The Reset Manifesto
CopyrightÂ© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
The time had come for the funeral service. The family gathered together and got into a procession with Rebecca leading the way on George’s arm. Patricia was followed by Charles. Charles’s wife hadn’t been able to come under the excuse of having another pressing engagement (actually she was agoraphobic). The funeral director led them to the room where the service was now being held.
Knowing that more than a thousand people were present, and being prepared for it are two different things. The whole party stumbled upon entering the room. None of them had ever dealt with having that many people looking at them. Walking self-consciously, they made their way to the front row.
Of anyone who was having problems at the moment, it was the minister who was about to deliver the service who had the worst problem. The few words that he had prepared about the quiet and private man seemed a little at odds with the crowd that was there. He had no clue what to say about Peter Moore.
After wiping his brow with a handkerchief, he took a deep breath and started the service.
The large computer operating systems companies and Internet companies were taking an increasingly heavy hand with their ‘customers.’ The terms that were being dictated by the companies were outrageous. You had no rights to your private information. It didn’t matter if it was stored on the cloud or on your local machine. If it got put on a computer, their license agreements required you to accept that they had total access to it.
It was so bad that one could be working on the computer and it would announce that in fifteen minutes it was going install updates and restart. There was nothing one could to do stop it. Who cared that a deadline was looming. For the next hour, your computer was no longer yours. You might have purchased the machine, but you didn’t own it.
The problem for the average person was that there was no real choice. It was either accept the license agreement or go without a computer. Email? You may have written it, but it wasn’t yours. That poetic love letter to your fiancée belongs to whoever provides your email service. They can use lines out of it as the words on a greeting card.
Sure, there was the open source movement but Linux was complicated, the free office programs were limited, and computer games just weren’t available on the alternatives. Open source didn’t do anything to prevent the internet service providers, search engine companies, and computer manufacturers from taking advantage of people wanting machines and access to the Internet.
It wasn’t only the average barely computer literate individual who was at their mercy. Even power users were finding they couldn’t create ‘work arounds’ on the big companies. There were five companies that were at the heart of the problem – two operating systems companies, a search engine company, a database company, and a networking company. They owned the Internet.
All was going swimmingly for the five companies until the Update Fiasco, as it became known, happened. One of the operating system companies pushed an update out to machines running its operating system. The problem was — it failed. It didn’t just fail, it turned computers everywhere into bricks. You couldn’t even query how to fix the problem. As soon as a machine connected to the Internet the update was pushed to it.
It took the operating system company two hours to realize just how bad the problem was. They stopped pushing the update. By then, several million customers, particularly home users, were out of luck. Grandma and grandpa on a fixed income couldn’t purchase discount medicines on line. School kids couldn’t turn in homework. Families were unable to download movies and other forms of entertainment. Life, as most knew it, came to a screeching halt.
Small computer repair companies had lines of hundreds of people wanting to get their computers fixed. It wasn’t just a matter of rolling back the state of the machine to a previously stable state. That capability had been turned off because ... you can’t have customers rolling the operating system back to a point where they had some control over what was happening. Most users, even on their own machine, had minimal administrative control over anything dealing with the operating system.
After four long days and nights, HashMaster finally made it home. He was exhausted and just wanted a good stiff drink. Although this little crisis had brought him a huge surge in income, he was angry. The people waiting to get their machines fixed were furious about what had happened. Unfortunately, he was the only the target available for the brunt of their anger. He had taken more abuse in the past four days then he had ever encountered in his life. People were frustrated. People were making threats of what they’d like to do to executives of a certain operating system company.
With a scotch in hand, he was relaxing while visiting a chat room frequented by a lot of members of Anonymous. The current discussion was what they could do about the big five. He wasn’t the only one who had been hammered as a result of the update failure. He was about to vent when he noticed a new person enter the chat room. It was Samson!
A few people continued typing for a minute or two, but the chat came to an end. Everyone was waiting to hear what Samson had to say.
Samson: Greetings, Anonymous.
There was absolute silence in the chat room.
SickPuppy: Hello, Samson. What brings you here?
Samson didn’t reply. A new user entered the chat room.
TexasGoatRoper: Greetings, Anonymous.
TexasGoatRoper: Did I miss him?
One at a time, more users trickled into the chat room. None of them had ever visited before, but everyone there recognized the handles. It was a lot like attending a church spaghetti dinner and having Jesus and the Twelve Apostles show up. HashMaster was sitting straight up in his seat. Chills were running up and down his spine. Something big was about to happen.
Then a new user appeared: AvengingAngel.
AvengingAngel: Greetings, Anonymous.
AvengingAngel: Greetings, Elite.
The screen scrolled past too fast for HashMaster to read it. Everyone among the elite reacted to the arrival of AvengingAngel. He had heard the name, but he hadn’t heard much about him or her.
Samson: What do you need us to do?
AvengingAngel: I want a threat delivered to the big five.
Samson: What threat?
AvengingAngel: I am coming for them.
Samson: What does that mean?
AvengingAngel: I am shutting them down for 24 hours.
The screen scrolled past almost too fast to follow and then froze. HashMaster read some of the disbelieving comments. There were insults against the intelligence of AvengingAngel. His parentage was called into question. It was such an outrageous statement that the guy had to be total idiot.
The last line said, ‘All chat now under moderation by AvengingAngel.’ He couldn’t believe his eyes. AvengingAngel had just hijacked the chatsite.
AvengingAngel: I am not finished yet.
Samson: How do you want the threat delivered?
AvengingAngel: Anonymous is good at delivering threats.
Samson: I will see what I can do.
With that, AvengingAngel left. The screen scrolled past while all of the buffered messages were suddenly delivered. It continued to scroll past as people complained about his high-handed attitude. Did he know who he was dealing with? They were legion.
Samson: He knows who you are.
Samson: He knows who he is.
Samson: He can, and will, shut down the big five for 24 hours
Samson: Who will make and post the threat?
There was a long time while no one said anything.
HashMaster: I will.
Samson: Thank you, HashMaster
Just like that, all of the elites disappeared. HashMaster sat staring at his screen wondering what in the hell he had just gotten into. He took a great big gulp of his scotch.
MenopausalBitch: Are you out of your mind, HashMaster
HashMaster: No. Don’t you know who he is?
MenopausalBitch: I don’t care who he is
HashMaster: He’s the one posting all of those videos stolen from the government
CodeDancer: MB – doesn’t it bother you that the elite say he can shutdown the big five for 24 hours?
MenopausalBitch: HashMaster can’t commit us to this like that. We’ll look like fools when AA fails.
HashMaster: I don’t think he’ll fail. Samson is vouching for him.
The discussion continued for another fifteen minutes. HashMaster was trying to figure out how he was going to post the threat.
MenopausalBitch: I withdraw my objections.
MenopausalBitch: AvengingAngel just showed me his file on me.
MenopausalBitch: He knows the name of my first grade teacher
The discussion died. It appeared as if a consensus had been reached.
Peter and Rebecca waited at the airport for his parents to arrive. She was nervously clutching his hand. He kept squeezing back to reassure her. Under the circumstance, her nervousness was reasonable. His parents were coming for a visit. It would be the first time she had met them.
“What if they don’t like me?”
“They’ll like you.”
“How do you know?”
“They like me. You and I are a lot of like. If they like me, they’ve got to like you.”
She laughed nervously.
“It won’t be much longer, now.”
He spotted his parents exiting from the gate area. He pointed to them. “There they are.”
“I see them. You look like your father, but you get your height from your mother.”
“I know. Genetic roulette.”
“I like how you look.”
“You don’t think I’m too short?”
“No. You’re the perfect height for me.”
“Should we go to them?”
Peter led Rebecca over to where his mother and father were making their way through the crowd. His mother reached him first and grasped him by the upper arms. It was as close to a hug as Peter felt comfortable receiving.
“Peter, you’re looking good.”
“Thank you, Mom.”
His father reached out and shook his hand.
“Who’s this young lady standing beside you?”
“Mom and Dad, this is Rebecca. Rebecca this is my mom and dad.”
His mother stepped up to Rebecca to give her a hug. She could feel the young woman stiffen. She backed off and held Rebecca by the upper arms in the same way she had greeted Peter. Rebecca relaxed a little.
Peter’s mother had been hoping that Peter’s girlfriend would be a little more demonstrative emotionally than Peter. It appeared that wasn’t the case. Hiding her disappointment, she said, “You’re just like Peter.”
Rebecca smiled broadly and said, “Thank you.”
Having caught the unspoken interplay, his father extended his hand. She shook it. As soon as he released her hand, she immediately grasped Peter’s hand. They stood there side by side holding hands.
“Well, it’s great to finally meet you.”
“Thank you. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Well, isn’t this nice.”
They stood there looking at each other. It was very awkward. His parents were used to that with Peter.
His father said, “You wouldn’t happen to know where the luggage comes out?”
His parents followed them. His mother was pleased to see that they were holding hands. It was a good sign.
Rebecca leaned over and whispered, “I think your parents like me.”
“I told you they would.”
His parents looked at each other and rolled their eyes.
After picking up the luggage, they headed to the parking lot. Peter and Rebecca stopped a hundred feet from the car. His parents almost ran over them. He hit the key bob and the car started. He hit another button and the trunk and driver side door opened. His mother watched that with a frown.
Peter went over to the car and put the bags on the ground. He reached in the trunk and removed the collapsible probe He went through his normal procedure of checking the car with the probe in one hand and his cell phone in the other.
His mother looked like she was about to explode with curiosity.
Rebecca said, “Peter’s job is sometimes dangerous. He knows how to take care of himself.”
“He says that all of the time,” his mother said.
“It’s true. He really can take care of himself.”
Peter shouted, “It’s clear.”
“He takes very good care of me, too.” Rebecca headed towards the car.
Peter put the telescoping probe back in the trunk of the car. He lifted the bags and placed them in one at a time. His father closed the trunk. He winced at the whomp the heavy reinforced lid made when slamming shut. He’d forgotten that the car was armored. His wife looked at the trunk of the car with a curious expression on her face.
With the parents in the backseat and Rebecca beside him, Peter drove them to his apartment. They arrived in due course and without incident. The two women went into the apartment first while the two men brought up the rear with the luggage. His mother looked around the apartment. It was Spartan in appearance, much as she expected. She noticed a few things that were likely to belong to Rebecca. She felt that was a good sign. Maybe her son the robot was actually made of flesh and blood. She looked over at Rebecca and sighed, maybe he wasn’t made of flesh and blood.
His mother looked over at this father and made a motion with her head. Rebecca noticed the gesture.
“Would you like to go for a walk with your husband?”
“Sometimes when Peter and I want to talk about something private, we like to go for a walk where people won’t overhear us. We go for a lot of walks.”
“I’m sure you do.”
“Rebecca and I would understand if you want to be alone.”
“Actually, I’d like to see your office,” his father said.
“How about you, Mom? Would you like to see my office?”
“Maybe some other time.”
“I’ll just stay here with Rebecca.”
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Rebecca said.
She went over to Peter. The two of them whispered to each other for a minute. She stepped back from him and smiled.
“Okay. Let’s go, Dad.”
After they left, Rebecca gestured to the couch. “Have a seat. I imagine that you want to talk to me about Peter.”
“What do you want to know?”
“It seems like you and Peter are a lot alike.”
“So I understand you’re going to the state university.”
“That’s right. I’m majoring in library science. I like to read a lot. I have really good grades except in math and science. Peter taught me how to use a computer. I didn’t have a chance to learn about computers when I was in high school. He thought I should know how to use them if I’m majoring in library science.”
“Really? He taught you.”
“Yes. Is there anything you would like to know? I can find it for you.”
“Not tomorrow. The Internet is going down tomorrow.”
“Really? Who told you that?”
“How does he know that?”
“It is his job to know things like that it.”
In the car, Peter’s father said, “I missed having you around the house ten days ago. Our computer got clobbered in that update fiasco.”
“I’m very upset about that. They haven’t even apologized for what they cost people.”
“It cost us two hundred dollars to get ours fixed.”
“A lot of people are still without a computer. I don’t think that is right.”
His father glanced out the window. “At the airport there was a news story on the television. The news person said that Anonymous has promised that the five biggest tech companies are going to have a problem tomorrow.”
“Yes. A lot of people are very angry at them.”
“You wouldn’t happen to be one of those people?”
“I’m angry that it cost you two hundred dollars to get your computer fixed.”
“Are you part of Anonymous?”
“No. At best, I would use them as a tool.”
“So they’re going to take down our computers, are they?”
“That’s what the video said.”
“What a bunch idiots. They post their videos threatening us on a website we own.”
“We haven’t been able to track any of them down, yet.”
“Maybe they have some skill. This is just another threat.”
“I’m concerned about this one.”
“Rumor has it that Samson is involved.”
“That is bad. Still, I don’t think he’s that good.”
“You know how when you’re watching a scary movie and the music starts building and you know the monster is going to jump out any second? There’s that weird chill that you get between the shoulder blades. I feel that way about this threat.”
“Do you want to bring in the NSA?”
“I’d feel a lot better if we did.”