Party Like It's 1999

Party Like It's 1999

Friday, Feb 19, 2021

Listening To: Hacked Podcast - The Year Double Zero
Photo: “BOO”. Another one of my old medical fosters. I’ll write about her on day. And cry doing it.

Just listened to the Hacked podcast linked above. It’s about the Y2K bug. The issues with computers had when hitting the year “Double Zero” and the chaos it caused society.

Somewhere in the late 90’s I had cause to rent some office space, and found it in a place chock full of what could only be described as “grey beards”. Lovely bunch. They were a group of COBOL programmers who came out of retirement to fix some of the problems computer code had with… time. And make stupid amounts of money doing so. Sometime about 1997 governments and corporations around the world woke up and started throwing serious cash at the problem. The rent was cheap and the company good. Learned a lot from those folks.

Millennium New Year’s Eve itself was spent in Germany. The media had not been so “doom and gloom” about the issue and, frankly, I’m not sure your average German would care. I remember standing on a elevated railway crossing, beer in hand (no such prudish rules there) and watching a 360 degree panorama of fireworks being set off across the city. It was awesome.

Early the next day we headed out for a walk and found a dance band still playing in a city square at 8:00am. A few slow dancing couples still at it. I sat there nursing a hangover and watched bulldozers get to work as the number of bottled strewn about had made the roads impassible.

A very good start to the millennium.

2 minutes read
Nix Is Everywhere

Nix Is Everywhere

Tuesday, Feb 16, 2021

Listening To: No Means No - Wrong
Photo: Having a coffee while the Main St. Fire is doused.

I got a comment the other day that using our Linux-based video streaming system was “non-standard”. All they had to do was enter their username and password then click on a icon to run an application. The exact same application that runs on all the major desktop platforms. Yes, I rolled my eyes.

The ironic thing is that most people use Unix or Linux on a daily basis. It’s behind many of the devices we interact with. Apple uses it for all their products and even Windows now includes the ability to run not only command-line Linux but full desktops. Desktops that resemble other operating systems and some that are quite unique. There is a lot of choice (Plasma is my go to).

I’m going to use “Unix” and “Linux” interchangeably here and while a purist may want me to note the various distinctions between the two it really doesn’t matter to those using them with any sort of graphical interface.

Here’s a short random list of things that use one of the two underneath:

  • Android/ChromeOS (1)
  • IOS (1)
  • macOS (1)
  • Amazon Kindle (1)
  • Sony Playstation (1)
  • The Internet (1)
  • The Top 500 supercomputers (1)
  • Roku (1) and Tivo (1)
  • NASA (1)
  • “Smart Things”: Your Fridge, TV and Light Bulbs (1)
  • Teslas (1) and many other cars (2)
  • Intel Processors (1)

Look at that last one. Arguably the most popular operating in the world is something called MINIX. And it’s used by much of Intel’s processor line as a management engine.

So, “Normal”.

2 minutes read
The End of the Random Snog

The End of the Random Snog

Monday, Feb 15, 2021

Listening To: Alien Boys - Night Danger (“Mother Chaos” is my fave)
Photo: Alien Boys play a boxing ring.

I’m not one for celebrating commercial holidays, but Valentine’s day was still still a bit rough.

Running into a lot of “science-unawareness” in my attempts to date in the midst of a pandemic.

Despite following all the guidelines and having no contact with any outside household for almost two months now (won’t lie, it’s been rough), I’ve actually been told twice I was thought to be “COVID unsafe”. Maybe it’s my appearance or demeanour, I haven’t got it sussed out.

On the bright side, I’m not up for a judgemental partner, so at least they are weeding themselves out. Right?

No choice but to continue. Spending the next four or five years (what, you think this is gonna be over in the fall?) single just isn’t an option.

ps. From The Guardian: No more drunken random snogging, perhaps ever.

1 minutes read
Snow Day

Snow Day

Saturday, Feb 13, 2021

Listening To: Liquids - Life is pain Idiot
Photo: Damn cat’s gotta photo-bomb everything.

Had a nice walk, took some pics. Hard to do when it’s overcast. Think a chair and lamp by this big window would be nice for reading.

No thanks world, not today.

Bonus Item: Pop music made on a warm summer day. In Spain: Russian Red - The Sun The Trees

1 minutes read
Updating A Rolling Release

Updating A Rolling Release

Tuesday, Feb 9, 2021

Listening To: Klaus Nomi - Total Eclipse (Video) - Another from Urgh! He once backed up Bowie on SNL performing “The Man Who Sold The World
Photo: Every night I go to bed with this inches from my face. Drooling.

The main boxes around here almost all run a Linux distribution called Manjaro. It’s based on Arch linux, one of a few base types about (Debian and Red Hat being the other two major options).

Manjaro is very much bleeding cutting edge, updating often with the latest (and presumably, greatest) packages. Which, while not leaving it unstable, leaves it sometimes prone to some niggles after any major release. Bugs happen and occasionally slip through when your OS is changing so quickly. Here’s how I update for safety’s sake:

  • Get notification of update. Do not initiate. Check the release notes (here for Manjaro).
  • Wait a day or two. Check the release notes again for any major stumbling blocks and solutions in the “New issues:” section (I had a run of them with an outdated Nvidia card at one point).
  • Make sure the system is backed up. We mainly rely on a snapshot tool called Timeshift but any way of restoring the system will work. I’ll often take this as a sign it’s time to image the drive off-site too.
  • perform the update. I prefer to watch things scroll across the screen, so use the command line (“sudo pacman -Syyu”). Parse the log for any major errors.
  • since the kernel is usually updated, it’s usually time for a reboot.
  • When the system comes back up, you’re usually back in business. If you do run into a major issue, you can either restore the entire system or fix the issue (often listed in the forum linked above). If it’s a single package you find misbehaving, simple downgrading that to a previous version often works for me (though this is rare)

This may all seem like a bit of a hassle, but in practice it’s usually a smooth ride. Just double checking your snapshot is current (which is usually automatic) is the only real step in the process. If that’s fine, you’re golden.

At least for this dork, it’s worth it to be able to access all the latest tools and resources. If that’s not for you, a LTS (long term support) version of a Linux distribution may indeed be a better option. And that’s what many will normally install for a non-technical user. There are so many, it’s not worth getting into here but I’d recommend something based on Ubuntu for most use cases. From Kubuntu to Elementary and Mint, there is something for anybody. All great.

If you do run into a problem you can’t solve, don’t panic. Most of “us” are super friendly and actually like helping. Reach out.

3 minutes read
Sun Posers

Sun Posers

Sunday, Feb 7, 2021

Listening To: Supermoon - Playland
Photo: A Sunny Day Out With Stanley

Minus fourteen (Celsius) in the forecast. Spent the day hanging in the sun.

1 minutes read
Fighting Facial Recognition

Fighting Facial Recognition

Friday, Feb 5, 2021

Listening To: Destructos - Blast
Photo: A Tandy 102 portable computer (and Willy). Used by field reporters for many years as it ran up to twenty hours on common batteries and included a modem to file reports with. Still works!

The various Privacy Watchdogs of Canada just filed a report finding that Clearview AI’s facial recognition software use in Canada was not legal. It seemed obvious from the outset (scraping copyrighted images and using them without consent) but various corporate and government entities resisted and even denied using the technology until leaked documents exposed them.

Joint investigation of Clearview AI, Inc. by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, and the Information Privacy Commissioner of Alberta

is the source but you can find both interviews and summaries from various media outlets. (TYEE) (CBC)

How to protect against this? The best thing an individual can do is familiarise themselves with the present privacy laws (Federal, Provincial (BC), Document Act) and have a good think before giving away any personal information. Especially to government and businesses who have proven not only to disrespect it, but often seem unwilling or unable to protect it. I worked with a woman who, several years after the Sony Hack, was still feeling the effects of identity theft.

If you are refused a job, good or service because of your application of the privacy laws, there is a formal grievance process through the office of your local Privacy Commissioner. It can be considered a form of actionable discrimination. There is often a thirty day cool-down period for the parties to negotiate before the formal application can be made, but I found submitting the complaint documentation directly to the head office of the company you are dealing with makes for swift action.

Seems nobody wants a government privacy audit of their practices.

Funny that.

2 minutes read
Not The Whole Truth

Not The Whole Truth

Wednesday, Feb 3, 2021

Listening To: Sofia Portanet - Freier Geist (“Planet Mars” is perhaps my best find of 2021 so far).

Filed my first complaint against a major media organisation today. I won’t name them as the practice seems common and to their credit, they have now changed the article’s text to better reflect the present pandemic rules.

A number of published articles recently have included blanket statements such as:

British Columbia restrictions include a ban on gathering with anyone outside one’s household”.

This is not accurate.

If you read British Columbia’s Official Province-wide Restrictions document it states that this restriction applies to multi-person households. Single-person households have a limited exemption in that they are allowed to have up to two outside contacts (expand the “Core bubble” portion of the document linked above). There are also some exceptions for other cases.

Somewhere around four million Canadians over the age of 15 live alone and many either don’t work, or work from home these days. Expecting them all to completely isolate themselves 24/7 isn’t reasonable:

  • extended isolation has been shown to cause both physical and mental illness. (1) (2)
  • one may need to move for some reason. From escaping a abusive partner to being evicted or renovicted. (1) (2)
  • nobody knows when this will end. (1) (2)

The risk from a single person household who is obeying the pandemic rules can be very low. For instance: I generally work and live alone and only frequent businesses respecting the rules (grocery shopping off-peak, only buying take-out, wearing a mask outdoors when near others etc.).

Note that going for a “safe walk” is also within the current rules.

If you can, please get outside! Stanley could always use another sunny day walking buddy. Get in touch (top left site button) if you’re in need. Reach out to somebody if you’re struggling.

I have.

2 minutes read
Matrix My Way

Matrix My Way

Monday, Feb 1, 2021

Photo: Otto Von Bismark and Audrey Hepburn (aka “the buns of destruction”) - rescue rabbits from VRRA
Listening to: Joe Jackson - Awkward Age (it should come as no surprise that this one resonates with me):

“You look at me like I know what’s going on
I’m looking back and I wonder what went wrong
I really thought by now a few things might just clarify
I got a mind that goes out to lunch for days
And a body that sometimes disobeys
I get into the parties but I hate them ‘cause I’m shy
Oh my
I’m still at an awkward age”

One of the few disadvantages of using external services for communication is that on occasion, they don’t last, whether they be commercial or community supported. Alas, I just received a message telling me my Matrix server of choice is being taken off-line before the end of the month.

In an effort to turn adversity into advantage, an effort is underway to set up my own server (the software is called Synapse). That way this never has to happen again as the entire system is under my own control. I may even host it from home as texting takes next to no bandwidth.

Presently I’m experimenting in a non-destructive environment with a server on Linode. The advantage is that you can create snapshots, screw up, create and destroy servers at a whim. And it only costs about $0.007/hour. Seven cents. Ha.

Failure is part of the learning process (or so I keep telling myself).

2 minutes read
Projector Hush Box

Projector Hush Box

Saturday, Jan 30, 2021

Photo: “Hush Box Project” by Chaz
Listening to: Nina Hagen - Live at Rockplast 1978 and Herman Brood - Live at Rockplast 1978 . The movie they co-starred in, Cha Cha, was released the next year (it was a hot mess with an really awesome soundtrack album).

A hush box would neat to build. Especially since my studio space is full of sawdust and scrap wood anyway with some ongoing renos.

A hush box channels air around baffles in order to quiet a projector’s cooling fans (which can be annoying after awhile, especially in a small space). Having recently acquired a Bomaker Parrot to watch movies on, I need one.

Figure wood will be free, it will just need some hardware (hinges, corner braces), optic glass, fans and power supply. Then a thin coating of acoustic foam. We’ve previously used thin layers of acoustic bat insulation for such things but the proper foam will be easier to handle. If I use industrial velcro to attach the baffles, it can be reconfigured for a different unit down the road.

Ya, will be fun.

Probably take me a month to decide what colour to paint it thou…

Hush Box project at hackaday.io

1 minutes read

About Me

A dorky artist living in Vancouver, BC.

email: flay@pm.me

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