just wear short pants, I needed to get sports shorts...

k__(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Same here.

My father left when I was 6. My mother went cleaning to make some money. Later, she remarried and my step dad was well off, but he also had kids of his own, so it wasn't that much of an improvement.

We didn't have much and all of my childhood I played video games I borrowed from friends on PCs I built of old parts I got from friends or in the trash.

When I went to university, I suddendly met many people who had rich parents and I felt like the dumbest person around. I guess, I probably was, haha.

Since coding paid well, I could clear all my dept realatively early after my degree and now I have saved some money.

But I still have the feeling tomorrow all my clients will desert me.

lkbm(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I'm curious what about your fears are driving your family crazy. Is it living well below your means, forgoing luxuries they'd like (and you can afford), or agonizing over every spending decision, or what?

I've lived on <$20k (as an individual), and lived very frugally as a result, but I've never been in a position where I was struggling financially, so I lack any trauma around that. I do still have some lingering 'Is this $5 item worth it?' tendencies, though. Automating bills away can help, but what I really like is having a spreadsheet of 'if I had to cut back, I could easily live on $X month' + 'I have $Y saved up' and focusing on that ratio. Gives me the appropriate background sense of 'I'm doing fine', and allows me to say 'fuck it' and spend money more readily.

At any rate, if you're driving your family crazy, and you think counseling might help, try it. That's one life-improvement investment that doesn't saddle you any long-term financial obligations. Your 'If I had to cut back' number stays low.

sandoze(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Very similar situation. I had a single mother and spent time with family and non-family members most of my life. I never had much and essentially grew up in a trailer park throughout my teenage years with an elderly couple that I called my grandparents but weren't even related. They were kind enough to take me in.

Fast forward to my 40s and I make a quarter million a year. Have a net worth of over a million, a quarter of which is liquid sitting in several bank accounts making zero interest.. but I NEED it there. Own a house outright that is far too small for the family I raised in it (the kids have begun to move away so it's getting 'bigger'). Max my retirement plans. Go long on safe market bets. My car is 12 years old and burns oil (it's a Prius so.. it evens out?). I pay my kids college tuition and squirrel away all my money.

My wife says most people like to collect things and I collect money.

I probably need help but between growing up poor, not figuring out a career path until 30, and the Great Recession... everything is a bubble and unsafe.

aaroninsf(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> I won the lottery and you can too. Luck has no color.

Maybe the Wish will help, or Intentionality. Prayer also popular.

Against this never lose sight of the fact that since 1971 economic mobility in this country has eroded as comprehensively as has the social safety net as has access to high quality public education not to mention health care.

Since 1971 wealth inequality has increased and we are now over the event horizon. So much wealth has been concentrated in the hands of the ultrarich that they have successfully captured both discourse and polity. The possibility space is defined by those who own the means of not just literal communication but the fabrication of consensus opinion and the boundaries of the political spectrum.

What was possible, like this, a generation ago, is literally orders of magnitude more unlikely today.

The status quo cannot hold, and it isn't holding. We remain on the brink of literal violent fascist coup and permanent kleptocracy. Take a look at the headlines from CPAC...

These are dark days.

Most readers here are part of the precariate 10% or aspire to be, the buffer zone of the rich-enough who zealously angrily defend the prerogatives of the very wealthy with whom they identify though they are no more of that class than the utterly disenfranchised permanent Lower Class who have roil and rage in Nomadland, controlled by the surveillance capitalism systems so many of us are building...

It's not going to hold. It's not holding.

throwaway2a02(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Anyway, people think I'm 'privileged' now because I earn a lot of money

Any they are right thinking that,aren't they? That kind of money and wealth gives you a huge safety blanket and insulates you from most of the stresses described in the article. That's the whole point of the article, that this is a huge privilege that's overlooked by the well off.

zigzaggy(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I'm glad to hear you made it. I have a similar story, except mine involves health problems and homelessness in adulthood. I 'made it' from living on the streets in Austin TX to being a senior manager at a big company. It's SO HARD to dig yourself out of that, and I just wanted to say GOOD JOB!

whack(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> I made it and you can too. Poverty has no color. It impacts everyone. You can't tell just by looking at someone.

I love your story. There's also a ton of people who will delight in cherry-picking your story, as justification for not expanding the social safety net. 'throwaway-0987 did it, and you can too! You just need to stop being so lazy'

A few factors to consider:

- You had an aunt you could live with

- As a youth, you were wise enough to go to trade school and college

- As a youth, you were wise/careful enough to not have babies. Furthering your education would be far tougher when you have kids to take care of

- You had access to government programs such as Pell Grants, which many people would deride as being 'government handouts'

- As a youth, you were wise enough to avoid crimes that would disqualify you from educational/employment opportunities in your adult life

Stories like yours are wonderful in inspiring people to make something of themselves. But it doesn't change the fact that we as a society should do more to help people who are caught in a poverty trap, especially because of poor decisions made when they were teenagers. Just because someone ran a 4-minute-mile doesn't mean it's reasonable to expect everyone to do so.

> Anyway, people think I'm 'privileged' now because I earn a lot of money, but they have no idea that I used to sleep on the floor and eat in soup lines.

As always in such discussions, privilege is on a spectrum and has many dimensions. To give an obvious example, even as a youth, you were privileged to be an American citizen, with all the rights, assistance and opportunities it entails. If you were born in the same circumstances in Mexico or Congo, you would find yourself facing a far different outcome.

4AoZqrH2fsk5UB(10000) 1 day ago [-]

My story is not as extreme, but similar. There past that made me comment is the wife and kids comment. I feel that too.

Knowing just how bad things can get, especially when you have kids, motivates you to maintain a large cushion in a way for people who haven't seen things fall apart have a difficult time relating to

gexla(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Interested to hear your thoughts about the thread about living in a van which hit the front page the other day.

diob(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Depending on where you live, you're right to live in fear. In the USA, you're probably one medical emergency (cancer?) away from bankruptcy.

I'm glad you got out, but hard work is no guarantee. A lot in this world is luck and connections.

'I made it and you can too' should be 'I made it, but lots of others don't. If you work hard, you might, but don't be discouraged if you don't. It's possible to do all the right things and not make it out. If you make it out, give back to those who are in similar situations, and try to improve the pathway out of the darkness.'

SN76477(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Thank you for your story I can relate. I grew up with out enough, and now I am terrified of spending money.

wonderwonder(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I got to experience wealth and poverty growing up, unfortunately in that order. Parents were pretty wealthy and then we moved to the US at 13 and had to leave everything behind. Going from a house with pool, BMW's etc to food stamps, constant threat of foreclosure and no health insurance is pretty jarring. I was way better off than many others though. Far better off than OP's start. Worst part of being poor or being raised by those that are poor due to both circumstances and bad choices is that you dont learn to make sane financial decisions. I was never taught how to balance a check book or to live within my means and that lack of both education and discipline has haunted me my whole life. Reached a point where I make over 200k now and finally the surplus of funds have been a wakeup call that 'Hey, you can save and you can eventually retire if you just wake up and stop spending like you're going to die tomorrow'. Another vital lesson is to focus on the long run instead of trying to hit a home run with every investment.

Financial literacy should be the a 4 year highschool class. Not being fluent is a detriment to millions.

krmmalik(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Have you considered trauma release (there are many different ways you can do this) in order to get over your fear of being poor?

From the way you're speaking (for want of a better phrase), it sounds like the poverty experience traumatised you, and you're re-living your trauma each day.

allarm(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I think if we just replace "privileged" with "lucky" it would greatly improve the overall tone of the message for many, myself included. I.e. "I was lucky enough to be born in a family of engineers" sounds much better than "privileged" in this context.

devwastaken(10000) 3 days ago [-]

If it were as easy now as getting paid to go to college and get a decent job it wouldn't be so bad - but prices have increased exponentially due to that federal aid. Instructor quality has significantly decreased, and administrative bloat has skyrocketed (these people can't get Jobs in the private sector either and government money is free). Jobs in technical fields are not in demand in the manner higher education advertises. As I've said before here I still have friends with bachelor CS degrees turned down from entry positions because the majority of companies are experience siphoners. There's entire youtube channels exampling the level of exploit companies can do because CS grads don't have the choice.

Sure, overcoming poverty is possible, but it's a shifting scale over time thats heading in much worse directions due to inflation in basic living costs and companies and individuals breaking the ladder that got them on the surface.

simonh(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Ive never been truly impoverished. The nearest I ever got was living off the minimum student allowance back in the 80s.

On the edge of solvency it takes so little for things to go badly wrong, even if your scrupulously careful. On the other hand, it's the ability to make effective use of financing options and to leverage even modest wealth or income through mortgages and such that enables a lot of middle class families to prosper as much as they do.

syops(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I very much enjoyed reading your post. You made a statement that, taken literally, I disagree with and wonder if you care to elaborate more on it.

I made it and you can too.

It seems to me that luck plays a huge role in each success story like yours. My wife had a similar trajectory and makes quite a bit of money. However, along the way, there were hundreds of decisions made that could have gone the wrong way. She's smart and ambitious and quite lucky.

busterarm(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Fellow former-poor here. It's the kind of thing that casts a shadow over your whole life.

And in this industry, nobody is comfortable talking about it. Most of the people I work with graduated from school as guaranteed millionaires. I hear things get said by people that are so far from the orbit of my reality and I cringe.

Reading the article was really eye opening for me because I hadn't thought of all of the life skills that I've picked up simply as a result of being poor. It even affects how I think about my new-found wealth. I spend an enormous amount of money on tools and equipment. I'm the one helping all of my friends build, move or fix things.

throwaway846(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Similar story I'm now late 30s; father left when i was 2 died of aids when I was 6

Mother washed dishes then was unemployed from age 12-now and we bounced around her boyfriends houses

My metric (edit: for myself) 'have you been poor' is gathering extra condiments from a gas station and having mustard on bread for a meal. We had food stamps, and a small social security check. I always had a bed, and food, but barely and i was aware how close we were as we midnight moved at least once.

I got my college degrees through federal grants and employer sponsorship; now making north of 200k I reflect on how privileged I am to get here. My mother kept me in an upper middle class public school system using a po box, I'm a white man who loved computers in the 90s. I ended up with a social network and a background that looks upper middle class.

I don't subscribe to that 'I made it and so can you' I see my story as a I had privilege, how can we make privilege into equity.

jimmaswell(10000) 2 days ago [-]

It's frustrating talking with my friend who needs a new car but has no money and bad credit. They have a small windfall to afford a $3000 or so car with but they think you can't get anything worth driving for less than $15000 and with 100k miles or less. Meanwhile I've been driving my $800 Jeep for years and it's still running strong nearing 200k miles. They also balk at used appliances, furniture etc. Some people get stuck in debt forever because of these bad mindsets.

sershe(10000) 1 day ago [-]

Interesting, I have two conflicting feelings about this. On one hand I agree with you and I am super paranoid about being poor. On the other hand, one thing that I definitely learned from growing up poor (I like the original article say 'it's very small (think ~900 sqft)', cause I had stable housing when I was growing up and it was 600sqft for 3-4 people ;)) is how little you need to be happy.

In college, when we were somewhat better off but before I could work a real job, I often had a choice of either paying my internet bill, buying (cheap) cafeteria lunches, or buying beer. So, unless I wanted to and could find a part-time job, I liked to joke that my choices were - hungry, sober, and online; sated, sober and offline; and hungry, drunk and offline. I was still happy. After I got my first job, sometimes I would get impostor syndrome and become afraid of losing it; then I'd be like, well I used to be happy when I was choosing between the three options, so anything on top of that is just a nice bonus. As long as I have 150sqft of housing, some food and an internet connection I will be fine. I like to think about that every time I'm afraid of losing my current level of privilege.

Bukhmanizer(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Anyway, people think I'm 'privileged' now because I earn a lot of money, but they have no idea that I used to sleep on the floor and eat in soup lines.

> I made it and you can too. Poverty has no color. It impacts everyone. You can't tell just by looking at someone.

These two statements are so irritatingly bland and dismissive.

> Anyway, people think I'm 'privileged' now

Yeah, so if people look at you and say 'that person probably grew up in a nice home with good parents', that is a privilege. Boo-hoo, middle-class people accept you and think you belong within their social tier. The fact that you're afraid your co-workers will know that you grew up poor is proof of how much of a privilege it is.

flumpcakes(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I share this sentiment from the author.

I speak 'normally', as in to say I don't have a regional accent, and have 'white collar' jobs working in IT. Many people assume I am a good middle class person.

I often get told I am naive, or stupid for saying things like 'rent prices are too expensive' and that when the median income people cannot afford the median priced house we're just growing another bubble.

I had a playstation 1 and the original xbox as a child/teenager. That sounds like I must have been lucky/middle class and not poor? Surely!

All of my adult friends didn't know me as a child. My mother left when I wasn an infant and since then until his death my father never worked another day in his life. We lived off approximately £100 ($150?) a week for a family of three while my sister was sent to live with a relative.

There was also summers where I ate only bread and jam, cooked on a portable gas heater, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week. Our gas had mostly been shut off and so we couldn't use a cooker, or the central heating, and didn't have any money other than a few £ for bread & jam. When I was at school I had free school lunches. Sometimes there wouldn't be any food for dinner when I got home.

I lived below the poverty line until I was 19 and went to University. After which I moved to a city and got a job in IT. I am the wealthiest I have ever been, but my actual expenses are close to nothing: after rent and utility bills my only monthly expenses are my phone contract (£8) and audiable (£8). I don't buy clothes or shoes or any anything really unless there is a direct need to (i.e. my shoes have a large hole in them).

Because of my upbringing (the lack of food etc.) I probably have an eating disorder, and most of my monthly outgoings is probably on takeaway foods. That is still probably a maximum of £200 a month. I probably spend £100-£200 a month on normal food shopping (milk, bread, cereal, cheese, meat, ready meals, chocolate, etc.)

Everything else is shared with my partner out of a joint savings account (Netflix, Disney+, Car insurance paid yearly). My partner didn't grow up in the level of poverty I did - but now I earn twice as much as her she feels poor and 'unworthy' compared to the amount of money I contribute to our savings.

My father ended up with MS and killed himself a year ago. He was living on disability allowance so his income was probably the highest he had ever lived on, but is equivalent to minimum wage. He killed himself when the current conservative government (UK) were following through with their disability reassements which meant his income would have dropped by hundreds of pounds a month.

I don't want to derail the conversation, but I do get frustrated when people call out my 'white male IT privledgedness'. I think I have more in common with any marginalised group than I do with the 'normal white middle class' everyone assumes I am.

I currently have saved about £30,000 to go towards my first flat. This money has been saved by myself and my partner only. This will be the first property ever owned in my immediate family. (I was the second to go to university, after my sister a few years ahead of me.) I will not/have not inhereited anything from any of my family.

My brother, who had the exact same upbringing as me and is approximately one year younger than me currently rents a room from a family for £400 a month and works full time at McDonalds 'flipping burgers'. His future prospects aren't high. Breaking the cycle of poverty is a hard thing.

avenger123(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Thank you for sharing this.

borishn(10000) 2 days ago [-]

'Many people assume I am a good middle class person' is what many people consider a 'privilege'.

airhead969(10000) 3 days ago [-]

They don't know the meaning of poor. And, who cares about some absolutely privileged, greedy, manipulative idiots who 'can't live' on $200k/yr and take from people who make way less than them. Shame on them!


If you can count your money, you're poor.

If you can count your money and it fits in your pockets, you're very poor.

If you can count your money and it fits in your left pocket with room to spare, you're extremely poor.

If you're wondering whether to buy food or gas with the money you have left, you're broke.

If you wish you could buy food or gas, you're absolutely destitute.

txdv(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Saw a documentary in which social strata is classified by the means of transportation you are able to afford.

The first level is not a car, but shoes. Then comes a bicycle. Then comes a motorized bicycle. Then comes a car.

Not having gas for your car is just the beginning of the abyss.

fastball(10000) 3 days ago [-]

How much money can you fit in your pockets if they're Benjamins?

skohan(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I always thought of "broke" as the transitory status of not having money, while "poor" is a socioeconomic status.

I.e. a university student could be too broke to buy beer before their next stipend comes in, but that doesn't make them poor if they can still go home and drive mom & dad's Tesla on the weekend.

data_ders(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The car talk resonated with me. I'm always irked to hear someone bragging about their Volvo that's lasted them 20 years or whatever. To me, there's nothing to be proud of, you bought a luxury car and likely had it maintained by a trained mechanic regularly.

throwaway0a5e(10000) 2 days ago [-]

As a former used-car flipper I call it the '4Runner vs Grand Caravan' effect. And I mostly call it that because it gets under the skin of certain people.

The 4Runner starts its life in the hands of someone who can afford whatever maintenance is needs, whenever it needs it.

The Grand Caravan starts its life in the hands of someone who needs the cheapest minivan and can barely afford it let alone afford following the maintenance schedule in the manual.

The 4Runner will haul two kids and occasionally a youth soccer team.

The Grand Caravan will haul five kids and occasionally 1800lb of paver bricks.

The 4Runner will be towed behind a motorhome.

The Grand Caravan will try and tow a motorhome.

offtop5(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The part about cars is pretty spot on, I'm upper middle class and I've been able to save so much money by getting rid of my car. On the low end you're going to hit 300 to 500 dollars a month for the privilege of driving.

The problem here is America simply isn't built for public transit. But since cars are a status symbol, people still go down to Toyota, or Honda and as long as they can make that first down payment they get to drive a new car. I was talking to a rather brash car salesman and he laughed about how he can tell who's going to get their car repoed.

Cars are the single biggest reason why so many people can't get ahead. You also have a gargantuan maze of cascading consequences when you really can't afford a car. You don't have insurance because you can't afford it, you get in an accident and lose your license. As the article states that doesn't stop you from needing to drive. Then you get pulled over and risk getting arrested.

I'm very lucky in that I don't need to drive a car, even when you can afford one driving to work every day can be a truly hellish experience.

sandworm101(10000) 3 days ago [-]

>> I'm upper middle class and I've been able to save so much money by getting rid of my car.

Because you probably have job at a desk with a computer. You don't physically do much and so your per-minute presence at work isn't mandatory. If you are a few minutes late the world is not going to end and your workday rarely starts before 5am. You can handle the ins and outs of public transportation and/or you can afford to live close enough to walk/bike. I have a job that, while it pays well enough I have to be physically present (military, long story). While I am paid well enough I will get into real trouble if I am not on time every day. Sometimes I'm on call and have to get to work within 30-minutes of receiving a phonecall. I'd like to ditch the car, but I don't see any other reliable 24/7/365 transpiration options. Some of the people who work under me, and earn considerably less, are lobbying for 'have own car' and 'have own cellphone' to be listed work requirements. That might make at least some associated costs tax deductible.

adamredwoods(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I used to take public transportation that took 2 hours each way to get to my job. Then I bought my first car for $500. It was such great freedom.

Then, years later, I moved to the city and was able to get rid of my car. It was great freedom.

Then, years later, I got married and had a child. We bought and owned two cars. It was great freedom.

chrisseaton(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> On the low end you're going to hit 300 to 500 dollars a month for the privilege of driving.

How is maintaining a car costing you so much?

dalbasal(10000) 3 days ago [-]

His point on housing is so important, and its adjacent to a lot of other poverty-related issues.

It's one of the reasons advocates for the poor often seem to speak a different language to their opposition.

If you live in median-and-above-land, you think of all costs existing on a spectrum. Fancy dinners for $100 on one end. Rice and beans for pennies at the other. This is true for clothes, smartphones, furniture... lots of things. There's a spectrum with options all along it.

It is not true for housing, transport and a lot of other, unavoidable expenses. Housing is the extreme example. Say an average smartphone is $350. $700 buys a luxury phone. $175 gets you an decent phone. Say median rent is $1500. Going above $3k will get you a palace and $750 probably doesn't get you anything. Quality, below median prices is on an extremely steep curve.

Household economics are just completely different below and above a certain threshold... and this has gotten more pronounced over the last generation or two.

Ireland has/had a whole literary genre of stories about miserable poverty-stricken childhoods. They paint a very vivid picture. If you compare it to poverty today, besides being less harsh, it's quite different. They had housing. It was basic, often insecure, but they did have housing.

Food was scarce. That's no longer the case. Stuff though... they had no stuff. No bed, no mugs, no shoes, no pencils. Getting these things was an epic mission and served as a landmark. That is all changed now. Stuff is extremely abundant. Basics like housing and transport are almost as scarce as they were in the bad old days.

The upshot of all this is that we underestimate how poor poor is.

aidenn0(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Healthcare and housing are two things that seem to crush those in poverty (with transportation being a distant, but important, third. On one hand you can keep a job with no house, but can't with no transportation; on the other hand, cars have gotten cheaper and more reliable pretty steadily over my lifetime).

A lot of families are a single injury to a non earner away from being bankrupt. Obviously an injury to an earner can be even worse. As TFA points out you can live in terrible conditions and maybe be a bit more financially stable, or you can live in passable conditions and be constantly short on money. Either way you are just trading one type of stress for another.

therealdrag0(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I thought about this too when I was reading Crime and Punishment recently. The protagonist is described as very poor, but they still have a room in a house, and their room even includes house meals. Similarly with other poor characters; sometimes their space was just a sectioned off area of a bigger room (maybe like a floor-ceiling cubical). But hey, that's gotta be better than sleeping under a freeway for most people.

danaris(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> Ireland has/had a whole literary genre of stories about miserable poverty-stricken childhoods. They paint a very vivid picture. If you compare it to poverty today, besides being less harsh, it's quite different. They had housing. It was basic, often insecure, but they did have housing. > Food was scarce. That's no longer the case. Stuff though... they had no stuff. No bed, no mugs, no shoes, no pencils. Getting these things was an epic mission and served as a landmark. That is all changed now. Stuff is extremely abundant. Basics like housing and transport are almost as scarce as they were in the bad old days.

And this is a big part of the problem with popular discourse about poverty today: for a large percentage of people, that picture of poverty that you describe in Ireland is the picture of what poverty looks like, and anyone whose life doesn't look like that obviously isn't really poor.

This is especially true of the 'not having stuff' part. The popular image of poverty is of a one-to-three-room house with nothing but a sad lumpy mattress on the floor, the children dressed in ragged, dirty clothes playing with a stick and some rocks. These days, 'poverty' all too often looks more like someone living out of a car, with a smartphone that's four to six years old and one set of nice clothes (because you have to have a set to go to job interviews) along with one or two sets of ratty ones. Or maybe a too-small apartment (that you can barely pay the rent on) with a ten-year-old 40' flatscreen TV and an HP desktop that's still limping along for accessing the internet.

Too many people today see the TV, the computer, the smartphone, and the nice clothes, and just assume that these people aren't really poor. Because their idea of what poverty looks like is stuck in the 19th (and, to be fair, first half-to-two-thirds of the 20th) century.

hinkley(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I wonder if the availability of stuff has informed the price inflation of housing.

What else do people have in their lives that they can bid up with whatever money they have left over from other concerns?

jimbokun(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Cost Disease:


Also add education and health care.

bezout(10000) 3 days ago [-]

There's also a difference in the way people handle money once they improve their financial situation. They tend to be cautious, and save money instead of spending it. There are exceptions, of course.

TulliusCicero(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I've heard just as many people express the opposite. That because they were used to 'having extra money to spend' being a fleeting thing, they threw caution to the wind and overspent after attaining a substantially higher income. That they had never learned about saving before (because they didn't consistently have extra to save), so it never became a habit.

It'd be interesting to see real data on which outcome is actually more common.

cryptica(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The hardest part for me was convincing my partner that price is not equal to value. It took me a decade of arguments and constant proofs to even begin to convince my partner that you can almost always find much better value for much less money.

Marketing does such an incredible job at convincing people that price and value are the same thing that it takes tremendous mental effort for people to acknowledge that it's not like that at all. People refuse to acknowledge how powerful advertising is at distorting our own perceptions. People think things like 'I'm not that kind of person to use product x or drive car y or live in country z, I'm better than that' - These people are misguided.

Usually you have to move to a different country to get better value. You don't want to buy a house in a neighborhood next to money launderers who get easy money (you don't want your hard-earned money competing on the same playing field as their big easy-earned money). You want to buy a house somewhere where people work hard for their money. Sometimes these places don't have a very good reputation but the reality often has nothing to do with the marketing.

People also get caught up in group think. I was saying for years that the best value real estate was outside of big cities including in the surrounding areas. Nobody agreed with me, I often heard arguments like 'We don't want to live next to the kinds of people who live there.' The great irony is that 'these people' are probably the best kinds when you judge them based on their character and personal values. Again, this is due to people confusing price with value. They think that people who earn a lot of money are better people, smarter people but there is no correlation - They are just lucky people with huge egos; in many ways they are more primitive. Since the pandemic now all the rich suckers suddenly decided all at once that they want to live outside the cities... I'm thinking to move even further out.

DarkWiiPlayer(10000) 3 days ago [-]

To me everything I see an ad for is automatically tainted forever. If I'm not paying attention, I won't even consider buying anything I've ever seen on TV because it automatically registers as 'too expensive'. With certain things I've trained myself that 'I can afford this easily now', but those are exceptions.

fasteddie31003(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I've spanned the economic ladder from making $25k, to having enough money that I could retire before age 35. It wasn't that bad making $25k. I actually moved into my friend's large closet for 3 months. Life was more like the show Friends back then. I definitely made more stories and friends in that time period too. Now on the other side of the spectrum, life is more stressful and kinda boring. Maybe that is part of the pandemic's fault. My money is tied up in assets that I worry about at night. Part of me just wants to liquidate a lot of things and move into a nice van and tour the country.

finnthehuman(10000) 2 days ago [-]

I've heard that sentiment quite a bit that life is more interesting when you're just getting by and I agree with it to some extent. There's also an element of aging out of it. I'm saving so aggressively that my budget is tighter than when I was just starting out and renting a room at a stereotypical recent-grad party house, but my life is a lot more quiet and boring these days.

I've had a few friends go van life. Some went in head first, but you can always buy the van and just use it for weekends/holidays to see how deep you want to go.

ckemere(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It's really interesting to read this and think about public policy. As someone on the left of center axis, I often imagine what an efficient government intervention would be. (I suppose a more right-wing person might imagine a charity-based solution? I'm not sure.) In this case, the author (who clearly is skilled as a writer and communicator) indirectly identifies a few 'public goods' that I think are worth highlighting:

(1) Efficient public transportation that enables commutes on par with driving (2) Health and dental care (3) Improved policing/security (in the case of the neighborhoods that he describes as scary)

What else?

flumpcakes(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I think those issues (apart from 3) are directly reflections on American society. People don't value better public transport and universal healthcare because they are seen as the antithesis of the 'American dream' and the idea that working hard brings you wealth.

Unfortunnately we're not in the 1950s and the uncapped growth isn't a thing any more (outside of cryptocurrencies perhaps).

I expect things to probably get worse. It seems everyone is concentrating on social awareness like trying to get women and black people into more high paying jobs, which is a good thing. However this doesn't actually stop the poverty cycle for the other millions of people (including the aforementioned groups).

I think it requires reframing what social care and living in a society means for meaningful change to happen. I think people need to stop seeing wealth as some entrepreneurial thing they can mine for themselves. This 'spirit' doesn't improve anyone else's lives, Apart from the select charities and issues they choose to support which aligns with their own social agenda.

I do believe a billionaire shouldn't exist. Or a half a billionaire. That kind of wealth doesn't solve any issues for real people. A wealth tax on the ultra wealthy to pay something towards a healthcare for all (like most western countries have already) might help people though.

fallingfrog(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The whole car section brings back memories of when I used to drive a car with one flat tire, but I would pump it up with a foot pump on the way out every morning and it would stay inflated just long enough to get to work, then the same on the way back. I used to get stressed out waiting at red lights, thinking, that air is leaking out..

aembleton(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I remember my first car having an oil leak as well as a bunch of other problems. During the winter I used to commute, 30 mins each way without any oil. It was just about cold enough that it could make it.

I didn't get it fixed because I was putting money together to buy a newer car that didn't leak. Worked out in the end.

nchelluri(10000) 3 days ago [-]

I read about half of this post and I've paused there. It screams to me 'Let's have a Universal Basic Income' already.

> And one day your wife calls you and tells you the water is off, and there's nothing you can do; maybe some family member can help you out, or maybe you live without utilities for a week or so until you get paid and start the next pay cycle that much more behind.

These are people with children we are talking about. Why can't there be simple equity for these beings who are facing their demise through no fault of their own? Like seriously, WTF?

I want to support:

- sustainable electronics

- living wages

- right to repair

- removal of slave labor from any supply chain I am involved in

What do I have to do to make this happen?


> When I'm trying to explain to my sons how a company decides what to pay someone, it usually goes something like this: A company is looking to pay a person as little as they can and keep them, so a person's pay is determined by how rare their skills are and how much demand there is for those skills.

> [...]

> This isn't evil on anyone's part, and you shouldn't feel bad about it - I've made a lot of choices in my life that led to this point and I have a lot of responsibility in terms of where I find myself.

_Yes it is evil._ I'm sure we cannot exist as a fundamentally secure, sane, healthy, fair, equitable, respectful, productive, diverse, healthy, robust society until this rot is done away with once and for all.

aembleton(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> What do I have to do to make this happen?

Choose one of those and focus on it. Make a campaign around it, create a Facebook group. Study the topic and argue for it and finally try and get elected to make a change.

woofcat(10000) 2 days ago [-]

>It screams to me 'Let's have a Universal Basic Income' already.

I don't think people want poor people to exist. However no-one has solved the supply side of 'Give everyone free money'. Every time I ask if someone has actually figured out how to do this that isn't 3-4 times the current Federal Budget you get a bunch of hand waving.

Handing everyone $10,000/year (not even UBI levels) requires gathering $10,000/year in either service cuts, or increased taxation.

Even if we presume everyone over the poverty line gets $10,000 added to their taxes to cancel the benefit out. That still leaves us with a $10,000 hole for every person under the poverty line.

12.5% of American's live below the poverty line. That's 41,025,000 people. Which is an insane number. The $10,000 a year would be around $410 billion per year.

So if America eliminated the Military budget, they could pay for $10,000 to each person below the poverty line... however odds are laying off 70% of the Military would result in more people living below the poverty line.

It's possible, however no-one wants to highlight what 410 billion dollars a year can be cut from a budget, or who wants to pay 410 billion dollars a year in extra taxes.. additionally that number is based on a _very_ low amount of $10,000. If you wanted to hand out top ups to the poverty line in America it would cost even more money.

simonh(10000) 3 days ago [-]

A while ago I read about a study that surveyed people with inherited wealth. IIRC they ranged from having inherited tens to hundreds of millions. No matter how much they had inherited, when asked how much they would need to have inherited to feel financially secure and not have to worry about money, they said they would need something like half again to double.

I may be misremembering the details, but that was the gist of it but I couldn't find the article again. I suppose expectations scale up with means.

On the other hand discovering people they know are actually very wealthy seems to have a massive negative effect on people's levels of empathy. Wealthy people who have suffered bereavement or personal tragedy report people who are less wealthy than themselves rarely offer sympathy and they often get comments along the lines of 'knowing what it's like for the rest of us now', or 'what it's like to have a problem you can't buy your way out of'.

deepstack(10000) 3 days ago [-]

It is never about how much money you have, rather what situation you are in, what you are expecting and what others around you have.

commandlinefan(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> they would need to have inherited to feel financially secure

It seems ridiculous to most of us, but I can see how it happens. I grew up pretty poor - my father was a police officer and my mother didn't work because she had to watch the four of us. But I graduated with a degree in CS in '95 (if you're thinking about graduating with a degree in CS, try to do it in '95 because that may be the best possible year to do it) and am much better off financially now than my family was when I was growing up. Still, I keep worrying about my kids: I can pay to send them to college, but I can't afford, say Harvard or MIT. I have to keep reminding myself that they're far better off than I was at that age and I managed to turn out OK - I think part of it is that I end up comparing my situation with the people around me, many of whom are far better off than I am.

golergka(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> I suppose expectations scale up with means.

Isn't that social pressure? No matter how much you start with, if you end up with less than that, people see you as a failure. A person who inherits 10 million dollars and is afraid of going down to 1 million isn't as much afraid of selling his yacht as he's afraid of what his peers would think of him.

genedan(10000) 3 days ago [-]

As I become more wealthy, I have started to tackle problems that I never really thought about when I wasn't as well off, things that cropped up when I thought I'd finally have peace of mind. In retrospect, the insecurity was always there, but I had the luxury of ignoring it when I was poorer.

Once I started making enough not to worry about rent, the problem was then saving enough for things like retirement, setting up tuition funds for the family, etc. Now the problem is managing my mix of investments and having a big enough pad to insulate myself from the occasional recession. But, I think even if my net worth were to triple there isn't really anything I can do to avoid a great depression-level economic catastrophe. Beyond that, I know not what money problems people with eight or nine figure net worths are scared of but I would assume if I ever made it that far the anxiety won't go away.

globular-toast(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The thing is, humans can't sense a constant velocity, we can only sense change. People always want more. Some people get addicted to the feeling of more and then a constant velocity actually feels like they are losing something. It's even possible to get addicted to the second derivative, ie. your upgrades getting bigger and more frequent. It's impossible to talk to people objectively about how good their life is because you just don't know what they are used to.

In all cases people struggle because they've absorbed things into their life that they now consider essential. The things you own end up owning you.

spaetzleesser(10000) 3 days ago [-]

This study maybe true. But there are levels of poverty where people don't just have a subjective desire to have more money but have real hard worries about paying for food, health care or a place to live. That's totally different from people wanting a nicer car or nicer house and way more psychologically stressful.

The lack of empathy for the wealthy goes both ways. The wealthy traditionally haven't had much empathy for people with less money so it's not too surprising that people with less money don't have much empathy for them. It makes me really angry when I see multimillionaires in the news warning about the risks raising the minimum wage. It's actually pretty sad.

cafard(10000) 3 days ago [-]

One thing I learned as a parent is that kids always compare up the wealth scale, never down. I'm sure my parents noticed that, too.

I've never heard about the negative effect on levels of empathy. I suspect that it is unusual for people to have friends far poorer or richer, and it is easy to be dismissive of the problems of those one does not know.

brianmcc(10000) 3 days ago [-]

There's this in The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/12/rich-peop...

"All the way up the income-wealth spectrum," Norton told me, "basically everyone says [they'd need] two or three times as much" to be perfectly happy.

It references this study: https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=53540

pokot0(10000) 2 days ago [-]

European pro life tip: if you make 200.000/yr don't let anyone lend you money. Buy your car cash, no cc debt. Mortgage would be the only exception. I honestly find it crazy how most american are ok with living on someone else money and pay the interests just to have a current year car...

trynumber9(10000) 2 days ago [-]

Often you can get no interest loans for new cars. In that case, it is cheaper to invest the cash and pay off the loan with less valuable money over the next few years.

Of course the car is still depreciating rapidly so I question the wisdom of buying a current year car at all. But it is comforting to have a newer car covered by warranty.

dnautics(10000) 2 days ago [-]

is it crazy? If you can get terms on low enough interest rate and long enough time horizon (aka, you're rich) it's not a bad choice because you are (safely) gambling that your earnings potential will go up over time, in both real and nominal terms, letting the cost of the debt decrease over time. Moreover, the opportunity cost of that cash not being invested and used for purchases is real.

throw1234651234(10000) 3 days ago [-]

The thing that most people, including those in this thread, don't understand about poverty, is that the side-effects don't magically go away after you are an adult.

Reading the replies here, I do get the typical sense of 'well, they are people who made poor choices, sort of feel sorry for them, can't relate.'

In reality, many poor adults were poor children. The funny thing, is that in the glorious US of A, the main distinction is worse than in other countries - if you are poor, you go to a school district where 95% don't go to college and you get stabbed and hooked on something.

That aside - no one tells you to study for the SATs, no one tells you to brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush and floss, while not drinking pop which destroys your enamel. No one tells you to do your cardio and no one evaluates your postural imbalances. No one has you studying Deutsch and Fancaise. No one takes you swimming, and you probably don't do a martial art unless you get lucky enough to get into a ghetto boxing gym.

So, by the time you are 18, you have ruined health and an under-developed mind, and then everyone looks at you and thinks - what a careless, lazy, adult. He/she isn't even going to college - what an embarrassment. And while there is the military, the poor don't even get properly told about that and what's available.

spicymaki(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> That aside - no one tells you to study for the SAT

This is so true. When you are truly poor, nobody is grooming you to succeed in a competitive environment. Actually the people in your life don't even know how to prepare you, even if they wanted to. When I see people on HN talk about IQ this and GPA that, superior this and inferior that, I can tell they are in a bubble.

alexashka(10000) 2 days ago [-]

> everyone looks at you and thinks - what a careless, lazy, adult. He/she isn't even going to college - what an embarrassment.

How do you know anyone is thinking that?

Here's what I think about poor/homeless/rich/whatever people in general: nothing. They don't exist in my mind, I'm thinking about my own life.

domano(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Living in a country where there is a better social net in place, but coming from a refugee background, i regularly notice a disconnect with my peers.

I do understand their financial worries and sympathize, but only because i am aware of my perspective. Oftentimes i have to remind myself that for others it is actually stressful to think about not being able to comfortably buy a house vs renting it.

Meanwhile i worry about my mothers retirement, how i can get her out of this shady living situation and how i can pay back everything she has done to bring me up despite circumstances.

Actually i wish for others that were better off their whole life to have my perspective for some time, since i think that it would really make them less stressed about their future.

varjag(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Seriously, some responses here are mildly bewildering in the extent people can't relate their life experience to actual poverty.

hinkley(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Repairs are another thing.

I recall feeling it when I was younger and we were in a worse place. Now I feel it every time someone tells me the price for pruning a tree, fixing my house wiring, or making my pet more comfortable. There's a moment after they say the number where they are bracing for an argument. When I just say 'Okay', some of them seem a little startled.

Another aspect may be that I have in fact worked with my hands before. It's possible I might have done it anyway, but needing money is powerful motivation for getting dirt under your nails. So I understand the cost of parts and labor, whereas some of my newer peers may not. Yes, that repair really is $800, and yes I'm fine with paying it.

MontyCarloHall(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> a pretty bottom-barrel ford leases for 300-400 a month

Ford leases seem to be expensive for some reason, and not indicative of the overall market. For instance, a base model Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic can be leased for $160/month, with $0 down. With $1000 down, these figures are close to $100/month.

> A company is looking to pay a person as little as they can and keep them, so a person's pay is determined by how rare their skills are and how much demand there is for those skills

> I mentioned this before, but I can work on cars, and I'm able to do anything less complex than a full engine or transmission rebuild

I'm sure becoming a mechanic has crossed the author's mind at some point. I'd love to hear their thoughts on this.

throwaway0a5e(10000) 3 days ago [-]

Ever notice how those ads say something like 'qualifying customers'. If your credit score is in the toilet you're not getting any of those prices.

The domestics, koreans, nissan and mistu will lease to anyone with a pulse but if your credit is bad the monthly rate or requireed uprfront payment is gonna climb quickly.

You might as well need the president of the local yacht club write you a recommendation to get a sub-$200 lease on a Toyota, Honda or other middle class 'look how financially prudent I am' status symbol. Anyone who doesn't have good credit AND the ability to put a good chunk of the lease down up front is going to be paying a 'this is our polite way of telling to you to drag across the street to the Nissan dealer' price.

Also, those promotional rates are just that, promotional rates. Often times the details work out such that taking a higher rate on a lease and putting less down up front results in a lower cost per duration of ownership.

aembleton(10000) 3 days ago [-]

> Honda Civic can be leased for $160/month, with $0 down

Is that available to people without a good credit rating?

Historical Discussions: Google Analytics: Stop feeding the beast (February 25, 2021: 771 points)

(771) Google Analytics: Stop feeding the beast

771 points 7 days ago by caspii in 10000th position

casparwre.de | Estimated reading time – 8 minutes | comments | anchor

The beast that is Google

There was a time when Google was a small, quirky company with a single product so awesome that it blew away the competition. That time is long gone.

These days Google is a gigantic multinational mega-corp. But that's understating it a little. Think of Google as a kind of Godzilla that slurps up data about its users at one end and craps out gold ingots at the other. It does both of these at huge scale.

When thinking about Google, there are three things that are not easy to grasp but which are immensely important:

  1. Google is not a search engine, it is not simply a maker of productivity tools. Google is a giant advertising platform.
  2. Google is spectacularly, awesomely, frighteningly successful as an advertising platform. The gold ingots are coming out at an alarming rate and being used for all kinds of other things.
  3. Google's success, the fact that it is so good at what it does, the fact that it is crapping out a mountain of gold ingots, is terrible for us and society.

Let's take a quick tour of these points before getting onto Google Analytics.

Google is not a search engine

Google is an advertising platform. Everything it does, all of its products, are geared towards selling advertising. Most of its products are free, many of them are useful, and a few are even great. But they all exist to suck up more data so that it can become even better at selling advertising.

The way Google turns data into gold ingots is as follows:

  • Step 1: Google collects as much data about you as it can.
  • Step 2: Google uses this data to get to know you very very well: what you like, what you don't like, whether you are pregnant, whether you are gay, where your friends live, where you spend your time, what you purchase online.
  • Step 3: Google uses its extensive knowledge of you to show you advertising that fits you like a tailor-made suit.
  • Step 4: Lots of gold ingots.

It's called surveillance capitalism and it's certainly not about giving you a great user experience, it's about making money.

To give just one perfect example of the point I'm making: look at the way that paid search results (i.e. adverts) have become ever harder to identify in Google's search results.

Google Ads Timeline compiled by Search Engine Land

This is not the evolution you expect to see for a company that loves its users. This is what you expect from a mega-corp that wants ever more profits.

Google is spectacularly, awesomely, frighteningly successful as an advertising platform

Many of Google's products have an absolutely staggering market share. Google has nine products with more than one billion users each. Google Chrome is the most popular web browser with a market share of 64%. Google's Android is the most popular operating system on mobile devices with a market share of 72%. Google's products are being used by most internet connected humans on earth.

Combine this with the fact that Google has a monopoly on online advertising. Ok, actually that's not true. It has a duopoly along with Facebook. Facebook is guilty of most of the things I mention in this post, and is probably worse, but I'm saving my venom for Facebook for another day.

The result of all this is that Google's revenue is eye-wateringly massive: around 180 billion USD in 2020, which is around the GDP of New Zealand. Now consider that only four years ago, Google's revenue was 90 billion USD, which means that the revenue doubled in 4 years. Wow!

This mountain of gold ingots used to flow to newspapers and magazines – but no more. The result has been the decimation of local news and the magazine industry. It is true that news organizations have been terrible at innovation in the past three decades and now they have been steam-rollered as a result. Why is this bad? Read on.

Google's success is not good for us as a society

Google's success is good for Google and its shareholders. It's not good for us, the consumers. We live in a world where local news is either stone dead or barely surviving. As we have learned in the past few years, a functioning media is essential to democracy.

So has the market done its magic and filled the gap? Has the creation part of creative destruction happened? Do we now have a better and superior solution for local news?

Nope. Online news articles are a hideous cluster-fuck of click-baiting headlines, cookie banners, privacy nightmares and top heavy with advertising and it's mostly Google's fault. Producers of news are desperately wringing every last pathetic drop of profit from their content.

Do you know why online recipes now begin with the author's life story and are an interminable bore until you reach the actual beef? It's because of Google. It's because even writers of online recipes are prostrating themselves before the omnipotent online God that is Google.

And that huge growing pile of gold ingots? That's in itself a problem.

"For many years, the astonishing torrent of money thrown off by Google's Web-search monopoly has fueled invasions of multiple other segments, enabling Google to bat aside rivals who might have brought better experiences to billions of lives.

Google Apps and Google Maps are both huge presences in the tech economy. Are they paying for themselves, or are they using search advertising revenue as rocket fuel? Nobody outside Google knows." – Break up Google

There are many other nuanced and large problems created by Google's size and profitability and I've only scratched the surface here.

So what about Google Analytics?

Google is harvesting data across all of its products, so why pick on Google Analytics? Because for most of the products, if you choose to use them, it's your data that is harvested. It's different for Analytics. You as a web developer are making a choice that affects all of your users.

Google Analytics is the most popular website stats tool. More than 53% of all sites on the web track their visitors using Google Analytics. 84% of sites that do use a known analytics script use Google Analytics. It's the most popular third-party request on the web. It accounts for 0.64% of all network requests." – Plausible.io blog

When I first began to develop websites, it was a no-brainer to add Google Analytics to anything I created.: "It's free! It's good! It's what everyone uses!"

Actually it's not that good really:

  • It's a bloated script that affects your site speed
  • It's overkill for the majority of site owners
  • It's a privacy liability and requires an extensive privacy policy
  • It worsens the user experience due to the necessity of annoying prompts.
  • It's blocked by many browsers (e.g. Firefox) so the data is not very accurate.

There are more reasons. You can read the full list here.

Has Google ever revealed what it does with data from Analytics internally? Nope. But we don't even need to speculate. It seems pretty obvious to me that they're using it to guzzle up even more data and to crap out ever more gold ingots.

Alternatives to Google Analytics

So are there alternatives? Sure, there's a bunch and some cost money. I think it's money worth spending.

Here is a comprehensive and curated list of analytics tools, including privacy focussed analytics.

I use Fathom Analytics for this blog and am switching all of my products to it. To see the analytics for this blog click here (note that is an affiliate link – I will earn some money if you signup, you will get 10 USD off).

I believe it is a moral imperative for web developers to think about the "free" tools they are using to provide their products. In the case of Google Analytics, the tool is only very superficially free. We are all paying the hidden costs.

If you want to make the world a better place, stop feeding the beast.

By the way, I'm building my own bootstrapped app. Follow me on Twitter to keep updated.

All Comments: [-] | anchor

z92(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Parse your server's access log file. The way it had been done for decades. 'Analog' was popular then, Should be better options now.

Closi(10000) 6 days ago [-]

> Parse your server's access log file. The way it had been done for decades. 'Analog' was popular then, Should be better options now.

It depends how much data you want. Google Analytics can give you all sorts of juicy privacy-invading (but totally fine because its aggregated) data about your users which you won't get parsing the servers access log.

maple3142(10000) 7 days ago [-]

But this doesn't work for people hosting their static websites on GitHub Pages, Netlify...

mschuster91(10000) 7 days ago [-]

Access logs are almost useless for analytics these days... all they give you is the URL that was visited and some extremely rough idea what OS and browser the client is using (UA parsing is a hellhole).

You don't get any more detailed information (e.g. device class, screen size/orientation) from analytics logs.

Also, if you're using one of the free hosting providers (GH Pages and the likes) you're not even going to get access logs.

jaywalk(10000) 7 days ago [-]

My server's access logs are almost useless when I've got an SPA with a significant amount of client-side functionality.

zserge(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I have been using this for a while, GoAccess is a wonderful little tool to automate the parsing. Highly recommend to those who prefer the old-school approach towards web analytics.


dealforager(10000) 6 days ago [-]

The funny thing is that this is essentially a giant ad for this person's business, and their website uses GA (lol). I've noticed this is an increasingly popular tactic on Reddit and HN. You clickbait people to an article backed with no data that you know will tickle people's emotions. Then at the end you include a call to action to use their service because it will save the world.

I used to hate GA as well as ads in general when I had never tried to start my own business. I had the typical Reddit/HN anti-FB-and-Goog mindset. After trying to start one, I completely changed my mind. I couldn't find a reliable way to put my site in front of customers without ads. I guess if you're popular and have a huge social media reach that might be enough, but for someone with no social media presence it can be tough.

Once you start spending in ads as a small business, it's useful to have some data to understand what the hell is happening to all that money. I spent thousands on FB, Google, and Reddit ads and it's extremely difficult to find out what is happening and which ones are working. How do you know which people are coming from which ad? Which ones are real people vs bots?

I strongly recommend people try to make a website/app without being popular on social media and try to get people to use it without using ads. Places like Reddit are generally against self-promotion. If you Tweet/post into the ether of Twitter/FB no one is going to randomly see your post. After using ads, I've started to pay closer attention to ads instead of instantly ignoring them. It turns out that they are frequently useful. For example the other day I was searching for services for hiring a remote contractor and the ads were more relevant than the search results.

As for this article, I don't really follow the logic. A lot of it seems to be backed by the knee-jerk emotional hate people have for powerful companies. For instance, when talking about how Google uses GA:

> we don't even need to speculate. It seems pretty obvious to me that they're using it to guzzle up even more data and to crap out ever more gold ingots.

Every time I see the word obvious, that is a sign that a big leap of non-obvious logic has been taken. It is not obvious that GA is being used for bad things, maybe Google just makes a ton of money because their products are useful. The rest of it also seems mostly backed by emotion. I guess these type of emotional anti-big-tech articles are quite popular here though. It seems like every day there is a new one.

charcircuit(10000) 6 days ago [-]

There's a setting for if the data can be used for ad personalization.

rozab(10000) 6 days ago [-]

To be clear, the author doesn't seem to be associated with the alternatives listed at the bottom, although they do have a single line below a divider about a wholly unrelated side project.

I don't think there's a problem with posting not-very-substantive articles like this on HN - it's a forum, not just a link aggregator. They often serve as good jumping off points for discussion, especially opinions to the contrary like yours (which I am glad to have read).

boffinism(10000) 7 days ago [-]

I really didn't want to use Google Analytics for a personal site (details in bio), but because it's a non-monetised personal site I really didn't want to spend money to know how many visitors I had, but because I'm trying to learn about content I really did want to know how many visitors I had, because that's a good way of discovering what content resonates etc.

I tried PanelBear, but because I briefly hit the front page of HN I blew through their free tier in less than a day.

I wish there was something very basic that had a more generous free tier. At the moment my site literally apologises for using GA.