archives

  1. Neologism: Shark mode

    shark mode - noun phrase - The state in which a given piece of software is sufficiently developed that it doesn't really need any additional work, save to keep it working in more modern environments. Comes from the idea that sharks haven't evolved notably in millions of years because they haven't had to. They're so perfectly suited to their environment that any changes are minimal at best.

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  2. Life in Pittsburgh.

    For reasons I don't quite understand I always equated growing up with situations where you can walk into someplace to do something, talk to someone, and immediately have a real conversation about life where you live. I was struck by this when I went to the car dealership to sell my mom's car the other day. While at the dealership talking to the salesman we chatted about where we were from (the yinzer shibboleth of "I'm from Pittsburgh," "Oh - where at in Pittsburgh?" "I'm from X." "I'm from Y, great to meet you!"), which lead to who we knew, when …

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  3. Neologism: Profit Honeymoon

    profit honeymoon - noun phrase - When the price of a barrel of oil goes up (or when something occurs that could eventually make it go up) the price at the pump goes up immediately. But when the price of crude goes down, there's always a 1 to 3 month lag time before the price at the pump goes down. If it goes down.

    Source: @emsprater1 and @jaydcarr

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  4. Combining Manticore and Searx.

    Difficulty: Advanced.

    One of these days I'll get around to doing a writeup of an indispensible part of my exocortex, Wallabag. I used it to replace my old paywall breaker program, largely because pumping random articles from the web into a copy of etherpad-lite was janky as hell and did not make for a good user experience. To put it another way, when you're looking for a particular thing in your archive it's a huge time sink to then go through and edit the saved document because it's a single huge line of text. At least Wallabag saves copies of …

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  5. The end of an era.

    I flew back to Pennsylvania about two weeks ago to wrap up my mom's estate.

    I'm really not sure how else to put it. It's short, to the point, but nothing at all like simple.

    Lyssa and I flew back on two different days: I got us set up in a hotel and tried to sleep off the jetlag because I flew out at 0700 from California. Lyssa flew out just before midnight a day later. As it turned out we both slept all day and night because we just didn't have it in us to do anything else.

    We …

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  6. Working around another Android misfeature.

    I've been using Android phones for probably ten years now. Not because I have any particular loyalty to Google or the platform, but just because I can afford the phones. The last time I tried to text on a candybar phone using T9 I about went out of my mind because it was so different from what I'd been using for years. Additionally, my fingertips are just too damned big to use that form factor of keypad reliably anymore. I don't have any particular beef against Apple and the iDoohickey product lines, I just can't particularly afford them. I can …

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  7. Two in a month.

    This might be a record. Two posts in a month.

    Things seem to have calmed down a little so I've had more compute cycles free to do stuff. The last week at work was uncommonly... I don't want to say "uneventful," but "less eventful." This left me a little time to work on some projects that have been hanging fire for the last month or two.

    Mom's estate is still in a holding pattern, more or less. I'm still trying to get through to her tax preparer, with no success. I've also reached out to the estate attorney I'm working …

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  8. Okay, fine. I'm generation X.

    This blog post best read while listening to this playlist.

    I keep trying to figure out how to start this blog post. I've started, stopped, pondered, and taken a shower while thinking about it off and on ever since my last post went live back in February. Unfortunately, life in the twenty-first century is.. well, being life in the twenty-first century. The laundry list of things that have taken up most of my time is unfortunately way too long: Java and log4j have cost me more nights of sleep and almost-but-not-quite migraines in the last month or so than I …

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  9. Using Recoll to index my hoard.

    Long time readers are probably familar with two things: Horror stories about my dental work, and my endless quest to find search software that'll let me make sense of my data hoard (because I never delete anything). Thankfully, the former's been fairly good lately so I don't have any real complaints there. Things have improved on the latter front, remarkably.

    I've experimented off and on with a personal search engine called Recoll, which was designed to work alongside Linux desktop environments initially but later it was ported to Mac OS X and Windows. It is noteworthy in that it tries …

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  10. What's on my desk?

    In the last couple of weeks, a meme has been going around the blogging community where people talk about the stuff they use on an everyday basis. So, I figured, why not. I write about everything else, right?

    Hardware-wise you're probably already familiar with Windbringer's specs because I document all of my laptops. It's also no surprise that I run Arch Linux everywhere I can get away with it. Not a whole lot has changed on that front. I'm running the MATE Desktop Environment as my daily user interface, I'm trying to get used to neoVIM as my go-to text …

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  11. Searching for a bourbon replacement.

    Disclaimer: I'm not getting anything for these reviews. I haven't been asked to write them, I'm not being compensated for them, and I don't have an in with any of these companies. My Amazon links are affiliate links but I rarely get anything from them (and you are, of course, free to look at the affiliate link, do your own search on Amazon, and buy it on your own). I'll also probably update this post once in a while as I try new products. Also, none of what I'm writing is medical advice. Some of the stuff I tried may …

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  12. My .plan file has broken the one megabyte barrier.

    As the title implies, my .plan file has broken the one megabyte barrier at long last:

    {12:10:40 @ Thu Jan 06}
    [drwho @ windbringer ~] () $ ls -alF .plan
    .rw-r--r-- drwho drwho 1.0 MB Thu Jan  6 12:03:39 2022  .plan
    
    {12:10:43 @ Thu Jan 06}
    [drwho @ windbringer ~] () $ du -sh .plan
    1.1M    .plan
    

    I've also updated it, the first for this year. All the usual warnings apply.

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  13. Heroic IT measures on an HP Pavilion x360 Convertible.

    Note: The purpose of this post is mostly to document how to reconfigure laptops like my mom's to boot from a flash drive. The actual imaging process is only parenthetically laid out. If you're in a position where this is something you find yourself doing chances are you're already a competant sysadmin and know how to use dd anyway. However, I can't just leave it unfinished.

    Due to how many things are now inextricably tied to one's computers these days, from banking to paying bills, it seemed a good idea to back up my mom's laptop while I was in …

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  14. Pain.

    "Sometimes I think this whole 'growing up' thing is just pain management."

    --The Maxx

    Seems like a pretty cynical take on life, doesn't it? In a sense, it is; it comes across as somewhat defeatist, as a way to write off much of the experience of life. Or at least as a dismissive and macho way of ignoring parts of reality. However, if you dig into it a little bit there is also more truth to it than it would seem at a cursory glance.

    I've already written quite a bit lately on the topics of death and grief so …

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  15. Grief.

    This blog post is probably going to make less sense than usual. It's certainly going to be out of order semantically; I'll try to minimize the disjunctions as best I can and I apologize in advance. Lately I haven't had the time (thanks to log4shell) or the compute cycles (thanks to my mental health) to sit down and work on this post. Everything's been laying pretty heavily lately, and it's been an effort to just make myself sit down and work on this post. I keep thinking of little things to post to keep those switches in my head going …

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  16. I'm here.

    I'm still here.

    I have a post that hopefully doesn't suck too much in the works, but not enough compute cycles to work on it right now. Not a lot of hacking going on right now, either.

    Things aren't easy right now.

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  17. Third Pfizer jab.

    Yesterday afternoon I took some time out to get a third vaccination, because I'm worried that the stress from everything going on, and all the travel I'm doing leaves me at greater risk of contracting covid. As before I got the same vaccine that I got earlier in the year, the Pfizer variant. Unfortunately, the third shot kicked my ass so hard I'm pretty sure it broke one of its feet off in my rectum.

    By the time I got home that afternoon (because I had to run a few errands after getting the shot) I was feeling a little …

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  18. Mom's dead.

    The title pretty much says it all. If you want to punch out now, go right ahead.

    There's no other way to put it. No polite way, no delicate way...

    Cancer is neither polite nor delicate.

    ...

    The evening of 12 October, Lyssa chose to spend the night at bedside with mom while cousin Suzy and I went home to get some sleep. I don't remember exactly when we crashed but it was reasonably normal for us, maybe 2300 or midnight.

    At 0622 hours (which I don't think I'll ever forget), Suzy knocked on my bedroom door and said that Lyssa …

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  19. Hospice, day 1.

    Mom was moved to a hospice facility yesterday. Let's start there, because today's been a day.

    Things were all over the place today. I had a good quote lined up to open this post with (it's funny what subprocesses in your head can do when things are going pear shaped) but it's kind of pointless at the moment.

    Suzy and I drove over to the hospice this morning to see mom and talk with the hospice team to figure out what to do and how. Lyssa took a cab in before we let. The nasogastric tube is still in place …

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  20. Another shift.

    Mom was moved to a hospice facility this afternoon. For how long, we don't know. We're supposed to meet with a social worker tomorrow morning to figure out what to do next. Technically she's still under palliative care, but she's wasn't able to stay in the hospital in her condition.

    Mom is still insistent that she wants to go home. To die.

    That's going to take some doing, and it's not something that we can decide to half-ass, nor is it something that we can decide to do as we please (even on my mother's say-so). Her state has to …

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  21. I guess it runs in the family?

    Judy and I slept at mom's bedside in the hospital last night on recliners that the nursing staff was kind enough to bring in. Mom's fever spiked to 103 degrees Fahrenheit in the span of about four hours, she was febrile, and her breathing was agonal. In an attempt to make her comfortable, the nurses gave her a couple of doses of IV zofran and reglan, with a side of haloperidol for anxiety and fear. Later in the evening they gave her a dose of IV benadryl because my mom was scratching at her arms and chest, and was making …

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  22. I don't think it'll be long now.

    Someone asked me why these blog posts are always backdated. The reason is that I can't write about a day's that's happened until that day's... happened. Plus, if I wrote it up late at night and posted it, probably nobody would see it (the churn of social media being what it is). And, it seems wrong to liveblog somebody's impending death. Especially my mom's.

    I guess the cat's out of the bag.

    Yesterday morning when I woke up, I made myself breakfast and coffee and then took Dora outside in her stroller for some fresh air. Around my second cup …

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  23. Mom update 5.

    Every time I sit down to work on this post, something else changes.


    A long time ago, when my grandfather was taking care of my grandmother when she was in the hospital, he used to come home and say that she had good days and bad days. I was too young to understand what that meant. I think I do now. Some days mom looks and sounds like hell and sleeps a lot, other days she's awake and glad to have company.


    I'm all kinds of messed up right now. My short term memory is still hosed from not sleeping …

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  24. Retreat In the Mountains.

    After things slowed down a bit at work over the summer, I finally took some advice given to me by a number of people in various capacities and took a vacation. When your boss orders you to take a couple of weeks off because he's afraid that you'll spontaneously combust, it's kind of hard to argue the point. So, I put in for almost a month off, rented a car (because my family wanted to retain the option to travel as necessary), and scouted out someplace suitably far away in the mountains for as long as I could afford (which …

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  25. Mom update 4.

    Where was update #3? Right here.

    As I write this, it's 1930 hours UTC-4 on 2 October 2021.

    I am exhausted, fried, kind of in shock, and numb. My short term memory is shot to shit so I'm going to do the best I can to reconstruct the day.

    I'm writing it a day ahead of time because I don't have the slightest idea what tomorrow will bring. The last couple of days have been a roller coaster of turns for the better and then the worse. I need to start from the beginning (as today reckons it) and go …

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  26. Mom update 2.

    I'm writing this after taking a nap on the 30th of September. Mom asked me to go home and get some rest because I was nodding off in my chair when visiting her, and it seemed prudent to do so.

    When I got to the hospital yesterday it was just in time for her to get prepped for another round of paracentesis. The night before they'd drained about six liters of fluid from her abdomen, and by the time I actually saw her yesterday they had drained another three liters. This might explain the difficulty breathing. The surgeons also installed …

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  27. Mom update 1.

    Yinz might want to block the tag "cancer" in my posts henceforth. I'll figure out later how to get Switchboard to add hashtags to my posts.

    I really can't think of any other titles for these posts, so to hell with it. It's descriptive and the best I can come up with. And I'm probably going to ramble. Sorry.

    Mom didn't have a very good night last night - between the pain in her abdomen creeping up to 6/10 again and her O2 dropping, when I came in this afternoon she wasn't looking very good. In addition to supplemental oxygen …

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  28. Wars are won battle by battle.

    I've spent the last couple of days trying to figure out how to write this post. And I'm not sure, even now if I know how to write this. I've been struggling with it for a couple of days and, somewhere deep inside my software, avoidance has been keeping me from thinking about or writing about it.

    I mentioned last year that my mom had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was undergoing treatment for it. I stayed with her for a couple of weeks to take care of her. Let's start there.

    Content warnings: Cancer, medical science, stuff in …

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  29. Classism, perception, and dental health.

    It is somewhat stereotypical that folks who didn't grow up with a lot of money or are considered lower class than whomever you happen to be tend to have bad teeth. Braces cost a lot; I don't know how much they are these days but when I was a kid it was a couple of grand easily. Dental insurance is still not very common these days ("Do you offer dental?" is still a question people ask when looking for a new job), and dental insurance that actually covers anything is even more difficult to find. Plus, USian healthcare being what …

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  30. "Write once, run anywhere," they said. "Be easy," they said.

    Java was once the hottest thing since sliced bread. From the very beginning it was said to be platform independent (meaning, you could run it on Intel, Motorola, ARM, or whatever else you wanted) and architecture neutral (it was designed to ignore what it was running on top of). The dream was that you could take whatever software you'd written and compiled into Java bytecode, put it onto whatever system you had as long as it had a Java runtime environment, and it should work. "Write once, run anywhere" was the motto.

    In practice, not so much. But that's not …

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  31. Technomancer Tools: Pepperminty Wiki

    It's been a while since I've written a technomancer tools article. In the intervening time some things have changed; I've discarded a few tools because they didn't really work for me, or I didn't need them anymore. As you might have surmised (I didn't until I sat down to write this article, which should not be much of a surprise) it seems that I've been compensating for my ADD all this time. While medication has helped there are still a few deficiencies that effort, not phamaceuticals help with. Effort is good but a few tools don't hurt.

    Anyway, you've also …

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  32. Updating the Search Function of my Website.

    Not too long ago I got fed up with how good a job Duckduckgo's site search feature wasn't doing. No matter what I did I couldn't find dick around here. And, folksonomies being what they are, unless you plan them (and then they won't be folksonomies) you probably won't remember what tags you used. It's frustrating to get get lost in what amounts to your own house. So, one night I got well and fed up and decided to put some of my spare computing power to use. I did a walk-around of my exocortex and figured out that Jackpoint …

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  33. Pontification on the guy who stole a bag full of stuff.

    You might have seen on the news a couple of weeks ago a video of a guy on a bike sweeping a bunch of stuff off of a shelf into a garbage bag (local copy) (video.hackers.town) and exiting the Walgreens with alacrity on a bicycle. Unsurprisingly, there was a brief wave of outrage, jokes in questionable taste, hellthreads on Nextdoor, and a run on strings of pearls to clutch. Rather than join in those particular fun and games it reminded me of something I saw in the Before Times while out and about.

    Please note that the two …

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  34. Building a mollyguard to protect a power strip.

    If you've been to anyone's house in the last 20 years you've undoubtedly seen a bunch of stuff plugged into a power strip. Once found in office most of the time they've become as essential to everyday life as mobile phones. However, everybody has also encountered the most common failure mode of power strips - accidentally hitting the power strip and accidentally turning everything off.

    This is far from a strange problem; if it's got a power switch chances are somebody's hit it by mistake. The obvious thing to do is put a cover of some kind over it. It's even …

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  35. A few minor mods to Pitop OS.

    Some time ago I wrote up a minor project I'd done, rigging up Raspberry Pi OS to run on a Pi-Top. And then never revisited the post.

    I think you can guess why. It didn't go very well.

    Even though all of the secret sauce software is available in the Raspberry Pi OS package repositories these days and there is a process for installing it, for whatever reason they don't quite work right. The speakers were never detected, nor was even the system hub detected. Finally, my tinkering wrecked the desktop configuration entirely. After some frustrated debugging, I kicked it …

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  36. Building a locksport box.

    Longtime readers have probably noticed that I have an interest in locksport, or picking locks for the fun of it. As you might imagine, this requires a good deal of buying locks to practice on. From basic practice locks to padlocks, we tend to grab.. well... everything we can find, because there are so many different locks and we try to practice on all of them. While stuck at home waiting for some very long running jobs (multiple hours each) to finish at my dayjob, I decided to keep my hands busy by building myself a lockbox, or a box …

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  37. Installing Searx by hand.

    In monitoring the Searx Github repository because I'm a pretty heavy user of this software, I've noticed a common trend. Folks seem to have a hard time getting the automatic installation script to work right. I realize that it would probably make sense to figure out what's going on in there and file a pull request, but given how work's been riding me like a wet pony lately I can't reliably budget time to debug the script under a couple of different distros of Linux and figure out what's wrong. That means that I can't actually help any of the …

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  38. Neologism: Octopus mud wrestling

    octopus mud wrestling - A situation where multiple conflicting problems and solutions come together to prevent anyone from accomplishing anything useful. Every possible step toward a solution causes two other problems that further complicate things. Sometimes this means that something can't be fixed at all and a forklift upgrade is required. Sometimes attempts to fix everything cause an outage to occur, ruining everybody's day. So called because everything is dirty, messy, confusing, constantly changing and nobody will have any idea what's actually going on until it's over.

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  39. It doesn't seem like it ever ends.

    It's been nearly a month since I've last had time to post anything here. Earlier I'd expressed hope that things would slow down and I'd have some compute cycles free to get my breath back, maybe go for a walk and do something fun. Unfortunately, as so often happens these days, that was wishful thinking. I wish that I had a lot of good news to write about, but unfortunately I don't. Just a little. If this post is going to be too much for you in your personal situation, close the tab. Seriously. If you've got your own ten …

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  40. Vaccinated.

    Well, it's been a long couple of weeks since I've been able to post. Work has been eating me alive the entire time, but thankfully it's been leaving my wires alone so I at least have that much on the ball right now.

    Anyway.

    I finished getting vaccinated a little over a week ago. I got a full run of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and now that I'm (medically) back on my feet I can write a bit about it.

    The first jab back in April wasn't too bad. While it took some time to get through the …

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  41. I'm still here.

    I'm still here. Still alive. No timed post this time.

    Tired as hell because my work/life balance has gone to hell in a handbasket. I think over a year of covid has finally started to affect the rest of us. I don't think anybody's head is still in the game anymore.

    I've been working too many late nighters and it's really messed with my head. I took a couple of days off (before I started writing this post) to recuperate. Sleeping in felt kind of strange but I probably needed it. I've been taking time to read actual dead …

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  42. Terminology: Blank

    blank - noun - Someone who has scrubbed or never created any substantial presence on the Internet. No social media accounts (or deleted ones), no domains registered, no known e-mail addresses, no photographs, no projects of any kind. While an impressive privacy-related feat in the twenty-first century, it is not without its drawbacks.

    e.g., "I'm sorry, but we can't hire you, because we can't complete the background check. As far as we know you don't have any kind of background. You're a blank."

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  43. Distributing Huginn workers across servers.

    For quite a few years I've written about strange and sundry things you can do with Huginn, but not a lot about what to do when you run into systemic limitations. The nice thing about Huginn is that you can spin up as many workers (subprocesses that execute agents from the database) as you want, subject to the limitations of what you happen to be running it on. The downside, however, is that it's easy to accidentally upgrade your VPS to the point where it's just really expensive. I just ran into this purely by accident and spent a day …

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  44. Making an oscilloscope kit suck less.

    A couple of jobs ago I worked in an electronics lab that had all the toys - from tool cabinets as tall as I am to anti-static gear all over the place (and ruthlessly enforced rules for making use of it) to signal analyzers and oscilloscopes. Unfortunately, my job (and the project) were such that I couldn't just go messing around in there to teach myself to use the diagnostic instruments. If the 'scopes weren't in use at the time then they'd been set up specifically for the hardware we were working on. This means that messing around with the settings …

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  45. Cross-compiling go-sendxmpp.

    I used to joke that the day setting up a cross-compilation environment was easy we'd be one short step away from having true artificial general intelligence. For the most part neither has happened yet. However, I must admit that Go has come pretty close to making it easy, but it's also kind of opaque unless you go all-in on Go to the exclusion of all other languages. It's not really a language that you can just toy around with, kind of like FORTH.

    Long-time readers know that I'm all about XMPP as a command and control channel for my exocortex …

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  46. Optimizing Searx with UWSGI.

    Long time readers have probably read about some of the stuff I do with Searx and I hope that some of you have given some of them a try on your own. If you have you're probably wondering how I get the performance I do because there are some limitations of Searx that have to be worked around. Most of those limitations have to do with the global interpreter lock that is part of the Python programming language which haven't been completely solved yet. What this basically adds up to is that multithreading in Python doesn't actually make great use …

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  47. One year of COVID down.

    Here we go again, this time 943 years.

    This time, I got nothin'.

    Many of the horrors of the last four years are over and not a few of us are sleeping much better, mostly because we have to spend less time keeping our eyes and sensor networks open to catch the latest way that we or people we care about might have the worth of our lives decreased even more. That's not to say that things are perfect, just a couple of points better for more people. The covid-19 plague is still on, unfortunately. Vaccinations are still extremely difficult …

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  48. Getting an ancient phone online in 2021.ev

    Note: The more I worked on this article, the more I realized that it needed to be split into two separate articles. There was more ground to cover here than I originally thought. This article covers configuring a travel router running OpenWRT as a gateway for an ATA, and a Cisco ATA. The Asterisk configuration stuff will come later.

    As seems to happen during the time of the covid-19 plague, it's really easy to clear one's backlog of "wouldn't it be nice if" and household repair projects in a short period of time. I mean, hell, I recabled my server …

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  49. New decade, new TARDIS.

    As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the worst year in a long, long while was capped off by discovering that my car had been wrecked and towed without my knowing about it. I finally got the pictures I took at the junkyard up for the horror and edification of all and sundry. Long story short, my car was indeed totalled, undrivable, time for an insurance payout. As usual, Captain Corner Case strikes again and everything was way the hell more difficult than it ever really needed to be. Where should I start?

    I went around to my neighbors …

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  50. Neologism: Reality segmentation violation

    reality segmentation violation - noun phrase - A syndrome in which someone is so deep inside their own little world that any utterly mundane activity can provoke a combination of emotional upset, anger, confusion because they simply never think about it. In children this phenomenon also typically includes running to authority figures to inform on someone in the most agitated way possible. This is bewildering to just about anyone nearby who is not focused solely on their own little worlds.

    A sample stack trace of a reality segmentation violation:

    A: "Hey - you pooped in the bathroom!"

    B: "Yes.... and?"

    A: "But but …

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  51. 6 January 2021 was a security clusterfuck.

    Note the first: I started working on this article last week, but didn't post it until now because I wanted to let all of the (usually astoundingly bad) hot takes die down. While I realize that the Internet has given everyone an attention span rivalled only by the lifespan of the adult mayfly, I think it might be useful to have something laying around that can be pointed to later if need be.

    Note the second: A reminder that I do not speak from an official position. I do not speak for or represent my employers, past, present, or future …

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  52. Timed posts with Pelican.

    Late last year I posted that I'd migrated my website to a new blogging package called Pelican, which is a static site generator. If you noticed that my site's been screamingly fast lately, that's why. My site doesn't have to be rendered one page at a time with PHP on the server, and it also doesn't use one of Dreamhost's likely overloaded database servers as its back end. However, this brings a couple of drawbacks. Logically, a site made out of static HTML5 pages doesn't have a control panel to log into, so there isn't any way of controlling how …

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  53. One last shot fired by 2020.

    Well, happy friggin' new year, everyone. It's 2021.ev at last, the year when the Internet is supposed to look like this or something.

    Of course it's never that easy. 2020.ev had one final kick in the crotch lined up, this one for me. I may as well tell the story as it unfolded, because that's how it seems to make sense. You may as well get your buckets of popcorn ready because why not, it's story time with Uncle Bryce again.

    So, 31 December 2020.ev. I had an errand to run (one of precious few these days …

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  54. Reconditioning a touch tone dialer.

    One of my holiday break hobby projects, a palate cleanser if you will, was reconditioning a classic Radio Shack touch tone dialer I'd picked up on eBay somewhen around Thanksgiving. They're retrotech to be sure, dating back to the days when the touch-tone dialing that we take for granted these days (so much so that we don't even hear them anymore because we use mobile phones) was actually pretty rare.

    Note: A lot of the following history of telephony has been edited to reflect only the salient points for this article. Telephony experts out there will probably rankle a bit …

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  55. Clearing stuck jobs in Huginn

    From time to time the job workers in Huginn will lock up. This usually happens if they are subjected to an external resource which can be contacted but never seems to respond. A stuck webapp on the other end is usually the problem. If the connection never dies, or takes a long time to time out it can wreak havoc. However, there's a relatively easy way to fix this. First, you have to shut down your job workers. Depending on how many you have this can take a while... once they're down, though, it's a relatively simple matter to use …

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  56. Fixing YaCy?

    A couple of weeks back I decided to upgrade the YaCy installs running on Leandra to the latest supported versions, because they'd been lagging behind for a while. Due to the fact that they're enterprisey Java web applications and I can't readily get hold of any live chickens to sacrifice, I'd been putting it off as much as possible.

    As it turned out, the lack of sacrificial barnyard fowl wound up being a crucial factor in how things transpired.

    The first install that I upgraded was an install from source code and was indexing my personal library. It got re-indexed …

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  57. LOCKSS and Git.

    The archival community has a saying: LOCKSS. Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe.

    Ultimately, if you trust someone else to hold your data for you there is always a chance that the service can disappear, taking your stuff with it. A notorious case in point is Google - the Big G has terminated so many useful services that there is an online graveyard dedicated to them. Some years ago a company called Code Spaces, which was in pretty much the same business as Github was utterly destroyed in an attack. Whoever cracked them got into their Amazon EC2 control panel left …

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  58. End of year disorientation?

    Once again it is the end of year crunch at work and we're all scrambling to get things done before holiday break. That we even get a holiday break is something that I'm still not quite used to, though I'm certainly not going to complain about it, either. I spent most of the week pulling almost all nighters and cursing specific ways of getting things done that aren't anything like what anyone else does. Oh, well. So it goes. Everybody does it differently, nobody does it right.

    Covid-19 cases still going up around the country. Plagues do that. Of course …

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  59. 30 Days on Adderall

    Chatting every couple of weeks with my therapist for the last couple of years, the topic of ADD, attention deficit disorder keeps coming up. As in, she suspects that I have it, and has suspected it for a long time. Always needing to keep my hands busy, traveling with a couple of books and hopping in between them every couple of chapters, an inability to concentrate for long periods of time when I want to... the whole shebangabang. About a month ago she finally suggested that we try to do something about it. So, she prescribed me a 30 day …

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  60. Interfacing Fess with Searx.

    I promise I'll explain what Fess is in a later post. I want to get this information out there in preparation.

    If you haven't used Searx before, it's a self-hosted meta-search engine which queries a wide array of search engines (some of which are also self-hosted), collates the search results, and returns them as a regular search result page, an RSS feed, or a JSON API.

    One of the lesser known features is that you can add your own search engines. You can either write your own (using an existing one as a template) or you can leverage one of …

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  61. Another site migration

    It seems that I still I can never leave well enough alone (as anyone who's known me for a while an attest to). While on Thanksgiving break I found myself needing to tinker more once I'd gotten my other projects out of the way. So. I decided to do something about upgrading my website.

    As much as I've enjoyed using Bolt to manage my site over the last couple of years, the v4 series is going in a direction that I'm not entirely sure that I can work with. My knowlege of PHP is, to be honest, minimal at best …

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  62. Putting Faraday shielding fabric to the test.

    Last year at Thotcon the presenters were given what were purported to be faraday shielded backpacks - backpacks manufactured with fabric woven out of very fine conductive wires that are said to reflect radio frequency signals inside and outside.  The idea is that if you have a cellphone and you put it inside the bag, you could be sure that the phone was not talking to any cell towers so it would be harder to track the person carrying the phone, as well as preventing any malware that may have been installed from phoning home.  So the reasoning goes, even if …

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  63. Neologism: Cigarette principle

    cigarette principle - noun phrase - The phenomenon in which, if you want something to happen sooner, you should do something that will immediately inconvenience you during the act of that something occurring.  Comes originally from the act of making a public transit bus arrive faster by lighting up a cigarette, which would of course cause you to ditch the smoke, dig out your bus pass or change, board and pay for the ride.  Generalizes effectively.

    h/t: Mom

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  64. Embedded environment monitoring.

    Disclaimer: This post has lots of links to the Adafruit website.  There are no referral links, I received no consideration, I just buy parts from there and do cool things with them.

    A couple of weeks months ago I did a writeup of a prototype environment monitoring device for my office built out of a Raspberry Pi Zero W and some off the shelf components.  In the time since I've found time here and there to work on the embedded version, which doesn't use a full computer system but a microcontroller with just enough functionality to drive a couple of …

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  65. Setting up a mail relay server with Postfix, DKIM, and a little Nebula trickery.

    Given the proliferation of spam on just about every vaguely workable platform these days it seems sheer insanity to attempt to run your own mail server.  If it's out there, it's ripe for abuse in one way in another.  And yet, e-mail is still probably one of the best ways to get status reports from your machines every day (my SMTP bridge notwithstanding).  It is thus that the default configuration for mail servers these days defaults to "no way in hell will I relay a message for you," which is a net good for the the Internet as a whole …

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  66. Wrestling with mental and physical health.

    This isn't easy for me to write because it involves my mental health.  So, if it's not your bag feel free to skip this post.

    Helping my mom since her cancer diagnosis has left me in this peculiar state where I don't actually know what I'm feeling.  I call it "running on wires," as in, the silicon I'm connected to is running me, and the organics are off doing... something, maybe.  My therapist calls it alexithymia, and reading about it that's as good a word for it as any.

    I've been fighting with clinical depression for most of my life …

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  67. Calculating entropy with Python.

    Fun fact: There is more than one kind of entropy out there.

    If you've been through high school chemistry or physics, you might have learned about thermodynamic entropy, which is (roughly speaking) the amount of disorder in a closed system.  Alternatively, and a little more precisely, thermodynamic entropy can be defined as the heat in a volume of space equalizing throughout the volume.  But that's not the kind of entropy that I'm talking about.

    Information theory has its own concept of entropy.  One way of explaining information theory is that it's the mathematical study of messages as they travel through …

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  68. Chemotherapy begins.

    Mom had her first round of chemotherapy last Tuesday.  Early that morning I drove her to the Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC, got her checked in, and had to leave as they took her back because, due to the pandemic and generally immunosuppressed state of the other patients in the office I posed a contamination risk.  I spent most of the day puttering around the house, fixing stuff up, cleaning, and getting a bit of dayjob work done after dropping her off.  Mom spent most of the day hooked up to one IV line or another.  Unsurprisingly, it took some …

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  69. A quick and easy way of downloading MP3s from Youtube.

    Let's say you find a particularly banging' track on Youtube that you'd like to save for posterity.. what's an easy way of grabbing just the audio so you can listen to it later?  Sure, you can go hunting for a sketchy website that'll download the video, strip out the audio, and give it to you in a download, but those come and go and you can never be sure you're getting what you want.  My personal favorite technique is to use youtube-dl: youtube-dl -x --audio-format mp3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO2dPcvf1BQ

    But I can never remember off the …

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  70. Another eventful couple of weeks.

    CW: Stuff about medicine, post-surgical care, and cancer.  Feel free to close the tab if you need to.

    It's been a couple of weeks since my last update.  I was working on a different post in my spare time but I'm not entirely pleased with how it's turning out, plus I think it needs a lot more work, so I thought it'd be easier to write about the last week and change.  By "easier," I mean "easier to write," not "easier to handle."

    A little over a week ago, on the 21st of August, I was killing time with mom …

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  71. Update from the homestead.

    CW: Stuff about medicine, post-surgical care, and wounds.  Feel free to close the tab if you need to.

    This won't be easy for me to write, mostly because I'm tired, scatterbrained, and trying to put everything in some kind of order.  I'm pretty stressed out and my allergies aren't helping, either.  It's also been difficult to find ideas to put together right now.

    Cancer is a nasty adversary.  It runs you down, robs you of your strength, and tries to steal away your dignity.  The overall supply of dignity in the world right now is starting to run low and …

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  72. HOPE 2020 - Saving Hacking from the Zaibatsus: A Memoir

    Now that HOPE has wrapped, here's video recording of the panel that the_gibson, Tek, R¥, c0debabe, and I gave at HOPE 2020 this year, entitled Saving Hacking From Zaibatsus: A Memoir.

    There is also a local copy of the video here (downloadable version), the 'official' copy at video.hackers.town (embedded above), and a streaming copy at the Internet Archive (downloadable version).

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  73. I dropped out of sight for a couple of days.

    Observant readers may have been wondering why I seemed to drop off the grid for a couple of days.  Timed posts kept going up as expected, and undoubtedly other socnets seemed like they were being operated by my exocortex (which they were, for the most part).  You've probably been wondering what happened.

    You know what?  Fuck it.  I don't have the compute cycles right now to do a proper intro.  I count it as fortune that I have the compute cycles just to type this right now.  There's no easy or polite way to talk about it.  My concentration is …

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  74. Simple environment monitoring with spare parts.

    It's going on summer in the Bay Area, which means that it's warming up a bit both outside and inside (because air conditioning is Not A Thing out here).  That, coupled with the not inconsiderable research infrastructure I have at home has left me wondering and worrying about just how hot my office gets during the day while I'm working.  Now, I could just put a simple little thermometer on my shelf (and I did) but my concerns are a bit bigger than that.  What happens if my office temperature reaches a critical point and servers start melting down on …

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  75. Neologism: Code Puce

    code puce - noun phrase - An IT or ops situation in which the software installed in production is one version and the management system expects a different version.  This results in a situation in which everything is running more or less smoothly, and at the same time everything in the monitoring system is going bonkers.  Compare with code red, code blue, and so forth.

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  76. COVID-19 quarantine, day... who knows anymore.

    I have no idea how long I've been in quarantine.  I've stopped counting because the numbers were just making me twitchy.  Life is going about as well as one could reasonably expect.  We're all save and sound in northern California, as much as we can be during a pandemic.  Working from home is working from home.  To minimize risk we're getting as much stuff delivered as we can, modulo periodic trips to the local pharmacy to pick up filled prescriptions and suchlike. I wish I could say the same of things back home in Pennsylvania, but I'd be lying and …

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  77. Lizardman's constant

    Lizardman's Constant - A rough heuristic of the population of people who troll data collection polls.  Comes from asking the question "Do you believe that the President is a shape-shifting lizard person?" and consistently getting a roughly 4.5% "yes" response.

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  78. Extending a wireless network with OpenWRT.

    One of my earliest covid-19 lockdown projects was doing a little work on my home wireless network.  I have a fairly nice wireless access point upstairs running OpenWRT, sitting behind the piece-of-shit DSL modem-slash-wireless access point our ISP makes us use.  All of our devices connect to that AP instead of the DSL modem.  Let's call it Upstairs.  However, the dodginess of the construction of our house being what it is (please don't ask), wireless coverage from upstairs isn't the greatest downstairs.  The fix for this, conveniently, is to set up another wireless access point downstairs and connect the two …

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  79. An in-depth discussion of tear gas.

    Before I repost this Twitter thread in toto, I'd like to say a few things.  First, Zander is an old friend of mine (pushing 20 years at this point).  Second, while he might bill himself as "an amateur chemist," his scientific expertise has been helpful to me numerous times over the years, so I feel that I can vouch for his knowledge as well as his assessment of the situation.  I asked him if I could repost this research earlier and he gave his permission.  For clarity I've made minor edits to add punctuation.  I've also reposted the images he …

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  80. Getting a C64 online in 2020.

    As you might have seen in previous posts, my stuck-in-quarantine project has been restoring my C64 so I can play around with it.  Part of that involves figuring out what you can reasonably use such a venerable computer for in 2020.ev, besides playing old games.  Word processing and suchlike are a given, though I strongly doubt that I could get my Commodore playing nicely (or even poorly) with the laser printer in the other room.  Also, the relative scarcity of 5.25" floppy disks these days makes saving data somewhat problematic (though I've got a solution for that, which …

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  81. Reprint: Making your own superconductor.

    Disclaimer: Times have changed since this article was written so seek legal and scientific advice from qualified personnel if you plan to try making your own superconducting materials.  I am not qualified personnel or a lawyer.  Do not try this at home.  We live in a world in which possession of basic chemistry apparatus is illegal in some places, so do your homework.

    Process reprinted from OMNI Magazine, November 1987, page 76.  (local PDF) (local CBR) (right-click -> save as to download))

    From How To Make Your Own Superconductors, by Bruce Schecter.  Retyped as faithfully as possible.  Hyperlinks mine, added for …

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  82. Faking a telnet server with netcat.

    Let's say that you need to be able to access a server somewhere on your network.  This is a pretty common thing to do if you've got a fair amount of infrastructure at home.  But let's say that your computer, for whatever reason, doesn't have the horsepower to run SSH because the crypto used requires math that older systems can't carry out in anything like reasonable time.  This is a not uncommon situation for retrocomputing enthusiasts.  In the days before SSH we used telnet for this, but pretty much the entire Net doesn't anymore because the traffic wasn't encrypted, so …

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  83. Montage: Restoring a C64 and 1541 drive.

    A couple of days back I posted a writeup of how I restored my old Commodore 64, from taking it apart to putting it back together and firing it up for the first time in over 30 years.  As I am wont to do, I periodically took photographs of my progress.  Well, here they are.  I didn't do a full how-to because folks more experienced than I have already done so (that's how I learned how to do this in the first place).  I'll put more stuff online as I make more progress.  Enjoy.

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  84. Adventures in retrocomputing: Restoring a vintage Commodore 64.

    You've probably been wondering where I've been since my last update in the latter half of April.  I mean, where would I reasonably go right now when most of the country is locked down and only a relatively small number of people with more memes running inside their heads than conscious processes are running around with mall ninja gear and weapons (some props, most unfortunately not) doing their damndest to cut the population by infecting everyone around them with covid-19?  Well.. when I haven't been working (as one does) I've been reconditioning my old Commodore-64 computer, the first computer I …

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  85. Neologism: Software installation roulette

    software installation roulette - The practice of piping the output of a web browser or other HTTP tool directly through a system shell, usually as root to install something important.  The danger is that you don't know if the shell script has anything nefarious in it (such as rm -rf / or the installation of a rootkit) and by the time you find out it's far too late.

    For example: sudo bash -c "$(wget -q -O- https://totally.legit.example.com/install.sh)"

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  86. Neologism: Discourse analysis

    discourse analysis - verb phrase -The act of accusing someone of being a terrorist/communist/infiltrator/whatever because the analyst never learned that you can disagree with someone without wanting to see them utterly annihilated.

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  87. Tunneling across networks with Nebula.

    Longtime readers have no doubt observed that I plug a lot weird shit into my exocortex - from bookmark managers to card catalogues to just about anything that has an API.  Sometimes this is fairly straightforward; if it's on the public Net I can get to it (processing that data is a separate issue, of course).  But what about the stuff I have around the lab?  I'm always messing with new toys that are network connected and occasionally useful.  The question is, how do I get it out of the lab and out to my exocortex?  Sometimes I write bots to …

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  88. A little preparation is not a bad thing: Getting Narcan.

    Obligatory disclaimer: I AM NOT A MEDICAL DOCTOR.  SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND TRAINING.

    There's really no good way to start an article about the epidemic of opiate overdoses and deaths in the United States.  It's a terrible thing.  Unlike a lot of articles out there and stereotyping that happens, a nontrivial number of opioid deaths are due to accidental overdoses of painkillers taken by folks who are trying to manage chronic pain.  I say this as someone whose dental health history reads like Hellraiser fanfic.  If you're in so much pain that you can't even think straight most of the …

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  89. Migrating to Restic for offsite backups.

    20201023: UPDATE: Added command to clean the local backup cache.

    20200426: UPDATE: Fixed the "pruned oldest snapshots" command.

    A couple of years back I did a how-to about using a data backup utility called Duplicity to make offsite backups of Leandra to Backblaze B2. (referrer link) It worked just fine; it was stable, it was easy to script, you knew what it was doing.  But over time it started to show its warts, as everything does.  For starters, it was unusually slow when compared to the implementation of rsync Duplicity uses by itself.  I spent some time digging into it …

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  90. Still on lockdown.

    All of March and most of February were spent in lockdown in the Bay Area.  I've no idea what's still open or not because the last time I was able to go anywhere outside of the house was two weeks ago.  The walk I'd planned for last weekend was cancelled on account of rain, and all things considered I'd rather not risk lowering my immune system a couple of points with cold and damp if I can help it.  Plans for the next 12 to 18 months have been unilaterally cancelled.  I've already sold my Thotcon 0x0b badge even though …

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  91. Quarantine life.

    We're rapidly nearing the end of our first month of quarantine due to the covid-19 pandemic.  I've been working from home since the last week of February, which isn't anything particularly new to me because we have mandatory work-from-home days at least once a week at my day job.  Coincidentally, a few days in was when our landlord's scheuled demolition and renovation of the kitchen began.  This meant that we were down three rooms in the house - no kitchen, no dining room, and no living room - due to having to relocate everything.  Lyssa and I also had some amount of …

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  92. Nifty things to do with Searx.

    Not too long ago I was noodling over a problem: I wanted to break up the scheduling queues in Huginn to make my fleets of agents a little more efficient when the execute.  The best way I could think of was to make some of the schedules stochastic - periodically have an agent roll some dice and depending on what comes up decide whether or not to trigger the agents downstream.  So, of course I started looking for a random number generator that would basically roll 1d10.  However, the Liquid templating language that Huginn uses internally doesn't have any function to …

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  93. Neologism: Smoke and mirrors system administration

    smoke and mirrors system administration - noun phrase - When you bring a problem to your support team and they go silent for hours to days at a time.  No amount of poking and prodding is sufficient to get anyone on the team to respond to your requests for status updates.  When they finally get back to you they say that nothing's wrong and you must have made a mistake.  Your thing is now unbroken.  They never tell you (or anyone, for that matter) what they fixed or how they fixed it.

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  94. Using Nginx to spoof HTTP Host headers.

    EDIT: s/alice.bob.com/alice.example.com/ to fix part of the backstory.

    Let's say that you have a server (like Prosody) that has one or more subsystems (like BOSH and Websockets).  You want to stick them behind a web server like Nginx so that they can be accessed via HTTP - let's say that you want a browser to be able to communicate with those subsystems for some reason.  Or more likely you have a web application that needs to communicate with them in the same way (because Javascript).  Assuming that the above features are already enabled in Prosody …

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  95. Neologism: Quantum veracity

    quantum veracity - When you're not sure if somebody's full of shit or not, so you act polite until you can find out one way or the other, while simultaneously leaving yourself an escape route.

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  96. The Doctor's joint care regimen.

    Obligatory disclaimer: This is not medical advice.  Consult your regular physician.  Use at your own risk.

    Empty one envelope of vitamin C supplement powder (I like Emergen-C) and one envelope of Knox unflavored, unsweetened gelatin into a mug.  The Emergen-C is to make it taste better..

    Fill with cold water, stirring briskly with a spoon.

    Chug.

    Do this two (ideally) or three (maximum) times a week.

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  97. Sculpting castles in the sands of Time.

    I'm sitting in yet another coffee shop as I write this.  Once again it's my birthday and I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing with my life and where I'm going.  I've just turned 42 which, as Douglas Adams would have it means I now have the answer to life, the universe, and everything.  Or I am the answer.  Or something like that.  I don't even know what I'm having for dinner tonight, let alone know what life is or is for so I'm probably not the best person to ask.

    No, I'm not going to post a link …

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  98. Integrating Huginn with a Matrix server.

    Throughout this series I've shown you how to set up a Matrix server and client using Synapse and Riot, and make it much more robust as a service by integrating a database server and a mechanism for making VoIP more reliable.  Now we'll wrap it up by doing something neat, building a simple agent network in Huginn to post what I'm listening to into a Matrix Room.  I have an account on libre.fm that my media players log to which we'll be using as our data source.  Of course, this is only a demonstration of the basic technique, you …

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  99. Making a Matrix server STUN-enabled.

    Previously in this series I showed you how to migrate a Matrix server to use Postgres, a database server designed for busy workloads, such as those of a busy chat server.  This time around I'll demonstrate how to integrate Synapse with a STUN/TURN server to make the voice and video conferencing features of the Matrix network more reliable.  It's remarkably easy to do but it does take a little planning.  Here's why I recommend doing this:

    If you are reading this, chances are you're behind a NATting firewall, which means that your device doesn't have a publically routable IP …

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  100. Converting a Matrix server to use Postgres.

    In my last post about the Matrix network I covered how to set up a public Synapse server as well as a web-based client called Riot.  In so doing I left out a part of the process for the sake of clarity (because it's a hefty procedure and there's no reason not to break it down into logical modules), which was using a database back-end that's designed for workloads above and beyond what SQLite was meant for.  I'll be the first to tell you, I'm not a database professional, I don't know a whole lot about how to use or …

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  101. Setting up a private Matrix server.

    EDIT - 20200804 - Updated the Nginx stanzas because the newer versions of Certbot do all the work of setting up SSL/TLS support for you, including the most basic Nginx settings.  If you have them there you'll run into trouble unless you delete them or comment them out.  Also, Certbot centralizes all of the appropriate SSL configuration and hardening settings into a single includable file (/etc/letsencrypt/options-ssl-nginx.conf) for ease of maintenance.

    A couple of years ago I spent some time trying to set up Matrix, a self-hosted instant messaging and chat system that works a little like Jabber, a …

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  102. Neologism: Clandestine institutional knowledge

    clandestine institutional knowledge - The phenomenon in which everybody knows the documentation is wrong and people are so pissed off at said documentation that they don't ever bother to try to fix it.  Instead new hires have to play Indiana Jones to find the two people left in the organization who have any working knowledge of the thing and beg to be trained up so they can actually do their jobs.  Normally, the newly trained individual doesn't bother to update the documentation, either.

    footnote: Most of the time, nobody has the access to update the documentation anymore, which is why nobody …

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  103. Rigging up Raspbian Buster to run on a Pi-Top

    It doesn't seem that long ago that I put together a Pi-Top and started tricking it out to use as a backup system.  It was problematic in some important ways (the keyboard's a bit wonky), but most of all the supported respin of Raspbian for use with the Pi-Top was really, really slow and a bit fragile.  While Windbringer was busy doing a full backup last week I took my Pi-Top for a spin while out and about, and to be blunt it was too bloody slow to use.  At first I figured that the microSD card I was using …

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  104. Neologism: Tumbleweed mode

    tumbleweed mode - noun phrase - The phenomenon in which all official support forums for something are either abandoned (no activity for a protected period of time), or any posts that aren't lowball questions (such as "Where's the FAQ?" or replies to release announcements) are utterly ignored (meaning, actual technical support questions).

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  105. The overall state of telecommunications.

    I'm writing this article well before the year 2020.ev starts, mostly due to the fact that Twitter's search function is possibly the worst I've ever seen and this is probably my last chance to find the post in question to refer back to.

    Late in November of 2019.ev a meme was going around birbsite, "Please quote this tweet with a thing that everyone in your field knows and nobody in your industry talks about because it would lead to general chaos."  Due to the fact that I was really busy at work at the time I didn't have …

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  106. 2020.ev

    Well, Happy New Year, everyone.  It's now 2020.ev, we're into the third decade of the twenty-first century.

    I'm not sure what we're supposed to do now.  Hell, I'm not even sure of what to do with myself this afternoon.  I guess grab whatever downtime we can get before going back to work/school/whatever.

    There have been quite a few people joking about bringing back the roaring 20's, with all sorts of memetic payloads (some silly, some not).  Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing the the Invisibles' take on the 1920's make something of a comeback, but what do I …

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  107. Well, there's your problem...

    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 …

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  108. Retro-futurist museum exhibit, SFO, 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.

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

    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 …

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  110. Cult of the Dead Cow book signing, 22 June 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 …

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

    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 …

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  112. Challenge accepted: Archiving a Mastodon account with Huginn

    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 …

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  113. Neologism: Entropic debugging

    entropic debugging - noun phrase - The phenomenon in which one can spend weeks on end debugging something using a multitude of techniques, give up in frustration and/or disgust for a couple of days, come back to the project and discover that somehow the bugs have magickally fixed themselves (as verified by diffs and file hashes if one cares to check).  The phenomenon is so named due to the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy can never decrease, only increase in an isolated system.  In other words, as entropy increases overall in the universe it somehow wiped out the …

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  114. Neologism - Wires

    wires - noun - Person to person backchannels.

    "I had to pull some wires to get that expense report fixed before the boss saw it."

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  115. Experimenting with btrfs in production.

    EDIT - 20211120 - Edited the page so that it makes more sense. The last couple of edits were out of sequence. Cleaned up a few things, too.

    EDIT - 20211107 @ 1324 UTC-7 - Added how to monitor the drive replacement process.

    EDIT - 20201206 @ 2216 UTC-7 - Added how to remove a hard drive and replace it with a bigger one to upgrade.

    EDIT - 20200311 @ 1859 UTC-7 - Added how to replace a dead hard drive in a btrfs pool.

    EDIT - 20191104 @ 2057 UTC-7 - Figured out how long it takes to scrub 40TB of disk space.  Also did a couple of experiments with rebalancing btrfs and …

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  116. Echoes of popular culture and open source.

    (Note: This post is well beyond the seven year limit for spoilers.  If you haven't seen 2001 or 2010 by now, I can't help you.)

    Many years ago, as a loomling, one of my very first memories was of seeing the movie 2010: The Year We Make Contact on cable.  That the first 'real' record I ever listened to was the soundtrack to that movie should come as no surprise, but that's not really relevant.  I was quite young so I didn't get most of it, but I remembered enough about it that it gave me some interesting questions (so …

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  117. Pen testing vs security assessment.

    A couple of weeks back while traveling I had an opportunity to spend some time with an old colleague from my penetration testing days.  Once upon a time we used to spend much of our time on the road, living out of suitcases, probably giving the TSA fits and generally living la vida Sneakers.  I'm out of that particular game these days because it's just not my bag anymore.  The colleague in question is more or less on the management side of things at that particular company.  Contrary to what one might reasonably assume, however, we didn't spend a whole …

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  118. Neologism: The Paperless Office

    The Paperless Office - proper noun phrase - When the only reason your workplace seems to use no actual paper on a day to day basis is because the printer is always inoperable when someone needs to use it the most.  This leads to everyone giving up on the printer entirely.

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  119. Please Try This At Home: Dr. Mixael Laufer

    In September of 2019 a conference called Please Try This At Home was held in Pittsburgh, PA.  One of the talks was given by Dr. Mixael Laufer on the topic of how to acquire pharmaceuticals such as mifepristone (local mirror) and misoprostol (local mirror) for emergency personal use.  I spoke with Dr. Laufer and the person who made this recording, and they both agreed to let me post it for download and archival as long as I sent them the links to it.  So, here it is.

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  120. Neologism: Basketball mode

    basketball mode - noun phrase - When a service or application crashes and restarts itself over and over, i.e., bouncing like a basketball every few seconds.  Considered an outage.

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  121. Summer vacation is rapidly coming to an end.

    It seems as if another summer is rapidly coming to an end.  The neighbors' kids are now back in school, school buses are now picking their way down the streets, and due to Burning Man coming up it's now possible to eat in a real restaurant in the Bay Area for the next couple of days.  I've been pretty quiet lately, not because I've been spending any amount of time offline but because I've been spending more time doing stuff and just not writing it up.  I've been tinkering with Systembot lately, adding functionality that I really have a need …

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  122. Using Huginn to get today's weather report.

    A common task that people using Huginn set up as their "Hello, world!" project is getting the daily weather report because it's practical, easy, and fairly well documented.  However, the existing example is somewhat obsolete because it references the Weather Underground API that no longer exists, having been sunset at the end of 2018.  Recently, the Weather Underground code in the Huginn Weather Agent was taken out because it's no longer usable.  But, other options exist.  The US National Weather Service has a free to use API that we can use with Huginn with a little extra work.  Here's what …

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  123. Neologism: DC AC

    DC AC - noun phrase (humorous) - The primary mechanism of air conditioning inside the DC Beltway.  Notionally, the movement of air due to revolving doors caused by the never-ending cycle of contractors becoming civil servants, civil servants becoming lobbyists, and lobbyists forming startups and becoming government contractors once more.

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  124. An annoying problem solved: Accessing JSON documents with an API.

    I spend a lot of time digging around in other people's data.  If I'm not hunting for anything in particular then it's a bit of a crapshoot, to be honest, if only because you never know what you're in for.  You can pretty much take it to the bank that if you didn't assemble it yourself, you can't count on it being complete, well formed, or anything approximating the output of a human being (it usually came out of a database, but I think you see what I'm getting at).  Sometimes, if I'm really lucky I'll just get hold of …

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  125. Neologism: Checkers and chess

    checkers and chess - noun phrase - A situation where two or more actors in a situation are using entirely different strategies, working toward two entirely different goals, or are following entirely unrelated ideologies.  With sufficient cluelessness the actors in question may never actually come into conflict, even though they may be convinced they are fighting tooth and nail with one another.  The end result is a complete and total waste of time, money, and energy.

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  126. Got some new hardware installed.

    For a couple of years now, I've had my eye on the community of people who've had RFID or NFC chips implanted somewhere in their bodies, usually in the back of the hand.  If you've ever used a badge to unlock a door at work or tapped your phone on a point-of-sale terminal to buy something, you've used one of these two technologies in your everyday life to do something useful.  What I've wanted to do for a while was use an implanted chip as a second authentication factor to my servers for better security.  As for why I couldn't …

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  127. It's been a while. Summer vacation, if you like.

    I haven't actually been on vacation lately, not really.  I decided that I needed to go off and do some different stuff for a while.  I've been in a rut lately and decided that I needed to shuffle some stuff around.  I swapped out the "writing rambling computer nerd blog posts" module for teaching myself a couple of new things and spending some of my downtime offline, curled up with cinnamon tea and a stack of books.  Getting away from a screen for a while seems to have done me some good, and I'm almost back up to my old …

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  128. Hacking around memory limitations in shared hosting.

    Longtime readers are aware that I've been a customer of Dreamhost for quite a few years now, and by and large they've done all right by me.  They haven't complained (much) about all the stuff I have running there, and I try to keep my hosted databases in good condition.  However, the server they have my stuff on is starting to act wonky.  Periodic outages mostly, but when my Wallabag installation started throwing all sorts of errors and generally not working right, that got under my skin in a fairly big hurry.  I reinstalled.  I upgraded to the latest stable …

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  129. Have you tried turning it off and back on again?

    Disclaimer: The content of this post does not reflect my current employer, or any of my clients at present.  I've pulled details from my work history dating back about 20 years and stitched them into a more-or-less coherent narrative without being specific about any one company or client because, as unfashionable as it may be, I take my NDAs seriously.  If you want to get into an IT genitalia measuring contest please close this tab, I don't care and have no interest.

    Time was, back in the days of the home 8-bit computers, we were very limited in what we …

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  130. Neologism: Disasterbation

    disasterbation - noun - Idly fantasizing about possible catastrophes (World War III, EMP strikes, nexus collapse, civil war, simulation hypothesis system shutdown, full-blown hyper-blight) without considering their likelihood or their possible solutions and preventions.  Very common in the prepper and futurist communities.

    Source: M. Alan Kazlev (updated a bit and cross-referenced by me)

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  131. Accelerating a RAID-5 array with a solid-state hard drive.

    A couple of weeks ago, one of my co-workers mentioned in passing that he'd surprised himself by adding an SSD (solid state drive) to his file server at home.  To recap a bit, Leandra, my primary server at home has a sizable RAID-5 array storing all of my data.  However, one of the tradeoffs is that stuff recently written to the array is a little slow to be read back.  It's really not noticeable unless you're logged in and running commands, and even then the lag is something like one or two seconds.  Noticeable but not actually problematic.  At any …

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  132. Notes from Thotcon 0x0a.

    My notes from Thotcon 0x0a:

    Hacking Con Badges for Fun and Profit

    • Given by an EE
    • Badge hacking started with DC23, HHV.
    • Turned his DC23 record-badge into an analog clock.
    • AND!XOR's DC24 independent badge.
    • Maple Mini STM32.
    • Live spectrum analysis of 20-20KHz as an add-on.
    • Mic, pre-amp, FFT running on the uc.
    • Wired into the badge, rock-and-roll.
    • Inspiration and OSINT - look at the badge when it's announced, think about it
    • Get ideas
    • PoC - if you don't have this, you're not going to have anything
    • dev & debug
    • DC25 - NRF52 - 503.party
    • Blow up any images you can and start thinking …

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  133. War walking with a Raspberry Pi 0 W.

    You've probably noticed from the datestamps of my last couple of weeks worth of posts that they were autoposted by an agent.  This is because work has taken a turn for the extremely busy and I haven't had the time or the energy to write anything in particular; certainly nothing really useful.  Rather than wasting everybody's time I decided to relax a bit by picking up an older project, namely a new war-walking rig, and making it work.  Since I wrote that original post a few more security updates have come out for my phone and broke not only the …

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  134. Neologism: @here grenade

    @here grenade - noun phrase - The act of tagging a message @here (meaning, everyone) in a crowded Slack channel (users >= 100), causing everyone who's busy but monitoring to drop whatever they're doing and flame you for bothering them by messaging @here.  Normally done by a user trying to get a response to a maximum severity ticket that's been ignored for longer than the SLA.

    Example: "PFY threw an @here grenade into the #tech-support channel because the border router was on fire and the admins on call were ignoring their pagers.  He got kicked but at least the outage is over."

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  135. Neologism: Proper channels excise tax

    Proper channels excise tax - noun phrase - The markup paid on commonplace things when you go through proper channels at work to do something rather than going rogue, buying it yourself and filing an expense report.  For example, a flight from Chicago to Boston might cost $176us if you paid for it yourself, but by using your employer's internal processes and vendors the cost of the same flight is closer to $630us.

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  136. Neologism: Trapdoor goalposts

    Trapdoor goalposts - noun phrase - When two or more requirements are set up so that meeting one automatically means failing another. This is a bad faith argument whereby it is impossible to meet the requirements someone sets, without admitting refusal to allow the outcome the other person desires.

    Example:
    "If you're making a decent income you can't possibly talk about poverty, you don't know what you're talking about."
    "I'm actually below the poverty line."
    "You just want a handout!"

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  137. Neologism: Rotten egg dependency

    rotten egg dependency - noun phrase -  A service that a mission-critical application relies upon that nobody knows about but brings everything to a screaming halt when something happens to it.  In a sane world, said dependency should have nothing at all to do with the thing that just crashed.  Called this because it's as pleasant a surprise as a rotten easter egg at breakfast.  Best explicated by the following haiku:

    It's not DNS
    There's no way it's DNS
    It was DNS

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  138. Linux on the Dell XPS 15 Touch (9570)

    UPDATED: 18 March 2019 - External display adapters that actually work with this model (and Arch Linux) added.

    For various reasons, I found that I had a need to upgrade Windbringer's hardware very recently.  This might be the first time that a catastrophic failure of some kind was not involved, so it's kind of a weird feeling to have two laptops side by side, one in process and one to do research as snags cropped up.  This time around I bought a Dell XPS 15 Touch (9570) - I was expecting things to be substantially the same, but this did not seem …

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  139. Concert photos: Curse Mackey, the Bellwether Syndicate, and Clan of Xymox

    There are few better ways to kick off the holiday season than with a good concert.  2018 was no exception in this regard - the DNA Lounge brought in a trio of goth heavy hitters spanning the last 40 years in.  The night was opened by Curse Mackey, who seems to have worked with just about everyone on just about everything from Thrill Kill Kult to Pigface.  Second up was a relatively new group called the Bellwether Syndicate (whose work I've grown quite fond of since that show), comprised of William Faith (best known for being one of the founders of …

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  140. Organizing a data hoard with YaCy.

     It should come as little surprise to anyone out there that I have a bit of a problem with hoarding data.  Books, music, and of course files of all kinds that I download and read or use in a project for something.  Legal briefs, research papers (arXiv is the bane of my existence), stuff people ask me to review, the odd Humble Bundle... So much so that a scant few years ago I rebuilt Leandra to better handle the volume of data in my library.  However, it's taken me this long to both figure out and get around to making …

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  141. Sometimes the old ways may be best.

    A couple of weeks back, I found myself in a discussion with a couple of friends about searching on the Internet and how easy it is to get caught up in a filter bubble and not realize it.  To put not too fine a point on it, because the big search engines (Google, Bing, and so forth) profile users individually and tailor search results to analyses of their search histories (and other personal data they have access to), it's very easy to forget that there are other things out there that you don't know about for the simple reason that …

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  142. A friendly introduction to the Fediverse.

    If you've been kicking around on the Net for the past year or so, you've probably come across a thinkpiece or two about Mastodon, an open source social network that's kind of like Twitter, kind of like Facebook, and kind of like... well, nobody's really sure what else would fit there.  It's a bit of a wildcard.  That seems to throw a lot of people, and because this is the Internet we're talking about that means a lot of "this could never possibly work" posts, nevermind a busy network of several thousand instances and several hundred thousand users doing everything …

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  143. The Doctor's favorite podcasts of 2018.ev.

    I know this is kind of late, but I thought I'd put together a list of the podcasts I enjoyed listening to in 2018.ev, in the hope of introducing folks to the work of some really talented people:

    Weird Things

    Roleplaying Public Radio's Actual Plays

    The Neo-Anarchist Podcast, an in-character ongoing series set in the world of Shadowrun.

    On Her Majesty's Secret Podcast.  More about James Bond than you thought it was possible to know.

    The Black Vault

    The Secret Broadcast

    Enjoy!

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  144. 2019.

    Happy New Year, everyone.

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  145. Systembot: Adventures in system monitoring.

    If you've been following the development activity of Systembot, the bot I wrote to monitor my machines (physical as well as virtual) you've probably noticed that I changed a number of things around pretty suddenly.  This is because the version of Systembot in question had some pretty incorrect assumptions about how things should work.  For starters, I thought I was being clever when I wrote the temperature monitoring code when I decided to use what the drivers thought were high or critical values for sending "something is wrong" alerts.  No math (aside from a Centigrade-to-Fahrenheit conversion), just a couple of …

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  146. Ansible: Reboot the server and pick up where it left off.

    Here's the situation: You're using Ansible to configure a machine on your network, like a new Raspberry Pi.  Ansible has done a bunch of things to the machine and needs to reboot it - for example, when you grow a Raspbian disk image so that it takes up the entire device, it has to be rebooted to notice the change.  The question is, how do you reboot the machine, have Ansible pick up where it left off, and do it in one playbook only (instead of two or more)?

    I spent the last couple of days searching for specifics and found …

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  147. VLC crashes when trying to play stuff over the network from Kodi.

    This took me a while to figure out, so here's a fix for an annoying problem:

    Let's say that you have a media box running Kodi on your local area network.  You have uPNP turned on so you can stream videos from your media box across your LAN.  You want to use VLC to watch stuff across your LAN.

    Problem: When you select your Kodi box in VLC and double-click on the server to open the directory of media to watch, VLC crashes with no error message (even in debug mode).

    Explanation: VLC is configured to exit when the current …

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  148. Build your own time server with a GPS receiver.

    If you've had your ear to the ground lately, you might have heard that the NIST timekeeping radio station used by devices all over the world as a time reference for Coordinated Universal Time as well as some experiments in signal propagation and geophysical event notices might be on the chopping block in 2019, leaving the HF bands quieter and, let's face it, we can't have nice things.  Clocks that rely on this time source signal won't have any way to stay in sync and the inevitable drift due to the imperfections in everything will cause fractions of second to …

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  149. Neologism: Sharkfinning

    sharkfinning - verb, gerund - Learning something from scratch in an entirely hands-on way, which is to say, "Swimming with the sharks."  When you don't know what you're doing or how to do it, but you have a job to do.

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  150. Technomancer Tools: Note taking with Joplin.

    Some time ago I began a search for a decent note-taking tool that I could carry around with me.  For many years I was a devotee of the notes.txt file on my desktop, constantly open in a text editor so I could add and refer to it as necessary.  When that ceased to scale I turned to software that replicated the legions of sticky notes on my desks at work and home, such as Tomboy.  And that worked well enough for a while, but when I started relying upon my mobile more and more for things it too stopped …

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  151. Neologism: Faraday roundtable

    Faraday roundtable - noun phrase - A meeting conducted entirely offline.  All portable devices and computers are powered down, and ideally locked inside conductive and grounded containers to prevent radio transmissions from reaching or being emitted from same.  Similarly, no active computers are permitted at the meeting.  The proceedings of such a meeting are carried out using Chatham house rules.

    Named for the Faraday cage.

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  152. Life and times.

    Long time readers are probably wondering where I've been lately.  The answer is kind of long and is worth a post all on its own.  The short version of the story is, work's been eating me alive lately.  This is our busiest time of year and it's been all hands on deck for a couple of weeks now.  In point of fact, last week was our quarterly all-hands meeting, where everybody on my team was flown into town for a solid week of meetings.  All day, every day.  Most of my visible activity lately took the form of parts of …

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  153. It's a bit of a surprise when I don't have enough processing power.

    Earlier this year I got back into urban hiking by taking up war walking again around home.  Not too long after that, I started picking up buzz that upcoming versions of Android are specifically not going to make it easy (or probably possible) to wardrive or war walk by changing how the wifi drivers work.  By this, I mean they're making it possible to trigger a wireless scan once every two minutes instead of whenver you ask it to.  Unsurprisingly, if you read through that ticket's comments this is going to break a lot of other applications out there, but …

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  154. Neologism: Squirrel clever

    squirrel clever - noun complex - The state of being extremely smart when it comes to figuring out how to do something.  Notably, this does not include figuring out whether or not one should do something.

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  155. Simple things can be hard.

    As the title of this post implies, I've been working on some stuff lately that's been taking up enough compute cycles that I haven't been around to post much.  Some of this is due to work, because we're getting into the really busy time of year and when I haven't been at work I've been relaxing.  Some of this is due to yet another run of dental work that, while it hasn't really been worth writing about has resulted in my going to bed and sleeping straight through until the next day.  And some of it's due to my hacking …

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  156. Interfacing Huginn with Mastodon.

    It seems that there is another influx of refugees from a certain social network that's turned into a never ending flood of bile, vitriol, and cortisol into what we call the Fediverse, a network of a couple of thousand websites running a number of different applications that communicate with each other over a protocol called ActivityPub.  Ultimately, the Fediverse is different from Twitter and Facebook in that it's not run as a for-profit entity. There are no analytics, no suggestions of "thought leaders" you might want to follow, no automated curation of the posts you can see versus the ones …

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  157. The Circle of HOPE.

    Last weekend the twelfth Hackers On Planet Earth conference, subtitled The Circle of HOPE was held at the Hotel Pennsylvania by 2600 Magazine.  As with most years, I made my cross-country pilgrimage to New York City to attend.  I flew out on Thursday morning with the eventual goal of making it to my hotel early enough that I could order in, relax a bit, and get to sleep early to shake the inevitable jet lag so I could be somewhat functional the next day.  Modulo the usual difficulty in catching a ride from JFK, I made good time and accomplished …

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  158. The Doctor's boot care regimen.

    Boots: 14 hole Doc Martens, black, real leather.

    Unlace.

    Wipe down with damp paper towels.

    Wipe down with dry paper towels.

    Coat with Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam using included sponge.  Be sure to work balsam into stitches and exposed edges.  I ordinarily don't like to shill for particular products, but I started using this stuff to help break in my boots (it makes the leather softer, so it adapts to your feet more readily) and I was wearing them clubbing within a month of getting them (instead of six months to a year).  It's amazing stuff.

    Wait half an hour …

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  159. Exocortex bots: How everything talks to each other (roughly).

    I've mentioned in the past that my exocortex incorporates a number of different kinds of bots that do a number of different things in a slightly different way than Huginn does.  Which is to say, rather than running on their own and pinging me when something interesting happens, I can communicate with them directly and they parse what I say to figure out what I want them to do.  Every bot is function-specific so this winds up being a somewhat simpler task than it might otherwise appear.  One bot runs web searches, another downloads files, videos, and audio, another wakes …

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  160. Setting random backgrounds in LXDE.

    So, here's the situation:

    On Windbringer, I habitually run LXDE as my desktop environment because it's lightweight and does what I need: It manages windows, gives me a menu, and stays out of my way so I can do interesting things.  For years I've been using a utility called GKrellm to implement not only system monitoring on my desktop (because I like to know what's going on), but to set and change my desktop background every 24 hours.  However, GKrellm has gotten somewhat long in the tooth and I've started using something different for realtime monitoring (but that's not the …

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  161. Neologism: Binder Hell

    Binder Hell - noun - The state of being stuck dealing with varying numbers of people on the phone who are only functionally capable of putting you through processes documented in their three ring binders, even though none of those processes will actually fix the problem you have.  Symptomatic of an over-engineered system which has all but programmed out common sense and initiative.  For example, a company which is so hell-bent on keeping customers will needlessly obfuscate or entirely eliminate processes that let customers cancel their service.  As another example, a telecom provider which demands the serial number of your SIM card …

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  162. I am lost in a maze of twisty narratives, all different.

    It's been an interesting couple of weeks, to be sure.  While lots of different things have been going on lately, none of them are related in any particularly clear or straightforward fashion, so fitting all of this stuff together is going to be a bit of a struggle.  You may as well kick back with the beverage of your choice in a responsible fashion while I spin this yarn.

    I suppose it all started with wardriving in northern Virginia many years ago.  In a nutshell, I had loaded Windbringer up with a rather small for the time USB GPS unit …

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  163. If Microsoft buys Github, there are alternatives.

    If you're plugged into the open source or business communities to any degree, you've probably heard buzz that Microsoft is considering buying Github, an online service with a history of having a toxic work environment due to pervasive sexual harassment but still remains the de facto core of collaboration of the open source community - source code hosting, ticket tracking, archival, release management, documentation, project webpage hosting, and generally learning how to use the Git version control system.  At this point it's unclear if they're considering merely investing in the company (currently valued in the neighborhood of $5bus) or buying it …

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  164. Generating passwords.

    A fact of life in the twenty-first century are data breaches - some site or other gets pwned and tends to hundreds of gigabytes of data get stolen.  If you're lucky just the usernames and passwords for the service have been taken; if you're not, credit card and banking information has been exfiltrated.  Good times.

    You've probably wondered why stolen passwords are dangerous.  There are a few reasons for this: The first is that people tend to re-use passwords on multiple sites or services.  Coupled with the fact that many online services use e-mail addresses as usernames, this means that all …

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  165. Technomancer tools: Managing and sharing bookmarks across multiple systems.

    If you have multiple systems (like I do), a problem you've undoubtedly run into is keeping your bookmarks in sync across every browser you use.  Of course, there are services that'll happily do this job on you behalf, but they're free, and we all know what free means.  If you're interested in being social with your link collection there are some social bookmarking services out there for consideration, including what's left of Delicious.  For many years I was a Delicious user (because I liked the idea of maintaining a public bookmark collection that could be useful to people), but Delicious …

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  166. Road trip: Joshua Tree, California

    I didn't really do anything for my birthday this year, in part because I just wanted some downtime (rather than go to Pantheacon I stayed in a hotel and caught up on my reading, and later on went on a coffee shop crawl) and in part because my birthday gift this was a a road trip to Joshua Tree, California for a long weekend in March.  It's been a long time since I was last in the high desert and, even though it didn't seem like it at the time I was looking forward to both the road trip as …

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  167. Neologism: GSCA

    GSCA - acronym, verb - Using grep, sed, cut, and awk on a Linux or UNIX box to chop up, mangle, or otherwise process data on the command line prior to doing anything serious with it.  This is not to preclude the use of additional tools (such as sort).

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  168. Some notes on locksport.

    A couple of weeks back, as part of our continuing education program at my dayjob I ran a hands-on class on locksport, the quasi-science (perhaps art) of picking locks for fun and... well... fun.  I'm a security wonk so most of the talks I run have some security content in them, but I wanted to do something that was fairly suitable for everyone (coders and not).  So, I got the go-ahead to expense a few more locks and some intro picksets to give away from The Lockpick Shop (no consideration for mentioning or using them, they had what I needed …

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  169. Neologism: Going rogue

    Going rogue - noun phrase - Ignoring the directions Google Maps (or whatever map navigation application you have on your phone) gives you in favor of using the knowledge inside your head and local area expertise.  The thing about map navigation applications is that so many people use them, the moment you deviate from the main course you have almost entirely empty streets, with a significant reduction in travel time.

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  170. Algorithm for implementing a dead man's switch.

    So, you're probably wondering why I'm posting this, because it's a bit off of my usual fare.  The reason is I think it would be useful to make available a fairly simple algorithm for implementing a general purpose dead man's switch in whatever language you want, which is to say a DMS that could conceivably do just about anything if it activated.

    But what's a dead man's switch?  Ultimately, it's a mechanism that has to be manually engaged at all times if you want something to happen, and if that switch turns off for some reason, something else happens (like …

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  171. On the toxicity of USian gun culture.

    I've been keeping quiet about the mass school shooting in Florida some weeks ago because it's such a hot-button topic, and many people speaking out are catching harrassment and death threats - even the students who survived the massacre.  Of course, the National Rifle Association went on the record as saying, quote, "The NRA doesn't back any ban."  Meaning, of course, they'll do their damndest to hamstring any new legislation that has to do with guns.  It's also worth noting that there were multiple law enforcement officers - trained and armed - at the school, and they did nothing.  Which isn't surprising to …

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  172. Neologism: Platypus truther

    Platypus truther - noun - Someone who doggedly, ruthlessly, and almost to the exclusion of anything else (including good sense) espouses, defends, and picks fights over a position, idea, or hypothesis that is completely and totally around the bend.  Even taking into account the context of this person's other activities (social media history, books written, and so forth) it makes absolutely no sense why they would claim to believe such a thing, let alone fight with people over it.  There is absolutely no way of telling if they're communicating in good faith or not.  It could be trolling, it might be absurdist …

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  173. I guess this is a milestone, isn't it?

    As I write this, it's roughly a week before my 40th birthday.  I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room tapping away on Windbringer while Lyssa undergoes surgery to remove a cataract from her left (and only working) eye.*  When this post goes live on the day of my actual 40th birthday, more things will undoubtedly have happened.  I don't know how much time I'm going to have in the next few days, so I guess I'd best take advantage of the spare time I have due to how busy I've been lately.

    A lot's happened in this past year that …

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  174. Online talk about exocortices.

    A couple of days ago I gave a talk online to some members of the Zero State about my exocortex.  It's a pretty informal talk done as a Hangout where I talk about some of the day to day stuff and where the project came from.  I didn't have any notes and it was completely unscripted.

    Embedding is disabled for some reason so I can't just put the video here here.  Here's a direct link to the recording, here's a copy at my Peertube channel, and here's a local copy.

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  175. Curveballs.

    Sometime last summer, around the time we renewed our lease, our landlord mentioned that he wanted to sell the house we've been renting in California for the past couple of years.  As one might expect, this caused a bit of a stir at home, but then we didn't hear back from him for a couple of months (no news is good news, right?) and went back to life as normal.  Around Yule we all but forgot about it.

    Last weekend, our landlord paid us a visit and informed us that he was starting the house-selling process.  The first round of …

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  176. Making offline backups of a Linux machine using Backblaze.

    UPDATE: 20191229 - Added how to rotate out the oldest backups.

    As frequent readers may or may not remember, I rebuilt my primary server last year, and in the process set up a fairly hefty RAID-5 array (24 terabytes) to store data.  As one might reasonably expect, backing all of that stuff up is fairly difficult.  I'd need to buy enough external hard drives to fit a copy of everything on there, plus extra space to store incremental backups for some length of time.  Another problem is that both Leandra and the backup drives would be in the same place at …

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  177. Quick and dirty copies of website with wget.

    Let's say there's a website that you want to make a local mirror of.  This means that you can refer to it offline, and you can make offline backups of it for archival.  Let's further state that you have access to some server someplace with enough disk space to hold the copy, and that you can start a task, disconnect, and let it run to completion some time later, with GNU Screen for example.  Let's further state that you want the local copy of the site to not be broken when you load it in a browser; all the links …

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  178. Automating deployment of Let's Encrypt certificates.

    A couple of weeks back, somebody I know asked me how I went about deploying SSL certificates from the Let's Encrypt project across all of my stuff.  Without going into too much detail about what SSL and TLS are (but here's a good introduction to them), the Let's Encrypt project will issue SSL certificates to anyone who wants one, provided that they can prove somehow that they control what they're cutting a certificate for.  You can't use Let's Encrypt to generate a certificate for google.com because they'd try to communicate with the server (there isn't any such thing but …

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  179. It's 2018.

    It's now 2018.  Don't ask me how we made it, but we did.

    Regular readers have probably been wondering what's been going on that I haven't posted much.  The short form, and the honest answer, is that I haven't had it in me to really post, aside from some stuff that I copy-and-pasted out of my notes, polished up a bit, and saved.  The holiday season is always a busy time, and my life is no different from anyone else's in that regard.

    Lyssa and I flew back to Pennsylvania at more or less the last minute about halfway through …

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  180. Quick and easy SSH key installation.

    I know I haven't posted much this month.  The holiday season is in full effect and life, as I'm sure you know, has been crazy.  I wanted to take the time to throw a quick tip up that I just found out about which, if nothing else, will make it easier to get up and running on a Raspberry Pi that you've received as a gift.  Here's the situation:

    You have a new account on a machine that you want to SSH into easily.  So, you want to quickly and easily transfer over one or more of your SSH public …

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  181. An interesting discovery about Dreamhost.

    As you may or may not be aware, I've been a customer of Dreamhost for many years now (if you want to give them a try, here's my referral link).  Both professionally and personally, I've been hosting stuff with them without many complaints (their grousing about my websites being too large is entirely reasonable given that I'm on their shared hosting plan).  Something always got me about their SSL support, though, was that you had to buy a unique IP address from them if you wanted to use it.  That cost a pretty penny, almost as much as I pay …

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  182. Administering servers over Tor using Ansible.

    Difficulty rating: 8.  Highly specific use case, highly specific setup, assumes that you know what these tools are already.

    Let's assume that you have a couple of servers that you can SSH into over Tor as hidden services.

    Let's assume that your management workstation has SSH, the Tor Browser Bundle and Ansible installed.  Ansible does all over its work over an SSH connection, so there's no agent to install on any of your servers.

    Let's assume that you only use SSH public key authentication to log into those servers.  Password authentication is disabled with the directive PasswordAuthentication no in the …

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  183. Another Bolt upgrade, another gotcha.

    Regular readers of my site no doubt noticed that my site was offline for a little while a few days ago (today, by the timestamp, because Bolt doesn't let me postdate articles, only postdate when they go live) because I was upgrading the software to the latest stable version.  It went remarkably smoothly this time, modulo the fact that I had to manually erase the disk cache so the upgrade process could finish and not error out.  Deleting the cache alone took nearly an hour, and in the process I discovered something I wish I'd known about when I first …

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  184. Keybase and Git.

    A couple of weeks ago a new release of the Keybase software package came out, and this one included as one of its new features support for natively hosting Git repositories.  This doesn't seem like it's very useful for most people, and it might really only be useful to coders, but it's a handy enough service that I think it's worth a quick tutorial.  Prior to that feature release something in the structure of the Keybase filesystem made it unsuitable for storing anything but static copies of Git repositories (I don't know exactly waht), but they've now made Git a …

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  185. Casting a data point into the origins of the Polybius myth.

    A couple of days ago (a couple of minutes ago, as I happen to write this) I watched a documentary on Youtube about a modern urban legend, the video game called Polybius.  I don't want to give away the entire story if you've not heard it before, but a capsule version is that in 1981.ev a strange video game called Polybius was installed in a number of video arcades in the Pacific Northwest.  The game supposedly had a strange effect on some of the people playing it, ranging from long periods of hypnosis to night terrors, epileptic convulsions and …

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  186. Back online in time for the holiday season, I guess.

    I guess I should wish everybody out there a happy Thanksgiving that celebrates it.

    I haven't been around much lately, certainly not as much as I would like to be.  Things have been difficult lately, to say the least.

    Around this time of year things go completely berserk at my dayjob.  For a while I was pulling 14 hour days, capped off with feverishly working three days straight on one of the biggest projects of my career, which not only wound up going off without more than the expected number of hitches but has garnered quite a few kudos from …

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  187. Technomancer Tools: YaCy

    UPDATED: Added an Nginx configuration block to proxy YaCy.

    If you've been squirreling away information for any length of time, chances are you tried to keep it all organized for a certain period of time and then gave up the effort when the volume reached a certain point.  Everybody has therir limit to how hard they'll struggle to keep things organized, and past that point there are really only two options: Give up, or bring in help.  And by 'help' I mean a search engine of some kind that indexes all of your stuff and makes it searchable so you …

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  188. Exocortices: A definition of a technology.

    Originally published at Mondo 2000, 10 October 2017.

    A common theme of science fiction in the transhumanist vein, and less commonly in applied (read: practical) transhumanist circles is the concept of having an exocortex either installed within oneself, or interfaced in some way with one's brain to augment one's intelligence.  To paint a picture with a fairly broad brush, an exocortex was a system postulated by JCR Licklider in the research paper Man-Computer Symbiosis which would implement a new lobe of the human brain which was situated outside of the organism (though some components of it might be internal).  An …

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  189. Pictures from a cruise on San Francisco Bay.

    A couple of weeks ago I had an invitation to take a lunch cruise on San Francisco Bay aboard the Hornblower.  It was a work sort of thing, a quarterly fun-thing to do after putting in longer hours than usual organized by one of my cow-orkers.  As luck would have it, that was one of the rare days that it rained in the Bay Area.  You might think that it would put a damper on things but it doesn't rain much out here these days so any change of weather is not only noteworthy, it's a pleasant change of pace …

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  190. Art installation: Visualization of city-wide Internet traffic.

    "Program a map to display frequency of data exchange, every thousand megabytes a single pixel on a very large screen.  Manhattan and Atlanta burn solid white.  Then they start to pulse, the rate of traffic threatening to overload your simulation.  Your map is about to go nova.  Cool it down.  Up your scale.  Each pixel a million megabytes.  At a hundred million megabytes per second, you begin to make out certain blocks in midtown Manhattan, outlines of hundred-year-old industrial parks ringing the old core of Atlanta..."

        --From Neuromancer by William Gibson

    While wandering around downtown San Francisco a couple of …

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  191. Building your own Google Alerts with Huginn and Searx.

    A Google feature that doesn't ordinarily get a lot of attention is Google Alerts, which is a service that sends you links to things that match certain search terms on a periodic basis.  Some people use it for  vanity searching because they have a personal brand to maintain, some people use it to keep on top of a rare thing they're interested in (anyone remember the show Probe?), some people use it for bargain hunting, some people use it for intel collection... however, this is all predicated on Google finding out what you're interested in, certainly interested enough to have …

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  192. Scaling up font sizes in Chromium.

    Longtime readers have probably seen the odd post about my getting fed up with Firefox and migrating my workflow (and much of my online data archive) to Chromium, which has been significantly faster if nothing else than Firefox lately.  Of course, due to Windbringer's screen resolution I immediately ran into problems with just about every font size being too small, including the text in the URL bar, the menus, and the add-ons that I use.  On a lark I went back to my font sizes in Keybase article and give it a try.  Lo and behold, when I used --force-device-scale-factor …

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  193. Technomancer Tools: Creating a local web archive with Chrome and PageArchiver.

    Some time ago I wrote an article of suggestions for archiving web content offline, at the very least to have local copies in the event that connectivity was unavailable.  I also expressed some frustration that there didn't seem to be any workable options for the Chromium web browser because I'd been having trouble getting the viable options working.  After my attempt at fixing up Firefox fell far short of my goal (it worked for all of a day, if that) I realized that I needed to come up with something that would let me do what I needed to do …

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  194. Mondo 2000 is back.

    If you've been around for a while you may remember a certain magazine called Mondo 2000 from the 90's.  It was a time when using the prefix cyber- wasn't done in irony and computers were still weird and edgy and nobody actually knew what the hell they were doing.  Psychedelic explorers like Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna were still alive (though Leary died in '96 and McKenna four years later), raves required you to go on quests to find map points so you could get your wristband to get in, and we all knew - we just knew - that the Net …

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  195. Can you please help someone in dire straights?

    Reece Markowsky is a friend and colleague of mine from work who lives and works in British Columbia.  Late last week he received word that his brother passed away after a protracted period of hospitalization.  As one might imagine he's devastated by this.  Unfortunately his sister-in-law Shari is now a single mother of two young boys who is now on a single income, trying to pay for the funeral, and trying to get by until she can find a job.  Reece has started a crowdfunding campaign on her behalf.

    If you can spare it, would you please donate to their …

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  196. Alphaville - 11 August 2017

    I've been a fan of the band Alphaville since I was quite small.  They seem to have a knack for catch hooks and lyrics that never fail to make you think about when and why they were written.  If you're not familiar with them, you've probably heard Big In Japan and Sounds Like A Melody, so that should job your memory.  So, when I heard that they'd be coming to the States to tour for the first time in eleven years I bought a ticket immediately.  It caught my attention that Christopher Anton (former frontman for InSoc) had assembled a …

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  197. iVardensphere and VNV Nation at the Bottom of the Hill - 18 August 2017

    Because I don't have it in me right now to do a full writeup, here are some pictures from the iVardensphere and VNV Nation concert on 18 August 2017.  They were taken at the San Francisco show of the Automatic Empire tour, in which VNV played both the Automatic and Empires albums back to back.  iVardenSphere was a solo act this time around, and performed an all-improvisational set on his equipment, something that one person carefully characterized as an industrial algorave.  VNV Nation took the stage with their usual aplomb and Ronan spent an unusual amount of time talking with …

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  198. Neologism: Quantum budget superposition

    quantum budget superposition - noun - A bank account's state of existence during the time in which you're waiting for your landlord to cash the rent cheque so you don't actually know how much money you have at a given time t.  Spend too much and your rent cheque bounces.  Spend too little and you put off important bills for too long.

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  199. Cleaning up Firefox... somewhat.

    Chances are you're running one of two major web browsers on the desktop to read my website - Firefox or Google's Chrome.

    Chrome isn't bad; I have to use it at work (it's the only browser we're allowed to have, enforced centrally).  In point of fact, I'd have switched to it a long time ago if it wasn't for one thing.  I make heavy use of a plugin for Firefox called Scrapbook Plus, which make it possible to take a full snapshot of a web page and store it locally so that it can be read offline, annotated, and full-text searched …

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  200. Neologism: Gitmnesia

    gitmnesia - noun - That feeling when you receive an update email about some ticket on Github from a project that you haven't looked at in so long that you don't recognize its name.  Generally a sign that you follow too many projects on Github.

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  201. Neologism: Icon blindness

    icon blindness - noun phrase - The state of mind in which you search your desktop for minutes on end for one particular application's icon but don't find it.  You give up and open it from the application menu, whereupon you have no trouble remembering which category it's in or what the name (in text) of the application is.

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  202. Keybase, font sizes, and screen resolution.

    Some time ago I wrote an article about what Keybase is and what it's good for.  I also mentioned one of my pet peeves, which is that, by default the fonts used by the Keybase desktop client are way, way too small to see easily on Windbringer.  A couple of days ago somebody finally figured out how to blow up the fonts on the desktop, so I can finally see what's going on without putting my nose on the display (and making the mouse cursor jump around because Windbringer has a touchscreen).  While I wish that this would be a …

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  203. One again operating at diminished capacity.

    This week, it was my turn to suffer a somewhat debilitaring kitchen accident.

    Last week, Lyssa nearly took the tip of her thumb off with a chef's knife while helping to make pizza for dinner, an accident which resulted in several stitches to reattach the flap of skin that ordinarily formed the end of her left thumb.

    Last night, while helping to make dinner I accidentally grabbed the handle of a skillet that had spent the previous half-hour in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven.  With my entire hand.  There are (still closed) blisters on four of the five digits on …

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  204. Defcon 25.

    Well, I'm finally back from Defcon 25 and writing up my notes while in the throes of con drop before too much of the experience fades from memory.  Suffice it to say that I have opinions about last weekend, which I will attempt to write as concisely as I can.  I don't like being negative about things because my experience is my own, and I much prefer that people have their own experiences and make up their own minds about things.  However, I would be lying if I painted a rosy picture of my attendence of the largest hacker convention …

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  205. Back from Defcon 25.

    Back from Defcon 25.

    Exhausted.

    Dealt with multiple crises at home.

    Didn't spend as much money as I usually do, which isn't a bad thing.

    Spent quality time with some old friends.  I hope I made a few new ones.

    I have opinions.  They'll have to wait until I get some sleep.

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  206. 'twas the week before DefCon.

    UPDATE - 20170902 - Typos, finding emergency exits.

    So, after many years I've decided that it's my turn to write a first-timer's guide to Defcon.  There are many like it, so I'll try to be as frank as I can about the topic.  I'm going to try to write for people who've never been to Defcon before (but may have been to other hacker cons).  I'm not going to lie or joke around (which some of the guides tend to do) and give as much personal advice as I can.  I'm also going to try to not sound like your parents, because …

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  207. One live body, brains still somewhat intact.

    I'm still around, just been too busy to get a lot of other stuff done really.  I need to get a couple of articles written and maybe a tutorial or two.  My overall health seems to be on an upswing right now, which is a really good sign.  First good sign in a while, really.

    It's funny, how the tools that you already have are the ones you tend to be afraid of using, because you don't know what'll happen.  Confidence is one of those things that comes with knowing what the hell's going on, or at least having a …

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  208. 12 July 2017 - Battle for the Net!

    On 12 July 2017, websites, Internet users, and online communities will come together to sound the alarm about the FCC’s attack on net neutrality. Learn how you can join the protest and spread the word at https://www.battleforthenet.com/july12.

    As of right now, new FCC Chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai (local mirror) has a plan to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies immense control over what we see and do online. If they get their way the FCC will give companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T control over what we can see …

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  209. Point in time documentation of the Keybase Chat API

    A couple of months back I did a brief writeup of Keybase and what it's good for.  I mentioned briefly that it implements a 1-to-n text chat feature, where n>=1.  Yes, this means that you can use Keybase Chat to talk to yourself, which is handy for prototyping and debugging code.  What does not seem to be very well known is that the Keybase command line utility has a JSON API, the documentation of which you can scan through by issuing the command `keybase chat help api` from a command window.  I'm considering incorporating Keybase into my exocortex so …

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  210. Technomancer tools: Tiddlywiki

    I've been promising myself that I'd do a series of articles about tools that I've incorporated into my exocortex over the years, and now's as good a time as any to start.  Rather than jump right into the crunchy stuff I thought I'd start with something that's fairly simple to use, straightforward, and endlessly useful for many purposes - a wiki.

    Usually, when somebody brings up the topic of wikis one either immediately thinks of Wikipedia or one of the godsawful corporate wikis that one might be forced to use on a daily basis.  And you're not that off the mark …

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  211. Notes toward the Network 25 unhosted social network application.

    Quite a few years (and a couple of re-orgs) ago on the Zero State mailing list we were kicking around the idea of building an unhosted social network to keep in touch, which is to say, a socnet that was implemented only as a single file, with all of the JavaScript and CSS embedded at the end.  Some of the ideas included using a distributed hash table so each instance could find the others, as many crazy but feasible ways as possible to bootstrap a new member of the network into the DHT, and using using the browser's built-in local …

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  212. Restarting a Screen session without manual intervention.

    EDIT - 20171011 - Added a bit about getting real login shells inside of this Screen session, which fixes a remarkable number of bugs.  Also cleaned up formatting a bit.

    To keep the complexity of parts of my exocortex down I've opted to not separate everything into larger chunks using popular technologies these days, such as Linux containers (though I did Dockerize the XMPP bridge as an experiment) because there are already quite a few moving parts, and increasing complexity does not make for a more secure or stable system.  However, this brings up a valid and important question, which is "How …

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  213. Aprilween at Turbo Drive - 29 April 2017

    A month or two back (tired of me saying this over and over?) I had opportunity to attend the Aprilween edition of Turbo Drive at the DNA Lounge and dance the night away in costume to fine music and so much artificial fog that the Sisters of Mercy would have to admit their envy.

    Well, I was sort of in costume.  I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make it at the last minute, so I didn't actually put together a costume.  Danny Delorean, however did an awesome Driver cosplay from Drive that night, down to …

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  214. Turbo Drive - Pixel Memory and Protector 101 - 17 March 2017

    Back in March of 2017 (I know, I'm still cleaning out my picture collection) I attended yet another Turbo Drive at the DNA Lounge to see yet another synthwave concert, that time Pixel Memory and Protector-101.  When I wasn't dancing I was snapping pictures of the performers as they blew our minds and melted n>0 faces in the crowd.

    Aw, hell, I don't have anything witty to say right now.  Here are the pictures.

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  215. Pictures from the White House hackathon, 7 January 2017.

    While digging around in my picture archive on Windbringer, I found a handful of photographs from the White House hackathon held by the Internet Archive back in January of this year.  I ran a couple of searches and didn't find anything I wrote about what I worked on there (weird...) so here are the pictures I took when I wasn't coding.

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  216. Notes on using the Kryoflux DiskTool utility to make archival images of floppy disks.

    Some time ago, I found myself using a Kryoflux interface and a couple of old floppy drives that had been kicking around in my workshop for a while to rip disk images of a colleague's floppy disk collection.  It took me a day or two of screwing around to figure out how to use the Kryoflux's software to make it do what I wanted.  Of course, I took notes along the way so that I would have something to refer back to later.  Recently, I decided that it would probably be helpful to people if I put those notes online …

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  217. Website file integrity monitoring on the cheap.

    A persistent risk of websites is the possibility of somebody finding a vulnerability in the CMS and backdooring the code so that commands and code can be executed remotely.  At the very least it means that somebody can poke around in the directory structure of the site without being noticed.  At worst it would seem that the sky's the limit.  In the past, I've seen cocktails of browser exploits injected remotely into the site's theme that try to pop everybody who visits the site, but that is by no means the nastiest thing that somebody could do.  This begs the …

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  218. Can you help an old friend?

    I haven't spent much time with forge and Nicole since their wedding many, many years ago.  Forge was in mine back in '08, but weddings being what they are, I wasn't able to really hang out.  I think they lived in the Bay Area for a while, but now they're living in Maryland under what seems like less-than-optimal conditions..

    Nicole recently announced that she's been suffering from polycistic kidney disease for much of her life; it is a disease in which cysts grow inside the kidney in the place of normal nephritic tissue.  If the cysts become too large or …

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  219. Getting stuck upgrading Bolt and what to do about it.

    UPDATE - 20170512 - More SQL surgery.

    So, as you've no doubt noticed I've been running the Bolt CMS to power my website for a while now.  I've also mentioned once or twice that I've found it to be something of a finicky beast and doing anything major to it can be something of an adventure.  I tried to upgrade my site last week (tonight, by the datestamp on this post) and had to restore from backup yet again because something went sideways.  That something was the upgrade process going wrong and throwing an exception because of something in the cache directory …

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  220. Spending quality time with the Pi-Top.

    A couple of months ago for my Lesser Feast I decided to treat myself to a toy that I've had my eye on for a couple of months: A Pi-Top laptop kit.  My fascination with the Raspberry Pi aside (which includes, to be honest, being able to run a rack full of servers in my office without needing to install a 40U rack and a new 220 power feed), it strikes me as being a very useful thing to have under one's desk as a backup deck or possibly a general purpose software development computer.  Most laptops have one unique …

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  221. Gargantuan file servers and tiny operating systems.

    We seem to have reached a unique point in history: Available to your average home user are gargantuan amounts of disk space (8 terabyte hard drives are a thing, and the prices are rapidly coming down to widespread affordability) and enough processing power is available for the palm of your hand that makes the computational power that put the human race on the moon compare in the same was that a grain of sand does to a beach.  For most people, it's the latest phone upgrade or more space for your media box.  For others, though, it poses an unusual …

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  222. OpenVPN, easy configuration, and that damned ta.key file.

    Now that ISPs not selling information about what you do and what you browse on the Net is pretty much gone, a lot of people are looking into using VPNs - virtual private networks - to add a layer of protection to their everyday activities.  Most of the time there are two big use cases for VPNs: Needing to use them for work, and using them to gain access to Netflix content that isn't licensed where you live.  Now they may as well be a part of everyday carry.

    So: Brass tacks.  Here's a quick way to set up your own VPN …

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  223. Setting up converse.js as a web-based chat client.

    As not bleeding edge, nifty-keen-like-wow the XMPP protocol is, Jabber (the colloquial name for XMPP I'll be using them interchangably in this article) has been my go-to means of person-to-person chat (as well as communication protocol with other parts of me) for a couple of years now.  There are a bunch of different servers out there on multiple platforms, they all support pretty much the same set of features (some have the experimental features, some don't), and the protocol is federated, which is to say that every server can talk to every other server out there (unless you turn that …

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  224. Neologism: Debuggery

    debuggery - noun - The unshakable feeling that your code is completely fucked when you spend multiple all nighters in a row tracking down a single annoying bug that winds up not being in your core code, nor any modules you've written, nor any of the libraries you're using, but in a different part of the system entirely.  In other words, your code is so poorly architected that you can't tell when problems aren't actually in your code.

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  225. Ghost In the Shell: A disappointing hack.

    Last Thursday I made the probably unwise decision to see the live-action interpretation of Ghost In the Shell starring Scarlet Johannson at the local movie theater.  The terrible weather in the Bay Area aside (continual rain, Washington DC-like cold, gusts of wind up to 50 miles per hour), it's just not a good movie.  I was expecting a half-assed retelling of the original movie's story with additional Hollywood elements, and I wasn't disappointed in that respect.

    tl;dr - Don't bother.  ScarJo's new movie is a bad cosplay that'll leave you feeling like you just took some pills a random person …

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  226. Symmetric bionic augmentation.

    Something that's always bugged me about science fiction is the lack of common sense of characters' bionic enhancements.

    No, I'm not going to call them cybernetics.  RPGs and movies have it wrong.  Those aren't cybernetics, they're bionics.  The former is a feature of the latter.

    Characters pretty much always seem to have their augmentations installed bass-ackwards.  Most of the time their positioning doesn't make sense at all.  Let's look at some handedness statistics: Depending on where you are, between 2% and 12% of people are left-handed.  Depending on your upbringing (if you were born left handed in some places, whether …

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  227. Neologism: High Gibson

    High Gibson - noun, genre - Science fiction in the cyberpunk genre that makes no bones about being inspired by William Gibson's classic works.  Stylistic influences, tropes, and character archetypes are easily recognized as being inspired by the Sprawl Trilogy and the Burning Chrome short stories.  Compare with high fantasy.

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  228. What the loss of the Internet Privacy Bill means to you and I.

    It's probably popped up on your television screen that the Senate and then the House of Representatives voted earlier this week, 215 to 205, to repeal an Internet privacy bill passed last year.  In case you're curious, here's a full list of every Senator and Representative that voted to repeal the bill and how much they received specifically from the telecom lobby right before voting. (local mirror)  By the way, if you would like to contact those Senators (local mirror) or Representatives (local mirror) here's how you can do so... When the bill hits Trump's desk it's a foregone conclusion …

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  229. Neologism: Jenkins Driven Development

    JDD (Jenkins driven development) - noun - A development process in which the coder in question has one or two commits to the source code repository adding a feature or fixing a bug, followed by two or three dozen commits to fix things in the comments, unit tests, variable names, or some other such fiddly thing to coax the Jenkins server into actually running the unit tests to exercise the new code and hopefully integrate the new feature.  The primary usage of time by developers in DevOps environments.  The later commit messages usually consist of variations of "Does it work yet?", "WTF …

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  230. Book review: To Be A Machine

    It seems like everybody is reviewing the book To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death by Mark O'Connell, and most of the book reviews are, to be frank, kind of pants.  The mainstream book reviewers seem to have read only the first and last chapters and make light (at best) or a joke (at worst) of the life's work of people who are actually doing the work in some parts of the medical profession instead of just playing "Won't it be nice when..." on Slack channels and Facebook.  A …

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  231. Signal boost: Help keep Lapis off the street!

    I've been asked to signal boost this by AJ, one of the few people whom I would say in public that I trust.

    Lapis, a friend of his, is a transwoman who is disabled and is also at this time homeless.  Lapis is undergoing a mental health crisis at this time and is actively seeking assistance.  However, the mental health system has judged that Lapis is not undergoing a sufficiently bad crisis to warrant hospitalization (which would mean getting her off the street).  As far as I know, Lapis is estranged from her family so they are not an option …

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  232. Security nihilism: Never good enough.

    In the last couple of years, a meme that's come to be known as security nihilism has appeared in the security community.  In a nutshell, because there is no such thing as perfect security, there is no security at all, so why bother?  Talking about layered security controls that reinforce each other is pointless because they always skip right to the end, which is the circumvention of the nth countermeasure and final defeat.  In the crypto community, cries of "Quantum computer!" are the equivalent of invoking Godwin's Law, leading to the end of all discourse, nevermind trying to separate …

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  233. The meme of EMP attack.

    For the last couple of years, the meme of an EMP attack against the United States has been an integral part of the thoughtbase of the prepper community.  So the idea goes, the next major attack by a foreign power will involve not the bombing of a major city but bombardment with an electromagnetic pulse (local mirror, snapshot taken 20170310 @ 2030 hours PST8PDT).  Due to the fact that "electromagnetic" is kind of a loose term, sometimes they mean an actual magnetic field, sometimes they speak of a microwave burst (which means that you've got bigger problems than your electronics getting …

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  234. Net Neutrality and you.

    You may or may not have noticed amongst the blizzard of other stuff that's happened in the last two weeks that Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai to the chairmanship of the Federal Communications Commission.  Pai has a history of being something of a contrarian; during his time as one of the five commissioners of the FCC, he repeatedly spoke against regulations that protected the consumer and was against diverse media ownership (since the 1980's, we went from 50 media companies to just six).  Time and again Pai's said that he was going to tear down regulation after regulation that the …

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  235. Repelling invasions of Argentine ants.

    In California, we periodically have problems with armies of Argentine ants invading houses at certain times of the year.  It doesn't matter how clean you keep your house or how carefully you maintain it, they'll still find a way in.  They're quite small and routinely squeeze through cracks less than 1mm in size, which is roughly the size of the gap between a baseboard and floor in most homes out here.  They invade (and I use that word carefully) in extremely large numbers, often in the hundreds; often your first sign is an inch-wide column of ants marching down a …

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  236. What is Keybase good for, anyway?

    UPDATE - 20170228 - Added more stuff I've discovered about KBFS.

    A couple of years ago you probably heard about this thing called Keybase launching with a private beta, and it purported itself to be a new form of public key encryption for the masses, blah blah blah, whatever.. but what's this thing good for, exactly?  I mean, it was pretty easy to request an invite from the service and either never get one, or eventually receive an e-mail and promptly forget about it.  I've been using it off and on for a while, and I recently sat down to really mess …

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  237. Fixing the clock in Kodi.

    I've mentioned once or twice that I have a media box at home running Kodi on top of Arch Linux.  Once you've got your media drives registered and indexed, it's pretty easy to use.  Save for the clock in the upper right-hand corner of the display, which almost never seems to coincide with the timezone set when you install Arch.  So I don't forget again, and to try to fix the problem of skillions of worthless threads on the Kodi forums, here's how you fix it from inside of Kodi when it's running:

    • System -> Settings
    • Appearance menu
    • International tab
    • Timezone …

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  238. Noise at BSidesSF.

    My day job sent me to BSidesSF at the DNA Lounge this year.  If you've never been to one before (and this was my first, due to unforseen circumstances some years ago), they're a loosely connected group of security conferences under the BSides name organized along the lines of an unconference.  This is to say that the dynamic of "presenter and audience" is not the primary goal of a BSides, getting people together to talk about what's going on and what they're doing is the point.  In other words, birds-of-a-feather gatherings among attendees (usually over a beer) are the accepted …

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  239. Music Reviews by a Synaesthete: Vampire Step-Dad

    I've mentioned in the past that I've been bumping around on the edges of the synthwave community for a couple of years now in various ways.  A couple of weeks ago I got a ping on Twitter from an artist performing under the handle Vampire Step-Dad.  During the course of conversation he mentioned that he'd put together an EP called A Night In the Life of..., and would I be interested in giving it a listen?

    I'm always down for some new music, and said that I'd write a review of his work from a synaesthete's perspective.

    So, here we …

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  240. Status report: President's Day

    I'm still alive.  No, I didn't party too much on my birthday.  Just about all of last week consisted of twelve hour days of nothing but meetings with several times the number of people I'm accustomed to handling simultaneously.  Additionally, I was working on a music review for Vampire Step-Dad, which required a pair of studio grade noise-cancelling headphones and listening to tracks repeatedly.  I seem to have given myself a case of sensory overload, because now I feel numb all over... I also attended Pantheacon last weekend, which did a number on me.  I realize that I could (and …

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  241. Implementing the President's Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Policies

    Here's the original link to the memorandum, which is dated 25 January 2017.

    Here's my local mirror of the same document.

    Takeaways:

    • "It implements new policy designed to deter illegal immigration and facilitate the detection. apprehension. detention. and removal of aliens who have no lawful authority to enter or remain in the United States."
    • "Additional agents are needed to ensure operational control of the border. Accordingly, the Commissioner of CBP shall immediately begin the process of hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents and to take all actions necessary to ensure that such agents enter on duty and are assigned …

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  242. 839 years young.

    839 years old today.  Solidly in the triple digits.  Eight regenerations in and I can feel the clock ticking every second.

    Why Blaster Master?  Why the hell not?

    What have I learned this year?  What have I done this year?

    Let's start with the latter: I've been knocked flat twice by sickness, a record to be sure.  I bleached and started dying my hair again, because why not?  I can get away with it without any trouble, and I may as well enjoy my hair while I still have it.

    I changed jobs, and I'm much, much happier for it …

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  243. Guerilla archival using wget.

    Let's say that you want to mirror a website chock full of data before it gets 451'd - say it's epadatadump.com.  You've got a boatload of disk space free on your Linux box (maybe a terabyte or so) and a relatively stable network connection.  How do you do it?

    wget.  You use wget.  Here's how you do it:

    [user@guerilla-archival:(9) ~]$ wget --mirror --continue \
        -e robots=off --wait 30 --random-wait http://epadatadump.com/

    Let's break this down:

    • wget - Self explanatory.
    • --mirror - Mirror the site.
    • --continue - If you have to re-run the command, pick up where you left off (including the …

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  244. Pretty serious anomalies in the stock market on Monday.

    As I've mentioned a few times in the past, diverse parts of my exocortex monitor many different aspects of the world.  One of them, called Ironmonger, constantly data mines the global stock markets looking for anomalies.  Ordinarily, Ironmonger only triggers when stock trading events greater than three standard deviations hit the market.  On Monday, 6 Feb at 14:50:38 hours UTC-0800 (PST), Ironmonger did an acrobatic pirouette off the fucking handle.  Massive trades of three different tech companies (Intel, Apple, and Facebook) his the US stock market within the same thirty second period.  By "massive," I mean that 3 …

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  245. Parsing simple commands in Python.

    A couple of weeks ago I ran into some of the functional limits of my web search bot, a bot that I wrote for my exocortex which accepts English-like commands ("Send me top 15 hits for HAL 9000 quotes.") and runs web searches in response using the Searx meta-search engine on the back end.  This is to say that I gave my bot a broken command ("Send hits for HAL 9000 quotes.") and the parser got into a state where it couldn't cope, threw an exception, and crashed.  To be fair, my command parser was very brittle and it was …

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  246. Neologism: The Magick Poke

    The Magick Poke - noun - When you touch a failing appliance, light bulb, or other gizmo in the just the right way as you're replacing it, and it spontaneously starts working again.  This usually saves it from the trashcan or dumpster.  Comes from the POKE command in Commodore BASIC which could let you do some pretty strange things by putting just the right value into just the right memory location, usually by fat-fingering a value.

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  247. Saving stuff before it vanishes down the memory hole.

    UPDATE - 20170302 - Added Firefox plugin for the Internet Archive.

    UPDATE - 20170205 - Added Chrome plugin for the Internet Archive.

    Note: This article is aimed at people all across the spectrum of levels of experience with computers.  You might see a lot of stuff you already know; then again, you might learn one or two things that hadn't showed up on your radar yet.  Be patient.

    In George Orwell's novel 1984, one of his plot points of the story was something called the Memory Hole. They were slots all over the building in which Winston Smith worked, into which documents which the …

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  248. Year 1 under an authoritarian regime.

    UPDATE: 20170612

    Due to extenuating circumstances, I don't think I can keep updating this entry.  For the sake of my mental, emotional, and physical health I'm going to let it go.  Lifeline, Edison, and other parts of me are going to continue monitoring and archiving the USian political situation but I, the organic core of everything, need to step back and do other things.

    UPDATED: 20170604

    In response to reading this tweet, I thought I'd type up the following list, and add links to some stuff I've observed.  I'll update it as necessary.  List beneath the cut.

    1. They will …

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  249. Prediction: The United States of America will be at war again by 26 July 2017.

    -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
    Hash: SHA512

    I very much want to be wrong.

    Within 180 days of 0000 hours UTC, Friday, 27 January 2017, the United States of
    America will declare war once again.  That puts it at Wednesday, 26 July 2017
    at 0000 hours UTC.  I do not know for sure, but countries in the Middle East
    seem the most likely targets.

    This seems due, in part, that the USA seems to be trying to start the Crusades
    again (George W. Bush tried once).  The Trump administrations' public and
    flagrant distrust, disapproval, and seeming pants-shitting-fear of Muslims
    around the …

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  250. #datarefuge in the Bay Area - 11 February 2017.

    UPDATE: 20170131 - The Eventbrite page for this event has gone live!  Sign up!

    I haven't had time to write about #datarefuge yet, in part because people a lot closer to the matter have been doing so, and much better than I could at the moment.  An entire movement has arisen around scientific data being 451'd because it's politically inconvenient, and not many of us know if it's being erased or just shut down.  We also don't know for certain if it's being copied elsewhere for safekeeping so we're doing it ourselves.  To do my part, I've been communicating with some …

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  251. Autostarting Kodi on an Arch Linux media box.

    Not too long ago, when the USB key I'd built a set-top media machine died from overuse I decided to rebuild it using Arch Linux with Kodi as the media player.  The trick, I keep finding every time, lies in getting Kodi to start up whenever the machine starts up.  I think I've re-figured that out six or seven times by now, and each time after it works I forget all about it.  So, I guess I'd better write it down for once so that I've got a snapshot of what I did in case I need to do it …

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  252. Huginn: Writing a simple agent network.

    EDIT: 20170123 - My reviewers have suggested some edits to the article, many of which I've applied.

    It's been a while since I wrote a Huginn tutorial, so let's start with a basic one to get you comfortable with the idea of building an agent network.  This agent network will run every half hour, poll a REST API endpoint, and e-mail you what it gets.  You'll have to have access to an already running Huginn instance that can send outbound e-mail.  This post is going to be kind of lengthy, but that's because I'm laying out some fundamentals.  Once you understand …

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  253. Richard Spencer, face punching, and violence.

    I shouldn't have to write this disclaimer, but here we go anyway: I am not one of these people and never will be.  I mirrored the documents in question because data has a way of disappearing from the Net when lawyers get involved, a phenomenon called HTTP Error 451 (Unavailable for legal reasons), and we're already seeing potentially damaging and damning information quietly going away.  So, if you're going to say that because I have a copy of a particular document on my website I support the author when I just said I didn't, please pull your head out of …

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  254. Inauguration Day 2017

    "And eventually, there aren't any real people left. Just robots pretending to give a shit."

    "Perhaps. Depends on the population dynamics, among other things. But I'd guess that at least one thing an automaton lacks is empathy; if you can't feel, you can't really relate to something that does, even if you act as though you do. Which makes it interesting to note how many sociopaths show up in the world's upper echelons, hmm? How ruthlessness and bottom-line self-interest are so lauded up in the stratosphere, while anyone showing those traits at ground level gets carted off into detention with …

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  255. A long-forgotten Commodore game. Was it ever released?

    UPDATE (20210214): The game has, in fact, been found (along with its manual) and is playable online at the Internet Archive.

    UPDATE (20170120): The game may have been found!

    Many years ago, maybe a year after 321 Contact magazine merged with Enter magazine, there was a review of a video game which seemed like it was a tie-in for the movie 2010: The Year We Make Contact.  The scenario was that you'd just gained access to the USS Discovery, and you had to repair all of the systems on board the ship to win the game.  As I recall, a …

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  256. James O'Keefe caught trying to pull another fast one.

    So, there's this guy named James O'Keefe.

    He's got this problem: He likes trying to play Mission: Impossible and wreck the careers and lives of people he doesn't like by pulling scams, editing videos in interesting ways to set people up, and generally being the sort of person you'd eject from the party for being such a huge asshole that the Alpha Betas would throw him out on his ear.  He spent all of Election Day in 2016 tailing buses taking people to the polls in an attempt to intimidate them into not voting.  He's cost a couple of people …

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  257. What's it like having synaesthesia?

    What's it like not having synaesthesia?

    That sounds like a flippant answer, but it's quite the truth.  I can't remember a time when I didn't experience sounds (music, in particular) in a deep, visceral way that involved more than just my sense of hearing.  For the longest time I thought everybody's experience of life was like mine.  I thought everybody cried when they heard violin music.  I thought everybody felt waves of cold and prickles when they heard sounds made up of square waves (yeah, I'm dating myself, aren't I?)  Didn't everybody shiver and see starbursts of pink and purple …

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  258. Upgrading Bolt CMS to v3.x.

    Since PivotX went out of support I've been running the Bolt CMS for my website at Dreamhost (referral link).  A couple of weeks back you may have noticed some trouble my site was having, due to my running into significant difficulty encountered when upgrading from the v2.x release series to the v3.x release series.  Some stuff went sideways, and I had to restore from backup at least once before I managed to get the upgrade procedure straightened out with the help of some of the developers in the Bolt IRC channel on Freenode.  If it wasn't for help …

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  259. Neologism: Disk Paranoia

    Disk paranoia - noun - That occasionally well-founded sense of creeping dread one feels when repartitioning, reformatting, or clearing a USB drive.  The dread stems from the fear that one is not, in fact, doing something terminal to the correct drive and you're actually zorching one of your internal drives (usually the one with all of your data on it).  This leads one to recheck the terminal window once every nine or ten seconds to make sure you're messing with the correct drive.  This may also include opening multiple other terminal windows to display the list of currently mounted devices, cross-checking the …

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  260. Linking the Signal CLI with Signal on your mobile.

    20170107: It's not "group name" it's "Group ID."  I don't know how to find that yet.

    The communications program Signal by Open Whisper Systems is unique in several respects.  Firstly, its barrier to entry is minimal.  You can search for it in the Google Play online store or Apple iOS appstore and it's waiting there for you at no cost.  Second, it's designed for security by default, i.e., you don't have to mess around with it to make it work, and it does does the right thing automatically and enforces strong encryption by default (unlike a lot of personal …

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  261. A toast.

    Here's to the sysadmins, who fight to keep everything up and running.  And reboot printers along the way.

    Here's to tier-1 tech support, who know the answers but are only allowed to recite from their scripts.

    Here's to the pen testers, who keep plugging away.

    Here's to desktop support, who occasionally see things they can never unsee.

    Here's to the red team, who throw everything from Devo costumes to pork chops to ballroom gowns to the kitchen sink at the mission.

    Here's to the hacktivists, who toil endlessly to make the world a better place.

    Here's to the open source …

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  262. Why I dislike loud parties.

    Generally speaking, I dislike loud and busy parties.  I find that my senses become overloaded in a very short period of time - all the voices, all the background sounds, all the random noise, the echoes from hard surfaces... it's very unpleasant.  After a short period of time in such an environment, my vision is all but useless.  The fog, the mist, the random colors.. on top of that, my tactile sense goes nuts.  Being rubbed down with wet and dry sponges, fans blowing on the front and back of my head at full blast, my legs vibrating backwards and forwards …

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  263. The 2016 election and weird patterns on Twitter.

    You've already read my opinion of the 2016 election's outcome so I'll not subject you to it again. However, I would like to talk about some weird stuff I (we, really) kept noticing on Twitter in the days and weeks leading up to Election Day.

    As I've often spoken of in the past, a nontrivial portion of my Exocortex is tasked with monitoring global activity on Twitter by hooking into the back-end API service and pulling raw data out to analyze. Those agents fire on a stagged schedule, anywhere from every 30 minutes to every two hours; a couple of …

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  264. Memetic warfare in America.

    The current state of anyone's capacity to get any useful information in the United States these days, which is to say next to impossible due to the proliferation of fake news sites and pro-trolls doing their damndest to lower the signal-to-noise ratio to epsilon, is the logical end result of the following progression of cliches:

    "You can't believe everything people tell you."

    "You can't believe everything you read in books."

    "You can't believe everything you see on TV."

    "You can't believe everything your friends tell you."

    "You can't believe everything your teachers tell you."

    "You can't believe everything you read …

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  265. The @DNAlounge is in trouble.

    20161228:  The DNA has started a Patreon account to accept donations!

    20161222: It seems that the DNA Lounge is coming up with contingency plans, and they need our help!

    Yesterday, JWZ, owner and operator of the DNA Lounge in San Francisco, CA made an upsetting and disturbing announcement.

    The DNA Lounge is in danger, and may have to close down soon.

    JWZ bought the space that is now the DNA roughly 17 years ago and during that time it's become one of the premiere hotspots of SF nightlife.  Just about any kind of event you can imagine has been thrown …

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  266. Neologism: Hopepothesis

    Hopepothesis - noun - What you come up with when you really don't know what you're doing or what's going on, but you pull something out of your ass anyway.  If anybody asks, that's your working hypothesis.

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  267. To everybody waiting on responses..

    It's the holidays. I'm pretty busy right now, and hoping I don't have a sinus infection. I haven't forgotten about anybody. I'll get to the time-sensitive stuff first, and rest as I can.

    Happy holidays.

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  268. Blind Guardian - 5 October 2016

    Historically, it's rare that Blind Guardian goes on tour in the United States, so whenever they come to the States we scramble to get tickets because they put on a hell of a show. Around the house we jokingly call them elven thrash metal because their lyrics are steeped in the works of Moorcock and Tolkien, with influences from many different myth cycles, such as Arthurian legend. To be blunt, their show was face-meltingly good. They played some classic crowd singalongs like The Bard's Song and Valhalla during the show and brought the house down in so doing.

    Unfortunately, when …

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  269. A thought on memorization and memory techniques.

    In many memorization techniques it is often taught that you should make use of overly vivid, even absurd imagery to make sure that bits of information stick in whatever organizational technique you might use, be it a ladder of pegs or something as elaborate as the method of loci. Sometimes you have to work to make something stick, and sometimes the absurd makes itself known spontaneously.

    Have you ever pondered why there are so many things that you simply can't unsee on the Internet?

    Stop and think about all the things that you wish you'd never seen over the years …

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  270. Shaun King: Recording from a Corporate Meeting about the Dakota Access Pipeline

    Supposedly, the man speaking is Matthew Ramsey, COO of Energy Transfer Partners.

    The interesting bit is around the 6:30 mark.

    Just in case, I've put up a local mirror of the recording.

    The thread talking about it starts here.

    Remember to pick this the hell apart and run every last detail to ground.

    Read more...

  271. The 2016 election was not rigged.

    There, I said it.

    I don't think that votes were messed with, I don't think that any (horribly insecure) voting machines were tampered with, and while jerrymandering is totally a thing I don't think it had anything to do with the election. I think that appealing to people's most deeply held beliefs, the ones that few are willing to talk about openly had everything to do with it.

    Donald Trump is everything that USians want to be, deep down inside. Let's be honest: Whether or not Donald Trump is really as rich as he says doesn't matter. What matters is …

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  272. Vice Reine, Night Club, and Beautiful Machines at the DNA Lounge.

    In October of this year, I once again made my pilgrimage to the DNA Lounge to spend the night dancing at Turbo Drive, the club's monthly (sort of) synthwave dance party. A sucker for the old-school synths as always, I dressed up in my finest to see Vice Reine, Night Club, and the Beautiful Machines perform live. I especially wanted to attend because that particular night celebrated the release of Night Club's first full album, entitled Requiem for Romance (listen to it!) This was one of the few nights where Turbo Drive was held on the main dancefloor of the …

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  273. Real life seems like Shadowrun - so why can't I throw fragging fireballs?!

    From time to time I sit down with my gaming buddies, and we both lament and observe how well reading and playing cyberpunk games has prepared us for life in the twenty-first century. I don't think that many people expected real life to track quite so closely with many a cyberpunk world penned by the masters, from William Gibson to Neal Stephenson to Bruce Sterling. Strangely enough, many of the lifestyle strategies depicted in these stories have helped keep our own lives (and those of our families) stable and, for the most part nice to live as human history has …

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  274. When using Lastpass with Google Chrome, occasionally it'll automatically log you out.

    Sometimes, very occasionally, when using the Lastpass plugin with Google Chrome, you may find that Lastpass will start acting wonky. Specifically, if you've had Chrome running for a couple of days, you will notice that Lastpass has logged you out, even if you're in an Incognito Window. When clicking on the browser plugin's icon, you will be able to log into it as usual; multifactor authentication will similiarly work as expected. If you wait a few seconds, the plugin's icon will go dark again. If you're quick and drop into "My Vault," you'll see that screen for a second or …

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  275. VNV Nation in concert, 25 October 2016.

    In October of this year VNV Nation visited California as part of their Compendium tour, in which they celebrated their twenty year anniversary by performing a five hour set without an opening band that covered their entire corpus of work, comprised of twelve albums (one of which is orchestral in nature, having been recorded with the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg). I didn't even try to keep track of their setlist because of how long the concert was. I do, however, recall that they played Perpetual, and there wasn't a dry eye in the place. I still get choked up thinking about …

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  276. Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

    It seems there is no end to the number of quotes through history that go something like this: "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it." It's been variously attributed to Edmund Burke, Sara Shepard, Santayana... this is not to say that there is no truth to it. Far from it.

    I haven't said much about the election of 2016, in part because my personal life has been upside down and inside out for weeks now, in part due to work, and in part due to the fact that there is so much fucked up stuff going …

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  277. Charles Stross book signing - 31 July 2016

    This summer Charles Stross went on a book signing tour for his latest novel, the latest book of the Laundry Files series called The Nightmare Stacks. In July his book tour brought him to the Bay Area of California, and a famous bookstore which I strongly suggest that every visitor to San Francisco spend some time at called Borderlands Books. Of course, being a fan of Stross in general and the Laundry Files in particular, I packed up a couple of books that I wanted to get autographed and headed for downtown.

    Here are the pictures I took while Stross …

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  278. The Cure in concert - 28 June 2016

    I've finally gotten around to pulling another load of pictures off of my phone. This one is from The Cure concert in June of 2016 during their summer tour of the United States. It's not often that you get to see one of the foundational bands of goth live so when tickets went on sale we jumped at the chance. I'm sorry that the pictures didn't turn out very well, between our distance from the stage and the lighting it was a battle just to get everything in focus, and I've had to cull a couple of pictures that just …

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  279. Fully remote backups of websites.

    A couple of weeks ago my webhosting provider sent me a polite e-mail to inform me that I was using too much disk space. A cursory examination of their e-mail showed that they were getting upset about the daily backups of my site that I was stashing in a hidden directory, and they really prefer that all files in your home directory be accessible. I ran a quick check and, sure enough, about twenty gigabytes times two weeks of daily backups adds up to a fair amount of disk space. So, the question is, how do I keep backing up …

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  280. Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Phase C

    This was the last part of the imaging procedure that I remember before deciding that I should probably take a nap. I didn't get a lot of sleep the night before, and let's be honest, being stuffed into the core of a superconducting magnet for a couple of hours gets boring after a while. I can only entertain myself so much... I can best characterize this part of the imaging procedure as "Shit got real."

    Something cranked up deep inside the core of the machine and my vision went red, and then it started to bleed in and out. At …

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  281. A telephonic mystery.

    If you've known me for any length of time, chances are you've heard about my fascination with telephones and some of the weird stuff that you sometimes find if you misdial once in a while. Sweep tones, ringbacks, ANACs, and more unusual things. However, it's rare that some of those weird things happen to ring me up.

    A couple of weeks ago I started getting phone calls at all hours of the day; not terribly unusual in itself, save that every time I pick up I hear a prompt to leave a voicemail ("Press one to leave a voicemail.") Ordinarily …

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  282. Upgrading Ubuntu Server 14.04 to 16.04.

    A couple of days ago I got it into my head to upgrade one of my Exocortex servers from Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS to 16.04 LTS, the latest stable release. While Ubuntu long-term support releases are good for a couple of years (14.04 LTS would be supported until at least 2020) I had some concerns about the packages themselves being too stale to run the later releases of much of my software. To be more specific, I could continue to hope that the Ruby and Python interpreters I have installed could be upgraded as necessary but at …

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  283. Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Phase B

    I drew this depiction of what phase B of the MRI I had done in October of 2014 looked like. The sounds seemed to come from four places around me - two just above my head and two somewhere around my shoulders, or maybe my abdomen. I'm not sure because the sounds from the multiple points resonated weirdly inside my head and made some of my dental implants feel like they were buzzing (at the time that wasn't possible because they were all resin composite, but work with me here). The sounds made these weird, watery waves that made an almost …

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  284. Pixitracker and writing music: Lively Debate v1.0

    Within recent memory I got it in my head to try my hand again at writing music. While I grew up studying a couple of instruments (getting my teeth kicked in (literally) in middle school, and the generally poor state of my teeth until recently put the kibosh on that), and later in college I studied the piano (an instrument torpedoed by repeditive stress injury, unfortunately) I never really had the gift for taking sounds and melodies inside my head (though I didn't really recognize them as such) and turning them into actual music. Part of it was that I …

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  285. Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Phase A

    Late in 2014 I had cause to undergo magnetic resonance imaging of my head as a diagnostic procedure. If you've never had one before, this procedure can involve a head x-ray (to make sure you don't have any ferrous material in tender places that might get ripped out by a very powerful magnetic field). It definitely does involve an hour or two laying on your back on a backboard with snug straps holding you in place (because if you move it'll mess up the imaging data) while you're stuffed into a relatively small tube in the core of the MRI …

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  286. Still here. Just offline.

    I'm still here - haven't forgotten this blog. In the rush to get a bunch of stuff done at work with some alacrity, I seem to have run myself into the ground. More specifically, I seem to be an alpha tester for this year's version of the flu and I've spent the past couple of days sweating, throwing up, and sleeping. There was also a late-night trip to the ER somewhere in there. Oh, and let's not forget the lucid fever dreams - they're quite entertaining when you have control over them. Somewhere in the Dreaming I made the aquaintenance of a …

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  287. Lipstick as synaesthesia accessibility hack.

    This afternoon at a gather I had chance to speak with Tarah Wheeler at some length, and she noticed that I spent most of the discussion reading her lips. As part of the discussion it came out that I'm a synaesthete and was having great difficulty understanding her because I was unable to pick her voice out of all of the distracting visual phenomena due to all of the other discussions happening around me, but I was able to focus on her lipstick and pick her voice out of all of the static. The discussion turned to synaesthesia as I …

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  288. Exocortex: Setting up Huginn

    In my last post I said that I'd describe in greater detail how to set up the software that I use as the core of my exocortex, called Huginn.

    First, you need someplace for the software to live. I'll say up front that you can happily run Huginn on your laptop, desktop workstation, or server so long as it's not running Windows. Huginn is developed under Linux; it might run under one of the BSDs but I've never tried. I don't know if it'll run as expected in MacOSX because I don't have a Mac. If you want to give …

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  289. Exocortex: Identity and Agency

    Some time ago I was doing a longform series on Exocortex, my cognitive prosthetic system. I left off with some fairly broad and open-ended questions about the implications of such a software system for identity and agency. Before I go on, though, I think I'd better define some terms. Identity is one of those slippery concepts that you think you get until you have to actually talk about it. One possible definition is "the arbitrary boundry one draws between the self and another," or "I am me and you are you." A more technical definition might be "the condition or …

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  290. Taking a break for a while.

    As the title implies, I think I need to take a break from blogging for a while. Just a week ago I had plans to write up my notes from DefCon and then go into all of the neat stuff that happened, like pulling a Charlie Brown at the locksport contest (okay, that wasn't so neat but at least I can laugh about it after the fact), the InSoc concert, and all of that happy stuff.

    Unfortunately, I've just returned from the east coast. Mid-last week I got a phone call from my mother while walking to work and was …

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  291. Back from DefCon.

    Back from DefCon. Don't know how I'm still on my feet right now. Went to lots of talks, went wandering more than is usual for me at DefCon, attended some incredible shows. Still smarting from how much even a lousy meal costs in Las Vegas. Had an incredibly lousy pair of plane flights to and from Vegas.

    And now, back to figuring out how to reacclimate with workaday life.

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  292. HOPE XI - This one went to eleven!

    It's mostly been radio silence for the past couple of days. If you're reading this you've no doubt noticed that Switchboard (one of my constructs) posted the slides from my talk earlier this week. As sophisticated and helpful as she is, Switchboard can't yet pick thoughts out of my wetware to write blog posts. And so, here I am, my primary organic terminal sitting at Windbringer's console keying in notes, saving them, and then going back to turn them into something approaching prose. I've just now had the time to sit down and start writing stuff about HOPE XI, largely …

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  293. Slides from my HOPE XI talk.

    For starters, thank you everyone who attended my talk at HOPE XI. I know it was on Sunday afternoon when a lot of people were either getting ready to go home, spending their last bits of time with friends they don't get to see often, or fried from partying the night before. Your attending means a lot to me, and I can't thank you enough. That said, here are the slides from my talk as a single HTML page to read online and as a PDF document to read offline (both were authored in Markdown and generated with Landslide).

    Once …

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  294. Running hard to stay in place.

    Still here. Still going. Getting ready for HOPE XI and trying to get everything buttoned up and bolted down at work before flying to the other coast for same. That all hell appears to still be breaking loose all over the world isn't helping matters any; I'm certainly not sleeping all that well, consequently.

    Rehearsal of my talk for HOPE started today. I really suck right now and need to get this one banged out before I present. At least I've finally stopped writing and rewriting the slides and settled on the text.

    This appears to be the week that …

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  295. Genetic jiggery-pokery.

    It's long been known that DNA encodes information in a four-bit pattern which can be read and processed like any other bitstream. Four different nucleotides, paired two by two, arranged in one of two configurations side by side by side in a long string of letters, many times longer than the size of the cell containing the full DNA strand. Every cell in every single lifeform contains the same DNA sequence, regardless of what the cell actually does. So how, many have asked, does a cell know if it should help produce hair, or skin, or pigments, or something else …

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  296. My Postmodern Openings paper went live.

    My paper on threats to emerging financial entities went live a couple of weeks ago. It's in volume VII, issue 1 of the journal Postmodern Openings and can be read in its entirity here as a downloadable PDF file. I've taken the liberty of uploading a second copy here for archival purposes.

    The paper is published under a Creative Commons By Attribution/Noncommercial/No Derivatives license.

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  297. Drug-resistent yeast, synthetic synapses on the nano scale, and memristor research.

    For the last decade or so, bacteria that are immune to the effects of antibiotics have been a persistent and growing threat in medicine. Ultimately, the problem goes back to the antibiotic not being administered long enough to kill off the entire colony. The few survivors that managed to make it through the increasing toxicity of their environment because they either had a gene which rendered them immune (and the toxins released when the other bacteria died weren't enough to poison them) or assembled one and survived long enough to breed and pass the gene along to other bacteria. This …

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  298. Still alive.

    Nope. No GLaDOS references today.

    As you may or may not be aware, certain parts of the world have come under fire, literally. This has hit me very hard in some very tender places, and I'm not handling it well. Dealing with it has, to a large extent, required staying offline so I don't fry my forebrain.

    Work's running me pretty hard, with multiple late-nighters strung end to end.

    I'm working on my slides for HOPE in my spare time. I might even get to practice them soon. After that comes more proof-of-concept code that you (yes, you!) can try …

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  299. I will be presenting at The Eleventh HOPE.

    UPDATE: Now that the official HOPE schedule has been published I can say that I'll be speaking in the Noether room on Sunday, 24 July 2016 at 2:00pm EST4EDT.

    UPDATE: The Internet Society will be livestreaming video of the talks as they happen. Here's the page listing all of the livestreams.

    I found out last weekend (yes, I've been sitting on this - timed posts are the busy blogger's friend) that the talk I submitted for The Eleventh HOPE in July of 2016 was accepted. I will be giving a presentation on Exocortex, my latest work (of mad science), entitled …

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  300. Deep learning gone wild, direct neural interface techniques, and hardware acceleration of neural networks.

    There is a graphic novel that is near and dear to my hearts by Warren Ellis called Planetary, the tagline of which is "It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way." This first article immediately made me go back and reread that graphic novel...

    The field of deep learning has been around for just a short period of time insofar as computer science is concerned. To put it in a nutshell deep learning systems are software systems which attempt to model highly complex datasets in abstract ways using multiple layers of other machine learning and nonlinear processing algorithms stacked …

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  301. It wasn't going to end easily, was it?

    You know that problem child molar I just had worked on for the nth time? The one that required heroic measures and possibly divine intervention a couple of weeks ago? I went in yesterday to get the permanent crown installed.

    It seemed like a pretty standard routine: Sit down, get the topical gel, and then out came the local anesthetic. My dentist went in for the first jab.

    And hit the nerve.

    For a good many years, I'd been afraid of just such a thing happening. It was only in the past year or so that I'd gotten over it …

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  302. Gene therapy for the win, CRISPr with RNA, and growing telomeres without gene hacking.

    The past couple of weeks have brought with them some pretty interesting advances in the field of genetic engineering. So, let's get into it.

    The first is, as far as anybody can tell, a working genetic therapy regimen for SCID, or severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome. SCID has long been colloquially referred to as "bubble boy syndrome" after David Vetter was born in 1971.ev with the condition and a movie was released about his life in 1976.ev, due to the fact that children born with the condition utterly lack a functional immune system; the slightest illness is likely to …

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  303. Well, that was a hair raising experience.

    Last Thursday morning I went in to have a certain problematic molar taken care of at the dentist's office before it got much worse. To recap briefly, there is a particular molar on the bottom-left side of my mouth that has been through hell: It's broken several times (once particularly memorable time while eating a German soft pretzel, of all things), it's been filled several times, and I've honestly lost track of the number of root canals performed done on it (somewhere between three and six in the last fifteen years). While getting the abscessed #19 tooth taken care of …

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  304. Apropos of nothing.

    "First, stop being failures. It's absurd to judge ourselves against a scale larger than our own efforts. Do the right thing, help one another, raise the less fortunate without ulterior motives. Live simply, never lie, never steal, limit personal wealth, donate to charity, meditate, practise self-denial, live a pure life and spend some time as a monk. Above all, don't be afraid of nothingness, because the universe is full of it and therefore it must be natural and good. In this way of being 'no-mind', we escape ajiva and achieve enlightenment."

    --Buckaroo Banzai

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  305. Inflatable space station modules, successful gene therapy for aging, and neuromorphic computing.

    Now that I've got some spare time (read: Leandra's grinding up a few score gigabytes of data), I'd like to write up some stuff that's been floating around in my #blogfodder queue for a couple of weeks.

    First up, private-sector aerospace engineering and orbital insertion contractor SpaceX announced not too long ago announced that one of their unmanned Dragon spacecraft delivered an inflatable habitat module to the International Space Station. Following liftoff from Cape Canaveral the craft executed a rendezvous with the ISS in low earth orbit, where the ISS' manipulator arm grappled the craft. In addition to supplies and …

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  306. My paper about threats to emerging financial entities passed peer review and will be published.

    As you may or may not remember, late last year I presented via telepresence at the Nigeria ICT Fest, where I gave a talk about security threats to emerging financial entities. Following the conference I was invited to turn my presentation into an academic paper for an open-access, peer-reviewed journal called Postmodern Openings which is published on a biannual basis. Postmodern Openings seems to publish a little bit about everything, from the ethics of advertising to children to lessons learned from studying the economic systems of entire countries to the anthropological ins and outs of caring for children with chronic …

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  307. Catching up on posting.

    I'd beg the forgiveness of my readers for not posting since early this month, but chances are you've been just as busy as I've been in the past few weeks. Life, work, et cetera, cetera. So, let's get to it.

    As I've mentioned once or twice I've been slowly getting an abscessed molar cleaned out and repaired for the past couple of months. It's been slow going, in part because infections require time for the body to fight them off (assisted by antibiotics or not) and, depending on how deep the infection runs it can take a while. Now I …

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  308. Arch Linux, systemd, and RAID.

    Long, long time readers of my blog might remember Leandra, the server that I've had running in my lab in one configuration or another since high school (10th grade, in point of fact). She's been through many different incarnations and has run pretty much every x86 CPU ever made since the 80386. She's also run most of the major distributions of Linux out there, starting with Slackware and most recently running Arch Linux (all of the packages of Gentoo with none of the spending hours compiling everything under the sun or fighting with USE flags). It's also possible to get …

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  309. Can't come up for air just yet.

    Hacking code and writing policy. I'll be able to come up for air soon.

    Also, del.icio.us claims that they're migrating to their old URL and that everything is fine. Only everything's not fine, nobody's links load, their blog is now gone, and they're not responding to anybody trying to get in touch with them. I'm glad I was able to download my data (including all the stuff I want to write about when I get a chance) before their site started acting screwy again. I guess I'm going to need to set up my own online link manager …

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  310. Hacking DNA. No, really.

    Last year a new genetic engineering technology called CRISPR - Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats - showed up on my radar at a local conference. Long story short, CRISPR is a highly precise technique for editing DNA in situ which follows from the discovery of short sequences of DNA which allow for precise location of individual genes. It's a fascinating technology; there are even tutorials (archived copy, just in case) online for developing your own guide RNA to implement CRISPR/Cas9. What you might not have known is that CRISPR/Cas9 is being actively studied as a theraputic technique in humans …

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  311. 3D printing of nanomaterials and implanted prosthetic limbs.

    Long-time readers of my site no doubt know of my fascination with the field of 3D printing and tracking the advances that are made almost weekly to this technology. From simple plastic tchotchkes to replacement parts to materials that few ever dreamed would be used, 3D fabbers are fast becoming an integral part of manufacturing at all levels of complexity. A few months ago researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory published the results for a revolutionary 3D printer called the Optomec Aerosol Jet 500, a fabber which uses a range of nanomaterials as its feedstock. To cut to the chase …

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  312. North Korea: A Polite Rant

    If you've been following the news for the past couple of weeks you've no doubt seen lots of hand wringing about North Korea's missile tests. To summarize, they've popped off a couple of missiles that seem to have intercontinental capability, i.e., they could, in theory travel from North Korea to the vicinity of the United States or Canada and deliver their payload. The missiles in question keep landing in the ocean, which strongly suggests deliberate targeting to prove launch and control capability as well as making it more difficult for other countries to get hold of the hardware for …

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  313. Sonata Arctica, Delain, and Nightwish - 11 March 2016.

    It is rare indeed when the Finnish operatic metal band Nightwish comes to the United States. Fans of symphonic metal (like most of us in this house), upon hearing that they would be within driving distance for the first time in many years sprinted, not ran to pick up tickets for this show the moment they went on sale. I can't really describe them to you so all I can really say is take two parts power metal, one part opera, and one part old-school swords and sorcery fantasy, throw into a blender, add a shot of sulfuric acid, and …

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  314. Roadside Memorial, Anthony Jones, and Information Society at the DNA Lounge.

    The week of 21 March 2016 marked the 23rd anniversary of Death Guild, the longest running goth/industrial night in the United States and second-oldest in the world. In a community where club nights may exist for a handful of years and then vanish, only to be replaced by a new team of promoters Death Guild stands out as the archetypal club night: If you visit SF and you like to dance, you really need to stop by the DNA Lounge on Monday night. The evening of 23 March 2016 was a very special night indeed because three locally prominent …

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  315. Virtual Adept rotes for Mage20

    Since the 20th anniversary edition of Mage: The Ascension was released by Onyx Path Publishing a couple of us have been playing around with it for old time's sake. You can take the players out of the game but you can't take the game out of the players, so of course things went real wild, real fast. So, to that end, here are a couple of rotes for the Virtual Adepts.

    (Disclaimer: White Wolf Games came up with Mage and the (Old) World of Darkness originally; Onyx Path Publishing has the rights to publish and extend the oWoD; I'm just …

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  316. Exocortex: Halo

    In my last post on the topic of exocortices I discussed the Huginn project, how it works, what the code for the agents actually look like, and some of the stuff I use Huginn's agent networks for for in my everyday life. In short, I call it my exocortex - an extension of the information processing capabilities of my brain running in silico instead of in vivo. Now I'm going to talk about Exocortex Halo, a separate suite of bots which augment Huginn to carry out tasks that Huginn by itself isn't designed to carry out very easily, and thus extend …

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  317. Turbo Drive: Night Club and Dance With the Dead

    On 20 February 2016 the DNA Lounge in San Francisco had another edition of Turbo Drive, the occasional retro/synthwave/electro night that brings back all the smoke, neon, lasers, and all-synthesizers-all-the-time music that we remember from 80's movies and cyberpunk novels. As you might expect, I was there with dancing boots on and earplugs in wearing full dead cruiser garb (nope, no pics handy, maybe next time if I can find somebody to take a pic) to see two bands I'm quite fond of these days, Night Club (who made it big when they were asked to do the …

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  318. Changing things up a little.

    I've just migrated my website over to Bolt because PivotX is effectively dead as a doornail. Consequently, it's going to take me a couple of days to get everything fixed. I think I've imported all of the posts and pages correctly and fixed the relative links so that embedded images and the photo albums are reachable again. The theme isn't really to my liking but I don't have time right now to tinker with it. Suffice it to say that I'll be altering it slowly over the next couple of days to make it more aesthetically pleasing (and restore the …

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  319. Peter W. Singer at HacDC.

    Forget moblogging. It’s too much hassle to be workable because it never works, and it wrecks my formatting.

    I just got back from HacDC, where tonight Peter Singer, author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century presented on the topic of applied military robotics. While it seems a bit cliche’ to say this, they aren’t science fiction anymore, military robots are actually recent history. Drones and teleoperated robots have been in use in Iraq and Afghanistan since the get go, and the last official count has over seven thousand robots in use …

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  320. San Francisco Bomb Scare, 24 February 2016.

    On 24 February 2016 there was a bomb scare in the Financial District of downtown San Francisco, California. As far as I have been able to determine someone found an unattended FedEx box on the street, called the police, and the police called in the bomb squad (which doesn't seem to have a homepage of its own). For reasons not entirely clear to me I seem to have been one of very few people who covered it, which is kind of odd because they shut down streets for several blocks around, trapping many of us in place. I found myself …

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  321. The grand re-opening of the MADE.

    A couple of years ago the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment opening in Oakland, CA. Due to some significant donations of exhibits by a number of people they swiftly outgrew their old space and held a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund moving to a new location and pay the rent for same. A few weeks ago they held their grand re-opening party in the new space, where they showed off their exhibits (both new and old) and the larger space. If you happen to be in Oakland, California they're open every weekend to not only show off their voluminous …

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  322. Telecomix activist crowdfunding translation of his autobiography.

    I don't ordinarily do this, but I think this is a special case.

    During the time of Occupy and the Arab Spring, the hacktivist collective Telecomix was the boots on the ground, the eyes in the sky, and a bloom of jellyfish swimming to and fro in the endless oceans of the Net. Among the many jellyfish who banded together beneath Agent Cameron's banner was the talented hacker Tomate, who later went public with his real name - Stephan Urbach. When the Telecomix network came under an unprecedented (at the time, anyway) attack that we were never able to trace the …

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  323. Another trip around the sun and another batch of things learned.

    This post is a day late because I've been on the road and pushing way out of my comfort zone for the past couple of days and learning a lot in the process, so here is my slightly belated birthday post (with the apropriate soundtrack, of course).

    I just turned 38 years old. Those seem like simple, empty words but they're anything but. Over a third of my expected lifespan is gone now, which is not an easy thing to admit to oneself. Looking at it one way, I've spent that time just trying to figure everything out - learning the …

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  324. Not yet in a position to post yet.

    Home from Pantheacon. Thank you, everyone, for your birthday wishes and greetings - after I got home I slept for a couple of hours due to convention-exhaustion and generally not feeling well at all. I will get back to everyone (and put up my yearly birthday post) in a couple of days, once I'm caught up from being away for four days.

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  325. Call for participants: The Second Transhumanist Debate

    The Brighter Brains Institute is holding another transhuman debate on 2 April 2016 in Oakland, CA, and they've put out a call for participants. The topics up for debate this time around will be:


    • Eugenics
    • Gun laws
    • Capitalism
    • Psychedelics
    • Sexbots

    The debate styles this time will be one-on-one, two-on-two, and a three-on-three verbal battle royale. A couple of discussion panels will also be on the schedule this time around, with audience participation. The audience will vote to determine the winner of each debate.

    If you are interested in taking part in the debates, please e-mail brighterbrainsinstitute at gmail dot com …

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  326. UPDATED 20160227: The California DMV did what?

    A while ago I did the usual song-and-dance with the California DMV to renew the registration of my vehicle, as one does periodically. Due to the fact that I live in a fairly high-infrastructure area (not quite New York City, but certainly not as underdeveloped as Pittsburgh or the part of the DC metropolitan complex I used to reside in are in this respect) it's actually kind of rare that I need to actually drive anywhere. If I can't walk to it in half an hour or therabouts I can take BART and not think much of it (usually because …

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  327. Semi-autonomous software agents: Practical applications.

    In the last post in this series I talked about the origins of my exocortex and a few of the things I do with it. In this post I'm going to dive a little deeper into what my exocortex does for me and how it's laid out.

    My agent networks ("scenarios" in the terminology of Huginn) are collections of specialized agents which each carry out one function (like requesting a web page or logging into an XMPP server to send a message). Those agents communicate by sending events to one another; those events take the form of structured, packaged pieces …

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  328. Don't worry, I'm still alive.

    A friendly heads-up for my regular readers - I'm still alive and kicking. Not necessarily doing well, mind you - I've been sick twice in the last month (sick enough that I didn't have it in me to write anything, let alone study or do more than scan my e-mail for anything important happening and then go right back to bed), and I've been undergoing some fairly painful dental procedures at least once a month for the past few months, which takes a lot out of me. Additionally, I'm still studying for a couple of certifications for work, which is basically about …

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  329. EDITED: 20160131 - Call for Participants: The Future of Immigration Conference

    The Brighter Brains Institute in conjunction with the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies has announced that its next conference will be held on 6 February 2016 and bears the title Argue 4 Tomorrow. As usual, the conference will take place at the Humanist Hall in Oakland, California. The format of this conference will differ from previous conferences in that it will take the form of a slightly modified Oxford style debate rather than a collection of presentations as we usually think of them. The three debate topics will be Open Borders - For or Against, Basic Income Guarantee - For or …

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  330. A new InSoc album and an upcoming concert!

    Part of me just discovered (and ordered tickets for) an upcoming Information Society concert at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco, CA on 23 March 2016. Not only will this be their first concert in a while in the Bay Area, but it will be the release party for their new album, entitled Orders of Magnitude. OoM is described as a collection of covers of and homages to music that helped shape their unique musical style over the years and appears as wildly diverse and free wheeling as it is whimsical from the track listing posted. This is going to …

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  331. Semi-autonomous software agents: A personal perspective.

    So, after going on for a good while about software agents you're probably wondering why I have such an interest in them. I started experimenting with my own software agents in the fall of 1996 when I first started undergrad. When I went away to college I finally had an actual network connection for the first time in my life (where I grew up the only access I had was through dialup) and I wanted to abuse it. Not in the way that the rest of my classmates were but to do things I actually had an interest in. So …

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  332. Helen Wendel, RIP.

    Helen Wendel

    Born: 14 April 1951 Died: 22 December 2015 Her grove missed her so that they called her home.





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  333. Software agents under the hood: What do their guts look like?

    In my last post I went into the the history of semi-autonomous software agents in a fair amount of detail, going as far back as the late 1970's and the beginning of formal research in the field in the early 1980's. Now I'm going to pop open the hood and go into some detail about how agents are architected in the context of how they work, some design issues and constraints, and some of the other technologies that they can use or bridge. I'm also going to talk a little about agents' communication protocols, both those used to communiate amongst …

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  334. Nigeria ICT Fest slides

    Here are the slides for my presentation at the Nigeria ICT Fest, held 4 and 5 December 2015. The slides are in both MS Powerpoint and PDF formats with associated PGP signatures to ensure that they haven't been tampered with.

    Ongoing_Threats_to_Emerging_Financial_Entities.pdf (signature)

    Ongoing_Threats_to_Emerging_Financial_Entities.pptx (signature)

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  335. Virtualbox virtual machines keep aborting.

    If you've been experimenting with different operating systems for a while, or you have some need to run more than one OS on a particular desktop machine, chances are you've been playing around with Oracle Virtualbox due to its ease of use, popular set of features, flexibility, and cost. You've also probably run into the following syndrome (usually while trying to build a new virtual machine):


    • You configure a new virtual machine.
    • You associate a bootable optical disk image with the new VM (for the sake of argument, let's say you're experimenting with the 50 megabyte(!) distro Damn Small Linux …

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  336. The Nigeria ICT Fest will be held this weekend!

    The Nigeria ICT Fest is a public/private initiative for spurring economic development in the country of Nigeria by applying communication and information technologies. It will last two days, 4 and 5 December 2015 and will be held in Nigeria. On Friday, 4 December the conference will be held at Magrellos Fast Food in Festac. On Saturday, 5 December the conference will be held at Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel on Victoria Island in the city of Lagos.

    I will not be physically present at the Fest, unfortunately, but I will be attending via telepresence. I will be presenting at 1630 …

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  337. The history of software agents.

    Building on top of my first post about software agents, I'd like to talk about the history of the technology in reasonable strokes. Not so broad that interesting details are lost (or misleading ones added) but not so narrow that we forget the forest while studying a single tree.

    Anyway, software agents could be said to have their roots in UNIX daemons, dating back to the creation of UNIX at AT&T in the 1970's. On the big timesharing systems of the time, where multiple people could be logged into the same machine working simultaneously without stepping on one another …

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  338. Semi-autonomous agents: What are they, exactly?

    This post is intended to be the first in a series of long form articles (how many, I don't yet know) on the topic of semi-autonomous software agents, a technology that I've been using fairly heavily for just shy of twenty years in my everyday life. My goals are to explain what they are, go over the history of agents as a technology, discuss how I started working with them between 1996e.v. and 2000e.v., and explain a little of what I do with them in my everyday life. I will also, near the end of the series, discuss …

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  339. Star Wars, the Force, and balance.

    I've had some ideas kicking around in the back of my head for a while, in particular after finally watching the other two Star Wars prequels (I saw the first and it put me off from watching the other two for many years - ye gods...) and this article in the Huffington Post about where the next movie might be headed. I'll not cover that territory because there really isn't any reason to, but there are a few things that I've been ruminating on for a while.

    First, let me state a couple of things up front: I'm not a raving …

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  340. Direct neural interface: Hopefully coming soon to a brain near you

    Direct neural interface has long been a dream and fantasy of tech geeks like myself who grew up reading science fiction. Slap an electrode net on your head (or screw a cable into an implanted jack) and there you are, controlling a computer with the same ease that you'd walk down the street or bend a paperclip with your fingers. If nothing else, those of us who battle the spectre of carpal tunnel syndrome constantly know that our careers have a shelf life, and at some point we're going to be out of action more or less permanently. So we …

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  341. Machine learning going from merely unnerving to scary.

    It seems like you can't go a day with any exposure to media without hearing about machine learning, or developing software which isn't designed to do anything in particular but is capable of teaching itself to carry out tasks tasks and make educated predictions based upon its training and data already available to it. If you've ever had to deal with a speech recognition system, bought something off of Amazon that you didn't know existed (but seemed really interesting at the time), or used a search engine you've interacted with a machine learning system of some kind. That said, here's …

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  342. I am now obligated to say something.

    Readers of my site or social aquaintenances may be aware of independent presidential candidate and outspoken transhumanist Mr. Zoltan Istvan, who is at this time on the campaign trail. More specifically Zoltan is one of the residents of the Immortality Bus which is driving across the country to raise awareness of death and why time and funds must be allocated to study cures for aging and decrepitude in the human animal. Zoltan Istvan seems, in the times I've spoken with him on a casual basis a reasonably decent, intelligent, and well read person. He is a very successful and ambitious …

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  343. I'm not about to break a streak.

    It's getting near the end of September and I haven't posted anything yet this month. What's going on?

    Rather a lot, actually.

    I've taken on a significant amount of responsibility at my day job this year, and sometimes that means putting in long hours. Long enough hours that, if I don't faceplant shortly after arriving at home I'm awake for only an hour or two afterward, and the last thing I want to lay eyes on is a keyboard. I usually study during that time before crashing for the next day. Yes, this means that I'm at the point in …

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  344. UPDATED: I'll be presenting at the Future of Politics Conference.

    EDIT: While I will be attendence at this conference, I am no longer in the lineup of speakers.

    On 18 October 2015 I'll be presenting at the Future of Politics Conference held by the Brighter Brains Institute. I'll be giving a talk (which doesn't have a title yet, and in fact I have yet to start writing) on tools and strategies for grassroots organization in a time when we're all connected on a 24x7x365 basis (which is to say, today).

    The conference will be held at the Humanist Hall in Oakland, CA from 10:30am until 6:00pm. Lunch will …

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  345. DefCon 23: Presentation notes

    Here and behind the cut are the notes I took at DefCon 23. They are necessarily incomplete because they're notes, and I refer you to the speakers' presentations and eventually video recordings for the whole story.

    Applied Intelligence: Using Information That's Not There - Michael Schrenk

    • Knowing your operations and resources
    • More effective and efficient
    • Competitive intelligence
    • What's happening outside of your business
    • Know your competitors and markets
    • Collect, analyze, and apply external data
    • There is a professional association of people who do competitive intelligence
    • Applied intelligence is actionable and changes what you do
    • Most is useless unless you develop it …

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  346. DefCon 23: The Writeup

    Well, I'm back from DefCon in sunny and hot Las Vegas, Nevada and more or less reinserted back into my everyday life. I'm just about caught up on everything that happened at work and finally finished the notes that are going to comprise this article. I'll type up the notes I took during the talks at DefCon in a couple of days; they've voluminous and I want to get the experience out of my head and into external storage before the memories fade much more. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to any of the villages so I don't have anything …

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  347. Fabbing components, parallel processing with rats, and synthetic neurons.

    Life being what it is these days, I haven't had much time to write any real posts here. If I'm not working I'm at home studying because I'm back on the "get letters after my name" trail, and if I'm not studying or in class I'm helping get family moved out and set up on the west coast. Or I'm at the gym because I'm fighting alongside my essential vanity by trying to lose weight; people tell me that I look good these days but there's a fine line between looking healthy and needing new clothes. So there you have …

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  348. Notes from the Transhuman Superpowers and Longevity Conference - 12 July 2015

    And now, hopefully sooner than the last set, my notes taken during the Transhuman Superpowers and Longevity Conference held on 12 July 2015 in Oakland, CA. Everything's behind the cut, with references as applicable. Personal observations (are on separate lines in parenthesis) to differentiate them from the speaker's material. Vertical Farm Civilization - Karl Doerrer

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  349. Notes from the Transhuman Strategies conference, 21 March 2015

    At long last, here are my notes from the Transhuman Strategies conference held by the Brighter Brains Institute on 21 March 2015. It took me a while to find the notebook I wrote them in, so that's why they're a few months late in coming. Anyway, my notes are under the cut.

    Hank Pellissier - Transhumanitarian Projects

    • Goals: Extending life, increasing mental ability
    • Life expectency in Japan is 80, in Sierra Leone is 35
    • Hunger is still the greatest killer
    • Shipping food or backing projects
    • De-worming - parasiting infections in children
    • The energy deficit incurred by parasitic infection lowers IQ in children …

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  350. I am this week's special guest on the More Thank Bits! podcast.

    Last week Alexius Pendragon invited me to be the special guest on the podcast he co-hosts, called More Than Bits! During the interview I fielded a bunch of questions about the RaspberryPi and my lunchtop, Squeak and Scratch, capture the flag competitions and Project 2 by dirtbags.net, Project Byzantium, and being on the Global Frequency.

    I was unfortunately ill-prepared for the interview because I ran home from work and jacked in without taking the time to get my head or my notes together, so I made quite a few gaffs. I hate it when I'm operating half in work …

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  351. The OPM compromise and information dynamics.

    If you pay attention to the news, you've undoubtedly heard that the US Office of Personnel Management, which coordinates the background investigations for every civil servant and contractor of the United States government was pwned so thoroughly that the intruders even got into E-QIP, the online web service that prospectives have to enter their life histories into (well, at most the last decade of it) so the process can begin. Say what you want about government, but this will probably go down as the most gigantic clusterfuck in history and it shows every sign of getting worse, not better. One …

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  352. The California t-shirt conspiracy.

    All of the t-shirts commonly available in California seem cut to make you feel bad about yourself. No matter your self-image, no matter your body shape or configuration, just about any t-shirt you find is going to make you feel fat. At the very least, most sizes run one size smaller (i.e., what is marked 'large' is actually cut as a 'medium', and so forth).

    Upon reflection, this might be why personal exercise is so common in California.

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  353. Makerfaire 2015

    If you've never been to Makerfaire, it's a rite of passage for geeks of all kinds. In fact, I'd recommend that everyone attend their nearest Mini-Makerfaire at least once because you'll see all manner of weird, wonderful, and inspiring things on display. I ran a table at the one in Silver Spring, Maryland back in 2013 with HacDC and had a ball. Anyway.

    I had a chance to attend the original Makerfaire in the Bay Area a few weekends ago and, though it was a significant journey on BART and on a shuttle bus it was well worth it. There …

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  354. Exhaustion.

    Ever have a week where you work 16-18 hour days, five days straight?

    There almost wasn't enough coffee on the west coast to keep me going. Almost.

    Sorry, everybody else. It was for a good cause. Promise.

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  355. Photographs from the Alliance of Sound 2014 tour.

    Last last year a number of industrial heavy hitters - Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, Haujobb, Youth Code, and S4NtA_MU3rTE - came to San Francisco as The Alliance of Sound. We missed the first few bands due to traffic but arrived just in time to catch one of my favorites, Front Line Assembly whose work was a staple of my misspent youth's soundtrack. It was a joy to watch their retrotech-heavy visuals and hear their newer work live (along with a couple of old favorites). We stayed as long as we could, but I have to be honest the lot of …

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  356. Here we go again, chapter 2.

    This is a follow-up to the tale of woe that is my last trip to the dentist after a diagnosis of an abscessed molar on the bottom left. I kept the following bits under wraps mostly for the past week or so, save to a small number of people, and then I'll wrap things up with the events of today. To save your stomachs and appetites, the rest of the this post is under the cut. If you read the known side effects of the antibiotic clindamycin carefully you will note the following: Chills, confusion, diarrhea with blood in it …

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  357. Web applications.

    If there is a chance - any chance - that you have a random web application that you might hit more often than ten times an hour, do yourself a favor and stick it behind a caching proxy of some kind, like Nginx.

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  358. Universal basic income and why it won't happen in the United States.

    A meme that some of my transhumanist and technoprogressive colleagues have been bandying around for the past half year or so is that of a universal basic income, or at least a negative income tax. The scenario goes something like this:

    Greater automation in the workplace due to the ever-greater proliferation of computers and deployment of sophisticated software means that companies have to hire and pay fewer people to do work for them. Sources of gainful employment are not assured these days (even for, say, certified Oracle admins being out of work for four or five years at a time …

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  359. Google has decided to censor parts of my site in the European Union.

    One of my bots just received the following message from Google, verified in Google Webmaster Tools:


    Notice of removal from Google Search
    April 3, 2015

    Hello,

    Due to a request under data protection law in Europe, we are no longer able to show one or more pages from your site in our search results in response to some search queries for names or other personal identifiers. Only results on European versions of Google are affected. No action is required from you.

    These pages have not been blocked entirely from our search results, and will continue to appear for queries other …

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  360. Here we go again.

    For reasons I'll go into in a bit, this post didn't start off auspiciously. Just as I was about to put fingers to keyboard extenuating circumstances prevented the composition of text...

    Long time readers of this blog are no doubt aware of two things: That I haven't posted much here in past weeks and my long and sordid history of dental problems. As it turns out, the two things are more related than it would otherwise seem.

    I haven't had it in me for the past few weeks to sit down and write anything substantial, the queue of notes on …

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  361. Pulling 3D objects out of liquid, simplifying chemical synthesis, and Autodesk open sources its 3D printing feedstock

    3D printing anywhere but in heavy industry comes with a whole host of common complaints that have given it something of a negative reputation. Fabbed objects require additional detailing to get rid of the ridges and imperfetctions (true), you can't really print entirely hollow objects because internal structure has to be in place to support the upper surfaces (also true), a lot of hacks have to be done to the printer to make them more reliable (true... heated beds come to mind)... there are others but I'll spare the electrons. In fact, I think I'll cut to the chase and …

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