Neologism: Evolving situation

Dec 29 2019

evolving situation - noun phrase - A situation where, if all hell hasn't broken loose yet it's well on its way.

Well, there's your problem...

Nov 30 2019

UPDATE: 20191230 - Uploaded a copy to my Peertube account.

From time to time I carp about how generally lousy our bandwidth is out here.  Verizon (our CLEC in the Bay Area) has all but given up on maintaining their infrastructure out here, aside from the bare minimum to keep the copper from turning to verdigris.  They gave up on deploying fiber some years ago (local mirror) some years ago, and from the poking around I've done on their side of the fence, their general stance in the Bay Area appears to be "Get everyone on celllar so we can ignore the rest of the network."  Which sucks and does nobody but Verizon's shareholders any good in the long run.

Anyway, after yet another afternoon wasted on the phone with tech support because our speed fell to pre-dialup speeds for reasons unknown, I decided to take the bull by the horns and put some old skills to work.  Out came the fox and hound and my old lineman's test set, and I set about figuring out which lines in the fist-sized morass of ancient wiring outside, if any, were actually hooked up.  The way a fox and hound works is, you clip or plug a tone generator (the fox) into the line you want to trace, and you use a matching inductive probe (the hound) to listen for the sound.  Telephony cables are almost never insulated so you don't need to touch the copper directly, the faint EM field around the wire is sufficient.

I was able to trace the line successfully, but in so doing I found out why our bandwidth was so terrible.  Thankfully, after demonstrating the problem to the contractor that Verizon sent out, we were able to work together to not only rip out the dead cabling outside, but mostly resolve the interference.

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Retro-futurist museum exhibit, SFO, 2019

Nov 29 2019

A common feature at the main terminal of SFO is a museum exhibit of some kind.  My last time through that particular airport they had a retro-futurist display of artifacts that dated back to the Space Age, all rounded corners and brass fittings and suchlike.  Definitely an aesthetic, if that's your sort of thing.

Anyway, pictures.

Pictures from my trip to San Diego, summer 2019.ev

Nov 29 2019

Last summer my day job sent me down to San Diego, CA to attend the Linux Security Summit and report back.  Unfortunately just about all of the content there intersected in no way, shape, or form with anything we're working on so it was largely a dog wash.  I probably won't attend again because, balancing the cost against the information gotten it just wasn't worth it.  I did, however, take a couple of engineers from Oracle for their first good sushi dinner ever, took an amphibious boat tour of San Diego Bay, and hiked along the waterfront for a couple of hours.

Pictures.

Cult of the Dead Cow book signing, 22 June 2019.

Nov 29 2019

If you were part of the hacker scene in the 1980's or 90's (or you played a certain tradition in Mage: The Ascension around that time) you undoubtedly have come across the weird, wonderful, bewildering, and occasionally insightful antics of The Cult of the Dead Cow, a crew of hackers originally based out of Texas who were well known for their periodic text file releases.  What isn't well known until very recently is that many cDc alumni have gone on to do great things, from starting one of the first security companies to ascending to C-level status at some well known megacorps to overseeing government security initiatives.  Earlier this year one Joseph Menn (nice guy, by the bye) wrote a book about them which is extensively researched and fun to read in general.  Menn's book tour happened to bring him to the Internet Archive along with some cDc alumni.

Bask in the presence of the C0w.

Using Ansible to restart a bunch of services running under systemd in --user mode.

Dec 02 2019

Let's say that you have a bunch of servers that you admin en masse using Ansible.  You have all of them listed and organized in your /etc/ansible/hosts file.  Let's say that each server is running a system service (like my Systembot) running under systemd in --user mode.  (Yes, I'm going to use my exocortex-halo/ repository for this, because I just worked out a good way to keep everything up to date and want to share the technique for everyone new to Ansible.  Pay it forward, you know?)  You want to use Ansible to update your copy of Systembot across everything so you don't have to SSH into every box and git pull the repo to get the updates.  A possible Ansible playbook to install the updates might look something like this:

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Challenge accepted: Archiving a Mastodon account with Huginn

Nov 17 2019

Last weekend I was running short of stuff to hack around on and lamented this fact on the Fediverse.  I was summarily challenged to find a way to archive posts to the Fediverse in an open, easy to understand data format that was easy to index, and did not use any third party services (like IFTTT or Zapier).  I thought about it a bit and came up with a reasonably simple solution that uses three Huginn agents to collect, process, and write out posts as individual JSON documents to the same box I run that part of my exocortex on.  This is going to go deep geek below the cut so if it's not your cup of tea, feel free to move on to an earlier post.

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