guest - flak

samsung chromebook plus

Apple announced a new iPad today, so I bought a chromebook. Actually, I bought it a few days ago; it just happened to arrive today. It’s a 2 in 1 flip around touchscreen tablet laptop all in wonder. I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently on my other chromebook, but sometimes I wish the keyboard would just go away. And when I’m reading on an iPad, I wish I had a keyboard. Technology is all about convergence, right? Bring on the singularity.

As a laptop, it’s not too bad. The keyboard is a little thin, and some keys are quite small. I wouldn’t write a novel with it, but it’s good enough to leave scathing comments on internet forums. The hinges are solid. It’s definitely more useful than a tablet with a keyboard. I have a special soft spot for laptops that can unfold 180 degrees (hello thinkpads!), so this machine earns a bonus star for that, too.

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Posted 2017-03-21 20:46:37 by tedu Updated: 2017-03-26 05:44:55
Tagged: computers review

Mini Metro

A fun iPhone (and many more) game. Your job is to build and manage an ever growing subway system, until eventually unhappy riders revolt. The gameplay is fairly simple, with very few different types of resource to manage, but each play through is different. I’m still working out a few strategies, but just when I think I’ve nailed it, I’ll get an uncooperative map. It’s both like and unlike Flight Control. In many ways better. More variation. The intensity builds up over time, but it never demands unblinking concentration. More strategy than action. The game strikes a very good balance between abstraction and realism. Station types and passengers are just shapes like circle and square, but it’s easy to imagine them as residential and commercial districts.

Posted 2016-11-14 20:01:17 by tedu Updated: 2016-11-14 20:07:19
Tagged: games review

HP Chromebook 13

Finally got a chromebook. I was interested in the HP Chromebook 13 since it was first announced as a kind of cheaper Pixel. But then it spent several months on HP’s out of stock list. Now it’s back.

There’s several models available, starting at $499 for a Pentium. I moved up to the $599 (for $580 actually) model which comes with an m3. This includes 4GB of RAM. After that, there’s m5 and m7 models with more RAM, but the price goes up dramatically, and none of them include more storage. Always 32GB. All come with the same 3200x1800 display, which is what really attracted me. This should be nice and crisp, but as we’ll see, it’s not perfect.

It’s well put together. Feels solid in the hand. Comparable to the UX305 in many ways, but it feels lighter. Almost like the base is hollow. The included USB-C charger requires a three prong plug. (Why is Lenovo the only PC company to realize how sweet two prong plugs are?). At least the charger cords are a decent length. Six feet to the outlet, then another six feet to the USB-C plug. The case has a brushed metal finish, but attracts some very visible fingerprints and smudges that make it look dirty after light handling. The palm rest doesn’t seem to have the same problem, though. It has the same squared edges as its big brother Pixel, even including a stripe on the back, but the stripe here is plain gray and doesn’t light up. Overall, a nice looking machine in good company with the Macbook Air and Zenbook, but it’s no Spectre.

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Posted 2016-07-10 14:35:28 by tedu Updated: 2016-08-21 22:19:34
Tagged: computers review

iphone 6s plus

Replaced my 5s with the new top of the line, 6s plus. Kind of an awkward name. I propose 7P and 7Ps for the next gen.

History: iPhone (no suffix), 4 (quite the upgrade!), 5, 5s (purchased in store on 6 release day to emergency replace 5; that was fun), 6s plus.

I was waiting to see if a new 5 sized phone would trickle down the line, but it appears it’s all big phones from now on. Given the choice between larger and much larger, though, I went with much larger. I spent a fair bit of time reading on my phone and was tired of squinting. Curiously, I bought an iPad for much the same reason, as a dedicated viewing device, but it’s not always with me. At this point I think I’d even consider an iPad mini if they made one with full phone functionality (not just skype or whatever). Can’t quite live without a phone (or can I???), but if it’s only 1% of what I do with the device, maybe it’s time to stop selecting form factors for that purpose.

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Posted 2015-10-30 01:44:46 by tedu Updated: 2015-10-30 01:44:46
Tagged: gadget review

Zenbook UX305

Another new laptop to play with, the ASUS Zenbook UX305 (or UX305F sometimes). I’m a little late to the party, these have been available for some time. Amazon had a $100 rebate off the regular price, which puts it at pretty fair price I think ($599). I was looking for a second laptop, one specifically to serve as a “second” laptop, to run Windows when I wanted, etc. My laptop lifecycle seems to involve running Windows for a bit, then eventually giving up and installing OpenBSD. I’ve spent the day playing with this thing, so here are some early thoughts. It’s not my intention to use this laptop as a primary machine (although one could), but I think I’ve gotten a feel for what it would be like. The Anand Tech review is more complete than here.

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Posted 2015-10-07 01:55:54 by tedu Updated: 2015-10-20 02:56:39
Tagged: computers review

cheap earbuds

I consume earbuds at a fairly constant rate. They get lost, or washed, or fall apart. And then I need new ones. Unlike the collection of large headphones, or “cans” if you will, that I’ve accumulated over the course of ten years without casualty, earbuds are practically disposable. So I don’t like paying a lot of money for them. Nevertheless, I want a product with some level of quality.

For a few years, I started with V-moda Vibe earbuds. Not cheap, but this was before I realized I’d be purchasing so many. Good sound, a little bass heavy perhaps (also good?), but prone to wearing out. The cable would eventually split at the jack. In hindsight, this was because, for reasons that defy my understanding of physics, the iPod Nano in my pocket would always get turned around with the jack on the bottom, forcing the cable to make a sharp 180 turn. These are no longer made, but Amazon will let you have a pair for only $150. Even more than when new!

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Posted 2015-09-19 22:03:40 by tedu Updated: 2016-08-24 01:17:55
Tagged: gadget review

Indego - Philly bike share review

Joining the ranks of bike share programs in other cities, Indego is Philadelphia’s version. The basic concept is the same and pretty simple. You check out a bicycle from one of many kiosks located about the city, ride around, then return it to an empty dock when done. The program is manufactured by B-cycle but owned by Philadelphia; it’s similar but not identical to programs in other cities, such as Austin or Denver.


There are three plans available. For $4 per 30 minutes, the walk up plan lets you check out a bike with a credit card. This is clearly the tourist and visitor plan. The flex plan, with a $10 annual fee, gets you a key fob for easier access and extends your $4 to an hour long ride. I’m not sure who this plan is for. The Indego30 plan is $15 per 30 days, but includes an unlimited number for one hour rides. This is the plan for locals.

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Posted 2015-07-09 14:56:51 by tedu Updated: 2015-07-09 14:56:51
Tagged: business philly review

OpenBSD 5.7 highlights

The OpenBSD 5.7 release is still a month away, but the changes have been done for some time. The release page lists lots of changes, though certainly not all, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the big changes from the small changes. Annoying perhaps, but rewarding to someone who reads through the entire list looking for hidden gems. A few notes about changes I found personally interesting.

USB 3.0 may qualify as the headline hardware feature. The blue ports work at last, even though they aren’t even blue anymore. Owners of newer laptops are likely happy to see the iwm driver for the latest generation of Intel wireless chips.

Lots of hash function related changes. MD5 in many contexts has been replaced by SHA512. For the most part, MD5 was harmless, but now it even looks harmless at first inspection. SipHash was introduced and replaces the hash function for many hash table lookups. In some cases, the previous function was XOR, so this is a pretty substantial improvement. DES crypt moved ever closer to the attic. Most userland programs will no longer operate on traditional password hashes.

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Posted 2015-04-01 02:47:00 by tedu Updated: 2015-04-09 18:36:48
Tagged: openbsd review software

Thinkpad Carbon X1 2015

A review of the X1 Carbon hardware. Some thoughts on the initial software experience.

I’ve had my T430s for a while now. It very quickly became my main laptop, replacing both my ageing T60 and the X200s I originally thought would replace it. The X was the right weight, but a little underpowered and the battery in particular was rather sad. The T430s slotted in nicely between them; powerful, yet still reasonably light. Recently I’ve carrying it with more, however, and the farther I walked with it, the more my shoulder sagged. The once reasonable battery life now seems a little short, too. (I don’t think it’s actually faded that much; my definition of all day work appears to have grown.)

Continue reading Thinkpad Carbon X1 2015...

Posted 2015-01-27 20:31:48 by tedu Updated: 2016-05-13 00:25:43
Tagged: computers review

Godus review

A short review of Godus, iPad edition. It’s a modern update of Populus, one of my Super Nintendo favorites. You squish the earth around, let your idiotic worshippers build homes, and rain destruction on the blasphemous other tribe. It’s fun, especially to start, but then starts slowing down and running into some serious limitations.

To start, it’s easiest to describe the game as Populus, but newer. You have a bunch of followers who are generally kind of dumb. Your job, as their god, is to shape the earth to their needs so that they can be fruitful and multiply. In return, they worship you, creating belief (mana) which you can harvest. Belief is what powers your earth shaping ability, in addition to some other more potent abilities, like shooting meteors.

Continue reading Godus review...

Posted 2015-01-05 17:15:08 by tedu Updated: 2015-02-03 08:54:27
Tagged: games review

pretty sure that’s what happened

A special Fourth of July post. If you love America, you’ll love the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. It does a great job walking the line between mocking the nutjobs who believe in world government black helicopters and the sheeple who don’t. A little something for everyone to hate.

The whole show, every episode, plays with credulity, but one segment from episode 14, “The Man in the Tan Jacket”, was in a category of its own. It’s not the most absurdly comical segment, but a striking reminder of the typical internet discussion regarding the relative probability of just about anything.

Early Saturday morning, Fun Complex cameras picked up blurry motion near the soda machine. The footage is quite fuzzy and difficult to discern. Perhaps it is merely rats or racoons digging through an uncovered supply of junk food. But it is, of course, much more likely that a lost nation of people, living in the bowels of a small town blowing alley, are finally revealing themselves. Taking our food supplies and preparing for war. ... It takes very little extrapolation to believe that they worship a god named Huntocar, who demands sacrifice to keep their underground city thriving in the absence of nourishing sunlight. And a fair assumption is that they are ruled by a child king, recently coronated, who is too weak to reign back the generals intent on marching upon us in war.

From time to time, somebody posts an unsourced account of that time the Secret Service tasered their cat because they googled for “how to make money”. As it makes the rounds of all the user news sites, somebody will inevitably post a comment pointing out some logical inconsistencies in the original and asking how the more fanciful events may have transpired. Someone will then reply, explaining everything with no facts and fewer sources. And finally comes the third comment, my favorite. “I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.”

Posted 2014-07-04 00:23:13 by tedu Updated: 2014-07-04 00:25:06
Tagged: quote review

Dell CS24-SC server

A short note about my Dell CS24 to accompany the post about the Sun T5120.

You can find used CS24s in large quantities on EBay. Decent value. There’s really not much profit for sellers holding anything cheaper in inventory, so they’re among the least expensive servers you can find. But it’s not all good news. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a special model built for huge enterprise customers and not normally available to solo losers like me. As such, Dell support doesn’t have much in the way of information or firmware updates. Whatever; it’s a PC server and OpenBSD runs on PC servers. Mine is the SC model (I think), there seem to be a few varieties.

It has VGA, net, and serial consoles. I used VGA; no comments on the others. It’s an enterprise computer, built for environments where every second of downtime counts, so don’t expect it to reboot in less than four minutes.

Continue reading Dell CS24-SC server...

Posted 2014-03-18 17:00:35 by tedu Updated: 2014-03-18 17:00:35
Tagged: computers review

iPad Air review

Very early thoughts. Upgraded from the iPad 4 because that was too heavy. Almost went with the new iPad Mini, but reading magazines is a primary use case for me and I wanted something that more closely matched a real magazine in size. Also, the Mini isn’t shipping yet while the Air is sitting on my lap.

Air is an appropriate name. It’s lighter and thinner. Of course, this is far more noticeable because I have a full case on the old model, pushing the combined weight up to about two pounds. The Air is exactly half that. (I bought a case not so much to protect the back from scratches, but to protect my house from the iPad. The iPad may be made of indestructium, but the many mostly glass surfaces I leave it on are not.) Now I’m in a quandary. A similar case will increase the weight of the iPad Air out of the comfortable one hand territory.

Continue reading iPad Air review...

Posted 2013-11-05 21:40:31 by tedu Updated: 2013-11-14 15:33:47
Tagged: gadget review

Brother HL-3170CDW printer review

I bought a new printer, the Brother HL-3170CDW (sometimes stylized HL3170CDW, as on Amazon). It’s a small office color laser, with all the doodads (wireless, ethernet, duplex, color). I didn’t really need it, the HL-2070N black and white printer I’ve had for several years now was working fine, but every once in a while I wondered if I’d find use for a color printer. Maybe I was making due with B&W because that’s all that was available, and having a color printer would unleash a creative blast of fancy greeting cards. I mulled it over for a few years, but then the price briefly hit $170 on Amazon. Done.

Continue reading Brother HL-3170CDW printer review...

Posted 2013-10-10 22:27:48 by tedu Updated: 2013-10-10 22:27:48
Tagged: gadget review

roku three

Got the new Roku 3. I had the very first original Roku (video player) from not long after it came out, then the upgraded XD model which honestly changed just about nothing. The model 3 is significantly improved.

It’s much faster. This shouldn’t have been an issue (how hard is it to scroll a few thumbnails? why was that slow?), but in any case it’s much snappier.

The remote uses radio instead of infrared. Major usability improvement. Worth the price of admission on its own? Maybe.

Very small. Meh. The previous models were hardly consuming too much space.

The USB port works well with a hard drive of movies (other previous models had them, but not mine), and is more convenient than turning on one of the other USB video playing devices.

Roku the company is in a precarious position. There are so many devices plugged into my TV it needs an HDMI switch. Every one of them is Netflix and Hulu and whatever capable. What use is a device that can only do streaming video? Because, for now, they do it better, mostly by being always on. If the PS4 comes with a 4W always on mode that can stream video, Roku is going to be in serious trouble.

Posted 2013-05-15 06:15:51 by tedu Updated: 2013-05-15 06:15:51
Tagged: gadget review

Panic Prompt ssh client

One of the things I used to like about my phone was the fact that it didn’t have an ssh client. Going to a bar and drinking is a great accompaniment to reading about obscure server config tweaks, but less ideal a place for trying them out. I count the inability to screw things up as a feature. But then I wrote a mail system in ruby which required 24/7 care and feeding, and suddenly I couldn’t leave the house without a baby monitor.

I was vaguely familiar with Panic when they announced their ssh client, Prompt. There were two things I liked. First, Panic had reputation for building things which worked (I think, no personal experience). Second, some of the best iPhone apps come from established companies who build them either as an experiment or to meet their own needs, not trying to make a quick buck. The main problem was that at $7.99, Prompt was a full $7.99 more than I’d ever paid for an ssh client. Finally the price dropped temporarily to $1.99 and I took the plunge.

Short version: it works. There are a few bugs, but nothing major. It is almost certainly worth the full price, which only seems expensive in comparison to App Store pricing (and openssh). And now I can finally use my phone to suspend my laptop without getting out of bed.

There are also some free or lite ssh clients available, which are universally so bad as to not be worth naming. From terminal emulation too poor to run top to rejecting hostnames that didn’t contain a dot, the bugs are many and varied.

Posted 2013-04-30 17:00:32 by tedu Updated: 2013-04-30 17:00:32
Tagged: review software

m4 msata upgrade and OpenBSD

When my T430s arrived, OpenBSD didn’t yet support Sandy/Ivy Bridge graphics, so I stuck with Windows and OpenBSD in VMWare. Things change and now I want to run OpenBSD natively. I’m using TrueCrypt on the whole drive and trying to resize that while introducing another boot loader seemed a risky proposition, so I cheated a little by taking advantage of my laptop’s mSATA port and installed a 64GB Crucial m4 mSATA SSD, a trivial upgrade.

Plug in an external hard drive I keep around for booting OpenBSD and boot bsd.rd. In keeping with protecting all the data on this laptop, I encrypted the whole drive as well. By the time I got to the disk setup part of the installer, I was up to sd3 (Samsung SSD, m4 SSD, USB disk, softraid). A few years ago I would have marveled at installing OpenBSD on a laptop with 4 “SCSI” disks.

Continue reading m4 msata upgrade and OpenBSD...

Posted 2013-04-25 15:58:28 by tedu Updated: 2013-04-25 16:05:21
Tagged: computers gadget openbsd review

it’s a hard turk life

I signed up for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service a little while ago. As a worker. My theory was, I’m sitting around watching Glee, but there’s all this plot and drama stuff I don’t care about happening between the Journey song performances. I could read or code or something, but then I get sucked into that and miss the song. A micro tasklet I could complete in a few seconds sounded like just the thing, and making five cents a minute was five cents more than I normally make watching TV.


First task I found was to categorize government purchase orders by industry, using a dropdown containing approximately 3000 categories, so that enterprising companies in those industries could find and bid on the orders. Purchase order was for 30 replacement QWE-789654 parts. What are they? There’s a link to more info, which leads to another link, and another. At some point I landed on some DoD splash screen where they assured me they were most definitely logging all activity and I had to assure them I most definitely wasn’t up to no good. After this all I learned was that somebody, somewhere, wanted more QWE-789654s. Was this a part kept in stock? There’s a category for that. Maybe it would need to be manufactured. That could be foundry services. But is it plastic, ceramic, or metal? If metal, ferrous or non-ferrous? I gave up, but it was fun to imagine how this order found its way to me. Some military base captain ran out of QWE-789654s (I can only imagine the local slang used to refer to this part), and he needs to reorder them. But due to procedural restrictions, he can’t just send Private Pyle out to pick some up; he’s got to fill out the form and send it into the bid-o-matic. He knows exactly which company is going to get the order and they know it, too, but nobody gets paid until the order does a full circuit of the requisition system.

Continue reading it’s a hard turk life...

Posted 2013-03-07 19:28:20 by tedu Updated: 2013-03-07 19:35:22
Tagged: business review

more iPhone games

I was growing tired of my old iPhone games so I bought some new ones. I play only on an iPhone, not an iPad. I was mostly looking for quick fix games, not anything to rival a console game.


Gold star. It’s a little tricky controlling the pieces the traditional way, but fortunately there’s a one touch mode. About four outlines are shown for suggested placement. You tap one. Boom, piece is in place. Makes complicated maneuvers involving twisting and sliding very easy. Perfect touch adaptation. Well worth 99c. One of the great things about Tetris is it’s constantly reminding me that no matter how many times I swear I’m not going to make the same mistake twice, there I go again, because some bad ideas are just irresistibly appealing. Entertainment and lessons in humility, all in one.

Continue reading more iPhone games...

Posted 2012-12-06 06:29:48 by tedu Updated: 2013-03-09 18:15:41
Tagged: games review roundup

Ubuntu 12.04

Obviously, I don’t use Ubuntu much, so I’m a little late to the party, but better late than never. Upgrade from 11.10 went smoothly enough. Do you want to download 700000 packages? Sure, why not.

Now, after the upgrade, I’m greeted by the following dialog. “Sorry, Ubuntu 12.04 has experienced an internal error.” I click continue because, hey, why not. “Invalid problem report: Could not determine the package or source package name.” Great. Who’s the fucktard responsible for this I wonder.

Posted 2012-11-22 03:55:37 by tedu Updated: 2012-11-22 03:55:37
Tagged: rants review software