guest - flak

stuck in a time loop

Of course I realize we’re stuck in a time loop. I’m not an idiot. Actually, a character on The Magicians says something similar, though with a bit more resignation, as he’s not powerful enough to change anything. The inevitability of the future, or the past, or whatever, is a recurring theme in time travel movies. Except when the theme is that things aren’t inevitable.

I liked Looper, mostly because it didn’t dwell on the time travel.

Everybody likes Primer. I thought the pacing worked really well. It develops at just the right speed to keep things interesting but without losing the audience. And then when things get crazy, it still makes a certain amount of sense. Iterative plot thickening. Now, with all the looping that takes place, is time mutable or not? If you go back and replace yourself, did that always happen? In order to come out of the box, you had to go into the box, so what does that mean about predestination?

Continue reading stuck in a time loop...

Posted 2016-09-20 13:08:59 by tedu Updated: 2016-09-20 13:08:59
Tagged: moviereview

cloudflare and rss

Let’s say somebody has a blog that I’d like to read. Subscribe to even. Let’s say they have an RSS link on their page. This should be easy.

Now let’s say the blog in question is hosted/proxied/whatever by Cloudflare. Uh oh.

Just reading the blog in my browser is now somewhat hampered because Cloduflare thinks I’m some sort of cyberterrorist and requires my browser run a javascript anti-turing test. But eventually the blog loads, I read it, click the RSS link to subscribe, see that it is in fact XML rendered in my browser, and copy the link.

I paste the link into my RSS reader, optimistically hoping to see new links arrive. But they never do. Check the logs. Seems I’m getting 503 server errors, which is Cloudflare’s way of saying, “It’s not us; it’s you. And fuck off.”

Apparently my feed fetcher is also a cyberterrorist. It’s also written in python and can’t solve browser detecting riddles because it doesn’t include a javascript engine because OMG why would fetching an RSS feed require javascript?

Now I’m somewhat less inclined to read said blog, but hey, at least the internet is being kept fast and secure from miscreants like me.

Posted 2016-09-16 04:59:40 by tedu Updated: 2016-09-16 05:03:48
Tagged: rants web

OpenBSD on HP Stream 7

Recent events have rocked the mobile computing world to its core. OpenBSD retired the zaurus port, leaving users in desperate need of a new device. And not long before that, Microsoft released the Anniversary Update to Windows 10, but with free space requirements such that it’s nigh impossible to install on cheap 32GB eMMC equipped devices such as the HP Stream series, leaving users searching for a new lightweight operating system. With necessity as both mother and father, the scene is set for a truly epic pairing. OpenBSD on the HP Stream 7.

The HP Stream line is a series of budget computers in a couple form factors. The Stream 11 is a fairly typical netbook. However, the Stream 7 and 8 are tablets. They look like cheap Android devices, but inside the case, they’re real boys, er PCs, with Intel Atom CPUs.

Continue reading OpenBSD on HP Stream 7...

Posted 2016-09-10 13:17:55 by tedu Updated: 2016-09-12 14:46:42
Tagged: computers gadget openbsd

html email comments

Normally I don’t look at the source for HTML emails, but sometimes I end up scrounging around for some important data that didn’t survive the conversion to plaintext. And so that’s how I stumbled upon these gems.

<!-- The phone number module is hidden on Mobile. 20150122 [JAMES] - Add left-to-right direction to phone number td so phone number shows correctly for right-to-left languages 20150219 [YVONNE] -Updated variables for Venere - added 1px orange birder for Venere 20151019 [YVONNE] - Removed ATde_AT from TUV logic 20160831 [GREG] - Remove Phone Number for VN //-->

<!-- /*------------------ Email Change Log ------------------*/ 140515 [JAMES] - Launch Functionality 141126 [JAMES] - Apply exclusion logic for emergency emails M_BZ_OFC 150213 [JAMES] - Switch to Partners Tool data for localisation 160531 [GREG] - Switch from MHotel_Hcom_Destination DE to HCOM_MHotel_Destination -->

I’m not sure which is more disturbing. The decision to embed version history in every email they send, or the inconsistent date formats, or the strange mix of HTML, C, and C++ style comments. Using -- is a particularly poor choice of decoration within an HTML comment, by the by.

I’m also having a fun time imagining staying at a hotel 50 years ago, then receiving a follow up letter spattered with white out covering up various notes from the marketer to the secretary. “Insert reference to upcoming holiday here.”

Posted 2016-09-08 15:45:41 by tedu Updated: 2016-09-09 12:20:59
Tagged: mailfail

doas mastery

It’s been a year since the introduction of doas, so it’s clearly time to write a book. Or maybe a pamphlet.

UNIX systems have two classes of user, the super user and regular users. The super user is super, and everybody else is not. This concentration of power keeps things simple, but also means that often too much power is granted. Usually we only need super user powers to perform one task. We would rather not have such power all the time. Think of the responsibility that would entail! Like the sudo command, doas allows for subdivision of super user privileges, granting them only for specific tasks.

The doas command itself has a few options, which we’ll discuss somewhat later, but the most interesting part is the configuration file. This is where the real magic happens.

Continue reading doas mastery...

Posted 2016-09-05 09:02:36 by tedu Updated: 2016-09-19 01:19:43
Tagged: openbsd software

backlight battery indicator

The last few models of Thinkpads are sadly devoid of indicators. How do you tell if caps lock is on? Type something and see if it matches expectations. If it happens to be the lock screen, loltastic. More importantly, how do you know if AC power has accidentally been disconnected and the battery is running low? The red dot on the opposite side of the lid isn’t much use.

It’s possible to use some sort of desktop environment status bar, but I prefer a low thrills environment. I don’t need a big honking battery icon distracting me. Accordingly, I have only a small (text) battery display in the corner. It’s there when I need it, but unobtrusive. The only problem is if I think I’m plugged into the wall, but I’m not, I won’t be checking battery and may not notice even as the situation grows dire.

Continue reading backlight battery indicator...

Posted 2016-08-28 02:43:19 by tedu Updated: 2016-09-09 21:02:52
Tagged: c computers openbsd programming

tweet compression

Sometimes you’ve got something really important to tweet, but it doesn’t quite fit in 140 characters. There’s several techniques that can help in this situation.

One option is to use another platform that allows longer posts, but like I said, this is really important. Twitter or bust. Or write the post on a napkin, then upload a picture of it, but let’s pretend we have an irrational preference for textual information conveyed as text.

English text has a lot of redundancy. Certain digraphs are particularly common. In fact, many digraphs are actually descended from single letters. We can shave some characters from our tweets by winding back the clock.

If instead of writing “This or that” we write ”Þis or þat” using thorns, thankfully preserved in unicode by our viking friends, that represents a savings of 16%. It’s the same number of bytes, but I don’t make the absurd rules.

Continue reading tweet compression...

Posted 2016-08-27 19:00:59 by tedu Updated: 2016-09-14 14:37:00
Tagged: javascript language web

top of the market puts

There have been a number of experts warning that the stock market is due for a crash. There’s always people saying that, but it seems to have picked up since the summer. I don’t know anything about this; my crystal ball was stolen by a dark elf. But the possibility of a sharp decline is what makes the rest of this post interesting.

One trading strategy is to sell put options. You can sell puts on individual stocks or on an index. (Or anything, really). In exchange for a payment, you agree to potentially purchase some asset at a fixed price until the option expires. A put option is essentially insurance. Selling a put is the same as insuring an asset against a decline in value. To pick a stock I have no particular attachment to, MMM is currently trading around $180. If I’ve got a cool $17500 cash lying around, I might sell a one month put option with a strike price of 175 at $1.00. I’m predicting that MMM will do alright in the near future, so if all goes according to plan the option will expire worthless and I’ll pocket an easy $100. That’s an annualized return of 7.0%. Ignoring downside. (Option contracts are for 100 shares, hence the 100 x 175 cash requirement (in the event I’m forced to complete the purchase) and 100 x 1 income.)

Continue reading top of the market puts...

Posted 2016-08-26 05:52:17 by tedu Updated: 2016-08-26 07:32:01
Tagged: business

Lo and Behold

Werner Herzog reflects on the reveries of the connected world. There’s a lot of short sequences here, but not much tying it together.

We start in the building with the ugly hallways at UCLA where the first internet connection was established. The first message transmitted was supposed to be “login”, but the machine crashed after “lo”. Lo and behold.

The inventor of cut and paste doesn’t like what’s been done to it.

The law of large numbers means that the bigger the internet gets, the more efficient it becomes. Everybody talking to everybody averages out. I’m not sure how this theoretical result squares with the reality that Netflix is 33% of traffic.

Continue reading Lo and Behold...

Posted 2016-08-25 01:00:09 by tedu Updated: 2016-08-25 18:04:23
Tagged: moviereview network web

charge this

The Times asks, Should you charge your phone overnight? The answer is obviously no. I mean, yes. Or, maybe.

As the Times points out, your phone won’t overcharge. No harm there.

But, but, but... all charging “harms” your phone. Which is both alarming and useless. What am I supposed to do? Not charge it? That’s not very useful. But apparently I can charge it if I’m replacing it in two years, which sounds like it has the cause and effect somewhat reversed. Nor does it provide me with a plan if I intend to keep it.

Finally, the article drops a hint that the real issue is that fast charging pushes a lot of current into the battery, which may shorten the lifespan. This makes some sense as I understand battery chemistry. Their suggestion to use a lower rated charger seems pretty weak however. It may work, but it’s haphazard.

Keep in mind that I am not an officially licensed li-ion whisperer.

Modern chargers switch between constant current (when the battery is low) and constant voltage (when the battery is nearing full). Refer to AnandTech charge graph.

If we want to avoid the damaging high current charging, then we should aim to charge our phones frequently, topping them up with low current charging. I believe the Times article misleadingly suggests minimizing the number of charges; i.e., letting it run down and then charging, which would actually result in the most exposure to high current charging.

Posted 2016-08-24 00:54:06 by tedu Updated: 2016-08-24 00:56:20
Tagged: gadget