The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

How long until I receive some really damaging information about another Sean Conner out there?

Yet another email for Sean Conner. This time, I own a 2015 Acura RDX with XXXXX­X miles (XXXXX­XX kilometers for those Imperially challenged) on the odometer and Tennessee license plate XXXXX­XX, having just received service from Budget Brakes in XXXXX­XXXX, Tennessee. That's only 875 miles (1,410 km) from Chez Boca (and for reference, the closest Budget Brakes to me is in Pensacola, Florida, 630 miles (1010 km) away).

I'm … just speechless … that this keeps happening! Don't people know their own email address? Do companies just assume customers have Why does this keep happening?

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Stirring and shaking may be boring, but the future this brings will effect you in the future

This all works fine for the purposes of the telephone system. I mean, at least for a long time, it did. But have you noticed what's up with email lately? It seems that, given an open communications system, people will inevitably develop something called a "cryptocurrency" and badly want to make sure that you get in on something called an "ICO." The general term for this phenomenon is "spam," and the fact that it is only one letter away from "scam" is meaningful as the line between mere unsolicited advertising and outright crime is often razor thin.

In the email system, this problem has been elegantly solved by a system of ad-hoc, inconsistent, often-wrong heuristic classifiers glued to a trainwreck of different cryptographic attestation and policy metadata schemes that still haven't solved the problem. It is, perhaps, no surprise that the phone system is taking a generally similar approach.

2023-08-07 STIRred AND SHAKEN

The whole STIR/SHAKEN thing first crossed my path a few years ago at The Enterprise. At the time, I wasn't sure what the difficulty was in stopping spam/robo calls and that the Oligarchic Cell Phone Companies were complicit with said calls because it made them money. The actual story, covered in the above article, is much more complicated and nuanced than my own cynical take on it (worth reading, even if it's a bit long). By the time I left The Enterprise, we were starting to support it with our offering (which was “Caller Name ID”—that is, given a phone number, map that back to a name), along with a process that was attempting to classify the originating side of the call as legit or not if the call wasn't attested (that was being done at another department within The Enterprise). If you use a certain Oligarchic Cell Phone Company, and see the name “Potential SPAM” as the caller name, you were using code I worked on.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Dear Walmart … seriously? That's what you keep under lock and key?

You keep alcohol wipes under lock and key?

Are they that valuable?

You do realize that we repealed the 18th Amendment, right?


Saturday, September 09, 2023

How common is it for people to not know their own email address?

I'm still receiving all sorts of email from other Sean Conners to my address, and I'm seriously wondering how? Do these people not know their email address? Currently:

I was able to call and stop the emails about the condo, doctor's appointment and medication, but for some reason, the administrators of the school in Tenneesee can't remove my email address unless they get permission from the parent of the actual child, and they won't tell me the name of the parent who thinks I need their child's school notices.


To make matters worse, in one case, the doctor's appointment case, the name of the patient wasn't even “Sean Conner!”


How? Just … how?

Friday, September 08, 2023

Welcome back!

Hello! Long time, no entries.

This isn't the longest time I've been absent here at the ol' blog (the longest stretch has been 4½ months back in late 2012), but things around Chez Boca have been interesting for the past three and a half months. The biggest thing is a medical issue that Bunny has been going through. It's not life threatening, but it is life changing for the both of us, and the doctors are still trying to figure out what happened in late April that caused the issue. I've also been forced to deal with the medical-industrial complex and the bureaucracy surrounding it (Bunny used to deal with the medical-industrial complex, having been a former Fed herself and can stomach the bureaucracy) and while I have plenty to say about it, I'll refrain least I work myself up.

Another issue has been that my primary development system (a Linux system) has been offline for the past few months. July 3rd we had a small power outtage. It normally wouldn't be a big deal as the UPS kept the system up until I could shut it down cleanly, but when power was restored, the computer just refused to turn on. And given the situation with Bunn—

A week later and I can resume writing this entry. As I was writing, the situation with Bunny was such that I didn't feel up to mucking with the computer. It was just last week that I felt up to getting a replacement power supply. I ordered it from Amazon and it arrived the next day, not in a box, but wrapped in foam and packing tape stuffed inside an opaque plastic bag. I was not surprised in the least that the fan inside the power supply was broken. Not bad enough that a bit of cyanoacrylate glue (aka “Super Glue”) wouldn't fix it, but still, the fact that I had to do that wasn't a good sign (“Why don't you just return it?” asked Bunny? “Because I'm desperate enough to get my system up and running.”)

It was enough to get the system up and running, and as I was typing out this entry the new power supply went “POP” and that was the end of that.


I opted to return it for a replacement. It arrived yesterday, wrapped in foam and packing tape stuffed inside an opaque plastic bag, but this time the fan was fine, and it's now been running for over 24 hours without incident.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Proportional fonts for coding? No thank you

There's some back and forth in the Gemini community about coding with a proportional font. You can pry my monospace font from my cold dead hands.

I've been coding for nearly 40 years now, and it's always been some form of a monospace font, some pretty, like the character set for VGA on IBM PCs, and some not to pretty, like the character set on the TRS-80 Color Computer. Code in a proportional font just looks weird to me.

My first language was BASIC on the TRS-80 Color Computer, and due to limitations on the video screen and memory constraints, pretty much any non-trivial BASIC program ends up looking something like;

1445 X=FREE(PEEK(4670)):Y=FREE(P
1446 IFCH$="Y"THENNOT P$="100000
NOT P$="00000000":PRINT"NO":ELSE
1450 K=LEN(MF$)+LEN(MT$)+LEN(MS$
NG.." :ELSE 1452
B(5)"FROM: ";MF$:PRINTTAB(5)"  T
1453 IFP$="10000000"THENNOTPRINT
1455 IF ML=2 THENNOT 1465 :ELSE 
1460 GOSUB600:K=INSTR("NnYy",CH$

Yes, you can pretty much get used to any type of formatting if you have to. Fortunately, you no longer have to.

The next few languages I picked up were various assembly languages, which are nearly always vertically aligned:

;	SPHEX4		Display a signed word as hex
;Entry:	D - word
;	U - buffer
;Exit:	U - U + 4 (or 5)

sphex4		tsta			; negative?
		bpl	sphex42		; nope
		stb	,-s		; save B
		ldb	#'-		; print leading minus
		stb	,u+
		ldb	,s+
		coma			; negate D
		addd	#1
sphex42		bsr	phex2		; print high byte
		tfr	b,a		; now print low byte
		bra	phex2

The decade or so of this left me with an “assembly accent” (which you can pick up on in this post). That, along with some other … quirks in formatting, makes it pretty easy to tell I've been working on the code. I've been developing my C style for over 30 years, and my opinion on “code formatters” is … well … if I didn't want opinions, I'd join a cult. More opinionated—if you have no coding style of your own, you have no soul and probably enjoy The Enterprise Agile being shoved down your throat [Tell us how you really feel! —Editor]. Or at least don't mind it.

But getting back to coding with a proportional font. The original article presents the same code fragment in a monospace font:

import 'dart:io';

/// Replaces typewriter quotes and double dashes in all '.gmi' files under
/// the specified path with their nicer unicode equivalents.
/// Usage: dart fix_typography.dart <root path>

void main(List<String> arguments) {
  final gmis = Directory(arguments[0])
      .listSync(recursive: true)
      .where((f) => f.path.endsWith('.gmi'));
  for (final gmi in gmis) {
    print('Fixing ${gmi.path}.');
    final lines = gmi.readAsLinesSync();
    var skip = false;
    for (var i = 0; i != lines.length; ++i) {
      var line = lines[i];
      if (line.startsWith('```')) {
        skip = !skip;
      if (skip) continue;
      line = line.replaceAll("'","’");
      line = line.replaceAll('--','—');
      line = line.replaceAllMapped(RegExp(r'"(\w)'), (m) => '"${}');
      line = line.replaceAllMapped(RegExp(r'(\w)"'), (m) => '${}"');
      lines[i] = line;

(Typos mine as this is transcribed from an image; also, sans syntax highlighting.)

And in a proportional font:

import 'dart:io';

/// Replaces typewriter quotes and double dashes in all '.gmi' files under
/// the specified path with their nicer unicode equivalents.
/// Usage: dart fix_typography.dart <root path>

void main(List<String> arguments) {
  final gmis = Directory(arguments[0])
      .listSync(recursive: true)
      .where((f) => f.path.endsWith('.gmi'));
  for (final gmi in gmis) {
    print('Fixing ${gmi.path}.');
    final lines = gmi.readAsLinesSync();
    var skip = false;
    for (var i = 0; i != lines.length; ++i) {
      var line = lines[i];
      if (line.startsWith('```')) {
        skip = !skip;
      if (skip) continue;
      line = line.replaceAll("'","’");
      line = line.replaceAll('-‍-‍','—');
      line = line.replaceAllMapped(RegExp(r'"‍(w)'), (m) => '"${}');
      line = line.replaceAllMapped(RegExp(r'(w)"'), (m) => '${}"');
      lines[i] = line;

To me, the proportional font crushes the indentation too much for my liking, making it harder for me to “see” the structure of the code. Of course, the original image has low-contrast vertical bars showing each indenting level, but I suspect that's an IDE-specific thing to help show the structure (I'm not a fan of IDEs for various reasons). And using color for information isn't exactly nice to the color-blind. Why not italic for variables? Bold for keywords? You're already using a proportional font, you might as well use font properties for visual information, but I digress. It just looks too scrunched up for my liking.

I think this just comes down to it's totally alien to my way of thinking

Monday, May 01, 2023

The Case of the Inconsistent Consistent Chirp

Bunny and I were plagued with the most insidious inconsistently consistent chirp over the past few days here at Chez Boca. There would be this distinct chirp. Just one. And by the time you think it won't happen again, it would happen again. And then … nothing. For hours. Or maybe the rest of the day even. But sure enough, it would pick up again—a single chirp, then silence, then maybe another chirp, repeat for a few minutes then, nothing more for hours.

When it first started, I thought maybe one of the UPSes was responding to some power fluctuation, but no, they squeal quite loudly, and none of them showed any form of distress when I checked. This was more of a short chirp than a loud squeal. And by the time I was tired of looking at whatever UPS I thought it might be and turn away, there was another chirp.

It was mocking us.

Between the two of us, we had narrowed down the possible source in Chez Boca, somewhere along the west wall of the house. The only things in the area that could possible chirp were:

But all these devices had been there for years before this chirping had started. It was weird as it was maddening.

I even went so far as to check the bathroom, as, from where I sit in the Computer Room, the chirp could be coming from there. The only three things in the bathroom that could possible chirp: the lights, Bunny's electric toothbrush and a small clock.

I discounted the lights—they're the original fixtures from the 70s—no strange electronics in there, and more importantly, no speakers to speak of. I did unplug the base unit of Bunny's electric toothbrush, and had the toothbrush itself in the Computer Room. The chirp didn't go away, and it wasn't from the toothbrush. Nor was it from the small electric clock (I too, brought that in to the Computer Room and cleared it as a suspect).

Then, late Saturday night, I was in the family room along with Bunny when it happened again. We were standing far enough apart that it appeared to be the floor lamp just by simple tiangulation. During an examination of the lamp, I happened to glance up, and there, above the door to the Computer Room, was a small, round disk shaped device stuck to the wall—a smoke detector.


Taking the unit down and reading the back, yes, it would chirp to indicate the battery needed changing. And neither Bunny nor I could recall when the battery in the unit was changed.

Heck, we both forgot about the unit being there at all.

Even worse, when I started telling this story to some friends at our regularly scheduled D&D game, they knew the punchline even before I finished. Sigh.

Now I just have to figure out why our ice maker is making hollow ice.

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