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 for at home, namely, remotely monitoring a wireless access point running OpenWRT in the same way that I watch the rest of my stuff. Due to the extreme system constraints on your average high-end wireless access point (2 CPUs, 128 megs of storage, 512 megs of RAM) it's not feasible to install Python and a Halo checkout, so I had to figure out how to get the system stats I need remotely. What I wound up doing was standing up another copy of the standard OpenWRT web server daemon and writing a bunch of tiny CGI scripts which run local commands and return the information to Systembot for processing and analysis. It wound up being a fun exercise in working with tight constraints, though I think there are still some bugs to be shaken out.
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 reading pace of five or six books a week. I'd all but forgotten how much dead tree books weigh after the fixed mass of a tablet for so long. The wireless router at home that I set up to replace the astoundingly shitty DSL modem-cum-wireless access point that Annoying, Trying, and Twisted insists we use is starting to act flaky, which suggests that it's reached the end of its functional life, not unexpectedly since this model tends to have overheating problems. A few weeks back I picked up a new router, a Linksys WRT 1200 AC and promptly made a few hardware modifications to it, which is to say I cracked open the case, unbolted the heat sinks, scraped the crappy thermal tape off of the chips and applied decent heatsink grease, and put the router back together. I'm considering wiring a small cooling fan onto the motherboard, maybe on one of the development ports. Lately I've flashed OpenWRT onto the unit and set up quality of service and monitoring so I can keep an eye on things. I'm still working out how to patch it into my exocortex for realtime status monitoring. From a practical standpoint I can install Python on the new router, but doing so leaves next to no room for anything else. I have to think about it some more. I do NOT want to use SNMP if I can help it.
If you thought you were going to escape computer nerd-related rambling, you were sorely mistaken.
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 my exocortex running on automatic with some hit-and-run posting while waiting for the coffee maker at work to top me up in between meetings.
This also means that I haven't had a whole lot of patience for interacting with people. Not in the sense that people can feel frustrated with other people or their actions, but in the sense that interacting with people in a meaningful way - having a real conversation - takes more compute cycles than I have available right now. After fourteen hours in a conference room with 40 other people, not only am I out of social, but I'm mentally exhausted.
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 on a new project that wound up being... not as hard as I'd imagined it would be, but there certainly has been a steep learning curve.
musked - verb, past tense - When someone promises big and fails to deliver.
(source: Gabriella Coleman)
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 a decent amount of war driving along the way. There isn't much to remark on until the next day...
Got back from HOPE on Monday. Tired and trying to avoid con crud. Also came home to a deadline at work. More news as time permits.
Boots: 14 hole Doc Martens, black, real leather.
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. Get some coffee, go for a run, something like that.
Buff balsam off with a clean, dry cloth. I use a regular washcloth set aside for doing my boots.
Prep your boot polish. I like Kiwi Shoe Polish Paste, just make sure it's the right color for your boots. Pop the lid and set the polish on fire with a lighter or matches. No, seriously, I mean set it on fire. The polish will melt faster than it burns. When at least half the polish is burning, drop the lid back on and make sure it closes completely.
Wait. The flame will burn itself out because the oxygen inside the container (there isn't much) will be used up. Wait for the pressure to build up inside the tin and pop the lid off with a festive "Poing!"
(If this doesn't happen inside of five minutes, just open the tin. No big deal.)
The shoe polish is now a thick goop instead of a waxy mass. Apply polish to your boots with a sponge.
Wait another half hour.
Buff dried polish off with a clean, dry cloth. I usually flip the washcloth over and use that, but do whatever works. Rub until the finish doesn't look smoky anymore. Mine tend to look clean but a little on the dull side. That goes away as I wear them for a while.
Re-lace and wear for an hour or two to take advantage of the new dose of balsam soaked into the leather making it a bit softer than usual.
Repeat every one or two months, or after cleaning them if they get dirty.
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, installed Kismet, put the wifi NIC into monitor mode so it would pick up frames from every access point within range, and went driving around for a couple of hours. The idea is that the software records the datestamp and GPS coordinates at which you picked up the strongest signal from a wireless access point. Rinse, repeat for as long as your power cells hold out, or as long as you care to drive, bike, walk, ski, or employ any other means of personal transportation to move around. At the time I was uploading my results to wigle.net to contribute to their crowdsourced global map of wireless coverage. Then I moved, and I seem to have accidentally tripped Wigle's bot detector (probably because I was going out for many hours at a time to cover very large areas). End result, I didn't go wardriving for a very long time.
A couple of months back I decided that I needed to get more exercise than I could get at home (which I'll probably ramble about in a later post) so I joined the local gym. Doing so gave me access to a much more broad selection of equipment to work with, and a lot more space than my office at home. There isn't much to say on that particular point other than it's been a great investment, and I spent a nontrivial amount of downtime there working out. While I haven't lost weight per se, I do seem to be trading some amount of body fat for muscle mass. I don't know how much adipose tissue I've actually lost but my clothes are getting tight against my body in different ways than before. I guess that's something.
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 me; if they're anything like the police in the school I went to, they went out of their way to not do their jobs (the students selling both drugs and guns I graduated with did so with relative impunity). Oh, and let's not forget what can happen if you play the part of the hero and disarm the shooter - the cops think the hero's the shooter, and open fire. No good deed goes unpunished.
But that's not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is gun culture, as someone who's part of it, but who stays as far away from it as possible.