Making the news today: QLD coppers have arrested a journalist - for attending the AusCERT conference and publishing articles about the conference. Hello, WTF?!?

Right now it seems the coppers are backpedalling quite furiously, but they certainly deprived him of his freedom (temporarily) and seized his ipad (not so temporarily).

[ published on Wed 18.05.2011 13:59 | filed in interests/anti | ]

Well, if I was a letter I'd also feel like being abandoned after having those two parasitic muppets pasted on me.

 parasites on stamps

(for my few colonial readers, Karl Kraus said "In Austria, sending a letter means to abandon it". He was obviously not enamoured with the ÖPTV's services, and used the nuances of German to the limit: "Aufgeben" means both posting a letter and abandoning something (as in: all hope), and "heissen" is good for both expressing "is called" and "has the meaning of"...)

[ published on Fri 06.05.2011 20:24 | filed in interests/au | ]

It's a good day in my world when my favourite game, Sturmovik, fully works on Linux under Wine, and better, more reliably and at least as fast as on Windoof.

That also includes the TrackIR, thanks to these guys and their Linux-Track project - which is still a bit rough in places but generally works fine with a variety of hardware (from webcams to TrackIRs).

In addition to the Linux-track stuff you'll also want the Linux-Track WINE plugin which presents Windoof apps with a TrackIR-compatible API. That thing was a pain to get running, and you might want to check out this patch by me to make it work properly with recent Linux-Track revisions.

Apart from those: no real problems after some initial conf.ini tinkering; no more inexplicable stuttering under Windoof, no more dualbooting and smooth performance with graphics options close to the top levels.

[ published on Wed 04.05.2011 00:00 | filed in interests/comp | ]

From the Faroe Islands to Tahiti and the Tierra del Fuego, there's snafu readers all over the place. Amazing :-)


I've just cooked up a quick visualization setup for my machines' logs (think: let's see where the spammers and scammers and port scanners come from) and couldn't resist running the last 52 weeks of webserver logs for this site through it.

Dim red is few hits, bright yellow is lots of hits. I didn't filter out search engines, so there are definitely some spurious robotic yellow yanks in there.

(But things must be /really/ boring in Coober Pedy...)

Technically it's all very simple; the free (in the beer-sense) GeoIP city database tells me where you fellows are (lat+lon from your ip address), the map comes from NASA's beautiful "Blue Marble" data sets and the glue code is mine.

[ published on Tue 03.05.2011 02:30 | filed in brainfarts | ]

About a year ago I bought an OpenBench Logic Sniffer, an open-source (both hardware and software) 32-channel 200Ms/s logic analyzer. Dirt cheap ($50) and very cool and useful, some software present in debian (sigrok) and the standard client (in java) isn't shabby, either. Of course it came without a case, and of course I couldn't leave it like that.

Here's where my genetic inheritance (a slight dose of pack rat) comes very handy: I don't throw things away lightly if I can see a likely future use for them. I very much like repurposing stuff in unexpected ways (eg. small bottle of nail polish remover plus pipette from the hair potion plus spade drill = small bottle with pipette for contact lens fluid when camping, or: dishwasher rinse aid bottle plus yet another pipette = oil can with applicator for lubricating the bicycle).

Because of this tinkering bias I really detest planned obsolescence and the thinly disguised downcycling spiral that we're sold as "recycling" all the time...and I'm extremely pleased whenever I find another elegant new (and unintended) use for something others call "disposable".

Hence I didn't buy a project box or case for the logic analyzer, but rather dug through my Box of Boxes, Bottles and Useful Plastic Things. I didn't have to dig deeply; after 5 minutes with a scalpel and the hot glue gun I had the OLS mounted in this perfect enclosure:

 logicanalyzer recycled casing

The box once held adhesive plaster strips and was simply way too useful to end up in the trash.

The analyzer itself has already proved to be a super-useful new member of my electronics tools toolche^Wzoo (other members: a Tektronix 2246 oscilloscope and a HP 3312A function generator).

The Tek is not a storage scope, so diagnosing complex and/or non-repeating signals is pretty much a no-go. But I needed just this kind of capability to fix yet another problem bugging me.

Some of you may remember this description of "dervish", the custom head unit I made for my bedroom music player, which provides an interface between a PC and an LCD module plus IR remote control reception via just one serial line (and a PIC, of course). The dervish is housed in a repurposed transparent floppy box, by the way :-).

The dervish had been whirling fine for the last three years, but suffered from occasional runaway phantom IR repeats that I couldn't track down. Two hours with a breadboard, an IR receiver module and the logic analyzer finally made me realize that the remote control I'm using doesn't follow the specs very closely, and really screws up the signal timing when the batteries run down. Another hour later I had tightened up the code for better rejection of dud signals and all is well again.

[ published on Sat 30.04.2011 16:21 | filed in interests/tinkering | ]

Last year I needed/wanted a new laptop, something with decent battery life but still lightweight and with a useful vertical screen resolution. The Acer C110 I had before was nice but lasted less than 2 hrs on battery. So I got an Atom-based unit, an Acer Aspire One 751h: 1.3GHz Atom Z520, 2Gb memory, 160Gb disk, 1366x768/11.6in display, 1.37kg (weighed it myself), 6+ hours of battery life, and - very important to me - a decent, full-size keyboard, all packed into the size of a sheet of A4.

Nice gear - except for the not-quite-Intel GMA500 graphics crap, for which no decent (semi-)free drivers exist. I won't bore you with the tedious story of getting decent graphics going - it was quite tedious, but I'm really stubborn.

So here are some of my lessons learned, hopefully helpful to you people out there. The features and subsystems not mentioned (the majority) worked out of the box or without more than normal configuration steps required.
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Tue 22.03.2011 20:46 | filed in interests/debian | ]

...if the fellows have to advertise "free shipping". I'd also like a few "Tomohawk"s with that order, please :-)

From a spam that recently made it here (identifying bits redacted):

Subject: Free heroin shipping!
From: <*certainly dud from*>
To: <*me, myself and i*>
Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2011 14:34:25 +0100


1. Heroin, in liquid and crystal form.
2. Rocket fuel and Tomohawk rockets (serious enquiries only).
4. New shipment of cocaine has arrived, buy 9 grams and get 10th for free.

Everebody welcome, but not US citizens, sorry.

ATTENTION. Clearance offer. Buy 30 grams of heroin, get 5 free.

Please contact: <*some other fool*>

PHONE 0093(0)4765***
FAX 0093(0)4485***

[ published on Sat 09.04.2011 15:38 | filed in interests/humour | ]

Every time I walk past that room I have to suppress a fit of silly laughter - because I can't help associating the idea of "completing" students with the video of how a Trabant final inspection used to work.

Now for the all-important question: Can student brains also be improved by just a few judiciously applied hammer blows? ;-)

[ published on Tue 05.04.2011 14:01 | filed in interests/humour | ]

A real treat for mathematicians - but does scaled-down bratwurst taste scaled-down, too?

Inquiring minds simply have to know.

(But even really inquiring minds won't like to find out that font "fixed" in Tk 8.5 is a totally different beast from the same font in Tk 8.5...)

[ published on Fri 01.04.2011 22:24 | filed in interests/humour | ]

Not much canola involved, though.


That's my bicycle chain being soaked overnight in 50/50 ATF and gearbox oil, after I cleaned it yesterday evening (soda bottle, kerosene and a few drops kitchen degreaser, plop chain in, shake, fish it out, done). I read that chainsaw oil is even better for lubricating bicycle chains, but that's what I had readily available at home. The gearbox oil is very thick, the ATF not so, both are meant for lubricating gears, so what could go wrong.

Having an SRAM "powerlink" in the chain makes opening the chain and getting it off really easy and fast, and involves no tools except two hands - with at least twelve fingers, as it's a bit fiddly the first time. Taking the chain off is generally messy, but that's no big deal - I use cheap disposable latex gloves from the supermarket for such grease-fests anyway (but, unfortunately, kerosene eats through the cheap latex gloves /very/ very quickly).

I actually do like preventive maintenance: it's great to fix things and make them work again, but to me it's even cooler to make them work perfectly before they break down completely. I know, pedantic and perfectionist, get a life and all that - I simply can't help it :-)

This preference of mine could be a bit of generational back-swing, because my father absolutely hates preventive work - and often pays a heavy price for that...

[ published on Fri 25.03.2011 14:22 | filed in interests | ]

(that's the Gold Coast in, not the region in Africa.)

The next Gold Coast Barcamp will be held at Bond on the 2.4.2011, and I will run a small keysigning session. If privacy and strong crypto interest you and you're in the region, have a look at the overview page here.

[ published on Tue 22.03.2011 19:40 | filed in interests/crypto | ]

acute angle, doubleplus-uncute pissed-off human, acute pain.

why? i highsided my bicycle just an hour ago: i chose too acute an angle when passing from the grass onto a concrete pathway, the grass was high and hid the large difference in height, the front tire caught and stayed down on the grass and i got tossed over the frame and deposited onto the concrete.

one big bruise on my hip, a skinned knee and forearm/elbow. not too bad but still annoying. the second half of my usual 26km round was not exactly comfortable - but i did not shorten the distance.

[ published on Tue 22.03.2011 18:09 | filed in still-not-king | ]

I detest udev. With a passion. Because of bugs like #453356 or #339797 and as a matter of general principle because it's overcomplex, brittle, and Just Plain Wrong. No, a dynamic /dev is not generally desirable. No, I don't want you to fuck up my /dev and slow down every single boot by redoing the same damn crap all the time. No, I don't like your rule language or your lousy diagnostics.

So I consider myself the president-and-first-member of the G.R.O.S.U. ("Get Rid of Slimy Udev") club. But I do eat my own dog food (debian developer and all that), so here's my alternative setup to avoid udev without losing useful capabilities:

Udev itself I get rid of by creating a dummy dependency fulfiller package using equivs. Here's the resulting .deb for the lazy ones.

The few hotplugging activities that I do like to handle (eg. initializing the Bluetooth env if/when I use the killswitch, or auto-mounting removable storage) I take care of with hotplug: ancient, trusty, simple, totally sufficient.

Here's my cut-down-and-minimized hotplug package. Share and enjoy.

[ published on Sun 20.03.2011 23:10 | filed in interests/debian | ]

[not exactly new but still quite funny. I've got to say it also works for longtime non-citizen residents...]
click here for the rest of the story...

[ published on Fri 18.03.2011 15:24 | filed in interests/au | ]

Writing exams is definitely not my favourite work, in particular coming up with clear, nice, sensible-looking, unambiguous - but still red herri^W^Wwrong answers for multiple choice questions.

At least I can give students a proper workout with my style of multiple choice questions, which - quel surprise! - usually have multiple correct answers. Every now and then it's also correct to tick none or all the boxes, just for variety's sake (and to discourage guessing).

Nasty, what, me? Now where do you get that impression from?

[ published on Fri 18.03.2011 15:13 | filed in brainfarts | ]

For sysadmins, that is. (automation, robustness etc.pp.) For people in solo households (like me) it's not so definite.

I dislike cleaning, but I like it when the house is clean. Specifically, I dislike scrubbing the kitchen sink/washbasin strainers and their surrounds: always somewhat grotty and lots of brushing required to keep them nice.

But yesterday I found out that there's a super-lazy solution for that: put in the stopper, pour in some bleach, let it stand for an hour or so, then unstopper the drain and you're done. Results were shiny and dirt-free.

[ published on Tue 15.03.2011 12:51 | filed in still-not-king | ]

die gewählten volksverdreher haben jetzt beschlossen, die vorratsdatenspeicherung durchzuziehen. super, damit simma wieder ein stückel näher an der globalen vorfront was die widerlichkeit betrifft.

und, schwuppdiwupp, plötzlich fällt sogar dem kanzleramt auf dass die vds keine Gute Idee ist.

welch wunder: selbst die sonst regulierwütigen deutschen haben die vds als nicht verfassungs-konform abgelehnt. und wie ein kommentar im online-standard bemerkt, gilt das auch für andere, nicht grad als menschenrechts-lieblinge bekannte länder wie rumänien: die haben auch schon vor zwei jahren festgestellt dass vds, verfassung und die europäische menschenrechts-konvention einfach nicht zusammengehen.

[ published on Fri 04.03.2011 14:01 | filed in interests/anti | ]

Dear nginx developers, not every web client is a desktop running the Internet Exploder. As you insist on force-feeding all of us others everything in Content-Encoding: gzip regardless of how often we tell you NOT TO FEED US ANYTHING BUT THE UNMANGLED DATA, I insist on calling you rfc-ignorant dimbulbs.

[ published on Fri 04.03.2011 13:37 | filed in interests/anti | ]

How I love the annual "Performance Development Review" at work; it's always such a matchless source of positive stimulus to increase one's devotion to Due Process, Academic Applications of Hot Air, and Higher Revenue.

[ published on Wed 16.02.2011 17:39 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Using this dremel knockoff with not-so-stable speed control is Not A Great Idea for polishing scratches out of the glass of your Swatch.

Sure, I got the offending scratches out but in the process I added a new ugly scrape near the rim: even with the smallest polishing wheel/cylinder the damn non-dremel spins pretty fast, and the Swatch face is not glass but polycarbonate - quite sensitive to pressure and heat - and it seems I pushed down just a little bit too hard or long. GRRRRR.

The original scratch removal took less than 5 minutes, messing things up I accomplished in just 1 sec, and the cursing and subsequent repair cost me a good 25 minutes.

Next time I'll do this with a backing plate and polising pad on my normal drill.

[ published on Tue 08.02.2011 20:31 | filed in brainfarts | ]

Yesterday was pretty nice for care-free afternoon ridge-soaring at Beechmont. Pleasant enough to take some photos, in fact (something that you don't get to do if the air is rough).

so here's Drew(?), a newly addicted flier having fun.

 drew beechmont

And that's me floating around in my lawnchair.

 az over beechmont az over beechmont az over beechmont az over beechmont az over beechmont

And Pete, in his equivalent of a camp stool (=superlightweight harness).

 pete over beechmont pete over beechmont
[ published on Thu 27.01.2011 12:50 | filed in interests/flying | ]

This week my sister Nina finally completed her degree, after gallivanting around the universe for the last decade and a half or so. She's now what she once jokingly called a "diplomierte Strickliesl" (sorry, untranslatable) and what everybody else would call "magistra artium (textile restoration and conservation)".

Well done, sister!

With that achievement our branch of the Zangerls has well and truly overfulfilled the quota of academics (as in "100%"). Maybe, with the generational pendulum being what it is, Conny and Emil (Nina's recently hatched son) will decide for Something Vastly More Practical for their careers, like plumber or machinist or farmer or mason?

[ published on Thu 27.01.2011 10:55 | filed in brainfarts | ]

A pair of youngsters rode the Yarra River in Melbourne using sex dolls for buoyancy. Imagine the embarrassment when they had to be rescued.

[ published on Mon 17.01.2011 09:53 | filed in interests/humour | ]

...or any low-lying places around Brisbane. Here on the Gold Coast things are quiet, no flooding anywhere. But with the crappy weather of the recent weeks just about anything starts growing mould and mildew. I'm pretty sick of the humidity...

[ published on Tue 11.01.2011 20:04 | filed in interests/au | ]

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